A Travellerspoint blog

Nine Koalas and Twelve Apostles

The ultimate road trip on the Great Ocean Road

I'm sorry for leaving you hanging at the end of the last post. Here's what we got up to after leaving Phillip Island, home of the Penguin Parade. As we had rented a car for this portion of the trip, we were ready for the great road trip: Aussie-style. The Great Ocean Road is one of the most famous touring roads and ocean drives in the world; and home of many, many beautiful pictures. First off, though, we needed to get out of Phillip Island. Turns out Phillip Island isn't too island-y, as it is easily reached by car via a very short bridge. However, if you were hoping beyond hope that we would get to go on another car ferry, you're in luck! In order to reach the start of the Great Ocean Road (GOR from here on out), you must drive back towards Melbourne and then onto the Mornington Peninsula, where you catch the car ferry from Sorento across to Queenscliff, which is a stone's throw from the start of the GOR. It was only a short, 45 minute ferry, which is good because I forgot to put the parking brake on.
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Once we got to Queenscliff, we drove to Geelong, which is the OFFICIAL start of the GOR. If you thought it would be difficult to find, you are mistaken- there are large signs constantly pointing you in the correct direction. Once the signs stop actually saying "Great Ocean Road" and use the highway's official name of B100, they still keep it pretty straight forward by putting a large anchor picture on the signs so you remember to stay coastal.
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Our first stop was in Torquay, arguably the surging capital of the world. and undisputably the capital of Australian surfing. This is home to Bell's Beach, where the Rip Curl Pro is held annually. This means that many surf clothing companies have their corporate head offices here, and also some factory outlet stores (read: shopping!!). So, we checked out the outlets first (our mothers' daughters to be sure) and then headed to the beaches. We saw some surfing lessons happening at Torquay Surf Beach, and then went to watch the pros at Bells Beach.
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Next up we checked out the Split Point Lighthouse, because it's not a beach road if you don't see a lighthouse. It was pretty, and also offered some of our first views of the famous limestone beaches that make the GOR just so great.
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We quickly(ish, I still made sure to stop at a few scenic lookouts, including the "historical arch" pictured below) made our way to Apollo Bay, where we would be hanging our hats for the night. Now, if you don't remember, the night prior we were spoilt by having a whole nice, clean house to ourselves. We surely paid for it in Apollo Bay, where we got to share a grungy, old house with six other people, one of whom was a real weirdo, and another of whom smelled really bad. Two of them were lovely medical students from Austria who had just finished doing an internship in Sydney, and who were also suitably baffled by my inability to find non-medical friends, even outside of my "real" life.
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Not wanting to spend much time in the "creepy" (Lani's words) town of Apollo Bay (this is what you get for going to a beach town in the winter), we high-tailed it out of there at around 8:30 the next morning. Our first stop that day was the Cape Otway lighthouse, but actually that's a lie, because we did not go to the lighthouse. Rather, we went on the road that takes you off the highway to the lighthouse, as it is lined entirely by eucalyptus trees, and the internet GUARANTEED that I would see koalas in the trees. I was so excited, I adopted a special koala-spotting pose, which is basically just hunching forwards in my seat and putting my hand above my eyes like a visor. And saying "koalas, come out and plaaaaayyyy". It must have been a very effective koala-spotting method, as we saw NINE koalas sleeping, eating, and being ridiculously adorable in the gum trees overhead. (NB: Pictures aren't great as the koalas are overhead, but be sure that these are real, wild koalas that I saw with my own eyes and had restraint enough not to send home to be my new pet).
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After koala spotting was sadly over, we started the 38 km stretch that takes you to the infamous 12 Apostles. I mainly napped for this portion by the drive, but Lani assures me I wouldn't have seen any koalas anyways, as it was raining and our windshield wipers are completely useless so you couldn't see through the windshield anyways. Well, by the time we got to the 12 Apostles car park and brilliant underpass which takes you across to the lookout, the sun had (kind of) come out. We'll take it! We got our iconic shots, and counted Apostles, or what we were willing to classify as Apostles. Experts say there are only seven, but I say there are nine, if you're feeling generous.
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The Apostles are limestone stacks that have been carved out of the mainland, worked away by the ocean as arches first and then eventually left standing unattached: the cheese stands alone, so to speak. This means that the actual number of Apostles changes over time as some get worn away and others are just being formed. Anyways, the ocean creates some pretty spectacular scenes as it splashes and crashes against these limestone giants, creating some pretty powerful blowholes. This made for great conversation:
Liz: Did you see that blowhole?
Lani: What a blowhole. Ooh, check out this one, it's gonna be such a blowhole!
Liz: Blowhole! Blowhole!
And so on.
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Our next stop was the Arch, which was probably as exciting to me as the actual 12 Apostles. It was super beauftiful, and water went over and through it it different ways. I shall show you this now, as I don't really have any other ways to describe it. I will let you know that I did say to Lani at one point "We have to leave before I lose this excitement! I love the Arch so much!".
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One last stop was at the Bay of Islands, where we were underwhelmed but at least checked a cool beach. Lani tried to do some rock climbing and almost lost one of her new Australian flag flip-flops (thongs).
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Then we high-tailed it to Hamilton to Abbie's house. Abbie is a friend of Lani's who lived in Guelph in Lani's first semester (circa 2007), and has since bought a house, got married, and had a child. Show off. She also has a really great job in Health Promotion in Hamilton, instituting a comprehensive early intervention program for oral health in "Kindy". Respect.

Anyways, Abbie is also a great host, and promptly set us up for showers, laundry (free laundry!), and cooked us an incredible meal (side note: when Abbie asked Lani what we wanted for dinner, her only request was VEGETABLES as we are so over pub food and pizza). All while caring for a 6 month old who was fighting a cold (I tried giving him some chest physio, but thought Abbie might not like me hitting her child when she doesn't know I do that for a living). Thanks so much to both Abbie and her husband Tim (and baby Hugo!) for giving us an incredible night, and a special thanks from me because I was treated as family, when actually I am a total stranger. I hope one day they will come to Canada or wherever I'm currently situated so I can return the favour.
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Also, Abbie and Tim live on a great piece of land that has 11 sheep, and also eucalyptus trees. But no koalas; only the occasional kangaroo...

And that, friends, is the tale of our travels on the Great Ocean Road!

--Liz

Posted by Flanilandlizard 04:10 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

The March of the Penguins

One of the many (MANY) tips that my darling father gave to us about Australia was that we absolutely must go watch the Little Blue Penguins on parade in Phillip Island. He neglected to tell us that Phillip Island is about two hours away from Melbourne and thus a day trip to do this activity (which is actually an evening activity) would cost around $100, and would require driving back in the dark with all the other tourists.
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Being the smart and seasoned travellers that we now are, we decided to do it our own way, and rent a car a day early to head to Phillip Island ourselves, sleep on Phillip Island, and then head off the next day for our next destination (I won’t tell you what that is; spoilers are really the worst). This ended up working out beautifully, as for the same price as what it would have cost to stay in the hostel, we got our own private house!
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Anyways, I digress. The day started with making breakfast, where I somehow managed to start a fire on an electric burner. Don’t worry, I put it out with the pan before anyone even noticed; I’m only telling you so you can understand how bad of a cook I am and never ask me to feed you. After treating my minor burns (KIDDING), we headed over to Ace Rental Car to see what prize they had in store for us this time. Good news: it’s a Toyota Corolla, which is frankly the only kind of car acceptable in the Sniderman family. The people there were also very nice, and horrified that no one in Auckland cared that Tilda tried to kill us. Thus, we had our car and we got on our way.

We took a very beautiful drive out of the city (and by that, I mean in order to avoid toll roads, we had to drive through many residential neighbourhoods and take side roads, but that’s ok), and made it to Phillip Island around lunch time. We checked in to our palace, and then headed in to the town of Cowes for lunch. We ended up finding a very cute little cafe that was tucked in behind another store; and the owner was very impressed that we found it as usually only locals eat there. She was also impressed with the place we found to stay in Cowes. We were impressed with the enchiladas we had for lunch and so we bought a lasagna there to make for dinner.

After lunch, we headed over to the Phillip Island Nature Park to check out the Nobbies and the Blowhole. While staying at the YHA in Sydney, we made some friends from Melbourne (that is to say, we shared our free pancake breakfast with them) who told us we needed to go check out the Blowhole while we were in Phillip Island. We then inquired about what exactly a blowhole was, thinking they meant a geyser; and then proceeded to have a conversation using the word Blowhole more times than can possibly be recorded.
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Turns out the Blowhole is a cave that waves go into, and due to the pressure, the water and some spray get pushed back out. It’s pretty, and pretty mesmerizing. I can’t really tell you anything about the Nobbies. Except that the Nobbies is a very funny name.
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We also saw a sign saying that there were whales, which we assumed we wouldn’t see. But then while driving to the Penguin Parade parking lot, I saw some big black things poking out of the water. “Whales”, I cried! Lani asked if I wanted to stop. I then realized I was actually seeing humans. Surfing humans. Wow!
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The penguin parade was due to begin at around 6:00 pm. Apparently, the night before the penguins had arrived at 5:50 pm (I don’t know, maybe their plane landed early), and around 2301penguins showed up. For $23.00 admission, I think that is the best cost per unit activity we have done yet! We lined up and thus got one of the best spots (other than the people who paid $100, and got to sit on the beach… ooohh…). We waited for a while for dusk to fall and the penguins to make their appearance. In the meantime, I downloaded the special “Penguin Parade” App. In order to minimize the disturbances to the Penguins, no photos are allowed. To make sure people actually DON’T TAKE ANY PICTURES!!, they have an app which has lots of pictures that you can download and keep and even share for your friends to enjoy (which I will, just below). Anyways, we had learned from the other night that trying to take pictures of Little Penguins is extremely difficult with a point-and-shoot camera, so we appreciate the professional photos.
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Unfortunately, not everyone was in agreement with the no photo policy, and thus a ranger spent a fair bit of time yelling at certain tourists to put their cameras away. I want that guy’s job: you get to watch the penguins every day, and yell at stupid people. How great!

After we watched a few hundred (or maybe thousand) penguins emerge from the sea, waddle their little tushies up the beach and into the rocks, up the rocks (it’s hard because they have no arms!!), and into their burrows, we headed up the boardwalk to see them even closer. That’s where they are walking on land to find the best burrow (I call a bottom bunk!), and also where you see the most people breaking the no photo rule. We were also told we might see some penguin hanky panky, but no such luck.

Anyways, here are some professional penguin photos! Hope you enjoy them, and if you don’t, well, I didn’t take them anyways!
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—Liz

Posted by Flanilandlizard 23:29 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

One Wine, Two Wine, Red Wine, Blurred Line

This day really started at about 6:00 the night before when Liz pointed out that it was now late evening and while we had been saying for three days that we were going to spend Tuesday doing wineries we had yet to book anything or do much research. I told her not to fear as I pulled out the trusty cell phone and gave the oh so knowledgable Bec Martin a ring for tour suggestions. She suggested VineTrekker (who also happen to be numero uno on TripAdvisor) so I took my chances and gave them a shout.
The conversation went something like this:
L: Before I go dig through brochures do you have a discount coupon anywhere?
VT: No, I wish there was because I would just give it to you.
L: Well, do you have a smiling and happy Canadian discount? I promise to smile the whole day.
VT: (Laughs) We can probably throw in some extra wines and cheeses.
L: Sounds perfect, will you be on the tour? You sound fun.
VT: (Laughs) Well it will be me or Steven, either way you’ll have fun.

Side Story: A few hours later I checked my email and I saw one from Paul Robinson with the subject: Wine Tour. Now for those who don’t know Liz and I have a cousin named Paul Robinson from Ontario who is quite knowledgable about wine, and as a family the Robinsons love a good wine tour. So I just assumed this was from him. Alas- the owner of VineTrekker is also named Paul Robinson. It was a good sign.

Steven picked us up from the hostel at 7am to inform us that we would be having a personal tour (#offseasonwins). We promptly spent two hours driving through the ridiculous traffic that is Melbourne while I questioned repeatedly why anyone would choose to drive 2 hours each way to work when there is such a fantastic transit system. Steven gave me a history lesson on essentially everything Melbourne, and Liz napped. A little description of Steven so you can fully visualize our trio of the day: Steven is about 55 years old, with a thick Australian accent, father of two (Boy 25, Girl 21), and uses your first name in every sentence.

We wound our way into the Yarra Valley past fields filled with strawberries, cabbage, broccoli, pears, apples, cattle and of course GRAPES. So many grapes. For those keeping track- it had been just over a week since our last wine tour so we were long overdue for this one through one of the best wine regions in Australia.
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(Oh ya I forgot to mention....it was raining... You're shocked I know).

Our first stop was Coldstream Hills, a smaller (about 5000 bottles) independent winery, where we tasted 9 different wines. Now I’ve never been much of a Chardonnay person, but have always been up for the challenge of finding just the right one. Given that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the main varietals of the region I knew this would likely be the day I fulfilled that goal. The Chardonnay at Coldstream was the winner for Liz and I was also pretty impressed by it. (Apparently I was too excited and took no photos of their wines. My bad).

Next up was Chandon. The original makers of sparkling wine, the Chandon brand has wineries in France, Australia, the US and Argentina. Given the region is focused on growing 2 of the 3 classic champagne grapes Yarra is an ideal region for sparkling wine. As Steven put it, Chandon is in no way short of cash and their property showed it.
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We headed through the self guided tour of the winery which both explains and demonstrates the process of making champagne. My favourite was the riddling room which brought back fond memories of the video we watched in Wine Oneology of the riddling and dosage.
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We then made our way into the restaurant for our “tastings” paired with cheese and biscuits (known to those of us in Canada as crackers). These tastings were actually full glasses of a Brut, Brut Rose, Sparkling Pinot Shiraz, and Cuvee Riche. The Pinot Shiraz was the winner for me. Apparently other countries think Australians are crazy for making sparkling reds- I think they are on to something fantastic.
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Our third stop of the day was Punt Road. We started this tasting with their apple and pear ciders. The apple tasted like a glass of juice and the pear could easily turn into a dangerous night as there isn’t the slightest taste of it being an alcoholic beverage. We then worked our way through the wine list tasting 9 of their best reds and whites and finishing with their brand new pale ale. As craft beer is becoming more popular we learned a few of the wineries are now venturing into beer making.
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Next up was lunch at Yering Station- the oldest winery in the region.
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This is a copy of the menu. Notice this is the type of restaurant that is so fancy they don’t even tell you the prices.
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Today I ate my first Kangaroo. The good news: it was heaven, cooked to perfection and well balanced with the sweetness of the fig. The bad news: No piece of Kangaroo I eat will ever measure up. I was so excited I forgot to take a picture of this meal. I don’t believe in regrets, but if I did that would be up there. Our lunch came each with a proper glass of wine, and a tea/coffee to finish. With our bellies full and some of the previous wine absorbed we made our way to the cellar door to taste the remaining grape juices we hadn’t tried. Now what is genius is that this cellar door doubles as an art gallery. It’s like Vegas for snobs. Get them drunk on fine reserve wines and then encourage them to blow thousands on art. The bartender told us about a young girl (age 10) who was in the cellar last week and convinced her dad to buy her a painting within about 10 minutes. Serves him right, who brings a 10 year old on a wine tour?? Their wine list was much too extensive to try it all but I think we each had 5 or 6 more before Steven asked if we had one more left in us. OF COURSE WE DID.
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Last but not least we visited De Bortoli. This name may sound familiar as it is a huge brand with a vineyard in California. Of the 20 wines offered I tried 10 finishing off with their very famous 2009 Noble One- Sweet Botrytis Semillion- worth every penny of the $59 price tag. These wines were also paired with four cheeses (and of course more biscuits).
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We were more than satisfied with our tastings and our visit to the Yarra Valley as we headed back to the car for our trek back to the city. Within about 5 minutes we saw about 40 kangaroos hopping around the fields. They come out mostly at dawn and dusk so we were in prime viewing time. They like to stay in groups so where there is one there are many and we watched as they jumped freely over fences and through yards.

We said our goodbyes to Steven about 6:30 and quickly found Carina to swap stories of our day. After some down time we set out to have a final dinner together before going our separate ways in the morning (though we have tried very hard to convince Ca-rina that coming to Bali with us is a better option that returning to Germany to finish uni). Earlier in the day we had made it our mission to drink the Geuwertrzaminer purchased in NZ so we headed for what ended up being a whole street of Italian restaurants. As we passed one the owner offered us each a free glass of wine and the option of ordering “either what is on the menu or whatever we wanted” so we decided this was a good option. The food was delicious. I have no idea what this restaurant was called, otherwise I would recommend it.

Now that I have written this I’m quite impressed by just how much wine was consumed. As a dietitian I’m going to argue that those grapes count for my 8 servings of fruit.

I will leave you with these words of advice:
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--Lani

Posted by Flanilandlizard 02:53 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

To market, to market

Or: How my wallet got thinner while my waistband got wider.

Anzac Day sure took it out of us. I mean, we woke up at 3:30 AM, and did not go to bed until almost a full 24 hours later. I've only done that a handful of times (including the one time I thought working a 16-hour shift would be both safe and fun), and it does not bode well for me being a high-functioning person the following day.

However, despite my undeniable exhaustion, I still woke up on Saturday morning ready to stick with our original plan, which included: Running across the Harbour Bridge (app. 2.5 km there and back), going to the market in The Rocks, walking the Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach walk (6 km), and then going out for drinks with my wonderful Aussie friend Laura and some of her mates (I'M SO AUSTRALIAN NOW!!!). I can honestly say that some of these things happened. I can also honestly say that Lani did not wake up quite as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as me. For once (I am admittedly not a morning person).

First up, the run across the Harbour Bridge. As all of our dear readers forgot to make their donations to the "Lani climbs the Harbour Bridge Fund", we chose to take the, ahem, free-er option of walking across it. To increase our cardio, we decided to jog (this means I have burned more calories and thus, can drink more beers). It was as lovely as you can imagine, but to be perfectly honest, I'm glad Lani didn't spend $300 to climb it, as the views from our hostel are just as nice as from up there. Plus, now she has an extra $300 to spend on me!!
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Next, we headed to the infamous (because I said so; I'm not entirely sure it's actually infamous) weekend market in The Rocks. This turned out to be a fabulous idea, as the options for hand-crafted Australian souvenirs abounded. This is also where we found our very own 2UP kips, for those of you who were wondering. Thus, my wallet started to feel a tad light, while I could see my suitcase getting bigger... There were also many food samples to taste, and then we finished off with some street food. Waistline getting wider...

We then went back to the Hostel to put away our new treasures. And simultaneously decided that there was no way in H-E-Double hockey sticks that we were going to do a 6 km hike at that time. A nap sounded much more in order...

We did, however, get it together and meet up with Laura and her friends for drinks at a wonderful establishment known as Bar100 (in The Rocks). This drinking hole is so classy, in fact, that they were reluctant to let us in wearing our "thongs" (flip-flops). I told the guy that was all I had, and he promptly told me it was a good excuse to go shopping (but offered up no funding for said shopping trip). In the end, they decided it was okay if we went in with our toes showing, so long as we left before 9:00 pm. Luckily, no one tracked us down and kicked us out. In fact, we left of our own accord due to $20 drinks, and after noticing that we had entirely too little skin showing when compared to other ladies at the bar.

We then made our way up to the Glenmore (yes, the same Glenmore from Anzac Day! Good catch, loyal fans!), which turned out to have a very lovely roof-top patio. The drinks were now down to $8; which is insane compared to at home (where you get your parents/friends to buy beer and wine and then you take it to parties- ssh, don't tell), but is the norm Down Under. I will mention here that we dragged along our roommates Carina (from Germany; she had been living in Perth for a few months doing a student teaching internship) and Grace (pictured below; from South Africa; she had been in Adelaide for a family wedding and was spending some time in Sydney prior to heading back to Jo-burg). Laura's friends were all Australian, so it was quite the international bunch. We were so worldly that we spent the majority of the night discussing whether or not to go to a place called "Mr. Crackles", a local favourite late-night spot for pork crackling. I can't lie to you guys, we went to Mr. Crackles, and it smelled even worse than it tasted. It did soak up the "alcoholic beverages" though, and thus no hang-overs were to be had on Sunday morning.
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That's a good thing, because on Sunday morning we had to get up at 5:30 am to catch our flight to Melbourne (NB: Melbourne is pronounced Mel-bin, and if you pronounce it Mel-burn, you WILL be ridiculed by Aussies). I had a nice 3-hour sleep (in my other life I call this a long nap; however, when travelling my sleep habits tend towards the "sleep when you're dead" philosophy); and thus slept through both the shuttle ride to the airport, and the entire flight, from prior to take-off to after landing. I'm pretty sure this is Melbourne, though they really could have taken me anywhere...

After checking in to our new hostel (where we will once again be sharing a room with our lovely German school-teacher Carina), we headed to the (truly) infamous Queen Victoria Market; the largest open-air market in the world. It was so big that we spent around 3 hours there, and didn't see even half of it (we skipped the dairy/meat/fish/fruits and veggies halls, as we have plenty of groceries for now)! We spent the first while at the Food Court section. We did a once-over to ensure we had the BEST choices, and then chowed down on some quality street meat. I had to let my belt out a little...

Next, we were ready to conquer the market part of the market. The QVM is a bit different than the one in The Rocks, as instead of local hand-crafted gems, we mainly found Made in China goods/t-shirts, cheap electronics, clothing knock-offs, and more than a few weird stuffed animal costumes (it's not Halloween; I don't want to know...). Lani was convinced that in fact we had gotten on the wrong plane, and had ended up in Asia a few weeks early. The souvenirs still said "Australia" though, so we bought "some". This was when I ran out of money. If anyone actually wants their gifts, please send money so I can ship them home. Thanks in advance!

Afterwards, we made our way to the BRAND NEW H&M, which is the first in Australia. For some context, you should know that I brought four t-shirts on this trip, and am down to two less than half-way through. I also need to throw out some other clothes that have seen better days; and I thought H&M would be a good place to do some swapping. Turns out, the rest of Melbourne also needed to go to H&M yesterday afternoon; thus there was a line around the block. We found it more than a little humorous that we were in line for a store that is usually empty at home; however, we had no where else to be!! In the end, I came out with four shirts and a cardigan for $50- worth the wait. They smell so clean...
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Then we made our way back to meet Carina, who was fresh off the plane from Sydney. The three of us (I'm going to call us the Three Amigos, I think) headed to Chinatown for dinner, because Carina loves Chinatown an inordinate amount (I guess they don't have this in Munich- she should definitely come to Vancouver). This turned out to be an incredibly delicious and cheap dinner, as Chinatown dinners tend to be.
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We then went to a pub where there were both Aussie Rules Football (AFL; aka "footie") and a Premier League Football game playing (Chelsea vs. Liverpool, if that means anything to you; it doesn't to me). It turned out that the Three Amigos where the only girls in this pub, but I think I learned the rules of soccer (put the ball in the net), although no one scored in the very long 40 minutes I watched. AFL is still a giant mystery to me.

This brings us to today, the first day I've felt well rested in what seems like forever. We Three Amigos started out by riding the free City Circle tram to get our bearings in the city. We then did some shopping (please don't be so surprised, but I swear it was mostly gifts!!) and city wandering. The highlights of our tour included the Graffiti Street (Hosier Lane), Flinders Street Station, and Federation Square. I will post many pictures below, as this is an incredibly beautiful and interesting city, and also, we didn't take very many pictures the other days and you deserve pictures for reading this blog so faithfully.
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We also stopped in at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in hopes of catching the DreamWorks Animation Exhibition; however we couldn't spare the $22; so instead we hit up the free collection. The free collection is basically a viewing room where you can watch any of a number of free videos. We found this gem, entitled Blinky Bill. Please, watch the theme song. It's epic.
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For our evening activity, we made our way via tram to St. Kilda in search of Little Blue Penguins, cute bars, and RoCoCo. We found all three!! At the end of St. Kilda's pier, there is a breakwater that is protected and houses more than 1000 little blue bundles of joy, who make their way from the water onto dry land at dusk. Here is our attempt at a picture, but these little guys are really hard to photograph as they hide in rocks, and you're not allowed to use flash (they're sensitive!). It was truly amazing to see them climbing, hopping, and swimming, and I'm definitely bringing one of these home as well (hope my apartment in Philadelphia has a bathtub...).
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We then walked around Fitzroy Street and saw the legendary RoCoCo, where some very good friends of mine worked when they were living in Melbourne in 2007. We didn't go in, but I imagined Josh and Rachel bussing tables and chatting up the customers, and it was nice.

Next, we found a STINKING ADORABLE bar called Apartment 29, which was set up like an apartment, and also had giant Jenga, Scrabble tables, and a bathtub (I guess for pet Little Blue Penguins). This was where I proved my Scrabble skillz, beating both Lani and Carina (although it should be noted that Carina's first language is definitely not English, and she was awesome. She only used a German word once, while me and Lani used only English words because there are no Hebrew scrabble tiles). I just wanted to mention that I won Scrabble, because anyone who has played me at Words with Friends is actually no longer my friend, other than my Auntie Marla, who taught me all the evil tricks.
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Apparently there is also a great market in St. Kilda on weekends; but thankfully it is Monday. My wallet/waist can't take another market... at least until this weekend!

--Liz

Posted by Flanilandlizard 05:51 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Commemorate and Celebrate

For the past two weeks throughout NZ and Aus signs have been posted and flags have been waving; all in anticipation of ANZAC Day. Anzac Day, aptly named for the landing at ANZAC in WWI, is a national memorial day shared between the two countries to commemorate and celebrate those soldiers who have served and sacrificed for their respective countries. And when I say celebrate, I do mean CELEBRATE. Going into the day, we were quite excited as we had all sorts of questions about things like 2-Up, why there were so many beer gardens for a memorial day, very early morning services and in all how such a day unfolds. Let me say- this day did not disappoint and most of our questions were answered.

We got up early enough (3:15 am) that when I went down to the kitchen for tea I ran into some friends returning from the bar the night before. As I sat and chatted with them this exceptionally snooty girl who had been eavesdropping on our conversation looked at us and said "You know nothing will be open at all today out of respect for Anzac day", to which one of the boys said "So, no bars?" and she said "Well, the odd one will but they really aren't supposed to be". LIES! But I will get to that later (there were a lot of hours in this day...).

First up, we walked over to the Cenotaph at Martin Place to meet Laura, Liz's friend from her Haiti trip, to take part in the Anzac Day Dawn Service. (Side note: We tried to have Laura guest blog on this day but alas you are stuck with me). This is what I would call the commemoration portion of the day. This service is held at the same time as the soldiers landed on the Turkish Gallipoli Peninsula that became known as "Anzac". The service was approximately an hour long, which included some poems, hymns, prayers, the Army Band and some dedications. I was quite impressed to see that there were about 10 000 people at the service, spanning a large number of ages.
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Instead of wearing poppies on Anzac Day everyone wears a sprig of rosemary. This is one of those questions that we don't have an answer to, but it did smell amazing everywhere.

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After the service was done, we were feeling somewhat awake so decided against napping and followed the crowds to an RSL (Returned Service League) building for breakfast. What we didn't realize was that the food was free and the beer was 'a flowing (Time check: 6:00 am). So we stood in line for sausage and eggs served in a hot dog bun, opted for coffee over beer and hung out. While Liz and Laura were catching up, I worked my way into the conversation of another family (Mom, dad, two daughters and their partners aged about 30). Some highlights of this family were that the mom has 2 pet chickens that live in the house and are fed hot porridge for each meal, one of the girls met her partner playing 2-up, the dad surfs for an hour every morning with a group of other "old guys", and they described their 22-year old son who wasn't present as "the kid they sort of forgot to parent". Much like in NZ, people here love to share their life stories and hear everything about us and Canada.

With an hour left until the parade, we decided to go for a walk in search of some non-instant coffee. We headed towards Darling Harbour, past China Town, and up, down, and all around downtown. Unfortunately about 5 minutes into our walk it started to pour heaps. Laura was quite concerned for us but by this point, there isn't really an amount of rain that can deter us! Unfortunately, the combination of Anzac Day, the time of day, the rain, and all the people waiting for the parade, finding coffee took us about 45 minutes but was worth it as we walked past excited groups of people.

Finally it was 9:00 and the parade began! Now, if you like floats and clowns and dancing this was not the parade for you. But if you like watching people march, then this is 100% the parade for you. Approximately 15 000 servicemen past and present marched with their units.

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Due to the rain some of the older (possibly more important, the roles were unclear) servicemen were driven in taxis with the windows rolled down, making this parade feel like watching NYC traffic at some points. There were also some marching bands, horses and military vehicles.
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One highlight was seeing Dick Smith standing across the street from us holding a sign saying "Thanks". He's a very well-off and famous Australian who more than one person pointed out to us. We spent a portion of time later in the day trying to find out just how much he is worth but have yet to come up with a number.

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After about an hour of parade watching we were ready to move on and out of the rain, so we headed back to the hostel to "humanize" ourselves and then go for lunch. Time check: 12:00 PM. This is where I acquired free beer #1: Due to the bustle of the day all the bars use plastic glasses. The base of my glass was bent in and so I requested it be poured into a balanced glass. The bartender took the bar and said he would just pour me a new one. I told him not to waste beer so he handed me the first one back and poured me another. GO ME!
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We also ate some fantastic pizza while the sky cleared and Laura prepped us for our afternoon of 2UP!

Until this point in the day here are the facts we knew about 2UP: it's awesome, there is betting involved, it is only legal on Anzac Day between 12-4pm, and, oh ya, it's awesome. I'm hoping by now you are as excited and curious about 2UP as we were. We went into one bar to inquire about whether they were playing to which Snooty girl of the day said "No, it's only legal until 12". (LIES). Luckily, the entire street behind our hostel had been turned into beer gardens so we headed in that direction where we could hear the sweet sounds of 2UP.

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Laura informed us that a smaller bar is better because it's not as good with too many people, so we went into the bar next door -The Glenmore Hotel- grabbed a couple drinks and wiggled our way through the crowd.

Let me break it down for you: 2UP is essentially heads and tails with betting. The entire ordeal is coordinated by the ringkeeper. Anyone wishing to bet heads holds money over their head yelling out their bet.
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Anyone who wants to bet tails matches with a person holding up the dollar bill they are after. The person betting heads gets to hold the money. There's a lot of yelling.
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Then the spinner flips two one-cent pieces off the Kip (official 2UP flip board).
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The ringmaster gets to have the final word on the whether or not the toss is legal.
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An additional bonus rule that the bar we were playing at added is that if the spinner threw 5 consecutive bad throws (one head & one tail), they were required to do 10 push ups. This is all accompanied by, you guessed it, lots more beer.

I made my way to front of the ring in hopes of becoming the spinner. First, I made friends with some pro-2Uppers who were betting pineapples ($50 bills) each round. They are locals at the bar and after winning them some money (since there is lots of skill involved), they asked the ringmasters to let me up to be spinner. Again, this whole skill thing came into play when people were asking me what I would throw so they would know how to bet. My answer was picked up from a guy earlier in the day: "Tails never fails".

If you have just read all that and are scratching your head about the relevance of 2UP to Anzac Day, then I am happy to shed some light. 2UP was played in the trenches to help soldiers pass time and thus, it is played out of respect. Liz and I both bought kips so if this all sounds too ridiculous (or like the best thing ever) don't worry- a game of 2UP is in your future (we are pretty sure it isn't illegal in Canada).

After about 5 hours of 2UP we took a break from the crowds and went for a walk down to the Opera House. We didn't go inside, but did note that it's a bit 80's chic inside and could probably use a little facelift. That being said, it was fairly cool to get up close and personal with something so iconic but we also noted that it loses a bit of its magic up close.
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This also gave us a view of the bridge from a new angle. I am happy to report that it still looked like a bridge.

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After our walk Laura departed to head home for some shuteye and we made our way back into The Rocks (Time check: 6:00 pm).

When we got back to the room, our roommate Carina was fresh from some shopping and ready to start celebrating Anzac Day, so while Liz took a nap, Carina and I returned to the Glenmore. They were in the final rounds of 2UP at this point but we hung out, Liz rejoined us and sometime around midnight we made our way home to bed.

--Lani

Posted by Flanilandlizard 02:09 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

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