More from the city of Sydney

Welcome back, friends.  I forgot to mention in the last blog (July 4th) that the wine We chose at Blu36 for Our date was wine from the Winery We visited in Victoria on Our trip to Yarra Valley-Innocent Bystanders.  It was awesome to look at the wine list in this posh place and see they offer the same wine We tried and liked when We visited its home.  Also, We had to be a little American on the 4th, We attempted to make potato salad after Our date…I say tried because apparently mayonnaise is NOT actually mayonnaise here.  It is fricking miracle whip!  The jar of $8 “whole egg mayo” is what We wanted-but We didn’t know that and when at the store, $8 seemed like a ridiculous price to pay and just a fancy way to spend money.  Won’t make that mistake again!

Now, moving along, while in Sydney, We had many adventures.  On the 5th, We were invited to a cult movie night at an underground “viewing space” (read-upper floor of a building with couches, recliners and a big screen).  We saw an amphibious nazi zombie movie called “Shock Waves”

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I sat in the flower chair in the 2nd row 🙂

It was definitely interesting and fun!!  Horrible horror indeed 🙂  We just happened to win the door prize (a DVD: Exit Through the Gift Shop”) which was cool.  When We got back to the house, We bought Our bus tickets up the coast ending in Brisbane.

The next day We packed a picnic and headed out to the city again, this time to explore the gardens.  Hyde Park, St Marys Cathedral, Fort McQuarie Point, Royal Botanical Gardens and the Sydney Opera House were all on the agenda, ending with watching the sunset over the bridge and Opera House again-this time from the gardens lawn.

Hyde Park is beautiful!
Love this fountain in Hyde Park

St Marys Cathedral
A picnic with a view ❤
From Pt McQuarie
In the gardens 🙂
Trying to get just the right angle for the photo
These are my favorites!

These were so beautiful.
Giant fruit bats in the trees
RELEASE THE BATS!!! baahahahahaaa
Sydney Opera House-an enchanting structure
Once the sun started going down, these sulfur crested cockatoos were everywhere!!

Pretty great day if I do say so myself.  The next day We went back in to the city to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.  I wasn’t feeling great, but a liesurely stroll through the gallery was nice.  You know what else was nice?  The walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach the next day!

Stay tuned…

July 4th, or just Monday?

Welcome back, friends!  First, if you haven’t subscribed to the blog yet so you can receive “hot off the presses” updates directly to your email inbox, the button is just there to the right 🙂  go ahead, I’ll wait for you…

Ok, now that everyone is back, let’s discuss the least patriotic 4th of July I have celebrated in my life.  Before leaving the US, I made the comment “man, it would be awesome to be in Sydney for the 4th of July…see fireworks over the Sydney Harbour and the Opera House and stuff…”-Cali simply laughed.in.my.face.

“Why would they do THAT?”

Oh.snap.  Never considered that other countries don’t happen to celebrate American Independence Day :/  We ended up in Sydney for the 4th anyway, so We spent the day at the harbour 🙂  It was Our first time in Sydney and there was much to see and do (but no fireworks lol).  Even from the train I was captivated by the Harbour Bridge- it is very impressive.  As soon as We left the train station, We found Ourselves surrounded by tourists and also natives due to the school holidays…that means there were many, MANY people.  We saw camels hanging out with some folks advertising tours in Western Australia, We saw an aboriginal painted up and playing a didgeridoo, We walked around the old part of the city for a bit and made Our way over to the bridge and walked across and back.  Around 5, We found the Shangri-La hotel and headed up to the 36th floor for an amazing view of the Harbour at sunset from Blu 36 where We had a date unlike any other We have been on…nothing short of magical.  Have a look:

Fresh off the train!

Not cute.

Opera House from the bridge 🙂

I squish the Opera House 🙂

From the 36th floor!
From the entrance looking at Our table in front of the window ❤

Our dinner 🙂

What other adventures did We find in Sydney?  Stay tuned…

Skipping, its the new walking…

Welcome back, friends.  This blog is going to link the last blog (Mornington Peninsula) to July 4th (which starts Our fun back up again 🙂 ).  After visiting the Peninsula, We basically didn’t do anything for Our last few days.  We had spent all the money and done everything We had to do, so We hung out around the house and got to know the family We were staying with.  I spent a lot of time with Eva, the 8yr old girl, putting together puzzles and playing games…I miss my girls terribly so I don’t think it was a coincidence that I was hanging out with the 8 yr old 🙂  We researched accommodations in Sydney since that would be Our next destination, and found a room in a house on Craig’s List that was just the right price and location!  We couldn’t do anything but “look” at what We might do when the 1st rolled around.  On Friday morning, We watched the bank account to see what the time/date difference would do to His pay schedule…turns out He gets paid basically a day later than He has for the past 10 years or so :/  Knowing the money would deposit eventually-even though it hadn’t when We left-We left the Antonopoulos house for the last time and managed to find things to do overnight until heading for Melbourne’s Southern Cross station on the morning of the 2nd.  That day, We started making Our travel arrangements for heading in the direction of Sydney.  This proved difficult because Tiger Airlines (the cheapest way to get anywhere here) cancelled ALL their flights.  Them being the cheapest means that there were a shit ton of displaced travellers…We didn’t even want to fly, We wanted to train or bus, but all the busses and trains were full of Tiger’s newly stranded passengers.  It was chaos.  We went to many kiosks to see if there was anything We could get-We were due to arrive at Our room the next day and it takes about 12 hours to drive from Melbourne to Sydney!  Finally, one of the train companies We spoke to decided to rent coach busses to transport all the overflow business they were losing, but the bus tickets would be the same price as the train tickets were :/  whatevs, We now had a way to get to Sydney.  The bus wouldn’t be leaving for a few hours and would be driving Us overnight so We found a coffee shop with wi-fi and just hung out near the station.  During the great ticket hunt, We had found out that the Southern Cross Station is huge!  It covers so much ground and has so many escalators and stairs.  We were worn out by the time We purchased the tickets and got to relax…I mean, We were carrying Our packs during all this walking.  My knees were holding up well and Our backs did not give out, but it was tiring to say the least.  Our packs were down to 16kg and 25kg (35 and 55lbs) which is not exactly featherweight, but much lighter than they had been previously.  We had gotten rid of some clothes, paper, more of Our travel book sections.  I mailed some cards and trimmed every spare oz possible.

So anyway, We got on the bus around 7pm on Saturday and arrived around 7am Sunday morning to Sydney Central Station.  We found Our proper train to Our new home base station (Sydenham) and were picked up by Mike.  Mike is the friendly American who posted the CL add about the room-he was nice enough to come and get Us from the station so We could put down Our packs and get some rest from the long night.  He took Us to the house and then took Us on a stroll through the neighborhood to point out the supermarket (Banana Joe’s) the Thai food places that rock, the Farmers Market and other necessary info.  Mike and his gfriend Hillary would be going to Cairns for a week and We would be renting their room in a house that has 3 other flat mates-Ellie, Bella and Shane (whom you will all meet later).  We took a nap quite early in the day but it didn’t do much for the state of exhaustion We were in…We talked to the other flatmates for a while about local things to do and the plans that We had for the city and listened carefully to their local advice.  Glad We did-it made Our 4th of July memorable and incredibly romantic.

Stay tuned…

Sleepy holiday town.

Welcome back, friends.  Today We go to the Mornington Peninsula and the town of Rye.  Our hosts have a holiday house there and for whatever reason there was reason to drive down there, so We tagged along and got to see the Peninsula.  Well, kind of.

We saw fog.  While We were there it didn’t seem possible that it was fog, and We were sure that it was ash from the recent volcanic eruptions, but We later found out that it was just freakish fog.  That was the only day it was foggy, according to the news and other people who went down there in the following days…It was pretty, but there was not a ray of sun to be seen…actually, there was nothing to be seen.  In the last picture up there, there are 3 barely perceptible boats, and that was the best view of them.  The rest of the time We couldnt even see them!  What should you do when faced with a foggy beach in the Mornington Peninsula??  Eat fresh baked bread and locally produced wine of course!!

Happy campers!

That pretty much sums up Our trip to “The Peninsula”.  Another good day.

For  more good times, stay tuned…

Not quite football…

Welcome back folks.  Today, I will not confuse the everloving crap out of you by trying to explain Australian Rules Football, a.k.a. Aussie Rules, a.k.a. Footy, a.k.a. AFL.  Instead I link you to the all knowing Wikipedia: Australian Rules.  Its quite confusing unless there is a seasoned fan sitting next to you explaining what in the hell is going on.  We saw it on the tv when We first arrived in Melbourne and realized that it was something of a big deal to Australians, so going to a game seemed like an “Aussie” thing to do!  There happened to be on the following weekend, and it was projected to be a good game.  Lucky US!  It was a Richmond vs. Melbourne game and the attendance was right around 62,000 people…We had some amazing seats, which was awesome as well.  Our host family came to the game with Us and We made the train ride and seat hunt together, only losing 1 of the 3 children only once the whole day 🙂  Oh, and I ate oreo cookies.  Pretty good day if you ask me. ❤

Famed MCG

From Our seats

Melbourne won.  They are both “Melbourne teams” but, I guess someone had to lose right?

Next We visit the Mornington Peninsula and Rye before leaving Melbourne for Sydney.

Stay tuned…

We are all a little mad here…or, The blog of the signs.

Welcome back folks, to the blog where the author doesn’t know whats going on and has no concept of “next”. 🙂 maybe you did and maybe you didn’t notice, but my last blog informed you that the “Dandenong Mtns were up next”…well, the Dandenong Mtns were the blog before last, and alas, We did not go again…so instead you get the Melbourne Botanical Gardens system blog 🙂

First, We took the train into the city and posed for the paparazzi (me).  The brown river is the “upside down” Yarra River.  The sediment flows on top of the water, and under that is quite clear…wtf?

We went to the:

and enjoyed walking around inside for a while.

Next up, across the street:

We are "here". Queen Victoria Gardens

Yes, thats coffee in my hand.  No, I don’t have a coffee problem 😛

King's Domain Gardens next...
Royal Botanical Gardens
What the sign says.

He takes pictures 🙂

Speaking of, if you want to see pictures from the gardens that day, and not just pictures, but beautiful pictures of beautiful things, check out Calis blog HERE.

After the gardens, We caught some more public transportation to St Kilda beach for the sunset and a picnic 🙂

Again, His pictures are awesome from the beach, so check them out.

That is how We closed out Our day.  We found wine and wifi on the way back to the house at Cafe Promenade.  It was a great day.  I spent more time looking around than taking pictures which is why this is the blog of the signs lol but there are some great shots of the gardens and the Gallery and the beach in His blog.  His blog tends to be mostly pictures, and good ones at that!

Up next, Footy game.  I think…

Stay tuned.

Throw a chicken on the “baaaaahbee”

Welcome back friends!  Today you will enter into the wonderful land of an authentic Greek/Australian barbecue.  The meat was marinated overnight and then skewered onto an electric rotisserie and slowly cooked over charcoal.  Friends were invited over, wine was plentiful and everyone had a great time.  The meat was amazing…you cut off the done parts, and then let it keep cooking, and then cut off the done parts and so on until all the meat is golden.  Of course, you do start eating at the first cut.  Thats when everyone has to “try it” to make sure it is delicious, and then it just kind of disappears.  Here are some captioned photos from that night…

Before the first cut.
Oliver, the oldest, expresses how he feels about dinner. 2 thumbs up!!
Yummo!!
First cutting.
See!! He can smile! Thats Arthur in the back (Our host).
Hi Maria 🙂
Gracious host and master of the BBQ, Arthur.
Hostess and mini hostess, Bec and Eva.
Happy hungry crew at a barbecue ❤
Cali getting in on the cutting
And the meat goes on, and on, and on...

See how the meat is all skinny in the last one?  That is after a few cuts and wont be cut again.  Its so awesome that ALL the meat gets the same heat treatment and golden crusty goodness all the way in.  It was a relaxing night and Im not sure what makes it authentic other than they are real Greeks and We were really in Australia…

Dandenong mountains up next…

Stay tuned.

Ding Dang Dong

Welcome back friends.  We arrived and settled into the Antonopoulos household on Friday night.  There was “Footy” (Australian Rules Football) on the television and We sat with the man of the house to watch and learn.  Arthur explained the rules and answered all of Our questions until We felt We had the hang of it.  It was then that We decided We needed to attend a game in person.  After watching footy, I headed off to bed…

The next morning, We got up and walked down to the shopping center up the road to look around and pick up a few things and then came back and got  to know Our hosts a little better.  I put together a puzzle or 2 with the littlest one, Eva, and just had general conversation throughout the day.  The next day, Sunday, We were invited to go to the Caribbean Market with the family-so We of course accepted.  It was essentially a giant flea market like We would have found in the US, but instead of being full of Mexicans, it was full of Asians.  I can’t explain how it was strange, but it was.  We walked around a while and purchased a pair of “pants” for me, a knee brace and a pair of headphones.  After returning to the house, We went to the market to call home and wish my mom a happy birthday.  She didn’t answer, but I did talk to my gma and my Sam.  We went out to a Persian Dinner while Our hosts went to a Greek Christening.  (The family is Greek.  Very.  Fact: Melbourne Australia has the highest concentration of Greeks outside of Athens.)  The Persian food was pretty awesome, except the dessert.  The dessert was gross.  Cali liked it, which is strange since He doesn’t dig on dessert, but it makes sense since I didn’t like it 🙂  One had rosewater in it and I detest the smell of roses, the other was more savory than sweet so it was just disappointing…but the meal itself was sooo.goood.  There was a group of “Persians” (could have been Iranian or other) and they were all speaking their native language enjoying a family style dinner and that was a nice part of the experience as well.

Monday was declared a “day of rest” so I could rest my knee and stay off of it as much as possible.  I read more of my book and did some blogging until it was time to make dinner.  We made duck.  The duck were caught and killed by Arthur and Cali came up to the challenge of cooking them.  He (and I) never made duck before so it was an experience, but it turned out well.  Note: there is not much meat on a duck and with the exception of large ones should probably be used to make stock instead of for eating the meat.

Tuesday morning, We got up early and Bec drove Us out to the Dandenongs.  Its a low mountain range in Southern Australia that We had intended to take a bus through, but she offered to drive Us so that We could actually experience the day, not just ride through it.  We drove through the mountains for most of the day making a few stops for coffee, wine and toilets.  We had Quiche, cake and coffee at a cute little place, We had a glass of wine at a hotel pub, and bought a bottle or 3 at a winery in Yarra Valley on the way back to the house.  It snowed on Us for part of the drive, and Bec had never been in active snowfall before so it was pretty cool to be there for that as well.  Here are the pictures from Our day in what Cali calls the “Ding Dang Dong Mountains”.

Steering wheel on the right??

Coffee break!
Inside was nice and warm (and cute!).

Debris on the road from the strong winds the night before.
Cheers.
The dragon in the snow 🙂

Innocent Bystanders?? Us? Yes 🙂

We arrived at the house just in time to start making dinner.  Cali and I cooked again and introduced these Greek Aussies to enchiladas.  It was pretty tasty, as per usual.  The cheese in Australia is way different to what We are used to so it tasted…different, but still pretty darn good.

The next day, We would be treated to a good old fashioned charcoal bbq souvlaki.  What is that?  Does it taste good?

Stay tuned…

Point “A” to point “B”.

Welcome back, folks. After an amazing week in Bimbi, We woke up Friday and made coffee, then headed to the office to find out what time Pat and Cyril would be leaving for Apollo Bay. We quickly learned that We had 10 minutes to pack up and load up before they would be leaving! And the race against time began…We packed with lightning speed, said goodbye to Kat and the park, hopped in the truck and went back to “The Bay”. ETA 10am.

I find things to do in the car 🙂

They happened to be going right across the street from where We needed to be, so that worked out nicely 🙂 After buying Our bus tickets from Apollo Bay to Melbourne at the visitor center, We went back to the coffee shop “Wickens”, where We previously discovered good coffee and wifi, to wait the 3 and a half hours for the bus. I called my kids, We worked on photos, and were just generally lazy. It rained off and on but remained a beautiful day.

Our welcome back to Apollo Bay ❤

We got on the bus around 2pm and made the same amazing drive that We had made Our first day in Australia on the “Prince’s Highway”, a.k.a. the Great Ocean Road. Making the drive the opposite direction during a sunny midday meant We would get to see the breathtaking views the darkness had covered previously. It was…impossible to describe.

Amazing.
Wow, even the signs are polite in Australia!

The bus took Us to the Geelong train station where We caught a train to the Southern Cross Station. The Southern Cross train station is an astounding piece of architecture. It has a fun looking wavy roof and (We would later learn) is a GIANT station. We were only there for minutes, long enough to call Our new host and alert her of Our arrival and then find the proper platform to get to her.

Waiting momentarily...
Our platform at Southern Cross station

We got on the train, got off again and were swiftly picked off the street by 2 beautiful ladies…Eva (9 years old) and Bec (the mom).

How would Cali fare in a house with 3 kids under 13 and what would We do for 10 days in Melbourne’s suburb of Forest Hill?  Stay tuned…

Koalas, Quolls, Kangaroos and another angel or 2.

Welcome back folks!!  When last I left you, We had arrived at Bimbi Park exhausted, dirty and in pain, took a shower, set up camp and had dinner before retiring for a solid sleep.  When We awoke the next morning, there seemed to be so many people in this park!!  We asked someone why, and found that it was a long weekend for everyone (Queens Birthday), but since it was Monday it cleared out fairly early in the day.  During the hustle and bustle of the park clearing out, We met some very friendly folks.  Some of the vacationers are practically family with the park owners and We managed to get in on a group conversation in the office with all of them that ended up being lovely. We talked about Australian politics, American politics (I say We, but we all know that I personally know nothing about world politics so it was really Cali and them while I stood about listening) and Our walk so far. One family left their phone number with Us to get together when We reached Melbourne. To say it was pleasant would be an understatement 🙂
After being up a few hours, We decided to talk about the possibility of continuing the walk. I was still in a good amount of pain that wasn’t subsiding, and injuring myself further seemed likely. We had reservations to be at Bimbi for 2 nights before heading out, but if We weren’t going to finish the walk, where would We be heading?  We had made quick friends with Kat, the proprietor, and she was genuinely concerned with Our state of being. We talked with her frequently and upon hearing that We wouldn’t be able to finish Our walk (after paying over $100 for the non refundable state sponsored walk in campsites) she offered Us to stay at the park resting for the remainder of the week. I’m not sure she isn’t an angel. We accepted and stayed on at this beautiful park until Friday as We didn’t have accommodations in Melbourne until Saturday.
Let me tell you about Bimbi Park…its on 20 acres of beautiful landscape in the Otways. There are Mana Gum trees everywhere, and in these trees were koalas! Koalas love Mana Gum trees and therefor love Bimbi Park. We were able to see them in the trees, on the ground, eating, sleeping, and just being koalas in their natural habitat.

The park also has beautiful shower and toilet facilities (built by Kats husband Frank) and many trails to explore, including one that leads down to the beach. We weren’t able to do much exploring since that required walking, which I wasn’t doing much of, but We did do some and saw heaps of beauty.

One night, We were able to assist Kat in recapturing some escaped horses and another night she invited Us to join her in visiting the Eco center where her son volunteers weekly. We saw probably about 100 grey kangaroos and 3 endangered spotted tiger quolls. What an experience to see an endangered species most people will never lay eyes on.  Sidenote, they have a chicken coup and  I couldn’t help but take a picture of a black chicken so I could post it as an “Australian black cock” bwahahahaha


We spent Our days resting near the office using wifi, or doing a little walking around and Our evenings were spent in front of a campfire snuggling and talking about Our day or looking through Our photos.

My own personal fire-starter ❤

One evening, We heard noises nearby and turned on a headlamp to try and spotlight the cause. What We found was this guy:

A bushy tailed possum. He looks more like a giant glider to me than a possum, but what do I know about Australian wildlife?  He came back to visit Us nightly after, likely looking for a handout 🙂

Aside from the koalas and possum, the park is home to many many different types of birds. We saw gallahs, king parrots, kookaburras, cockatoos and others that I forget now. It is truly a magical place to be.

Gallah
King Parrot
Kookaburra
Cockatoo

One day, while hanging out near the office using wifi, I checked my messages to find out that We no longer had a place to stay in Melbourne. It was somewhat distressing to hear since We definitely hadn’t budgeted for accommodations after finding out We could crash on the couch of a friend of a friend. She had a family emergency to tend to and would be moving out of her apt Saturday…uh oh 😦 I told Cali and We decided to go out on a limb. I rang up Bec, the lady of the house that left their number with Us, and inquired about renting their spare room that had been mentioned in conversation.  She wouldn’t hear of renting it to Us, but would let Us stay free of charge.  WHAT??!  Yes, that’s right…someone who had only just met Us, in a foreign country, and talked to Us only for about an hour invited Us to stay with them for about 10 days.  It was almost unbelievable  but  seemed to go along with the norm so far.  Everyone We had come across so far in Australia had been incredibly accommodating and helpful which was such a refreshing change from most strangers in the US.  I say most because, as you all know, We met some angels in the states as well 🙂  We now had a place to stay and could take Our minds off of that and just figure out how to get back to Apollo Bay to catch the bus to Melbourne.  Turns out, We didn’t have to do much figuring on that either.  Pat and Cyril, longtime residents of Bimbi, were going into Apollo Bay on business Friday morning and would take Us in with them.  All that was left to do then was relax until Friday.

I could go on and on about the amazing experience We had at Bimbi, and the truly remarkable nature of Kat-but I won’t.  It will live on in Our memory and I hope at least one person who reads this gets a chance to visit Bimbi sometime to make memories of their own.

Stay tuned…