Half Business Half Pleasure Work Play Trip in Cairns

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This is it! The long overdue actual post of my half business half pleasure work play trip in Cairns, referred to on so many previous posts! Richard joined me on the 7-day/6-night trip for full pleasure, and because he was the one with more knowledge of the place and more importantly free time, organised everything leisure.

The Business Half

28-31 May 2015 (Thu-Sun)

Our company was one of the dozen exhibitors at the 4-day biennial ASCCP Scientific Meeting (XXIVth) that ran into the weekend. I normally work behind the scenes, but this wasn’t my first exhibition (first here), only the first outside of Sydney.

iCIMS at ASCCP XXIVth Scientific Meeting (2015)

Our exhibition table at the ASCCP XXIVth Scientific Meeting (2015) (from the event organiser camera)

The most stressful part for me were the conference dinners, in which I wanted to enjoy because foooood, but it was all still business, and portions were ironically tinier for the bigger of the conference dinners. I survived. It was only a small exhibition at this fantabulous hotel and I was in safe hands working alongside veteran colleague and good friend Ali. The zero commute time and change of scenery were of course a plus.

Meanwhile, Richard had to entertain himself by fishing, taking walks and not working. Poor thing.

The Pleasure Half

31 May 2015 (Sun): Short Cruise

It was all holiday from the afternoon on after we packed up work stuff and said farewell to everyone. We didn’t have a lot of free time, but Richard thought doing something different would get me out of my work mindset. He got us tickets on the Sunset Cruise that goes out to Trinity Inlet. Usually there would be a sunset view, but it’s just our luck to have been getting rain in Cairns.

We had the front deck to ourselves for the first half, until they took away the finger food served aboard and people gradually discovered the better view outside. It was a very relaxing cruise even though we didn’t spot any crocodiles and I came back with 3 mosquito bites.

1 Jun 2015 (Mon): Crocodiles and Waterfall

Pleasure day 2 wall of thumbnails before wall of text:

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures

We hired a car and drove about 40 minutes to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures with the help of a navigation app, which decided that our word of the day shall be “roundabout”, because there’s a roundabout at just about every intersection in Cairns. We arrived on schedule mid-morning.

Hartley's Crocodile Adventure, June 2015: Crocodile Feeding Show

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure, June 2015: Crocodile Feeding Show (Saltwater Crocodiles)

We watched the crocodile feeding show and I learnt the difference between saltwater crocodiles (dangerous!) and the freshies (not so dangerous), but mostly just my preference to not have anything to do with any of them whatsoever thank you very much. We saw other animals like cassowaries, emus and koalas, but the highlight unexpectedly came to me when we walked into an enclosed petting area, where even though we had zero food with us, a hopping thing still chose to hang out with us the whole time when I had only intended to pet the sleeping thing for a little while.

Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, June 2015: Kangaroo

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, June 2015: Sleeping Thing and Hopping Thing

Yeah, Richard had to reassure me that the sleeping thing and hopping thing were different species when the latter headed straight for me and I panicked, thinking the sleeping thing I petted was the baby of the hopping thing. tongue

We explored the attraction a little more before packing up and returning to the hotel to set off for our next destination.

Millaa Millaa Falls

Millaa Millaa Falls, June 2015

Millaa Millaa Falls all mine!

There were two routes from the hotel to Millaa Millaa Falls, a natural tourist attraction with a beautiful waterfall. Richard chose the shorter of the two routes, which was still a 100 km, 1.5-hour drive, along a winding and windy highway in the light rain. We didn’t get to the waterfalls until after 5 pm.

Millaa Millaa Falls was lovely, if still a bit cold and rocky at the bottom, and empty except for the other older couple who showed up briefly to take pictures. We did the same ourselves and took a quick dip in the lake, and then it was time to brave the drive back — back along the winding road in the wind and rain, quickly losing daylight and eventually in the dark, all the while in the hire car with horribly placed pillars that limited vision further. Kudos to Richard for handling the stress well and bringing us back in one piece.

A hotel staff later told us that some 20 years ago, a whole school bus steered off the same cliffs and many died. Mad kudos to Richard for bringing us back in one piece…

2 Jun 2015 (Tue): Helicopter Flight and Snorkelling

Second last day, last full day of the trip!

Helicopter Flight

Great Barrier Reef Cairns, June 2015: Reef View from Helicopter

Great Barrier Reef from above

Tickets for the half-day fly/cruise trip for the previous day were all sold out, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because today was pretty much the only sunny day of our entire trip. Win! We took the shuttle bus to the helicopter fields, signed a form to acknowledge that we might die today, weighed ourselves and went into denial about our weight, and waited for the two others who were meant to join us. They didn’t make it in time from their tight schedule so we had our own helicopter. Double win!

This was my first helicopter ride ever and Richard let me take the front seat. The view of the Reef from above was gorgeous and gave me a sense of just how great the Great Barrier Reef was. The flight was only 20 minutes and we had to land far too soon to get on the boat to prepare for our snorkelling session at the Hastings Reef.

Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef

This was actually also my first time snorkelling. Despite proclaiming to be a relatively good swimmer (well, I did only tick “average” on the death safety survey), I relied on a noodle to float so that I could focus on breathing, which was still ridiculously hard and I gulped a lot of salt water. Things became a lot easier once I switched to a better fit than the standard gear that was too big for me.

Great Barrier Reef Cairns, June 2015: Snorkelling

Great Barrier Reef Cairns, June 2015: First time snorkelling! (Richard cam)

The reef! The fish! The water! The sound of fish biting off the coral! If only the weather had been better today. 2 hours of snorkelling didn’t look much on paper, but it was quite a workout. I enjoyed my time more than I thought I could for a first snorkelling trip. (I might or might not have also accidentally dropped a snorkel. tongue )

Night Fishing

After dinner back on land, we ended our night on a bit of fishing at the poorly lit purpose-built jetty. Richard retaught me how to cast since it’s been a while I last tried this. We didn’t catch anything and there’s still much for me to learn.

3 Jun 2015 (Wed): Last Morning and Bonus Photos

There wasn’t enough time to do anything else on the last morning. We checked out of the hotel after our last epic breakfast at the buffet, and headed to the airport for home, Sydney.

Thank you work for giving me this opportunity, and thank you Richard for making yet another trip of ours fun and memorable. If putting on almost 2 kg from that one week doesn’t prove that I had a good time, I don’t know what does. smile

The Link Dump

Date/s Post Link Food? Description
28 May 2015 A Girl’s Gotta Eat flying out
28 May 2015 Flight Meal on Qantas Flight QF924
28 May 2015 Corea Corea, Orchid Plaza, Cairns late lunch
May-Jun 2015 La Pizza Trattoria, Cairns dinner, 2 nights!
May-Jun 2015 Devine Gelato, Cairns dessert, 3 nights!
31 May 2015 Sushi Express, Orchid Plaza, Cairns quick lunch
31 May 2015 The Raw Prawn, Cairns seafood dinner
2 Jun 2015 Riki Yakiniku Dining Bar, Orchid Plaza, Cairns
May-Jun 2015 Food and Catering at Pullman Cairns International various hotel meals
May-Jun 2015 Pullman Cairns International Hotel the hotel itself
3 Jun 2015 Flight Meal on Qantas Flight QF925

What a Pain in the Neck

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We’ve been taking so many pictures together seated, sometimes I forget how tall he really is…

Grandpa, Grandma, Vickie and Richard

Grandpa, Grandma, me, and some guy whose head got chopped off by the album thumbnail (sometimes also known as Richard)

I’m actually slightly above average height for an Australian woman!

Ross Noble – Tangentleman

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Ross Noble was as chill, random and tangential tonight at his Tangentleman show at Enmore Theatre as he’s over the radio, when we discovered his Australia tour (which was also the first time I’d heard of him as I don’t pay attention to stand-up comedies). Loved the audience interaction throughout.

Ross Noble - Tangentleman (Sydney)

Selfie at the Ross Noble – Tangentleman Sydney show, for great justice

I preferred the first half of the show; Richard preferred the last with more pop culture references. I’m very particular about humour (filthy jokes = okay; child abuse and rape jokes = no), and I think this show passed! A great way to end a hump day! smile

His Name is Richard

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A conversation that happened when I asked how much the different sushi we grabbed tonight cost, and he had no clue.

Me: It’s nice to be rich and not care about a 10-cent difference.
Him: This is the first time anyone has called me rich.
Me: …
Him: …
Him: That would be a lie.

Title.

First Anniversary Dinner at Feast Buffet, Sydney CBD

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Half-year felt like only a while ago and we’re already celebrating our first anniversary. Richard took me to another feast — or Feast at Sheraton on the Park in the CBD, an international seafood buffet place that has been on my wishlist for a while. Vickie, seafood and dinner buffet? Hell yes!

We had a 6 pm booking and got a table fairly close to the food with comfortable space around. It’s near Chinese New Year so the place had appropriate decor and a fortune cookie for every diner on the table. Too many words! Let’s get straight to the food!

Seafood

Seafood! Meant to be the highlight of the buffet, I believe, and it was… slightly disappointing.

Feast Buffet: Seafood

Feast Buffet: Seafood

I loved the giant platter of smoked salmon, but the other seafood wasn’t overly exciting. The oysters tasted fresh but were small in size, and the crabs were dry. I didn’t get seafood in the beginning like everyone else who flocked to the area first thing, though, so what I managed to grab might just have been undesirable leftover bits.

Feast Buffet: Smoked Salmon

Feast Buffet: Now that’s a Vickie-sized platter of smoked salmon

Antipasti

Feast Buffet: Bread

Feast Buffet: Bread

A huge selection of antipasto dishes with various breads, cheeses, cold cuts, salads, olives, dips, spreads… I had some cheese (brie and blue, yum!) and cured meats. Nothing much to complain here, but also nothing much to write home about.

Feast Buffet: Cheese

Feast Buffet: Cheese

Hot Dishes

The hot dishes were… all right but not overly memorable. Enough variations here, and my favourite was actually the roasted pumpkin. Hey, I cook; I know how long it takes to roast that thing properly. Worth it even though the serving tongs were super sticky. tongue

Feast Buffet: Hot Dishes

Feast Buffet: Couscous and braised lamb

Pork crackling was also available, which all looked exciting until the actual bite. It wasn’t crispy and there was no crackling. I ended up having pork skin uncomfortably stuck in my teeth. Richard and I both agreed that the dish was a massive letdown.

Carvery and Asian

Feast Buffet: Carvery

Feast Buffet: Carvery

The staff at the carvery station was very friendly, and I tried and enjoyed a piece of every roast (beef, lamb, turkey). Dim sum was also secretly served in this staffed area with meat buns, siumai (“dim sum”) and dumplings hidden in steamed baskets behind the counters. Wish it was a self-served like the pizzas also available near that area.

Feast Buffet: Pizza

Feast Buffet: Pizza

Dessert

Feast Buffet: Dessert Plate

Feast Buffet: My first dessert plate

Dessert was… all right. There were loads of choices of sweet foods here, but I thought some of the dessert servings were a tad on the large side and most far too sweet — a shame, because the creme brulee was so pretty, too.

Overall

As I sit down to prepare the entry, I noticed that while I generally enjoyed the food and thought the service was absolutely excellent throughout, I seemed to have more to critique than praise. The original price was $99 per person for the Saturday night, but with our Starwood Preferred Guest 15% discount it came down to around $84. Still not the cheapest buffet, but for the good range of food, environment and service, I think it’s worth it. Now please fix the pork crackling!

First Anniversary at Feast

The humans. Check out that full belly action of mine!

Feast - a world of flavour on Urbanspoon

Schumann 1 & 2 at the Sydney Opera House

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Valentine’s Day! Sydney Symphony Orchestra! Sydney Opera House! Schumann! Mendelssohn! Dumplings! Or more coherently, Valentine’s Day Sydney Symphony Orchestra Opera House Schumann Mendelssohn dumplings! Oops.

It’s a slightly rainy day that didn’t start out very smoothly, with one of my contact lenses deciding to rip and us having to make an extra trip back to pick up my spare lenses and all. Thankfully, everything was perfectly timed after and we could still grab a quick bite a tower of dumplings for dinner as planned.

I’m not normally one to celebrate commercial holidays, but they do make for a good excuse to do something special. Tonight, it was the SSO, conducted by David Robertson, performing Schumann’s first and second symphonies, and German violinist Christian Tetzlaff as the soloist for Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. I used Richard’s birthday gift certificate to me (on top of the buffet dinner), so I was able to get us premium seats in one of the Circle Boxes. Spoilt? Me?

SSO at the Opera House: Schumann 1 & 2

SSO event at the Sydney Opera House: Schumann 1 & 2

Being a classical music nerd, I was already familiar with all three compositions, but picked up a lot of notes (especially from the second violins and violas) from the live orchestra that I missed from just listening to recordings. I was also more used to a faster third and fourth movement for Symphony No. 1. I suspect more people would prefer the violin concerto, but I loved all three.

I really can’t comment on the quality of the music otherwise being such an amateur violinist myself, but really did absolutely, massively enjoy the event and was still buzzing from the performance a while after. One thing, though, from Vickie the snob: People, you don’t clap between movements! cool

Selfie Inside Sydney Opera House Concert Hall

Happy Valentine’s Day! Just one selfie inside the Concert Hall! (Just one uploaded, that is. tongue )

The brother asked when I’d be the one on stage. Well, realistically never, but here’s hoping the experience wasn’t too dull for Richard for this to be our last time attending a classical music concert together. smile

Birthday Dinner at Sydney Tower Buffet, Sydney CBD

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For my 21st birthday… I don’t know why you’re looking at me like that; I totally just turned 21. For my totally 21st birthday, Richard took me to a mystery dinner place in the CBD with a promise that it’s going to be an epic feed. I thought it would be an all-you-can-eat place because that’s the only thing that could possibly satisfy a glutton like me, and I was correct. We went up to Sydney Tower Buffet; my first time up to the Tower!

We got there a bit earlier than our booking time and got a nice table on the side. The waitress explained to us how the buffet worked and made sure we knew our section and table number, which was important as the Sydney Tower offers a 360° view of the city — by revolving. A photographer offered to take a photo for us, to which we declined, but I’m sure I ended up as the backdrop in the photos of a few other couples around us.

It was finally eating time, and here’s the selected review!

Seafood
A bit meh; I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t smoked salmon in this section. All the buffet I’ve been to at this price range had them.

Sydney Tower Buffet: Seafood

Sydney Tower Buffet: Seafood

Hot Food
A selection of Australian and international dishes here. The more memorable dishes were:

  • Crocodile chipolatas: Didn’t taste like crocodile to me, but tasty nonetheless.
  • Emu chipolatas: Never tried emu before, but loved that it’s available as a more uncommon dish.
  • Steamed vegetable dumplings: The wrapper was too thick and there was too little filling, but I still had a lot of these.
  • Salt and pepper squid: This was far too salty!
  • Fish and chips: Tried the fish; the batter wasn’t very good.
Sydney Tower Buffet: Hot Food First Plate

Sydney Tower Buffet: First of embarrassingly many plates of hot food!

Dessert
Loved it! And I don’t have a sweet tooth so that’s saying a lot. I tried at least one of everything and especially liked the panna cotta; Richard enjoyed the lemon curd tart.

Sydney Tower Buffet: Plate of Dessert

Sydney Tower Buffet: First plate of dessert

The buffet was $85 a head on the Friday night. The service was great at first but they really slowed down on clearing the plates as the place got busier at night. I also thought there could be more hot dish varieties, but that’s probably just the glutton talking. It’s definitely worth it to take someone from overseas up here, though.

Sydney Tower Buffet: Vickie and Richard

Vickie & Richard at Sydney Tower Buffet, 2014

Thank you so very much for the birthday dinner, Richard! heart

Sydney Tower Buffet on Urbanspoon

Weekend Away at Blackheath

Blackheath Weekend Day 2: So Green
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21 Nov 2014 (Fri), Day 1

Not even a super hot, total-fire-ban weekend could stop us from our planned time away at Blackheath! We took the Friday off from work for this (you know it’s serious business) and some shopping plus driving later, we’re there!

Itinerary of the day: a quick trip to Govetts Leap Lookout before check-in at Redleaf Resort, then off to Megalong Valley Creek (not just a long valley; a Megalong Valley! tongue ), a quick dinner near the resort, and back at Govetts Leap for some sunset photos!

The sky didn’t turn that gorgeous twilight blue, and there were all sorts of bugs flying into my face and a mosquito or two feeding on me, but I don’t regret spending the evening out there. smile

22 Nov 2014 (Sat), Day 2

After our epic breakfast buffet at the resort, we went out to brave the heat and did the Grand Canyon Track. We actually got lucky because Saturday was the coolest day of the whole weekend.

The Grand Canyon Track isn’t as long a walk as the Coast Track that we did the other time, but there was a lot of climb. I kept thinking “We really have to stop going down!” during the first-half of the walk, but I survived the climb back up, mostly thanks to Richard knowing where best to take a break. (We didn’t get to stop at one place because a lady was enjoying hers in the nude in a very visible place.)

After a nice and comfortable shower, we ventured out to Lake Lyell for some fly fishing for Richard and some fly swatting for Vickie. There was a convenient boat ramp at the lake so there were more boats and noise around than we’d like. Dinner was the restaurant inside the golf club across the resort.

23 Nov 2014 (Sun), Day 3

Woke up with sore quads and calves! The good kind of burn. smile We checked out of the resort after our second and last breakfast buffet. It’s scorching hot again but our day wasn’t over just yet! We drove to Echo Point for a quick touristy view of the Three Sisters before heading back to Sydney — with indigestion from overeating at breakfast for me. Oh first world problems.

Didn’t think I could enjoy my time as much as I did with all that heat and flies. Where should we go for our next weekend away?

Caught My First Fish!

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Another gorgeous day spent with Richard and his 3 other friends for some picnic and light swimming at Jibbon Beach, and then fishing from the boat at Gannons Bay and Hacking River!

I caught my first fish ever! And second! And third!

Fish I Caught: Tailor, Baby Snapper, Trevally

Fish I caught: Tailor fish (left), Baby snapper (centre), Trevally (right)

Two we could keep and one devoured on the same night!

Trevally Dinner

Dinner is fresh self-caught trevally!

I really can’t thank Richard enough for everything. Next time: more fish, and even more sunscreen!

Birthday Gift for Him: FIFA 15

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It’s here!

FIFA 15 for the Xbox 360

FIFA 15 for the Xbox 360

They messed up the delivery address, so I didn’t get my preorder until today, one day after actual game release. Oh well.

Told Richard that if he thought the gift was awesome, the idea was totally mine. But if it was a terrible idea and a total waste of money, it’s actually Ali’s. He decided that the gift was awesome and therefore the gift idea was totally mine. Yep. tongue

I wish I had time to get back into gaming myself. Can I still call myself a gamer if I don’t even game any more?