Thursday, November 19, 2009

Melbourne and on

We arrived in Melbourne, checked into the hotel, and then went out to meet a friend of Scotty's from his days at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. We had a good walk around downtown Melbourne, wandered through a few of the little lanes and saw some amazing street art and graffiti, and then wentto a brewpub for dinner. We finally ate some cute Aussie animals, trying both kangaroo and emu. Emu has sort of a turkey-elk flavor (too gamy for me), but the kangaroo was good... a bit more like beef. We finished the night by heading down the river to Melbourne's casino, which is the biggest one in Australia. They do a show along the river with flamethrowers, kind of like what the Bellagio does with water.

Melbourne along the Yarra River:


The next morning we took a walk to a coffee shop that we'd read about in Australian Traveller called St Ali. Their goal is to emulate StumpTown coffee in Portland, so we figured we'd be the judges of that. And holy crap did they have good coffee... absolutely worth walking through the 35 degree heat for (35 C = 95 F, for those of you back home). They had all kinds of cool coffee machines... it looked like a mad scientist's lab, except that it had really good cupcakes too. And a had a braised pear and almond muffin that was to die for.

We then headed to the airport and (thank GOD) finally turned in the car and didn't have to drive on the wrong side of the road any more. It was so covered with bug splats that there's no way they could have told if we'd damaged it, and we were let off scot-free.

Pooped at the end of our trip:

The next couple of days I took no pictures so, it's gonna be all dense text and no illustrations. Sorry kids!

Actually, Wednesday and Thursday were mostly work and errand days. I did some walking back through the botanic garden (I think it really is my favorite thing in Sydney) and also wrote my article on Ned Kelly's Last Stand for the consideration of our mates over at Australian Traveller.

Friday after work there was a tequila tasting for one of Klick's clients, and we were invited to that, which naturally turned into a night of lots and lots of drinking ("If your first stop is tequila, your second stop is going to be anywhere but home"). Scotty and I officially outdrank a big burly Aussie dude. Right on! Scotty had some terrible nachos at a bar (why do we keep trying the Mexican food down here???) and we stopped for meat pies as we stumbled the way homeward. Kim had reimbursed us for our trip expenses earlier that day, and I had made Scotty give me half the money and then told him to divide up what he had left between a couple of pockets so that if we ended up losing any of it we wouldn't lose all of it... drunk logic but it turned out to be a good thing, because somewhere on the way home we lost $200. Could have been way worse! We like to think that we supplied someone with a really fun night. It was probably some lucky bastard in the pie shop.

Saturday morning we left for the Whitsundays, and that's where teh next post will pick up.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A guest post from Scotty

I know...i says Lori made this post. but we're in the airport and i'm sleepy.

We're going to the beach. I will lie on it. And sleep. Perhaps read a book, but only if truly pressed. The next 24 hours will be about moving as little as possible, except perhaps to eat. It's Koala Weekend!
We'll be in the Whitsundays and Brisbane for the next couple of days... I'll play lots and lots of catch up when we get back.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Road trip, parte deux

We ate a late lunch in Canberra and then headed on toward Ned Kelly country. Ned Kelly is sort of the Australian version of Jesse James, except that he was even more of a character, and made his last stand with a soup pot on his head and a makeshift suit of armor. The landscape changed from the mountains along the coast to hills and grass and sparser trees.

Views from the road:

This was our long driving day, so we had to keep on truckin' past lots of places we would have liked to stop and see and get on to Beechworth, where we were booked for a ghost tour in an abandoned asylum, and then to sleep in another part of the asylum that had been converted into a hotel. When we arrived in Beechworth at 8:00 p.m., we found that their Celtic Festival was in full swing, and that's the only reason that we could get dinner so late. Lucky us. We went straight to our hotel and checked in so that we could get to the ghost tour by 9. I don't know how much of the information our guide gave us was true, but it sure was creepy. And I took some pictures that I know the ghost hunters group in Chicago would have been excited about.

See the orb?

This theater was one of the nicer parts of the asylum, where patients were allowed to sing and be dressed in normal clothes. You can see lots of happy little orbs in this picture:

Our guide was very good at creating a spooky mood, and he'd usually get everyone really scared, and then someone would interrupt him and say, "Hey look! There's an opossum out there." He started threatening to channel Steve Irwin and even that didn't get people to quit looking for opossums instead of ghosts.

After the tour of the abandoned parts, our hotel really didn't feel so creepy anymore, even though on the way to our room we passed two giant steel doors that used to be used to lock in the patients.

The next morning we ate breakfast and then headed into town to see the courthouse where Ned Kelly was held and/or tried on various occasions, and also to find some antihistamines because ever since we'd entered the interior of the country, my face had been melting from hay fever. Turns out the hardest thing to find in rural Australia is a pharmacy open for more than an hour in the morning on a Sunday.

We drove from Beechworth to Glenrowan, site of Ned Kelly's final clash with police, and we arrived just in time for the annual Ned Kelly Festival, complete with a reenactment of the siege, yabbie races, BBQ, whip cracking demos, and all that good small town festival stuff. But first we had to go to the amazing animatronic Ned Kelly attraction, Ned Kelly's Last Stand, which was the real reason we came to Glenrowan at all.

Warning for Ned Kelly's Last Stand:

Ned Kelly's Last Stand is phenomenally awful robotic show about the last days of Ned Kelly. We talked to the 75 year old guy who built it afterwards, and he told us it's taken him 30 years. He's still not done. He was really fun to talk to, and in between shamelessly hitting on me and showing us his Viagra prescription, he gave us a tour of his house and explained why he's completely unapologetic when his attraction makes children cry. In his mind, he's presented history as is actually was, and he's not going to change it for anyone. Nor does he see any contradiction between presenting it "exactly as it was" and basing large parts of the script on "Gunfight at the OK Corral" and "High Noon."

Inside Ned Kelly's Last Stand:

An actor in full Ned Kelly armor at the festival reenactment:

We had to tear ourselves away from Glenrowan because we still had 3 or 4 hours to drive to get to the Mornington Peninsula.

As a footnote to this day, we also made it a day of trying food that we can get in the U.S. for the sake of comparison. McDonalds is exactly the same, but the fries are actually better (maybe they still use beef tallow in Oz?), but Mexican food is a complete abomination. The bar in the Mexican place had more whiskey than tequila, and that just means they had both Jack Daniels and Jim Beam. The margaritas came from a soft serve machine (and tasted like the inside of the machine) and the glasses were rimmed with iodized table salt. The food was probably what you'd get if someone described Mexican food to a cook who had never been anywhere near Mexico or even a Taco Bell. Oddly enough, the place was called Taco Bill. We shoulda known better.

I was very happy to get to Mornington and back to the coast, where my eyes could finally stop watering and I could go 5 minutes without sneezing. We had our terrible Mexican food and then walked on the beach and back to the hotel. The next day we drove out to Montalto Vineyards for a wine tasting. It was a perfect day to be out driving through the hills.

Montalto's vineyards:

We bought half a case of wine, and headed back toward the coast of Port Phillip Bay for lunch at a place that sources all their ingredients from the peninsula, and it was a really amazing meal. I had a leek and bleu cheese tart that came with roasted eggp
lant and zucchini and other veggies, and Scotty had the ocean trout which was also delicious, but I won lunch. We hung around at the garden surrounding the restaurant for a little while, and then started up toward Melbourne to meet a friend of Scotty's.

Crazy huge flowers in the restaurant's garden:

View over the Bay:

I'll get to Melbourne next post.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Road trip and catch-up

Ok, ok... it's been a long gap but I swear it will be worth it.

After the last post, we took the ferry out to Manly so that Scotty could have a songwriting session with the husband of one of the Klick ladies, and I wandered around on the beach and had an excellent curried egg salad sandwich from the Manly Deli. After Scotty finished working we wandered around a bit more, saw Manly beach, and then headed home on the ferry. The next day was pretty uneventful. The weather wasn't terribly nice so I stayed in and did a lot fo reading. I'm sure we did something both those nights, but I don't remember what exactly. We went for pho one night.

Manly beach:

Bluebottle! Ew, and ow, if it gets you:

Friday we left for our road trip. We got a slightly later start than we meant to, but had a really nice drive down the coast. We stopped in Kiama for a late lunch, but just missed the kitchen being open at the hotel on Manning St. The bartender suggested the bakery down the street, Sevbak, and boy were we not disappointed. They had the best meat pies we've had here (mince pies are super-popular late night food in Sydney), and really good cookies too. We went to see the Kiama blowhole, which is a place where, when the waves hit strong enough down below, water shoots up through a tunnel in the rock.

Views from the road:

We continued down the coast and took a quick break at Jervis Bay. Whales often stop into the bay with their calves on the way down south for the summer, so we got out and looked from a hill. The only place Scotty found any was in the swimming pool nearby.

Jervis Bay:

Scotty whale-watching:

The highlight of the day was stopping at Pebbly Beach about an hour before sunset. Pebbly Beach is next to Murramarang National Park, and is an area where kangaroos come down to graze at night. Although they're wild animals and you're not encouraged to feed or pet them, some of them are pretty friendly and we were able to get super close. Most of the babies were old enough to be out on their own, but one mother 'roo had a joey in her pouch, so it fulfilled every childrens-book based idea about kangaroos we'd ever had in our lives, except for those involving boxing.

There were also these cute little parrots running around:

Mama 'Roo:

This guy just hopped right up to us and smelled Scotty:

This little joey let me pet his tail:

We stayed the night at an Ecopoint resort near Pebbly Beach, and really wish we could have had more time there. It was a mix of cabins and campsites, but with a nice pool, beach, bar, and restaurant, and lots of cool activities that we didn't get there early enough for, like kayaking. We had this HUGE possum on our deck that night. Here's his butt:

The next morning we stopped in Batemans Bay for camera batteries, breakfast, and to find some wi-fi. It was our longest driving day and we were heading inland. We stopped in Canberra, Australia's capitol, and took a tour of their crazy futuristic parliament building. Canberra is a planned city, built along the lines laid out by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin, both of who came from Frank Lloyd Wright's workshop (after being horribly mistreated by him, naturally). It's an interesting city in regards to how thoroughly planned it is, but it's terrible to walk anywhere and everything is hidden in parks except for Parliament and the War Memorial, which we unfortunately did not get to see.

Parliament Funkadelic:

The view from Parliament to the War Memorial:

I'll start from there next post.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Best day in the park ever

So, I'm crazy about these bats right? And today I found the place where they nest. And I realize something the bats and I have in common, which is absolute ferocity when woken up. They kept bumping each other and waking up and yapping at each other and then climbing further away in a huff and curling back up to go to sleep. It was like looking in the mirror.

Then I saw a big ol' frogmouth, just hanging out a foot off the path.

And then a mob of 20 cockatoos landed and started picking food out of the grass and fighting over an apple. They also intimidated an ibis and forced him to run away. They're bossy little dudes.

How could anyone ever not love this city?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Our last Sydney weekend

The next couple weeks are going to have a lot of travel, so this was our last Sydney weekend. We started out by going to a suburb called Glebe, which is almost a tiny little Portland... lost of good international food and cafes, and a street market selling crafts, clothes, food and jewelry. We wandered around there for a while, and then headed out to Bondi Beach to meet Kim and her husband, Karl, and some of their friends for drinks. This is the week of the Melbourne Cup, so most bars have their TVs set on all the races leading up to the big day on Tuesday.

Kim, Karl, and Lori on the beach:

Scotty with the two Tims (Aussie travel personalities and clients of Kim's) and Ed and his moustasche:

Kim and Karl headed home, and we went for some kebabs and falafel at Bondi before heading home. We were suddenly reminded that it was Halloween on the bus home. It's really not a big holiday down here.

We got back to the hotel, put on our moustaches, and headed down the street to a bar, but no one there was dressed up... nor were they amused by our moustaches. Oh well.

Sunday we walked across the Harbour Bridge. It made me appreciate how insane it was to build an eight lane steel bridge in 1932. The thing is massive! And only cost 16 lives... not bad when you consider they had no safety equipment. When they were getting ready to open it, they loaded it with a couple hundred locomotive engines to make sure it would bear enough weight. It did, and it has. And it's provided some pretty amazing views as well.

At the other end of the bridge is Luna Park:

It's basically Coney Island, if Coney Island had never gone all seedy (for the record, I love Coney Island). That doesn't mean it's not demented though. They were playing instrumental versions of murder ballads in the children's area, and there are a number of creepy telenovela-style portraits scattered around the rides.

I believe Scotty has a Luna Park video in the works, so I won't spoil anything else for you.

We took the ferry from Luna Park to Darling Harbour and went to Sydney Wildlife World, which includes koalas who have lost so much of their instinct that they'll sleep on the floor:

And really scary spiders so that you'll never want to walk in anyone's yard here ever again:

We saw an extremely hyper cassowary and lounged around with the 'roos.

Scotty climbed this cassowary statue at his own risk.

This is the least obscene picture I have of this guy, who sat around scratching his belly and nards for most of our visit.

Sunday night we went for pasta at a place called Bill & Toni's, and had a good cannoli and coffee at the cafe downstairs afterwards. We then went for a walk with our stated destination being Mrs. Macquarie's chair, but we got distracted by the flying foxes (aka GIANT BATS) in the Domain and never made it. They're really spectacular at dusk... some have wingspans of almost 3 feet. We watched they for a while and then walked down the fleet steps to a pretty night view of Sydney, and eventually wandered home.