Monday, April 7, 2008

No Worries, Mate!

Days 1 and 2 --Flying to Australia

It took 3 flights to get to our final destination of Cairns, Australia: the flight to San Francisco = 2hrs; Flight to Sydney, Australia = 14 hrs; Flight to Cairns, Queensland = 3 hrs; Bus ride on a beautiful, winding coastline to Port Douglas = 1 hr (+ motion sickness!). We had been really worried about flying for such a long time with Mia but she did SO well! She slept for pretty much the entire flight from San Francisco to Sydney. What a relief!

We arrived in Port Douglas and had a welcome lunch reception from Allstate and then found our room. We stayed at a beautiful resort right on the beach and had a great room, too. We couldn't go in the ocean at our resort because of the deadly 'stingers' (jellyfish) that are there from October - May. But the resort had 5 acres of sand/beach pools all around the resort. Morgan would have loved playing in the sand and swimming--much better than the waves pushing her over!

That night we had a buffet dinner outside around the pools. They had everything from steak to crocodiles, emu and kangaroo meat. I wasn't very adventurous and just stuck to the stuff I know. We did get to hold a 5 year old crocodile, though. We went to bed a 8 pm and barely managed to stay awake that long!

Day 3 -- The Great Barrier Reef

We went on a tour with Quicksilver out to the Great Barrier Reef. It took about 90 minutes on the boat to get to the reef and then they anchored the boat to a floating pontoon. We had lunch on the boat. Doesn't the octopus pasta salad look yummy?

Gavin was able to go scuba diving for his first time! He went out for a 30 minute dive and went about 40 feet deep (the reef is pretty shallow). He was able to hold a sea cucumber, put his hand inside a large clam, see the 'nemos' inside the anemone, etc. He even had a huge (very tame) Maori Wrasse follow his group all around their dive. He loved it!
I stayed with Mia on the boat most of the day and played a lot of Sudoku (I tried this on the plane ride over for my first time and found it pretty addicting!:).

After his scuba diving we all went out on a semi-submersible boat and were able to see the coral and fish really well. We even saw some jelly fish out our window! Good thing they made everyone wear a blue outfit to protect them from the stingers!

We got a lot of attention on the trip with Mia. A lot of people got to know us as "Mia's mom and dad". Everyone always asked us if she was our first baby. It was a little embarrassing to admit we had five more at home. One couple asked us if we were Mormons after they heard how many kids we had (even before they knew we were from Utah!). They quickly acknowledged that they were also Mormons (from California) and had 5 children. They became great friends and we ended up spending most of the trip with them!

That night we had dinner at the Salsa Bar in Port Douglas with people from Gavin's same work region.

Day 4 -- Kuranda
We went on a tour to Kuranda -- a large rain forest outside of Cairns. We took an hour bus ride from our resort back down to Cairns and then got on a train to get to the top of the mountain. The views from the train were amazing especially the Barron Falls -- huge waterfalls in the middle of the rain forest.

Then once we made it to the top of the mountain we were able to go to the RainForeStation (which reminded us of the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) in Honolulu). We went on a 'Water Duck' through the jungle area (like the Disney Jungle cruise--only the real thing!) Then we watched some native Aboriginees teach us how to play the didgeridoo, throw a boomerang (and try to throw one ourselves), throw spears for hunting and some traditional Aboriginal dances. The dances made me laugh because the dancers were really out of shape and not very synchronized (nothing compared to the PCC dancers!). Gavin was wondering who their choreographer was. And someone else commented that by the look of their dances, it probably wasn't very hard to take over their civilization!

This is the Didgeridoo demonstration
We then had some lunch and were able to hold a Koala Bear. It was heavier than I expected and it grabbed right onto my arm when the lady put it in my hands. Notice the two thumbs. So cute!

We took a gondola back down the mountain. It was a little scary for me as we were so high above the rain forest and going over the falls. But it was a beautiful ride and started to rain on our way down. We were up high enough that some of the ride was in the clouds. It was amazing and such a view being over the rain forest and seeing the coastline out ahead.

Here we are on the gondola ride

the gondolas

This is half way down when we switched gondolas.

That night was the gala dinner in the rain forest. I didn't go and stayed at the hotel with Mia while Gavin went and was entertained with more didgeridoo playing and dancing.

Day 5 -- Fly to Sydney
We woke up and went to the breakfast buffet provided by Allstate and then decided to walk around the resort and see all the pools and the beach. We didn't get to enjoy the amenities of the resort with our two days filled with tours. The beach was beautiful!

Here we are on the beach (Gavin took the picture--nice close up)
We then took the hour bus trip back down to Cairns and a 3 hr. plane ride to Sydney. We watched the movie The Kite Runner on the flight--highly recommend it! :)
We checked into the Four Seasons Hotel and enjoyed a welcome dinner. We had a great room in Sydney--a suite with a view of the harbor and opera house! Even though we were tired, I dragged Gavin out of the hotel to walk around the harbor and opera house. It was so amazing to be right there in front of the opera house and harbor bridge!! It is also cooler in Sydney--70s and a breeze where up in Cairns it was 90s and very hot and humid!

Day 6 -- Sydney Aquarium and Gala Dinner
We had breakfast in the Ballroom at the hotel and met up with some friends from previous trips (Howard and Liz, Trish and Doug, and Carri and Jim) and walked to Darling Harbor (about a 30 minute walk through the city)
The Darling Harbor
and went to the Maritime Museum, ate lunch on the pier, and went to The Aquarium. We spent most of the day in the aquarium and had to hurry back in time to make the Gala dinner.

Hanging out at the aquarium

Gavin thinks we need this sign for our house and hot tub! :)

Gavin went to the gala dinner in the Sydney Opera House without me. I stayed with Mia and Heidi's baby while she went to the dinner. Then I swapped with Heidi and went to the entertainment part of the gala at the opera house.

This is always a really fun part of the trip because Allstate keeps the entertainer a big secret until the minute before they appear on stage. Everyone talks about who they think it will be and this time we were all hoping for Keith Urban (knowing that he is Australian and they usually try to get someone from that country), but there was also talk of Olivia Newton-John or Celine Dion since she had just started her tour in Sydney that same week. We were very excited when they
announced that it was Keith Urban!

We had great seats --we were only 3 feet away from him. Our seats were dead center of the stage and 4 rows back. I felt bad for him as he was performing for a group of mostly older people all dressed up in formal attire. No one stood up and danced until the very end of the show. He kept making comments like 'We aren't used to performing to a crowd like this. This is a little different.' I am sure he is used to performing in huge sold out shows with girls screaming everywhere! He even stopped in one of his songs to let the audience sing part of the song (Rain on Sunday?) and no one sang along so he started singing it himself again when he realized no one really knew his music. He probably felt like he was no longer famous! :) But I loved it and was probably my favorite memory of the trip! After the concert they had a firework show above the opera house over the harbor! It was amazing!

Day 7 -- Hop on and off Bus tour

We love to do the double decker bus city tours (and have done them in Vancouver, San Francisco, Paris, and now Sydney). It is an easy way to see a lot of the city in a short amount of time. This bus also took us to Bondi beach where we spent most of the day. We ate lunch at a restaurant across from the beach and then relaxed (Gavin tried to relax since he has a very hard time just sitting on a beach doing nothing) on the beach for a few hours.

Mia thought the beach was a little too sunny and windy (it kept taking her breath away)

Day 8 -- Sydney Temple
We went to the LDS temple in Sydney with 6 other couples. It took 3 taxis and a rental van to get us all there. I stayed out with Mia (and Heidi and her baby) while Gavin did a session with everyone else. We saw lots of missionaries that had just completed a session for their preparation day. Gavin said they filled the temple and got to meet the temple president.

That night we had a dinner with Gavin's region on Quay Harbor (across from the opera house). All the alcohol is paid for by Allstate and we were talking about how the Utah table saves Allstate so much money by not drinking so Gavin decided to order our rounds of Shirley Temples, pineapple juice shots and hot chocolates for our table. We were laughing so hard about going into a Diabetic shock after so much sugar!! It was a fun night and my favorite meal in Australia (yummy prawns appetizer and main course of fillet Mignon).

The Utah table

Day 9 -- Sydney Wildlife World

We walked to Darling Harbor again with Jim and Carri. We did some souvenier shopping (boomerangs, kangaroo coin pouches, clothes) and ate lunch in the shopping center. Then we went to the Wildlife World where we were able to see Australian animals and insects (koalas, wallabies, butterflies, birds, possums, snakes, spiders, a cassowary, crocodiles, etc.). The highlight for me was seeing the baby wallaby in the mother's pouch--so cute!

That night we had dinner at The Rocks -- a historic district of Sydney. We were able to hang out with some local Aussies at dinner and after dinner.

me with Liz, Howard, Heidi and Dave

Gavin's group seems a little better looking than my local Aussie!
Day 10 -- Sydney Tower

We went shopping on George St. and Market St. and found some rugby jerseys for the boys. Then we went to the observation floor at the top of the Sydney Tower. It was really neat to see the layout of Sydney and all the harbors and areas of town--Sydney is huge!

Then we took a ferry (30 mins.) over to Manly Beach. It is a neat area with lots of shopping and a huge beach area. I liked the beach better at Bondi (softer, cleaner, white sand) but liked the boardwalk and shopping better at Manly.

We barely made it back in time on the ferry for our Harbor Dinner Cruise. We had a great dinner with beautiful sunset views of Sydney and the harbors.
Day 11-- Time to go home
We had a couple of hours in the morning before our flight back home. We did some shopping at a street market and found a necklace, colored starfish, an apron with a water colored kangaroo, and some miscellaneous gifts for the kids. We then went to the airport and had lunch with Jim and Carri. Then it was time for the long flights home. Mia did great again! We got home and were very excited to see the kids again! Griffin and Morgan both greeted us with some hesitancy but quickly warmed up to us! They both looked so much bigger to me. It's funny how a few weeks can do that to little ones! Hadley, Ryan and Jack were all up at my parents' with their cousins but acted excited to see us when they got home! We feel very blessed to have these opportunities with Gavin's work to travel together. It was a much needed break for me. It was so fun to have Mia and be able to focus on her. She got so much attention and was constantly being held by someone in our group. And, of course, it was a wonderful time being with Gavin!!


Grandma Bethany said...

I am very impressed that with all the jet lag, you are able to post pictures so quickly. It looks like such a fun trip and a great time to be with Mia without having to share her with all her siblings.
We enjoyed the time we had here with Jack, Ryan and Hadley.
I am just excited to see the 'little ones' and looking forward to Mia's blessing!
Glad you had a fun and safe trip!

Brittany said...

Well that sure makes me feel like my last week or so was pretty uneventful! I am so glad you guys got to get away, that sounds so nice!

Heidi Rushing said...

I feel like I went with you! Thanks for all the pictures and details! I definitely think you need that picture for you hot-tub! It was great to see you, even if just for a few minutes. Thanks for sharing your kids with us on our trip out there. Can't wait until June!

Aaron and Lisa said...

Sounds like you had an amazing time!!! I loved the photos. Thanks for sharing them. I don't know...I think you picked a winner with that Aussie ;) . Funny. Go Gavin! Mia is so cute! I loved her hat. I am gonna miss watching her grow in person. I will have to make sure and stay tuned to the blog for the many adventures of the Seal clan. I think we are officially closing this Friday (we hope), sad...and happy. We will miss y'all.

mum2brady said...

WOW - what an amazing trip! That is soooo coool! Love all the pics! What an adventure!

karol said...

Some girls have all the fun!! ;) That is so funny about Keith Urban! Did you get up and dance? Sounds like a great trip!

Jenni and Chad Stewart said...

Wow what a trip! Maybe I need to work for Allstate instead of the airline! How nice for Mia to have her mom and dad all to herself for all that time.