A Travellerspoint blog

Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

72 °F

Hello Melbourne!

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Wait, what? Is this Seattle? I see rain, and even a few umbrellas.

No, I've been assured that we did indeed land in Melbourne and not fly home. Melbourne simply has notoriously undecided weather that can often change suddenly and rapidly. Yesterday it was 99 degrees and sunny. Today it is raining and 72 degrees. Tomorrow calls for 82 and sunny. Dress accordingly.

Melbourne immediately felt foreign to Sydney. From the moment we stepped off the plane and into our taxi--this is definitely something different. Melbourne has been described as a city with four seasons in one day...and that felt immediately apparent. Goodbye Sydney, with your beautiful weather. I'll see you again in a week and a half.

While Sydney felt to be a very cosmopolitan city surrounded by natural beauty, Melbourne feels more like a laid back city surrounded by culture. I was embarrassed to wear my tennies while out power walking in Sydney. In Melbourne? I complimented them with stretch pants and thought nothing of it. Don't get me wrong--folks in Melbourne can sure be fashionable, particularly in the CBD with its high end shops and trendy stores, but I sure see enough casually dressed people to blend in without embarrassment.

We are staying in the Central Business District where we have rented two small apartments. Since most of what we had planned is around the CBD we opted to stay in the thick of it, rather than stay in outer neighborhoods. Though Melbourne has such stellar transportation that staying anywhere around the city isn't a problem. Their tram system is so well functioning and widely available that traveling around is incredibly fast, easy, and convenient.

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The downside to staying in the CBD is...well, we are in the CBD. It's crowded. Always. Weekdays were worse with work schedules keeping people in the city, but with all the shops and restaurants in the area and with Flinders Street Station a short 5 minute walk away, the CBD is a hot bed of activity. Walking down the street can be frustrating in some parts simply due to crowds.

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Still, the convenience of walking everywhere and having so many options for activities, parks, and eateries at just a stone's throw away make this a good pick for us. And Des, who hasn't been okay with riding in his stroller for the last year, sits back and takes it all in. We've done so much walking because of it. Only taking the tram one day to the beaches and walking everywhere else.

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He literally sits on the edge of his seat and watches everything as we go by.

Despite the drizzle and rain on our first day here, we did a lot of exploring by foot just trying to get a sense of the area. We immediately found that people here walk terribly slow and often erratically, which led to the exploration of side streets in an attempt to find roads less traveled. The charming alleyways of the CBD are fun to explore and the shops and restaurants seemingly endless. Many alleys house street art, and Hosier Lane from Flinders Street is among the most iconic.

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We headed into China Town to pick up some dinner before calling it a night.

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On our second day here I woke up for an early morning walk and headed over to the Queen Victoria Market, which opens at 6 am. Vendors were still setting up as I arrived, but the hundreds of stalls and vast expanse of market, even when mostly empty early in the morning, made me realize I definitely need to return when it is all set up.

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Still, I collected a bounty of fruit for breakfast and headed back to the apartment.

Once everyone was up and collected (and stuffed with fruit), we caught the tram to St Kilda beach, about a 20 minute ride south of the CBD. It was beach day--Desmond's favorite kind of day.

I like St Kilda. It's quiet and lovely, reminding me of a much more subdued Southern California town with stretches of beautiful beaches and palm tree-lined streets.

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We stopped for some coffee, walked through a beautiful park, and hit the beach.

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Of course Des wanted to dig in the sand.

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We walked along the pier for a bit, admiring the views of Melbourne's CBD in the distance.

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Des slowly made his way toward the water, digging and digging until he just walked over to the shore break and plopped down in the water. Good thing I brought extra clothes.

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Once he was in, it was over. The kid splashed and played and even got so brave as to walk out up to his neck in the waves. We did see a couple jellies, so we were mindful of watching him closely. Unckie Justin helped a lot with that.

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We finally managed to lure Des into a cafe for some fresh watermelon juice, though he protested on the ride home as we left the beach.

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After a long nap and some snacks we were back at it again, this time crossing the Yarra into Southbank. Here we discovered that there is the Moomba Festival this weekend and stretching along the river were carnival rides, game booths, and food. Apparently this is a holiday weekend. Surprise!

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We walked through the festivities, passing the kid rides without thought. Des, however, immediately cried and pleaded that we turn around.

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We walked a bit more (can't indulge every whim the lad has), but did return and bought tickets for Des to go on two rides.

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He was happier than a pig in shit when we were done!

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That night he was pretty wiped out.

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So many new experiences for this little dude. As wild as he is, he sure does adapt well.

Posted by JorieW 21:59 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

88 °F

I began our second to last full day in Balmain before everyone else got up, choosing to walk along Darling Street this morning and through Rozelle. Since it was a weekday and Darling Street is a main artery through Balmain I found myself in the company of many others on my stroll.

Des was up by the time I returned. We didn't have any big plans, so I took the opportunity to prepare a hearty breakfast. After our late start we decided to head over to the Powerhouse Museum in Pyrmont.

Des loved the outing, having to catch two buses there. Once at the museum he loved all the train exhibits and spent the duration of our visit running among them.

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The museum was fairly small, but had some interesting exhibits. Des was really interested in the fully functional steam engine on display, laughing as he watched it and saying "that's so weird!"

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It was a good stop for a toddler, though I'm not sure I'd go by myself. It still filled the morning with great fun for Des and he continues to talk about seeing robots and trains.

The rest of our day was very low key. Zac and Justin went to the Sydney Fish Market during Desmond's nap while I stayed on baby watching duty. We headed out for an evening walk when Des was up and then made dinner at home. I was ready for bed at 8 pm. I think I was really feeling pregnant that day, resulting in a pure and genuine exhaustion that can only be remedied by a very deep sleep.

Like this:

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On our last full day in Balmain we took another leisurely morning with a light breakfast and plenty of outside yard play for Des.

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He's become quite good at pointing out spiders, and fortunately, leaving them alone.

We spent our last mid morning taking the ferry over to the Circular Quay to stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens again and walk a bit through the CBD. Mostly I had just wanted to take another ferry ride. I'll sure miss them, and even though we are spending our last two days of vacation in the city we are staying out at Bondi Beach where we won't have or need ferry access.

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We walked around the gardens in 90 degree heat as Des ran around like a maniac. We had to force him to stop for breaks because he was in a flop sweat.

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We had lunch at the cafe in the gardens simply for respite. Des insisted on "booing" all the pigeons, which to him means scaring them by chasing them and yelling "boo!" He tried booing the ibises as well, and eventually found some ducks to chase, screeching at them as he ran circles around the poor things. It was such an adorable sight and even strangers were snapping pictures of it--though maybe to add his face to a "do not allow in" picture line up for the gardens?

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After the gardens we walked back along the Quay, stopping for gelato because Des had been talking about ice cream (which he's literally had three licks of in his life). We thought it'd be a big treat to get him some and allowed him to pick his flavor. He insisted on the "green one" (mint chocolate chip), and after all the excitement of getting it--didn't touch it. Not one bite. Zac and I enjoyed it on his behalf. On such a hot day it really hit the spot. What a chump!

We took our last ferry ride back to Balmain and it was quite the sad moment for me. I sure do love the ferry system here. It's a beautiful mode of transportation; made all the sweeter by Desmond's enthusiasm for them as well. Because most ferries we take are the same he has found his chosen seat and picks the same one each time. "This is my red seat on my ferry boat," he insists.

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He was nearly distraught when we took the big ferry to Manly with--gasp--green seats! He got over it pretty quickly when he decided to declare yet another seat on one of "his" ferries.

We went out to dinner with Richard and Gudel on our last evening in Balmain. We stayed out past Desmond's bedtime again (whoops) to enjoy another evening stroll in the warm evening air with clear skies, bright stars, and a cacophony of crickets providing an evening serenade.

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I'm looking forward to flying to Melbourne tomorrow, but I sure will miss this.

Posted by JorieW 03:13 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

88 °F

Nearing a week here and time feels as if it is passing too fast. The funny time shift of vacation--at home days pass slowly and on vacation they speed up.

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We took a leisurely morning on Sunday, sitting in the yard with a lovely tray of fruit and croissants, courtesy Richard and Gudel. It felt like the way Sunday mornings should be. Slow, deliciously catered, and basked with sunshine.

After breakfast we headed down the road to take Des swimming in a local harbor side pool. The pool is separated from the harbor by a stone wall, but still uses harbor water to fill it. This provides the benefit of shelter from strong currents and avoidance of sharks (a bummer, in my opinion, but probably favorable for most folks)--both benefits for a two year old. Jellyfish, or "stingers" as they're sometimes called here, can still make their way in so attention is still somewhat warranted, but it seemed a small risk.

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Initially Des wouldn't go in the water, claiming it was far too cold for his liking. This seems at odds with any other time we get him near water, but I didn't argue with him. Instead he and I sat in the sand and played with trucks.

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Eventually Zac coaxed him into bringing his trucks to the edge of the water and from that point on it was game over and water temperature was a non issue. Though, to Sydney's defense, the water wasn't cold to begin with.

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Soon Des was submerged and happily kicking as Zac took him deeper for a swim.

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Des had worn himself out from playing and splashing, so much so that I had to take him home from a restaurant early for a nap. He didn't protest.

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Once up, we brought Des to his new digs for the next four nights. A two bedroom cottage just down the way from Richard and Gudel and in the heart of Balmain. We were just getting settled when Des walked into the bathroom and found a new friend.

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Ugh, let's all collectively shudder.

I am pretty sure it's a huntsman spider, which isn't venomous, but is highly icky. We managed to weaken him with roach spray and eventually slow him down enough to smash him to bits with one of Zac's giant shoes. No joke, we found his mate the next night on our bedroom ceiling--likely waiting for us.

Later in the evening while on a walk we were lucky enough to come across some fire fighters who welcomed Desmond's enthusiasm and curiosity with a peek inside their truck. Funnily, earlier in the morning Des told us he wants to be a fireman.

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A nice way to spend an evening.

My Monday began with an early morning walk around the harbor--giving new meaning to "case of the Mondays."

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We decided to keep the sandy beach theme going since Des had such a blast the day before so we caught a ferry out to Manly. I absolutely love Manly Beach. Aside from being beautiful, it's one of the places my grandpa told me he hung out at while having time off from his post in Darwin during WWII. He'd come down to Sydney for a few weeks, with one visit resulting in his meeting my grandma, who was from Sydney.

I adore the story, and I like being on a beach where he was as a young man and knowing there's a little piece of my family history on those shores.

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Manly is quieter than Sydney's famous Bondi Beach, but still has plenty of shops and cafes to peruse when you want a break from the beach. Of course my two year old would hear no such thing as a break at the beach, so we had coffee before setting up under an umbrella in the sand.

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It didn't take long for Des to hit the waves and he spent the better part of our last hour there just gleefully splashing and throwing his trucks about.

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Once back at the cottage we allowed Des to nap late so we could go out to eat at a restaurant just around the corner. Des was in a great mood, playing and laughing all during the meal--asking Justin about beer and then letting us know he drinks milk, not beer. It was enjoyable to sit in the perfectly temperate evening air and be out past dark. Even though he was out past his bedtime again, Des didn't complain. He was far too busy inquiring about the drink menu anyway.

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Posted by JorieW 20:53 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

88 °F

Our third day in Sydney saw the first effects of jet lag in Desmond. It had to come, I know, but of course it happened on the first day we had an actual outing planned. Such is life, right?

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We decided to hit the Taronga Zoo, one of Sydney's must-do activities, in my opinion. Zac and I visited on our last trip here and really enjoyed it--and that was before we had a kid. Imagine how awesome we expected it to be with a kid!

The zoo really is a sight to see with stunning vantage points of the harbor, Central Business District, and many of Sydney's beautiful suburbs. There are beautifully kept walkways and trails that wind through trees and bush and provide a lovely opportunity for an enjoyable walk, animal exhibits aside. There are also well thought out play paths for kids of all ages to explore. It is by far one of the best zoos I have been to, simply for grounds alone.

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Des loved playing on old tractor equipment in various children's gardens and running wild when permitted. Because we took the first morning ferry to Taronga there weren't many crowds upon our arrival. Despite all this, Des had a rough go of it. He was fussy and cranky--prone to mini-meltdowns when we wouldn't let him run due to people in the pathways.

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I knew it would happen, certainly. He has shifted his time by 19 hours, and done so with no change to local time. He naps at 1:30, goes to bed at 8:15/8:30, and gets up at 7:30 with the sun. It's virtually his normal schedule, shifted, and with no catch up or drag in adjusting. Of course he's going to have a day where it hits him hard.

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We missed a great deal of the exhibits and left just shy of noon, for all of our sake.

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Before leaving, Des discovered the penguin exhibit. The real life penguins were fine and dandy, but Des most enjoyed the fiberglass penguins on display. He ran along a row of them, singing and counting, for more than 15 minutes.

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Once back in Balmain we picked up some delicious, fresh vegetables from a market stand and I made lunch for everyone. The produce here is outstanding. It is just gorgeous--and quality grown fruits and veggies make all the difference. We cook most meals in because of it. Eggs and meat are not treated with weird hormones or antibiotics and again really stand out. One thing I haven't yet found? Peanut butter made only with peanuts and salt in the ingredient list. It's annoying me to no end, simply because it seems strange to me that fresh fruits, veggies, and meats are so well tended, but everything else is highly processed and unhealthy. Mayo is in soooooo many foods here. Even some hummus dips!

We ended our evening preparing a feast for Richard and Gudel as a thank you for allowing us to spend our first few nights with them. Tomorrow we move to our own cottage down the way. I'm looking forward to Des ripping up someone else's grass for a bit.

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Posted by JorieW 21:55 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

88 °F

Our first day in Sydney was purposefully an easy one. Stepping off a 22 hour travel day is pretty much all the excitement we needed for a couple of days. Des, ever the trooper, was excited to show up to Zac's aunt and uncle's house in Balmain and immediately took to their yard. It proved to be a wonderful place of adventure, and Gudel and Richard were patient with Des ripping up their grass because he thought it was hilarious to throw at Unckie Justin.

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We chose to spend our first few days with Richard and Gudel because it's so nice to have family here and we don't often see them. We won't linger long and will be moving to a cottage about five minutes away by foot in a couple days to bide our time before flying to Melbourne. They have graciously offered two guest rooms for us, and considering this go around we have a toddler--well, clearly they are good people.

After we arrived, most of the day was spent unpacking, unwinding, and catching up. Des played in the yard and took a much needed nap. He was out, and hard.

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When he was up again we took him (and his trucks) to play at Mort Bay Park, just at the end of the street. He ran around like a maniac, sliding trucks down make shift water fountain ramps while intermittently using playground equipment and stopping to watch ferries come in.

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After some much needed play we returned back to the house for baths and dinner. Des went to bed at 8, but I managed to stay up until 9 that evening, only because I wanted to eat Richard's kangaroo curry, which did not disappoint. I crashed pretty hard after that since I had gone nearly 40 hours with no sleep.

Des woke up at 7 am on our second day here, which is early for him. I didn't mind. We are sleeping in a very light room, so it's understandable, not to mention it means an early start to things we want to do. The weather in the mornings is quite comfortable. A morning with tea and a light brekky in the yard really hit the spot. Des even invited his cars to tea, ever so polite.

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After we finished, Zac, Justin, Des, and I headed for the ferry. Balmain ferry wharf is a short 5 minute walk from Richard and Gudel's, but we chose to walk to the Balmain East dock, which is an enjoyable 15 minute stroll down Darling Street, Balmain's main hub. East Balmain quiets the closer to the dock you get, with most shops central, but I love walking and this seemed like a good way to spend a morning.

We easily took the ferry to the Circular Quay, which is the main ferry (and rail) terminal at the head of the cove in the harbor. This is the gateway to Sydney's Central Business District, the opera house, and The Rocks--all on our agenda for the day.

Coming into the Quay is one of my favorite rides on the ferry.

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It's 8 minutes from Balmain and crosses under the Harbour Bridge, an iconic Sydney feature. The imposing view of the opera house, arguably THE most iconic Sydney feature, doesn't hurt either.

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Once on dry land, we headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens via opera house and coastal walk.

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Des loved climbing the stairs of the opera house, but not nearly as much as he seemed to love running around the top, darting in and out of corners all while singing Wheels on the Bus. He was a ham, entertaining not just us, but other tourists as well. Next time we will have him put out a hat to collect tips.

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Once we managed to peel Des away from the opera house we headed to the gardens. The Royal Botanic Gardens are one of my favorite stops in Sydney. Impeccably kept with gorgeous views of the harbor, the gardens are the perfect place to get lost wandering. Bring a picnic and it can't be beat.

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Des enjoyed walking (mostly running, if I'm being accurate) the grounds and chasing away cockatoos and magpies. The ibis were less intimidated, but that certainly didn't stop him from trying.

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After the gardens we returned to Balmain where we picked up some fish and chips. The guys have been pretty excited about sampling many fresh batches while here. Unimpressed with the first go, there will undoubtedly be more attempts. Des napped and I went out for a long walk.

Once Des was up we took the ferry back to the Quay, this time heading to The Rocks. The Rocks is Sydney's oldest urban settlement. Convicts built the colony up, from roads, wharves, and tunnels to houses and hospital. Years ago Zac and I took a ghost tour of The Rocks, which was really more of an historical tour, but it was absolutely fascinating. The history is interesting and the stories of convict settlers and rough early days piques my interest. History can be seen throughout the area, even in the shop-lined lanes and cafes and houses dug into sandstone.

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The old urban quarter of The Rocks is also made up of original and historic sandstone houses in addition to the alley lined shops and cafes. We strolled through the enclaves, admiring the historic beauty.

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Unfortunately development is taking hold and many homes along Miller's Point are being redeveloped. Signs and banners hung from balconies and terraces pleading to save and preserve the neighborhood. I cannot fathom why NSW wouldn't protect and preserve these historical homes, however given that the view is pretty prime time, I can only assume high property values play a part.

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We circled back to the Quay come sunset. Des was getting restless in his stroller and we wanted to give him a break for play. We tucked ourselves comfortably in near First Fleet Park and did as the locals seem to do on a Friday night--just kick back. It was a lovely evening and Des played with his trucks as Justin and Zac entertained him while I lazily sat back and watched all the ferries and catamarans come and go. Des was so cooperative and in such good spirits that we stayed out late. He was not at all bothered by the terrible inconvenience of breaking schedule to have some fun.

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Posted by JorieW 02:32 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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