Posted by: asprockett | September 15, 2013

Celebrating My Birthday Down Under

I’m all about extending my birthday celebrations and even made it last from August until October one year, thanks to my brother. (Although I think I “helped” him extend from June until December one year by forgetting to buy a gift…) So, while not a record, I have fully enjoyed the two weeks I got to spend celebrating my birthday this year. And it was a big one: my first birthday abroad, my first winter birthday, and the start of a new decade. I want to sincerely thank everyone across the globe for making it such a wonderful birthday!

Birthday photo outside the Opera House.

Birthday photo outside the Opera House.

Here’s what we did to celebrate:

The weeks of celebration started with dinner at Pancakes on the Rocks, featuring one of my favorite foods: that’s right, pancakes! I love, love, love pancakes. And, although I’m a fairly decent chef (and a modest one, as you can see), I cannot make pancakes properly. That makes me extremely grateful for a husband who makes them really well.

We then went to Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead at the Sydney Theatre Company. The play featured Tim Minchin and Toby Schmitz and was one of the best and most hilarious plays I’ve seen. We sat in the front row and were a bit concerned when the Rosencrantz and Gildenstern prepared to spit into the audience but were totally ready to catch Tim when he was about to jump overboard (they were on a ship at that point in the play) and into our laps. Had we been able, I would have returned every night for the rest of the run, I enjoyed it that much. I am now also officially a fan of both Tim and Toby and am actively seeking other opportunities to see them perform.

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Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead at the Sydney Theatre Company.

My actual birthday was packed with even more things I enjoy. Dan and I went to breakfast in Rushcutter’s Bay and had delicious frittatas sitting in the warm sunshine. (Yes, a winter birthday, but a Sydney winter birthday. And yes, I’m being a wuss in the picture above wearing a warm coat and gloves. But give me a break — it was probably all the way down to 55F that night…!)

Breakfast in Rushcutter's Bay.

Breakfast in Rushcutter’s Bay.

With a little time to work in the afternoon (hey, I’m still a student with responsibilities!), we then headed to Blue Bar on 36 at the Shangri La. From the 36th floor, it has a stunning view of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, especially with the setting sun.

For dinner we went to 4Fourteen, Colin Fassnidge’s restaurant in Surry Hills. Colin and the restaurant were featured on “My Kitchen Rules,” the first Australian television show we got hooked on. I was honestly nervous walking in the door, wondering if Collin would be there. Even though we didn’t get to meet him, we did enjoy a tasty dinner and time together.

Dinner at 4Fourteen in Surry Hills.

Dinner at 4Fourteen in Surry Hills.

And to finish the extended celebration, we took a Kangarrific Tour trip to Hunter Valley with friends on a most perfect weather day. It was an excellent tour, and one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Sydney with a bit of extra time for a day trip out of the city. We started with a stop at the Walkabout Animal Park where I ticked off one of the things I most wanted to do in Australia: pet a koala! (Interesting fact: it is illegal to hold a koala in New South Wales. It actually requires special training in this state.) But not only did I get to pet a koala (a very plush-furred animal), I got to pet a wallaroo, kangaroo and emu. I had to sneak up on the emu, but I was determined to pet both animals on the Australian shield. Being able to pet so many native animals was truly a dream! Had the trip ended there, I would have been perfectly happy.

Making dreams come true (and it only took a bit over 6 months of living in Australia to make it happen!): Wildlife Walkabout Park.

Making dreams come true (and it only took a bit over 6 months of living in Australia to make it happen!): Wildlife Walkabout Park.

At the Walkabout Park we also saw two kangaroos fighting, using their hands and legs to pick back and forth. When they were kicking with their legs, they would stand on their incredible strong tails. (These pictures are mostly for our nephews and nieces who have asked about boxing kangaroos.)

"Boxing" kangaroos.

“Boxing” kangaroos. They actually stand on their tails like a third leg so they can kick with power.

From the Walkabout Park we headed to chocolate tasting. Yeah, you’re seeing more and more why I would recommend this trip, eh? We had a private chocolate tasting and time to browse the chocolate store and bring home a few treats.

Chocolate taste with a photobomber in the background. It's OK. He's part of the group!

Chocolate taste with a photobomber in the background. It’s OK. He’s part of the group!

It was then off to our first wine tasting at the Warraroong Estate Winery, a small boutique winery.

Warrangaroo Winery. The girls and the boys.

Warraroong Winery. The girls and the boys.

Our tour guide, Sam, taught us about the region and wine as we traveled along. At Warraroong Estate Winery, we sampled six different wines before moving on to our next stop, the Smelly Cheese Shop (located at the Tempus Two winery) and cheese tastings. We are a fan of strong and smelly cheese, so from the name we knew we were headed to a happy place. (And you see, yet again, why I so enjoyed this tour!) At the shop, we found the best blue cheese we’ve ever tried: Viking Blue Cheese. Although I would have also happily spent more time devouring many of the fetas mixed with pestos.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch overlooking the vineyard before tasting the Tempus Two wines. Tempus Two is a commercial winery, which means we’ll be looking for their wines when we arrive back home in the United States. Here’s a fun thing to hear when you’re wine tasting: “Come on in – you can try as many as you like!” After 7 or 8 tastings at Tempus Two, we were ready for our next stop: Mount View Winery, another boutique winery. We tasted 15 wines. I can only tell you that, though, because we counted the number of bottles in one of Dan’s photos.

Proof of our marathon tasting at winery #3.

Proof of our marathon tasting at winery #3.

After that marathon tasting, we headed outside to take photos with the beautiful view.

Wonderful friends for a wonderful day in the Hunter Valley.

Wonderful friends for a wonderful day in the Hunter Valley.

The final tour stop was to Potter’s Brewery, with a special 2-for-1 deal for Kangarrific tour guests. Bonus! (Literally!)

How do you follow-up wine tasting? Obviously with beer tasting.

How do you follow-up wine tasting? Obviously with beer tasting.

At Potter’s Brewery, a good friend on the tour yelled to me that there was definitely a very different feeling to a winery tasting versus a brewery tasting. I’ve never thought about it, but she was absolutely right, as I don’t recall any yelling prior in the day. OK. Maybe a little as we enthusiastically told Sam about our favorite wines after tasting at the Warraroong Estate Winery. Needless to say, we had a happy crowd for the drive home.

And, to top it all off, my two of my cousins came out to Sydney to visit in honor of my birthday. OK, so maybe it wasn’t just for my birthday, but in my efforts to extend the celebration that’s how I’m counting it. But that deserves its own post.

It’s been quite a successful birthday – this new year is off to a fantastic start!

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