Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Australia, Part 5: Sydney

  We enjoyed walking around Sydney and one of my favorite places was the Queen Victoria building that held floors and floors of shops and cafes. One of the rainy days, we walked over there and browsed the shops after we ate a delicious lunch. I really enjoyed all of the beautiful handiwork in the building and took pictures of the colorful flowers that were hanging down from the ceiling. I also loved the clock they had in one part of the building that was Tiffany blue and had fleur-de-lis. Outside the building were gorgeous beds of flowers to welcome in spring.
  Another day, we walked down to another part of the city called "The Rocks" which is on the opposite side of Opera Quays. There is an old part filled with shops and corridors called Nurses Walk and Surgeons Court. We had seen the Sydney Hospital (with a boar statue out front) and the Nurses Walk was where the first hospital in Sydney was. Every weekend in the Rocks, they hold an open air market full of handmade trinkets and goodies, along with street food carts. Patrick and I enjoyed some Asian skewers and gyoza during one of our trips down there.
  We met up with a couple who is living in Sydney now and had relocated from Atlanta and they introduced us to several awesome things in Sydney. One was this huge international food festival held each October in Hyde Park. They have tables set up everywhere and you can bring in blankets and dine after work. Most of the booths are some sort of Asian cuisine and it was all delicious and cheap! We actually ended up eating here twice (once I think on the first night we got to Sydney and the second time when we met up with one of Patrick's coworkers and her boyfriend who ended up meeting up with us in Sydney).
   While in Sydney, we walked up the bridge for a tour. Ashley and Matthew (Patrick's coworker from Perth and her boyfriend) were actually doing the bridge tour as well, only at a different time, but we hailed a cab together and ended up getting on the same tour. It wasn't the clearest of days, but we did catch the sunset once we got up to the top of the bridge. I had to go first right behind the tour guide and besides not knowing how far "20 meters" was or whatever the guide would tell me to go, I enjoyed going first! It was amazing being able to see the entire city of Sydney. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and I just couldn't get over the views. I think that if you are ever in Sydney, you should definitely sign up for a tour because you just get to see so much of the city and it's awesome!! I also enjoyed being able to walk up the bridge during the day and come down at night (we did the dusk tour).
   After we finished our climb, we walked back down to Opera Quays where we ate dinner at one of the cafes with Ashley and Matthew. We had impeccable timing because all of the restaurants at the Quays quickly filled up as soon as the show at the Opera house ended. It was a little cool at night, so we were glad we were able to sit under the heat lamps. It was also really cool to see the bridge that we had just climbed all the way to the top all lit up at night.

  The other great place we went was in a different part of Sydney (I forget what it was called) past Hyde Park a ways (maybe a 10-15 minute walk). Our favorite place by far was called Messina, a fantastic gelato place. Oh man, was it good!! They have so many flavors and you pay by the scoop in cash and there is always a line out the door! Mmm, my mouth is watering now just thinking of it!! Each flavor is made fresh daily and they are very different and delicious! I, of course, went with two types of chocolate while Patrick branched out and chose different flavors each time. (We may have gone like 3 times while we were there?!) There was also a wonderful little bakery that is in the same area that we went to with Kathryn and Geoff. You choose whatever dessert you would like and they cut it with a spatula and weigh it out for the price. One of the guys said he would hire me if I go back to Australia! Ha! I'm sure this area is super expensive to live in, but it was such a great area with many different restaurants and hotels and one of the oldest, best public schools in Sydney. I think I only have one more post to go about our trip, but it's going to be a long one! See you soon!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Australia, Part 4: Sydney

   Patrick and I took the red-eye from Perth to Sydney and I will never again do that. While it was nice to get into Sydney so early in the morning, it was horrible at the same time because of course our hotel room was not ready and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. We got into Sydney on the hottest day they had had yet this year (90 degrees), so I was very happy that I had worn layers so I could strip down to my sleeveless shirt as we wandered about the city aimlessly. We did get to see most of what you think of when you hear "Sydney" as we walked around the opera house and the Sydney bridge for several hours until I got hungry and we stopped at one of the many open air cafes for a snack. It was at least a beautiful day and the opera house was shining bright white (I discovered that if it isn't sunny, it can look pretty dingy and not like the pristine opera house I am used to seeing).
Our first morning in Sydney (plus obligatory shot on the red-eye)
  We finally got to sleep in our room after several hours and I was much happier and ready to see the city. We stayed in the Park Royal right off Darling Harbour which was an easy walk to various areas. I really enjoyed Sydney as it was faster paced than Perth (though Perth was probably the cleanest city I've been in and absolutely gorgeous) and had much more to do. Sydney reminds me a little of New York City, but a little cleaner. We ended up down in Opera Quays (area around the opera house) most of the time because it had free wifi and was just a gorgeous area with lots of benches around the water and cafes.
You could walk down to Opera Quays through this adorable arch
  We also spent a lot of time down in Darling Harbour as we could walk there in about a minute or so over a bridge and it had an array of restaurants and things to do. We had dinner one night at a mall off the Harbour at a Japanese hibachi restaurant where I had the best rose wine I have ever had! We tried to find the bottle everywhere but to no avail. We had lunch down on the Harbour one day and the waiters don't get tips but are salaried so they could kind of care less when they seat you and serve you. However, it was a nice little break from what we do in the U.S. as Patrick and I had a leisurely lunch (about 2 and a half hours) and really got to enjoy our meal. Of course, the only thing I can really complain about it that Australia is much more expensive than most places I am used to in Atlanta, so it was a little shock to pay $25 for a glass of house wine with a burger and chips (fries). But I still loved it!
the walkway from our hotel to the harbour
view from lunch on the harbour
Darling Harbour at night

  We also went to the aquarium one day after we wandered all around the city and ended up being back at Darling Harbour after going up and down and around Opera Quays. Patrick and I didn't really plan too much to do in Sydney and while it probably drove him crazy, I enjoyed just waking up and doing whatever the heck we wanted to do (even though some days it wasn't until 1pm or so--whoops! Let's blame it on the time change!)
  I did enjoy the aquarium and got to see a dugong that I fell in love with! They have two dugongs and the one we saw was swimming around and eating his pounds of lettuce from a little crate thing they have designed for him. Once Pig was finished with his lettuce, he would send the device back up to the top so they could refill it. Atlanta's aquarium is still pretty impressive, but we did have a good time seeing all the different rays and sharks Sydney had. 

Most of the fish were native to Australia, but these cuties aren't (though they are bred in Australia)

We watched this little turtle wedge himself down like this. It was quite bizarre but he seemed to like it.
Pig, the dugong, eating his lettuce

Little penguins (my favorite, of course!)

Glow in the dark!!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Australia, Part 3: The CBD and Wine Tour

  We were able to really enjoy the central business district of Perth one day. Patrick worked on the fringe of the CBD (Central Business District) and we grabbed bahn mi sandwiches to eat in Kings Park before we walked downtown. During the day, the city is pretty busy, but it definitely slows down at night when everyone goes home to eat and be with their families. There are more restaurants staying open past 5 or 6pm but nothing close to what we have in America.

 We got up close and personal with the Swan Bell Tower which is really cool. Perth is known as the city of the black swan and so there are black swans everywhere. The swan bells were the millennium project for Western Australia and it is a beautiful architectural piece that you can see from all different areas of the city.

Featured in House Hunters by HGTV when a couple bought in Perth

Time Capsule for 2100
Swan Bell Tower

  We walked all around the city and peeked over into an area called Elizabeth Quay that is being built near the river downtown. They are going to flood a portion of the city to have more waterfront properties and buildings. I think it's supposed to be ready at the end of 2013 sometime and it looks pretty cool though I'm interested to see how they will be able to move a major road around it all.
Drawing of what Elizabeth Quay will look like

Not sure if this road will still be here or not in late 2013

Bell Tower
Kangaroo statues near Elizabeth Quay 
  Another day, we went down to the river to hop onto a ferry to start our wine tour in Swan Valley. We saw Perth by the waterway which was pretty cool. There were also some impressive houses along the river that I would gladly take if the owners wanted to give them up! We saw the new football stadium they are building and the only casino in Perth. Along the ride, we also saw several dolphins who live in the river but I wasn't able to get any good pictures. Bummer!
Leaving the port with Perth in the background
New football stadium being built
Morning tea (devoured my muffin)
the casino
Really expensive houses

  We had morning tea to start our journey down the river and later, Patrick and I both had to "model" a wine we tasted on the boat. We tasted four wines and had a cheese and bread plate to cleanse our palates. Midmorning, we stopped off at a winery where we met up with another tour guide who took us the rest of the way on the wine tour.

  At first, Patrick and I were worried we had made the wrong choice because we both fell asleep listening to our tour guide (his voice was quite soothing!) as he drove around this little town of Guilford and explained the history of the town. He told us you had to have a jail, a church, and a bar for a town to become a town and then I fell asleep. Apparently, we were a little earlier than he had anticipated for our first winery, so he decided to give us that little side tour. It was pretty funny once we realized what he was doing, but man, we were worried in the beginning!

  The first winery was called Pinelli Vineyards and the guy who helped us with the tasting is a fifth generation winemaker and his grandfather was running around in the vineyards as we were tasting. The next winery we went to was the largest of them all called Houghton. This vineyard was amazing and we ended up having a wonderfully rustic lunch here. I would easily go back there as the wines tasted great and the views were simply divine. You had to drive down all these dusty back roads to get to each vineyard and then they were just beautiful once you arrived.


  After lunch, we picked up some more people and loaded into the van to the next vineyard called Jarrah Ridge Wines. This was the smallest winery we went to and we just loved it. We ended up buying a case of cleanskin wines from them to ship home, but I don't think we will ever see it since it was supposed to come in December and yeah, we still haven't gotten it. Lovely. It was a great wine too! Oh well, you live and learn, I guess. They had a variety of cheeses and olives you could buy as well and if we had been staying in Perth longer, we would have bought some to enjoy.
Jarrah Ridge
  Our last winery was another small one called Charlie's Estate Wines. They had beautiful roses everywhere (apparently, roses are great indicators of soil pH and so most vineyards have them to figure out the pH and thus help produce better wines), but the wines didn't really stand out to me.

Charlie's Estate Wines
 amazing roses
  After this last wine stop, we drove to a brewery called Mash Brewery. The beer was pretty good, but the best thing was the plate of freshly baked bread we got to dip in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yummy! We got back on the road to visit the last stop, The Margaret River Chocolate Company, where we got to taste different kinds of chocolate and ended up buying some ice cream. It was pretty delicious!! The tour ended up being great and our guide did pass on a lot of great knowledge of the vineyards and Swan Valley itself, so we were pretty pleased to spend one of our last days on the tour.
sideways tree at the brewery
Margaret River Chocolate Company