Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Quarantine - day 4 - border closure

We awoke for another day of fun and frivolity.

Breakfast was actually hot! The eggs were a bit heavy and I abhor baked beans but the rest was ok.

Lunch is turning out to be the best meal of the day. The Thai beef salad on the right was delicious and I got an apple as well. The roll thing at the left was not memorable.

The big news of the day was that Queensland will be shutting its borders to people in Sydney on August 1st which will be before we are released from quarantine on August 9 between 4 pm and 6 pm. Fortunately, the hotel has created a Facebook group for those in quarantine and after I posted a message about the new closure, numerous people posted replies who were also planning to go to QLD. It turns out there is a loophole.

From the second link comes the following information.

There are some SYD - BNE flights after 6 pm which would allow us to go to the airport, jump on a plane and fly to Brisbane and satisfy the requirements. Whether those planes would still be flying is another matter. We shall see.

I had wondered when we would get pasta and it arrived tonight. It was not all that wonderful since it had lost a bit of heat.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Quarantine food and wine - day 3

I am counting the day we arrived as day 1 so this is day 3.

Marianne has joined the Facebook group for the quarantined guests in the hotel and it appears that people are getting different meals and some meals are better than others. I told Marianne to post to the group that our meals are better because we paid $5 extra but she has better manners than I have. Some are posting photos of their food on the group. It's one way to keep busy.

Coco pops? For adults?

We substituted the muesli that Robin included in our care package yesterday. Much better and a good deal more filling. 

Click on the photo to enlarge. I suspect the food would be less than piping hot when it arrived at the room.

The Studio Series wine comes from Angoves. Most of their wines retail at $18 to $22 so the markup is not too bad.

Cascade Blonde is $15 for a six-pack.

Curiously, we were lying in bed last night and I mentioned to Marianne that I was thinking about wine and she was doing the same. Normally we drink a bottle of wine at dinner every night and along the way indulge in a long wine conversation which degenerates to the ridiculous.  Because the dining arrangement in the room is not set up for such a conversation, we don't feel the need for wine so we will be teetotal for the two weeks. There are one normal chair and an armchair beside the table.

I finally remembered that I picked up a couple of Optus free sim card packs so I activated one of them this morning without problems. Another task completed.

We just had our Covid-19 test and we will have another on Wednesday next week. Throat and both nostrils were tested and Marianne commented that these nose tests were much more thorough than those that were administered to her at Christiana Hospital a couple of months ago. The young ladies were very friendly and apparently, they administer about 100 tests per day.  Marianne said that on the blog it was mentioned that there were approximately 300 inmates in the hotel.

The sun finally appeared and Sydney looked more like its usual self.

Lunch, with fruit!

This sandwich was really big and really good.

I enjoyed this as well. We are getting plenty of vegies.

Something to do if you get bored. I love doing these and the Hard version at the bottom left was more difficult than the one on the right.

Late afternoon view. The rain should be gone for most of the week.

Dinner was bland and not all that interesting. There was not enough sauce or spice in the chicken mix.

And finally, my sister in Adelaide sent me a link to an article about emus banned from an outback pub for poor behaviour. Only in Australia.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Quarantine food

One of the major concerns we had about quarantine was the quality of the food that would be delivered to us for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

It comes in one or two paper bags with our room number written on it. This was one bag for breakfast.

You may notice the tables in front of each door which are a physical reminder not to leave the room. There is a guard at the end of the corridor but I haven't seen the person yet since I haven't poked my head out far enough. I did say hello to the young lady who opened her door at the same time that I did. Rest assured that there was no hanky-panky. This is Sydney, not Melbourne.

Yes, the Melbourne crack is in poor taste considering the sudden increase in cases and deaths that was probably caused by hanky-panky between guard and inmate at a quarantine hotel. It shows how quickly the situation can deteriorate.

Breakfast was not too inspiring. It was the first time I had eaten cornflakes in years and I had forgotten how sweet they were. 

In addition, we each got two cold hard boiled eggs on a bed of spinach. Yes, I ate them and they were better than the eggs that I ate on the train from Hanoi to Saigon. Those were the eggs that contained an unborn chicken.

Just before lunch, we were saved by Robin's care package. Fruit and vegies etc.

Biscuits and chokies as well as cleaning gear. There is also a bag of muesli which will be much better than the cornies.

Fruit. I immediately gobbled down a mandarin. She also brought along a plunge pot and some ground coffee. We were saved.

A short while later, lunch was delivered.

Both bowl and sandwich were delicious. The bowl had some chunks of pineapple and they tasted so good. If I had one suggestion for food improvement in quarantine, I would say send more fruit.

Dinner appeared a bit after 6 pm. This was a beef casserole that was just a bit too salty that covered up some roasted potatoes. It tasted pretty good but was not hot enough which is understandable. There is no microwave in the room since they don't want you to be cooking things which could lead to accidents and the heightened risk of virus transmission if people had to come to your room.

Notice the fork which is part of the supply of eating irons that the hotel supplies.

There is an electric kettle which we use to make tea and coffee. The plunge pot coffee was so much better than the instant.

The bowl.

After the meal, you place the bowls and leftovers back in the bag and place it outside your door.

In the afternoon I answered the phone and talked to a Scotsman about my medical history so that they would be prepared if I developed some medical issue. I continue to be really impressed by how well this quarantine process is organized.

The next time Robin comes to drop off some more goodies we are going to try the waving from the window. There is actually a narrow street down there called Sands Street and Robin is to stand in front of the red No Entry sign. We Skyped later in the day which is always a pleasure. We could tell she is so pleased and relieved that we have arrived in Australia.

Return to Australia - 14 day quarantine

We moved to the USA back in 1984 and came back to live permanently in Australia in 2020, so we were there for 36 years, or half of my lifetime. I don't regret my time in Maryland at all. We had a great experience and met so many wonderful people. Living in our round house in Chesapeake Isle was amazing, particularly at dinner time when we would sit outside on the deck or inside at the round table and gaze at our surroundings thinking ourselves so lucky to live there.

One of the reasons why it took us so long to return to Australia full-time was because we wanted to live somewhere that we could afford but with the same wow factor that we enjoyed with our round house. We know we have found that in Urangan.

Our flights from BWI to SFO and then on to Sydney went fine with on-time departures and early arrivals. The first plane was fairly full, but we had a spare seat between us. The second was a 787 Dreamliner with less than 50 passengers. Sydney Airport only allows in 9 international flights per day with a total number of passengers of 350 for all 9 planes, down from 450.  We each had a row of three seats to ourselves. The food on the planes was not up to regular standards except for the sandwich that United trotted out midway across the Pacific. It was up to the regular slimy standard and makes you wonder why United continues to serve this abomination, The delicacy this time was a very cold bun containing a thin slice of turkey with a slice of some sort of cheese and a dab of mustard. The sliminess comes from the plastic that is wrapped around the bun. It was as revolting as it sounds, but when you are hungry, you eat anything.

It was pouring rain when we arrived in Sydney and United deplaned us in groups starting from the front. Passengers social distanced where possible and the floors in the airport are marked to reinforce the distancing. I've deplaned in Sydney many times and it was quite weird to walk along unfamiliar narrow corridors past the familiar large passageways that are normally packed with arriving passengers but are now closed or empty. We went to a health station where they checked our temperatures with a device that they stuck in your ear. Questions were asked about our health status and any special needs. Everybody was wearing facemasks.

Speaking of facemasks, if you think wearing one for a few minutes is bad, try 24 hours except for when you are eating. The elastic that loops around your ears really irritates after a while.

The next step was with a NSW policeman who took down our details and entered them into a computer. Contacts, email addresses, phone numbers etc. I was able to show him a printout of our United confirmation sheet which showed the date we purchased the ticket (June 18) which was before a July 12 cutoff date which means we will not have to pay AU $4000 for the privilege of sitting in quarantine for 14 days.

Our luggage was already on the carousel so we piled it onto two trolleys and passed through customs and out of the building via a small corridor to an exit where buses awaited. The whole route was supervised by people in uniform so there was no possibility of slipping out of the system.

Soldiers loaded our baggage onto the waiting bus and we climbed on board. After a while, a driver got on board and away we went to downtown Sydney. We still had no idea which hotel we would go to until we pulled up at the front of the Park Royal in Darling Harbour. We were let off the bus in groups of four, handed a packet of papers with our room number and asked to point out which were our bags. A soldier then took care of our bags and after some more welcomes from the hotel staff, we were escorted to our room by the soldier with the bags and then we are to be in quarantine with no more personal contact for 14 days.

The room is fine but with no fresh air. The view is of tall office buildings. Beds are super comfy and there is a rain shower which felt wonderful. We have a small refrigerator, electric kettle and real plates and cutlery. Food (falafel and bulgar) was delivered to us in two paper bags and left for us on the low table that sits right outside the door. I could not find our toothpaste so called up the number they gave us and shortly after there was a knock on the door and there was a decent size tube on the table. The person who delivered it was already out of sight.

Throughout all of our arrival in Sydney, the official staff, soldiers, police and other people were friendly and welcoming as well as efficient. They have their routine down pat and one of the things they presumably emphasize in their training is that arrivals are probably stressed out and friendliness and helpfulness go a long way to reduce that stress. I asked the soldier who looked after our luggage what he normally did in the army and he is an engineer. He did not complain about this duty and was friendly throughout. 

Welcome to Australia. It's wonderful.

We decided to get two queens instead of a king because we sometimes have different sleeping needs on arrival in Oz. It is not a large room so I expect to be trudging back and forth from window to door a number of times a day to get exercise. Remember, we are not allowed outside the room.

Spiffy bathroom.

A most welcome shower. For non-Aussies, shower stalls like this are the norm in Australia. The tub/shower combo common in US hotels is an abomination.  Last year when I was having my health problems, I could not manage a combo. I needed a walking shower.

We are having a rain shower head like this installed in our unit in Urangan. They feel utterly luxurious.

View from the window early on the first morning.

No better in the other direction.

Hotel instructions. Click on the image to see it full size.

How to order your care package from Woolies. Naturally, Robin has promised us her own special care package.

So I hope this gives you an idea of what to expect if you go to Oz. We are actually looking forward to the two weeks of sitting around after all the hard work of the past few months.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Haunting in Southern New Jersey

Marianne grew up in Cape May County in Southern New Jersey and we decided to do a final haunt since it is unlikely that we will return to the area.

We headed off to the Delaware Memorial Bridge which crosses the Delaware Bay in the north west of the amp. Then we proceeded south east to Sea Isle City.

We did this journey hundreds of times over the years and it was always a relief to get off the busy I-95 on to this quiet road that led us into the wilds of South Jersey.

Usually, there was very little traffic.

Marianne knew of an attractive short cut which we used to take.

The people who live here own the surrounding farmland. We always liked looking at this house.

A swamp at the back of the house.

Sometimes we would see swans and other wildlife.

Coming in to the tiny village of Alloway which was famous for its antique shops.

Most of the houses are well kept.

Some have seen better days. The cost of restoring this one would be huge.


Usually, the light at the crossroads was red. I hate red lights with a passion and much prefer roundabouts.

Southern New Jersey produces a  lot of fruit and vegetables. The barn usually would be busy selling the local produce but the virus has killed that off. By the way, New Jersey Silver Queen corn is really good. Once Marianne's dad took us out to the cornfield behind his house and plucked a few corns cobs and told us to eat them raw. It was the best corn I have ever eaten. The tomatoes are also really good.

A church we would pass along the way.

We used to buy apples here but they stopped selling them years ago.

Occasionally we would stop here for lunch. It was pretty basic, the food was ok.

We passed through Bridgeton where as usual there were plenty of red lights but then came to the start of the Buckshutem Road that runs for miles straight across the eastern part of NewJersey. Occasionally there would be a freight train slowly crossing the road.

It's not advisable to speed because the Police like to linger off to the side in the shadows.

A small airport.

There are quite a few small lakes in the area. They are quite pretty.

We came to Dennisville which features some very nice houses and this Purple People Eater. It has been that colour for years.

The Historical Museum where Marianne wanted to donate some stuff. Most volunteer places are shut these days because of the virus. Fortunately, we have been able to donate a lot of our stuff to the local Goodwill which has remained open.

House across the road.

Marianne emerges from the local Post Office. She left the box of goodies with them to give to the person who runs the museum next door.

Back in the late 70's, Marianne's Dad fixed this place up. I was pleased to see it was still there.

He used to live in the next house along the street.

These photos of his house are for Marianne's benefit.

This turf farm would normally be covered in grass but it must have been recently harvested.

The lot next to Marianne's mother's house. We sold it last year but it looks like the new owners have not done anything with it yet.

Marianne's mother's house. We sold it a few years ago and it looks like the owners have kept it in good condition.

It was a nice house and if we didn't like our round house so much, we would have considered moving there.

The new owners have small children and put in a fence so that they would not run out onto the busy road.

The house next door is still there. 

Marianne grew up in Sea Isle City and this is the road leading into the city. In the late 70's, Marianne's mother and stepfather were still living in Sea Isle so this was the last little segment to drive before we arrived.

Sea Isle is actually a sand island with a back bay area covered with this vegetation. It usually stinks in summer.

The bridge leading into town.

Marianne's mother owned the building and ran a hairdresser at the lower right. The family lived on the top floor.

Occasionally there are very high tides and the street floods.

We walked down to the boardwalk. Well, there are no boards, but there is a bitumen walk. It was hot but there was a pleasant breeze.

In the past few years, they must have built up this sand dune protection. Back in 1962, there was a monster storm that washed away some of the streets and buildings closest to the ocean. It was called a 100 year storm but with global warming, 100 year storms will inevitably become more common.

The boardwalk used to be lined with lots of two story boarding houses but they have been replaced with much larger luxury houses. Rental costs are enormous since they are used only in the summer months. The beach is definitely not the place to be in winter.

More of them. Generally, a group of people such as a family or friends band together to rent them. They contain numerous bedrooms and bathrooms.

To be honest, the beach is not all that attractive compared to Aussie beaches, but I am biased.

Still, it was good to have one final haunt before we leave for Australia.

Since we are haunting, we had to go to nearby Belair, Maryland to sign some papers for the sale of our house. When I first came to the USA in 1974, Marianne was living on the top floor of this house with Jean, her best friend from college.

I really liked the internal design of the top floor and could quite happily have moved in permanently. My visa to the USA ran out and I went back to Oz.

The side entrance to the top floor.

The back of the building.

Next door to the house was a Friendly's Icecream Restaurant. I took my friend Geoff there and he really enjoyed it. One thing that amazed me was that the parking lot had heating wires installed so that snow melted and cars could enter and exit easily. We always thought that the house would be demolished and the restaurant would go on and on. The Friendly's closed a few years ago and the house looks better than ever.