Adventures in Australia 2010

Adventures in Australia!

5 April 2010

My college friend Amy has been down under in Perth since September 2008 in a 3-year PhD program at the university, so I’m taking advantage of the opportunity and visiting her! Here’s my itinerary:

Monday Apr 5th: SFO -> LAX -> Brisbane -> Perth via Virgin America, Virgin Australia & Virgin Blue to add to my large bank of Virgin Atlantic points

Wednesday Apr 7th: arrive in Perth 1pm local time

Thursday Apr 8th: recover at Amy’s place in Kardinya – expecting MAJOR jet lag!

Friday-Sunday Apr 11th: Margaret River region of southwestern Australia – rental house with some of Amy’s local friends, wine country, beach, aboriginal bush tucker tours at the rivermouth on canoes? Not sure how much we can cram in, but it all sounds great!

Monday-Tuesday Apr 13th: Fremantle/Perth – sightseeing in Perth, see Amy’s PhD project in process :)

Wednesday Apr 14th: fly Perth -> Melbourne, evening in Melbourne at Victoria All Seasons Hotel in central city

Thursday Apr 15th: sightseeing in Melbourne

Friday Apr 16th: morning pickup rental car, begin 4 day road trip to Sydney! Yarrah wine region? Penguins off the southern coast? Hot air balloon? Blue Mountains? Beach with kangaroos? Where to sleep at night? Anything is possible – it’s an adventure!

Tuesday Apr 20th: evening in Sydney at City Lodge Hotel in central city

Wednesday-Thursday Apr 22nd: sightseeing in Sydney

Friday Apr 23rd: crack of dawn flight home, longest day ever, hopefully ending in Margarita Friday to keep me awake to reset jetlag! 😉

I hope this isn’t a harbinger of things to come, but my Amazon Visa I used to hold the hotel reservations, plus was hoping to rack up a nice chunk of Amazon points to spend when I got back, was used on Sunday in Australia for a PayPal Vodafone charge unknown to me, so now I’ll be using a different Visa for everything else, and calling collect when I reach the hotels to authorize my charges that match the reservation. They will leave the card open but deny all charges until I call them. At least it happened with enough time I could spend on the phone last night, change all my autobilling to other options, and to make sure I brought an alternate card, but not far enough ahead to get a new Amazon Visa issued & delivered to me before I leave. It didn’t help that my DSL went down in the storm and is still being flaky today while I’m trying to leave. I knew my travel preparations had been going a little too smoothly this past week!

Not sure how often I will find reliable internet access, and iPhone data roaming is just too expensive to rely on, but I’m bringing my mom’s old 12″ PowerBook so I’m hoping to blog with photos along the way!

Next stop, down under! 😀

made it to Western Australia!

7 April 2010

Two days later, I’ve made it to Kardinya! Ruth dropped me off at SFO Monday afternoon, my 14-hour flight to Brisbane left LAX at midnight, made it to Brisbane through customs and quarantine by 8am local time, then on the 5-hour flight to Perth, landing 1pm…boy was that way too long cooped up on planes!

It was so wonderful to be greeted with such a nice hug and a big smile after such a long trip! Amy was there at the Perth airport before my luggage had even arrived. We drove home, where I had a much-needed shower, then we went grocery shopping. Mostly typical supermarket stuff, with some other funny bits, like pet meat…yes, you can buy prepackaged ground meat specifically for your pets!

The name of these ice cream treats are also a local joke…heehee!

Hopefully some decent sleep finally tonight, sightseeing in Perth tomorrow, then off to Margaret River on Friday!

Cottesloe & Fremantle

8 April 2010

For my first full day in Australia, Amy took me straight to the ocean…hooray! A bit chilly and very windy and more was on the day’s agenda, so we just dipped our toes in before lunch, but there should be more beach time in my future. This is my first time seeing the Indian Ocean, and the colors were gorgeous!

We had a nice light lunch in Cottesloe, drove up to Peppermint Grove above the bay, where the rich people live in huge houses with no lot space since they all want the views. It’s called Peppermint Grove because of the peppermint eucalyptus trees they planted all along the drives, and those trees never last as long in nature because the true eucalyptus crowd them out. Some very cool twisty trunks, especially down by the river!

Next we found the Boatshed, a gourmet grocery similar to Andronico’s, since Amy wanted some cool things for our BBQ on Monday and for the weekend. I scoped out the cheese in hopes of finding something similar enough to manchego for the homemade quince paste I brought with me, but lo & behold there was real manchego…for $89.99 AUD per kilo! One wedge large enough for 12-14 people was $35 AUD! Whew! It’s only about $12/lb at Costco back home!

After our gourmet grocery shopping, we drove to Fremantle then walked around all afternoon. The older buildings have nice cast iron railings, very similar in style to old New Orleans, so I had to take photos of course. Some cute shops, but the only thing I bought was very silly. Amy told me the souvenir I absolutely had to get was an Australian flag bikini! I have questioned her repeatedly, but she swears it’s a must, so I found one big enough for my top (often a challenge) and splurged. I told her if her friends laugh at me instead of with me, I will blame her! 😉

Britta & Amy looking at the Indian Ocean on the tower at Fremantle Gaol, the oldest building in Western Australia

Amy’s housemate Daniel met us in Freo for dinner at Little Creatures, a local brewpub similar to Tied House or BJ’s Brewery that brews their own cider, which was tasty enough for two pints with dinner, but not scrumpy style like my homebrew. We had a nice dinner but a bit chilly and windy out on the patio, and we did get a bit silly, but you’ll have to go into the Gallery album to see how silly. 😉

We got home about 9:30pm, but I was really tired, so I did get photos out of the camera & into Gallery, but decided sleep was better than blogging! I woke up a few times while it was still dark, then got up 7am since I had gone to bed at 10…shockingly early for me! I’m all packed for the weekend in Margaret River, and now we’re having breakfast before Amy & I get on the road for the extended scenic route south. Overcast & rainy forecast so I hope it won’t be too bad, since we were hoping for a little more beach today. Regardless of the weather, it will be fun!

Until next time!

To Maggie River

9 April 2010

We finally got on the road to Margaret River a little before 11am, which was our goal. I saw a couple yellow diamond kangaroo crossing signs along the drive, but no actual kangaroos yet. They’re usually only out at dawn & dusk for food, and they’re known for darting out into the road like deer, so it’s better not to see them while driving. After driving in the UK & Germany, I was surprised to see road signs using the same font & color scheme as the US. Even the color of scenery was similar to the dry gray greens in much of the California Central Valley, but upon closer inspection, they were forests of eucalyptus, not oak trees or manzanita bushes.

I dipped my toes in the ocean again by the Busselton Jetty – the longest jetty in Australia if not the world, but it was chillier since the clouds were keeping the bright sunshine away much of the day today. We only had a little rain on the drive, so that wasn’t bad. The forecast is a rainy Saturday, so maybe some beach time on Sunday before we drive back to Kardinya…we’ll see!

We had stopped for lunch at Bunbury, where it took forever just to get our sandwiches, so by the time we had stopped at the jetty and continued the scenic route to Margaret River, it was well past 4pm by the time we got the keys for the rental house. We followed the directions, past several wineries, down a gravel road, up along the edge of a vineyard, then finally to the house, a gorgeous place called Brookside, open to wild forest, supposedly chances of seeing animals right here, but no trace of any yet. It was chilly enough to light a fire in the living room fireplace, and I hadn’t met the 3 others of our weekend group until this evening, so I had nice chats getting to know Kylie, Pete & Daisy while Amy prepared a delicious dinner…yes, including shrimp on the barbie! One Australian cliche accomplished! :)

After dinner & more chat, we decided on Pictionary for the evening’s entertainment, where my traditional 2/3rds of the game board lead with Kylie & Daisy lasted all the way through 2 rounds of all-play on the last square, then Amy’s team finally sniped us at the very end! Ah well, a rousing good game that everyone agreed was fun, and both Amy & I tailored some of our drawings to our Australian audiences…I made sure to draw the “glove box” on the left side of the car steering wheel! 😉

Even only 2 glasses of wine with dinner and lots of water after, I was fading again around 10pm, which is about 7am back home, so I suspect the jetlag is only affecting me in the evenings. At least I’m still able to enjoy the daytime well enough. We’re not exactly sure of the Saturday plan yet, but definitely a couple wineries for leisurely tastings, lunch somewhere, dinner out, but back to the house for the evening. There are only 2 pubs in Maggie River, neither of them worth the cash vs. just hanging out & enjoying the company, maybe with another board game from the house closet. There is a DVD player & TV but the choices are slim. Too bad Amy & Daniel both forgot to bring the classic Australian 80s movie they swear I need to see before I leave!

There is very little cell signal up here, so I was only able to get a couple minutes on Amy’s USB aircard way out on the deck before it claimed it had no signal again, not even enough to check email, so these weekend posts will have to wait until we get back to Kardinya on Sunday night.

Saturday here we come!

Fun at Maggie River

10 April 2010

I was up early again, so at least I didn’t delay any of our plans, but I’m not used to being awake this early! Since Daisy’s dad’s bush tucker canoe tour didn’t end until 1:30, we decided we didn’t have enough time, so after a nice continental breakfast prepared by Daniel, before 10am we were all on our way to Ellensbrook House to see if there was any trickle of water left in the small waterfalls there. It was just a short walk on a paved path, but the sun peeked out from the clouds, and it was nice to get some exercise in such lovely scenery.

Amy kept driving our car all day since she had already been to Margaret River last year so knew her way around, and great job, since she found kangaroos for me! My first kangaroos of the trip! They are known to relax in a certain clearing, just like deer, so not very close, but close enough for zoom lens, and I even caught one hopping away from me! Very cute, and I hope to see some up closer if I get the chance.

Next we went to the Berry Farm for morning tea with scones & cream, plus they have fruit ports…you’re only allowed six tastings for free, but I wanted to taste them all! I prioritized my most promising as my six, then others got others and we shared sips. The Lemon Ginger port wasn’t “subtle ginger” at all, and tasted like I could infuse it myself at home. The Apple Vanilla tasted like an apple pie, but I might be able to infuse my home-distilled applejack with vanilla and get similar results. The limited edition tropical port was melon and not nice enough to lug all the way home. However, the boysenberry port was excellent, very similar to my parents’ “accidental” blackberry port, and I wished I had more customs allowance for alcohol to take home! One bottle is coming home with me, and Cyd as catsitter extraordinaire gets first taste with me when I open it. :)

As we left the Berry Farm, our other car waved us down saying “Emu!” There was an emu among the chickens and geese in the fenced quince orchard, so even though he was running & wandering quite a bit, I got some good photos…yay!

We got to Swings & Roundabouts in time for their woodfired pizzas, and plenty of tastings. They didn’t allow tastings of their “The Sticky” muscat, otherwise I might have bought some, but they had a blend of shiraz & viognier that was extremely tasty so I splurged on that to take home. Amy & I are planning to hit another wine region outside Melbourne, so we might have to drink some before I leave if I end up with too much wine, but if I don’t find another I like as much, at least I bought this one since I won’t be going back! We did have random sprinkles off & on today so we ate inside instead of out by the live music. I also enjoyed the free wifi on my iPhone, checking in quickly on email & Facebook, and Ruth found me online for a quick chat. I got ribbed about being such a Californian and that I should just unplug for vacation…no chance! heehee…

We quickly hit the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, which honestly was a bit disappointing, so I guess I’m spoiled by knowing the owner of Saratoga Chocolates and going on the San Francisco chocolate tour last fall. There was no dark milk, and their truffles were tasty enough, but not unique at all. Next door was Providore, with many tasty infused olive oils, jams, chutneys, sauces, and a nice garden, but I didn’t buy anything. We raced to Cullen Winery, with me joking about perhaps seeing sparkly vampire Edward Cullen (hehe), but we arrived just 5 minutes after their tasting closed at 4:30….darn! We’ll go tomorrow on the way out of town, since that was high on Daniel’s list for this weekend. We did make it to the Margaret River Venison Farm in time to be their last customers, with kangaroo skewers and venison sausage for dinner BBQ, then we drove back through town to the grocery store to fill out the rest of the dinner fixings with salad, bread, & fresh corn on the cob. The last stop was one of the many drive-through liquor store “bottleshops” even though we walked up to buy some wine for the evening. Grocery stores aren’t allowed liquor licenses, and none of us had bought “spare” wine for dinner! We bought all Margaret River wine for the evening though, with me contributing two bottles of rose Amy swore she’d enjoyed before, and they were indeed tasty. On the drive back to the house, I had them drop me off at the vineyard at the top of the hill above the house so I could get some sunset photos in the fading light.

Dinner was excellent, and tasty enough with our kangaroo & venison that I took a photo! haha…None of them had steamed corn in the husks over a fire before, so I prepared all of those, just removing the silks, slathering a bit of butter on the cobs, then closing the husks & wrapping in foil & leaving them on the gas grill for about 30 minutes, then the two guys did the actual meat cooking tonight instead of Amy. Very tasty! It’s a lot of fun making dinner a group effort, then enjoying it all together with some nice wine & conversation. :)

After dinner it was clear enough that Amy, Pete & I went for a walk to look at the stars. Amy even brought her star chart with her! I could definitely see the Milky Way, and probably close to as many stars as Glacier Point at Yosemite, but boy I wish my eyes were better! Even with my contacts, I still couldn’t see that Betelgeuse was red with the naked eye but they could, but at least I could see the galaxy in Orion’s dagger with Amy’s binoculars. Amy had pointed out the Southern Cross in Fremantle, but I saw it much more clearly tonight…so I had that Toto song “Africa” going through my head… “when you see the Southern Cross for the first time…” 😉

I’m finally feeling a bit more awake at 11:30pm, after everyone else has gone to bed already, so I might have finally triumphed over jet lag. Still not enough aircard signal at this house to post, so I’m just saving up my notes until we get back to Kardinya when I can include photos too. Sunday morning we have a reservation for a posh brekkie at a restaurant in the bush by a lake courtesy of Daniel, but they’re thinking of going to Cullen Winery BEFORE brunch. I’ve also requested an hour of just beach relaxing before our drive back if at all possible, but that will also depend if it’s sunny enough. We’ll see what actually happens!

Brunch & Beach

11 April 2010

I woke up yet again at 4:30am (annoying!), then slept again until 7am, so I was ready enough to take a group photo before Pete & Daisy left to spend the day with her dad. The rest of us were packed up to leave the house and make it to Cullen Winery before our 11am brunch. We made it to the winery at 10:15, and others were just leaving…I’m amazed at so many people tasting wine so early in the morning! Even though I had a lot of water to clear my palate, I was wondering if it was just not the right time for me to be tasting since everything was tart to me, but Amy agreed it was all quite tart. My favorite wine there was the one that was $105 AUD, not on the tasting list but there was an open bottle so they offered, but it still wasn’t as good as the 2006 Savannah-Chenelle Pinot Noir I have at home, so I was the only one of us four who didn’t buy there.

Britta, Pete, Amy, Daisy, Kylie & Daniel on the deck at Margaret River

We were a few minutes early for our brunch reservation, so we looked in the gallery next door first, which was nice. Daniel was tempted by the pavlova with fruit, but that’s dessert to me, not breakfast! I got the full English breakfast, more food than I needed but it was very tasty. It was nice to see that the pavlova was pretty much the same as my mom & I make. I had to take a photo of Amy since I get kidded so much about my outfits, but look at her! :) Love it!

Next we went to the gallery Daniel had seen on Friday, where the chopping board was. All he could talk about Friday night was how gorgeous these custom wood chopping boards were, so much that Saturday morning he told us he dreamed of those chopping boards chasing him! Haha…they were very nice, and just look at his face seeing them again! 😉 It was hard for me to resist the teal-framed miniature beach shells, but the aqua-framed one I liked better for the variety of colors of the arrangement, so I hope the frame doesn’t blend into my bathroom walls too much.

Daniel & Kylie went on back to Perth from there, but I had requested some beach time, so Amy took me to Smith’s Beach, and we only saw a couple people, so it might as well have been a private beach! The weather was perfect, just overcast enough so the sun wasn’t blinding, a nice warm breeze, and the finest, softest sand I’ve ever felt. The waves were amazing, and too strong for swimming, but we had lots of fun right at the edge. We kicked back on the sand while chatting, then moved along back up the path to the car. I wore my silly Australian flag bikini, which at the right angle doesn’t look too bad on me, but you’ll have to click into Gallery to find those. 😉

Our last stop in Margaret River was the Shearing Shed, where we didn’t buy anything or see any sheepdogs, but there was an adorable newborn lamb, cute sheep, & some old rams with huge horns, so it was worth the stop.

3 hours later we were in South Fremantle, ready for dinner at a local Italian place, but they lost our order, so it was 45 minutes before we got our food. Seeing the sandwiches on Friday in Bunbury also took so long, we’re beginning to wonder at our sit-down meal luck! It was very tasty at least, then finally back to the house in Kardinya & unpacked around 8pm. A long weekend but full of fun!

Perth & “Backyard” Barbie

12 April 2010

The unlocked wifi we are “borrowing” gave up Sunday night while I was trying to post the weekend, so I took advantage of my 4:30am wakeups to try uploading more photos then but it still wasn’t working. Even when I woke up at 7am it was still dead, and not until 7:30am did it finally work again. It took a bunch of fits & starts to get everything posted while I was getting ready for the day, then Amy & I were out the door to downtown Perth by 10am. We didn’t have much time since had a deadline of leaving the city at 1pm to get back to campus so Amy could start setting up her experiment in the lab to be away for 10 days with me. She had someone else start her seeds sprouting Friday afternoon while we were away so they’d be ready for Monday’s work, but the timing of everything is essential. We also had to get back to the house before others arrived for the backyard barbie!

Unfortunately my weather luck ran out, since it was constant drizzle the whole day. Instead of my hiking raincoat, I wore my teal trenchcoat & my new beach hat I had bought on Sunday, which was enough without getting out my umbrella. Downtown Perth is about the size of San Jose as far as tall buildings & skyline goes, but there are a few more older brick buildings and churches than I’ve seen in San Jose, most likely because Perth is a bit older. I “rode” one of the bronze kangaroo sculptures, with a very clever one “drinking” out of the fountain bubbles, we saw some nice buildings, and we went to Ye London Court shopping area. Very cute, Tudor-style street, several tacky tourist shops, but also a nice place called the Rock Shop Amy had seen before so wanted to go back. I decided to get a tiny chunk of raw opal and Amy bought a nice necklace of polished stones. One of the tacky shops had a nice selection of leather bush hats “Crocodile Dundee”-style actually made in Australia, so I found one a good color for me and splurged. It was useful the rest of the day with the drizzle, that’s for sure. I will be wearing it on the plane since I can’t pack it!

We knew our sit-down meal luck was already bad, so we headed for the Green House for lunch by 11:30 so we’d be sure to be done before 1pm. They didn’t officially serve lunch until noon, so Amy called Daniel in case he could meet us for lunch, but they let us order a little before noon after all. The place is very cute, with the outer walls covered with pots of strawberries with irrigation at the top & halfway so the excess water drips down into the pots below, but we’re not sure this is the best plan. It’s autumn already here so understandable, but the wall that doesn’t get as much sunlight should probably have more shade-tolerant plants, and they’ll need to figure out something for winter otherwise it’ll look pretty sad! The shovel door handle was cute, and I love their bar bottles hanging on hooks on rope…very clever. The inside is all raw plywood, and it took me a bit to realize the light fixtures were wire fencing coiled into shades. Their gimmick is to be as “green” and biodynamic as possible, using free range meats, organic produce, even the toilets had sinks built into the top, so the faucet water was refilling the toilet tank to flush. The food was excellent and we had their cheese plate for dessert…yum!

We had just enough time to drive over to the Swan Bell Tower, a modern glass building that houses the 12 bells from St Martins-in-the-fields, London among others. They weren’t ringing when we were there, but if it wasn’t such poor weather, it would have been a nice view at the top, and from there you can also look down into the bell ringer room. I’ve been lucky enough to see ringers extensively up close in Havant, England, back in 2004, otherwise I probably would have been disappointed. We made it back to campus on time, so that was all I got to see of downtown Perth. Nice city, but lots like many cities I’ve been too all over the world by now…plenty of shopping for things I can get back home, nice big modern buildings, but those are pretty much the same. It’s the older buildings, unique art and attractions like the Bell Tower that make the difference.

While Amy was up in the lab, I spent the afternoon on Amy’s laptop at her desk on campus researching hot air balloon rides & accommodation for Yarrah Valley once we leave Melbourne, then we got to the house right about 5pm, barely an hour before guests were supposed to arrive. Due to the rain many people had backed out, including all our weekend friends, which was a shame since I’d like to have seen them again before I leave. By the party start time, I had arranged my manchego with homemade quince paste & the other cheese plate with sliced pears, and from all the last-minute cancellations we thought we were down to maybe 6 people at the most, but it ended up with quite a few after all crowded around the dining table as buffet, and I had nice chats with lots of them over the evening. I was already too full of caprese salad & cheese before the American-style burgers & kangaroo sausages were off the barbie, so I only made it through half my burger! Randall brought a bottle of Cuban rum, aged 7 years, and served it on the rocks. It was quite smooth & tasty to sip, and I joked that since it’s from Cuba, it would be illegal in the USA, so I had to take a photo. Yes, since my hair was already awful from the day, I left my new hat on the whole party. I figured I was the silly tourist anyway so why not? :)

Since it was a work night for everyone but me, guests were gone & kitchen cleaned up by 11pm or so, and I was sleeping by midnight, just getting photos off the camera before I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Amy has to spend most of Tuesday at the lab, so I get to sleep in, do some laundry & hope the internet connection keeps working. Hopefully Tuesday evening I’ll get to finally see this Australian 80s movie they keep telling me is so funny!

Oh, I forgot to mention before that Gallery has all photos so far but not all captions. Margaret River has its own album, but Perth & Western Australia covers before & after the weekend.

Until next time!

Laundry Day

13 April 2010

*cue song of the same title from Dr Horrible soundtrack* :)

I haven’t seen Amy yet at all today! She left for the lab before I woke up, called around noon to check in, thinking she’d come get me in a couple hours so I could help her, then she called again around 5:30pm that she’d be lucky if she was home by 10, so to have dinner without her. I slept in, did laundry, washed whatever party or breakfast dishes that were left, repacked for the flight tomorrow, tracked our shared expenses, caught up on email & Facebook, and read a little, so it was nice to have an unstructured day. By the time Daniel got home from work it was raining cats & dogs…blech! Our plan for tonight anyway was to watch The Castle, what everyone keeps calling the funniest Australian movie ever, so Daniel & I watched it without Amy. It was quite funny, a good underdog comedy with lots of heart, and now I know the lines people were quoting all weekend. 😉 Here’s some info, but I totally didn’t recognize Eric Bana…it was his first film back in 1997!

88% on Rotten

Wikipedia entry for The Castle

Amy & I still have to finalize our plans after leaving Melbourne, but Wednesday is our flight from Perth to Melbourne, leaving 1pm. Showers are forecast for Melbourne through Thursday unfortunately, but the weekend shows sunny, so we’re hopeful we can actually get a hot air balloon ride over Yarrah Valley on Saturday or Sunday…*crossing fingers*

Next update will be from halfway across Australia! :)

From Perth to Melbourne

14 April 2010

We had a bit of a comedy of errors to start the day. Poor Amy hadn’t gotten back from the lab until after midnight, then stayed up with work email until 4:30, then got up 7:30 with hopes of laundromat, last checkin on campus, then still getting pancakes for breakfast at a certain place she wanted to take me. Well, I got ready, packed, booked our balloon ride for Saturday & booked our lodging for the first 2 nights leaving Melbourne, and she still wasn’t back until 10am! I requested to skip breakfast in favor of a quick stop at King’s Park to see the Perth skyline since it wasn’t raining, and to make sure we got to the airport in plenty of time. King’s Park was very nice, thankfully fluffy clouds but some blue sky & no rain finally! We even had some fellow tourists take a photo of us with the skyline.

After leaving the park, Amy got us through the city to the rental car place with no hassle & plenty of time, and they called a cab for us, arriving just as Amy was settling up. We got to the airport, unloaded, then as the cab was pulling away Amy couldn’t find her backpack! It wasn’t in the cab, so she had the cabbie take her all the way back to the rental place while I stayed & checked in my bag. After all that, we were sure glad we had buffer time! Amy had done web checkin for us so we already had our boarding passes, we each got a muffin at the coffee shop, security was easy, and when we got to the gate we walked right on the plane. Whew! The flight was one of the noisiest flights kidwise I’ve ever been on, so very thankful for my earplugs, but I got to see a pretty sunset from the plane window.

We got the airport bus downtown which connected to a free hotel bus, and he pulled up to the Victoria Hotel asking what’s going on, since there was a line around the block! Downstairs in our hotel are a lot of short performances for the comedy festival, so we plan to try to see Claire Hooper tomorrow night, someone Amy has seen often on TV here. Unfortunately the hotel desk didn’t have a phone that would call international (?!?) so I had to use my cellphone to call to unlock my credit card to check in, taking so long it’s probably to the tune of about $20 of international cellphone charges I’m afraid. Grrr…only one more time for that hassle at the hotel in Sydney, but since the two hotels are the only places in Australia who had access to the card number so are the most likely sources of the fraud, I do NOT want to give either of them any new card numbers!

By the time we got into our room it was almost 9pm, and with no breakfast & very little lunch, we were both starving. We strolled around downtown looking for places and ended up at an Italian place which was quite tasty, even if some of my fettucini noodles were neon green!

After dinner I suggested we walk down to the Yarrah River & see what we could see. Many people have told me that Melbourne is a lot like San Francisco, and I definitely agree. No hills, but the feel of the shops and the city is very similar, and even the distance from the equator is almost the same as SF so weather is too. Melbourne is nicely lit up at night, and even though it was cloudy tonight, it was a balmy night. We ended up strolling around a good hour until making it back to the hotel after midnight, even finding the Town Hall where the Claire Hooper’s comedy show is tomorrow night.

One last observation for the evening…All through Australia so far I have been seeing Hungry Jack, the name for Burger King here, several McD’s, KFC and Subway, but the first Krispy Kreme was in the Melbourne airport AND downtown, then across from fast food row on Swanston Street with all of those represented, plus 7-11s on every other corner, across the street was the first Starbucks I’ve seen in Australia! I was really hoping the Australians had been spared. 😉

It’s almost 1:30am, the latest I’ve been able to stay up yet, but that’s probably because Melbourne is 2 hours earlier than Perth. Since Amy had so little sleep yesterday, we’re going to sleep in a bit, then walk around Melbourne, find some food, see the comedy show, then the next morning we’re already on the way out of town. Not very long in Melbourne, only one full day, but there is so much more to see, including animal sanctuaries and wild kangaroos on beaches, that we’ll keep going!

A Lovely Day in Melbourne

15 April 2010

It felt like we slept in forever, but really it was only about 7:30 to us on Perth time when it was 9:30am Melbourne. By the time I paid for 24 hrs of Internet from the front desk & both of us got ready for the day, it was just before noon. Ah well, we both needed the sleep, especially Amy, and we are both on vacation after all! :)

No breakfast since it was almost lunchtime anyway, so after purchasing our Claire Hopper tickets for the evening at the town hall box office, we thought we’d try the suggested city walk, and that way we’d find the Aussie-style pub for lunch that they listed in the walk. It was overcast, with only a little spitting mist every so often, not really rain, but otherwise a great day for walking. We started along Collins Street, which is the major shopping boulevard, and we had only gone a couple blocks when I saw a sign for a free pipe organ concert at St Michaels! Of course it was at 1pm, smack in our lunchtime plans, so we kept walking Collins Street. We passed Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Ralph Lauren, and others, but the only places we walked in were chocolatiers, Koko Black, and Haigh’s. You can tell where our shopping priorities are! 😉

We came to the end of Collins where we were going to turn to walk down to the river, and it was just after 12:30, so Amy asked if I wanted to go back & see the organ concert. Hooray! We were a little early so looked at the beautiful traditional and modern stained glass, then sat in the back just in case we wanted to sneak out in the middle of the concert. The organ was rebuilt in the 1950s with over 2000 pipes, and has a gorgeous full sound. The organist was an older man, and he did an excellent job of choosing a program with many shorter selections so it kept our interest well. My favorite was called Gargoyles, variation 8 of Urbs Beata Variations for Organ by Alan Spedding, a contemporary composer. That audio is getting ripped for my Halloween pipe organ soundtrack for sure! :)

It was only a 45 minute concert, so we got back on our walking route hoping for a late lunch. We did see plenty of the city in our travels, including the fancy Vegas-style Crown casino, a funny Sherlock Holmes pub, and we found Batman – John Batman “This is the place for a village.” …but “Aussie-style pub the Tavern” was a wild goose chase! We couldn’t find it, it wasn’t listed in the guidebook anywhere else, the street guides hadn’t heard of it, nor had the official information center. The info center guy, who was very chatty and has visited California, which would have been more charming if we weren’t completely starving by then, recommended the Mitre Tavern in the bank district, so we headed there.

Of course when we got to the Mitre Tavern about 3:45, the kitchen was closed until 5pm. *sigh* It is actually the oldest pub in Melbourne at 140 years old, their menu sounded really tasty, and they had Bulmer’s Irish cider on tap and several microbrews for Amy, so we decided to stay until dinner with a couple pints, and use Amy’s big Australia book to plan our road trip. Our time was well spent, working out the best route to see as much as possible and where to find places to stay overnight along the way, then we ordered dinner right at 5pm, just as the place got hopping with bankers in suits after work. Bulmer’s is a nice sweet cider, and I had salt & pepper squid, traditional Aussie pub fare. Very tasty, similar to fried clams, breaded but not greasy, and served with a sweet chili sauce. Seeing this was looking to be our only meal of the day, we shared a sticky date pudding with caramel sauce, another traditional Aussie pub item we were told we absolutely had to try, and it was extremely sweet but very tasty. They also had a New Zealand feijoa vodka, so seeing I have my own feijoa tree, I just had to try that! I could taste the feijoa but it was very subtle, Amy thought it was almost minty, and it was quite good just with club soda. I think I have a new concoction to try making this fall when my feijoa are ripe again. :)

We had until 9:30pm for the Claire Hooper show, so we meandered back to the hotel and finished our road trip planning, with me on the laptop with Amy calling since she has an Australian cellphone. We now have one of the cottages at Melaleuca Grove Holiday Units in Mallacoota for Sunday night, and a room with free wifi at the Jervis Bay Motel for Monday, so that’s the lodging for the entire trip settled. Whew!

Claire Hooper was very funny, despite the stuffy warm room. Inside the town hall they had converted meeting rooms into mini theatres by draping heavy black curtains around the whole room & adding sound system & stage lights. Good thing we bought our tickets earlier, since it was sold out. Glad it was a good show, since I was so warm I was actually getting a little queasy by the end! Afterwards we both had a craving, so we found a chocolate shop with excellent milkshakes and called it a night. We had a lovely day in Melbourne, but we’ll be on our way east tomorrow!

Melbourne to Yarra Valley

16 April 2010

We were out of our Melbourne hotel at the stroke of checkout time, then since we kept missing the tram stops anyway, we walked the several blocks up to the Hertz office. Of course today it was finally bright sunshine, so I was sweating by the time I had my heavy suitcase all the way there! There were several in line ahead of me, then by the time I had everything settled, including maps & directions how to avoid the toll roads, just before noon we were parked at Queen Victoria Market to find some food & see what it was like..with me driving the first time in Australia, but not my first time driving on the “wrong” side of the road. 😉

Queen Victoria Market was pretty much the same large city market I’ve seen in most European cities, and like a flea market in the USA…large fresh produce farmers market style, lots of junk stalls inbetween nicer jewelry, lots of leather, and plenty of silly souvenirs. I did buy a few things, some for myself & some for others, then we found the food court to split a falafel special with turkish delight for dessert.

We were on the road to Yarra Valley by 2pm (I’m not sure why the river has an H but the valley doesn’t?), and we quickly hit the Brunswick neighborhood on the way out of town, which is Melbourne’s answer to Haight-Ashbury, so Amy had to take a peek. She also bought some coffee from a store so fragrant of beans I couldn’t even stand in the shop for more than a couple minutes! 😛

The Maroondah Highway goes through every town, so the 40 km to the main wine region took the full 90 minutes we’d read, then Wombat Cottage was another 20 km of windy roads through Yarra Ridges National Park region, very beautiful but another good 40 minutes away…the only bad part about that is that we have to drive that back into town to meet the balloon group at 5am…that means out the door by 4am to be sure we make it…ugh!

We settled in with Tom the owner of Wombat Cottage a little before 5pm, then we looked at the map in case any wineries were still open…voila! Two in Healesville were indeed open, so we made it to both for tasting with a little golden sunset on the hills above the vineyards, and stayed at the second for a delicious dinner too. Amy just had to get an _imported_ Sierra Nevada since it was there!

After dinner we drove the rest of the way to our balloon meeting point to be sure we knew the way for the wee hours, then made it all the way back to Wombat Cottage by around 10pm for an early night. 3:15am to get ready with my contacts in my eyes is going to come VERY early!

Yarra Valley from dawn until dusk

17 April 2010

I must have been paranoid about waking up so early for the hot air balloon ride, since even though it was lights out by 11pm – very early for us – I could not get to sleep until 2:15am…ack! So only one hour later I dragged myself out of bed, and we did get to the meeting spot at Chateau Yering about 10 minutes early for the balloon ride…whew! My contacts were fighting me & being really foggy so Amy drove us through the dark windy forest…thanks Amy!

They drove all 18 of us in vans with all the balloon equipment about half an hour out to Glen Burn, which they can only use when the wind is just right. All the balloon companies ended up there, so we could see everyone inflating the balloons & setting up, just as the sky was lightening. Climbing into the basket was a bit of a challenge – glad I wore stretchy jeans! It was such a gentle launch that I was messing with my camera & didn’t realize until we were already floating. It was absolutely gorgeous, Amy & I each took probably 300 photos during the flight, and I was very glad for my polarizing filter, even though it didn’t cut through all the haze in the sky. It was nice that all 3 balloon companies take the same route, since then we can take photos of other balloons from sky level. I will probably post most in a separate album eventually, along with the 5 minute video I took of our descent & landing, but for now just my favorites are in Gallery in sequence in the “road trip” album. Since I am so not a morning person, this is the first sunrise I’ve seen in a long time!

After the ride we all helped pack up the balloon equipment, then it was a short drive back to Chateau Yering for our champagne breakfast at 9am. The house is one of the oldest in Yarra Valley, so I took photos of the fancy interior. The breakfast hit the spot, and we chatted with an older couple from Melbourne sitting across from us. I rinsed the gunk off my contacts in the bathroom & felt much better from my goopy-eyed morning, but still pretty tired from only 1 hr sleep. Since our balloon ride earned us a free tasting at the winery there, but they didn’t open until 10am, Amy & I pulled the car into the shade & rested our eyes for about 45 minutes…thankfully that got us through the day!

Yering Station had some nice wines, but I liked their late-harvest Rielsing & their tawny port the best…but none unique enough to lug back home in my suitcase. Next we drove to the Yarra Valley Dairy, another free tasting from the balloon ride, and those were tasty. Wish I could bring cheese back with me! I did buy a little ashed pyramid of creamy goat cheese made onsite for a snack along our road trip.

We made the loop around into Yarra Glen, which was even a smaller town area than Healesville where we had dinner on Friday, so we didn’t even stop. We tasted at Warramute, 40 year old vines with only nautral irrgataion so low fruit yields, and
next door at Coldstream Hills with some cute golden retrievers and a gorgeous view past Warramute’s vineyards and out into the hills. Train Trak had a free tasting, too but by then we were pretty wined out! We found Mandala for one last tasting, then we headed to Healesville Sanctuary, the regional zoo & sanctuary habitat.

We just missed the Birds of Prey show that started at 2:30pm, but right after that an aborginal man was demonstrating his digiredoo & homemade boomerangs, so that was fun. The only other scheduled even was the koala keeper talk. I’ve heard some zoos will let you hold koala babies under supervision of course, which would be so fun, but not this place. We were lucky that one was awake & eating, since all they do is eat & sleep. It was funny since as soon as he was finished eating, he face-planted into the tree to sleep. The keeper was giving a talk about their biggest koala, and he nicely posed, even turning to look at us.

The kangaroo paddock had hand sanitizer for after petting the kangaroos, so that must mean it’s okay…hooray! Of course this was like Disneyland, trying to get through the mass of kids already squeezing for a view. There was a young roo very interested in the crowd for a bit so close to the ropes, and I found a long piece of grass he’d been eating to offer him. Very cute! Another roo is older & loves people, as the keeper showed us by scratching under the chin and the roo just loved it. That roo came over to me & let me scratch it’s ears. The older gray one was softer than the red one, but I only got to pet the red one’s back…but I got to pet kangaroos…yay! :)

The zoo closed at 5pm, so we wandered the rest of the track in search of the platypus for Amy (very hard to find in the wild), and wombats to go with our cottage here. We stayed awhile by the platypus tank while he swam so fast there was no way to catch a photo. I swear he knew Amy was waiting there and was just teasing her! None of the reptiles were out, but we saw plenty of birds. Lots of local birds come hang out there, so I wonder if they taunt the ones inside the netted areas like the neighborhood cats taunt my kitties through my windows back home? 😉 We saw a Tasmanian Devil peeking at us, and echinda who graciously emerged to come our way, and the wombat woke up, looked at us, then decided to chow down…so cute!

I had decided too late in the day that I should bring a sauvignon blanc for my co-workers to share at happy hour, and then I didn’t find they would like, so too bad. We went back to Healesville for an early dinner at Wattleseed since we never did have lunch. I had delicious Tasmanian smoked salmon, but the wattleseed ice cream tasted close to coffee, and I was so full anyway I didn’t finish it. The native plum with berries sauce was very nice with it, but I was ready to pop! We got back to Wombat Cottage at 8pm & checked in with Tom. He said he was worried about us since he hadn’t seen us all day, but glad all was well & the balloon ride was nice. We’ll be getting breakfast from them at 10:30 since we need to sleep in to catch up, then we hope to be on the road before noon to get down to the coast at Genoa for the first real stretch of our road trip to Sydney.

No internet in Genoa tonight, so until next time!

Aussie Road Trip: Healesville to Mallacoota

18 April 2010

Ahh…8 full hours of sleep felt so nice! I woke up at 7am, then rolled over again until about 9, and Amy didn’t get up until later! We had asked for our hot breakfast at 10:30am so we could get on the road well before noon. Even after chats with Tom suggesting which roads to take & where to stop for lunch, we were still on the road by 11:30, for the last time through the Yarra Ridges forest. I drove the first leg to Sale, which went pretty smoothly. Most of Victoria looks even more like the California Central Valley since the foliage is also the same. According to the signs, this is wombat crossing and kangaroo crossing country, but we haven’t seen any in the wild.

We didn’t want to go as long without eating as Saturday but thought dinner might be early too, so we stopped just for scones in Sale along the way. We did find our way to Metong, where Tom had suggested a pub that overlooks the water on the south coast, but unfortunately their restaurant was closed for a wedding…darn! We got some nice water views in the fading light at Metong, then made it down the highway again to Lake’s Entrance, the other place Tom recommended. It was too dark to see by then, but we had a nice dinner at a seafood restaurant on the water.

We called after dinner to check in with Melaluca Grove in Mallacoota near the border of Victoria, and he estimated another 2.5 hrs until we arrived, which was spot on. We got in at 10pm, driving through lots of smoke from what we assumed was a controlled burning very close to the highway. At Amy’s request, we staged a silly photo escapade at the Snowy River, the same river of the movie “The Man from Snowy River”…heehee! Melaluca Grove is an old motor inn with separate bungalows with 2 bedrooms each, kitchen, living room, even a washing machine, so that will be nice to have separate rooms one night. No internet here, and only 4 TV channels with nothing good on, so I held up my iPhone for both of us as Amy finally saw Dr Horrible in its entirety, and she enjoyed it as much as I expected…yay!

Tomorrow is another long drive to Jervis Bay, but hopefully with Pebbly Beach along the way, rumored to have wild kangaroos that hang out on the beach!

Until next time!

Aussie Road Trip: Mallacooda to Jervis Bay

19 April 2010

We were out the door of Melaluca Grove by 10am, even seeing its fairy garden, with recommendations for breakfast, some nice views, and hopefully wild koalas. Breakfast was tasty, the view at Bastion Point was gorgeous, and at Double Creek it took the short walk through the forest first to be coming back the other direction before we found the koala chowing down in the tree near where we parked!

On the road again…we crossed the border from Victoria to New South Wales, and there were more rolling hills with fluffy clouds today. Lots of photos from the car, and we did stop a couple times for a better view. It was another late lunch, which doesn’t work well in small towns when places close between lunch & dinner, so we grabbed some bakery sandwiches & ate them out in the sunshine. When the sun was already fading behind the hill, we found the road to Long Beach, which supposedly also led to Pebbly Beach where the kangaroos hang out, but that didn’t seem to work. Long Beach was pretty and the water wasn’t too cold, but we wanted to find the kangaroos if we could. We went back up the hill & tried another road, ending up at Malroneys Beach, where we saw one kangaroo in the grass, so we stalked him for awhile. Then we got back in the car, drove around the bend and WHOA! Kangaroos all over the neighborhood! A lady was walking by just shook her head at us & smiled & said “They’re here all the time, just walk up to them slowly.” We couldn’t get close enough to pet them, but they didn’t mind us getting pretty close. It was really funny to see them hop away, but they’d only take a few hops just to keep some distance, then go back to chewing their grassy dinner. Yay for kangaroos…but wait, there’s more!

We thought Amy’s travel book was just plain wrong, and maybe the beach had been renamed or something, so we kept on the road north to Jervis Bay. Lo & behold we saw a small sign for Pebbly Beach Road, 8km of gravel road down to a campground & beach…and even though the light was almost gone, there were about five roos chowing down on the grass, calm as could be. They even let us pet them many times…hooray! Very soft & very cute…and I even got a nice photo of the Southern Cross over the water to end the day. :)

We finally made it to Jervis Bay Motel, then found a Thai place nearby still serving dinner, which was tasty. Tonight was a flurry of wifi for Google maps & iPhone loading for directions for tomorrow, then when I decided to repack my suitcase, I found the honey I bought in Margaret River somehow opened itself & leaked all over! Thank goodness my clothes were on the other side, there’s a barrier so only half of one side was sticky, plus it’s not lined, so the plain plastic was fairly easy to clean…but what a mess!

We’re driving through the Blue Mountains next, ending the road trip in Sydney!

To Sydney via the Blue Mountains

20 April 2010

We got up early so we were on the road by 9:15am, stopping for a view of lovely Jervis Bay before we left town, then continuing up Cambewarra Mountain and through Kangaroo Valley, Bowral, stopping at Mt Trafalgar for another lookout view.

Along the drive we had called the Avalon in Katoomba as recommended, but they are only open Wed-Sun, and for lunch only Sat-Sun, so no luck there since it was only Tuesday. We kept heading for the Blue Mountains anyway since they sounded worth the view…and we were not disappointed!

The local information center had recommended the highlights since we needed to be in Sydney by the evening, so our first stop was Wentworth Falls. The falls themselves were only a trickle due to being autumn and far down the mountain, but the red cliffs in the afternoon sunlight among all the green trees and the blue haze was gorgeous!

Next was Leura, driving through the town center where all the shopping was, then finding Leura Cascades for some nice photos, then along Cliff Drive to Echo Point. That reminded me a lot of Glacier Point, with the nicely-built lookout points, gift shop & convenient parking, and stunning view. The Three Sisters are interesting rock formations that were just fading from afternoon sunlight when we arrived. There is a lower lookout point so you can look straight down the cliffs, and we even took the walking path down a bit to see them closer but from the end.

We left Echo Point, drove up through the center of Katoomba, then continued to Blackheath, since the info center recommended that view looking back on Grose Valley. We tried Evans Lookout but found Valley View Lookout first…well worth the effort! The light had mostly gone from Echo Point, but here the sun was still just above the hills…and I wrapped the GorillaPod tightly around the railing to get a great photo of Amy and me with the view. :)

Our breakfast was bakery fruit bread bought the day before, and our lunch was our cheese & crackers bought in Yarra Valley, so we were very hungry by 6pm and decided to eat before leaving the Blue Mountains. We settled on the Savoy Cafe, next door to the Avalon, and I had kangaroo sirloin in red wine sauce with mashed potatoes. I’m not a huge steak fan, and I would compare kangaroo to a slightly tougher steak, but it was tasty enough I ate the whole plate.

We called ahead to let out hotel know we’d be late, and the drive to outer Sydney was uneventful and fairly quick…it was one wrong turn and nowhere to turn back that led us the entire outer-city circuit all over again! Frustrating for me as driver, but we got there in the end, even finding parking close enough to the hotel to unload our bags fairly easily. The drive to the airport was fine, and I checked in the rental car about 20 minutes before they closed the desk…then it was finally relaxing time as we took the train from the airport to Circular Quay!

The Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Opera House are beautiful at night of course, so we took lots of photos & strolled around. We found the Opera Bar barely open for one last drink order, so we had a yummy but expensive cocktail each while enjoying the view.

We strolled to the bridge side of the Quay by the museum, then my feet were finally pooping out around 12:30, so we walked back to the hotel. Sleeping in a bit is the plan, then the bridge & opera house, with other city wanderings, then the ferry to Manly Beach on Thursday. We only have 2 full days in Sydney, so we need to plan our time well!

Sydney Sightseeing

21 April 2010

Thankfully we slept well our first night in Sydney, had a simple breakfast at the cafe in Australia Square one block from our hotel, then leisurely headed towards the Opera House to check on tours, stopping along the way for photos in daylight this time. Luckily there was a tour starting in ten minutes! It was very interesting about the concept & history, we got to hear a violinist rehearsing on stage in the main concert hall, and some dancers rehearsing an upcoming ballet in the opera hall. No photos allowed inside the halls, but the other areas were okay. Not my personal style, but very interesting structure with exposed concrete ribs inside, and the engineering required to keep it all standing is amazing.

After our hour-long tour, we headed to the Orbit Lounge, a revolving restaurant at the top of the tower in Australia Square. They had a tapas menu, nice & light but very tasty & enough to keep us going, and we each had another crazily expensive cocktail, made even funnier by the fact that each cocktail I kept trying to order wasn’t available for some reason. The view was amazing, and sitting down out of the beating sunshine made it even more worth it.

Refreshed by our tapas siesta, we walked through The Rocks, a colonial district of the old Sydney, to the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Many people had recommended the bridge climb, but Amy looked it up, and not only are you required to wear special suits and not take your own photos, but also if you’ve had a major injury in the past 6 months, you’re not allowed to go. Ms Recent Shattered Elbow Amy might have been able to handle it fine, but honestly the day was so hot & muggy that being cooped up in full coveralls climbing stairs only to purchase photos at an exorbitant price didn’t sound that great to me anyway. We decided we could walk up the stairs at Pylon Lookout and get a good enough view and our own free photos. It was a lot of stairs in the sticky weather, but the view was spectacular of course, just catching the last of the fading light on the opera house before the bridge cast its long shadow.

They have exhibits inside the pylon, including models of how the workers had to ride the steel girders to direct them into place. They definitely could not be afraid of heights, and it was so dangerous that 16 men died during the years of construction. They had signs from older exhibits too, one slamming Melbourne as city rivalry which struck me funny. :) We kept walking along the entire bridge, watching the sunset from across all the traffic & through many levels of metal mesh. I liked the center point view with the sun setting in the distance.

The north end of the bridge just went around the bend away from the harbor view so we just turned around and went back, hoping to make it to the botanical gardens at dusk to see the flying foxes. By the time we hiked the whole way back around the Circular Quay, the fading light was great for photos along the way, but the park grounds closed at 6pm, just before we arrived. We saw some cool architectural salvage set up as lawn sculpture, and if we get the chance we’ll come back in the daylight to see the gardens properly.

Since there is a special elevated pathway from the bridge over the Circular Quay to the gardens, we didn’t walk past any restaurants to scope them out for dinner, and we hadn’t noticed anything that caught our eye earlier in the day. We strolled Opera Quays again, just like last night, with the difference being everything was open this time. We checked out menus & decided on sharing a pizza and salad, with our second comedy of cocktails of the day…running out of one brand of whisky I can understand, but what bar runs out of gin entirely? Hilarious!

It was a tasty dinner that hit the spot without being too heavy, since we already had our eye on the Belgian chocolate place next door for dessert! Amy had a Belgian waffle while I had a glorified hot fudge sundae, then even though I was up for more city action somewhere, Amy was too tired to keep going. We were back at the hotel by 8:30pm, which seems tragically early to me for one of our few nights in Sydney, but at least we should be well-rested to be able to enjoy our last day tomorrow. We’re taking the ferry to Manly Beach for only our second chance for beach relaxing time in the sunshine the whole trip!

last day in Sydney

22 April 2010

We had another sleeping in morning, finally at the Manly Ferry launch at 11:30am. Our first meal of the day was lunch, paninis on the Corso of Manly town, then we shopped a bit, and ended up at the lovely beach. I’d been told it was like LA beaches, but even thought I’ve only been to Huntington beach way back in 1990, it still was a much smaller town feel than LA. It was very nice to play in the surf then relax in the sunshine!

We caught the 3:15 ferry back to Sydney, then strolled through the Botanical Gardens on the way back to our hotel. We only saw one “flying fox” bat actually fly, but plenty of them were still sleeping in the trees, some stretching their wings as they were waking up, then hitting the snooze alarm. 😉

We quickly rinsed off the salt water then were on our way to Martin’s Place station to catch the train to King’s Cross. Amy wasn’t so worried about shopping there since she bought out a store in Manly already, so we just wanted to find dinner in a supposedly up & coming area. Well, with the nudie bars & massage parlors right at the train station entrance I asked Amy where she was taking us, and none of the place in her guidebook were still around, but we found the Gazebo wine bar and had an absolutely delicious dinner with some very tasty and expensive bottles of wine! Worth it for my last night in the country!

We left the Gazebo about 9:30, and caught a 10pm train back to city center, where we tried the pub across from our hotel. Some interesting conversation with an Australian native and several cocktails later, it was 1am already, and we needed to be on the 4:30am train to the airport! We definitely made up for the early night last night, and we can always sleep on the plane! Unfortunately I wasted the one hour I had for sleep fighting with iPhoto, and I still can’t get today’s photos to import from my camera, so I just posted without photos anyway…sorry!

My Australian holiday was a wonderful trip, and just barely a taste of all the places I visited. Hopefully I’ll be able to visit again someday, but at least I’ve seen this much! Thanks for reading along the way! :)