P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney

Bondi

Made my final interstate venture to New South Wales and after 11 months managed to reunite with a familiar face at beautiful Bondi Beach.  How else does one begin a reunion?  With brews on the beach, of course.  As the ultimate surfer’s paradise, beach goers flock to Bondi’s shores to catch some rays, hike the cliffside, and shred the gnar.

Bondi Beach is also home to a Buvarian Bier Cafe.  A quaint pub equipped with a great happy hour, good draughts, and a foosball table (on which I kicked Joe’s behind 10-0*).

Manly

A 30-minute ferry ride from Sydney’s Circular Quay will take you to Manly Beach, known amongst surfers for its waves.  From its sandy shores, one can watch townies running the boardwalk, pros and amateurs taking to the waves, and school-aged students training for the Surf Life Saving Club.

Also located in Manly is a marine sanctuary, home to stingers, little penguins, and reef sharks.  The sanctuary works to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured marine animals found within Sydney Harbour and surrounding waters.

Darling Harbor

Sydney CBD is just that–a central business district.  Fully equipped with tall buildings, banks, and bustling businessmen.  The highlight of venturing into the city was walking up the steps to the Sydney Opera House (because let’s be honest:  Did you really go to Australia if you didn’t visit the Opera House?).

While Darling Harbour houses the zoo and aquarium and I was ecstatic to see dugongs and a crocodile stalk a lorikeet, Sydney just did not do it for me.  A day is more than enough time to take in the numerous “parks” (large grass patches amongst the concrete), the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

NSW State Lib

Would I be me if I didn’t take the time to snoop around the nearest library?**  In regards to style the New South Wales State Library differed drastically from those of Victoria and Queensland, but it did not fail in terms of education.  Aside from the many shelves of books, Australian State Libraries have exhibits that offer an intimate view into Australia’s past–this year specifically from the eyes of military personnel because 2015 was the ANZAC centenary.

While I would have preferred to spend all four days in NSW basking in the sun on Bondi Beach, I am grateful nonetheless to have had the opportunity to visit such an iconic city.

xo

*While yes, I am undefeated in foosball, Joe and I found a billiard table in a Sydney bar and he beat me 3-0.  Still sulking, but a rematch has been scheduled.

**Shoutout to Joe for being a good sport and entertaining this passion of mine.

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(Still) No Queens in Queensland

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Much farther south from picturesque Port Douglas is beautiful Brisbane, Queensland.  Located along the river for which it is named, the capital city, although smaller than Melbourne, is packed with much to see and do.

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Brisbane City Hall’s clock tower is 85 years old and still uses the original cage lift and operation handle to transport maintenance personnel and visitors to its observation deck; thus, making it the oldest manually-operated cage lift in Australia.  Originally the lift was installed as a service elevator, but by 1930, shortly after the construction of the building, public tours began for sixpence per adult ($0.50 USD).  The lift, which has always been powered by an electromagnetic motor, carries passengers to the observation deck located 76 meters above Brisbane’s CBD.

The bell tower houses five bells, each with at least one exterior hammer.  There are four quarter hour bells and one hour bell (that alone weighs four tons!).  The four clock faces are the largest analog clocks in Australia measuring five meters in diameter.  The minute and hour hands measure three and 1.7 meters, respectively.  A master pendulum clock, located in the corner of the bell tower, controls the operation of both the bells and clocks.

After completing the bell tower tour, one can continue on to the Museum of Brisbane.  The Museum’s exhibits give a history of the capital city and its development through time, as well as several art exhibits promoting the work of local artists.

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Quite a large exhibit showcased a particularly challenging photography technique called camera obscura, Latin for “dark room.”  To achieve images like the one above, an outside image is shown through a pinhole aperture onto the wall of an inside room, producing an upside-down and reverse image.  A long exposure time (sometimes up to five minutes) gives the images their vibrancy.  The sharpest part of the image is located parallel to the aperture; and it is known as the point of clarity.  The outer edges are less clear due to the angles of the walls, ceiling, and floor onto which the image deflects.

“If you want to get laid, go to college.  If you want an education, go to the library.” –Frank Zappa

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The State Library of Queensland differed greatly from that of Victoria, most notably in its more modern design.  Since this year marks the ANZAC Centenary, the State Library was hosting an exhibit to honor the men and women who served in WWI.  There were displays showcasing draft notices, medical exams/records, progress reports from boot camp, letters to family, and more.  Unlike museums that tend to give the facts and figures of war history, the exhibit focused primarily on first-hand accounts.

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Across the river from Brisbane’s CBD is Southbank, home to Streets Beach.  Since the city is located inland, there is no beach access; and there is too much river traffic to allow for swimming.  Rather than forcing city-dwellers to go coastal, the city brought the beach to the dwellers.  Located just off Stanley Street (hence the name), in the Parklands, is a man-made beach, equipped with sand, palm trees, and lifeguards.  People of all ages congregate at the riverside pool to bask in the beauty that is the Australian Sunshine State, whether catching rays or enjoying a dip.

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On Sundays, Southbank’s Parklands hosts a market.  Vending includes:  corn on a stick (a popular snack in Australia, it seems); hand-made jewelry, handbags, artwork, and bath soaps; back massages; and much more.

After a browse through the market square, a narrated ride on the Wheel of Brisbane, a smaller-scale London Eye or Las Vegas High Roller, gives a bird’s eye view of the city and its surrounding landmarks.

Four days is just enough time to see and enjoy Brisbane, but makes it incredibly hard to say goodbye to the ideal weather.  Thanks for a last Sunshine State hoorah, Brissy!

xo

Meandering Melbourne

“Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone.”  –The Dhammapada

This week I was fortunate enough to have an abundance of free time, with which I chose to do some solo explorations of local sites.

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I ventured first to Brighton Beach, another quaint little beach town, much like Sorrento.  Church Street is a posh shopping centre, equipped with stylish boutiques, cozy cafes, and enticing restaurants.  A short 15-minute stroll from Church Street places you at the intersection of Dendy Street and Esplande where the Brighton Beach bathing boxes are located.  The original 82 bathing boxes were constructed shortly after the settlement of the English, as a means to conserve the decency of beach goers.  In the mid-1800’s, the boxes were relocated to where is now known as Dendy Street Beach, after extensive land disputes.  Each box is uniquely painted–some adorned with cartoons and ocean scenes, while others simply bear bright colors.

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About a week ago, I found myself with two hours to kill, so I wandered into the National Gallery of Victoria.  Boy, did I underestimate the time it would take me to explore this museum, so naturally, I had to return to see the rest.  The NGV is an absolutely outstanding gallery comprised of three stories and over 70,000 artworks spanning the genres and regions of the world–to name a few:  contemporary, pre-Raphaelites, Asian, English, Ancient World.  Due to the expansive building, I was lost within the gallery, but at the end of the day, I’m sure I could have been lost in worse places.

“Half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness.”  –Ray Bradbury

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Located across the street from the National Gallery are the Queen Victoria Gardens.  Throughout the gardens are statues of nymphs and hammer throwing men and memorials to commemorate Queen Victoria and Edward VII.  Strewn among the grass are Melbournians picnicing, reading, playing frisbee, and simply enjoying the sunshine.  Add a zoo and a swimming pool and you have found yourself in New York’s Central Park.

 

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Queen Victoria Market hosts a special night market during the winter months.  The Winter Night Market brings together music, food, merchandise, film, and fire.  I advise bringing your appetite because you will want to try everything available–mushroom burgers, lamb shanks, chili con carne, fried Oreos, hot apple cider, and more.  While you are eating, you can shop for handcrafted artwork, jewelry, soap, and clothing at one of the thirty or so merchandise booths.  Done shopping, but not ready to return home?  Check out the cinema located near the rear of the market to enjoy film shorts written, directed, and produced by amateur Australian filmmakers; be a groupie at the mainstage while local bands perform well-known and original songs; or cozy up by one of the many fire pits located around the venue.

xo

Keep Left

 

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Two English, a Scott, and an American get in a car…and have a road trip filled with sightseeing, wine, and kangaroos.  We set off at 9:00 AM for the 243 kilometer (151 mi) drive from Torquay to Warrnambool, along the Great Ocean Road.  The stretch of highway runs along south-eastern Australia with several overlooks to bask in Mother Nature’s beauty.

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Most notably along the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles.  Due to harsh weather conditions and extreme erosion, the limestone was carved into bridges which later collapsed leaving stacks.  Unlike its name, the landmark was only ever composed of nine stacks, eight of which remain after a collapse in 2005.

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After completing the westward trek along the Great Ocean Road, we journeyed northward to the Grampians National Park to rest for the night.  Among the fields and fields of sheep, I can finally say I have seen a wild kangaroo!  In almost every span of land or campground or parking lot, there was a troop of kangaroos just hanging out.  And boy, do they come out at night!

 

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Before making our return trip back to Melbourne, we were sure to get in a quick hike.  A 1.8 km (1.11 mi) return hike to Mackenzie Falls was the icing on the cake of our road trip.  Although the return was a steep uphill climb, the view from the pool was amazing.  Please note:  pictures do not do Australian landscapes justice.

Unfortunately, our time in the Grampians National Park was cut short and we had to return home for the workweek.  On the plus side, I will be returning in January with my host family and I could not be more excited to discover the other gems the park has to offer.

xo

Wallabies and Kangaroos and Penguins, Oh My!

Yesterday morning I began my journey from St. Paul’s Cathedral to Phillip Island, home of the fairy (or little) penguins.  A fitting spot to celebrate World Penguin Day, I’d say.

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The first  stop on the map was Maru Koala and Wildlife Park.  There I was able to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s native wildlife, including:  koalas, wallabies, dingoes, kookaburras, emus, and, you guessed it, kangaroos!  Nothing can quite describe the funny sensation of a wallaby or kangaroo licking bits of dried food out of your palm, while their tiny paws (and rather large claws) grasp your hand or wrist.

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On our way to Pyramid Rock, we stopped for a quick stroll at Woolamai Beach.  This particular beach is famous as a surfer’s paradise.  Considering the dreary weather, the waves were quite large and I can see how it has withstood its name.  Once at our intended overlook, I walked to the end of the bridge to peer out at a pyramid-shaped rock, Pyramid Rock (clever name, eh?).  Had the weather been more enjoyable–less wind, more sun–I would have gladly spent longer trolling around the cliffside, exploring the area, but onto the next we went…

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The little penguin colony of Phillip Island is the last and largest penguin colony on the island.  Due to this fact, researchers have taken many measures to protect and conserve the population and its habitat.  One way is by implementing weighing stations.  When the little penguins return from hunting at sea, they waddle their way up the cliffside via a maze of well-engraved pathways.  Researchers have implanted a man-made barrier to funnel the penguins into a single-file line as they cross over a solar-powered scale.  This data has been collected over the past 30 to 40 years and is used to monitor the sustainability of the colony.11

Finally at the Penguin Parade visitor centre, the other viewers and I worked our way to the viewing theater positioned on the beach.  Seated quietly, holding our breath, listening for the calls of the little penguins, we waited.  At 6:00 PM, after the sun had set, the first rookery arrived at the beach.  From the water, they waddled across the sand and up the cliffside to their burrows.  Standing at only 33 cm (1.08 ft) and 1 kg (2.2 lbs), they are in fact the littlest penguins–and the cutest, if I might add.  The viewing only lasts for an hour, as the rangers turn off the lights and allow the penguins to return to their burrows undisturbed.

xo