Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How You Know You've Been in Sydney for Quite Some Time

I've posted this photo here before and told you I've actually seen bananas at $ 13.99 a kilo:
Recently, banana prices have reached a level that doesn't you require you to take out a personal loan before purchasing a kilo:
I don't know if this is just a pre-Christmas marketing strategy or prices will actually stay as low as this for some time (or go further down even?), but I've definitely enjoyed my first banana in two months when the office restocked them this morning. Hello, calcium!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

...as the song goes. The only difference in the Southern Hemisphere is that you get all the usual "nordic" props and decorations, in addition to Christmas pudding, mince pies and other seasonal food intended for much colder climates. Some families seem to favour those traditional Anglo-Saxon favourites and go for the traditional turkey menu over the holidays, others acknowledge the summer and opt for the Aussie favourite: a barbecue by the beach and for dessert a pavlova with fresh cherries (in season around Christmas time).

I pity the santas sweating under their polyester costumes and beards in the summer heat. Here's some photographic evidence of Sydney and Melbourne gearing up to Christmas.

Big Christmas tree on Martin Place (in the rain - of which we had plenty earlier this week. It more or less rained incessantly from Tuesday morning to Saturday morning), Sydney's answer to Rockefeller Plaza in New York:
Christmas decoration in the Rocks, Sydney's oldest quarter:
One of many huge inflatable santas as part of Darling Harbour's Santa Fest (Nov. 26):
Melbourne's banners are almost the same green as the trees in their lush spring foliage:
Myer and David Jones are the two big department store chains that can be found in all major cities all over Australia. The are competing over who has got the better Christmas window display (and louder X-Mas muzak to accompany it). Myer's on Melbourne's Bourke Street:
David Jones on Sydney's Market Street:
I was curious to see what "Santa's Cave" on the 6th floor looked like, expecting this to be more or less DJ's Christmas department, but it turned out to be an attraction hidden away in a separate room (or cave) you had to queue up for that was obviously aimed towards children and hence aptly placed next to the toys department. Needless to say, I did not join the line, lacking the obvious "accessory" to gain entry to Santa's cave: a child.

PS: I ticked off another Australian "must" off my shopping list at DJ's yesterday: a pretty underwear set by Elle Macpherson intimates. As the name implies, it is a rather intimate purchase, hence no photo...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Predictably Enough

...I did not return empty-handed from last night's Christmas shopping event. I actually heard about it on the radio, so I should blame them for my little spree. Westfield is a chain of upmarket shopping malls that have apparently hit London as well (I saw an ad in last month's UK Marie Claire) The mall in Bondi Junction has several floors. Here's a little peek:
I didn't queue up for the free champagne, nor avail of the free gift advisory service (as if I needed shopping advice...), but headed straight for the shops I was interested in. Similar to good (?) old Lugner City at home, which also regularly runs days with discounts in all shops, most stores offered a one-day-only discount of 10-30%. This was particularly cool in the case of covetable brands that I've ever only seen full-price and exempt from offers in department stores so far, such as Australian swimwear brand Seafolly. I was determined to buy a bikini here as Australian brands are said to be the best in terms of longevity and UV-protection in addition to really cool styles. On my first excursion to the beach I saw a girl wearing this bikini and decided to track it down:
It is a really good cut and fits me well (unless the mirror was seriously rigged). The shop also had it in a sort of demure navy ("denim") as well, which was beautiful, too, but I decided the loud purple was more "me". Demure I am not, after all. It was -15%, which might not sound like a lot, but amounted to $ 18.

Another Australian brand I really like is Marcs. I could easily buy the whole summer collection, but bought only one top (20% off) which looks rather boring in the photo, but actually looks really nice in real life, with the tan colour matching the ballet flats I got (see two posts down). I intend to pair it both with the blue skinny jeans and my off-white linen trousers. Obviously, this will be confined to the back of the wardrobe once I'm back home. It's a very soft viscose and I deliberately got it in "large" as it looked better slouchy than tight.
Last, but not least, I got my Mimco-craving out of the system. I had been drooling over this patent leather/rose gold tote for weeks and thought 30% off might give me the incentive to grab it. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the metal closure was really scratched on most bags and even if the new ones come with a protective plastic sticker I wasn't too keen anymore as they'd probably be scratched the day after I take it off at home. In the end, I just wanted to get something and settled for a small pouch I find quite classy:
I promise the next photos I'll upload here won't be shopping related. Unless another shopping event crosses my path, that is...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guess Where I'll be Tonight...

It has been raining all day, so what better place to spend the evening than in a shopping mall...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thursdays Are Dangerous

Thursday is the day of the week when shops are open longer in Sydney and last Thursday I definitely needed some retail therapy. Off I went to Myer department store and with my bargain radar discovered some interesting items on the "reduced" rails. Such as this layered silk skirt that reminds me a bit of an Hermès scarf and which comes with a "Chinese" belt:
It is by Australian brand Howard Showers.I had never heard of them, but some of their stuff is really great - good tailoring and quality at the same time. I also like their motto, "from office to cocktail".
There actually are dozens of brands which are really big here but that wouldn't be known to people in Europe at all. Some of them are quite good and I wouldn't mind if they opened a branch in Vienna. Such as Decjuba, where I got this belt from:

As I've remarked before, summer fashion gets here after Europeans and Norther Americans have already rocked the same trend, such as brightly coloured jeans and colour blocking. I've long resisted the coloured jeans fad as I already wore bright jeans in the 1990s. Back then I had a pair in canary yellow, carrot orange, frog green - you name it. The Irish boy I briefly went out with when on an Erasmus year in Dublin famously dumped me with the line "You're just too cool for me: you wear orange jeans..." Aaaaanyway - I decided I had to have an electric blue pair of skinny jeans, having passed the pile of jeans at the entrance of the Cotton On branch in Harbourside shopping mall several times on my way home from work. They are really comfortable and not too low cut at the waist and I've already worn them to work.
The shoes are new as well - bought inexpensively from a store at Bondi Junction when my Mum was here.

The top below is the second purchase from my little Myer/Howard Showers spree last Thursday:
I wore it out and about on Saturday and the Australian, who was visiting, kindly took a picture of me on m balcony:

I also bought some t-shirts with "funny" prints and a striped long-sleeved one, also from Cotton On, for an incredible $5. It's super soft and long: love!
On Saturday, the Australian and I browsed shops in the Paddington suburb/district and I bought two sale items (amounting to $ 75 instead of $250 for the two) at Seed, which had really nice stuff and reminded me of Comptoir des Cotonniers and the Petit Bateau collection for grown-ups a bit. I bought this grey silk top/tunic:

...and a white linen top/dress that I might cut at the length or try wearing with a belt as it looks a bit boring just like this:
We also happened upon a shoe store where every pair was a mere $10 and I snatched up these gladiator sandals in a dusty pink (trousers only rolled up for photo purposes, by the way):
Even though I have a second "sherpa" for excess baggage lined up with the Mermaid coming next week (yay!) I'll remind myself not to overdo it, bargains or not.

Friday, November 18, 2011

3 Things I Find Fascinating

Now that I've been here almost 10(!) weeks, I find myself taking pictures over and over again of certain things that continue to fascinate me - boring the people I share my Picasa albums with to death, no doubt - such as Jacaranda trees:

These trees, natives to Brazil and other Southern American countries, were a revelation to me. I had never seen them anywhere else before and was struck by this unique colour. Photos don't really do it justice. I'm surprised there are no "jacaranda blossom festivals" similar to cherry blossom ones.

Another thing that always wows me is when I turn around a corner and suddenly see a huge cruiseliner. Here's an example, the "Amsterdam" moored at the Overseas Passenger Terminal with Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background:
I can also see cruise ships from the office windows almost every day and even though I don't actually fancy going on a cruise any time soon, I can imagine what a cool feeling it must be to arrive in Sydney on one of these Titanic-sized ships.

The last one is an obvious choice - koalas. They really are so incredibly cute and cuddly (I will forever remember my close-and-personal encounter with Guppy in Brisbane!) and the fellow in below in particular (seen at Taronga Zoo) was so cute I wanted to pack him in my bag and snatch him away:

Other things include the going-out look of Australian girls which uniformly consists of a tight-fitting garment that barely covers your bum and 30-cm heels and the super-clean public toilets, always well-stocked with paper and often equipped with state-of-the art Dyson hand-driers. The example below is one of the several facilities at Darling Harbour:

Coming up next: shopping update. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas Present

...for the discerning shopper who already has everything: the GUCCI bike with logo-ed saddle and saddlebags.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mum Was Here

Very early this morning my Mum left for Sydney International Airport to embark on her long journey home. We really had a great time together and I'm guessing she was as pleasantly surprised as I was that we hardly got on each other's nerves. Don't get me wrong - we love one another dearly, but you probably know how it is - after a week or so of quality time with your parents you (and they) feel like embroidering "absence makes the heart grow fonder" onto a cushion in cross-stitch.

In true Mum-fashion, she set about to beautify my rather bare apartment, see above. Even though I told her that I wasn't going to take any of such stuff home to Vienna, I am now the (temporary) owner of a vase, 3 plastic gerberas (she got me real ones first), two faux laquerware containers and two placemats. With the execption of the latter, she bought all of those from the Japanese dollar-store in Market City mall. She also got creative when she wasn't out sightseeing or bargain-hunting and among other things made three necklaces, one of which I snatched.

(Not pictured: little china milk jug)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Shrink to Fit

As I've previously mentioned, the female population of Sydney favours extremely high heels and extremely short skirts (or dresses). The sight of these ladies in front of a dry cleaner's made me suspect they'd left the bottom half of their clothes for cleaning and were waiting for them to be ready for wearing again. Who knows?

Friday, November 11, 2011


Can you believe it that this blog is already six years old? In human time, it would be a school kid now!

What started at another way to pass time at my not particularly adrenaline-fuelled job (you know, when I ran out of books to read and necklaces to bead...) has become my favourite "creative outlet" both for writing and photography. Both are things I have always liked. As soon as I could write, I filled notebooks with stories and started "collecting" international penpals. As soon as I could handle a simple camera, I wanted one. On my first "long-distance" holiday in Ireland when I was six years old (remember, those were the 1980s, I know that now kids embark on their first plane journey when they're much younger) I would get out of the car to mimic my Dad taking photos with the case of his SLR. I still remember feeling very important even if at the same time I knew it was silly pretending to shoot pictures with my pretend camera.

Ever since coming to Sydney, I've been writing a regular newsletter and therefore haven't posted as much here as I otherwise would have. When I'm back home an won't be regaling my friends with daily updates of my mundane routine anymore, this will once again become the main outlet for my verbal diarrhea.

Be very afraid.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

One More...Suitcase

Call me slow in the uptake, but it took two ruined suitcases to make me realise that even expensive brands are not meant to race around with on cobblestones or pavements. The first victim was my chic Mandarina Duck "business cabin trolley" that had a stuck wheel, but was repaired on MD's expense ultimately. It's a long story that I'll spare you, but UPS definitely made a profit from it.

On Friday night, Mum and I walked to Sydney's Central Station where we caught the Greyhound bus to Canberra. We had contemplated taking a taxi, but then decided to walk. I should add that it's a 15 to 20 mins walk, which is not what suitcases are made for, see above. Two traffic lights away from the station, I noticed that my suitcase had got considerably heavier and felt like I was dragging along a petulant child. A quick check revealed that this was due to the fact that 50% of its "wheelage" had gone awol. Oh-oh. I told Mum to hold on to the mutilated suitcase and went to retrace my steps. Not far behind, I found the wheel on the pavement, just as a young man was about to kick it onto the street. I picked it up and tried to force it onto its metal...suspension (?)...whatever the technical term may be. Said metal was hot. Very hot. What must have happened was that the metal got so hot from the constant friction that the wheel's plastic got soft and the hole widened enough to make the wheel fall off. Unfortunately, I couldn't force the re-hardened and slightly deformed wheel back on again. At the Greyhound station, I asked an employee if he had a hammer, which he did, and tried using force to reunite suspension and wheel. Without success. So I tried the universally successful "blonde-helpless-foreign"-approach that also works well in Toronto and the nice guy obliged and managed to press the wheel back on again. Alas, it wobbled and looked about to fall off again any time. Not keen on having to carry the suitcase again and having it destroyed on our plane journeys, I decided to buy a new one in Canberra.

The nation's capital is not exactly a shopping mecca, but we eventually got lucky at the department stores and after some comparison I settled for a somewhat bigger, but still very lightweight one by Antler, a brand not known in Austria, but apparently renowned. Mum wanted to pay for it and declare it a Christmas present and I didn't object. Still, I was sad to leave my trusty Travelite suitcase behind - we saw a lot together, the two of us.
I hope the Antler doesn't bring back luck as it travelled to Sydney one flight behind ours last night...

Friday, November 04, 2011

Down Under/Upside Down

Now this might not be anything particularly Australian at all, but I wanted to share some oddities of my studio apartment with you anyway. First of all, the fridge is incredibly cold even at the lowest setting. I first made the mistake of buying regular butter, only to realise that you have to take it out of the fridge at least an hour before you get hungry unless you have an ice-pick or battleaxe at your disposal. "Spreadable" is the keyword to look out for. The arctic temperatures of my fridge are no doubt due to the fact that there is an ice-covered "freezer compartment" without a door in the top shelf. I have never tried actually storing frozen goods in there, but the coke in the bottle to the left of it definitely had frozen solid when I wanted to drink it. What's also strange is that the jug apparently "lives" in the fridge, too. It was there when I moved in and as it doesn't fit into any of the kitchen cabinets I've decided to leave it in there.
Another strange thing is the location of the (rather short) LAN cable - fixed into a socket next to the bed and farthest away from the desk. It cannot be removed from there and plugged in elsewhere. One more reason why I decided to rely on my mobile internet.
Last, but not least, my dishwasher does not have a cutlery compartment, so I always have to hand-wash my knives, forks and spoons. Whether some past tenant snatched it or this is what it is supposed to be like, I don't know, but I certainly find it unusual.
I also have a very funky toploader washing machine, but I've had one (with fewer buttons and blinking lights, but still) of those in my previous apartment in Vienna, too.

I'm off to a road-trip later tonight and won't be back in Sydney until Tuesday night. More then.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Point of View

As I have mentioned, I have been writing an almost daily newsletter to friends since coming here. In the first two weeks or so, I frequently ranted about the rain outside and the sub-arctic temperatures in the office, giving some people the impression that I was rather unhappy and regretted coming here. Not in the least! It is true however, that the weather in general and an inside temperature that allows you to work without wearing a hood and gloves somewhat affects your mood. To illustrate my point, here are some photos taken from the window in front of my desk at the office.

Exhibit A: dusk, with great reflections in the windows of the skyscrapers:

Exhibit B: late afternoon with blue skies 

Exhibit C: grey and rainy. I think this calls for a gratuituous emoticon :-( 
The third photo was taken this morning, but thankfully, it looks like the second now. Yay!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Race that Stopped the Nation

Today is Melbourne Cup Day in Australia. So you haven't heard about that? Welcome to the club, then. I read up on it before coming here, but was eager to experience the event that is dubbed "the race that stops the nation" myself. At the office, people always commented, "you've picked a good time to come - you're here for Melbourne Cup Day." Well, the race itself which took place at 3 p.m. local time today might take less than three minutes, but it certainly was ecxiting to see everyone dressed up as if they were going to a wedding and getting to drink free champagne on the office...Lucas Cranach, the horse I drew in the office sweepstakes actually came third so my first ever go at gambling was successful, too. Citizens of Victoria, the Australian state of which Melbourne is the regional capital actually have a holiday today, but even elsewhere it's party-time from noon onwards.

Ever since I arrived here, the city was geared up for MCD. Department stores seemed to sell nothing but party dresses, hats and fascinators on their fashion floors and even arts and crafts stores only seemed to have one topic: the races:
Supermarkets reminded you to order your MC deliveries on time:
My new red shoes came in handy, too today:
And I had to succumb to peer-pressure and get a hairband-cum-fascinator of course:
The victorious horse was Dunaden, ridden by French jockey Christophe Lemaire, in case you were wondering.
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