Thursday, April 16, 2009

Australia Part 16: Off to New Castle, New South Wales

Hubby and I were invited to see his cousin Gerry in New Castle, New South Wales. An hour's flight from Melbourne.

We were warmly greeted by Gerry at the airport and promply took us to his home he shares with his partner Tony.

I helped him make dinner. It was first home cooked meal since we arrived in Australia. He made Dijon Chicken and Oriental Chicken Soup with mint, cilantro and lemongrass. Gerry's a doctor so he tries to keep most of his meals low fat.

It was so nice to finally sleep in a real home after almost a week staying in a hotel :-)

Australia Part 15: Melbourne Zoo and la Porchetta at Queen Victoria Market

Hubby and I finally managed to find the Melbourne Zoo. We checked out from our hotel early and proceeded directly to Melbourne Zoo.

We had breakfast amongst the Kangaroos. We still had some leftover ham, cheese, bread and fruits from the hotel fridge and I brought it with me. It was the most fun breakfast ever :-)

If you love animals, like we do, don't miss out on going to Melbourne Zoo. You will enjoy spending the whole day there, although we didn't have that luxury because we had a flight to New Castle in the afternoon. Anyway, these are just some of the animals that we saw. It was absolutely worth it to go and have a visit.

The most fun I had was going to the aviary. The aviary was huge and very ideal for avian "lifestyle". There are streams inside, grasses, trees and shrubs. The aviary alone is worth the trip.

The zoo also provides party areas that you can rent for the day. Vey ideal for Children's parties and such.

We had so little time left for lunch before our flight, we made a beeline to La Porchetta at Queen Victoria Market for a quick lunch of La Porchetta Pizza, caesar's Salad, hot chocolate and Ice cream. The pizza was way too rich, a sprinkling of bell peppers would have made it better :-)

Australia Part 14: Tried to catch the Fairy Penguins again

Hubby was frustrated with the previous night's pictures of the penguins because it was quite late when we arrived. This particular night, we arrived a bit early to try to see them more clearly. The penguins were there when we arrived but they refused to come out :-) Hubby managed to take this photo though. Can you see him inside the rocks? He's a wild penguin that's why he's not very "sociable" :-) Most of the breakwater is sealed to the public to give privacy to these breeding penguins. Only a small portion of it is open to the public. Some penguins still make it as their home.

The sunset was beautiful. I love St. Kilda Beach.

Chilled to the bone (after all it was autumn in Melbourne), hubby and I trudged to Fizroy Street to have some hot chocolate and dinner at La Porchetta.

I had the Canneloni stuffed with Ricotta Cheese and Spinach. Yummy!

Hubby had the shrimp and mushroom pizza, which was great as well. He downed it with a local beer, Pure Blond.

What a fun evening it was, I remember it quite clearly up to now :-)

Autralia Part 13: National Gallery of Victoria

The weather wasn't cooperating that day. When I left our hotel, it was cloudy and windy. I decided to take the Nikon and leave the tripod at the hotel, lest I got caught in a storm. I saw on the news that Sydney was having torrential rain and it looked like Melbourne will get some rain showers as well.

My first stop was National Gallery of Victoria. The gallery has a very iconic and impressive door made of glass with cascading water.

The gallery is free. You can spend the whole day there if you love the arts. The gallery holds an impressive collection of African, Egyptian, Roman artifacts. Here are some of things that I saw there that fascinated me:

After the museum, I saw the Free Hop on Hop Off Melbourne City Tourist Bus in front and decided to hitch a ride and go around Melbourne. The bus has 13 stops in various tourist attractions within Melbourne. For more information, click here.

It was close to lunch time and the much-needed rain was pouring with all its might. I took shelter at the Queen Victoria Market and had a slice of pizza and warm cappuccino at Market Lane Cafe:

After that, I proceeded to Cole's, one of Australia's major supermarkets (the other is Woolworth's) and bought some fruits for hubby. The strawberries in Australia are the best. It's like biting into sugar cubes. They're so sweet and succulent! The photo I have here are just the small ones, which are equally sweet as their large counterparts. Yummy!

Australia Part 12: St. Kilda and its Fairy Penguins and the best gelato in the entire universe

I loved St. Kilda so much, I took hubby there again that night and we hoped that we could get to meet Australia's wild Fairy Penguins. The Fairy Penguins were there alright but since hubby got off from work late, we didn't have enough natural light to take photos of them.

I saw some tourists using flash photography on the penguins (even if there are signs telling them no) and gave them a piece of my mind. They thought I was a local, ha ha ha :-)

Hubby did manage to take some spectacular shots of the place though.

The St. Kilda pier is often abuzz with fishing activity usually by older men whiling away the time under the Australian sky. The gents are very friendly and would often greet you as you pass them by. They usually stay on this pier during the day. I met some nice people there earlier.

The restaurant found at the end of the pier is a local landmark that burned a couple years back and was beautifully restored by the government. St. KIlda Pier won't be the same without it.

There are also other restaurants located right on the beach and it would be nice to have a meal there and watch the sunset.

Hubby's contemplating whether to ditch the sushi meal that I bought back at the hotel :-)

The hoops I'm sitting on are meant for tying your bikes in. Many people usually bring their bikes and pedal along the boardwalk, enjoying the scenery while getting some excercise.

After walking, looking for penguins, make your way to Fitzroy street (where trams pass by) and raid Fritz Gelato. The gelatos are made fresh daily. It was by far the best tasting gelato that I've ever had in my entire life. I highly highly recommend the pistacchio and the honeycomb. Both are award winning recipes. Please, you just gotta try it when you're in Melbourne!

I remember feeling very happy that day :-) Went to the beach, talked to some nice people on the beach, saw some wild Fairy Penguins, had sunset walk at the beach with hubby, had the most delicious gelato in the entire universe. Yep, life was good.

Oh yeah, we did eat the sushi dinner that I bought.

Australia Part 11: St. Kilda Beach, Our Favorite Place

I really enjoyed our trip to Williamstown the previous night and I wanted to check out St. Kilda Beach. I took hubby's Nikon, the tripod and some essentials and off to St. Kilda Beach I went. I took the no. 16 tram in front of our hotel. Within ten minutes I was at the beach!

It was a warm and beautiful day when I arrived. Oh my, I was so excited. I couldn't believe that a clean beach was just a few minutes' tram ride from the center of the city!

I took these photos of me, me, me :-)

This photo is the essence of Melbourne, you have the city, the water, a (paddle) surfer in the background and one hot chick in the foreground, mwa ha ha ha :-)

Australia Part 10: Williams Town

I thought my day was pretty uneventful but then, hubby's host Travis, invited us to dinner. He took us to a scenic town just outside of Melbourne. It's called Williams Town, an affluent community situated around three beaches. It was the first time that I've been to a beach town in Australia and I was enthralled.

The homes that you see on these photos are multi-million dollar homes. If we had a million dollars that time, we would have bought a property right then and there :-)

The views are spectacular and it changes everyday depending on the weather and the boats docked on its harbor.

Travis took us to a Fish & Chips shop called Top of the Bay. Fish & Chips are the staple restaurant food in Australia. Your trip will not be complete without at least trying one shop. It's a quintessential Aussie experience shat should not be missed :-)

The fish were very fresh and our host Travis came prepared with everything for our picnic. He brough drinks, cutlery, everything but the kitchen sink :-)

We also met an interesting couple and let us share their table overlooking the water.

Here are some more photos of Williams Town. Is it any wonder why I love Australia so much?