Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Reflection

Wow, what a year. I don't blog as often, but with the end of year, it's a good time to reflect (not in chronological order). I guess there's been a lot less food posts. I still enjoy eating, but I enjoy the company a lot more and would rather use that time spent with people than write about food. I still love taking photos of food though, just for memories/diary of what I ate,

The biggest change this year was definitely getting engaged and starting full time work. I'm at the stage where I'm like 'Can I get married now?' I'm sort of over the whole planning process, and now there's a lot of little details to do, which I can't be bothered with anymore. So much is just very consumeristic, and it's hard not to conform to that when all the socials 'point' to it. I also know I'll be stressed closer to the date, since a lot of things can't be done until later. Also weddings cost so much, and it's so hard to make it a 'budget' wedding without too much compromise. It's hard not to feel 'guilty' when spending all this money on a day, where the money can be used to help an orphanage in India. 2019 was a year of lots of planning until June, then delaying everything until 2020 lol.

Starting full time work also has had its challenges, but I would much rather working than studying. I think for most degrees like commerce, you learn the basics then you learn most when you work. Optom is different in that you learn every single thing, but once you work, you probably just about 5-10% on a daily basis, maybe even less. Although uni doesn't actually teach you have to deal with px complaints, which is where intuition comes in. I know I should re study things, but then when you get home, you really don't want to be doing too much work stuff. I enjoy my work and the colleagues I work with are all experienced and easy to interact (can't say the same for my px demographics), but at the moment, I don't see myself doing further or more advanced studies in optom. I would rather use my spare time to focus on my relationship or help with church stuff. I know work will be more challenging once I move out since have to be 'adulting' whereas now I'm still living at home. I'm still so grateful to be able to graduate, with both grandmas on Mum and Dad's side flying from HK to see me graduate in May.

I can't wait to have our own place though. I've really been trying more practically with 'It's better to give than to receive.' Hosting our first NYE dinner at Blair's house was a lot of fun, with friends gathered around and chatting. It did mean lots of prep like making sure enough back up food in case people still got hungry, cleaning the house then all the dishes afterwards at 4am, since everyone stayed till around 3am. Unlike when you're young and doing dishes is just a chore, it's different these days as you do dishes (amongst other things) with a joyful heart, as some people have no one to spend NYE with. It's things like spending time with people and enjoyment in each others' company which money can't buy.

The biggest challenge and change this year, probably more than the above was not being able to go to church because of work. As a new grad I didn't have a choice, but I pray and hope 2020 this can change. The unglamorous part of working in a big company is that you don't get much say, compared to people who are older and may be less knowledgeable, but they get first say on how often they work etc. I'm thankful for Pastoral care through marriage counselling/wedding preparations with what to expect in marriage.

With work, meant less holidays. 2018 was a crazy year of travel literally all over the world and interstate. 2019 I only took 2 days of leave (1 for a CPD conference, other for a wedding). Cancelled our HK/Japan trip for safety issues. However, I'm not dying to go on a holiday (yet). Still haven't planned honeymoon stuff, apart from flights and hotels. Even though working full time, my head is still in 'uni study saving money mode' so everything still feels expensive. Even a hotel over $150 per night feels expensive to me, so I have no idea how people can spend $1500 per night on the super luxurious hotels. Well for high income earners maybe they can justify, but as a new grad on a very average salary, no way. I did start work after a big trip to Europe then India in January this year, so I guess my last travel was under a year ago. My silver Qantas FF status is definitely going to die, oh wells. My job doesn't allow me to travel which I knew when I started my degree. Although going to be volunteering in Vanuatu with work next year which is going to be super exciting. Sometimes, I actually hate social media where people put a highlight reel of their life, particularly of their travels. I am guilty of this, I know, it just doesn't help when you're stuck at work. Also, excessively done weddings I'm just like urgh, is this really necessary? It's just one day in your life, the days during your marriage after the wedding is what's really important.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Est.

Celebrating special occasions is always a good excuse to go fine dining. Celebrated 2 years with my fiancé here at Est. Originally I wanted to do a degustation, or 4 course dinner, but with train delays after work, only had time for 3 courses. Looking at the menu, the second entree choices weren't that exciting either. I've been wanting to come here for a while now, and although I don't blog about food often anymore, I guess fine dining takes a priority when blogging (in between organising a wedding etc).

 
One of the last to leave

Located a level above the Establishment bar where it is super loud, you arrive at this restaurant which is a stark contrast. The sound proofing they used is on point, because you wouldn't even know it's a very loud bar right under you. They have a champagne, wine and whisky/rum cart around the restaurant, but didn't opt for any drinks (not a student anymore, but as a new grad with minimal savings, I can't afford to drink when going out). Three courses were $135pp.


homemade sourdough

The crust was crunchy and a little bit sweet, which actually paired well with the butter. A simple non flavoured butter, which melted straight away as the bread still had steam coming out. Halfway through the dinner I asked them to clean the bread crumbs from the crust, but they misheard and thought I asked for another bread, so we got another bread. This bread was pretty big to start with, and so I was already starting to get full.

entrees

The drink in the top right was a cocktail of lychee and other fruity flavours, but tbh, for around $20, it just tasted like pineapple juice with some edible flowers. The lychee flavour was very subtle. It was nice to have a sweet drink to balance the savoury dishes.

coal grilled marron, salt and vinegar cabbage, laver, lardo dumpling

dumpling as a side dish

First time having a side dish accompaniment to an entree. The marron was cooked to perfection and very fresh. Loved the texture of the cabbage since it gave it a crunch and not too vinergry. The laver helped season the dish a bit more. Not sure what the purpose of the dumpling was though, but it had some peas and a tiny bit of prawn was a clear consommé for more seafood flavour.

handpicked crab, cavolo nero, hazelnut, horseradish, trout roe, lemon jam

There was a decent amount of crab which wasn't overpowered by the different elements on the plate. The lemon jam helped give it a bit of creaminess and lightness, hazelnut and cavolo nero (Italian kale) for some crunch, and trout roe for some more flavour. The horseradish wasn't too strong either. 

Lamb loin and belly, smoked broccoli, young garlic, curd, black olive

Lamb was cooked medium rare wasn't chewy. Loved the garlic sauce, probs the best I've had, and balanced well with the black olives. You could definitely smell smokiness from the broccoli but didn't taste like you were eating charcoal.


Rose veal, eggplant, green shallot, bone marrow, toasted milk, yeast

Veal was also cooked to medium rare. The sauce was a bit more heavy and saltier in this one, probably from the bone marrow. The toasted milk on top was a cute addition and a fun bit of crunch.

dessert

raspberry vacherin, buffalo curd, hibiscus, kaffir lime, raspberry sorbet

inside

Such a fun dessert to eat, you smash the vacherin meringue and inside it has raspberry bits, sauce, and the buffalo curd. Would have been nice to have more sorbet and curd to cut through the sweetness of the meringue and sauce. Meringue was light and crunchy.

baked apple, puff pastry, artichoke, miso caramel ice cream

For the second dessert, wasn't sure which one to pick, since I didn't want a chocolate dessert. This was the most popular one after the chocolate dessert. The puff pastry was super light and loved the bits of apple inside. The artichoke added a bit of a different dimension to it helping to cut back the sweetness. The ice cream only had a subtle hint of miso flavour. I would've liked more, but I guess miso is a strong flavour, and anymore would be too overpowering.


Complimentary special occasion chocolate cake

Cute dark chocolate mousse cake with a candle. This was quite dense so definitely shareable even though it was small.

petit fours: beignet and dark chocolate + white chocolate truffles

The beignet were served warm and very light and fluffy. The dark chocolate had a good bitterness to it, so went well with the sweet white choc. Wasn't expecting petit fours for a 3 course meal, so it was a nice little treat afterwards. We were so full by the end of the night. Lucky didn't end up getting 4 courses or the degustation. I guess we could've eaten more courses, just probably cut back on the complimentary bread (but bread was so nice, and it wouldn't make sense to not eat it). Overall, it was a nice dinner, but nothing mind blowing. I think these days I'm easily pleased with all food, since I've travelled to both Europe and America only in the past year, Asia the year before, and have conquered a lot of Sydney top restaurants. It just takes something extra for a dish to be mind blowing or create flavours never heard of before.

Est. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, October 25, 2019

Bridge Climb Sydney

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge has been on my bucketlist for ages. So when I saw they were celebrating their 21st birthday climbing the bridge for $95, I wanted to try get a ticket for it. The morning they released the tickets, I was in queue for over 2 hours, and had to leave for work so couldn't wait any longer. Lots of people on social media complained, and they asked people to leave their emails to receive another special deal. I left my email, then got a phone call a few weeks later. I didn't bother replying to the call until one week later. Turns out they offered the same price for the people who tried to buy the birthday tickets to any chosen date and time in October - even better! So I booked it on my day off. In hindsight, I forgot to account for daylight savings, as ideally I would've liked to climb during twilight for pretty sunsets. Can't complain since rrp is around $308pp for a day climb, and we were so lucky to have such blue skies and clear views.

If I was a tourist, I would definitely recommend doing this climb. As a local, not really. The views are different up there, but you can imagine what they would look like, especially if you work in a tall building in the CBD, or even when you walk/drive/train it across the bridge. It's like how I paid over $300 for a train ride up the Swiss Alps just to see mountains which are free in nature. The bridge was funded by tax payers and is essentially free to use (apart from driving toll frees), so to climb it and pay that extra money as a tourist for different views, it's worth it.

They have changed the suits and harnesses over the years. We got a full body harness with this bit connected to a wire so you can't overtake the person in front, although it's mainly to attach stuff to you, and not really there to keep you falling off. There were strings and clips to attach: sunglasses, hats, handkerchief, and rain/wind jackets in case you want extra warmth. They also have beanies, gloves and head torches for colder or night climbs. You can't bring anything up there for safety purposes.

You can't actually fall off since there are so many rails and below you is solid, since the bridge is solid steel. The only see through part is coming out from under the building where it starts to connect to the bridge and also crossing from one side to the other at the summit. The see through metal grates is cool since you can see the cars below you from a height of 134m. Things don't appear that small since you're still in relatively close proximity, and you're not actually that high up. It is windy up there, but not to the point where you're getting blown over. I'm so unfit, because 3 days later my calves still ache a bit. The actual climb isn't hard, it's a smooth gradient...just I don't really use my muscles anymore...

Of course, just had to buy some overpriced photos, because I'll probably never climb up again nor have the chance to buy these photos. Good family bonding time with my Mum and brother.

about 1/3 of the way up

at the summit

Monday, October 21, 2019

6 months to go

This year has really flew up. Christmas decorations are already up in shops, and before we know it, it's Christmas. Full time work really does make time pass a lot faster. Each year seems to pass by faster (apart from beginning of 2017 when I had nothing to do except my research project on uni...) I still remember being really depressed about the whole ordeal end of 2016, but time does make things easier. Although I'm still a bit salty about the situation, looking at the bigger picture in hindsight, I just graduated a year behind my original cohort, and at the time also being sad about 'losing one year's worth of income.' In the end, we can't die with our money, and all the 'riches' we earn on Earth is useless in Heaven. The material things we have on Earth isn't ours to begin with, and God didn't call us to chase all the worldly things on Earth.

This brings me to wedding planning. I haven't done anything since 5 months ago. We're at the stage of 'let's get married already' because there are so many details in between to figure out. I know that I shouldn't get caught up in the small details since it's just one day, and it's the days after that matters most. I really don't like how the culture makes it to be 'the best day of your life, so you need the best stuff'. Not gonna lie, it's so hard not to compare to other people. At the end of our lives, God isn't gonna be like 'well done on a well executed picture perfect wedding'. Amidst all the planning and thinking I don't have enough money for 'x,y,z' since I don't have many savings compared to people who graduated a year, or to, or three years ago, I really have to remind myself to take a step back at how blessed I am to even have a wedding in the first place. The money spent on a 'budget' wedding can probably fund a new building at the Indian orphanage we visited earlier this year. It also doesn't help when I see other Christians on social media having such extravagant weddings...I still get confused about all this, but everyone has different priorities in their life/when planning a wedding. I'm thankful for our pastor preparing weekly 'marriage counselling' sessions to really understand what the meaning of marriage is as a Christian. Something that you build together to strengthen and deepen the relationship everyday.

I'm the type to freak out if something doesn't go according to plan on the day. Things will probably go wrong on the day, but I need to remind myself it doesn't matter. It's the days after which matter more.

So what do on my days off? Currently dealing with home insurance since April. Nothing has progressed, and it involves hourly phone calls each week. Makes me think do I really need to live in a house? So many things can break and home insurance is so annoying to deal with, and also expensive to insure and purchase a house in the first place. Living in an apartment reduces the amount of space you have, but there's strata to fix stuff, then I don't want to live in a dodgy apartment which hasn't been built properly...like the poor residents of the Mascot Building and Opal Towers who for some owners, put their life savings in it and their investment has literally crumbled...Just like weddings, at the end we can't take our house into heaven, and we don't die with it...just temporary on earth, so I shouldn't be so caught up and emotionally anguished by house insurance claims and making us paying for extra repairs...

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Quarter Century

It doesn't ever feel different when you become a year older, until it really hits you that you are older. One thing I realised I was looking forward to is renting a car if I ever need to, without a premium insurance fee. Also figuring out health insurance was such a waste of time. That's probs the 2 main things which really 'solidifies' the extra stuff you have to do once you hit 25.

Pandan and coconut

This flavour got deleted literally 2 days after I ordered the cake, so I forgot what other flavour it had. It had layers of a darker choc sable, bits of mango and a lemony curd/sauce inside. The pandan was quite subtle in the mousse. It wasn't really sweet and the slightly sour lemony mango inside help balance it.


I have a thing where I like to have the exact amount of candles as the year I'm turning. Surprised 25 candles managed to fit on this small cake.

layers

Red velvet cake from Michel's Patisserie

Manager at work buys everyone a cake on their bday. Glad they chose this flavour for me (not a big fan of chocolate), but either way I wouldn't mind. She even puts in candles which is cute.


Thanks g8s for these cakes! Love trying new flavours. The mango and yuzu was the favourite of the night, also an og so you can't go wrong. I quite liked the guava and strawberry too, so cool how they're making more cakes shaped like fruit tasting like the fruit. No one liked the purple lavender one, I actually didn't mind it. I couldn't taste the soapiness, although it wasn't my favourite it wasn't bad either. The ume slice was delicious as well, full of various flavours. Love catching up with g8s, and was definitely delightedly surprised that Happy Apple came. 

Thanks Happy Apple for my first ever succulent - hope I don't kill it...


85deg Black forest cake

Finished off cake week with a simple cake to share at church. Thanks Blair for the surprise. Although I'm not a big fan of Asian cake, the good thing about 85deg is that it comes with plates, knives, forks and candles, so can literally just buy this cake and eat it anywhere. 

I think I'm caked out...for now....

Monday, August 19, 2019

Tetsuya's

I've been wanting to come try this place for a while, so have been saving up this place for a special occasion with a special person. So for my 25th birthday this year, decided to book the most expensive degustation dinner in Sydney (thanks Blair for the birthday dinner). I've been to a lot of food places in the past year, from fine dining (Bennelong, Catalina, O Bar and Dining, and more)/restaurants/local eats/cafes etc in Sydney, from East Coast to West Coast in America, and throughout Europe as well. Just haven't had time to do food reviews (last one was in Aug 2018 which was a backlog from March 2018), but had to do a post about Tetsuya's.

For a Tuesday night, the restaurant was surprisingly full. I made a booking around 2-3 weeks in advance, and was seated one 'row' behind the window garden seat. Apparently window tables are allocated based on reservation dates, so I guess there were some people who are more organised than me haha.

8 course degustation was $240pp. Yes, I still bring lunch to work, so I can then splurge once a year on fine dining. The food here is focused on seafood with 4/8 dishes being seafood, so if you don't like seafood then don't come. It has Japanese inspired dishes mixed with a bit of French cuisine.

Hidden on Kent St

I used to always walk past this to get to my bus from the city to home on Kent St. During the day the gates are closed, so this place is hidden away. You come here for the food not views, unlike other fine dining places 

View of the Japanese style garden

Can't really see it at night and I don't think you're allowed to walk in it, but it's cute. Of course if you ever go Japan, the original country is always more impressive. It's cute how they try to transport you to Japan.

Truffle butter + filtered water with lime

We ate pretty much almost all the butter. I never eat butter, except at fine dining. It was so light, and whipped well so very spreadable, but the truffle flavour was so intense and you could see so many bits of truffle in it. Makes my truffle salt and truffle oil at home seem like nothing. Even if you had a blocked nose, you would be able to smell the truffle. They offered sparkling, still or filtered water (no tap water option cause fine dining haha).


Bread options were Kombu scroll, rye or white sourdough. All of them were so delicious. The scroll was extra flaky and easy to pull apart, and sourdough had a nice crunchy crust without being chewy. Not sure if I filled up from the bread, butter and water...

Cherry Blossom: dry sherry, bombay gin, cherry beer, ratafia, lime-$24

Chose this one since it seemed to fit with the Japanese theme. It tasted like slightly sour cherries, and not sweet. It was nice but not one of my favourite cocktails.

Tuna with daikon and wasabi

You can definitely tell this fish was so fresh and the flavours weren't overpowering the fish flavour. Could hardly taste the wasabi which was good, since I'm not a big fan. Daikon gave it that extra bit of freshness for the dish.

Poached scampi with coffee vinaigrette and cannellini bean

Scampi perfectly cooked and full of flavour, and moving onto a warm dish. I couldn't really taste the coffee, but it gave that slight bit of acidity to cut through the butteriness of the scampi. The puree on the side help emphasis the smooth texture of the scampi.


Signature dish: confit of ocean trout with salad of apple and witlof

Wow, this dish lived up to the hype. The softest trout ever which melts in your mouth, perfectly seasoned with the kombu on top. Your knife just glides right through, and this is indeed my favourite seafood dish. Loved the crunch from the apple salad hidden underneath for some texture and slight sweetness. The caviar also gave it a pop of flavour. The parsley oil looked pretty on the plate, but I couldn't really taste it.

eating from books

Apparently, this is the most photographed dish in the world. Mainly because it was invented back in 1987. Most restaurants weren't even opened by then, and most chefs change their menu and remove signature dishes (like the Quay's snow egg) from time to time to keep people coming back. This dish has stayed on the menu since it was first created which explains why it's the most photographed dish. The recipe photo shows more parsley oil and caviar, but I guess that book was published around 2000, and 19 years later, inflation etc so they just cut out the extra bits without sacrificing the quality of the trout. 

salad to go with the trout

Salad had a nice dressing, I don't mind acidity, but some may find it a bit too acidic/bitter. Waiter suggested to have the fish first then have the salad as a side. I found the salad flavour to a bit overpowering, so I just had the salad separately after I finished the trout.

Queensland murray cod with confit fennel and young garlic

Moving onto the first hot dish where the plate was pre heated to preserve the warmth. This piece of fish was quite small, but again cooked to perfection. The skin super crispy and again the fish was very soft. It looked like a lot of sauce, but it was the perfect amount. This garlic sauce is better than El Jannah's (which is already one of the best for just cheap eats). The sauce was an emulsion, so it was super smooth without being too garlicy.

Pearl meat with jerusalem artichoke and navel orange

The first of the two meat dishes was this confit chicken which was really moist and smooth, and packed full of flavour with the accompanying jus. The orange was a nice element to the dish bringing some depth of flavour, rather than just savoury.

Wagyu rib eye with chestnut mushroom and yuzu

I loved the yuzu sauce on the side, highlight of the dish. It gave a lovely acidity to cut through the richness of the beef. The meat was perfectly cooked and loved the jus sauce. Mushrooms were plump and juicy. Good end to the savoury dishes.

Blood orange and beetroot sorbet with layer of white chocolate

This was the perfect palate cleanser, and the sourness from the sorbet really cut through to literally cleanse the savoury taste from previous dishes. A thin piece of white chocolate covered the sorbet to help balance the acidity, and on the side were some pearl like things. Apparently they use some science to make them. They're soft and not chewy like your usual tapioca pearls.

Chocolate stone with honey and milk

The dessert was nice but not amazing compared to other fine dining desserts I've had, wasn't expecting much from desserts since I was coming here for their seafood. The chocolate stone had a sort of milk ice cream filling inside and was really soft and not rich. Loved the quenelle of ice cream on the side with some crumbs for texture. The tempered ring of chocolate made the dish more fun. Could definitely hear the crack as your spoon cut through it.

Yay for birthday cake

Tetsuya's chocolate cake

The mousse cake was rich but not too sweet. I'm not a chocolate person, and if I do eat chocolate, it's always dark choc. The mousse was predominately dark choc which I loved, and just some sweetness from the white choc inside.

Petits fours: citrus tart, raspberry and mascarpone macaron, chocolate truffle lychee black sesame

I love these petits four, especially because it wasn't just chocolate. The chocolate truffle was my favourite, since it looked like truffle, but inside was this delicious black sesame filling, what a thin outer shell of chocolate. The macaroni wasn't overly sweet since the mascarpone was light and with a mild raspberry filling. Loved the acidity from the citrus tart as well with a thin layer of meringue.

His first cookbook

Thanks Blair for buying this book all those years ago (way before we met and even he didn't know who Tetsuya was when he bought this book around 10 years ago). So lucky we brought it along with us, since we got it signed! (Well Tetsuya was overseas but they swapped our copy with a signed copy in their stock).

Me being weird even though it's a fine dining place, I started taking photos of the trout dish with the book, and the usual taking a million photos before I eat, even though these days they just get stored since I don't really have time to upload to my food Instagram account or blog about it. Halfway through the meal a waiter said to follow him, and to take our phones. He ended up showing us into their kitchen! First time seeing a commercial kitchen (not through a window or on MasterChef). We were literally on the pass, and seeing all the chefs plate up. Inside was really big, and they explained how they don't use computers, since everyone eats the same 8 courses, so they just cross it out as you complete a dish then make the next one. So cool seeing the head chef in work as well.

peek into kitchen

Bit shocked at the invite into their kitchen, still in awe

Service was impeccable throughout the night as you would expect for a fine dining restaurant.  We did tip them extra since they went above and beyond for our dining experience. Although Tetsuya himself wasn't there (he was to return the following week, but these dining places are more once in a life time not weekly dining so we wouldn't obviously go back just to see him), we were just shocked that they let us have a peek into their kitchen and signed our book! Definitely a birthday dinner to remember.

Tetsuya's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, August 5, 2019

Three weeks...

I didn't realise how long three weeks (and 3 days) actually feels. It's weird how last year, 6 weeks in America just flew by (plus additional placements in Melb/Hobart/NZ), but I guess it was long days from 7am-6pm, and then long commutes back to NYC, or when it was a slightly shorter day, every single bit was trying to pack in things to see and places to eat. Now it's reversed and staying in Sydney while seeing other people go overseas isn't easy. Much respect to those who I know who've been/are in LDR...so thankful that I don't because not sure how I would survive tbh. Only just these three weeks have sort of felt like ldr...and probs another 2 weeks at the end of the year...Placement away from home is different, because I could drive back to Sydney on weekends, whilst you can't really fly from overseas frequently... Times like these also reaffirms some values, like if it was the choice between spending time away from family but earning more money, I would rather less money and more time with family. Time is something you can't buy...Really happy for Blair's successful research/work trip in Finland/Estonia and church conference in Korea. So the time apart was necessary and worth it. Thanks goodness for internet.

Things in HK are still so crazy...Really hope a repeat of 1989 Tiananmen Square doesn't happen...and really hope things will return to 'normal' by November...So incredibly grateful and thankful that my parents decided to move here where they didn't know any English all those years ago before I was born.

Can't believe it's birthday month already. Signed up to some free birthday food since conveniently my birthday is on my day off, but I feel like I'm at that age where I'm starting to ceebs...Guess it make sup for missing bday food last year since I was in NYC. Ended getting myself another Dyson appliance as a present to myself again this year.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Central Coast Work-Cation

Currently halfway through my 'placement' in the Central Coast, one of two weeks done. As new grads we were supposed to do half a year, but with low metro cover, they shortened my placement from 4 to 2 weeks. The drive up had a lot of road works, since they're widening the road from 2 to 3 lanes. The parts which are already 3 lanes are so smooth and well paved, but once you turn off the highway, so many potholes everywhere. It's also so hard to drive through pouring rain since sometimes the lanes don't have the reflectors of the roads (and of course no street lights).

It sort of feels like a mini  holiday since I'm staying at a hotel. The accommodation is actually pretty good, although still around a 25min drive to work, but a smooth drive. Work in Syd is also a 25min on weekends but every minute you're stopped by a traffic light, whereas here in the Central Coast, there's only like 1 traffic light on the drive, and most of the road is around 80 (compared to average main Syd roads 60).

Patient demographic is very different, feels like 'retirement town'. There are kids, but the average age of patients I see is 80. Everyone is very nice (just a bit slow as expected).

Having my own place is nice, but I don't think I could ever live by myself in a place. Although I love peace and quiet at home, it's nice to have someone else in the house with you, even if you're not talking, just the presence is nice. Also would feel so bored if I moved to a regional town by myself. This place I'm at is just over an hour from home, so it's not really regional. Around 1/4 of the restaurants are opened at night, and feel like a ghost town, but there is still some entertainment around. If I moved rural, I would be so bored, and also impossible to meet up with friends. Already missed some catch ups since working here for a bit. Idm missing a few here and there, but not permanently. This short term stint working not in metro Syd has been a good experience so far.

Just over a week ago attended a friend's wedding. I love going to weddings, and my heart is so full of joy and happiness. It's inconvenient how I have to take leave for weddings cause of ft work, but it's worth for closer friends. People who just invited me to ceremony only unfortunately I have to reject since I literally don't have enough leave. It's weird how winter isn't really considered 'wedding season', but nowadays, every week is wedding week. Like that day I went to the wedding, there were 3 other weddings of friend's of friends. In September, I know of every week someone is getting married (sort of glad some of them didn't invite me so I don't feel bad saying no...) Also know friends getting married Oct and Nov (know them enough to say hi but wouldn't consider friends).

Guests lists are tricky, especially with so many people and their plus ones. Also if we invite them but then they split before we get married...or just not invite their plus ones, but then they may feel awkward coming by themselves...since although weddings are a happy day, I could sense from some people who are single it's not the most comfortable day for them...just some rambling thoughts...

Did a road trip to Canberra yesterday, as Blair needed to go to the Estonia Embassy. The road there was pretty much flat and super well paved, unlike Central Coast where you go through, up and down mountains. I guess the nation's capital needs to be well accessible. I really love driving through Canberra roads, so spacious are hardly any cars. They also have a light rail which recently opened in April, also looks pretty much like our light rails in Sydney. Houses in both Canberra and the Central coast are sooooo cheap compared to Sydney...Like half the price for some at the Central Coast. Guess that's why quite a few people live up there and drive to Sydney for work.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

10 months to go

Can't believe it's already 10months to go, and we're also almost halfway through the calendar year. I think I have gotten used to the routine of full time work, but if I didn't have things to look forward to (not just getting married), but meeting up with friends or events to go to, it would make work life mundane.

I think for 10 months, I have gotten pretty much all the 'big stuff' sorted out. I know I'm gonna stress about the small stuff, probably 2 months before. Mainly timings of things and lack of help from people from set up etc. I just don't have the manpower, and although most people get people from their church to help, well I've never helped anyone's church wedding, and have stopped going to my childhood church for over a year (not that I was close to anyone to begin with even if I have known them from birth), it's just stressing over who can help without feeling guilty asking people for help. I like to organise a lot of stuff myself, but I know I'll need people to help. Even simple things like transporting a flower vase isn't easy when you think about the technicalities like who is taking it and who will drive them, let alone trying to organise food and stuff (or I can do it the easy way and just not have food lol).

There are some bloggers/vloggers who do 'Wedding Wednesday' or post/video every single step of their wedding planning. I guess they get money from it, but here are just some of my thoughts on wedding planning so far:
Dress
- Wedding dress is the number one biggest waste of time. From looking online at night, on your daily commute, then searching up websites, to making appointments at multiple places, each place taking around an hour, I could easily say I spent a ridiculous of at least 20 hours (at least 5 try on places-I lost count, then an hour or two every second day looking at websites). It's also the biggest waste of money, hence yolo. I tried to like something online, but couldn't find any and also didn't want to risk it.
- Dress prices also don't include alterations, which cost on average $500, yeah, not cheap. Managed to just stay under my budget though (after increasing my original budget so I guess I didn't really save that much). I'm just glad that's out of the way, cause it also takes a freaking 6 months to make, and you have to factor in alteration time after. So apparently I'm right on time with timings...although not sure how people with short engagements like some optom colleagues who have less than 9mths from engagement to wedding...I guess that's why express dress orders also exist...I also ended up going back to the first dress I tried lol, so all that 20hrs outside of work could've been spent doing something more productive...
- Compared to other things like rings, 1hr at the jewellers, 1hr checking at event spaces, decisions all made after looking at the first places we looked at (these all cost a lot more than a dress). Ironically they also were the easier decisions.

Flowers
- No such thing as cheap flowers. Even small businesses on social media actually might charge more or about the same as a florist with a shop front. There are actually heaps of florist who work from home without a shop front, but still not cheap. Even if you get a friend to do flowers for you, yes it's a bit cheaper since I guess you don't have to pay for labour hours, but the actual flowers aren't cheap, and it doesn't look quite as nice (unless you're not picky, but apart from my grad, wedding is the only time I'll ever order some nice flowers to celebrate the occasion)

Cake
- I actually booked my cake before getting my dress because #priorities. So keen for people to try the flavours. Although still have yet to decide on the size, since I don't want to see leftovers go in the bin...Cake testing portions were pretty generous.
- Again, no such thing as a cheap cake (and I didn't even mention the word wedding at time of quote lol). Even normal occasion cakes cost more. Like my 21st Unbirthday cake, it was $275 with customised colours and details. Now a similar 2 tier cake is $425 without macarons or edible flowers or chocolate gems, includes delivery though, but normal chocolate is cheaper than flowers etc, so that inflation was crazy high since 4 years ago...Pretty much any social media baker or home baker charges similar prices now, not as expensive as cake shops, but a lot more than expected.

Makeup and Hair
- Another over priced section, but just like flowers, only time in my life I'll pay someone to do my MUH (apart from yr 12 formal, but that was a family friend who did it for cheap just for fun). I guess make up itself is expensive, and you pay for their skill (just like flowers).

Honeymoon
- Really it's an excuse for a holiday. People have different priorities, some have super fancy weddings and other don't. I guess I could've save money for a house (lol I kid, what house deposit when there's a wedding to be paid for) by having a cheaper honeymoon (like anywhere in Asia), but I value travel, experiences and culture. Decided to have reception at a not fancy city view or fancy food restaurant to save money for honeymoon in Europe. 'Europe? Again?' - Is literally every person's reaction when I tell where we want to go lol.
- Also limited by the fact that I only started work this year, so will be on negative annual leave. Hence, can't go overseas for long anyway. Would've loved a long honeymoon, but that's not the point so it doesn't matter if it's short or long.

Photography
- A major aspect in this overpriced industry where they charge a million times more once you mention the word 'wedding.' For this, I didn't even bother asking for quotes. We just went with a friend's friends recommendation. Although not a professional 'wedding photographer,' he's done some weddings for friends, so he should know what to do. We were pretty happy with our engagement shots (again, not cheap, but thanks to Blair for his generosity since that guy's full time work is more purposeful than a proper wedding photographer). I think as long as they can edit photos even from really bad lighting is good enough (our engagement shoot was on the verge of raining/cloudy skies so he did a really good job).
- This is something I originally was a bit picky about getting a 'professional' and even though we don't really save money, at least more comforted that we're funding out photographer's Bible college studies rather than just for profit wedding industry. Again, different people have different priorities/budgets. I think at the end of the day, I'm not going to be sad that the photo didn't turn out as good as I expected to be, since it's the fact that we're getting married and the memories which are more important to me.

Wow, my rambles turned out longer than expected. As per usual on my days off, I have not done any cleaning/throwing away of things. I think I've sort of decided to leave my things are my parents place when I move out, and if they ever sell the house, I'll come back to throw stuff away...

Monday, June 17, 2019

Although our government hasn't been really stable these past few years, I'm still so grateful that my parents moved to Aus all those years ago. The past few weeks/days have been so crazy in HK. Have to acknowledge the persistence of all the protestors. Although I do have to wonder what's going to happen when 2047 comes, and the whole 50 year thing since 1997 comes up...I'm just grateful my family there is safe.

The great thing about Sydney Metro is that it has really freed up traffic jams on the m2, esp leaving the city during peak hour. On my occasionally days off trekking to the city, there's like no traffic, but like in 2013 where there was minimal traffic on the m2 (and back then it was only 2 instead of 3 lanes). The closest station is still a 8min drive from my house, but I realised all the stations except for a few like Castle Hill, Showground, all are situated on the outskirts of the suburb, so hence why they built car parks since you need to drive there. The Cherrybrook station has the smallest carpark, probs cause land is more expensive, and further out North West you go, the car parks are so big. Like Kellyville and Bella Vista car parks are at least 4x bigger than Cherrybrook. Then at Tallawong because there's so much land out there, they just did open space car park instead of multi-storey with no roof over the top. The car park there is so big, it'll probs stake around 10min walk to the station since it's like the size of a couple  football fields. Although I probs won't live in Cherrybrook much longer, I'm glad this side of Sydney finally has some sort of transport. Still have to drive since everyone in this area has around 2-4cars per household, cause you can't survive without a car in the Hills, but better than clogging up roads/increasing traffic.

The current apartment situation around Sydney is so crazy. So many new properties, but then places like the Opal Towers and Mascot Towers with structural defects. If you're living in ti or using it as a investment property, you'll never be able to sell it, and you still need to pay the bank more than what it's worth. Literally your savings go down a drain. Like the Mascot building is not even 10 year old, means pretty much any apartment in the past few years also risk structural defects. You can't even sue the builders because they have either deregistered and changed company names or have already gone broke...Some buildings now have some cladding on it as well which makes things complicated since off the plan apartments won't even tell you what the actual building is made of. Colleague of mine when she inspected her apartment in Epping before settling in, had cracks across the glass door and kitchen bench which they probably just flipped over to hide it on the final inspection. If the apartment inside is already dodgy, then imagine what sort of material or lack of good material the actual building would be...Even though low interest rates atm, you really don't know which apartments are dodgy until way late, esp off the plan you can't even examine what you're buying...Not that I have the money, but current news puts me off investing in apartments cause of dodgy construction only coming up 10 years later...

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Graduated! 🎓

Finally graduated! 6 years of blood, sweat and literal tears. I can't be bothered to upload photos here, so refer to my insta post, or if you have Blair on fb, go to the grad album (thanks for the amazing edits Blair, since sunset lighting with shadows was shockingly bad). Thank you to all my friends, family and especially Blair for all your support. Would not have been able to graduate without everyone's help.

It was a logistical nightmare on the day, trying transport whole fam plus overseas relatives there, plus a night time graduation where the sunsets at 5pm, so limited lighting. Luckily could pick up the gown from 3.30pm and get some decent shots. Still can't believe both my grandmas travelled to attend. So thankful my fam managed to be able to find paid parking, since apparently some days the paid parking was all full.

There was a time when I thought graduations were overrated (maybe especially during my salty year when everyone was graduating, or friend who graduated 3 years before me), but then it is the only time in my life where I could celebrate this milestone. Research life isn't for me, so pretty sure I won't be graduating again. Salty days are over (I think). There was about 12 of us graduating with double Bachelors, and rest of the optom crew with Masters due to the course change structure. The 12 of us failed after we passed 3rd year, so couldn't get the Masters even though we literally did the same course, and same classes and everything. Stupid uni logistics...so maybe still a little bit salty, but I guess having a double Bachelors means I'm still 'older' within the industry, since they'll know whoever is graduating with a Masters is defs a new or recent grad...

So happy with how the flowers turned out. They still smell so sweetly fresh 2.5 days later, especially since on the day I literally just chucked them around. Those big roses are so much more fragrant than the small roses or the ones we have in our garden. I love the sweetness of the rose. Although I don't understand how rose fragranced hand creams/perfumes etc are so sickly gross and strong of artificial rose smell....I actually hate rose flavoured skin stuff, apart from rose flavoured food. Now I can appreciate expensive roses due to their smell. Also understand why people buy flowers for their house even though a normal bouquet isn't cheap, but good quality flowers just make the whole house smell amazing.

It's such a sigh of relief to finally have that damn piece of paper and a fancy plaque (both of which I have absolutely no use for, since it's weird to display in the office since people will be like you're a new grad...) Graduations so much more high tech compared to like 2016 when Blair graduated. There's now live streams, can also download live stream, printout of on stage photo, and got to keep the grad cap. Although I think they probs charge us more for graduations now.

Coincidentally, day after I graduated, the store got a new sign with my name on it. So come find me for glasses.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

12 months to go

The past 3 months have definitely flew by. We're almost in May, and now in less than a year I'll be married. Still getting into the routine of full time work. Work is good since I don't have to do overtime compared to most new grads in corporate jobs (the most I've stayed overtime is 10mins, and normally I get to work at least 10mins early), but I think the ones thing which still irks me is not able to go to church on time on Sundays. I pretty much rock up at the end of the service. If only I could somehow negotiate to leave early on Sundays, but that might mean I end up moving to different stores. Also annoying how there's only 8 weekend days off in a year, probably will end up going leave without pay if I really need a weekend off for someone's wedding or some emergency...

I knew I 'signed my life weekends' away last year, but didn't want to work with the other big competitor since 20mins appts is something which I don't want. I also feel extra hopeless since the church members are decreasing and there's nothing that I can really do since I'm not there on Sundays...in a way, I'm sort of relieved to not have been going to the church I grew up in for almost half a year. The thing is when you're quiet like me, it's easy to 'slip' away without anyone noticing/caring. Not that I care if anyone cares if I'm not there, but there's already heaps of funding throughout the church since it's relatively big compared to current church. Church I grew up is also decreasing in numbers since they're planning to combine the Chinese congregations into one, English still 2 and still 1 Mando...anyways, church ramblings over.

It's also been quite an intense day yday of Avengers Endgame and GoT. I think GoT was at least 10x more intense than Avengers. I don't ever cry in movies, and Endgame was sad but not really...Although he was one of my fav Avengers.

I still have not backed up my India photos from my phone, and it's running out of storage...Still have photos from 2013 when I used my iPhone 5.

Also not sure if I should start blogging about food again. Since there was not time last yr to eat out at uni (apart from placement), slowly trying some food places on days off/catch ups. Probably a surprise to those who actually read this, but I think food doesn't bring me the joy it used to back in the days. This is a good thing since now it's Blair who gives me joy, and it doesn't matter if I have cheap eats or fancy food, because it's the company which I enjoy more. I still like taking photos of food, but now I sort of ceebs posting on Insta or doing reviews... maybe I'll do it when I get bored when I move rurally for a few weeks later in the year.

On my days off, I try to do a bit of cleaning, but I get too sentimental over stuff, so the process of throwing things away is already mentally draining. Hence, I don't actually get around to throwing things away. I think if I have kids, I need to teach them not to hoard stuff because 1. Their house will be smaller than mine (I already live in a small house) 2. It's a pain to throw things away. I still have toys from my childhood...This is what happens when you live in a place for too long and Mum also doesn't like throwing away sentimental things...and yes, sentimental things do spark joy lol

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Work Life

Past four weeks have been surprisingly busy with catch ups/sorting work stuff out. Now completed one month of work, and slowly settling in. They are already cutting one hour appts, compared to previous grads who were on one hour for longer periods. There's actually quite a lot to help keep me pre occupied, haven't even finished some shows or started my list of things to read. KH3 is so cute, and gaming after work lol.

So much planning to do, sometimes I just ceebs but also enjoy it at the same time. Been eating out way too much these past few weeks, but haven't quite found the time to blog about food. Quite a few CPD event nights to attend to. I guess since I'm still 'young' it's easier to attend them, but a lot of those with families, I can imagine it's hard attending a talk at night right after a whole day of work. It feels good to work though, and being generous in giving money away as well.

Monday, February 11, 2019

#engaged

Always thanking God for placing Blair in my life. When people ask, was I expecting it? Yes and No. Yes, but not so soon! Beginning of a new era indeed. Thanks Blair for surprise after surprise after surprise #mindblown. Simple is best. First day off from starting a week into full time work=best day off. Thanks for all your love and support friends.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Beginning of a New Era

First day of full time work and I survived. I think the logistics of how 'full time work' is harder than I imagined it to be. Especially working within the company beforehand, my account/numbers and stuff hasn't transitioned smoothly into the new position. First day was daunting since it's like ahhh, no supervisors, everything is my choice, I get to prescribe what I think is best. I still feel like I need to restudy everything...probs on my day off. Stuff is already slipping from my memory after not using it for over 2 months. Guess I'm disappointed in myself at how slow I am at things.

I already predict I'm going to be one of those people who long for the weekend, especially when it gets busy at work. Still trying to get used to the whole flow of things.

Been thinking if I should continue doing food reviews. I still love eating, but sort of ceebs writing and uploading pics. I'll see how I go after settling in a few weeks since there's still lots of admin stuff to do...and emails to write...

Here's to 'adult life' and learning how to adult.

Monday, February 4, 2019

India ICMC - Grad Trip Round 2

I've never had so many people reply to my Insta Story of 'What? You're in India!?' Same reaction as when my parents told their friends I'm in India (and same reaction from the pharmacist and doctor back in Sydney lol).

Went to India with some ppl from different churches visiting an orphanage and sort of like a cultural experience of rural India. Sort of like mission but not mission. The place we stayed was sheltered from 'real India' so the air was a tiny bit cleaner, but water pressure was really weak that it was my first time doing bucket showers.

It was really an eye opening experience. Visiting towns where the don't have running water, and handing out those Operation Christmas shoe boxes to them, opening a church with our name on it, and BW and I now have our 2nd sponsor kid.

Seeing where our money went to help fund churches/schools/colleges/hospitals and just essentials to kids. If an orphanage has beds, it's a luxury, even though the kids were squished together. Just playing with the kids or giving simple things like a very cheap packet of biscuits really makes their world and melts your heart. $10 water park entry fee means nothing to us, but a lifetime of memories for them. Even if the slides are dodgy metal stuff/rusty, or the ferris wheel and rollercoasters look like it's about to break apart. $2aud in India vs $50aud for high ropes since in Aus we have insurance, and India has loose harnesses...

We are alll so over spoilt in the Western world with clean water and pretty much anything. A maccas burger is equivalent to one day or one week wage of people who don't like in the cities. There are heaps of villages with cement building and palm leaves roofs who don't go anywhere except farm or stay in their villages to survive, or they trek really far away to work. $1aud in India can get you 2 ice cream and 2 soft drinks, whereas in Aus, you can get 1/4 of an ice cream. The Western dollars really do have a lot of buying power in India, where everything is dirt cheap, except for the airport where stuff is like internationally priced. Majority of Indians travel are very, very rich. Even having an old car in India and you're considered rich.

So once again, going to compile some thoughts here:
- 2 weeks of using bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth. So much plastic wasted. These bottled water aren't from springs or mountains, they're just filtered water, but over half of India doesn't even have access to proper water...Anyways, pretty much if you're a tourist, bottled water it is cause it's been treated/filtered
- India is so dusty and dirty, with soooo much smog. If you have been to cities like HK, NYC in the summer and think that air is bad, India is 10x worse. When we were in NYC going to SF we were like fresh air, India is soooo bad everyday. Apple weather reporting every day it's 'unhealthy air quality.' Pretty sure if you were asthmatic, you would suffocate. They also burn their rubbish everyday on the streets. The place we stayed at were more of a controlled burning, but on the streets it's literally fires everywhere with smoke and ash
- Burning rubbish is illegal but no one cares cause actual landfills cost too much in labour, so burning is easier. Imagine smelling burnt plastic and bush fire everyday. Whenever we got driven out onto the streets, I immediately started coughing
- Streets are so dusty as well. India in general. My shoes went from black to literally dirt brown coloured
- Streets are filled with sooo much rubbish
- Everyday is a struggle to connect to 3G, most of the time I had E (although I shouldn't really be on the internet lol)
- So sick of curry and chicken. The food we had was very well controlled and cooked with bottled water, but it did get repetitive. They have quite a few diff types of long grain rice to go with it, with diff sort of bread things, but towards the end we just wanted other meat. Hindus don't eat beed, Muslims don't eat cow, fish and lamb/goat aren't really accessible...
- Maccas and other restaurants/fast food have very seperate places/lines to cook veg and non veg
- There was a massive lack of fresh fruit and veggies in India, it just like doesn't exist...
- Got sick on the second week, probs lack of hygiene from the kids, bad air, lack of proper nutritious food
- Got food poisoning in Delhi from chicken curry. Worst food poisoning ever. Ended up throwing up on the plane 5hr into 8hr flight on the 2nd flight. BW had it worse for the 2nd flight. Other ppl had it on the 1st flight. Didn't help my immune system was already down. It's been 5 days and I still don't feel hunger. Literally only eaten a few bites of congee or one slice of white bread everyday for the past few days. Never had food poisoning before, and just so happens to be when we're travelling to Delhi.
- Taj Mahal was very nice in person, but imo a bit of a waste to bury someone there rather than live in it. It was also the cleanest place in India and most expensive attraction fee, but once you step outside the entrance, it's back to crazy cars and people haggling you to buy
- Bribing people like Police is real in India, heard of stories for people to like cover deaths or incidents. Even inside the Taj, 'officially' you weren't allowed to take photos with other people's camera, but then I saw the guards taking photos and some notes in their hands...so yeah, can just pay them and you can take photos inside. It's so corrupt, and I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface
- The air was really dry, my hand started peeling like it did on the way to Europe
- First time wearing a saree, all held by one safety pin.
- Apart from India being the dirtiest place I visited, I think it's the interactions with other people which made it worthwhile

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Europe Round 2 - Grad Trip

Back from my grad trip last week, and heading off this week. Felt a bit bit jet lagged since I slept during waking Sydney hours instead of sleeping at a normal time when I got back. Defs new experiences this time round (both highs and lows).

Won't ever have the opportunity to travel during Christmas/New Years ever again until I retire. Whilst other people have company shut downs, our bookings increase towards the end of the year. Thankful I was able to have the opportunity and finances to go, since after America preceptorship which I spent 5 figures (enough to buy a car), and this trip wasn't cheap either, especially with the low dollar. Can't believe managed to coordinate a trip with my Mum and then BW for the second half, also how my mum Managed to change 3 planes in between 3 countries to navigate back to Sydney without missing a plane (even if she almost missed it). Now I know my Mum can change planes by herself if she has to.

First time moving around between different countries in a short time period. Spent just under 4 weeks in Europe, and some cities just around 2 nights. Shoutout to BW for tagging along and following my hectic itinerary (although not as hectic as previous trips). Also first time not planning everything. Thanks to BW for helping plan the 2nd half of the trip, and figuring transport since I didn't have enough time to plan since had 3 days between exams and flying out.

As usual, there's no way I can blog about each day and all the food I consumed. I ate less than the previous trip where I had about 6 places a day. This time, there wasn't a real standout city/thing, I enjoyed them all differently. There was a lot more history and scenery to look at, rather than continuously eating. There was no free tap water at all. Even in Paris and other cities I travelled to Europe before, there was free tap water. Since I went to less museums and food places this time, there was less free toilets. Also, shopping centres don't really exist in the places I went to.  It was a lot harder to find free toilets this time round. There's generally less tourist around winter time, so some stuff tends to be closed. Also slight culture shock at the lack of English they use on signs and restaurants etc. Loved going to all these non English (well not main language) countries that I've never visited before.

Switzerland: Zurich, Lucerne

- Yes, everything is expensive, but not crazily expensive that I feel like I couldn't eat anything. Some things were similar to Sydney prices (well Syd isn't cheap to begin with)
- Crossing roads were a bit hazardous. There are cars, trams and buses but no crossing light. You just cross and the cars would then slow down for you
- Air so clean, like SF, they use electric buses
- Never have seen so many Audis, BMWs, Mercedes in my life before, even the police drive BMWs and taxis are Mercedes. Rich country storing a large chunk of the world's money with German made cars I guess
- Their tap water is nice, probs from the Alps
- Restaurant food consists of pretty much cheese fondue and raclette. You pretty much pay $40aud dipping bread into cheese. It was really nice and my first raclette experience (the waiter had to teach us how to use the equipment lol), but still exxy for cheese
- They have hardly any meat. There aren't any supermarkets, only small 'express' supermarkets. Didn't see a butcher, but saw a place which had half preserved meats and tiny bit of fresh meet. Iirc, beef was over $100/kg, for 'basic' beef
- First few days were pretty cloudy with some light rain, but on the day I planned to go the the Swiss Alps, we were blessed with cloudless skies and reeeeallly good weather
- Top of Europe train ticket/entry was $250aud, my jaw dropped when I first was doing research online. It was so worth the money once at the top! The view at the top was insanely beautiful. The train trip there was just as beautiful. For the whole 2 hour train ride, snow capped mountains are always in sight. The lakes look so peaceful as well. The scenery of the Alps is probably my favourite so far. The mountains are better than Queenstown, Yosemite and Mt Fuji. Don't get me wrong, those places are still amazing, but the Alps just win by a little bit. I love seeing God's creation both near and far
They also had diff Lindt flavour chocolates there in that shop, and also a cool ice sculpture park
- Day before went to Mt Pilatus where it was super cloudy, but still cool since it was snowing and the cable car ride up was super scenic, like a winter wonderland with so many big pine trees
- They have free and clear public toilets around

Italy

Florence
- Felt so dodgy walking around the streets, immediate change from streets of Switzerland. There were a lot a beggars whereas didn't see any in Switzerland...and people at night just seemed more dangerous
- Roads are super squishy and you walk really close to cars
- So many towers/domes to climb up and stairs everywhere, but the whole city is walkable by foot since there's no public transport within the main area, and views are really nice walking up
- Nice orangey buildings when you walk to the top, every building top is the same, and with the sunset over the city is so pretty

Rome
- I hate Italian police. Started Rome off with one expensive bus fine. So I bought these tourist passes which include unlimited public transport for 3 days and 2 museums. These passes tap on to work, and we tapped on the bus. Then transport officers came and took our passports and issued a fine immediately. They said we didn't tap on and didn't activate our cards. Well, if the bus tapping machine wasn't broken then it's not our fault. But when you're in another country there's no point arguing since they took your passport and can jail you up or worse, can not leave the country and under Italian authority. On the buses there was an ad of a person being handcuffed and even though the ad was in Italian, you can tell it was about people who don't pay for public transport get jailed. Later we Googled this and it's quite common for them to target tourists on public transport. Also makes sense why the night before when we arrived we saw some police looking at tourists passports in the metro. We went on other buses with broken tap on machines so then exited early and decided to walk just in case of another fine. Locals use the old school dip tickets (remember those on our buses before Opal came in)
- Apart from that, I loved Roman architecture. So many ruins and so cool to see stuff BC
- Pasta and pizza everywhere was so good. Fav was That's Amoré, we went back twice
- So much gelato everyday. Last 2 days went to 3 gelato places, oops. Never too cold for ice cream
- Also cool to just walk into another country to Vatican City. However, it's just sad knowing the history of how they managed to hoard so much stuff by getting people to 'pay the Pope' in hope of good fortune...
- Paid toilets here are the worst, so didn't go lol
- Was 'museumed out' after Italy, especially cause all the sculptures looked the same

Germany: Berlin
- Arrived on Christmas Eve, and since from here on in I didn't do any research until I got to the city, we didn't realise everything closes from 2pm, event the Christmas markets. Luckily Burger King was open, although it accepted cash only (crazy how the Germans invented so many things, but Germany was the country we encountered the most 'cash only' places)
- BW most definitely gave me a good history lesson about the Cold War. Crazy how this stuff didn't happen that long ago
- Christmas in Berlin was amazing, with the Christmas markets and the whole vibe. Although it didn't snow (#globalwarming) it was really the memories and the company which just made the whole Christmas day extra special and memorable
- Shops were also closed on Boxing Day even though all the sales signs were already set up on the 24th, but they reopen on the 27th so didn't manage to get any sales.
- Slowest airport security meant we missed our flight. They schedule like 20 budget airplanes to depart within an hour, so airport security couldn't handle all the people. Plus, only one person checked X-ray, so they had to stop the machine every time they dug through people's bags. I even got frisked 3 times even though I was wearing a t-shirt with pocketless tights. It was soooo inefficient. 10 other people also missed our flight, and other people on other planes also missed their flight. The office also had heaps of luggage from flights on previous days, it's common to miss a flight in a budget airline esp in Europe. That's why I don't fly budget airline for international flights...
- Thank goodness Europe is also connected by land and we managed to secure bus tickets on the same day to our next destination, since I had a tour booked the next day so had to arrive before then

Poland: Krakow
- Luckily there's not much to do in this tiny town, so even though we lost a day it wasn't a massive difference since we walked through the town at night and on the 3rd day there
- Main reason coming here was for Auschwitz. It's just so crazy what happened to millions of people. Went to the concentration camps and saw the gas chambers and living conditions. All the lies they told to people they were coming here for a new life and had to undress and 'shower' before entering the camp, and all the innocent people believed them, but in reality they were showered with gas. There was a room filled with 35 000 ladies hair and one of the rooms you couldn't take a photo of, but it's just so crazy at the atrocities that happened
- There was also a salt mine as part of the tour, which was pretty cool how they carved sculptures, made an underground chapel and also a recreation of 'The Last Supper'
- Felt so rich here since everything was so cheap. Even the fanciest restaurant with 16th century recipes in a 17th century building (funny how Aus wasn't even founded then), was about $80au for 2 people. Also first time trying deer which as expected, is a bit gamey and a little tough even though cooked rare-medium

Austria: Vienna
- I literally wanted to come to Vienna for the Original Sacher Torte. I'm not a big fan of chocolate cakes, and it was nice but not mind blowing. Still intentionally over ordered since I wanted to try everything. The decor there is amazing
- So many cakes/desserts, also schnitzels which melt in your mouth rather than the typical bread crumb stuff you get in places in Sydney
- Vienna is new enough to have a good metro system, big lifts yet old and grand enough with all the architecture, history and heaps of fancy palaces
- Things were about a little bit more expensive then Syd prices
- NYE here was so cool. The whole city gets blocked off from cars and then the streets become 'dance streets'. There are stages with different genres of music like classical/couple waltz, EDM, pop music etc Never danced with so many strangers on the streets before. The fireworks were alright, but I like how they paired it with Austrian classics like Danube Waltz

So much more to say but this post was a lot longer than intended...thankful for the opportunity and people God placed in my life to make this grad trip happen. Travelled so much in the past year that I now how Silver FF status lol. Just took a trip to NZ, America and Europe...defs won't be able to maintain that status, unless I do 2 mini trips every where to different sides of the world...should start preparing for next trip.