Diary of a Sydneysider

2 Aug

Thoughts and tastes from Sydney from June 29 to August… to be determined!

No Taste
30 June –  3 July 2011

Sigh. Here for three days and I still can’t taste a thing and haven’t eaten any chocolate. What’s the point if I can’t appreciate its deliciousness! I was unwell in Port Vila but it turned into body chaos once the adrenalin stopped shielding my body. The stress sent its best soldiers and I was a shivering mess under blankets, or a hot and steamy mess in a tank top. Blisters all over my lower lip. Red patches around my neck. Swallowing is too painful to eat and no appetite anyway. I have been looking forward to this trip to culinary Wonderland and I can’t even tell what I am forcing into my mouth! arch

Patience is overrated.    

Today, I did have enough energy to drag myself, slowly, to Chinatown and got a delicious sesame ball; the road to recovery tastes yummy.

Sydney from the air

Water!
4 July 2011

Finally I am connecting back with water… well, not too closely because the Harbour water is not that inviting, just pretty to look at with the Bridge on one side and the Opera on the other. I walked along and smelled the fresh air… but really sitting is just as good a way to enjoy the view and air, and you don’t want your mouth to stay idle, so you give it a little bit of mmm, say, a $7 dark hot chocolate at Guylian’s.

I know, it’s a Belgian chain with overly sweet shells sold under the name of chocolate, but I want to give chocolate makers everywhere a second chance to convince me. Well, Guylian’s is out forever: they can’t even whip up a decent hot chocolate, and dared serve it with one of their shells. tsk tsk tsk

But the day was beautiful and I also enjoyed reading in Hyde Park, surrounded by birds and green stuff. the scary birds I encountered in January are still here. I kinda hoped they would have migrated. sigh. At least I don’t feel as vulnerable now that I am wearing more clothing: try attacking me and your name will be dinner!

P.S.: Dear DC Friends: What are they doing to the Reflecting Pool? I get to watch PBS News Hour sometimes and of course they covered the fireworks. I love fireworks. the sky was beautiful but the ground was upside down. Not a god view for the tourists.

Long time No Seen
5 July 2011

A movie a movie a movie and not just anywhere: in a movie theater or what they call a cinema here. Yeah!  The last time I saw a movie in a cinema was last January in Sydney 🙂 Now you are going to ask me why I waited so long to see one if I like it this much. It’s Tuesday … the only day when movies are affordable: $11. I know, coming from the girl who would see movies at 9 in the morning to avoid paying $10 last year, but see the full price is $18. Ridiculous. I don’t even have a movie channel on TV so I was looking forward to today. Actually there wasn’t any movie I really wanted to see but chose Bridesmaids, a chick flick supposed to be a comedy but it was mostly depressing with tear alerts! Still, it was a movie playing in an overpriced cinema. Beautiful.

It’s windy and some areas, especially around the coast, have alerts but the sun is shining but in the city one just requires an extra layer. I saw people freezing and was very happy that the girl from the tropics was holding her head high because she didn’t forget her Swiss roots: layers layers layers. Of course, it means I don’t look as streamlined and fancy but hey, I am no longer running that race!

I did decide to leave the running shoes at home in an attempt to appear less touristy. Ten people were very unhappy because in regular closed shoes there is no room for joy and there is barely enough room for them. Yes, my toes like to swim in my wide running shoes, a size too big, with Joy. I miss being able to walk everywhere in sandals and showing off my self-made pedicure. Back to winter.

The good thing about winter is… hot chocolates; one of the many good things in Sydney is Starbucks. As usual, I asked for one without whipped cream but they also wanted to top it with marshmallows. the horror! This is good cocoa, you don’t need to mask it with sugary bells and whistles to make it edible!

P.S.: Did you hear? Melbourne shook a little…

Swimming with…
6 July 2011

No, no fishes in the building’s swimming pool unfortunately but I was happy to be in water again. the pool is small but given that I am totally out of shape, it was nice exercise to go around and around and around and phew my arms are tired around and my legs need a break around and let’s walk around a bit 🙂

Then to relax because my life is so stressful, a few (loooong) minutes in the hot tub. Aaaaaaah, do I ever have to get out?

The thing is, instead of rejuvenating me, it wiped me out so after breakfast, I had to watch a silly TV movie and drink hot tea before I had enough energy to face the world. I was looking for an ANZ branch (ring a bell? yep, January all over again!) but didn’t see one and instead gave in to my cooking mood and went to Coles to get some veggies. Home made tomato sauce full of vegetables, with sauteed tofu and mushrooms. Yummy!

Chocolate Day
7 July 2011

This is not my invention, I saw it on TV! I checked on line and yes, in July 7 is Chocolate Day in some places! I knew where I had to go at some point during the day. Yeah! First I had to get out of bed, no swimming this morning because I learned my lesson yesterday, that and my throat was sore again. It took so long for it to heal! So I chose to see whether my body remembered yoga… a friend for so long but abandoned for silly reasons in Vanuatu. Streeeeetch left, ouch. Streeeeeetch right, ouch. Ah, nice. time for breakfast.

My computer was on strike yesterday, which was nice: it gave me more time with my book. Except that I missed Nima who was in town for a few hours! Sad. I would have enjoyed some company. Sigh. Today it’s back on and I can write emails, check flights to NZ and update my journal! But the call of Chocolate is strong. Of course, first I have to solve my problem with ANZ, and as luck has it, there is a branch on George St (the one I found in January after a long search). You know what else is on George St?

Happy feet happy feet, I enjoyed the walk, blah blah with ANZ employee, and then o joy: Lindt Cafe! I go for a hazelnut hot chocolate and 3 macaroons: caramel salt, pistachio and hazelnut. I have never ever tried one on my life before: I thought it wouldn’t be that good honestly! they are quite nice actually: airy, sticky, full of flavor and different textures. I won’t get more, however, because there are better desserts to discover out there. I actually couldn’t finish all three because they are quite sweet. the Hazelnut one will be for tomorrow.

The hot chocolate was a bit disappointing: too sweet and I didn’t taste the chocolate! I did enjoy the chemistry set: a little jug of milk, a smaller jug of melted hazelnuty chocolate (in theory) and your empty cup, let the mixing begin! I love that part! the coffee shop got suddenly very busy and I was a bit self conscious but I hoped that they would be too busy doing their own mix to notice my manipulations.

Last week, I was dragging my feet during my walks but now that I feel better I managed a brisk walk home and straight into the pool. the smell of chlorine never left me!

In the evening, I realized that I barely had any chocolate in my decadent outing! So I had to get a couple of blueberry chocolate squares to celebrate in style but when I searched online, I saw that there are more than one Chocolate Days and the next one is in September. Who am I kidding? It’s chocolate day every day in my world!

Hazelnuts
8 July 2011

Mmmm I may have made a hasty decision: that hazelnut macaroon was delicious, even eaten the day after I bought it. It may be a fluke given my unconditional love for hazelnuts though so I won’t rush to the Lindt store to get one.

I got a phone… but it doesn’t work. Things cannot be easy! I went to Vodaphone but all their phones are blocked and I wouldn’t be able to use it in New Zealand or anywhere outside Australia. I am tired of blocked phones! I am still carrying my US phone, thinking maybe one day I will visit again (…). I left my Vanuatu phone in Vila for visitors because I can be carrying another useless phone. I was told that the post office sold unblocked phone, and I also got a SIM card. The phone works fine but there is no signal. I have never heard of that brand (gotalkglobal) and even if the website says they have a network in Australia is good, I am not convinced. I’ll try to return it on Monday since that branch is closed on the weekend.

It’s funny to see adverts for vacation to Vanuatu. It feels like such a different world now, almost like a dream because I am not in touch with anyone there. A different life.

Platter for One
9 July 2011

Oh my, I created a platter that my auntie would be proud to serve… well, of course hers would be bigger and better if guests were coming home, but my creation was heaven for one 🙂

The big plate was full of colors, textures, smells and tastes: soft cheese (brie!), hard cheese (not Gruyere, couldn’t find any at the local store), hummus (hello garlic!), a vine tomato (so tasty), half a pink lady (the other half didn’t survive the prep phase), some pink grapes (seedless of course), two slices of turkey breast (bland on their own but great companions), three slices of Spanish salami (spicy!), roasted eggplant (okay, burnt!), salted butter, and what kind of bread would go well with that? A hint: I mentioned my aunt. No, not baguette, she may be French but she lives in… Okay, I’ll tell you: Irish soda bread!

Where did I find it? The Paddington Market up the street. I thought it would be a long long walk uphill, but it turned out to be less than half an hour away. One of the stalls only sells soda breads, I chose the “plain” one, which reminded me of what I eat In Cliffoney. You can sample of course, yummy! It’s not a great market… very little food and you can’t eat arts and craft even if they look appetizing.

You may remember that I discovered that market in January when I was hunting down… Delicasey’s. Last time, the stall was pretty quiet and I had a great chat with the owner but today it was hard to approach the samples. I went twice but couldn’t chat with him about how he started his business. I want to be him: use my creativity to create beautiful chocolates. I’ll have to go back, no choice! Of course, I did elbow my way to buy a bag of “Sour Cherry Brandy” from his employee. Boy, are they good!

I had planned on a decadent hot chocolate at Max Brenner but in the end, with bread and chocolate in my bag, I couldn’t see anything better to eat! I went home and it was HARD to resist but I did. I read for a while, went for a swim… and it’s only around 4pm that I started working on my tasty work of art. Now I am taking a break before attacking the cherries lovingly wrapped in dark chocolate. Next time, I am getting the hazelnuts. How long can I wait?

Confusion
10 July 2011

I decided that I would treat myself for breakfast: smoked salmon, avocado, tomato, Irish soda bread. I feel like a queen. hihihi! More treats for lunch/dinner with the wonderful leftovers from yesterday. I am about to run out of the good chocolate though, so I need to plan an emergency outing tomorrow. And I need to solve my phone problem

I was curious about Brad Pitt and Sean Penn’s movie. La curiosité est un vilain défaut. A waste of $18, I should have gone back to the market and gotten more chocolate! Life as a Tree, I had heard about it but I don’t like to know too much about a movie before seeing it. It started well but suddenly turned into a documentary. I missed some of it because I was falling asleep. Waves. Volcano erupting. Dinosaurs.  Oh? Did they mix the files? Apparently not. Some people walked out.

I am sure it had something to do with the intro when the main female character says that there are two ways in life: grace and nature, she went for the former but obviously after the death of her youngest son she developed some doubts. Still, it was a long and confusing sequence. The characters came back and finished the story line, oh so slowly. It ended in a dreamlike sequence that brought more confusion (desert, beach, dead people, wrong ages) … and more walkouts.

Given the laugh and comments once the credits starting rolling, I assumed that I wasn’t the only one who had felt confused 🙂

P.S.: I love this weather, sunny but fresh. I got to wear the gilet my aunt knitted for me. Also my hair is back to straight! In Vila, with the heat and humidity, curly strands suddenly appeared and baffled me. It was puffy and unruly, now it’s back to flat and dull. It definitely needs a trim though… as soon as I find a place that doesn’t charge $50. Remember? That was a shock last January when I thought the hairdresser had said $15. I just wanted a few centimeters off!

Darling Harbour
11 July 2011

Another magnificent day in Sydney. I am so lucky with the weather: sunny and fresh. Some people are in short sleeves or shorts, but not both! I enjoy my jacket and scarf, and sun screen on my face.

I discovered Darling Harbour in January when I went to the Aquarium. A fantastic place whatever you want to do: eating at the fancy restaurants, shopping, gawking at boats in the marina, walking along the water, sitting on a bench to read (like me!) or people watch. Cars whiz by above your head but you barely hear them thanks to a number of playful and noisy fountains enchanting children (if only I was a couple of years younger, I would join in the games!) and birds calling each other from palm tree to unknown tree. Don’t go there on an empty stomach: Movenpick (best Swiss ice cream), Lindt (no introduction necessary) and even a big Starbuck’s with an inviting terrasse facing the marina. I resisted to numerous temptations: ice cream, cookies, fudge, sour candy… because I was focus on one thing: sesame ball.

Yes, Darling Harbour is close to Chinatown and after my walk I headed to my favorite dim sum store. Last week, no sesame ball. Drama. Success this week, and since the line was short, I also got two emperor puffs next door. I ate those while walking – hot is better, my tongue didn’t quite agree – and sat on a sunny bench to enjoy my treat. Beautiful day.

P.S.: I have a phone! Well, the phone I bought on Friday was fine, but the SIM card didn’t cooperate. First, I went to Vodaphone to get a new card and make sure that the phone was actually good, then I returned to the post office doubting they would reimburse me, but they did! Youpie!

Heaven Collided with Earth
12 July 2011

Yes, today was one of those rare days when a happy collision happens. I spent a few moments in heaven while sitting on a bench near Manly beach. Yes, I was eating, and yes, it was chocolate.

Not just any chocolate: an original creation by patissier extraordinaire Adriano Zumbo.

Don’t be surprise if you have no clue who he is. I didn’t either, until I saw him and a couple of his works of art on MasterChef Australia. In an instant I was online and looking up his stores’ locations. I was still in Vanuatu at the time. When I came here, I knew I would pay his Manly store a visit. I should have double checked the address before going but I had a visual memory of the map and thought I would be able to find it easily…

As you may have guessed, even if my memory wasn’t too bad my landmark was wrong: there are two harbours, one for ferries one for private boats.  I was roaming the streets where it should have been unsuccessfully. Drama: I thought I may have to do the unthinkable, ask for directions. I switched off my brain and let my feet do the searching… and within a few minutes I was at the front door. Magic. Works almost every time.

It’s a tiny little place with a small sign hung high on street with no foot traffic. It makes it even more special, like a secret or mystery location for a small group of snobs. Happy, I went to get a proper lunch… but was highly disappointed by my red curry: the sauce was too liquid and not spicy enough. Once fed, I could enjoy my treat better. I had seen an appetizing Sacher torte but when it was time to buy I thought I should go with an original creation.

The bread and Danish looked good enough but of course I only had eyes for the desserts… well, the ones with chocolate. I didn’t even look at the macaroons but something caught my attention: Cocoon. Here is the description:  Chocolate sphere, banana caramel and milk chocolate chantilly, coconut foam mousse with a banana cremeaux

Adriano Zumbo's Cocoon

Sounds good but it tastes amazing. I only had my teeth and fingers and attacked it gingerly. The sphere top broke into pieces revealing the cocoon: five layers of happiness. Each layer (milk chocolate mousse, banana, caramel, something I couldn’t define and coconut foam) more delicious than the next and together… heaven. The whole better than the sum of its parts. The thin dark chocolate sphere was resting on a crunchy pedestal with a drop of white chocolate as glue. Had I been alone I would have licked the cardboard it was sitting on and the cute box. I kept one side with the “logo” as a bookmark.

The logo is just the name and title:
adriano zumbo
—–Patissier—–

So simple and unassuming, the opposite of his works of art. My degustation was interrupted twice by people who wanted directions to the store… You may not know him, but he is famous around here. In a way, I am glad he doesn’t have a store closer, because I would live there. It was a beautiful day to take the ferry and walk along the sea. The trails of course were busy with kids, runners, walkers and dogs; and surfers were enjoying the big waves. Not many people were swimming (the water was probably freezing) but people of all ages were sun bathing. Winter in Australia…

Housework
13 July 2011

I have been in my studio for two weeks and it was time to do a few chores: laundry first, thankfully the washer and dryers are on the same floor. Painful but necessary: vacuuming the place and scrubbing the bathroom. I don’t even remember the last time I did that. I was spoiled in Vanuatu and loved it! I didn’t do any dusting, that’s just the worst chore ever, especially here because the landlord has decorated the studio with good taste… and too many dust collectors: statues, vases and such are lovely to look at but what a pain! Next time.

While I was enjoying my wonderful Irish soda bread, the regular stuff went blue. Aha! Perfect excuse to visit Swiss Bakerz. I have walked past it a few times, salivating in front of its window but thought it would be too dangerous to enter. I was right. I’ll have to go back, and I know this delicious wholemeal sourdough bread with a wonderful crust will not last; and the mini chocolate tarts are already gone… Smooth, dark with crunchy pastry. Sigh.

You may have heard that Lady Gaga is in town for a concert tonight. She was in my neighborhood on Monday for “secret” concerts in two nightclubs along Oxford street. She twitted the locations late in the day and the Little Monsters were eagerly waiting in a looooooong line going past Swiss Bakerz; I know because I saw it on TV. Yes yes, the queen of pop was a couple of blocks away and I was fast asleep. So what? She is no Adriano Zumbo! I already know what I’ll have next time 🙂

Manly also has an Aldi, and I ran through it since I had 10 minutes before my ferry. Just enough time to go through the chocolate selection. It wasn’t as extensive as in other Aldis, even the one I visited in Melbourne. I got Choceur’s Dark Hazelnut and Hazelnut & Praline Filling. I opened the former and was a bit disappointed by the quality (…) of the chocolate. I tried the other before, and I know its sweetness hits the spot.

According to the news, today was the coldest July 13 in 8 years. The sun was hiding and the wind made a few attempts at piercing my Irish gilet but my walk in Hyde Park was enjoyable, brisk 🙂 I am not back to my DC pace (but who wants that!) but certainly faster than in Vila, where I passed for a sprinter hihihi! Such a nice place.

Hunt for Chocolate
14 July 2011

Still dreaming about Mr. Zumbo. I wish there was at least a Koko Black coffee shop around to satisfy my luxury needs. The platter I treated myself to in Melbourne was an unforgettable experience: warm melted chocolate on vanilla ice cream, a small piece of chocolate cake… I haven’t lost home that I may find a similar experience here.

During my walk I came across Coco Noir (aha) with appetizing treats but since the coffee shop was in the middle of an open space in a mall corridor (don’t ask), I didn’t feel like sitting down. I did get a hazelnut brownie with dark chocolate bits. Delicious dessert in the evening.

I also visited Haigh’s but they don’t have a coffee shop and since I have been there a couple of times, they no longer offer anything of interest; sad, huh? I discovered the Nut Shop and tried their dark-chocolate-covered marzipan squares (yummy) as I was walking around Sydney’s CBD. I bought some almond and dark chocolate bark – to be tested.

Lindt and Guylian’s have nice menus but so much heavier; you almost have to bring a friend. Anyone volunteering?

Rainy Sydney
15 July 2011

Rain? Oh no, I don’t like rain. I only left my apartment to go to the swimming pool… Yes, that may seem strange to avoid showers but dip my whole body in water. The smell of chlorine follows me everywhere!

I was surprised to see on TV that Harry Potter just out today in the US, I thought it was out a couple of weeks ago. Here, it came out on Wednesday… Yep, two whole days before! Of course, it is number one and breaking records. I’ll see it later on, when all the crazies have seen it a couple of times. With kids being on vacation, the room could be chaos!

I have been twice to see movies this month and both time people sat right next to me… even though there were seats elsewhere. Ever heard of private space, people? My bubble is large, I need at least one free seat on each side and if possible behind and in front of me. Especially these days, after living for a few months with very little company and two weeks alone here, I don’t want to be around crowds!

I wanted to go to Target today but the thought of spending the day around noisy people (+ the rain!) just put me off. Can you believe it? Moi, saying no to Target. Well, the truth is, I had plenty of company: the dark chocolate almond bark is delicious! A few bits are left for tomorrow but I do have to leave my cosy space and visit Delicasey’s at the Paddington Market. Maybe we’ll get to chat this time.

Bread and Chocolate
16 July 2011

Saturday means? Paddington Market 🙂 I got bread from a different stall but stuck to Delicasey’s for chocolate. I had a good talk with the owner, but he didn’t remember me from last time. Not really surprising, but I was hoping he would remember that he had invited me to look at him work! I should have stayed in touch. He said he was busy helping a friend setting up his own chocolate production. One day it will be me.

In the afternoon, I went to Coles. It had been a while because I had to put down the law: no more treats until I finish my leftover. Well, I still have a portion of pasta and veggie sauce but I had some yesterday and I am not going to eat the same thing two days in a row! Come to you brie and salmon, fruits and veggies.

I couldn’t wait to try the bread (wholewheat with seeds, dense and tasty) with some brie, half a tomato, a carrot; a yummy snack. Later on I had a delicious tuna salad with avocado, onion, tomato and extra virgin olive oil. Now the serious course can start!

Emergency or Not?
17 July 2011

At first I thought it came from the movie I was watching… but when the ringing kept going and going, I realized it was the fire alarm. It seemed to stop but then came back. I was fully dressed but not at all looking forward to going outside: it’s raining! Mmm it keeps ringing so I’ll look for my passport, what else do I need in life in case my apartment burns down? Credit card, address book. Ok, then shoes, jacket, mmm it’s going to be cold, where is my gilt? And the alarm stopped. Oh well, it was an honest try.

A few hours later, just as I was approaching the main door, an alarm started again. It didn’t sound like it came from my building, at least nothing was ringing in the lobby. A guy came from the car park and we decided to risk it and take the elevator upstairs. He said that the firemen came in this morning and that it was nothing. I was coming back from the Rock’s Market and had treats in my bag so I wasn’t worried. Anyway, I needed the bathroom and I was thirsty from my long walk!

I heard sirens outside and since I still had my shoes on (it takes time to tie shoelaces!) and was hearing my neighbors move, I decided to follow the heard. Just as we reached the lobby (using the elevator, see how worried we all were!), firemen came in. One stopped the alarm (thank you!) and said it came from the 6th floor so they headed there also by elevator! When they came back, they said everything was fine.

I was wondering whether to follow my plan, going to the swimming pool since it is on the 6th floor… Oh well, the best place to be in case of a fire is in water, right?

I did get wet walking home though. As I was reading near the water, with a beautiful view of the Opera from across the harbor, I saw gathering clouds and started the walk back. At first it wasn’t too bad, like a mist. I was happy to reach Hyde Park and find shelter under the trees. Once I was on Oxford street I considered opening my umbrella, but I was so close and stubborn… My hair was all frizzy but the rain wasn’t that wet. Happy to be home.

I know I shouldn’t go to the Rock’s Market: a very dangerous place. Most of the stalls sell inedible items but then you smell roasted nuts, cupcakes, pastries; and you can sample fresh hot chocolate, nougat, mystery treats. Somehow I go in with good intentions (a detox juice with carrot, celery and apple) and leave with caramelized walnuts and a bar of chili dark chocolate (Kimberly, never heard of them but the guy thought I was Irish!). How did this happen?!

I still haven’t booked my trip to New Zealand. I am having a hard time finding accommodation in Nelson so I may have to change my plan and start my search all over. Chocolate helps 🙂

P.S.: The alarm also rang while I was cooking and I ignored it. I heard the sirens, soon the alarm was off and no agitation so I kept stirring. The fourth time was around 11pm, when I was watching TV in bed. Very annoying noise. It takes the firemen a long time to come, I guess they are tired to come here for no reason!

Tiger Pie Temptation
18 July 2011

My feet took me into my old neighborhood today: Kings Cross/Potts Point. My rule though was: no buying succulent treat! My sweet shelf is full of chocolate — blueberry (Lindt), pistachio (two bars bought in Port Vila’s Au Bon Marche), hazelnuts (Delicasey’s) + praline (Aldi’s), almond (Aldi’s and Nut Shop’s), chili (Kimberly) — and naked walnuts (without chocolate).

Walking next to beautiful pastry shops (and even one that wasn’t there in January!) was torture, I’ll have to go back. My feet also took me down (thank you) McElhone’s stairs and past Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, creator of the wonderful tiger pie. Unfortunately, a fence now prevents its customers from sitting along the water, and look at the sailors. A few benches have been added around trees, I think it’s impossible to eat it standing up, but the view is not as nice.

For those who forgot, a tiger pie is an innocent meat pie covered with mashed potatoes, mushy peas and gravy. Mmmm I really hope my feet will take me back there. I walked for just over an hour, so I may be able to burn a tenth of these calories!

Harry
19 July 2011

Yes, I have finally seen the last installment of the Harry Potter adventures. I laughed, I cried. I loved it.

I couldn’t remember the story (probably read the book too fast!) and couldn’t think of how the previous movie had ended. I wished they had provided a little summary before the movie started!

The guy checking the tickets wore a Hogwarts cape, even if he was old enough to be headmaster! Posters were all over the walls and in every corner. A curtain hid an exhibit with artifacts from the set; I heard about it on TV!

Afterwards, I visited the Starbuck’s next door for another disappointing hot chocolate, but it kept me warm while I walked home. Yep, rain is back and the wind has picked up so my umbrella was whinging. The forecast said bad weather is coming and will sit on Sydney for a few days.

I don’t mind: I started reading a thick book by Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It started slowly but I have big hopes because I liked another one of his books.

So far this month, I have read:
— The Japanese Lover (Rani Manicka): good but disappointing ending because it didn’t close the introduction of the book. A writer meets an old Chinese woman to hear her fascinating story about going to Malaysia at the age of 16 to a marry a rich 42 year-old Chinese. During World War II, she is a recent widow raising her violent son and the spoiled daughter her husband had with his mistress when she meets a hard Japanese General who asks her to become his secret geisha.
— Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) or how we make split judgments. It goes through cases where snap judgments have resulted in good and bad outcomes, and explains why through fascinating studies.

I know, not that many: I watch too much TV!

Breaking Records
20 July 2011

But not in a good way: wettest July, 90 km/h winds inside the city… I did go out because Romney was in town with a care package from Vanuatu: treats from Austria. It’s a long story but I missed on Nima’s goodies when he spent a day in Sydney because my computer was on strike that day and I didn’t have a phone back then. Since Romney had to visit the US embassy to get a visa, he had the pleasure carry the package and see me. I got a hug, cherry jam and Mozart Kugel! My sweet shelf runneth over.

Since we met near Paddy’s Market, I got more treats in Chinatown and healthy fruits and veggie at Coles. What a feast! I was lucky enough to be out between showers and the wind just upset my hair!

The fire alarm rang again! So rude: I had been warming up in the hot tub. I didn’t move until I heard the sirens. I thought if the handsome firemen check the building and find me soaking, it would be embarrassing. I went up one floor to be home and waited a bit to make sure there wasn’t a fire before returning to my routine.

My plans for New Zealand are slowly taking form, even if it’s totally different from the previous one: a week in Auckland, wanderings on the North Island for three weeks, two weeks in Nelson, wanderings on the South Island… and then we’ll see!

Cabin Fever
21 July 2011

Rain rain rain. Wettest July in 60 years. More rain in two days than in an average month of July. Waves reaching 6 meters. Ferries cancelled. Coldest July day in x many years. Blah blah.

I don’t have any waterproof coat and umbrellas are mostly useless. Still, I couldn’t stay cooped up all day and faced the elements to run a couple of errands (Optus and food!). Got home wet, but it’s not that cold: about 16 degrees Celsius.  Aussies are spoiled 🙂

Another sign: Costco just opened in Sydney and another one will open in Canberra tomorrow. See how lucky they are? Food is quiff expensive and with the crisis, households suffer… Hundreds of people were waiting in line hoping for some relief, and giant jars of Vegemite!

Since I am cooped up, I am watching too much TV and caught Anthony Bourdain’s show (No Reservations). He was in DC! It reminded me of all the places I wanted to eat at but never made the time for. I had never heard of a couple of places and wished I had! He did go to a few places I knew and it was nice to see images of my old home. No, I am not going back!

I did work on my next adventures and booked a studio in Nelson. I also wrote to my landlord to ask what was going on with the fire alarm. He contacted the building owner and apparently, it’s a human error not a defective system. I also told him about my dark visitor (strong silent, falling from the ceiling… and dead within seconds thanks to a smelly spray) and the little dancing feet I hear in the ceiling when I go to bed.

Another good action: quick dip in the cold pool and long soak in the hot tub. Aaaaah.

Aussie Sense of Humor
22 July 2011

I like this advert on TV for the tri nations rugby tournament. While the voice over is pretty innocent, the accompanying text (supposed to repeat the same content) is hilarious. So for example, when the voice says South Africa, the screen has the Meat Eaters, also described as the World Losers (champions says the voice); you hear New Zealand but read the Sheep Lovers. The first match is Saturday against South Africa, whose strengths are butt heads, off sides and soft wimpy tackles.The voice says the match will be a test, but the screen had a different analysis: “a breeze” for the Wallabies.

I also love the way they shorten words (not sure about the spelling thug!): polies (politicians), sunnies (sunglasses), footy (football of different sorts),  cocies (cocatoos). And play with last names: Hughesy, Jonesy; first names: Ems (Emma); and even cities: Brisy (Brisbane). Very few people are called with their actual name anyway! Can you guess what a chook is? Sultanas? Crook? When I watch MasterChef, I don’t always understand the ingredients, and not just because I know little about food, I don’t speak Australian! Respectively: chicken, raisins, sick.

It looked like the elements were abating so I rushed outside to get some Swiss bread at the Swiss Bakerz. Multigrain, yummy! When it’s done, I have to find the Le Pain Quotidien in my neighborhood. Souvenirs yummy souvenirs.

Midsomer Murders, Silent Witness, Hustle: I love British TV shows. When I am not glued to the television, I eat… or cook 🙂

A Typical Janique Recipe:
Fry little tofu squares in olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
When the tofu gets a nice golden color, add finely chopped red onion.
Add frozen peas and mix well to get the flavors to talk to each other.
Warm up the following ingredients in the pan: pasta (fettuccine leftover from another night; I always cook two servings), fresh baby spinach, canned red beans.
Finally add about three soup spoons of tomato sauce with green and black olives (fresh from a jar).
Stir well, let them warm up to each other, serve and eat!

The Sun is Back!
23 July 2011

Rainy morning but slowly the sun would pierce through the cloud blanket, hide again, come back… After fighting with online banking on three of my accounts to organize my finances, I needed a walk. I know I know I should have gone to Paddington Market and get some delicious home made chocolates (Saturday routine). My sweet shelf is still full and I needed something stronger to change my mood.

I didn’t want to miss the World Press Exhibit and thought some cultures would clear my head. It did! Some photos are stomach churning: narco war in Mexico, Haiti after the earthquake, women getting illegal abortions in Kenya, red shirts in thailand, etc. But there are amazing nature and sport photos as well, and even a few shots from fairs in Ireland! The Sydney Morning Herald had a corner with its own contest, softer side of the news, except for the hardship endured by Queenslanders during the summer floods.

On my way to the State Library, I saw the Swiss flag and heard some music. I assumed it was an infirmary (red cross flag backwards to avoid copyright) for an event of some sort. On my way back, I decided to drop by, I could see people ice skating and smell food. As I got closer I realized that there were other Swiss flags, from each “canton,” and little chalets with foods from different parts of the world, including raclette!  It’s a winter festival… under the sun, which was officially back.

Swissotel was serving this Swiss delicacies, Apfel Strudel and Movenpick ice cream. I had to have some raclette because they had a half “meule” and it had to taste real. It didn’t unfortunately, the girl was quite bad at it and they serve it on bread instead of potatoes. At least, I got two petits oignons and three cornichons, with some paprika and pepper.

Believe it or not, there was no chocolate, Nutella on your waffle or crepe, some ice cream (yes, don’t forget this is Pacific winter! Ice cream can be eaten outside all year long.), but nothing even remotely appetizing. I got home and attacked my sweet shelf 🙂

I am happy to be in Australia. Where else would you see a flock of cockatoos in flight? Walking around the Royal Botanical Gardens, I also enjoy the “wilderness” inside the city. Several ponds were actually recent, caused by the record breaking rainfall, but the ducks and birds seem to enjoy them even more than the regular one. It may be explained by a sign that says that eels live in it and eat baby ducks. Apparently adult ducks eat baby eels, natural balance. Even when they clean out the pond, the eels slither their way from the harbor! Since then I have been trying to picture that but I don’t understand how they climb the wall!

Le Pain Quotidien
24 July 2011

Since I realized that LPQ had a branch in my neighborhood, I couldn’t wait to test it. You may know that I consider it my duty to visit Starbuck’s in every country I stop in (sometimes just at the airport!) to check the quality of their hot chocolate and chai latte. I haven’t seen many LPQs outside the US, but still test their ambiance and menu… and their treats. Last January I had a brownie at the Bondi Junction branch: it was too hot for a hot chocolate! Today was perfect for liquid heaven.

In DC you would get a nice old fashioned bowl full of hot milk and a little metallic jug with melted chocolate. Sometimes you could even see pieces not fully melted yet. It was dark, strong, smooth and I would clean the jug with my finger. No waste. Well thought through. Here, however, they serve it in a prettier ceramic jug… totally impractical! I poured milk in it, got the spoon to scrape everywhere it could, failure: wasted chocolate is tragic. At least it wasn’t as good as the one in DC 🙂

I thought the location was a bit strange, out of the way, not much foot traffic I would guess. Still, the atmosphere was there: wood wood wood, giant communal table, large space, shelves of goodies (including Brunette! yummy), lines of delicious smelling breads, and yummy pastries. The menu is pretty similar and I may have to go back to test their tartines.

Yell for Cadel
25 July 2011

No last name necessary. After yelling to encourage him up and down France’s mountains, Australians are now yelling in joy and celebrating his victory over and over and over again. The first ever Australian to win the Tour de France and the oldest winner (34) since WWII. He was second twice, overcame challenges throughout his life, wrote a book, blah blah. I hope they move on soon! A lot of sleepless nights for the fans given the time difference; they too must be happy that it’s over. Do you know where he lives? Switzerland 🙂 but I doubt he is allowed chocolate on his diet for champions.

Of course, it is good to have a happy story in the news. On Saturday, I switched on the TV around 7:30 am and saw the dramatic footage in Norway, I got up right away to learn more on-line; my lazy routine forgotten(drinking tea in bed, yoga stretches, fruit, emails, breakfast/lunch). Then Amy Winehouse’s mysterious death. Obviously not as disturbing as one man killing 90+ people for no good reason but then another senseless shooting in the US.

Expensive Day
26 July 2011

Tuesday is movie day! I didn’t know which one to see: Bad Teacher or Larry Crown. When you can’t choose, do both! I enjoyed Bad Teacher in the morning (very entertaining) and then roamed around George Street for food… and get more information about computers.

I have been looking online at different stores, different brand, how much storage, etc. Can you believe it, at my advanced age it is the very first time that I am buying a computer! I got one from my father (second hand) when I started University and it stayed with me through my academic years. Then I lived without until a friend was practically giving a Macbook away.

Things started falling apart two years ago, slowly: battery was always flat, keys stopped working (no more arrow going right), screen would flicker. It crashed when I was in Vanuatu and thankfully Nima had a spare piece and fixed it. The battery would no longer charge, more keys were down (t and T, 5 and volume up, – and _) and I considered living without one again. Few people actually write me and not that often so I don’t need to check my emails every day and there are plenty of internet cafes.

On the other hand, I will be planning my itinerary in New Zealand day-by-day, I am supposed to update my blog regularly, and need to know what the world is doing!

Hence my search. I went into JB Hi-Fi… and came out $700 poorer! To calm my nerves I had a healthy Two & Five juice and headed back to the Event theatre for my second movie! Now I am addicted to the free games!

Dragging my Feet
27 July 2011

Mah-jong addiction, who needs to go out in the sun when you can lose yourself into the magical tiles that disappear in pairs? I can’t stop until I win… try again try again. Ignore the world, your pride is at stake. Again. Again.

Only one thing could pry me from mah-jong’s jaws: the prospect of fresh chocolate treats. I dragged my feet uphill and visited Max Brenner on Oxford Street, on the Paddington patch, where all the fancy boutiques are. Apparently Kate Moss was shopping there the previous day. The journalist reporting on it said she hoped Kate would single-handedly save the Australian economy! Hihihi!

I saluted the beautiful vat of melting chocolate and headed for the treasure case to choose four pralines for later. I ordered an Italian hot chocolate and sat with my book. It wasn’t as thick as the real one I had in Rome, but pretty good. In January I had tried the Mexican one and it wasn’t spicy or strong enough for me. I guess they have to please a large audience.

Soon enough though, the mah-jong call was too strong and I was on my way downhill to continue the battle against… Not sure, but I am winning!

Criollo
28 July 2011

World of chocolates: a little store, a lot of marvellous treats. I had to restraint myself and only chose two: marzipan (I went through my Mozart Kugel too fast) and criollo (only the best for my tastebuds).

The former was soft, subtle, smooth and delicious. The latter was strong, intense, crunchy outside, buttery inside and delicious.

I enjoyed the sun sitting outside with my book, but really all I wanted is to get back home. I tried different free games but prefer mah-jong and free cell.

I am also working on my next trip of course: more expenses! I have my tickets to Melbourne and Auckland. Oh and accommodation in Melbourne, returning to the City Square Motel, where I was in March/April. I’ll spend the weekend enjoying chocolate and will leave my giant suitcase at Ari’s so I can travel light in Kiwiland.

Chinese Day
29 July 2011

Between Chinatown and Darling Harbour stands a great wall. Inside, a beautiful garden: bamboo corner, rock forest, fishy pond, dainty bridges, sleeping boy Buddha, uneven paths and steps winding between musical waterfalls, trees and flowers fighting the winter weather.

Even in this season, the Chinese Garden of Friendship is worth a visit to enjoy its peacefulness… until unruly kids were let loose. It wouldn’t be a corner of heaven without a tea house. Go Gees and Jasmine tea to beat the sunset chill. That woke up my appetite and I headed to Chinatown. Tents were installed in the street and I got some chicken satay and then dessert, a sesame ball. A Chinese day in Sydney J

Saturday Means…
30 July 2011

Bread and chocolate! Yes, I was back in Paddington to get my Irish soda bread and chat with my favourite chocolate maker. It gets harder to choose a flavour because I have tried the ones that grabbed my tastebuds… but I did find one: Dark Delight, almonds and a subtle hint of orange .

Walking up that hill, I was getting quite hot and had to remove my scarf. I forgot: the weathergirl did say that Sydney was going to a hot spell! 20 degrees today. Balmy winter.

I am watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I hadn’t seen it before (caught glimpses here and there). It’s fun to see the scene filmed in Oxford, the real one. I took a tour of some colleges two years ago and saw some of the places that inspired Hogwards. Now back to my games!

Aroma
31 July 2011

Second biggest event in Sydney: The Rocks Aroma Festival. Focus: coffee, spices and… chocolate. Yeah! I learned about it a couple of weeks ago thanks to the banners hanging from street lamps. This is the way I learned about the World Press Photo exhibit. Very smart idea. The banners are beautifully designed and you have whole streets decorated that way, flapping in the wind.

Huge crowds were lining up at each coffee tent even though it was a hot day. Strange Sydneysiders. Good lines at chocolate tents too, but not enough of them! Nice chai samples. A bite and there. Wonderful festival!

Amazing setting: all along the water from Circular Quay to the Rocks and the parallel street (U shape). To the smells, they added music and dance for the eyes.

I looked at every single stall. In spite of the appetizing displays I resisted, my mind focused on my vice. Gumnut did it for me, three little ones that I enjoyed while reading on a bench. It started getting a bit cool in the shade, so I got a hot chocolate at the Kali’s stall and continued reading in a beautiful spot looking at the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Children were climbing small trees. People were sitting on the grass with picnics

A few more Australian English words for you: brellies and sunnies. I am also learning a lot thanks to Millionaire Hot Seat, language, sport, culture, history

Swiss Day
1er aout 2011

Yes, Switzerland’s national day is here and there is only one way of celebrating: Darling Harbour has two key spots: Moevenpick and Lindt. Delicious Swiss ice cream… expect that they had run out of the chocolate flavour… hazelnut and pistachio please! I went for a chocolate and blueberry cake at Lindt’s café. Too good.

I did have some savoury dishes of course: nice king prawn at the Fish Warf, next to the water. I enjoyed the walk there and discovering a new neighbourhood

On the way home, I walked past Swissotel, thinking maybe they have a little store inside for treats to eat at home, but no. Very disappointing but I can’t complain: I have Gruyere and Irish bread! I did think of going by Swiss Bakerz for a dessert but really, after my two afternoon dessert, I was fine! I headed for the pool to attempt to burn a few cocoa beans.

A lovely Swiss day.

Just Cut
2 August 2011

Just Cut is the name of the hair saloon where I went this afternoon for… just a cut. My last visit to the dreaded hairdresser was in January, in Sydney too. I never like what I come out with. I go in with a specific idea, do my best to describe it… and come out with something totally different. Today was no exception.

First hurdle: I have to pay $6 for a shampoo because I haven’t washed my hair in the past 24 hours, company policy. Wow! I used to wash my every day in DC because pollution, heat, stress and so on would make it look greasy extra fast. Here, twice a week is more than enough, especially since it is also much longer nowadays and I am not constantly touching it with dirty hands!

Second hurdle: surviving the shampooing. Eek too cold, too hot too hot! Two rounds of shampoo, one conditioning round. Lots of water at the wrong temperature. I couldn’t say anything though: she was a young girl with an Irish accent.

Third hurdle: a person who cares more about my hair than I do. Don’t get me wrong, I take care of my hair but she didn’t approve. (1) When was the last time you had your hair cut? Hum about six months ago, do you think I need to cut more than two centimetres? She probably cut a good five! (2) You have a dry scalp: Oh hum yes, I am traveling and don’t use a conditioner. The airlines and the liquid restrictions, you know. (3) Do you often tie your hair? Hum, yes, it’s huh more convenient.

Fourth hurdle: the mirror. Not at all what I had in mind but okay. Yes, it’s shorter than I wanted but I don’t really intend to grow my hair too long; I just like my light layers that swish. I have short bangs (or fringe in the UK, she didn’t understand me when I used the American term!) and layers around the face.

She said the fringe suited me in a surprised tone so the experience ended on a good note and I gave her a nice tip. We had a good chat actually. She comes from Enniskillen (Northern Ireland), which I know pretty well because we go there for our grocery shopping! And she has been to Sligo. Ah the Irish connection. She came to Australia with six friends and decided to stay with her boyfriend. They got a work permit within 48 hours and now both are working and traveling when they can. I want to do that but I doubt it’s possible when you are not from the Motherland, not even part of the Commonwealth. Sigh.

As I was erring around town on my way home I found a huge chocolate store in the basement of David Jones, across for a little Max Brenner. What a strange location. I was very tempted but there was no one behind the counter, and I was there a while. Their loss. I have plenty of treats at home!

You must wonder: what about movie Tuesday? Indeed, I saw Captain America. Entertaining enough. As instructed by Channel 9’s Movie Guru, I waited until the very end of the credit to see the trailer for The Avengers movie… which lasted all of ten seconds! So they are getting all the Marvel comics’ heroes featured in recent movies together to save the world… next year.

I decided to get a burrito for dinner, but it really wasn’t appetizing and the flavours were barely there. I miss Chipotle. Dessert was delicious, as usual J I need to work my reserve, it would be silly to carry it to Australia’s chocolate capital! Looking forward to it…

Time Flies
3 August 2011

What happened?! It’s 7pm and I haven’t even gone out today. I missed a beautiful day: the temperature was supposed to climb to an out-of-season 24 degrees Celsius. Yes, rough winter.

As usual, I got up around 7:30, opened the balcony window and returned to bed with some green tea to watch TV for an hour. Then a few stretches for the aging body… ouch eek ow! An apple and first look at my emails. A couple of games (my addiction has much improved). Salty breakfast: salmon, avocado, tomato. Sweet breakfast: tartine with my delicious cherry jam and Irish bread.

Around 11 am and I decided to attack the boring part of packing: sorting through everything and getting rid of things I won’t need, then deciding in which suitcase each item will go. Once again, both are bulging and I hate that but I am carrying my life with me. Sigh. I have plenty of things in Ireland thankfully.

I am carrying with me clothing for two seasons (summer clothes will stay in Melbourne) but the heavy part is the stuff: from paperwork (bank, insurance, visa, last contract, resume) to beauty bottles (contact lenses solution is the biggest), medicine for every booboo, cables, chargers and plug converters, USB keys with all my life documents and photos, five different currencies (about to add a sixth) and two laptops! Too much.

I sat on the floor going through everything, the TV was on, I would check my emails, play a few games to relax the body on a comfortable chair and suddenly it was time to eat again! I am trying to finish my groceries so cooking with leftover veggies, last tuna can, finish the pasta and some brie for an appetizer. I can leave stuff behind, the owner said, but I want to enjoy all the nice treats I bought. I am not leaving any bread or cheese crumb behind!

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    […] felt at home in Sydney in July. It was so great to be in a big city with cinemas, chocolate shops and delicious international […]

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