Friday, April 16, 2010

ORD -> PHL -> AMS -> ZRH

PHL -> AMS, originally uploaded by zuctronic.
Off we go to Europe!

I spent a few weeks in cold, dark Chicago watching movies and eating out while searching for cheap flights to Zurich. Isabelle was spending the month with her mother in Switzerland and I planned to join them for the holidays.

I found a flight that connected in Philadelphia and Amsterdam on its way to Zurich. This was a marathon run, but I enjoy seeing airports and I had never been to Philadelphia before. I really like the Amsterdam airport and always try to stop for oysters there. They had the airport decorated for Christmas so I took some photos.

Finally I made it to Zurich and discovered that my checked luggage didn't make it! Swiss Air gave me some clothes and a bag of toiletries to hold me over until they could locate and return my luggage.

I met Andreas, Isabelle's step-father, in the Zurich airport and he drove me to his home near Basel where we would wait for Isabelle and her mother to return from shopping. Andreas doesn't speak very much English and I speak virtually no German or French, so it we needed to pantomime to communicate. We had some coffee and cheese and then picked up Isabelle and mom from the train station.

I called the airline to see if my bags were found but didn't have any luck. After trying a couple beers from Andreas' European collection, I was ready for bed! We were planning to take the train to Paris the next day so I needed to get some rest.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Zoo Lights

It was a shock going from summer in Sydney to winter in Chicago, but I had a lot of things to look forward to. Isabelle bought me a new camera as an early holiday gift, a Canon T1i DSLR. This is my first SLR camera since high school and my first DSLR ever! The day after I returned to Chicago, she left for Switzerland to spend December with her parents. I was going to join them later in the month, but for now I had a lonely couple of weeks in Chicago.

I wanted to try out my new camera so I went to the Lincoln Park Conservatory, a favorite place of mine for taking photos. After leaving the conservatory I decided to walk to the zoo, since it's right next door. I stumbled into an event the city hosts called Zoo Lights. Every year they put Christmas lights all over the zoo and play music and have activities for kids. After learning about this, I decided to come back the next week when it was darker and after learning a little more about taking low-light photos without a tripod. Here are some of my favorites!

Clearly, they went all out. I was impressed!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


SYD -> LAX -> ORD, originally uploaded by zuctronic.

Hopefully I'm teaching a few people something here... the title of this blog post contains the three-letter airport codes for the Sydney Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Hopefully I'm teaching even more people something with this: O'Hare's code is ORD because it USED to be called "Orchard Field" until 1949 when it was renamed after Lieutenant Commander Edward "Butch" O'Hare, USN, a World War II flying ace. O'Hare was my kind of guy... here's an anecdote about him that I fished off the internet:

"(O'Hare) was a great swimmer and spear fisherman, and he insisted that the squadron swim with him. Swimming with Butch O'Hare meant that at eight o'clock in the morning, you swam out into the ocean off Maui; he would still be out there at three in the afternoon! If he got hungry, Butch would roll over and dive, and the next thing you knew, he would come up with a fish of some sort. Then he'd just roll over and lie on his back like an otter and eat the thing raw! He really impressed us with that! One day, he came back to the surface with an octopus draped over his arm. He said, 'Now, you have to learn how to kill these things, boys: you bite 'em right behind the eye.' And with that, he chomped down! The octopus has some sort of spinal cord there, and biting it there does kill it! Then we had to go back to the beach where Butch would put these things in a frying pan with a little oil and some salt and stir them around. He enjoyed them, but they tasted like old rubber tires to me!"

Before flying out of Sydney I had some oysters and sushi in the airport. I didn't want to stuff myself because that can make for an uncomfortable flight, but I couldn't resist two of my favorite foods. The oysters were excellent and the last-minute conveyor belt sushi experience left me satisfied.

The flight back was as comfortable as I could expect. The long haul from Sydney to Los Angeles was a quick 13 hours, but I was sitting next to an Australian guy who was fun to talk to. I bought a small bottle of Bundaberg Rum in the airport duty free and shared it with him. When I offered him some his expression was hilarious, "Bundy ay... yeah why not?"

They have a small entertainment system in the seat backs, so I could watch movies and TV shows and pause things to get up and walk around or eat dinner and snacks. This helped me stretch out the first movie I watched, District 9, for about 5 hours. After that, I fell asleep for 7 hours and when I woke up the plane was flying over Catalina Island into Los Angeles.

I had a 2 hour, 40 minute layover in Los Angeles - enough time to eat a bacon cheese burger at Chili's Too. This was a perfect welcome back to America, haha! We flew away from the sunset into the night to Chicago. I was able to spend one night with her before she left to spend the month of December with her mother. I would be home for just two weeks before joining Isabelle in Europe for the holidays!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

ANZAC War Memorial / Hyde Park

ANZAC War Memorial, originally uploaded by zuctronic.

At the southern end of Hyde Park in Sydney is the ANZAC War Memorial, completed in 1934 to honor the Australian Imperial Force that fought in WWI. Inside the memorial is a somber environment and a small museum dedicated to preserving artifacts from Australia's involvement in various foreign conflicts. It does not glorify war, but rather serves as a memorial to the brave men and woman who gave their lives protecting Australia and her interests.

After leaving the memorial, I wandered across Hyde Park to St. Mary's Cathedral. They didn't allow photography inside the cathedral, but I got a few pictures around the outside before and after going inside.

After that I needed to get back to my hotel room to grab my bags and head for the airport. I had a good time in Sydney and can't want to get back! Now I needed to prepare myself for the 20 hours of air-time it takes to get from Sydney to Chicago. Thanks to Matt, all my Sydney friends, and my co-workers for helping to make the trip a rewarding time, personally and career-wise.