Category Archives: Australia

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef

Yesterday (Wednesday), I went snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef pretty snappy costumes they gave us don’t you think? At least the black spandex is slimming.  I will post more pictures upon my return.

I feel fortunate to have chosen Wavelength for my first snorkeling adventure in the Great Barrier Reef for a couple of reasons.  First, they never take more than 30 people (however yesterday there were only 25 in our group) and second they did a superb job of swimming with you to explain what you were seeing.   Half the time I followed the guides and the other half I spent exploring on my own.  The tour stopped in three separate locations for an hour each time which may sound like a lot but the time absolutely flew.  Thanks to the wet suits, I avoided getting a painful burn.

The first site was pretty cool, but it was the least interesting of the three stops we made.  It really allowed me to get a feel for snorkeling and diving under the water to get closer looks at the fish and coral.  By far the most interesting of the three locations was the third stop.  Although I saw clown fish at each location, at the third stop we found “Nemo”  (see above) as well as sea turtles and a couple of sharks.  I was impressed by my lack of fright and actually pointed out a slumbering shark that was about 8-10′ long for the guides to show to the others on the tour.

I know that many people suggest SCUBA diving when visting the GBR but something we learnt on our tour was that 85-90% of all marine life that you would want to see lives within the first 5 – 10 meters (15 – 30 feet).  This is because coral needs to be able to absorb the rays of sunlight to flourish and the sea life relies on the coral in turn so if you can hold your breath for a minute or two, one can swim to the floor of the reef and see all there is.  Even for those who were not comfortable like I was – the water is so clear that it is quite easy to see the marine life while floating atop the water. 

The only down side to the entire experience was for Sergio who despite taking the sea-sick pills the crew eagerly encouraged everyone to take, was not feeling great by the time of the 3rd stop.  The 1 hour+ boat ride back to shore had Sergio a strange shade of green.

Relaxing in Port Douglas, Australia

I am now relaxing in Port Douglas, Australia after flying up from Sydney on Sunday and then driving 45 minutes north from Cairns.  Port Douglas is a cute little touristy town of 3,000 that caters mostly to Australians, but accents from around the world seem to blend in and many workers here seem to be transplants from Europe.  We have not heard many US accents, although today I met a Dartmouth M.B.A. student who is taking two months to see Australia and New Zealand before starting work for Deliotte in Boston.  As it turns out she will be living a couple of blocks from me in the South End.
The weather is beatiful if not downright hot and humid, but I’m not complaining one bit.  Port Douglas is fairly far north in the state of Queensland putting us close to the equator I believe.  Most of the time today was spent visiting a wildlife sanctuary where I watched Sergio hold a koala and feed kangaroos (photos will follow when I return to the States).  Later this week we plan on snorkeling and Sergio might scuba.  I don’t expect to do much more than that until I leave for Melbourne on Friday afternoon.  The resort, Peppers Beach Club, is very nice and only a 5 minute walk into the center.  Similar to Provincetown, Port Douglas is essentially a one street beach town with shops lined up an down either side.  Coverage is quite spotty up here and I’ve not been able to post any tweets on my twitter account, but I have already found my favorite coffee shop (and there are a few to choose from here).  The shop is called re:hab and in addition to coffee and sweets they have about a dozen gelati flavors (and wireless to boot).  If I’m not snorkeling or lounging poolside I’ll likely come here for some refreshments and to stay out of the sun which has been blistering hot of late (90 – 100+ degrees).

Safely arrived and loving Sydney

I landed in Sydney on Friday, November 20th fairly refreshed and none the worse for the wear thanks to flying business class on United Airlines. The flight was fantastic in part because of the cush-seating that converts into a narrow but cozy bed.  I flew on the second level of the 747, which is only the second time in all my travels that I’ve had the opportunity. 

The first two days in Sydney have been brilliant.  The weather has been in the high 80s to mid 90s and I’ve used the time as sort of a scouting expedition to get the lay of the land.  The only sign of jet lag was the fact that I was exhausted last night (Friday) and went to bed at 10:30 and then promptly woke up at 6:00am. 

Today (Saturday), Sergio and I ventured out on an ambitious walk that brought us down to Darling Harbour, Sydney train station and Surry Hills.  We had intended to go to Paddington but pooped out and will probably check it out upon our return to the city.  However lunch at a cute coffee shop called Le Monde and a cold draft at the bar at The Clock Hotel definitely revived me.  I have to admit that Surrey Hills was a highlight and a place I look forward to revisiting (perhaps even tonight for a night cap).  The restaurants, bars and shops ooze a chic class that is sadly absent on Oxford Street (Sydney’s gay district); near where I am currently staying.

Despite the lack of any personality in the CBD (where I am at the moment) my room at the Marriott overlooks Hyde Park which is a lush downtown park that is pretty to look out at.  Tomorrow I’ll be checking out of the Marriott and hopping on Virgin Blue to head north to the Port Douglas. I’m looking forward to the beach and visiting the Great Barrier Reef… That’s all for now. I’ll be writing more about the entire adventure down under but wanted to briefly document the stay since I have a terrible memory.

Off to Australia tonight

Today I turn off my laptop at 4pm and dash to the airport to catch my flight to LAX then to Sydney, arriving in Australia on Friday, November 20th.  I plan on blogging a bit if able, but not sure exactly what this dream trip will bring.  I’m pretty certain that I will also be tweeting so you can check out my twitter posts in the lower right column or follow me at
I will certainly take lots of pictures and look to post them here when I return.  I have included my itinerary below indicating where I will be over this nearly 3-week escape.

Sydney – Arrive on Friday, November 20th
Port Douglas (Great Barrier Reef) – Arrive on Sunday, November 22nd
Melbourne – Arrive on Friday, November 27th
Hepburn Springs (Victoria) – Arrive on Monday, November 30th
Sydney – Arrive on Tuesday, December 1st

Just because a number of friends have inquired…Today’s weather in:
Sydney: 84 degrees
Port Douglas (Great Barrier Reef): 87 degrees
Melbourne & Hepburn Springs: 95 degrees

Heading to the land down under

As I prepare for my walk-about in Australia, I’m reminded how fortunate I am and how rare it is to take a three week vacation.  Many people I know have accrued weeks of paid time off but can not seem to disengage themselves from work to make use of the time.  Perhaps this is you?  Do you have several weeks of unused vacation time that you roll-over each year? Are you always taking days off at the end of the year because you can not roll all your accrued vacation time into the next calendar year?

I think this is uniquely American, because as near as I can tell even high performing employees and executives from other countries take four weeks or more vacation each year and their companies don’t seem to collapse nor are their jobs jeopardized.  I suppose this is yet another way that despite being as American as apple pie, I tend to differ from the typical American.  What a strange sensibility we Americans have.

So I’ll be logging off shortly and enjoying my walk-about down under.  If time allows, I’m sure I’ll include an entry or two but it is probably more likely that I’ll be sunning myself, eating as much ice cream as possible or just napping. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Reservations for Port Douglas confirmed

Reservations have finally been confirmed for the 5 nights I will be spending near the Great Barrier Reef.  After much thought, reservations were made at Peppers Beach Club in Port Douglas (approximately 45 minutes north of Cairns). This appears to be part of the same chain of hotels / resorts I booked for the night in the countryside in Victoria (Australia 1 week and counting). 

Although this resort does not have a lot of reviews on Trip Advisor, it appears to get thumbs up from nearly everyone. The location also seems to be excellent and the accommodations look pretty sweet.  We’ve booked a 1 room suite that has a jacuzzi on a private balcony.  After looking at the photos of the resort, I’m not sure if “private” is an accurate description, but it looks like a great place; just steps from the main drag, MacRossan Street. I’ve included some photographs of the resort’s pool, which look beautiful.

Pizzey family strikes

I genuinely love giving gifts, and if giving the gift is a surprise then some how it makes the entire experience even more exciting.  So why is it a shock if the tables are turned?  That is what just happened to me.

I would never deny someone the opportunity to surprise someone with a gift, but tonight I was on the receiving end of the experience and it just shocked me so much because it was so generous that I did not quite know how to react. Am I that provincial?  I’m not one to kiss and tell so I don’t want to get into specifics, but suffice it to say, the Pizzey family is quite sneaky and they’ve not only surprised me (well Sergio and me to be precise), but they have really made me a bit emotional by their gesture.  I’m quite excited to get to Melbourne to meet this amazing family – that is for certain.

Australia: 1 week and counting

One week from tonight I will be stepping on a plane to start my vacation in Australia.  It seems so far away even though the reality is quite the opposite.  Last night we booked our stay in Victoria where we will spend 3-nights in Melbourne and 1-night in Hepburn Springs. 
The Intercontinental in Melbourne (a.k.a. The Rialto) looks absolutely beautiful (see above photographs). TripAdvisor comments lead me to believe this will be a very enjoyable and comfortable stay since the hotel is in the city center and looks like it oozes sophisticated luxury.  After three brief nights we are off to spa country (about a 90-minute drive north of Melbourne) to stay at the Peppers Springs Resort and Spa.  According to Wikipedia, Hepburn Springs is a resort town located in the middle of the largest concentration of mineral springs in Australia.

From the looks of this place I think we will regret only spending one night. The first photo is the main building and the second appears to be the grounds and the spa house.  A bit of pampering might be in order, but I think I’ll probably defer and want to check out the area.

Now all that is left to do is to settle on where to stay when we fly up to Cairns.  We were hoping to change our flights to stay on Hamilton Island but flights are full so we are back to looking at properties near Port Douglas and Cairns.  Any suggestions?

Our weekend with Jo

Last night I said good bye to a friend I first met eight years ago.  When we first met, Jo was a student traveling from Melbourne Australia to attend a summer program at Harvard University.  Because her flight was delayed she arrived in Boston too late to check-in at Harvard and she was in a bit of a panic trying to figure out where she might spend the night.  My other half offered our place as well as a drive the next day to Harvard to help her get checked-in.  Since that time we’ve remained excellent friends and stayed in touch via e-mail and the occassional call.

When we booked our trip to Australia, we immediately called Jo to let her know we would be stopping in Melbourne to see her again and to meet her family.  However, Jo surprised us both when she told us she would be finishing her MBA program at Duke University and would be in N.C. when we were in Melbourne.  Fortunately, she was able to come up and visit us this weekend.  We had a wonderful time showing her Boston and bringing her back to the Harvard campus to see her old dorm and other places which she remembered so fondly.  Fortunately, the weather cooperated and we spent all day Sunday walking Newbury and Boylston Street.  We ate well too with dinners at Rocca and Mistral, which made each evening quite special.
Jo has provided us with some excellent tips for our upcoming trip so we will spend the next day or two revising our itinerary by adding an extra night in Melbourne – we now have been invited to dinner at her grandparents house. She has also helped us identify the perfect place to stay for an overnight in Daylesford which is approximately 1 hours drive from Melbourne called, Peppers Hepburn Springs Retreat. They have some lovely photographs of the spa / resort here.

Hotel rooms for Sydney booked

Tonight we booked our hotel room when we arrive in Sydney, Australia next month.  We first arrive in Sydney on Friday, November 20th and spend a quick two nights at the Marriott-Sydney before we dash off to the Great Barrier Reef (Cairns) on Sunday, November 22nd.  After nearly a week and a half of travelling through eastern Australia, we return to Sydney for our last 7 days. After reviewing what my Amex Rewards points could get us, we decided to book a room at the Swissotel-Sydney.

This large hotel in the center of town provides us with a central location and appears (in pictures anyway) to be very comfortable.  Travelling some place you’ve never been before can be quite a gamble and for that reason I did not want to book a boutique hotel or stand alone property that we have no way to judge until we arrive. 

Fortunately, TripAdvisor rates both hotels quite favorably so we are keeping our fingers crossed and finally starting to get excited about heading to Australia as the trip becomes more of a reality….next step is booking our hotels for the Great Barrier Reef and Melbourne.

Sydney – Cairns – Melbourne – Yarra Valley

I first wrote about my trip to Australia back in late June in my entry, Australia or bust…  Back then I had not really given much thought to where I wanted to visit and what I wanted to do.  Sergio had been to Australia years before and knew he wanted to go back to the Great Barrier Reef so Sydney and the GBR were already presumed to be part of this trip.  However, after a handful of conversations last week we booked our flights inside Australia.  We’ve booked ourselves on Virgin Blue and will fly from Sydney to Cairns to Melbourne back to Sydney again. 
We plan to enjoy our first weekend in Sydney (we arrive on Friday, November 20) then leave for Cairns on Tuesday, November 24th. We’re planning to spend a couple of days there relaxing beachside and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.  Later that week on Friday, November 27th we fly down to Melbourne. Our current plan is to spend the weekend in the city before packing up and heading to wine country – Yarra Valley.  I don’t know much about the area, but if it is anything like Napa and Sonoma, I know we’ll really enjoy ourselves.  We will end our trip back where we started by spending the last 5 nights in Sydney.  We’ve yet to book any hotels and I’m still a bit overwhelmed with trying to learn more about Yarra Valley (not to mention the logistics of how we get from Melbourne to wine country), but as work subsides we’ll start to figure out all the details.  I can’t help but get excited about the thought of the trip now that we are a mere 8-weeks away from heading to Australia.  The thought of not being anywhere near work and completely disengaged for 3-weeks seems impossible right now, but I’m sure I’ll adjust to life away from the office like a fish to water.