Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Royal Market

Ben and I spent our Tuesday off wandering around the Victoria Market, which has become one of our favourite spots in Melbourne.

Wide selection of delicious food

Fresh local produce

The American doughnut van, which always has a massive queue!

Sequin uggs... very questionable if you ask me
Located right downtown - skyscrapers in the background!

The result of today's market excursion? A scrumptious lunch of smoked salmon and cream cheese, basil and pesto dip, parmesan stuffed olives, triple cream brie, sourdough baguette and strawberries, all enjoyed on a beautiful sunny day on the bank of the Yarra River. Perfection.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Words from a Monk

Although I find blogging the best way to share my travel stories and photos, I'm still very much a pen and paper kind of girl. Since I began this trip nearly 10 months ago I have been using a planner, rather than my iPhone, to keep track of various things like flight dates, how much money I've been spending and useful phrases in foreign languages.

The other day while flipping through said planner, I came across a page with a short yet meaningful message written way back in December. It was from Sony, a monk I befriended in Siem Reap. Reading his words couldn't help but remind me just how random and wonderful traveling can be, something that hasn't been on my mind as much since I've started working rather than traveling.

Before leaving home there were many things I never thought I would do: dance in the street to celebrate the 80th birthday of a woman I just met, participate in a Taiko drumming class, take part in the world's biggest water fight or make friends with a monk (more than one in fact) but I did. Travel can be challenging, tiring and frustrating but if you keep an open mind, you will undoubtedly be rewarded with countless memorable experiences like the ones mentioned above.

Thanks for the reminder Sony.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney

Sydney is city I've been wanting to visit ever since I watched Marlin the clown fish try to find his beloved son Nemo. This past weekend Ben and I ventured out to the capital city of New South Wales, just a short and inexpensive flight away from Melbourne. We didn't have any luck finding P. Sherman or 42 Wallaby Way but we sure had a great time exploring the city home to some of the world's most iconic landmarks. As an added bonus I got to catch up with one of my oldest friends from home, Kelsey, who was in Sydney with her boyfriend!

While the infamous Sydney Harbour gets a lot of hype (and rightly so!) one of my favourite places we visited over the weekend was Darling Harbour. Great restaurants and lots of places to sit out in the sun - what's not to love?

But as I said, Sydney Harbour is obviously famous for a reason. It was pretty spectacular to see, especially on such a gorgeous (winter!) day.

None of us felt like dropping the $200 it costs to climb the Harbour Bridge itself so we settled on paying $10 to climb the southeast tower, which still gave us some killer views. The tower also had a great exhibit about how the bridge was built. Ben and I definitely found the bridge's history interesting but my friend Kelsey and her boyfriend, who are both civil engineers, were like kids in a candy store.

On Friday the four of us took a short ferry over to Manly Beach, one of Australia's most famous beaches. The weather wasn't the best but it didn't deter the locals from surfing one bit! I can only imagine how crazy Manly must get during the summer...

We got the ferry back into Sydney just as the sun was setting, which made for some stunning views.

On our last full day together we headed out to Bondi Beach, another well-known Sydney surf beach. The boys decided to rent boards and try to catch a few waves while Kelsey and I cheered them on from shore.

On our last day Kelsey and her boyfriend both had early flights to catch, which left Ben and I on our own. Without doing much research we decided to take a ferry ride around the Harbour and ended up at the seaside community of Watson's Bay, a place neither of us had heard of before but that turned out to be absolutely gorgeous (enhanced by the fact that we couldn't have asked for better weather!)

After wandering around Watson's Bay for a little while, we hopped back on the ferry and made our way to Sydney's Taronga Zoo. I won't bore you with all the shots I took of the animals but can you believe the views the giraffes get?!

After our last jam-packed day in Sydney it was time to jump on the plane and head back 'home'. 

While Sydney is a fabulous city that definitely has a wow-factor for tourists like myself, visiting it made me glad I chose Melbourne to live in. In spite of everything it has to offer, Sydney is a big city that in my opinion, lacks the character, charm and quaint cafes that make Melbourne such a special place. Guess I know where I stand on the Sydney vs. Melbourne debate! 

Still, the photos say it all: Sydney is simply a must-see city for anyone visiting Australia!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Koalas, Wallabies and Penguins, oh my!

Greetings loyal readers (that means you Grandma!)

Apologies for not having written anything in a while. One of my housemates accidentally sat on my laptop which broke the screen, and getting it fixed has proved a bit tricky due to differences between Canadian and Australian laptop models. This, combined with the fact that I've been working quite a bit has made updating my blog slightly more challenging than usual, but thanks to a laptop I borrowed off a housemate I'm finally going to fill you guys in on what I've been up to!

A few weeks back Ben and I made a trip out to Philip Island, a charming island situated roughly an hour and a half south of Melbourne which makes it a popular getaway for city-dwellers. We were lucky enough to get invited to stay over at the holiday house of a woman Ben knows (the one who spearheaded the dolphin research session I tagged along to a couple of months ago). She warned us that we shouldn't expect much but coming from our damp, ant-infested flat Ben and I couldn't have been more thrilled with our accommodation.

The bridge to Philip Island

Enjoying a cup of tea

The view from the deck - note the ocean

Philip Island is home to a wide array of amazing Australian wildlife that because I've been living in a city, I hadn't yet gotten the chance to observe. Over the course of our two days on the island we got to see koalas and heaps of wallabies. We also got to watch the Penguin Parade, Philip Island's most popular attraction, where hoards of little penguins swim up to the shore each night to nest. Unfortunately cameras weren't allowed so I don't have any pictures of it but trust me - these 30cm tall penguins are ridiculously cute!

Looks a little like an ewok, doncha think?

Doesn't get more Australian than a wallaby!

'The Nobbies', scenic nesting area for the penguins

Gorgeous shoreline at The Nobbies

Other highlights of our trip included slapping on wetsuits and going for a swim on a nearly deserted beach that due to a lack of stairs, we reached by scaling 'unstable cliffs'...

Going for a swim during Australian winter

The beach, and the climb we did to get there

... a bit of wine tasting paired with delicious kalamata olives at the Purple Hen Winery...

My idea of a perfect afternoon.

The winery dog!

The Purple Hen Winery

... and last but not least, me attempting to drive on the wrong other side of the road (in a manual car I might add). Aside for the few times where Ben kindly pointed out that I didn't look the right way entering a roundabout, it went pretty smoothly - but I'm definitely not ready to drive in a busy city center anytime soon!

I did it!


All in all Philip Island made for a fantastic and affordable getaway. The lack of crowds and incredible wildlife made it feel like we were somewhere out in the bush rather than just outside of a major urban center.
Living in Melbourne has been great but this trip has me eager to see more of what Australia has to offer outside of its cities!