Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Australian Autumn - day 8,9,10

April 10th, 11th and 12th:

You know this whole business of blogging while vacationing is not a good idea I realize! After a busy day of sightseeing and eating, the last thing one wants to do is come back and write about in the interest of time, I am consolidating the last 3 days into one post! If a day warrants an entire post devoted to it, then I will do so.

So where did I leave off? Oh yup, my birthday. Let's move on......

April 10th:

Sunday the 10th dawned bright and beautiful so the 4 of us adults drove to the beach a couple of minutes away and went for a walk. A long 2 hour lovely walk along the coast, watching planes swoop in and out of the airport (which is a km away from home), cockatoos screeching in the sky and flying in droves and landing on trees, joggers, runners, walkers, dogs....the usual things one sees along a beach walk. We oohed and aahed at the gorgeous homes along the waterfront. The 2 hrs went by so quick. Then a little shopping stint at an Asian market where my SIL stocked up n all kinds of goodies and then back home. After a quick brunchie thing we headed to the Sydney Wildlife World per my niece's request. She said we simply had to see the world's biggest croc in captivity! So off we went. Parked downtown and took the monorail to the SWW. It was lovely weather...mid 70's, sunny, warm. Place was full of kids all squealing in delight at the animals.

When we exited the building 2 hrs later it was cold, rainy and windy!!! What happened? We abandoned some other plans we had and scouted around for a good place for lunch. Then headed home and did some sundry things the rest of the day.....watched an Australian classic movie called 'The Castle". Funny stuff!

11th April:

Today Raga and I decided to take the train into downtown and check out the area. Got dropped at the Rockdale station, a very helpful ticket agent helped us figure out what tickets we needed to buy - a RT ticket to the museum and back. Got into downtown at the Museum around 10.30. Raga wants me to mention the cool seats on the train which can be slid forward or backwards depending on which way you want to face...his engineer brain loved the idea!!!

First stop was the Anzac Memorial at Sydney. Then a bit further the Australian Museum, a fascinating place to learn the history of this country. What has happened to the indigenous Aborigines is terrible...being deprived of land that is so rightfully theirs in addition to other injustices! Then we went into the St Mary's Cathedral and sat inside in awed silence while a service was going on.

After that we walked towards the Opera House stopping here and there along the way of something caught our fancy......the Parliament, The Botanical gardens, the State Library. At one point we saw a native Australian walking ahead of us and Raga stopped him to talk to him and let him know how much he empathized with him and his people. The man - Dan, native name Japadanga  - was a bit startled at first, but I think when he realized we meant it, he warmed up and even let us take a pic with him and walked along a bit with us quite chattily.

Then we headed on to the Sydney Opera House......
....browsed around, checked out the galleries along the waterfront, stopped at a cafe in front of the gardens on the way back for lunch.......

rubbed the nose of a boar called Il Porcellino which is supposed to bring good luck,.....
and took the train and headed home!

12th April:

Was a very laid back day today. Hubby went off to the bank to find out some stuff, I tagged along. Then came home, had a leisurely lunch and headed to Bunnings to buy some seeds and garden stuff for our garden back home. In the evening we got dolled up and went to see the Madame Butterfly ballet at the Sydney Opera House! What can I say? It was beautiful.....a sad poignant story with incredible music and some fabulous ballet dancers!

Then as if this wasn't enough, we topped it off with an elegant dinner at this restaurant! Sigh....I love Sydney!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Australian Autumn - day 7

9th April: My 50th birthday!!!

Its official! I am half a century old today. :-(
My sis-in-law keeps saying 50 is the new 35, but I don't know about that! So how did the day go? It was as the Aussies say "brilliant, just brilliant!". We started by going to this place for breakfast, a wonderfully cosy but stylish organic cafe. I was so tempted to order something creamy and decadent, but I figured turning 50 was all the more reason to eat healthy, so while my nephew got the Belgian sugar waffle, my niece the Almond Croissant and my BIL the Banana bread, I opted for the homemade organic multigrain granola which was delicious but gave my jaws a good solid workout for half an hour!

After that a quick run to the grocery store to stock up on all essentials for lunch. A quick side note here - my SIL is a fabulous cook. Not only does she make some incredible dips - hummus, pesto, guacamole - she does amazing things with veggies. Salads, stir fries, simple veggie dishes.....all fabulous. So when she kindly asked me what I wanted as a birthday lunch my answer was of course - salad. So we bought assorted char grilled veggies at the deli - peppers, artichokes, fat plump olives, feta cheese, squash, baby beets, asparagus - I knew I was in for a treat at lunch time. She would not let me near the kitchen to help, kept shooing me away and then 2 hrs later produced this magnificent lunch.

I meant just one, but she went all out and made 5 salads...roasted mushrooms and asparagus; a marinated tofu salad, roasted baby beets, squash and feta, mixed greens with garbanzos and assorted veggies and a romaine lettuce with olives, tomatoes and avocado. I was in salad heaven! I stuffed myself with all this food while sitting out in the balcony looking at the wonderful view.
Post lunch was a fun afternoon......skyping with folks back home, talking to a gazillion people who called to wish me, chatting, laughing and just being lazy. No sooner had my lunch digested than we were heading out to dinner at a Lebanese restaurant. Lovely place, great food, wonderful ambience and some seriously fabulous belly dancing. The girl roped in my nephew who joined in like a good sport, imitating all her wiggly moves and sexy hip swinging! 

Back home, the eating wasn't done yet! All insisted we get a cake, so the food frenzied birthday was capped by some oozingly delicious carrot cake! 
What a day it was! Granted, I ate way way more than I usually do, but it was all so good I could not resist! And other than the carrot cake, it wasn't too unhealthy, right?

Australian Autumn - day 6

8th April:

Today was travel day. Took the train from Melbourne to Sydney. We decided against the night train cos we wanted to see the countryside...but it turned out to be really boring....miles and miles or rather kms and kms of grassy rolling land with fat wooly sheep and brush fires almost the entire way. Slept, read, looked out....then slept, read, looked out.....for 12 hrs. Got into Sydney at 8.45pm, picked up by bro-in-law and family and headed out for dinner at Mother Chu's Taiwanese restaurant. Had tofu and gluten in various permutations and combinations...interesting food.

Came home very late and crashed!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Australian Autumn - day 5

7th April:
Our last day in Melbourne. To market to market. Melbourne has a number of markets on weekends, but we were lucky that the Victoria Market operated on Tuesday and Thursdays as well. Besides, it was right behind our hotel. So fortified with a good breakfast and with an empty backpack, we headed on over there. As soon we entered the covered market area, I knew we were in trouble. All kinds of lovely goodies and local arts and crafts all over the place. Great food, awesome organic produce - it was like a farmers market, a flea market, a crafts bazaar and a huge garage sale all rolled into one. Aboriginal craft products jostled with Australian kangaroo belt buckles, lavender and ylang ylang soaps with hot massage pads and leather goods! It was a great place to wrap up all of our gift shopping. I bought some lovely carved aboriginal dolls and a painting, Raga bought a similarly carved painted boomerang. 

Some more knick knacks and after about 2 hrs there we came back to the hotel, deposited our purchases and took off for the Eureka skydeck, the highest viewpoint in the southern hemisphere. To get there, we had to walk a bit along the Yarra river. It was a lovely afternoon and all of Melbourne was there eating lunch on the grass by the riverside. The skydeck on the 88th floor is not unlike the Seattle Space needle or the Auckland tower. Its a great place to get a fabulous view of the city and beyond. There was a little glass cube jutting out of the tower where for a price you can go and get a heart attack, cos you are out there, meters above the ground totally surrounded by glass including a glass floor! I didn’t go anywhere near it. Took some nice panoramic shots, wandered around a bit more and left.

Outside we bought some falafel wraps and joined the lunch eating crowd by the river. Then a long leisurely stroll all along the Yarra river for an hour till we hopped on the bus to get back. On the way our tram stopped at a light across the Parliament building, so on a whim we hoped off and decided to see if they offered tours. We asked the guard outside and he said “Sorry, no tours today, Parliament is in session. But if you want you can go into the gallery and watch the proceedings”. Wow! What a stroke of luck! So we went thru security etc and went into a gallery overlooking the floor below where the Premier was talking. The Premier was accusing the Opposition of making political capital and there was a lot of noise and ruckus! Not too many were really paying attention, some were sleeping, some text messaging, a lady was filing her nails and so on. One very loud and vociferous guy kept making comments and got 2 warnings from the Speaker. Finally he got thrown out, at which he bowed gracefully, and left, still muttering to himself. If a civilized state like Victoria could have such a rambunctious Parliament session, I can understand why they throw shoes and chairs in India!!!!

It lasted about 20 minutes, after which we got on the tram, headed back to the hotel for an afternoon siesta!
At 6.30 pm we left again to go to Federation Square, the happening place in Melbourne, for an evening free outdoor musical concert. We decided to walk the 10 or so blocks to get there while I snapped some shots of Melbourne in the evening....

and found the music show in full swing. Not our style...too much rapping and heavy metal stuff, but we hung around, people watched, had some bubble tea and ambled towards dinner. Thought we would give Indonesian a try today, but when we went in, it didn’t look too guess where we went??? You're right...Your Thai! But it was as enjoyable as ever.

Back to hotel at 8.30 to pack for the next day.