Sydney Festivals

While South Australia has earned itself the reputation of “the Festival State,” I think Sydney alone (not including the rest of New South Wales) could give SA a run for its money.  Since arriving in Sydney I’ve attended four festivals in about as many months (with many more to come!) – not bad, huh?  (Oh, & just in case you were wondering, NSW has the very creative state slogan of . . . drumroll, please! . . . “The First State.”) 😉

GOOD FOOD & WINE SHOW – July 2nd @ The Convention & Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour

Almost more exhibitors than I could visit in one day!!

Picture endless rows of exhibitors offering heaps of delectable food samples.  Then toss in more wines than you have probably ever before seen in one location at one time (or really just *ever*).  Sprinkle generously with cooking classes & demonstrations.  Finally, add a few celebrity chefs to the mix & you have the perfect recipe for a food & wine show that I will sorely miss in 2012! 😦

Needless to say, my friend Lauren & I sampled *lots* of food – I even tasted avocado oil!  I kind of wanted to buy a bottle (or just buy *something* – heck, it was a food & wine show after all!), but for several reasons I left the event empty-handed (with the exception of half a dozen cupcakes, but more on that later).  For one thing (& this was probably the biggest reason), Lauren & I were attending a US-expat 4th of July party that evening & I didn’t want to have to lug things like a bottle of avocado oil around with me at the pub.  Also, have you ever had one of those shopping experiences where you feel like you could either buy everything in sight or just leave it all?  Well, I decided on the latter.  I know, I know, but at least some of the items are available in stores, so no worries, all is not lost. 😉

I also took two classes during the event:

Adora Hand Made Chocolate Class: Essentially we learned to make butter truffles without having to temper the chocolate (tempering is the tricky process of heating & cooling the chocolate to the correct temperatures so that your finished product has the right texture, consistency & of course taste).  We only needed 4 ingredients: chocolate, butter, condensed milk & cocoa powder.  Easy!  This is a recipe I will definitely bring home & add to my repertoire – these truffles taste like they’re so much more difficult to make than they really are, which makes ME look like a genius! . . . But now you know my secret – oops, pretend you didn’t just read that! 😦

Lollies to decorate our cupcakes

Sunbeam Academy Cupcake Decorating Class: I have to say that unfortunately this class was a bit of a disappointment.  After completing several Wilton Cake Decorating classes back home I wondered if this session might be too basic but I thought maybe I’d learn a new trick or two.  Well, what I learned was how to put “lollies” (Aussie word for “candy”) on cakes to make simple things like faces or a beach scene (blue icing on half of the cupcake & green icing on the other half with a little cocktail umbrella stuck on top).  The one cake I actually enjoyed learning how to decorate was a koala.  I have to admit – he’s pretty darn cute . . . sooo, maybe the class was worth it after all. 😉

Koala Cupcake - so cute!

Highlight of the event: Seeing George Calombaris & Gary Mehigan from one of my new favorite shows, MasterChef Australia, do a live cooking demonstration!

WINTER FESTIVAL – July 12th @ Bondi Beach & August 9th @ Hyde Park

Winter in July (on the beach!) - still not quite used to that idea!

The annual Winter Festival is held in several locations throughout Australia, including Sydney & one of its nearby suburbs, Bondi Beach.  The festival is best described through the many pictures I took:

You can't tell from this angle, but this "ski lodge" was constructed right on Bondi Beach!

Relaxing inside the lodge at the beach - LOL

Grabbing a bite to eat at the "Alpine Ski Village"

The thing that most excited me about the Bondi Winter Festival was the chance to go ice skating . . . outdoors on the beach!!

OK, so the ice was a bit melty . . . well, actually so melty that at one point they had to section off part of it so we wouldn’t drown (LOL – I mean, slip), but still, I was ice skating *on the beach* – how often do you get the chance to do that?! 😀

More ice skating - at Sydney's Winter Fesival in Hyde Park.

AROMA FESTIVAL – July 31st @ The Rocks

Aroma Fest with Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background

The area of Sydney known as “the Rocks” (named for its rocky shore) was the hub of the city’s international trade for over a century.  The Aroma Festival, held at the Rocks each year, celebrates the coffee, tea, chocolate & spices that were often imported here.

Oddly enough (especially for me), I only purchased *one* cup of coffee at the festival!  I was expecting to try several different coffees, but instead I went for a chai tea latte after beginning the day with a flat white (an Australian creation – similar to a latte, but with less foam).  Of course I also had to consume some chocolate & found my fix early on with some churros (Spanish doughnuts – if done correctly, they should be crispy on the outside & chewy on the inside, typically served with a chocolate or caramel dipping sauce – yum!) from one of the vendors in “The Latin Quarter” (the festival was divided into four sections: The Latin QuarterThe Orient, The Continent (Europe) & The Oasis (Turkey)).  Unfortunately, these particular churros were not anywhere near as good as the ones Heather & I had in Barcelona, but I guess I should have expected that.

The girls were so elegant with their movements

In addition to the plentiful food & drink, the festival also provided entertainment.  Lauren & I were fortunate to come across these dancers as we were walking around the event.  The girls were so elegant with their movements & the costumes were gorgeous.

SPRING FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL – September 24th @ The Entertainment Quarter (EQ) Showring

Vendors at the Spring Food & Wine Festival

The most recent festival I attended was the Spring Food & Wine Festival.  Not nearly as massive as the Good Food & Wine Show, but definitely worth a visit.  There were heaps of fresh fruit & veg for sale, as well as numerous stalls cooking up delicious lunchtime treats from around the world, such as the Turkish gozleme I have come to love (you can sort of think of it like a crepe, but the bread is more like pita & it is served grilled with spinach & feta inside; there are other sometimes other fillings as well).

The day was overcast, but a number of people still turned up to enjoy the event

I opted not to taste any wines, since I attended this festival solo & didn’t feel like drinking alone – LOL.  Also, I didn’t end up staying for very long as the weather was looking a bit dodgy – it began to drizzle on & off while I was there, so not the best day for an outdoor event, but I’m glad I made it.  According to the calendar listing, it looks like the second & final day of the festival ended up getting cancelled as it was raining cats & dogs!  And I thought we were done with the rainy season.  Well, it is spring in Sydney, so perhaps September showers bring October flowers?  Hmmm . . . doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. 😦

Whew!  Well if you think that’s a lot of festivals, let me just tell you, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  October begins the Crave Sydney International Food Festival, which is basically a month-long celebration of food . . . have I mentioned what a great city this is? 😉  And that doesn’t even include the Masterchef Live event taking place from October 7-9, in which the MasterChef Australia hosts, former contestants & celebrity chefs give cooking demonstrations & masterclasses.  It looks like I am in one for one busy (& fattening!) month ahead! 😉


The Art of Packing Lightly . . . well, sort of!

It was exactly four months from the day my plane touched down in Buffalo on October 8, 2010 that I departed once again for Oz.  Somehow in that short period of time I had made up my mind to quit my job, rent my house & leave my family & friends back home for a year of adventure abroad.

My house in snowy Buffalo, NY

Once the the big decision was made, the most difficult part of my preparation was figuring out what to pack?!

Just think for a moment about all of the things you use each day; now imagine trying to squeeze them into one suitcase & backpack, both of which by the way, you have to lug around with you everywhere you go.  Remember, too, that my first few months in Oz were spent on the road & my last month or so probably will be as well.  That means that as much as I may want to at times, I have to try not to collect *too* much stuff while I’m here – my suitcase was already busting a gut before I even left home! 😦

No, I did NOT bring all of this with me - hahaha! These are some of the boxes I packed & stored in my attic so I could rent out my house while I'm away.

So what *did* make it into my suitcase?  Well, in the end I packed pretty much the way I would for a two-week vacation – except that I had to account for four different seasons (thank goodness I didn’t have to worry about boots!)  I also tried to think about work clothes – although I wasn’t 100% sure what type of job I would end up in & what the dress code would be.  I wanted to bring some jewelry, but I had to select items that would be somewhat versatile so I would get enough use out of them.  And of course shoes, bulky as they are, had to be chosen carefully.

So much to think about!

My winter jacket from The North Face

One of my first concerns before I left home was finding appropriate jackets that would keep me warm & dry, but that were also lightweight & compact.  Thank goodness for The North Face!  The winter jacket above may appear bulky in the picture, but it is super light & it kept me nice & warm through the winter months.  The one below is just a “shell,” but I’ve used it often as a raincoat/windbreaker.

My rain jacket from The North Face

Amazingly, both jackets fold up into neat little bundles, as you can see in my next photo.  Very convenient when you have limited space!

Both jackets fold up into small bundles for easy transport

As for other clothing, I tried to pack a range of items that would be easy to care for, & on the whole, not too bulky.  I also tried to bring tops that would match more than one pair of pants & this line of thinking also helped me to select shoes.

I’ll start with the outfit I wore on the plane, which has become a standard for me on long flights: a grey sweatsuit & sneakers.  The sneakers are the bulkiest shoes I have with me, so it was easier to wear them rather than try to stuff them into my suitcase.  The sweatsuit is nice & comfy which makes it easier to sleep on overnight flights.  The top is basically a zip-up hoodie, so I always wear a t-shirt underneath so I can take the sweatshirt off if I get too warm.  The perfect flying outfit!  As an added bonus, I figured the hoodie would come in handy in cooler weather & the sweatpants could be used as pajama bottoms. 🙂

The only other shoes I brought with me were a pair of black Sketchers (which have turned out to be the perfect shoes for my job at Ghermez Cupcakes) & a pair of flip-flops (a.k.a. thongs in Australia), which are great for use in hostel showers & of course on the beach!  Oh!  And I also brought slippers . . . no, not Dorothy’s ruby slippers, just regular old wear-around-the-house-in-winter-so-your-feet-don’t-get-cold-slippers. 😉

Pants were relatively easy to figure out – I brought one pair each of jeans, khakis & black pants.  I also brought two pairs of capris – jeans & khakis – & a pair of jean shorts.

Tops were a bit more difficult – how many to bring & of what type?  I arrived in Australia in late summer & I knew the weather here would be much warmer year-round than it is in my hometown of Buffalo, but I also realized it could get cold in the winter, as well as in the Outback at night, so I wanted to be prepared.  To that end, I decided to bring the following:

  • 2 sweaters (in addition to the hoodie mentioned above) & 1 3/4-length sweater
  • 1 long-sleeve shirt & 2 3/4-length shirts
  • 9 t-shirts . . . yes, 9!

T-shirts packed & ready to go

Nine may seem like a lot of t-shirts to some people & perhaps not enough to others!  Considering I would be away for a year, I figured it was a good compromise.  Although I have had a few things mailed to me from home since I moved to Sydney & I have also bought a few things (yeah, I know, there’s *no* way I’m getting everything back into that one suitcase!), I wanted to have some variety at the beginning of my trip while I was still on the road.  Even more than that, I wanted to make sure I had enough clean clothes to wear without having to do laundry every other day!!

Sweaters - yes, it does get "cold" in Australia!

As my mom started calling me, I was now officially a “bag lady:” all of my clothes were neatly tucked away into the “Space Bags” you see above.  I’m not sure if they really saved much space when all was said & done, but the organization certainly helped in those months I was literally living out of my suitcase.  I also used them to separate clean clothes from the dirty ones.

In addition to the sweatpants mentioned above, I also brought another pair of pajama pants & 2 more shirts (1 short-sleeve & 1 long-sleeve) to use as pajama tops.

  • About 2 weeks worth of socks & underwear, plus a few bras
  • Bathing suit & Beach towel (I still can’t believe I actually stuffed a beach towel into my suitcase – yikes!)  I guess I figured I wouldn’t want to get my bath towel [the Rick Steeves travel towel mentioned below] sandy & possibly not have the chance to wash & dry it before showering!)
  • Rick Steves quick-wick travel towel
  • Small travel hair towel

Of course I brought the usual toiletries: Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash, Shaving Cream, Razors, Lotion, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss, Mouthwash, Face wash, Moisturizer, Contacts, Contact solution, Brush, Hair gel, Deodorant, Sunscreen & a few other odds & ends.

I even brought along a “laundry bag,” which was just the cloth drawstring bag that held an old air mattress I had at home – hahaha!  Dryer sheets came in handy to keep my suitcase smelling fresh as I was traveling, but haven’t been needed so much now as I don’t have a dryer in my flat. 😦

A mini flashlight was my mom’s idea (good one mom! :)) & it definitely came in use while camping, as well as in the hostel – if I was coming or going while roommates were sleeping, I didn’t need to disturb them by turning on the overhead lights.

A mini umbrella . . . which has since broken.  I am now on my *third* umbrella in Oz, but this one (*knock on wood*) seems to be holding up.

A travel alarm clock – which has also since broken.  I now use my Aussie mobile as my alarm.

Whew!  I think that’s about it for what was in my suitcase & I probably couldn’t have fit another thing in there if I’d tried!!  Now onto the items I originally packed either in my backpack or purse:

  • Important papers, such as my flight info, visa info, initial hostel reservation details, travel medical insurance information & Aussie bank account info
  • Passport, License
  • Credit card, Debit cards, Aussie cash
  • Travel pillow (makes long/overnight flights so much comfier!)
  • Laptop & Flash drive
  • Camera
  • ipod
  • Adapter
  • Jewelry: A watch, 3 necklaces, 3 pairs of earrings, 2 rings (I now have 3 rings since I bought an opal ring at Coober Pedy :)), Anklet
  • A journal & 2 books: an Australia guidebook & Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love (I’ loved it so much I figured I wouldn’t mind reading it a few more times if reading material was scarce during my travels.  Fortunately I was able to borrow books at various hostels & I now have a card from my local library – just like a real Aussie resident! ;))
  • A Planner – which has come in handy to help me remember birthdays & such, plus I now use it to keep track of my work schedule, bills I have to pay, etc. (yeah, I still have to pay bills on “holiday” :()
  • Glasses & Sunglasses
  • Medications
  • “Earplanes” – I always use these on long flights now as I get terrible sinus pain from the change in altitude. 😦
  • 2 small locks (for my suitcase & backpack &/or to be used on a hostel locker)
So – I think that just about covers it!!  As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a few things sent to me & I’ve also purchased a few things since coming to Oz, so I’ll probably have to ship some stuff back home in the end – not ideal, but it may be unavoidable as my suitcase already weighed just under 19 kilos (42 lbs.) when I flew from Alice Springs to Melbourne in late April . . . And that doesn’t include the nearly 8 kilos (17 lbs) that were in my backpack!

All in all, I’m pretty happy with what I packed.  Could I have made do with fewer clothes?  Probably.  But at the same time, I can honestly say I’ve used everything I brought with me multiple times.  *And,* miracle of all miracles, I actually don’t think I forgot anything! (And if I did, I haven’t missed it in 7 months! ;))  Now if only I could curb my desire to go out & buy some new summer clothes now that spring has arrived Down Under! 😉

Map of Australia

WA = Western Australia; NT = Northern Territory; SA = South Australia; QLD = Queensland; NSW = New South Wales; ACT = Australian Capital Territory; VIC = Victoria; TAS = Tasmania


September 2011
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