Monthly Archives: December 2012

Life as a Sydneysider

Since leaving Spot X I’ve been living in Sydney like a proper Sydneysider (flat, job, train to work, the whole shibang). I’ve found a few really great spots and had some lovely experiences…so much so that It’s been almost two weeks since I last posted (whoops!).

When I first got to Sydney I had Thai food with a friend I met in Coolangatta for 8 dollars…EIGHT…and it was amazing. Just outside of the Westfield complex at Bondi Junction. I can’t remember the name, but I know it was about a block from commonweath bank machines and parallel to Oxford Street. My friend couldn’t taste the difference from the thai food she had in Thailand a few weeks ago and they had lunch specials for 6 bucks! The only downside with ‘authentic’ food is ‘authentic’ spice. I think I fully cleared my sinuses and GI tract of any lingering viruses I might have accumulated along the coast. There was also a 6 dollar Ramen restaurant and dollar sushi roll restaurant close by. NOTHING makes me feel like more of a legit local than finding cheap, hole in the wall food!!

Later that week I met up with my SpotX friends! A couple girls we met were from Sydney so we got to take a look at some true local eats! First we went for Sushi at Zushi in Surrey hills. I had great rolls with tuna belly, salmon, avo, cucumber, daikon…and something else–they were delicious! Because I was saving room for gelato I didn’t try any hot food, but it looked great and the staff and atmosphere were trendy and high energy. I would definitely go back again, I was very satisfied with my one order of rolls totalling less than 20 dollars.

MESSINA GELATO. Auntie Elise, this one’s for you! So everyone from work, every young person from sydney, and most sydney food blogs mention Messina…now I know why. With a collection of signature and special flavours, they have a repertoire of flavours much classier and fresher than any Ben & Jerry’s shop (YES, there is Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream shops just like there are baskin robins!!). I had Chocolate fondant and salted caramel flavours…definitely to compete with the earl grey gelato had in Vancouver earlier this year! They had a greeter and plenty of staff that made the small space (with view of gelato being freshly made) a buzzing but comfortable place to be. There are locations in Darlinghurst and Surrey hills…perhaps elsewhere as well..but screw tim tams and UGGS, if I could ship anything back it would be Messina Gelato!

We polished off the night at Pocket Bar a small, trendy (maybe a little hipster) lounge unsuspectingly a couple blocks off of oxford. We had some Cider and called it a night…well they did.

I proceeded on to a Drag Christmas show on Oxford where I got a free [half] big mac and then to King’s Cross…Don’t go to King’s Cross….

Continuing on, I’ve gotten a job in Sydney at lululemon based on my experience back home which has been good to make some money and plant my feet a little deeper in Sydney’s vibrant culture. It’s been a really different experience working for a Canadian company in Australia, especially one that has such a strong company culture and brand power at home. To get to work is a bit of a trek, but honestly 33 bucks a week for unlimited train between Bondi Junction and Chatswood chase is pretty cheap and it includes hop-on-hop off to any locations I need to go to in the city (If you buy a weekly train pass in syd after 3pm you get the day you’re buying it on as a bonus)! ALSO I get to see the opera house as the train crosses the harbour bridge EVERY day…HOW COOL!

I also have a quick awesome holiday story. So I was an idiot and put my train pass through the wash the DAY I bought it :(. I got to the train early this morning to beg for a new one with my reciept and the supervisor basically said that my mild dew (hyperhydrosis) of nervousness combined with my foreign accent (Still getting used to being ‘foreign’) amounted to enough charm and gave me a new one!!!! I’m not by any means saying you should try and con City Rail….but I just think based on my experiences in Australia lately that maybe us North American folk could benefit from bending the rules a little more often, because the leniency here has honestly made my time tenfold better.

Proceeeeeeding on. My knee is almost better…that means MOJO SURF Round 2!! Super excited and terrified. After running form Bondi Junction to Bronte Beach and back…and 3 days later still not being able to properly flex my left leg, 3 days of surf could be excruciating for the arms/core.

That being said, being with lululemon means YOGA AGAIN. SO excited to get started into my sweat routine again, and will definitely keep you posted on any great studio finds. On the hit list: Barre and skipping classes!!

Chrissy at Bondi…the typical backpackers/orphan christmas. Good thing that Christmas and boxing day (my only days off) were probably the only bad weather days that Bondi has seen since I arrived almost 2 weeeks ago. As we do, we rallied up some goon and trekked to the beach anyway. With our portable bbq’s (YES, amazing right!! What looks like a lasagna tray and has coles, a grill, and matches ready to smoke away) burgers and condiments we had a great day. We had the security guards tell us many times not to drink on the beach…then the police came, told us we could get cheap tickets to the beach party, Sunburnt, and left without a problem. Our theory, the security guards were just jealous of our fun.

Also, Chatswood chase: Upscale mall….Chatswood (the street its on) is basically mini china town. I’m seriously struggling passing by all the asian dollar stores and cheap restaurants on the way to and from work every day. For the first week of work they actually had street vendors as well-big love (There’s ALWAYS free samples:P).

Upcoming, we have 10 days left in our rental flat (WHICH IS LUXURIOUS)….then I will be moving to a double room in Wake Up Sydney to ease the transition back to hostels and live in the heart of the action of Sydney’s CBD…then Wollongong….then Melbourne…then NEW COUNTRY: New Zealand. And before that all happens, New years in Sydney!! Apparently the biggest most epic fireworks in the world–keep you posted!

The Perfect Hostel

Now that I’m a good chunk down the coast I feel more qualified to speak to the ‘haves and have nots’ of hostels. I’ve been trying to rate everything online based on what travellers actually look for (kitchen with stoves, free meals) as opposed to what hostels market (atmosphere). So here is my list of amenities every hostel should have.

-I don’t care if there’s an ensuite or not, but without fail, every hostel without ensuites has been WAY cleaner. Even though hand washing in ensuites is typically less awkward.. I feel like the bathrooms actually get cleaned and less weird drunk happenings occur in the shower… Ultimately, I don’t want to have to feel cleaner bathing in the ocean.
-Outlets-at least one per bed. We’re all travellers with adapters, we couldn’t use more than one plug if we tried…(or you can be hcore and bring a power bar…that’s like at least 2 tank tops worth of space though), but seriously…2 outlets for 8 people? The last hostel had outlets in the lockers!! BEST.
-Lockers. I would really rather not use my insurance if I don’t have to. Coolangatta had .75×1.5m lockers with hangers and plugs—amazing!! It’s usually fine not having them…but in a 16 bed dorm who can you trust. And I really would rather not bring my passport, laptop, and camera everywhere.
-Open access to kitchen things. Honestly, the best AND cleanest kitchens have been the ones where its free to use everything because everyone cooks and keeps a nice space. When they make you pay 20 bucks for ‘your tub’ of cutlery/bowl/plate it’s a possessive mess. And NO Traveller is going to steal plates….WHERE would we hide them. On that note, enough fridges that my tomatoes don’t get shoved into the frozen corner and then squished and punctured . Also a kitchen with a stove. Some things just aren’t meant to be cooked in a microwave.
-Free brekky. Usually its dollar loaf white bread and dry cereal…costs the hostel virtually nothing, but is SO much easier to not have to carry the ingredients from place to place as a traveller.
-no Alcohol restrictions. Basically every hostel tries to have a bar in it to make some extra cash. But once there is a bar you can’t have liquor in your room. I know that nobody cares if you drink outside here…but when I’m paying for this to be my temporary home I should be able to have wine on my bed at any hour. Nomads is pretty good at not enforcing the rule…but the place in Surfers came around twice a night and went through bags…NOT cool.
-Good Bunks…or no bunks. The 17 bed dorm in airlie was one of my favourite living spaces because I didn’t have a noisy person on the top bunk, and peoples things were all compartmentalized because everyone had the space under their bed. The bunks in coolie were great though. We legitimately jumped on the top one and couldn’t notice on the bottom. They also had high ceilings so the person on top didn’t almost die sitting up, AND had great mattresses, AND a duvet as well as a top sheet…pure backpacking luxury.
-free tea.
-HAND SOAP. Not the place to skimp on costs friends.
-shuttles to the bus. Everyone is always on the same one anyway. Help a sista out. You know my bag is over 20 kilos. Not only do I not want to get lost…I also don’t want to arrive in a room of new people sweating my ass off from the trek.
-Pool with tanning beds. I am so sick of having sand in everything (body crevasses and clothing), they were 4 for $20 at the reject shop…invest in some.
-Free wifi. Or at least just have the peter pans close by. There are so many bookings that need internet, but regardless…most of your patrons are spending a year + away from home and want to post pics of their travels and talk to friends. Bonus! We will probably post statuses about how great it is that there is free wifi and everyone else will come stay as well.
-A tv room that has movies. I didn’t even know I wanted that until surfers. A) its sweet to meet people, but b)sometimes a good movie is the best night.
-bag storage. I just paid you 20 bucks to share a room with 18 people. Think you could hold my bag in a room free of charge for 4 hours while I wait for my 16 hour crammed bus to the next stingy hostel? K thanks.
-location…or if it’s a bad location make up for it with buses into town like Nomads Cairns. I don’t care if I have to walk a bit…but over a hill for 10 minutes in Noosa was a struggle whilst intoxicated. Instead of saying ‘great location’ specify what you’re close to. Like in Brissie…I was more than happy to be downtown because I wanted to see city…but if I wanted bars I would’ve been an unhappy camper.
-activities!! Nomads Cairns had unreal activities every day which help you meet people and do things. Whether it was soccer or a rainforest walk, it was something to do and get people involved. Bonus, there was usually free food or booze included. Or rainbow beach (dingos) had a sunset walk, magnetic had trivia night…whatever it is, it’s a time killer…you can only beach and goon for so many hours a day.

So far the Sands in Coolangatta had it closest! We’ll see where the rest of my travels take me!

Review: Spot X Surf n Stay

Seriously one of the most unreal 4 days I’ve had on the coast so far! That’s saying a lot seeing as how my stitched up wound re-opened on the first day of my 4 day surf n stay.

Initially I was a little hesitant to spend 500 bucks on a 4 day camp, but I’d say it was money very well spent. First, on topic of my knee, they were awesome about it! Had this been any other company or anywhere in North America in general I would have been S.O.L. with my injury. Mojo Surf transferred my remaining 4 surf lessons to Sydney (my next stop) without hesitation while still letting me carry out my 4 days of accommodation and food at Spot X (located in Arrawara close to Woolgoolga). They were awesome at helping me up pre-surf, and even more attentive at cleaning me up post surf and checking up on my condition for the next 4 days!
So why did I have such a great time if I was only surf-able for 1 day?

The one day of lessons I did was UNREAL and I got to live the next few vicariously through my friends. There was a great instructor-student ratio, and the instructors were super helpful and encouraging. They made sure every person was able to stand up and gave one on one coaching to every single person based on how they were picking up surfing. All the staff at camp are awesome as well. Super accommodating for any dietary needs, always making people feel at home (Lots of people only do a one day stay) no matter how long they’re around for, answering questions, and making sure everyone feels included and has a sick time. If you can only do one day-STILL DO IT! I even feel way more confident about practicing basic surf after a hour lesson. If you can do the 5 or 7 day stays…do them too! You basically learn more advanced skills with each day, so it’s not like it gets boring or coaches become less valuable/important. At the same time, as mentioned, you can get a lot out of even a short amount of time…especially if it’s one of your first stops in Oz, you will get the tools to practice all the way up the coast!
Food was great. There was a good selection of cereal, bread, spreads and fruit every morning for breakfast. Lunch was pretty much the same daily, but my favourite meal for sure. They had all cheese, veg, and sandwich meat necessary to grill wraps or sandwiches as well as tons fo salad options. Dinner is the same on each day of the week each week, so some people who were in the academy (1-3month stay/instructors in training) were a bit sick of stuff, but 7 different meals is probably more variety than what I eat when cooking for myself. I had Bolognese, Steak and mashed, roast beef, and Thai chicken curry…all were really good in my opinion. The food is cooked fresh daily, and always has healthy options which is good when you’re doing so much exercise. There was always opportunity for seconds, I don’t think anybody goes hungry! And there’s always free coffee, tea, and cordial.

Dorms were clean…a few girls did have a possum in their dorm…but welcome to Oz? The bathrooms were a bit of a trek…but by that I mean a whopping 2 minutes. Bunks were comfy and had duvets—no complaints from me here.

Nights weren’t as wild as I thought they’d be but It’s a good thing because you get super tired surfing, and the earlier you surf, the better it is…so you’re best not to be hungover anyway. There was live music a few nights, and the events coordinators were always up to something for the people who wanted to get involved. There’s a nightly bottleshop run and tons of fridge space for those who wanted to drink. As for me…I’m pretty sure the reason my knee didn’t heal the first time was because I was dancing on tables at cheeky monkeys every day of my ‘don’t sweat, get it wet, or exert yourself’ recovery so I sat out on the goon. We still had a great time mingling after dinner talking about the surf for the day and our upcoming travel plans. I met a great group of 10 girls that I will hopefully be meeting up with again in Sydney this holiday season.

Also totally sweet was watching a surf competition (pipeline? In Hawaii?) with other surfers and instructors. You understand how unreal they are in a whole new way, and you get to see laid back surf bums get totally amped up about something!

Overall an unreal few days, I’d do it again for sure. I’ll definitely keep you posted on Anika learns to surf round 2 in Sydney when my knee heals. As much as the price tag is daunting, its totally worth it to be immersed in the surf culture and environment of spot x and have instructors that know what they’re doing. Also, with the surf academy there as well you can get extra instructors at your lessons that are basically in training which is a sweet addition. I’m a person that hates being helped because I think I’m not doing well, but I accepted all of their coaching with open arms because it comes with such great intention and experience. And the fact that it includes unlimited, well-cooked food is actually hugely important to having a good surf. Yeeeewwwww.