Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kangaroos! and other fun stuff

So we finally saw a kangaroo today.  Actually, we saw 5 of them.  We were on a  bike ride, and we just went down the street we live on, and at the dead end into the park, there they were, just hanging out.  We started off really far away, but just kept creeping closer to one of them.  He let us get like 10 feet away!  Here's a pic:

We saw a teenage-ish joey, too:

We even got some video of him hopping, although we had to get really close before he got motivated enough to hop away:

From kangaroo hop

Other than biking and kangaroo spotting, we have done mostly boring stuff this first week.  We did grocery shopping, went to the post office, walked around town, went to the library, etc.  I tried some new recipes, we napped, we watched TV, just basic relaxing stuff.  

It's been really nice to walk here.  They have a 12 km paved path along the beach for walking and biking and just near our house you can walk through a park along the beach.  Either place is lined with palm trees and has tropical birds zipping past your head.  I cannot stress how much of a racket the birds make here.  They are forever waking us up, and we have a nocturnal one (haven't been able to spy it yet) who has a really eerie call and it always sounds like he's in the pantry, but it's outside.  Anyway, the main swimming beach here is called Scarness, and it has a pier.  Here's three shots to the left, middle, and right on the end of the pier so you can kind of get a panorama.   

Very pretty, but as you can see, no waves like in Cronulla.  Fraser Island, which is the world's largest sand island, is off the coast of Hervey Bay, so it's really flat for good swimming.  Well, for me anyway.  Daniel the body surfer would like more waves.  If you go up or down the coast out of Fraser Island's protection, they actually have really good surfing beaches, so maybe we'll visit some of those.

I went to the doctor this week, too, to get my Cimzia prescription.  You can tell they are not used to people paying for things or not having a medicare card to show them.  At the doctors office she wasn't entirely sure how to use the credit card machine.  Nor was the pharmacy used to ringing up a $1700 bill.  The pharmacist admitted she was a little nervous and was triple checking her zeros.  Plus, the doctor's office looked like a free clinic.  No cushy waiting room or even a digital scale--just a slightly larger bathroom scale where it's hard to read where the line is pointing.  They gave me one month's worth, and I go see the GI specialist on Monday.  They didn't want to give me 6 months worth without being under a specialist's care.  I don't know what he's going to do besides read my doctor's notes and say are you fine, and I'll say yes, and then we'll be done and he'll have made $190.  So I had to pay $70 at the first doctor for him to refer me so I can pay another $190 so they can all read a letter from my doctor, look at his prescription, and write me an identical prescription.  Couldn't we have just done this all by phone or fax?  Thankfully, I think our insurance is going to reimburse us for all of it, or at least most of it.

We also went to Wetside on Saturday night.  This is a free water park in town, and every Saturday night they do a light show with music and the water fountains.  The thing on the right is a humpback whale sculpture.  There's also a huge whale tale in the center of a roundabout near downtown.  Hervey Bay is a breeding ground for humpbacks, so a lot of their tourism, aside for being a jumping off point for Fraser Island, is whale watching.  

One of the neatest parts of the show was a waterscreen.  They put a large fine mist into the air and then project movies onto the water.  Someone there mentioned it works better when it isn't so windy, but you can still make out the Wetside logo:

Honestly, the best part of the show was the little girl about 2 who was VERY excited to be there.  One of the movies they showed on the waterscreen had famous Aussie animals.  As each one came up she would shout what it was, or what color the lights in the fountains were changing:  "Dingo!  Fish!  Blue!  Red!  In between songs, the water and lights would stop for a few seconds and she always wanted to know where it went.  Her dad told her it was resting between songs.  

We went to the Baptist church this morning to see what it was like, and to see if we could get connected with a small group since the Anglicans don't have any.  It was as if they managed to cram every Baptist cliche and things that turn us off in one service.  We did meet Rhonda, the woman who hosts the small group we are going to go to and a nice couple we had after service tea with and talked about houseswapping.  They are in a houseswapping group here.  So, the people were very nice, but we didn't much care for the service.  We went to the Anglican church again tonight, and enjoyed it a lot again, so we'll just be staying put there and hope the people in the small group don't ask where we are on Sundays!  

At the Anglican church they ask for birthdays and anniversaries every week and if you have one or the other they give you a chocolate frog.  One of the ladies piped up we should get a frog since we'll miss both, so they consented and gave us each one.  They said now that we've been here twice were not visitors any more, just locals.  A very nice couple we've talked to twice now and I can't for the life of me remember their names insisted that they'd have to have us over in the next couple of weeks for a barbie, and Daniel got very excited again.  

Don't think there's much else to report.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tour of the Queensland Digs

So, I told Daniel that while I think his posts are hilarious, now my posting about what we are doing is going to be boring.  I guess he's the color commentator and I'm the play by play.

We arrived safely and, even better, without incident yesterday at Hervey Bay.  Our swapping partners for this leg of the trip are very organized, and that made things easy at the airport.  We had a short flight up to Brisbane, collected all of our many bags, hopped the shuttle to the long-term parking lot where they left the car, and we headed further up the coast about 4 hours.  It's warmer and sunnier but more remote in Queensland.  They have more small towns as Brisbane and Cairns are about their only big cities.  We arrived at the house in the dark, but found it okay and had no trouble getting inside.  They had left us a nice bowl of fruit and much to our delight, a package of Lindt truffles.  The house is big and full of rustic antiques that Richard has collected (Theresa says she doesn't get much say on the decor :)  I thought I'd take you on a tour of most of the house.  Two of the rooms belong to teenage boys, so they aren't too exciting.

So, here's the front of the house, although it's pretty clear no one uses that door.

To the left of the door is one lemon tree, to the right of the door is another lemon tree, a mandarin tree, and that giant green blob on the far right is a lime tree.  Here it is a bit closer:

To say that it is a prolific lime tree still seems to be a bit of an understatement.  I collected 20 plus limes just off the ground and probably left 30 under the tree where it was too prickly to reach.  This does not count all the ones still on the tree, or the 40-50 limes she already had inside.  I will be making a lot of limeade it seems. I also had a good dozen lemons to pick up off the ground and have already made a pitcher of lemonade complete with a bit of mint from her pots of herbs.

This is the drive, on the right side of the house.  We drove that black tiny SUV from the airport, and we also have the use of the white car.  I'm not sure the classic car even runs.  On the same side of the house, just beyond the carport is the BBQ area.

They have a mammoth grill called the Outback.  I expected no less of Aussies.  It's in the back corner where you can't see, so I had to take a picture of our barbie itself.

We haven't thrown any shrimp/prawns on it yet, but it looks like it could hold a lot of them.  So, from the barbie area you go through the side door, which I believe everyone uses.  It is a lovely stained glass, which is very common in both doors and windows in houses here.

Once you are in the door, if you turn left, you see this long hallway:

The first and second doors on the right are the teenage boys bedrooms I mentioned before.  The first door on the left is the office.  They left a note saying that if Daniel felt so moved he could try to repair their CPU tower.  He already has a computer job!

The next door to the left is the spare bathroom.  I told Daniel I guess we could each have our own bathroom, but that would mean double cleaning, so we thought we'd share like normal.  

The last door on the left is the laundry room.  No dryer, but there's a massive clothes line on the left side of the house along with the kayaks.

Finally, when you get to the end of the hall, it opens out on their second lounge, which I think mostly the boys use, as it has the Playstation hooked up to that TV.  The door there is the front door to the house.

Okay, now that you've seen the side of the house we don't really use, we'll show you the side we do.  If you come in that pretty side door and go to the right instead, it opens up to a great room with dining area, kitchen, and lounge (as they call living rooms).  Here's each side of it.

To the right of the lounge is the master bedroom.  Here's one end of it.  The bathroom is on the left and the right is a closet.  Once again I caught Daniel sleeping.

Here's the other side of the bedroom with a nice bay window.  I should have opened the curtains so you could see the view, but it is the same view from the veranda, which I'll show you next.

So here's the lovely veranda out back.  We have some very friendly birds that Theresa hand feeds, so they are looking to me now.  I'll have to get a picture of them.  It's not hard.  Basically you just walk outside and they swoop down to greet you.  Those are grape vines growing up the sides that I imagine will be much prettier when they leaf out in the spring.

The rear of the house backs up to a park, which reminded me a lot of Daniel's parents house.  Here's the view from the veranda.

Now right about the middle of the treeline, you can actually see the ocean, but you can't tell in this pic, so I zoomed in:

So that's the place.  Very nice and spacious.  We'll have some better pictures of the beach once we visit it.  Today was wake up late and then marathon grocery shopping at Aldi, the produce market here, and then Cole's, which is big grocery store like a Kroger, but more expensive than the previous two.  We go there last to just get the things we couldn't find elsewhere.  For those of you born in the 70s or earlier, you might be interested  to know that Woolworths still exists here, both in it's "dimestore" form, although I dare you to find anything in there for 10 cents, and is the biggest supermarket chain in Australia.  They even have gas stations and bottle shops (liquor stores) all owned by "Woolies" as it is affectionately called.  We have a Woolies in HB, too, but it's not as cheap as the Coles.  There's, of course, a McDonalds which were were told they call Mackies (they really like to put an "e" sound on everything here). It has pretty much everything we could want here, even a Target, their version of Home Depot (Buntings) and movie theater, so we probably won't have to wander far for anything.  

We found a 6pm Anglican service again.  Also small, about 20 people, although they said they can have as many as 50 at that service.  Most people go to the morning service.  Why?  Why do people want to get up?  I just can't comprehend it.  It was a nice service and a very friendly bunch who I think just about all of them shook our hand at some point.  The pastor said he's been trying to set up a barbie for the young adults (20s-30s) and said he'd let us know when that was if we where interested.  I was a bit confused because for all the barbie talk amongst ourselves, we hadn't actually heard an Aussie (which is pronounced Ozzie, by the way) say it.  I thought he said baby.  I kept thinking he was inviting us to a baby shower for a young couple in the church, so I was a bit lost, but Daniel recognized "barbie" right away and was nodding emphatically.  It's his main goal while we are here to get invited to a barbie.  

Well, it is almost 11pm here, and I'm tired, so that's it for now.  We'll keep you updated as we keep exploring.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lies, Lies, and Well Maybe One or Two Lies In Toto

In the words of a great poet,

Stop what you're doin'
because I'm about to ruin
the image and the style that you're used to

The self-evident truths we all know about Australia are not turning out to be so true!

What is more Australian, as far as Americans know, than "Throw another shrimp on the Barbie?"  This phrase was actually spread to Americans by the Australia Tourism Commission via a commercial starring Paul Hogan. The commercial was actually conceived before he was famous. It is probably one of the most successful self-stereotyping efforts in history.  We can only hold so many thoughts about foreign lands, and the shrimp shot to the top for our memory slots for Australia.  I can only think of South Central Los Angeles' "Go ahead, visit, fool! We'll put another cap in your ***" as getting across a message so effectively.

However, Australians call shrimps prawns.  So they would throw another prawn on the barbie.  They probably did a little research and discovered that prawns didn't excite the American public.  So they laughed all the way to the bank as they fed us their lies.

I watched a lot of MTV news in my formative years.  And The Comedy Channel news.  And CNN, when wars were on.  And the President, when he interrupted prime time.  And many very speical episodes and "The More You Know"s. And nobody ever mentioned this.  They were complicit in our mis-education. The lies stop now.  Start throwing prawns!

So I bring us back to the poet, with a slight twist of his words.
I sound funny
but yo I'm makin' money see
so yo world I hope you're ready for me.

"Shrimp on the barbie" made the world ready for Australia.  It's about more than money, I suppose.  It's about luring people to the other side of the world for their own good.  But still, part of you dies when a lie is told(1).

Actually the truth has been out there in the public for a while. It's been a secret out in the open, like how they make iPods out of soylent green at Area 51 (2).  See .

The barbie part is definitely true, with slang like brekky (breakfast) and footy (Australian rules football) running rampant. To the untrained ear, it sounds cutesy sometimes, like I'm going to the potty.  

Speaking of which, the other self evident truth, that toilets flush backwards is still as murky as a rest area bathroom 100 km away from nowhere, in the bush in South Australia.

The water just goes down.   The toilets which I have investigated here don't use the traditional American floating flap system(3).   Here, it's more of an up and down valve.  To mix some metaphors, Justin Bieber's hair kind of swirls.  A Marine's hair just goes up and down (in the most deadly manner possible).  These are Marine toilets here.  I don't know how much water they use, but it flows like a jet engine, born of a country that knows the energy of crashing surf.  More investigations to come.

(1)This is itself a lie.  There's of course the whole Nazi asking you about Anne Frank exception and all that.
(2)Don't forget to stop by the cafeteria when you take the Area 51 tour.  They can throw another soylent green on barbie with the best of them. People who say "soylent green is people!" haven't tasted it.
(3) If you don't know what I'm talking about, open the top of your toilet.  Don't worry.  The water at the top is perfectly clean.  Look around. Fix leaks. Buy a new, water efficient one at the Durham Costco: $92, with a $100 water credit from the city.  You have to destroy the old one, which is easily done when you store it wrong in your garage, you know, theoretically.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Between where the Great Ocean road and Adelaide lie there isn’t much.  It’s very pretty with green hills with more sheep and cows and even a few alpacas.  Once we got into the state of South Australia, we started to see all the vineyards.  SA is the biggest wine producing state.  It was a very strange sight.  I have seen vineyards in California and Europe, and they all basically look the same, a few acres of vines on a hillside so they can get the best solar radiation.  South Australia is a whole new ball game.  They get such good sun out here and the soil is perfect, too, regardless if they are on a mountain.  So instead you get miles of vineyards that are so large they look more like large scale grape fields.  Honestly, it was like being in the Midwest where all you can see for miles is corn, only it was row after row of grape vines.  It wasn’t as pretty, although partly that was because it’s winter and the vines don’t have any leaves on them.  

We had a bit more excitement that we wanted the last hour, though.  We ate at an Australian fast food chain called Red Rooster for lunch, and Daniel got a mild case of food poisoning from his fish and chips.  I had a chicken sandwich, so thankfully I was okay.  He was so miserable by the time we arrived, he went straight to bed, and Ruth was kind enough to take me to the store so we could get something to heat up for dinner so we wouldn’t have to go out again.

We are doing a homestay/bed and breakfast in Adelaide.  A homestay is more casual that a B&B and doesn’t always include breakfast, and if it does it’s also more informal—cereal, tea, toast.  They aren’t as fancy, but you usually have a nice spare bedroom in someone’s house who likes to be hospitable.  Our host is Ruth, and we have a lovely room and sitting area, and since no one is in the other spare room, we also have the bathroom all to ourselves.  We have cereal, toast, tea, and fruit in the morning and she usually throws in a fried egg, too, so we are well fed.  She also is a wonderful gardener, so there are fresh flowers all over the house.  She is quite the character, having had three careers and traveled all over the world.  Every time we see her she treats us to a new tale and brings us a tea tray every evening.  All of this loveliness cost us about $50 less than a hotel a night, so it’s even nicer. 

I think I mentioned before we are not used to doing something every day, and combined with Daniel’s queasiness the night before, we didn’t get out the next day until 1pm.  Thankfully, Adelaide isn’t as big a city, so we’ve had less to cover, so getting out late wasn’t a bit deal.  We went to a craft store first that was supposed to be for emerging artists, and once again, it was more like higher priced established artist craft, so we didn’t linger.  We ate a disappointed lamb gyro that was mostly gristle, and were briefly harassed by some random Italian guys.  I admit I was not getting a favorable first impression of Adelaide.  Then we crossed over to the other side of town and had a much more pleasant afternoon.

We started at the Wine Centre of Australia.  This was a really interesting museum that took you through the wine making process.  They modeled the outside to look like a giant oak barrel and the walls were painted in such a way as to mimic cork. 

We discovered a few interesting facts, one being that there actually is a machine that harvests grapes.  I though they still had to do it all by hand.  Also, that the Australian grape vines are actually the world’s oldest.  A particular parasite wiped out most of the old vines in Europe, but Australia isolated the one case they had by completely burning the vineyard infected.  They have some vines over 150 years old.  I also found interesting that there’s a particular mold that usually destroys the plant, but in just the right conditions and timing this mold will actually turn some harvests into the best sweet wines the vineyards produce, but they can’t really control which way the mold swings.  

They also had an interactive program where you could make all the decisions about making a wine (where to plant, what time of day to harvest, when to add the yeast, what to store it in, and about 8 other factors), and then they would rate your wine.  The first one I did, a Riesling, I was told could be served with appalling food or could have a future as an industrial cleaner J  The second time I did a Shiraz and read all of the hints you could look at and made some better guesses, and that one was awarded a gold medal, the highest honor.  It was fun and stressed how there were so many points where it could go wrong.  I was amazed and how much wine and how many regions there are in Australia.  I went to a similar sort of place in Portugal, and they talked about the 13 wine growing regions.  Australia currently has over forty regions, and 23 different types of grapes.  I took a picture here of just some of the different Australian wine labels.  Believe it or not, we didn’t taste any though.  They weren’t doing tastings at the time unless you went to their cafĂ©.  I’m sure other opportunities to taste Australian wine will present themselves, though.

After that we did some shopping on Rundle Street.  It was a pretty setting and a little less overwhelming than some of the shopping centers we’ve gone to in Sydney and Melbourne.  I actually finally found a craft shop that was a bit more affordable, and a neat tea shop, and a few others.  I also found the nicest shop workers yet, being very helpful and chatting with you about anything.  It seems everyone knows someone that lives in the States or has visited themselves.  Adelaide strikes me as the Durham of Australia.  It kind of gets a bad rap as not being as great as Sydney or Melbourne, but is actually quite charming and smaller and more affordable.  It also reminds me of NC because there’s lots of trees, so it’s very green and flatter than some of the other cities we’ve been to.

We found a Mexican place, which is a bit rare here, called Burp.  I probably would have eaten there just because I thought the name was funny, but it was also the closest to a Chipotle we’ve seen.  They don’t heat up their tortillas, though, and their spicy sauce needed to be heated up a bit to just be what I would consider mild.  I thought it was about on par with Moe’s—so no Chipotle, but pretty good for here.  We were hoping to find another church that had an evening service, but no luck this time.

This morning we also started slow after a long breakfast with stories from Ruth and made a couple calls home.  Then we went to the Haigh Chocolate visitor centre and factory.  Haigh’s is an Australian chocolate company that actually makes its own chocolate, from the raw beans they import and roast themselves.  It’s still family owned, only on it’s third generation.  They also own their own shops, 13 in all in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.  They want to eventually expand into the rest of Australia, but have no desire to go international, so they don’t ship overseas or anything.  The smells alone where worth the trip.  The tour was fun, though, and they gave us a couple different kinds of chocolate to try (all very good) and then our tour was lucky enough to be chosen to sample a new product and give feedback, so that meant even more chocolate.  Then when you buy something in the store (yeah, like we were going to get out of there without buying anything), they give you even more chocolate.  I was so full of free chocolate, I didn’t want much lunch.  Daniel said it only made him hungrier. 

The best part of the tour was this five year old there for her birthday that made the best comments.  She found a good listening ear in Daniel, so she kept telling him things.  At one point the guide mentioned that Haigh’s used to sell ice cream, and she announced that she liked ice cream loudly, and Daniel and her had an instant bond, that and they both shared a preference for chocolate with sprinkles.  She was pretty smart, too.  The guide talked about how the more cocoa you put in chocolate, the more bitter it becomes.  She said she they put about 53% in their dark chocolate and she had a 90% cocoa dark chocolate once and made a face.  The little girl said, “Then 100% tastes terrible!”  They like their chocolate very sweet here.  I’m generally a milk chocolate girl, but I actually like the dark better in Oz.  Haigh’s is also known for its chocolate frogs, which I thought was very Harry Potter of them.  Here they are below—the green ones are mint chocolate, the gold are milk, and the brown are dark.

After the tour we found a public library to do some internet catch up, since we don’t have any internet at the homestay.  So there will probably be a barrage of posts all at once when we get back to Sydney.  Tomorrow we leave to drive back to Sydney across the bush.  We are staying the night in a cabin part of the way through, so we’ll get back on Thursday and we fly to Queensland on Saturday.  Hard to believe we’ve been here almost a month.

Last Day in Melbourne and Great Ocean Road

Our last day in Melbourne was fairly low key.  Daniel slept in and I went to Prahran Market, which is a gourmet food market.  They had lots of separate stalls for various ethnic foods, delis, cheese shops, nut shops, meat, produce, and even a mushroom shop.  There was also a store called the Essential Ingredient which reminded me of A Southern Season, complete with cooking classes on the second floor.  The highlight, though, was the cooking demonstration.

Louise and I got pretty well acquainted as I parked myself in front of her mini kitchen.  It was technically a stall for Bloch kitchen appliances, but in such a non pushy way I had to ask her if she was just working for the market or a particular person.  I was particularly interested because she was cooking game-duck, rabbit, and kangaroo.  I don’t really know how to cook any of those, so I was an eager pupil.  I watched roast a rabbit and then put the meat into a rabbit pie.  I then did a bit more touring of the market and then headed back for the kangaroo steaks.  Not only did she show me how to cook the things, she let me ask lots of questions, explained how Aussies feel about game (you either love it or hate it, but lots of strong reactions, some of which I got to witness), gave me a short culinary history of Australia, and even art.  It turns out when she wasn’t cooking she was sculpting, so we did not run out of things to talk about.  I got to taste the rabbit pie and the kangaroo steak.  The roo as it is sometimes called was delicious.  I will definitely be cooking some more of that.  I also discovered that a lot of Aussies call roo Skippy.  This is a reference to a TV show much like Lassie with Timmy falling down the well and all that, but with a kangaroo named Skippy instead of a border collie.   Louise said it was rather fake at times with obvious stuffed floating kangaroo paws because you can’t train a kangaroo to do anything.  I wrapped up my time at the market by eating the best falafel I’ve ever tasted, so I had to take a picture of it.

After the market, Daniel met up with me and then we walked to St. Kilda, the beach closest to Melbourne.  It was nice and pretty, but pretty much like the rest of the city beaches we have seen.  There’s a picture below.  There is a penguin colony nearby, but we didn’t see any.  At this point we had walked probably 4 miles all told and I had two blisters, so Daniel was kind enough to go back to the market (the half way point) and retrieve the car.  We went back to the Italian place for dinner, mostly just to eat the sticky date pudding again.

The next morning we headed off to drive the Great Ocean Road.  The GPS said we had to cover about 3 hours of driving over the whole day, so we took our time.  It fibbed a bit, as the twisty coastal road took us longer than that, but we still were able to take a leisurely pace.  Our first stop was Bells Beach.  Bells is known for its surfing competition held there every Easter.  The waves weren’t actually too high, but it did look like good surfing.  The surfers seemed to be able to catch more waves and wipe out less, so maybe it’s good surfing, not big waves.  Here’s the beach. 

After eating our packed lunch, we hit the road again and next stopped at the Split Signal Lighthouse, a very picturesque place, but not much was there but the lighthouse.

We tried to stop at the Otway Lighthouse, too, where our friends the Webbers took some incredible shots of waves breaking around the lighthouse, but it cost $15 apiece, so we decided the signal lighthouse would do us.  However, we had to drive through part of Otway National Park to get there, and that brought us in close contact with some animals.  First of all were a lot of cows, who just sort of block the whole road and won’t move.  Honking and revving did not phase them in the least.  I offered to do my farm girl part and go slap some rumps, but Daniel decided trying to basically nip at their heels with the bumper, and that seemed to get them moving enough to get through. 

The real prize, though, were the koalas!  We finally found some munching away high up in the trees.  Daniel pulled over and let me snap pictures of a group of six of them.

On we went to the Twelve Apostles, a rock formation that is the most famous part of the Ocean Road, although it’s more like the six apostles now as some of them have crumbled.  We reached them right as the sun was setting, and it was just gorgeous.

Finally we had just enough light left to see Loch Ard Gorge, named after the ship that met its end there, with only an 18 year old girl making it to shore.  You can only go into the gorge at certain times a day, as at high tide it fills up.  The tide was coming in, so we didn’t tarry long.

I think this was the prettiest part of our trip thus far.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


By the time we reached Melbourne, we were a bit tired from all our activity in Sydney and Canberra.  We’re not used to go-go-going all the time, so even though we only have four days here, we’ve been sleeping in a bit and don’t really get out the door until 11am-noon.  If we are tired, though, we don’t really enjoy the sights anyway.  Plus, we have to have a lot of energy for all that walking.  Because driving is a bit crazy and parking can be expensive, we have been using public transport and walking.  We seem to be averaging about 2-3 hours of walking a day, and that doesn’t include all the wandering through museums and such.  So by the end of the day we are dog tired, our feet hurt, and we’re ravenous. 

There is a free tourist shuttle bus here, which is mostly what we did the first day.  We rode it the full circuit to get the lay of the land and make mental notes about what we wanted to come back and spend more time on.  They had a stop for the Melbourne Cricket Ground.  This is the largest stadium in the southern hemisphere (100,000 seats) For Cricket.  Weird.  Here's the hallowed stadium here:

On the bus there’s a commentary that plays, too, so that was helpful.  We did get off at the visitor’s centre for some maps and to see St. Paul's Cathedral (cathedral doors pictured below) and then again at the docklands stop.

The Docklands is sort of what the name implies.  At one time it was an active dock/harbor but for some reason that is not the case anymore, so they have built a huge shopping center and a large ferris wheel called the Southern Star.  The Star doesn’t actually work at the time being.  A few years ago during a heat wave it stopped working and they had to do a 20 million dollar upgrade they haven’t quite finished yet, but I think it’s supposed to reopen in 2012.  We did not get off to go to the Star or mall, though.  We got off because they had a Costco. 

So it’s sort of a long running joke that Daniel and I end every date at Costco.  I think there might even have been a crack made about us not being able to date in Australia because they didn’t have Costco.  Well, leave it to us find the one whole Costco in all of Australia.  It’s only been open 2 years the Californian at Customer Service informed us.   We wandered around a bit comparing prices, and it was still more expensive than home, but had some US stuff we hadn’t seen yet like pickle relish and peanut butter made with all peanuts, not 85% peanuts, and Heinz ketchup, not tomato sauce.  They still had the cream puffs and most importantly the snack bar.  The hotdog/coke deal here is $2.50 instead of $1.50, but that’s still dirt cheap, and they had free refills, too.  They still had the giant pizzas and chicken bakes and even the very berry sundaes.  It was heaven.  Laugh all you want, but it made our day.

We got back to the hotel and then went out walking again for another 2.5 hours.  We explored the suburb of South Yarra, where our hotel is.  It’s supposed to be one of the ritzy suburbs of Melbourne and has two main roads, Toorak and Chapel, lined with shops and restaurants.  It’s also the home of a huge gourmet produce and food market, which I’m planning on seeing tomorrow. 

The second day we also went in a bit late and started at the Shrine of Remembrance, which is a memorial that was mostly build after WWI, but then they added after WWII, Vietnam, Iraq, etc. and is generally just a memorial to the armed forces now.  It's huge, as you can see below.

Next we went to the Australian Centre of the Moving Image.  They had an exhibit that traced the beginnings of silent films Thomas Edison made to the introduction of sound and color, then TV, global broadcasts, internet, video games, etc.  You could even play asteroids on an old Atari.  They had a special section with mementos from famous Australian movies and actors like Crocodile Dundee’s hat and knife (pictured below), the Mad Max car, Geoffrey Rush’s script from Shine, Cate Blanchett’s dress from Elizabeth, and they had a whole section dedicated to Baz Luhrman. 

After beholding the Dundee hat and knife, Daniel decided he was done for the day, and suspected he took Lunesta this morning instead of his medicine that helps keep him alert (unfortunately, both are blue pills), so he went back to nap.  I pressed on to Craft Victoria, which was a lot further away than I thought, and then turned out to be a teeny tiny one room gallery.  I didn’t stay but about 10 minutes before I headed all the way back to the main art gallery of Victoria.  It’s a very pretty building with a waterfall in the front when you come in.

It wasn’t particularly interesting, though.  Oh, it considered one of if not the finest gallery in Australia, but that means they have room after room of paintings by greats like Monet and and his ilk.  I believe I had a whole blog post in Europe about how I don’t like paintings, and this continues to be true.  I love craft-wood, glass, metal, ceramic, paper, textiles.  So places like the Mint Museum in Charlotte and the Chihuly exhibit in Boston or the Rodin sculpture museum in Paris can consume me for hours, but I can breeze through a place with Picassos, Van Goghs and Renoir in a half an hour.  I actually spend more time in the gallery in Canberra because they had some metal working and textile exhibits and aboriginal wood pieces. 

So, I began the long walk back to the hotel.  It’s been drizzly for the last two days.  It’s what my mom always called spitting. You think, I don’t need to get out my umbrella for this, but then 20 minutes later you’re soaked and shivering.  I’m sure those of you back in NC would kill to be cold right now, so I won’t complain too much.  It’s sort of like early March in NC here—50s, rainy, and the trees are starting to bud and a few are blooming. 

I woke Daniel up to let me in and then drank some coffee and crawled into bed for a short nap while he watched kid’s cartoons.  I heard a couple of them, including a very cute one about sheep that was done by the same people who do Wallace and Grommit/Chicken Run.  We then set out to walk, again, to dinner.
We hadn’t eaten at a restaurant the whole time we’ve been here because they are expensive.  We’ve done some fast food and a cafeteria type place once, but that’s it.  However, since we were able to eat so cheap yesterday at the Costco food court, we decided to splurge for a real dinner tonight.  Melbourne had a large influx of Italian immigrants at one point, so they have a lot of good Italian food.  They also have a lot of good Asian, but that seems to be the case everywhere here, so we thought we’d capitalize on the Italian.  It was wonderful.  I had homemade gnocchi with a spicy red sauce and Daniel had a calzone like thing with roasted eggplant, spinach, feta, sun-dried tomatoes (or semi-dry as they call them here), olives, artichokes, and mushrooms.    We also got some garlic bread and then couldn’t resist the sticky date pudding.  This was a moist sweet cake with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.  We’re seriously thinking about going back again tomorrow just to get more date pudding.  It was lovely and made you feel human again after been cold and wet all day.  We unfortunately had to walk back, but at least it had stopped raining.