Thursday, January 24, 2013


I've come to realize that Australia is a land of extremes.  Nothing here is really ever normal, standard, common, etc.  Most things exist and occur in extreme states. 

Exhibit A: Bugs

It wouldn't be enough for the bugs and spiders here to be "normal-sized."  Nope- not in Australia.  Here, these critters must be at least as large as your palm- at least. 

Exhibit B: Snakes

I grew up in the desert, so snakes weren't exactly all that scary or foreign to me, but that doesn't mean I ever liked them. The silly rattlesnakes in Arizona of course are nothing compared to snakes in Oz.  It absolutely terrifies me to know that the top two most venomous snakes in the world live not just in this country, but in that Australian state that we now call home- Queensland.  What an honor?  Take a look at this list of the top 25 most venomous snakes in the world.  Notice how just about ALL of them are on this lovely continent?!  Makes you glad that at least this is an island, so they are technically stuck here... unlucky for me...

Exhibit C: The weather

Well I guess there are not extreme COLD temperatures here, but the heat is definitely extreme!  It's been in the 90's and 100's here for what seems like months now.  And just when I started to hear about extreme droughts and bush fires (that's what they call wild fires here), the extreme RAIN comes along.  It started raining last night around dinner time.  It has not stopped once since then.  And it is supposed to be this way through Sunday.  And in true Aussie-fashion, it's not just regular rain, it's some of the hardest and loudest downpours I've ever experienced.  We went from droughts (which was evident in our sad, dead lawn) to flash flood watches and a pond in our yard.  In the span of 12 hours (9AM to 9PM), five inches of rain has fallen!  I've always been one who prefers warm weather and sunny skies, but this is actually kind of a nice change seeing as how I've had blazing heat and sun since May basically.  But again, I like these types of days in small doses, so ask me again later in the week how much I like it.

About 9:00 this morning

5:00 PM - Street Drains starting to overflow

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Learning A (New?) Language

JUST when I think that my ear has become accustomed to the Australian accent and some of the typical Aussie slang and abbreviations of oh, EVERYTHING, (which I've talked about before here) I see this commercial on TV. 

No joke, I think I can understand about ten words in that commercial.  Granted, this commercial is a little bit exaggerated.  It was created to celebrate the upcoming "Australia Day" (which is kind of like their Independence Day- only without the independence part and just lots of Aussie pride).  So the commercial is basically trying to use as many Aussie-isms as possible.  It was a big deal that in honor of this holiday, McDonald's officially accepted the Aussie abbreviation of "Maccas" to be used in their advertisements. 

I just had to share this commercial with you all, because it gives you a really good idea of how truly different American English is from Aussie English.  Some days it really feels like we might as well be speaking different languages.  As if the accent wasn't enough, their extensive slang and abbreviation of nearly everything makes deciphering what someone is saying sometimes impossible.  I typically give myself three chances to ask, "huh?," or "what was that?" and if I still don't understand what is being said or asked after that point, I just randomly answer yes, no, or just smile and nod. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Melbourne - Part 3: The Great Ocean Road

We spent the last full day of our Melbourne trip on a bus tour of the Great Ocean Road.  Ironically, shortly before moving to Australia, I saw a photo of the Twelve Apostles (which is a landmark on the Great Ocean Road), and I immediately added seeing it to my bucket list.  I never thought I would see it just a few months later!  Because of this, I had been super excited about our tour of the Great Ocean Road! 

The Great Ocean Road is a stretch of road along the southeastern coast of Australia- somewhat similar to the Pacific Coast Highway. The road is narrow and twisty, but it travels right along what I can honestly say is probably one of the most beautiful coastlines I have ever seen.  There are also lots of famous landmarks and beaches along the way.  You can read more about the history of the road here- like how it was built by soldiers returning from WWI, among other interesting facts. 

Here is a map of the road in its entirety:

We "only" went from Melbourne (just east of Geelong on the map) to Port Campbell- but even this was a full day trip (7:30 AM to 9:30 PM).  We opted to take a guided bus tour, which is the type of thing I usually try to avoid, but we had heard good things about these tours and it was actually really nice to not have to worry about driving ourselves and to have someone with us who could tell us all the interesting facts about the road and the sights we were seeing.  Highly recommend. 

Although the beaches and coastline were amazingly beautiful, there are actually only a few spots where the beaches are "safe" for swimmers.  This coast is known for very rough and dangerous waters and is often called the "shipwreck coast."  You can't tell from many of the pictures, but the water really was very rough and almost ominous looking. 

Our route was as follows:
-Torquay (home to the famous Bells Beach)
-Apollo Bay
-Port Campbell

But enough of my jabber- here are the amazing photos that don't even begin to do it justice:

Torquay - home to Bells Beach, famous surfing beach:

The waves weren't very good this day (as you can see there are no surfers), but apparently people come from all around the world to surf this beach. 

Anglesea - cute little beach town:

Lorne - another adorable little beach/vacation town:

On this day, they were holding a Juniors Lifeguard competition- that's what all the crowds on the beach are there for.
Just outside of Lorne was a rest stop/ cafe area that had tons of these wild birds and koalas just hanging out in the trees.

Apollo Bay - Home to beautiful beaches and the Otway rainforest:

Apollo Bay

Mait's Rest is an area with several beautiful hikes you can take through a temperate rain forest.
It was neat to hear that this rainforest has been around since the time of the dinosaurs!  Our guide kept telling us that how it looks now is probably very similar to how it looked when dinosaurs roamed through.  Crazy!

Port Campbell (home to the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, and London Bridge):

The Twelve Apostles!

Loch Ard Gorge

The water was fuh-reeeeezing cold!

London Bridge
One of the arches of the London Bridge collapsed in 1990. There's a neat story that goes along with it about a couple that was having an affair and decided to spend the day on the furthest point- of course on the day that it collapsed.  So the two were stuck out there- caught red-handed! What are the odds?


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Melbourne - Part 2: Phillip Island

On New Year's Day, we had plans to rent a car and drive to Phillip Island.  Phillip Island is an island (ha!) about two hours southeast of Melbourne.  It has lots of beautiful scenery and beach vacation spots, but it is most well-known for its animal attractions.  There is a Koala Conservation Centre (gasp- we didn't go! The horror!), a Heritage Farm (whatever that means), a Nobbies Centre (yet another Australian nickname- this time for seals), and do do da dooooo a PENGUIN PARADE!  There is also a Grand Prix circuit (which my Nascar/F1 loving husband was excited about, but I hurriedly moved him along to the penguins) as well as some wineries (which my wine-loving self sacrificed for the penguins). 

The drive there was relatively easy.  Most of the scenery along the way looked like this:

We saw this little wallaby along the side of the road and of course had to stop.  He was so close and didn't budge- just stared at us.  That is, until I got out of the car to give him a hug and he hopped off ;-) 

Like any good tourist, our main purpose of going to Phillip Island was to see the famous Penguin Parade, but we also planned to visit the nobbies, since that was free and close by where we needed to be for the penguins.  In case you need a reminder (since it makes no logical sense whatsoever): nobbies = seals.  The nobbies centre has a really neat indoor educational area with lots of information about the seals and other animals that live there. 

Supposedly fur seals are usually all over the place on these cliffs, rocks, etc.; however, they were nowhere to be found.  Not one!  It was strange.  My theory is that the seals got so annoyed at being called nobbies that they moved out.  We were slightly disappointed, but who cares really because we were about to see PENGUINS! Can you tell I was excited?  Also as consolation for lack of seals were the incredible views!  It was such a clear day, and all of the cliffs and coastline were just gorgeous! 



After not seeing a single nobbie, it was time to grab some dinner before heading to the PENGUIN PARADE.  FYI, if you ever happen to visit Phillip Island, eat at Rusty Water Brewery.  The food was great, and they had a yummy beer flight to try! 

So here's the deal with the penguin parade- first, you must know that these penguins are the smallest penguins in the world.  Which also conveniently makes them the cutest penguins in the world!  Anyway, each morning at sunrise these penguins go out to sea to spend their days fishing, and then each evening at sunset they return to their nests.  This is what you are seeing when you view the Penguin Parade.  I do have to admit that this event was super touristy- we're talking buses everywhere, but it was still so worth it to see.  They have built a large seating area (almost stadium-like) for people to sit in above the beach while they wait for the penguins. (Also important to note- it gets realllly cold while you're sitting there waiting.)  Like clockwork, right as the sun began to set, we started to see little black blobs coming up to shore.  The penguins were coming!!!  The penguins get together in large groups, and before you know it, they're standing on the sand.  It's pretty funny to watch, because it takes them 3 or 4 times to build up their courage to really come ashore- the little groups would keep on running back into the water before finally beginning their parade.  Once they start coming up, it's the cutest thing as they march/waddle in perfect little lines across the beach, and up the hills to their nests.  Their were TONS of them- probably about 20 different groups/lines of them.  After most were out of the water, you could walk around a bit in the area where they have their nests (within the fenced off areas, of course), and you could see them at their nests and hear the little babies squealing for food.  The bad part of whole event was that pictures were not allowed- and they had tons of park rangers around enforcing it.  I managed to sneak a few non-flash photos, but they ended up pretty blurry.  :-(  You'll just have to take my word for it- they were adorable!  It was such a cool sight to see and so amazing to think that these tiny penguins repeat this ritual every single day. 

On the left, you can see the size of the Phillip Island penguins compared to other penguins of the world. 

Waiting for the penguins
Oh look, a photo of my new TOMS (thanks, Lauren!) snuck in here...

Some blurry pictures I snuck as they waddled up to their nests.
Even though the few penguin photos I got were pretty blurry, we lucked out because earlier in the day while we were looking for the nobbies that did not seem to exist, we happened to see a lone penguin.  The rangers were surprised that there was a little penguin all by himself on that part of the island.  We are so glad we saw him though, because I did manage to get some better pictures of this little guy.  Isn't he so cute and tiny?!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Melbourne - Part I

I had been really looking forward to our trip to Melbourne- I had heard great things about the city, and we had lots of fun things planned.  Also, it seemed like just about just about everyone had already fled (yes, fled) Gladstone for the holidays, so I felt like it was finally our turn! 

Side note- I just realized something shocking.  I have not heard a nickname, abbreviation, or other modification of the name Melbourne.  As Aussies seem to abbreviate just about everything, including city names, this almost seems strange to me. You have Brissy (Brisbane), Tassy (Tasmania), Rocky (Rockhampton), etc., but then just plain old Melbourne.  I almost find it a relief!  Well, I guess maybe the fact that they pronounce it "Mel-BIN," maybe counts as an almost abbreviation.  And that of course makes me want to be defiant and pronounce it as "Mel BORN" even more forcefully, but that's a story for another day. 

At any rate... where was I?  Oh yes, fleeing GladSTONE (not Glad-stin). :-) 

We arrived in Melbourne on the Sunday evening before NYE.  All we really had time for was to check into our hotel and wander around to find some dinner.  Luckily, we wandered right into the Greek Precinct, where we indulged in copious amounts of wine, gyros, and hummus.  Look at the goofy smile on my face- can you tell we are "good restaurant deprived" in our town?

The next day (NYE), we had planned to spend exploring the city. We started out at Federation Square, which is kind of the hub of most of the goings on in the city.  Several of Melbourne's museums surround this area, there are tons of restaurants, and lots of outdoor spaces for people to just hang out.  The buildings in this area all had really neat architecture.  It was fun to see Fed Square this day because they were setting up the area for the big NYE celebration where we would be later that night. 


Melbourne is situated on the Yarra River which makes for really pretty views of the city.  After lunch, we wandered across the river to the Southgate area.  This area had lots of restaurants, shopping, and pretty parks. 


This was a cool restaurant/bar underneath the bridge.
One thing that I really liked about Melbourne is that it was really "artsy" and unique. There were a lot of funky, non-chain stores and restaurants just about everywhere. 

This is a well-known bar - and one of the oldest in Melbourne.

Cute little book store- my sister would love it!
Melbourne is known for their coffee.  This place was recommended to us, and it was great- it was very authentic Italian. 

I also loved that the city was divided into the neighborhoods like Chinatown, Little Italy, the Greek Precinct, etc. 

Melbourne is also known for their street art.  There are tons of narrow allies that are fun to wander through where you can see really amazing street art.  We even got to see some street artists in action, which was really neat. 

Excuse the bad language...

One of our last stops for the day was the famous Queen Victoria Market.  This market is one of the oldest markets in Australia, and it is quite extensive.  It was fun to wander around and see all of the meat, cheese, wine, produce, etc.  I would love to live in a place someday that had a market like this- it would be so fun to do your grocery shopping in a place like that!    

Notice the kangaroo prosciutto (top right)
After a busy day of playing tourist in the city, we went back to our hotel to rest up a little before we went out to celebrate New Year's Eve.  We had dinner reservations at an Italian restaurant that sat right on Fed Square.  We were able to sit outside, which was nice because then we were able to enjoy the music, show, and people watching as the Melbourne NYE party went on. 

Shortly before midnight, we left the restaurant and headed just down the road to the river so we could see the fireworks go off at midnight.  It was a great fireworks show- you could see the fireworks being set off from multiple locations in the city and along the river.  It was definitely a memorable NYE to be celebrating in another continent AND to be in the very first time zone in the world to enter 2013! 

Mah man.


Oh, and of course you didn't think I would leave Melbourne without getting my Mexican food fix, did you?  Now THAT was a good way to start 2013 :-)