Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images: Blog en-us All images on this website are the property of (C) Riverstone Images. They are not to be downloaded or copied. (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Wed, 11 Apr 2018 21:53:00 GMT Wed, 11 Apr 2018 21:53:00 GMT Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images: Blog 120 72 Second-hand Finds Today we walked over to McMahon's Point and took a walk around the neighborhood, then had lunch at Olivo's on Blues Point Rd., just one of many sidewalk cafes around Sydney that serve delicious food.

From there, we came upon a flyer posted on the community bulletin board for a pet-sitting opportunity. Might be worth looking into. On the way back home we saw a Moving Sale sign, lots of those around here with so many people moving in and moving out. Bargains to be had all the time. Vida was selling a chest of drawers and two bedside cabinets - $150, delivery included, in excellent condition. Picked up a whole bunch of free stuff too!

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) australia lavender bay mcmahon's point moving sale new south wales olivo's sydney walking Sun, 12 Apr 2015 21:45:00 GMT
Saturday Morning in North Sydney There are so many beautiful suburbs to live in Sydney and we really lucked out when we found this place in Lavender Bay. We're on the lower north shore so we try to patronize the businesses in North Sydney, particularly the Sat. AM farmer's market. What's especially nice about this wonderful mild climate is that these markets are available year round. So many great vendors, not just fresh fruits and veggies but also artists booths and vintage shops. I found a "Country Road" cotton/rayon sweater (jumper) for $15, easily $50-75 brand new. Also picked up a bottle of local olive oil and some nice, crusty rosemary artisan bread. We also found a fabulous vintage furniture vendor who could turn any piece of junk into a work of art. Can't recall her name at the moment though. :-/ I wanted so much to buy a vanity and matching upholstered chair for $250 but considering we're still buying "essentials", I sadly had to pass it up. :-(

Later on we stopped for a pizza and a beer were shocked to see kangaroo on the menu! :-( But, seeing they are similar to deer in America, and we eat venison there, it's really not that shocking after all. Personally, I can't eat it but I don't judge others who do! I will say though that pizzas are a bit different here in general. Australians love beetroot on everything, from pizzas to burgers.

Aussie Phrase of the Day: "Crack A Coldie" - open a beer

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Farmer's market Saturday kangaroo markets pizza vintage Sat, 11 Apr 2015 10:30:00 GMT
New Friends, more utility entertainment and a Walk over the Sydney Harbor Bridge TPG was supposed to come back today. As of end of day yesterday, we had not heard back, when exactly, a TPG technician would come back to install our internet connection. Jim receives a text at 5PM last night, the tech is to arrive between 12 and 4, please respond within one hour or reschedule! WTH is wrong with these people?!

9:15AM - someone is buzzing my apartment. It's Energy Australia, to read my meter. I did not ask anything else. So done with them.

Last night Jim mentioned that he befriended a colleague, Craig, also an American. Since he and his wife have been here about three weeks longer than us, they are a few steps ahead of us in the "settling-in" process. They also have phone and internet w/ TPG. Once his phone was set up TPG confirmed the account with
"Dale." What happens next sounds like something out of a Monty Python skit.
Craig: But my name is Craig.
TPG: No, we have Dale, yadda, yadda
Craig: But that is not me
Just to be sure, Craig called the phone # and sure enough, someone else (not his wife) answered the phone.
Craig: Who is this?
Stranger: This is Dale yadda, yadda
Craig: This is supposed to be my phone #
Stranger: Well this is my phone #!

Back to my own internet woes...
I continue to wait for "Michael" from TPG, who called at 12Noon to say he was on his way. It's now 1:30 so I called him to be sure
he was still on his way.
Michael: I was already there but no one answered the doorbell.
Me: I have not left, no one rang my bell (angry voice)
Michael: I rang door #4 but no one answered.
Me: We are in unit #6, why did you ring unit 4?! (grrrr)

After all that, Michael determined that he was unable to connect me to the internet because the wiring required a special adapter that
I needed to buy.

Time to get out of this apartment and walk off my frustration. Walked over the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge for the first time.

But first, a little more excitement in my building before I leave for my walk. Someone's alarm went off in my building. My first visit w/ the fire dept!

What an amazing sight! It's so difficult to describe it's imposing size. It seems no matter where you are in the city, there is always at least a glimpse of it in your view. I met Jim after work in the CBD to go out for dinner. We found a happening spot called the The Office hotel and unlike your typical work office, we enjoyed a fine atmosphere of good food, spirits and music.

Today's word - BUGGERED: ruined, broken, tired

Fire trucks parked in front of our building.

Fireman examining the fire panel in the lobby.

The base of the "bridge walk" or Cahill walk on the Kirribilli/North Sydney side. The other side of the bridge accommodates bicycles. Each side is strictly monitored and guarded to be sure the walkers stay on the walking path and the bicyclists on the other.

Joggers can be seen running over the bridge on a regular basis. View from the bridge you can see this incredible vista of the harbor, opera house, botanic gardens, CBD, Circular Quay

Looking in the other direction, north, is Kirribilli, considered one of the toniest suburbs in Sydney

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Australia CBD Cahill Walk Circular Quay Energy Australia Kirribilli New South Wales Sydney Sydney Harbor Bridge Sydney opera house TPG apartment bridge stairs comedic fire and rescue fire department fireman harbor internet joggers Thu, 09 Apr 2015 07:45:00 GMT
Still Waiting for the First Meter Read (sigh) (rant) Yesterday was not the best day in Oz, waiting all day for Ausgrid to read the meter. They have to do a "first read" to begin the electricity billing process. What a convoluted and almost certainly corrupt system of cronyism of utilities. In 2014 the Australian government released utility companies to form a system of retailers and corresponding distributors that offer gas and power to customers. Since March 20th, we have been trying to set up gas & power in our name. Yesterday we had an appointment with Energy Australia (retailer) between 8am - 6pm. I waited ALL DAY for someone to show – no one ever did.

Called several times, Energy Australia, then AusGrid, neither knows what the other is doing, so poorly orchestrated. One tells me I need to be here, the other says no, the technician has access to the building- ugh - which is it? Then AusGrid said they set up their appointments through the retailers in the AM and PM (7-12 or 12-5.) Hmmm... So I called En. Aus. back, they knew nothing about the time options. I called again at 5PM ready to explode and AuGr tells me, no one was ever coming out today, my unit was scheduled for Friday, 8/4! Grrr!! I called EnAus to confirm this and it was indeed 7/4 as I had remembered it and I even had a confirmation # to prove it! They had no idea why AuGr had our apt for 8/4. No joke.

Simultaneously, I waited for TPG to set up our internet wi-fi/phone/dsl and was told someone was coming out between 12-5. A Telstra technician showed at 11AM to do preliminary work before TPG hooks up the line from the main in the cellar. Whatever... just glad someone was doing something! This is a pretty old building, charming "Arts & Crafts style" but the cellar was a site to see, crumbling and filthy. I worry a bit about the foundation of this building, yikes! A mass of wires and pipes, amazing that it all functions properly.

Well, not long after the Telstra tech was here and gone, we received a call from TPG later in the day and now we need yet another appt with another technician who can set up the internal cabling from the MDF room to our apartment, another $60! Did the previous tenant really not have internet access?! So, we still wait, since 20/3, for internet in our apt. (/end rant)

Last night I thought I would check with a neighbor, in apt #2, to ask if this was the typical protocol for utilities set up. Young, good-looking guy answered the door. Very casual, "no worries", they (the utility co.'s) just ring everyone's doorbells until someone let's them in! It's hit or miss basically. He, Alistair, also told me that his apt was broken into today and the police would be there any moment! I was sickened and shocked as he was taking it so well. Apparently they had bent the bars on the bathroom window and slipped in and out w/o anyone noticing, stealing Alistair's laptop. I was home all day, frequently going outside, out front looking for the utility folks and never saw any suspicious activity. Forensics and police were back again today too. I still can't believe they were able to bend the metal bars. Not feeling very safe here now even though we are in such a great neighborhood.

Oh well, next post should hopefully be a little more upbeat! Until next time...

Today's Aussie phrase: "Act the Goat" = playing the fool

Enjoy a few pix of my building and beautiful neighborhood!

This is my apartment, #6, conveniently located directly across from the lift = elevator. The little door on the left opens to a spot where the milkman once left bottles of milk for the original residents.

The Sharp building 55 Lavender St., where Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban own a penthouse suite. Although rumor has it they sold it not that long ago.

The lift, check out all that beautiful original woodwork inside.

Our building with all the mature palm and fig trees in front.

A typical find around the area!

A letter we all received regarding the break-in in our building, although it was Lavender St, not Walker.

One of the volunteers that tends to Wendy's Secret garden, across from our building.

One of many rainbow lorikeets that take up residence high up in the palm trees in Clark park, also across from our building.

A regular and his scottie in Clark park.

More beautiful lorikeets

Telstra guy examining the wiring in the cellar...

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) AusGrid Australia Clark park Energy Australia Lavender Bay New South Wales Sydney TPG Wendy's Secret garden apartment cellar dog rainbow lorikeet spider volunteer Wed, 08 Apr 2015 08:00:00 GMT
Tourists Yesterday we walked for miles around the city, starting from the touristy but quaint, The Rocks and Circular Quay. This is where the cruise ships on steroids dock and passengers enter old Sydney, where there are endless old alleyways and beautiful historic buildings. Lots of high-end designer shopping and niche stores.

We finally arrived at the Sydney Opera House and it's size alone is so imposing and the architecture, stunning, no wonder it is the iconic landmark that it is. In the surrounding area, you are also consumed by the harbor and bridge views with a variety of boats and yachts sailing by. From there we entered the Royal Botanic Gardens, 30 hectares of endless beauty.

Next up was Hyde Park where we ate Chinese on George St. to end an exhausting but adventurous day. Along the way, if you're lucky, when it's trash night, you can find some really cool and usable stuff on the sidewalk. Sidewalk finds are fast becoming one of my favorite hobbies around here! It's amazing what people will throw away. I found several wicker baskets as well as some kitchen items that were in perfect condition.

Random - A friend here is called a "mate," probably one of the most well-known affections of Australians and you hear it all the time!

The Convict



Circular Quay

Me in front of the opera house

Royal Botanic Gardens

Hyde Park, St. Mary's Church in the background, Indian wedding party in the foreground

Eels in the botanic gardens

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Australia Hyde Park Indian New South Wales Royal Botanic Garden Sydney Sydney Harbor Sydney Harbor Bridge Sydney Opera House ducks eel tourists wedding Tue, 07 Apr 2015 06:00:00 GMT
A Rainy Easter Weekend Well we celebrated our first Easter Down Under and the heathens that we are, we never made it to church. But we did manage to rent another van and this time it started and kept running without incident! Found several car rental places and dealerships up in Artarmon so this will be our go-to suburb when a car is needed.

Unfortunately it rained all weekend, straight through Friday & Sat., combined with holiday store closings, made Sydney more of a ghost town than the thriving metropolis it usually is. It is considered a public holiday straight through from Fri into and including Monday. While in Artarmon though, we found Fantastic furniture and Bunnings were open on Sat. so we bought shelving, lighting and a trash bin. I even remembered to look for Henry to surprise him with an American dollar bill but he was not working that day. From there, we went to Chelsea and James apartment. They are a super nice couple we met on the Sydney Americans Facebook group. Great timing that they were headed back to Texas and needed to unload everything from an iron and ironing board to a kitchen table and chairs and pretty much everything in between. We got so much accomplished, it was great!

The rain finally stopped a bit on Easter so that was a nice break but at least it kept us indoors to put our cheapo furniture together before heading out for more exploring.

Yesterday, later in the day, after sorting through mail and putting together furniture, we went for a hike (called bush-walking here!) through Ball's Head Reserve. The council converted an old BP oil refining and coal mining facility into bush-walking trails, replanting native plantings with Million dollar views of the harbor in the distance. We saw monstrous-sized spiders everywhere, holy crap! lol Had no idea how close a walk it was from our apartment. We just walked up Lavender and onto Union St. The suburb changes from Lavender Bay to Waverton, a very nice neighborhood! We may consider it if/when we move next year. But I have to say that it is a challenge to find a balance between street & train noise and an easy walk to the train station. During our walk in Waverton, we came across an adorable cafe, The Grumpy Cafe, formerly The Grumpy Baker.

A little history and description here:

Check out these beautiful views of the city skyline and harbor from Ball's Head.

We met a friend along the way (water dragon, like the spiders, they are everywhere too)

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Australia Ball's Head Reserve Harbor New South Wales Sydney Waverton bush-walking Mon, 06 Apr 2015 06:00:00 GMT
Productive AND Fun Today was both productive and enjoyable! After hours, days really, spent on the phone, I think I finally resolved the gas and electric problems. Because the retailers bill quarterly, we now have free electric and gas from when we moved in, 3/20, until the next meter read coming up on the the 10th of April. Crazy system but the free utilities works for me!

I recently found a hair salon and had a cut and color done at the Rocket salon (They've since changed the name to Wildlife hair) in McMahon's point. $144 – ouch. But there is no tipping here in Australia, as a rule, although I do find myself tipping every now and then, especially in the higher-end restaurants. My hairdresser, Cody, was a lovely girl and interesting. At 17 years old she once worked at a slaughterhouse/meat-packing facility which turned her into a vegetarian in no time apparently. I think I would too... Across the street is Billi's cafe so I had a nice lunch there after my hair appointment.

I also ordered change-of-address labels on Vista print and found petite clothing sites local in Australia. After more exploring up in North Sydney, I also discovered an Aldi's, where everything is so cheap! A real refuge in one of the most cities in the world.

This weekend also happens to be Easter and in Australia it is celebrated as a four-day-long weekend, Friday - Monday off is pretty damn cool. The bars/hotels were filled to the max around the city Thursday night. Our big excitement was borrowing a few dvds from the library until the internet kicks in on the 17th.

A typical, beautiful sculpture you will see walking the streets in the CBD (central business district) of Sydney. A native ibis has decided he likes the sculpture too. This sculpture also happens to have a water fountain in the center. (Jim in the pic, on the right, watching the bird.)

Ibis in water sculptureIbis in water sculpture

When Jim returned from Tokyo, he brought me back this lovely kimono. I just love it and wear it all the time!

KimonoKimonoJapanese cotton kimono that Jim brought back for me from Tokyo

He also brought back the winning lottery ticket from Japan too - Not.... Japanese lottery ticketJapanese lottery ticketNot a winner :-(

And since we are on the subject of Japan, I wanted to share this link to view these incredible Japanese prints.

Finally, I thought this was a fitting quote....

"One kind word can warm three winter months."
~ Japanese Proverb

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Australia Japan Japanese lottery ticket Lavender Bay New South Wales Sydney Tokyo kimono Sun, 05 Apr 2015 10:45:00 GMT
The Joys of Utility Hookups So the Origin gas saga continues... gas was scheduled to be turned on yesterday. No time was given, not even a range. Just have to wait all day for them to show to read the meter. This is because the gates are locked to access the property so I need to be able to let the meter reader in. Ugh

At 10AM I asked Jim to call to pinpoint a time frame at least and so glad he called. They were never even coming out but just did not bother to let us know! So exasperating...  It's a really convoluted system here. I just learned that the electric and gas are never actually turned off as it is controlled by one utility distributor. So you must set up a new account with a retailer, not the actual distributor. The previous tenant had Energy Australia but moved out and never paid the final bill so if we wanted to go with them, we were going to be on the hook for their balance owed!

On and off the phone all day with several different retailers has been dizzying to say the least. Jemena (gas retailer) told me that the gas was on and I only had to turn the knob under the sink to get it going. (It's these little things that can make you mad when moving to a new country. =:- O )
Yay, finally have cooking gas at least and could smell it a bit but did not think much of it as it quickly dissipated.

Toward the end of the day, Jim & I met up the library, our sanctuary, to use the computers and borrow a few movies. From there we stopped by "Billy Barry's Hotel" for dinner – fun place! For those who are wondering, all the bars here are called hotels.

"The word "Pub" is used in Australia to indicate a bar, also known as "the local". They are often called "Hotel", the reason for this dates back to the days that licenses only allowed pubs to provide alcohol to traveling public, the presence of a few rooms ( who might never be used) then gave some impression that the rules were being followed."

We then arrived back to our apartment around 8:15pm to discover the entire apartment smelled like rotten eggs – a catastrophic explosion waiting to happen!! We immediately turned off the gas line, opened all the windows and sat across the street in the park for a good 30 min. We emailed the landlord to call us ASAP. We then headed back inside once the gas has cleared out and went to bed. Lakis (our landlord) called 7:30 the next morning and sent Ivan the plumber out to check the gas connection. Sure enough, there was a major leak coming through and could have blown up the entire building. Needless to say, we were livid over the lack of accountability on the part of our landlord and have considered taking legal action.

For now, it's good to know we are safe and I can finally cook!

Words of the Day

baby = bub
trunk (car) = boot

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Sat, 04 Apr 2015 02:30:00 GMT
The Mundane and the Ridiculous I think most people have expected that we would be settled in quickly with our new lives here but honestly, it's been a pretty rough start. We've been in our apt for a week and still no fridge, gas to cook or internet access. Without a car it's very difficult to get around to buy the essentials and set up house.

We moved into our new digs on a Friday and Jim flew out the next day to teach in Tokyo so it's been a bit challenging for sure. His trip this week was bad timing but this will be the nature of our new life here, lots of travel and adventure! The first time traveling to Japan was eye-opening for Jim. Japan is a very clean, pleasant and conservative country. In a professional setting, they have a tradition of exchanging gifts with their guests. So Jim bought some very nice, high-end chocolates to give to the consultant of the company, in exchange they gave him a bottle of Japanese black raspberry wine called Bokbunjajoo. Haven't tried it yet but looking forward to it.

I discovered the library in North Sydney, an oasis and refuge for wireless internet access where I've been able to catch up with emails and bill-paying. Amazing how much problem-solving can be done with an internet connection! Also checking out second-hand stuff for sale on Gumtree, like our Craig's list. Yesterday I bought a local phone to be able to make local calls as needed and started to coordinate the utility hookups.

The utility companies are difficult enough back home to deal with but now in a foreign country, it has been exasperating. I tried to connect with one, Origin, but I was not getting anywhere with them.

Update: We also finally got a refrigerator, yay, no more coolers full of ice! Decided to rent one for only $19/month, alot less hassle. And after several days of no cooking gas, EnergyAustralia finally turned on the gas and I cooked my first meal using the oven's stovetop, voila, beef and veggie stirfry!

Love our new neighborhood. Took a walk along Lavender St. at dusk, this place is beautiful, day or night.

Finally, it's worth noting that even though we are living in an english-speaking country, we are quickly learning the many different Aussie
words and phrases that take on a whole new meaning. So with that in mind, each day I will write a word or expression at the end of each
blog post. Then all my readers will learn Aussie too. And if you happen to be Australian and reading this, feel free to offer any corrections or additions that I overlook! G'day Mates!

"Good on ya" = good for you

Our new fridge

Our side gate to Lavender St. w/ the beautiful city skyline across the harbor.

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Australia Japan Lavender Bay New South Wales Sydney Tokyo apartment-living Fri, 03 Apr 2015 00:45:00 GMT
Flying foxes... oh my.. Today I discovered the largest bat I've ever seen and it was hanging from a power line. Never a good thing for sure. Poor thing was dead but since it was hanging upside down and that is normal behaviour for them, I wasn't sure for a few days. After some time it was pretty apparent that it was deceased, a victim of a rainy night flying, sadly they fall victim to electrocution too often.

Fascinating creatures, there are actually three species of flying-fox found in Sydney. And, no surprise, I learned they are Australia's largest bat. They are also very important pollinators and seed dispersers for the health of the fruit trees and forests. Unfortunately they can also wreak havoc in people's gardens here and many people view them as pests and disease carriers. Like all animals, even humans, bats can host viruses and parasites, however, only one person has ever died by the lyssavirus here and the Hendra virus has never been contracted by anyone through a bat yet four people died by contracting this virus from horses.

Here's a close-up of the dead flying fox. For days I watched it hanging, wondering when it would finally fall and hit the sidewalk or some unlucky person below. Unsuspecting runners, walkers and brides with their bridal parties would walk and linger under the tattered animal.



In the end, what is one's misfortune in life becomes another's dinner as this sulphur-crested cockatoo demonstrates or at least attempts to prove.

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Thu, 02 Apr 2015 07:45:00 GMT
One step closer to a wireless connection Today I am anticipating Jim's return from Tokyo, his first trip to Japan. We Skyped a couple of times and he just loves it there. Thinking about food as we are headed out for a nice dinner in McMahon's Point tonight. We discovered this quaint little neighborhood recently and it's only a 10 min. walk from our apartment. It's a much quieter neighborhood than where we live on Lavender St.

Earlier today I received a notice from the mailman to pick up a package from the post office. I could barely read the handwriting though and had no idea where to pick it up! I asked my new friend Vera downstairs if she could read it and fortunately she recognized that it was McMahon's point. So glad I brought a copy of my lease or the gentleman at the post office would certainly not have released the package to me as I had no other way to prove where we live!

Yay, it was our modem so we could finally connect to the internet. That was the good news, the bad news is because everything is so slow here, we have to wait for a technician to come out to connect us. :-/ Today is the 29th and the tech can't get out until April 7th – ouch!! Back to the library and convenience stores for computer use for another week....

On a more positive note, we LOVED this Spanish restaurant we discovered on Blues Point Rd. in McMahon's Point, Delicado Foods. Photos below (taken at night w/ an iphone, NOT very good shots but still worth posting.)

Delicado foods - AppetizerDelicado foods - AppetizerCrab + Avocado Stack, caviar with a chardonnay dressing Main dinner - Delicado foodsMain dinner - Delicado foodsChorizo a la plancha, chimichurri Dessert - Delicado FoodsDessert - Delicado FoodsSad to say, but we couldn't recall the name of the dessert, but only know that it was other-worldly delicious!


]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Blues Delicado McMahon's Point Road Spanish Sydney foods tapas Sun, 29 Mar 2015 07:45:00 GMT
Someone at my door... Quiet night at home just watching a little TV. British crime mysteries are huge here, as well as many American TV shows. It was around 9Pm when my doorbell rang, and kept ringing. Not knowing a soul here, I was a bit startled and really reluctant to answer. But after a few rings, I finally relented and answered through the intercom. As it turns out, it was just another resident in the building, Vera in unit one. I ran into her one day and she mentioned that she was preparing to move to NY and was looking to sell some of her stuff. Great timing for me! I ended up buying a variety of kitchen stuff, including dinnerware, wine glasses, two large covered wicker baskets, square, the size of an ottoman, great for storage or use as a casual table. Plus a ladder which is essential when you have to store everything above your wardrobe (closet.) All for $90! Not bad.

Another wedding in Wendy's secret garden...

Wedding in Wendy's Secret gardenWedding in Wendy's Secret gardenLavender Bay, Sydney, NSW



]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Fri, 27 Mar 2015 08:15:00 GMT
Brooklyn accent Shopping today and this trip took me up to Artarmon, by train, of course to buy household goods at Bunnings. "Bunnings" is alot like our Home Depot or Lowe's but a slightly smaller scale. I met a nice young chap, Henry, who was intrigued by my accent. He was eager to tell me that he is in a school play and his part requires him to speak with a Brooklyn, NY accent which he was having difficulty mastering. I tried giving him some tips and wished him to "break a leg." He was also very curious and fascinated by our American money, particularly that our dollar bills are paper! So funny, since we were surprised that Australians have not only $1 coins but also $2 coins, now isn't THAT strange? Really weighs the wallet down... Notice that the Queen is on the back of every denomination. The paper money is also very colorful and interesting, until next time!

Australian currencyAustralian currency Australian currencyAustralian currency


]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Thu, 26 Mar 2015 08:48:00 GMT
Hepburn Court Where our apartment lacks some modern conveniences, it more than makes up for in character. A beautiful art deco style building with easily 12 foot high ceilings, original mouldings and plaster walls. Our apartment is large for Sydney standards and the building is relatively quiet. The landscaping in front  resembles a lush rain forest and probably shades the building well during the summer months but in winter makes for a cold and dark apartment. Australians call the woods or forest, the bush, so that is what I will refer to it too. The bush provides shelter and a food source for the birds and urban wildlife, being on the second floor, you can sometimes have a nice view of the birds in the trees.


This stunning plant/flower is in the front of our building, does anyone know what it is? It reminds me of a peace plant on steroids!

Peace plant flower?Peace plant flower?Does anyone know what plant/flower this is? It is in the front of our building and is stunningly beautiful. It reminds me of a peace plant but on steroids, it's huge!

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Art Bay Court Deco Hepburn Lavender Sydney apartment building bush glass leaded/stained plantings tropical Wed, 25 Mar 2015 05:00:00 GMT
Sleeping better... I think I'm finally adjusting to the city noises at night. Lavender St. is lovely but it is a main through road and exit off the highway, traffic can be busy, especially in the AM and PM hours. On a more welcoming note, we hear all the cool birds during the day; like the screech of the cockatoos, the chirps of the rainbow lorikeets, the alien sounds of the crow, beautiful song of the magpie and jungle sound of the kookaburra. At night, we hear the high-pitched sound of the Ringtail Possum, or at least we think that's what it is, never see them unfortunately.

While one of the most beautiful and livable cities on the planet, Sydney is also one of the most expensive. In fact, the townhouse next door to us, 30B Lavender St. just sold for $1.6 million and that is on the cheaper side!

This is a shot of Milson's Point train station, a 5-7 minute walk from our flat, note our street is right off the M1.


So, apartment living continues to be a challenge. Everyday I have to buy ice for the cooler to keep the food cold, no fridge yet. Isn't that crazy? Apartments here don't come w/ a refrigerator, w/ the exception of some of the newer flats, you have to bring your own. I cringe when I wake in the AM to find dinner soaking in the water of melted ice, what a waste. To add to the frustration, I have no cooking gas yet either so no working stove/oven... :-/

On a brighter note, my debit card was ready at Commonwealth bank so I was eager to pick that up in the CBD. As I mentioned previously, lots of boutique and hi-end chain stores in the CBD. Ugg stores, everywhere, no big shock, but many of them cater to the tourist. I would love to buy a pair but they are only slightly cheaper here than at home. Really disappointed to learn that the soles of the  "cheaper" ones are made in China, so you have to be careful of that scam too. Hope to find a store that is off the beaten path, where the locals buy them.

Did a little more grocery-shopping today and found crumpets at Woolworth's, one of the major grocery chains, not like the department store we grew up with. Have never tried a crumpet before, this will be new! They look a little like english muffins. I also found Vegemite, but did NOT buy a jar, yuk! lol


Next up, desk assembly, after spending 2hrs at Lav Bay cafe for breakfast and to use their wireless connection to at least try to stay on top of emails and pay bills back home. Yes, you are seeing tomatoes for breakfast, a very British tradition that is alive and well here. ;-)


Finally, was going to get laundry done today too. The washing machines are in a ram-shackled out-building in the back of the apartment building. This was another tough adjustment that we took for granted, having our own washer/dryer in our own home. :-/



]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Tue, 24 Mar 2015 02:00:00 GMT
Feeling a bit Overwhelmed I have to say, coming from a bucolic life in the woods, it's been an adjustment hearing all the city noises. Pretty much no matter where you are in the city, the noise is unavoidable. Even with all the windows closed, you can hear the trains in the distance and cars on the roads, revelers on the sidewalks. Apartment living is not something I've done in years either, parties on the first floor, doors creaking open and slamming shut. It is exciting but will need time to adjust and get used to it all. Fortunately since it is an older building, it's pretty solid and absorbs alot of the noises!

So yesterday, Sunday, I got alot done but started feeling a little overwhelmed. Here I am alone in this foreign country, in a city where I do not know a soul. Everything was becoming a huge effort without a car, no internet and new area to become acquainted with. Thank God for the computer in the convenience store nearby. I mapped out a route to the closest hardware store, Bunnings (like a Home Depot but on a slightly smaller scale) in St. Leonard's.  Took the train from North Sydney and walked a short distance to the store. Bought a few basics, cleaning products, hardware and some potted lavender! Returned home and scrubbed the bathroom and kitchen and finished assembling the bed frame, a huge accomplishment. What a difference, sleeping in a clean bed OFF the floor. Washed the bed sheets and blanket, so much more comfortable now!

If the benefit of not owning a car forces you to walk more, I also found there are positives to not having the internet available every waking minute. In fact, as inconvenient as it was, I found it rather refreshing. I brought a few books and magazines I've been wanting to read, and started with Greek Fire, a guilty pleasure that I can not put down. I've also been writing these journal entries everyday, something I'd wished I'd done on other trips I'd taken. This time, I said, I'm going to stay committed to writing about our experiences living here. It would be regrettable otherwise, to not document this once in a lifetime opportunity, living in one of the most fascinating countries on the planet!

Our new bed:



]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Sun, 22 Mar 2015 22:30:00 GMT
Getting to know the neighborhood Lots of cool stuff to tell about this fabulous city but one thing we noticed were fireworks every Friday and Saturday night. We don't always see them but we hear them often, sometimes even on weeknights. They usually have them in Darling Harbor but sometimes you can see them from Lavender Bay. And more recently someone told us that the cruise ships will light off fireworks too when they come into dock for the night so that makes sense as to why we hear them so often. Pretty exciting!

It was so nice to be in our own place now but after the moving day from hell, poor, exhausted Jim had to leave the next morning for Tokyo! :-( So here I am in this cavernous apartment w/ minimal living essentials and worst of all, NO internet. I walked up to the corner convenience store to use their computer to set up DSLR2+ broadband internet service but it will take as long as 10-20 business days. From there I stopped by Lavender bay cafe for a cappuccino. A lovely view of Clark park, Wendy's secret garden and the serene waters of the bay.



Clark park and wendy's garden below, are wildly popular locations for weddings. Since March is late summer/early fall, it's wedding season weather. Beautiful location and we feel so lucky to live right across the street from all of it. This is the view from our apartment. The mature trees are nice but seriously block the view. I imagine come summer we'll be happy for the cooling shade they'll provide!


Back to reality and the flat to clean and unpack, till next time!



]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Sat, 21 Mar 2015 02:51:00 GMT
Moving Day How many of us love to move? Not me, and our move turned into quite an unwanted adventure! We did not stop all day, from 7AM until 11PM, finally collapsing on our mattress on the floor.

We started out taking the train south to Tempe, rented a van (ute), which they almost did not turn over to us because we had no proof of residency on us. We had to call the landlord to ask him to fax the lease to the dopes but he wasn't in the office. Finally, dope #1 called the head office and they gave the okay. Learned the hard way to always bring the lease for any kind of transaction like this, just wished they had mentioned it in advance! We then drive across the street to Ikea, bought the bed frame, mattress, chairs and pillows. Loaded up the van w/ the goods and voila, it would not start or even turn over. A van filled with boxes and over-sized merchandise, after struggling to fit the mattress in – barely! We called the dopes across the street to drive over and give us a jump. Well, turns out, even though they are a gas/service station, they don't own the van and gave us a phone # to call for help. Grrrr...

We called the company who actually owns the van and then they called a tow service to come out to help us. Just prayed we only needed a jump. Talk about red tape. We waited 30 min when they called to find our location finally arriving in 40 min., could have been worse. At least the guy was pleasant w/ a pretty good sense-of-humor, of eastern Indian descent. When he arrived he asked if we wanted to buy a car battery.... J

Something we had never seen before, but the engine was under the passenger seat, check it out.


We lucked out after the jump seemed to do the trick. Ute was up and running. Service guy then told us it will cost us $40... ;-) bah, ha, ha JJ

Finally on our way, next stop, Pyrmont to pick up all our stuff there. The van was so jam packed that we had to leave a small desk behind and hope to be able to go back for it another time. We were so afraid to shut the van off that we just kept it idling all day, even while loading and unloading. Made it to Lavender Bay, yay! Check out the beautiful view on the left of the pic below. Clark park and Wendy's secret garden just beyond the fence.


Still not done. Unloaded here then onto Neutral Bay to Kerry & Justin's to pick up all the kitchen appliances and heaters for a great deal! Drove back to Pyrmont to load up again but no one was there. :-( From there we drove to a mall in Glebe where they have a K-Mart and Coles grocery store to stock up while we had a vehicle. We took a chance and shut the van off while we shopped, fingers crossed. So relieved that it did start up, so Jim dropped me off at the apt so I could assemble the bed frame while he brought the van back to Tempe, then took the train back to Lavender Bay. Making progress w/ the bed frame until the last section. For some reason, the last two screws were too short and the openings were too wide! Always a risk when you buy Ikea, it should not have been any surprise. We did not mind sleeping on the floor as it did not take long to get to sleep that night... Beyond exhausted, even though it was Friday night and the building was really noisy... we just kept hearing Carole King and Aretha Franklin playing repeatedly, at least they had good taste in music. Ha, ha


]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Fri, 20 Mar 2015 02:30:00 GMT
Lavender Bay – almost there! I lazed around most of yesterday until around 3:30 then got ready for the day to meet Jim @ 4PM at the foot of the Pyrmont (Darling Harbor) bridge. We took the train up to North Sydney (Lavender Bay) to meet with Lakis, the agent brokering the apartment. Signed the lease and now have the keys, woo, hoo!

Next mission was to find a bed so next stop, Ikea in Tempe, ate dinner there too. While it's good to have found a bed, we are essentially starting from square one and need to buy everything to furnish a two bedroom apartment. Typically, ex-pats will buy and barter second-hand stuff w/ other ex-pats and locals via Gumtree, MeetUps and Facebook groups. Gumtree is like our Craig's list where you can pretty much find anything!


I found and met a really nice couple, Justin & Kerry, on "Yanks Down Under" and took the train up to Neutral Bay to meet them and see what they were selling. So embarrassed, got lost from the train station to their apt so Justin found me and picked me up in his car! :-/ Nice area, noticeably quiet and off the beaten path of the city bustle but super steep hills up there too. They were working and living in Singapore last year for a year and another year in Sydney. Now that her contract was up, they were getting ready to head back home to Ohio. They had a nice variety of kitchen appliances to choose from. Bought two of these space heaters as well as the microwave and toaster, pretty awesome!

Had a very interesting and enlightening conversation w/ them, as it turns out, we are not alone when it comes to receiving the cold shoulder from Australians. Rather unfortunately they also confirmed that the Australians they met during their residency here, were not very friendly and even aggressive people. :-(  Kerry, who works in HR, experienced the unfriendly, almost hostile work environment, was not on-boarded or introduced to co-workers. They mainly befriended other American expats. To be fair about it though, it makes you realize that (with the exception of maybe the mid-west and south U.S.A.) Americans can also be a little stand-offish and sometimes not the most out-going/welcoming of foreigners either. It's just surprising that it would not be a little different in the workplace at least. Could be a generational thing too.




Justin was so nice he even drove me back down to the train station. Pointed out the Sharp building, 55 Lavender St. where Nichole Kidman and Keith Urban own a penthouse suite, nice. The back of the brick building, btw, is our building. That is our backyard. The Sharp building is diagonally across the street from us. We have not seen Nicole yet and rumor has it is that she has sold her apartment there recently, bummer.

So, a van has now been reserved for tomorrow, moving day and now we can finally get out of this moth-infested apartment and into our new flat! Got back to the apartment and found the apartment-owner vacuuming, wow, lol...

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Wed, 18 Mar 2015 22:15:00 GMT
Walkin' the Hills Walking and trains have become my primary sources of travel. The former has been great exercise particularly
because there is not a meter of flat land in this city, no joke! Hills and stairs... while it's a workout, it's also the reason there are so many million dollar views!

New word of the day:

Ground beef = minced meat

]]> (Robin Buckley of Riverstone Images) Wed, 18 Mar 2015 10:00:00 GMT