Sunday, September 12, 2010

Travel, No Stitching

If you are visiting Melbourne, Australia, there isn't a better hotel to stay in than The Langham. It is on the South Bank of the Yarra River connected to a huge restaurant and shopping mall. Since the weather was always cold and sometimes rainy, we appreciated not having to walk far to get amusement and sustenance. Not to mention that the service was superb (arranging a hire car left for us Friday night when usually there are no rentals that start on Saturday). Although the river itself is rather industrial and muddy, there are a bazillion restaurants situated a pleasant walk away, not to mention the museum and shopping areas on the other side of the river.

It also helps to have a room on the corner with stunning views down the river and into the Central Business District (CBD). And we certainly appreciated a nice room after a three grueling flights (from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to Sydney to Melbourne) and long and bitter fight with customs in Sydney.

Why they need to check your hand luggage again, when you had gone through security in the US, I don't know. But check it they did and decided that not only were they going to confiscate both pair of small scissors, but ALL of my needles. Since this was plainly ludicrous, I decided to stand my ground and demand an explanation. I spent 15 minutes jamming the blunt scissors into my palm before they gave up and let me keep them. I still lost 15 - 20 packages of John James needles as they only let me keep three packages, grumbling all the while that I could hurt someone with them, although my husband pointed out that his legal ball point pen was more dangerous. Somehow this depressed me enough that I never took out my stitching again during the entire trip.

Although Melbourne is a lovely city, we have been here before, so appreciated having a car to see some of the sites in the neighboring areas. On Saturday we toured a couple of wineries in the Yarra Valley to the northeast and had a terrific lunch at Mandala. On Sunday we headed west to travel the Great Ocean Road. It is similar to driving Highway One in California; small towns, steep cliffs, and hairpin turns. All a little more exciting because you are driving on the other side of the road. At one pull off this cheeky little Fairy Wren decided he loved our car and hopped from rear view mirror to door to windshield until we drove away. We did not see any kangaroos are koalas on this trip, but we did see (and hear) dozens of exotic birds.

My husband was in photographer's heaven as there were wonderful rock formations and beautiful cliffs to shoot. The picture of the lighthouse and me was taken by my husband, though I do have similar (not as good) pictures myself. We didn't drive the entire Road, but we did get as far as Cape Otway and headed down the potholed track to the lighthouse. There is a dairy farm on this peninsula with dozens of different breeds of cows. When they say Cattle Crossing, they really mean it. I was proud of myself for walking to the lighthouse and even climbed the stairs (slowly). It was almost closing time and the wind was whipping around furiously. Many, many ships ran aground here, even with the lighthouse as the shoals and rip currents are very dangerous here.

After hours of No Service, my phone rang when I was at the top of the lighthouse. It was strange to talk to a friend in Melbourne when we were miles away from any civilization. It took us hours to drive back to Melbourne and we were tired enough to just sleep most of Monday. Tuesday was gallery day. Previously we had bought a ton of lovely pottery in Melbourne, but the shop that carried it is now out of business. Instead, we found an amazing glass shop with some of the best glass artists in Australia. They shipped us four pieces that we will feature in our new house. But all tourism came to an end on Wednesday when we had to leave the lovely Langham and move about a mile and a half away to the Hilton South Wharf for the convention itself.

The hotel had a good view and was directly connected to the convention center, but because of the faltering economy, the planned restaurants were not built, so there were very few places to eat within walking distance. Still it was nice not to have wear a coat and gloves to get to the convention center. The Hugo Ceremony that I came to run was on Sunday and barely anything was in place. I spent a lot of time wrangling the tech crew, organizing and editing the slides and corralling the presenters and acceptors. Still the ceremony went off with hardly a hitch and some of the awards went to truly surprising candidates. By then I was so tired that I was glad to just have successfully navigated it all. I don't have any pictures from backstage, but there is one here of me holding the Hugo for Best Semiprozine (I know, we have odd categories) for my friend Cheryl Morgan, the redhead. I'm wearing the white jacket that sparkles.

After that it was saying our goodbyes, packing up (and wondering where we were going to put all our goodies), and heading to the airport. The plane left Melbourne for Sydney Tuesday morning (only one cursory security check in Melbourne) and landed in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning. We were home in Las Vegas by 2 pm and slept for the next two days.

Meanwhile the contractors had been busy laying the foundations for the new house while we were gone. We have a meeting with the window guys and the HVAC guys tomorrow. I start chemo infusions again on Tuesday and James leaves for Hawaii on Saturday. I know I will get some stitching done in the next couple of weeks, but I might not get to show it to you for a while. I have signed up for two Fair & Square rounds and have everything ready to stitch in the next week or two. I am excited about this since this gives me a chance to be really creative. I hope your summer trips were also pleasant and that you are all looking forward to the autumn weather to come.