Sunday, March 5, 2017

Things I'll miss about Australia Pt 3

I'm back in the US writing these final retrospective posts summarizing the highlights of my stay in Australia. Looking back at the photos, we managed to pack in some great memories and make some awesome friends. I'll confess there's a tug at the heart strings as I look at these pictures.  The above shot is a picture from our 8th floor swimming pool area. The park below is hyde park which I walk through to get to work daily.

Here's another shot from a building we *almost* decided to live in. (I was advised it was a party house and not to bother, I'm happy with our final selection).

One of the nice benefits of living right by Hyde Park was that it was often a staging area for a lot of parades. Above is the "Mardi Gras" parade which is actually the Pride parade. This was confusing as it wasn't anywhere near Mardi Gras but the costumes and signs gave a big hint.

One of the many unusual animals that are part of city life in Sydney. This is a picture of what they call a Possum. They look like giant squirrels and are a lot cuter than the ones we have in the US. You often see them scavenging in the trash cans around the park

Right near hyde park on my daily walk to work was St. Mary's Cathedral. This isn't the usual front shot of the church, but I happened by and there was a great rainbow that crossed over it so I took a shot. The inside is pretty amazing as well. It was part of my walking tour of Sydney that would take visitors.

I know there's a lot of jumping around here, it's kind of like the stories of Merlyn (Merlin) where he lives time backwards. So these posts are a bit like that I suppose since we are winding back the clock to the first things we visited. OK, on with the tour. If you hit Pyrmont Bridge/Darling Harbour area they have a great Maritime museum and parked right next to it are a few boats from the clipper ship era. For a small donation (we gave 5 AUD each) you get to walk through the ships and see the ships that would ship coal from the UK to Australia. It's hard to believe people sailed on these things for months at a time.

On the south end of Darling Harbour area is a Chinese Garden of Friendship. It's an interesting shot of a traditional imperial garden surrounded by high rises. From the outside it looks a bit janky but once inside it's quite nice! Great place to visit and have some tea and mooncakes. It was only $6 (AUD) to get in.

Also in Darling Harbour is the aquarium. It claims to be the only place to see a Dugong (a cousin of the North American Manatee). It was cute, nom nom noming away at the lettuce.

Nurse Shark

Walking back towards Chinatown, there is a restaurant that always seems to have a line: Mamak which features Malaysian food. They have a window up front where you can watch the guy making roti. The roti was quite good. I'm not sure I'd stand in line for it (we caught them just as they opened one day and got in quickly. They are located on Goulburn street right before you get to the Chinatown gates.

I talked a little about China town but it was certainly nice to live in a place that had an actual China town. Every Friday night there would be a night market with plenty of food and goods.

The market had a stall where someone was making traditional Dragon beard candy. Hand pulled into fine sugar threads with a peanut center.

I would say the anchor of Chinatown is Market City located at the end of Haymarket. Below you have Paddy's market. Open daily, it features a fresh vegetables, butcher and seafood market.

On the same level is stall after stall of "knock off" goods. Pretty much anything you need from fake bags to clothes and sun glasses.

Including my favorite: "loz blocks", basically mini lego blocks produced in china that didn't seem to care about character licensing. I acquired a large collection to feed my lego habit since transporting them home doesn't present the problem lego blocks do.

We did get to go to Melbourne a couple of times and we thoroughly enjoyed our experiences. Since we've been hitting the various towers in cities we figured it was worth hitting the Eureka Skydeck.

Here's a shot of the view. Melbourne is a neat place. I typically make the analogy of Sydney is much like Los Angeles as Melbourne is like San Francisco. Melbourne is much more well known for their cafes, culture and more gloomy weather.

incidentally, you can find Australia's highest post office box in the Skydeck

One of our favorite restaurants we visited was Movida Next Door. These are actually pictures of Movida Sydney, we were pretty bummed that it closed down. If you get a chance either Movida or Movida Next door are great tapas restaurants that you should check out.

Melbourne also had a nice zoo to visit. Here are some Lemurs sunning themselves. It was really weird they all started opening themselves up and sitting around looking very inappropriate. I mean come on who sits like that?


Fuzzy headed chickens called Silkies.

South Bank is a popular tourist destination. Lots of food and restaurants.

Australians (particularly Melbournites) are well known for their love of coffee. Australia was once a large tea drinking culture (and still are) but when the Italian immigrants landed the Ozzies went nuts over coffee, especially their "Flat white" somewhere in between a latte and a cappuccino.  I have not had a good flat white since I've been back (several places have tried). The "drip" or "filter" coffee here is not quite the same anymore.

Ok technically it's not Australia but we did a couple of hops over to New Zealand. Ultimately we did hit a cruise around New Zealand but that's another post.  NZ (N Zed as everyone calls it) is probably the only country easily accessible to Australia. We did visit a few places around the region but the others take 8 hours to get to (Japan, Singapore) or 5 hours (Fiji).  The country is BEAUTIFUL! worth a visit if you're in the area.

They have the closest Little fat Sheep Hot pot restaurant in ANZ. Turns out Sydney had a lot of hot pot restaurants but Little Fat Sheep has been our favorite since we first visited them in Houston.

Of course no visit to NZ is complete without a trip to the Hobbiton movie set. Pretty neat visit. They had folks constantly watering the land to keep it lush and green. I will warn you ahead of time "SPOILER ALERT:" you can't really go into any of the hobbit holes. They're just facades. A few open into umbrella closets for visitors. Bilbo's house actually went back 3 yards from the door. OK enough about NZ, there's plenty of time for that later. Back to Sydney

As I said, Sydney is more like LA in that there's tons of beaches and folks are very outdoors focused. Here's Manly beach. It's north of the bridge and just about as popular as Bondi Beach.

while we're on the north of the bridge, Luna park is a popular attraction. It's an old boardwalk amusement park built in 1935. Of course it's nothing in comparison to today's amusement parks, but it's kept it's nostalgic feel with old school rides like bumper cars, house of mirrors and ferris wheels. It also features that crazy creepy face which you enter through it's mouth. It's the stuff of nightmares.

Next door is probably our favorite restaurant in Sydney. Aqua, it overlooks the old Sydney Olympic Pool (which is in active use). The food was amazing, my favorite was the Uni pasta. It's too bad their menu rotates frequently otherwise I'd say "you must go have it".

As I posted before we did go to the Blue mountains a few times. There's a lot of hiking to be done (I was clearly not in my fittest condition, as I huffed and puffed my way up and down the trails), but there's lots to do including rappelling down a waterfall.

In nearby Katoomba you can dine at what claims to be the oldest cafe in Australia. The Parragon. I'm not sure if these old school registers were still in use but a lot of the cafe is.

And we had afternoon tea at the nearby Carrington Hotel. It was quite a "vintage" hotel. We were the first ones at tea which made it a bit creepy. It seemed like a scene from the Shining. It got better after there were more people.

Holy cow there's still a lot of photos left. Well I guess this is where I'll stop for now. One final post to come!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Things I'll Miss about Australia Pt 2

I had to rename the post to things I'll miss about Australia especially since this title picture is a panorama of Newcastle beach.  We actually visited Newcastle quite a bit. First about the beaches, so most beaches have have a shallow protected area for children and usually a concrete lap pool that is fed by the ocean waters. The water is very blue and beautiful. We really enjoyed Newcastle since it's a smaller city that has upgraded itself from the industrial coal harbor to be a bit more tourist friendly. You can walk from the Harbor side to the ocean beach side within five blocks. It reminds me of Austin in the late 90s, meaning small and slower paced.

While in Newcastle take a walk on the ANZAC memorial walk.

Check out Habesha Ethiopian restaurant in the Newcastle CBD. I was surprised to find an Ethiopian restaurant in the middle of Newcastle.

Back to Sydney. World Square off Liverpool is an area we spent a lot of time especially because they had a Din Tai Fung there. The BEST soup dumplings, I was first introduced to this place in Taiwan. I was excited to find out there were like five of these places in close proximity here in Sydney. My first two weeks visiting here, I had soup dumplings for lunch or dinner seven times. No doubt I will miss this place the most. In the city they have a Din Tai Fung in the Westfield tower, Broadway shopping center, Star Casino and World Square.

Not for everyone, but Chinatown (Haymarket) had a lot of Chinese apothecaries that feature a wide variety of dried seafood delicacies.

I talked about the seafood at the fishmarket this is a shot of the sashimi/sushi you can get there.

Near St Mary's Cathedral off College street is Bodhi Restaurant. This place features vegetarian fare and in particular a vegetarian Dim Sum menu.

The dishes were very creative and if someone didn't tell me it was a vegetarian place, I wouldn't have questioned it.

It was really close to work and we visited a few times. I was really impressed with this place hence the extra pictures.

Hunter valley is one of the Australian wine regions just about three hours out of Sydney. They have a hidden treasure: Hunter Valley Zoo. Originally an animal refuge/sanctuary it expanded to let the public in. You can actually feed the animals and interact with them. Uh and koalas.

And Wombats.

Visit Binnorie Dairy they have some wonderful Goat cheese Feta.

And of course do the winery thing.

Exp. Restaurant is one of the restaurants that we really enjoyed.

Check out Cornersmith, we took a miso and tofu making class there (they had other classes that we wished we had time for). They also feature a lot of locally made goods (jams, kombucha etc). We saw that folks bartered with their garden grown produce and fruits.

At Dawes point we dined at Seawall Bar and Restaurant. They had a nice Tapas menu and I really enjoyed the lamb ribs.

This maybe a controversial statement: Best Fish and Chips was at Watson's bay at Doyles, beautiful view of the bay and some of the best Fish and Chips.

There really isn't a bad picture of the harbor.

Chaco Bar off Crown street and Yurong is another tucked away izakaya (only at night) that had a great decor and atmosphere. During the day they only serve Ramen.

Unfortunately this one is closed now, but the coffee bar downstairs at work had this chicken soup which was awesome on a winter day. I managed to get the loose recipe from the chef before they closed.

This is a picture of Whitsunday beach where we had a picnic lunch (after a helicopter ride) the sand is so fine it's like flour. Again, I'm so behind on posts but If you get a chance go visit the Great Barrier Reef. It's amazing!

Hamilton Island is where we stayed when we visited the Great Barrier Reef. It's a resort island that had you drive around on a golf cart. Great place to stay and we were told a lot less touristy than Cairns. You can charter boats to take you out to scuba/snorkel the reef.

We only spent a couple of nights in Brisbane, it seemed a lot more laid back. We went to Madam Wu's for dinner and it's worth a check out.

Tim Ho Wan is probably the most affordable michelin star restaurant they are famous for their bbq buns which is not usually the bready fluffy bbq pork bun. The bun has a crispy sweet outer shell and a stew of bbq beef in the center. They opened two in the CBD area one in the Westfield tower and one by George street off the Townhall train station between bathurst and liverpool.

Mama Buoi in Surry Hills. They had this delicious Coconut Tamarind curry. Pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato and mushroom. So very delicious. I really need to figure out this dish.

Pilu at Freshwater. Great place for brunch, delicious food, check out the suckling pig.

This is more of a tourist one, but Harry's Cafe de Wheels. They are famous for their pies. So I had a pie, with mushy peas, gravy and chili on top.

If you get out to "The Rocks" markets during the weekend there is a licorice shop, the guy is super passionate about licorice and all the unique flavors he makes. It's awesome.

Gumshara is another famous Ramen shop located in Haymarket off Dixon street. It's my second favorite only because it's farther out.

Wow Pt 2 only took me one year back on my camera roll.