A Travellerspoint blog

One Enchanted Evening

all seasons in one day 81 °F

Today started (after a good night's sleep - yahoo!) with some coffee and breakfast in the hotel room, then we headed out for a run in the Botanic Gardens (and Kev crossed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, shown below post-run). When we headed out for lunch, I couldn't forget about "Food for Thought," an organic vegetarian restaurant we saw yesterday, and we headed in. Kev got the falafel wrap (and liked it!) and I got some brown rice, lentils, chickpeas with turmeric, and roasted vegetables. Heaven!
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We then walked to several landmarks, seeing the Harbour Bridge, the Circular Quay, and the Opera House! We were on a mission ... to pick up our tickets for South Pacific later tonight! Seeing such an iconic landmark in person is always pretty cool.
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From the Opera House, we headed through the Botanic Gardens. We have each run through them twice already, but decided to take a more leisurely stroll to make sure we took it all in. They are gorgeous! We also saw the Government House, the official residence of the Governor of New South Wales.
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We headed to Hyde Park next, and stopped in beautiful St. Mary's Cathedral on the way. After walking through Hyde Park, we picked up breakfasts and snacks for the rest of our trip, and walked through the Queen Victoria Building (a mall with great architecture!). We then headed back to the hotel to get ready for tonight.
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We had planned to walk back to Circular Quay to grab and early dinner before the show, but just before we were heading out, it started pouring and gusting! We grabbed some umbrellas and gutted it out, and 20 minutes later were in a cozy pub, watching Australian football and having a drink. For dinner, Kevin got a grilled chicken sandwich, and I got a grilled chicken salad. Then ... we were on our way!
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Of course, there were no photos allowed in the theater, but suffice it to say that South Pacific was fantastic. I absolutely love seeing musicals, since I performed in them in middle school and high school (I remember seeing South Pacific the year before I was "eligible" to be in musicals, and wanting to be part of the action!), and this one did not disappoint. Emile, Nellie, and Billis were particularly great!
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We enjoyed the walk home, and are now working on some stuff for our future townhome ... closing is in 7 business days and we are, um, not quite where we should be, so we're trying to ignite some urgency (thanks, Gary!). See you tomorrow for another great day in Sydney!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 06:14 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

"We're in Sydney, mate!"

sunny 77 °F

Title courtesy of Kevin, after asking repeatedly if I thought the Goonies aired in Sydney with or without an Australian accent ;). Well, as you've figured by now, we're here! Today started with a brutal 5am wake up call and bus ride to the airport ... where we sat on the plane, got off, boarded another plane, you know the drill. We ended up taking off several hours late, but we were in no hurry. We did notice that the flight attendants were incredibly accommodating and felt terrible about the delay - re-booking people instantly, offering everyone $20 food coupons because they could only serve buckwheat crepes instead of lunch for the later flight, etc. We were impressed!

We headed to our hotel and tried to take a nap. Now, a 30-second tangent ... I have all of a sudden developed insomnia! I have always been a fantastic sleeper, as in, I literally cannot remember a single night ever that I have taken more than 5 minutes to fall asleep, unless there was something huge weighing on my mind. And I have always chastised Kev's inability to sleep by saying that once your body is "caught up" on sleep, some level of insomnia is normal (which makes sense, as I also cannot remember a time since at least late middle school when I have not been sleep deprived). But ... after "catching up" since late June, I didn't expect the insomnia to hit me so suddenly! It's like now that my body is satisfied, it thinks I can function on 1-2 hours of sleep per night, or wants to build back up a deficit? OK, rant over!

We each went for a beautiful sight-seeing run around the Sydney Botanic Gardens, the Opera House (and Hyde Park for me since I got lost). The Opera House is just as stunning as we had imagined, and the gardens are so well-maintained! There are tons of runners in Australia - maybe not quite as many as Melbourne, but everyone seems to be in generally good shape. Have I mentioned that the weather is gorgeous?!?
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After showering, we walked around Sydney a bit, including some great pedestrian-only areas like this one (right beside our hotel) that are lined with restaurants/ shops. We meandered to The Rocks, another shopping/ eating area, and had a glass of wine and an appetizer (grilled ciabatta + olive oil + spices) outside while people-watching.
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We walked to a new restaurant for dinner, and chose a quaint little restaurant purely for the ... (wait for it) ... Kangaroo Burger! After seeing our (very large) furry friend a few days ago, Kev was anxious to try it, and he got his wish tonight! (Even I have to admit, it was really good!) I got the lentil and vegetable soup, and a rocket (like arugula), pear, and balsamic reduction salad, which was amazing!
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We're going to (try to) rest up for more fun tomorrow ... I get to cash in on my anniversary gift from Kev tomorrow night!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 04:04 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Last day in Melbourne!

sunny 57 °F

Our last two cities (Hong Kong, Melbourne) have included an unexpected "extra" day at the end ... suspicious! Last night, our tour company (we were planning to drive the Great Ocean Road and see the Twelve Apostles) called us, but we figured they were just confirming for today. Unfortunately, after our 6am wake up call and coffee, we got another call saying the tour was cancelled due to lack of interest. SO ... we were up and at 'em, with no plans. But we made the most of it!

We each hit the road for a run (Albert Lake for me, Yarra River for Kev), showered, and slowly got ready for the day. We then headed out to see the Government House (home of Governor of Victoria) and explore the Shrine of Remembrance (apparently Melbourne's most recognized site, which honors the Victorians who served in WWI and their families). There was a neat display with 4,000 service medals, each of which represented 100 Victorians who have served in war, and 6 who have died.
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We spent about 2 hours strolling through the Botanical Gardens, which were beautiful and very well-maintained. We had run around the edge of these, but we're very glad we went in to explore. Kevin's favorite picture of the trip is the last one below - he hates mushrooms and feels legitimized now! (Yes, "legitimized" is a word!)
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We next strolled along the Yarra River, and found some lunch. Kevin got a fried chicken flatbread wrap, and I got a spinach/ pumpkin/ bean/ hummus/ lentil/ beet salad. Sooo good, can't believe we didn't take pictures! Also no pictures of the Crown Casino, which we explored next. It was huge! No gambling for us (well, I tried to put $2 into the slot machine, but discovered you needed to take it to the cashier, so I didn't).

At this point, we had covered lots of ground by foot - about 14 miles (me) or 15 miles (Kev) between our runs and walk. So, we headed back along the river to the hotel for a nap and some relaxation. In the evening, we walked (again!) down the river to an outdoor bar (with blankets and heat lamps!), where we had some drinks and a dip special - beetroot dip, tzatziki, and capsicum (red pepper) dip. It was great, and after a few hours here we decided to do a casual dinner. On the way, we spotted these amazing bikers who were hopping up onto the ledge - you can't see from pictures how cool it was! Anyway, Kev got a pizza (and ended up giving 1/4 of it to a homeless woman on the way home, who asked if it had mushrooms before accepting, which kind of made his day), and I got Indian - eggplant masala, chickpea masala, and roasted vegetables. We have a 5am wake up call tomorrow to head to our last (:() city of the trip, so we'll see you from Sydney!
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-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 03:35 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wined and Dined

Wine Tour of the Yarra Valley Wineries

semi-overcast 49 °F

Today involved a lot less walking and sightseeing than the past 19 days, although we did see some gorgeous views and really enjoyed ourselves! Given that it was dark and 37 degrees this morning, we opted for the gym, grabbed a small breakfast in our room, and headed out. Our bus took us about 80 minutes to the Yarra Valley, one of Australia's major wine-producing regions, with over 80 wineries that produce dozens of varieties of wine (mostly cooler climate wines).

Our first stop was the Yering Station Winery, where our awesome guide Sandy (from Australian Wine Tour Company) gave us the "basics" of wine tasting and then Jasper, an employee, took us through several tastings. I'll save you all the details of the various wines we tried, and what we learned, but feel free to ask when we get back stateside :). We thought the wineries in Australia generally gave us much more (usable) information than the wineries in Italy that we toured on our honeymoon, and were also much less commercialized/ tourist-overloaded than the Italian ones.
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We next went to Rochford's Winery, which again had some great offerings. We learned that the barrels you see in the pictures cost ~$1570 US and can only be used four times! We also ate lunch at Rochford's, and Kevin says it was his favorite meal of the whole trip! He had pumpkin risotto, and I had salmon with white and purple potatoes.
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Rochford's had a great viewing tower where you could see the vineyard more fully (of course, the vines are bare now, as it is winter here, but it is still pretty!). We were both amazed by Melbourne's beautiful rolling hills and lush greenery.
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Third, we went to Yering Farms, which was a very small winery (6,000 cases/ year), and had a very friendly sommelier (not sure if you call them that if they are at wineries, but go with me here!). We had a rose here that may have been our favorite wine of the day!
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Finally, we stopped at Domaine Chandon, the home of the Australian branch of Moet & Chandon. We received tons of excellent information here on the history of sparkling wine (you can't officially call it champagne unless the grapes were grown in France), incuding Dom Perignon (a Dominican monk!) and the widower who created the bottling process still used today (and owner of Veuve Cliquot). Did you know each bottle of champagne is still dipped in freezing cold water to form an ice cap around the nozzle (where the dead yeast sediment has fallen to), and the ice is chipped off to remove the particles? Wow! At Chandon, we got a glass of champagne, and explored the beautiful vineyards a bit more.
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On our way back, Sandy pulled over the bus because she saw a wild kangaroo! Kevin and I were so excited, and the Aussies on the bus thought we were a bit crazy :). These things are HUGE and muscular! It was so cool to see it hopping away.
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After tasting about 20 wines and driving back, it was time for a quick nap! We took it easy tonight, strolling along the Yarra river and ending up in a Food Court for simplicity. I got some tofu and vegetable stir-fry and miso soup, and Kev got some gyoza and sushi rolls. Kev has been complaining that he can't find the Goonies on TV (I can't make this stuff up...) and we're relaxing before another big day tomorrow!
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-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 03:38 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Melbourne: Through the Elephants' Eyes

overcast 48 °F

Great day in Melbourne! We had another jam-packed day, starting with coffee and a run through the Botanical Gardens/ Albert Lake. We then headed out walking to see the Old Treasury Building (built ~1860), The Treasury Gardens, and the Fitzroy Gardens. Within Fitzroy Gardens were Cook's Cottage (probable home of Captain James Cook, who mapped the east coast of Australia, and the oldest building in Australia, built in 1755) and Sinclair's Cottage (home of the designer/ caretaker of Fitzroy Gardens).
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On our way to our next stop, we walked by two beautiful churches, St. Patrick's (built in 1858) and St. Paul's (home of first Australian Christian services in 1836, although current building wasn't finished until 1926).
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We had lunch in Federation Square, called "Melbourne's Meeting Place" and a popular hang-out locale with restaurants, shops, and cultural displays (we saw a Ukranian dance festival today!). Kev had the chicken, avocado, mozzarella panini, and I had a smoked salmon salad.
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From Federation Square, we hopped onto Melbourne's free, hop-on-hop-off tourist shuttle, which took us by famous sites like Chinatown, the Melbourne Museum, and Harbour Town (I thought of Hilton Head, Ama, and Gpa!). While it was super convenient and a great service, we ended up walking across most of the city to get to our destinations once we missed the shuttle once and realized we enjoyed walking! One stop was Carlton Gardens (our fourth garden of the day, after all, Melbourne is called the "garden city of Australia!").
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We next visited Queen Victoria Market, which was an enormous collection of vendors selling fruit, vegetables, meat, prepared foods, wine, retail goods, clothing, art, and everything else you can imagine. I loved it and could have walked around for hours, but I was testing Kev's patience (crowds + noise + people in your face asking you to buy things = not Kevin's idea of a good time!).
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We spent a while walking along the river, and enjoyed seeing a few street performers and people watching.
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Now ... for some elephants! Were you wondering about the title? As we hit our first destination (The Old Treasury), we noticed a shiny, gold elephant, and I commented that it reminded me of the Cow Parade in NYC and Chicago. Luckily, someone heard me and explained that there are 50 elephants around the city of Melbourne right now, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Melbourne Zoo! It became our personal challenge to see as many elephants as we could today, and we found 19 (3 unpictured), which we think is pretty great for covering a big city (mostly) by foot - that's a lot of walking!
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We had a great dinner back in Federation Square, where Kev had chicken parmigiana and I had a Thai chicken salad.
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And for a random closing to today's post, how about these signs for Melbourne's tram? They crack us up!
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See you tomorrow for a change of pace!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 03:52 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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