Thursday, May 31, 2012

Melbourne - Part 2, Day 1

For our first full day in Melbourne, we planned a few events but wanted to spend some time just wandering around the city.  We started out with breakfast in the Prahran Market directly across from our hotel.  It is the oldest market in Melbourne and succeeded in making me miss our trips to Findley Market.  While there I had a coffee flight where I tasted the best coffee I have ever had.  It was so good I am joining their coffee club and having their coffee delivered to me biweekly.  One of my few complaints about where we live is the lack of really good coffee.  We've found one spot where I meet some friends every Thursday, but other then that it's mostly chains or weak coffee.  Problem is now solved!

The Iconic Melbourne Tram
After breakfast we hopped on the tram into the city.  Nathan wants me to let you know it was the 72 line, because he's obsessive like that!  The picture I have of the tram is not what we rode every day.  Those only do a circle around the city, but they give you lots of information about the buildings and city and it's free!  We rode one on our second day.

The first place I wanted to stop in was an old church because I love visiting old churches.  This is St. Paul's Church, a beautiful old Anglican church.  Although I'm certain they'd disagree, not much exciting has happened here, it's just a pretty church and it was a good opportunity to get my tripod out and take some pictures in the low light.  Here are a few pictures.

View from the front door to the altar

View from the chancel.  While we love our church here,
we miss our chancel choir!

Better view of the front door

I was surprised, but the boys actually enjoyed the church very much.  They thought the artwork was interesting and they loved the stained glass. 

Nathan was very excited because we were off to visit the State Library of Victoria.  More than just a library, it has a permanent exhibit with historical items from Victoria's founding until today - including Ned Kelly's armour.  There are also travelling exhibits and an absolutely beautiful reading room.

Much to Nathan's disappointment, the children's section was closed for a private function.  He was still incredibly impressed with the volumes of minutes from Parliament and some copies of very old books.

Nathan playing his dad in chess in the chess room

The reading room from the floor

The reading room from the top floor

Ned Kelly's Armour
I won't bore you with our walking around and lunch, but everything was very enjoyable.  We wandered through Chinatown and Federation Square, making our way down to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Aussie Rules Football game.  It was a beautiful walk across the river with the crowds headed to the footy game.  I haven't been to any sort of professional game in awhile and this was the boy's first game of any sort, so we were all excited.

MCG at night with lilies in the foreground
The first game I saw was the Grand Final two years ago.  It was live on ESPN and since Brian was working with the Aussies, we decided to DVR it and watch it later.  The game was between Collingwood and St. Kilda.  It was a lot of fun to watch and mostly not hard to pick up on the general rules.  Brian had watched it before when working in Australia so he was able to help me.  I picked Collingwood at random that game to back, so we've cheered for Collingwood since then.  I found out later - after this game, as a matter of fact - that Collingwood is basically the Yankees of the AFL.  Thanks, Amy!

Nevertheless, we cheered the Magpies on to a victory over the Geelong Cats.  At least, Nath is pretty sure it's because of his cheering that they won.  It  was an exciting game with Collingwood pulling it off at the very last second.  Nathan was incredibly into the game, often yelling "Crush it" and screaming when Collingwood scored.  It was fun to watch the boys have so much fun!

Will clapping along to the Collingwood fight song

Collingwood taking the field

Start of the game
I didn't take many pictures during the game because I wanted to actually watch. 

After the game we walked for a bit, trying to let the crowd thin out so it would be easier to catch a tram.  It was a beautiful night to walk.  We were exhausted when we got back to the hotel and everyone collapsed into bed.  The boys even managed to sleep in a bit the next morning!  We woke up refreshed, ready for our next day in Melbourne!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Melbourne - Part 1, Day 3

Brian had a leadership conference to attend this week in Melbourne.  At almost the last minute, we decided to make the weekend before the conference a short holiday.  We quickly purchased airline tickets, booked a hotel, and filled out the paperwork to pull the boys out of school for two days.  I'm so glad we went - I absolutely loved Melbourne.  It is just a lovely city for many reasons, not least of which is wonderful coffee! 

I know it seems weird to start on day three, but I dumped my pictures on to Brian's work computer with every intention of putting them on our external drive to edit at home.  I didn't dump the last day of pictures, figuring they would be fine to take home.  To my surprise, I couldn't open up the external drive on Bri's computer.  At that point he remembered his computer would only open up secure external drives - in other words, one that was given to him by his company.  So we are starting at the end of our trip.

After doing some research on Melbourne, I decided one of the absolute musts was to visit Philip Island.  We looked at several tour options, but decided to rent a car and drive ourselves.  Besides being cheaper by quite a bit, we weren't stuck just seeing one specific thing.  It was only a 90 minute drive, so we were off decently early that morning.

Philip Island was positively gorgeous.  Our first stop was lunch at the Nobbies, so named after the nob rising from the ocean in the picture.  The green space in front of the Nobby is on the path of a penguin migration.  The small islands in the background are the home to the largest population of seals in Australia.

Inside the visitor's center at the Nobbies  are monitors hooked up to a camera on the edge of Seal Rock.  It was amazing - the rocks were carpeted with seals.  For a small fee we were able to drive the camera around four minutes and capture a few pictures, which we could buy for another small fee.  Since it's a nonprofit organization we were happy to help out.

After letting the boys find out more about the South Sea - incidentally, the info was very well done and interactive - we headed out for a walk around the boardwalk.  It is a boardwalk to protect the nesting birds that are all over the island, including the Little, or Fairy, Penguin.  There were several nesting boxes built around, so I was hoping to see at least one penguin on it's own.  Almost immediately we saw people staring at a white spot on that first green island.  I whipped out my telephoto lens and was able to capture this.

He's the little white guy in the middle of the craggy part

I was very excited.  Penguins are by far my favourite animal and the main reason I wanted to visit the island, but a better explanation on that later.

Following are some shots of the coastline looking out into the Bass Strait.  It made me think of what I assume Ireland looks like - beautiful green, craggy coasts, and a wild sea.

The Blowhole

Yea for a tripod!

I loved the shade of aqua

After walking around for a bit we decided to head back so I could wander around some of the boutique shops.  On our way up we found this little guy in his nesting box.  Sorry there's not much detail, it's dark in the box!

So the main reason we visited Philip Island was to see the Penguin Parade.  Every sunset at the beach sees a lot of penguins emerge from the sea to find their homes on the island.  And when I say lots, there were 2,008 that arrived on the night we were there.  We opted to spend $20 more and have fewer people sitting where we would be.  The other upside was that approximately 70% of the penguins went by us.  It was absolutely brilliant!  They come out of the ocean in groups called rafts.  We watched them come in for about 45 minutes.  Apparently they are a bit confused in the fall.  Because the water is still fairly warm and the nights aren't very cool, they believe it's time to mate. 

I was also unaware of how loud they are when defending their homes!  They go back to the same house every time and become quite defensive if another penguin tries to infringe on their turf.  Funny side story - the ranger gave a short talk and took questions for the half four prior to sunset.  One of the questions was how the penguins knew which house was there house.  Cheekily, the ranger answered that penguins were very smart and were able to read the numbers on the man-made nesting boxes.  The woman sitting next to me, let out a gasp, and started nudging her partner, saying that it was amazing that penguins could read!  It took all I had not to laugh out loud!

Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures of the penguins.  Their eyes are very sensitive to light, so flashes are very bad for them.   It probably wasn't bad that I was forced to sit and take it all in without my camera.  I did link to their website above so you can get an idea of what we saw.

While we were waiting, we started to chat with the couple behind us.  We quickly realized they didn't have Aussie accents, so I asked where they were from.  Turns out, you can be halfway around the world and run into somebody who live fairly close to you, because they were from Cleveland!  After some good natured sport related teasing, we asked why they were in Australia.  He works for Goodyear and was visiting their headquarters in Melbourne.  His wife decided to take off for some time and they were beginning to travel around Australia.  Like us, they absolutely love it here!  We all got a good chuckle out of everybody wrapped up in their winter coats, gloves, and scarves when it was approximately 50 F out.

We headed off the island back to our hotel to get ready for the boys and me to depart for home the next day.  I was glad the boys are fairly experienced travellers at this point - it made my life much easier.  Poor Nathan had some issues with his ears on our descent into Newie and began crying, but a few lollies helped.  I felt awful for him, that does hurt incredibly bad.  Luckily the jelly beans he had had the same effect as gum and his ears popped.  The boys were glad to be back home, but I'm certain we'll be back to visit Melbourne again - there's too many things I still want to see!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


We celebrated Will's 5th birthday on Saturday and had a Kentucky Derby party on Sunday.  I have decided I may be crazy!  At least I was smart on one point - because I didn't want to have to clean the house twice in one weekend, we had Will's birthday party at the local bowling alley, or tenpin as it's called here.  Bowling is assumed to be lawn bowling, and Will is five, not seventy-five!

The kids had a great time.  The package included chicken nuggets, chips, and drinks, so I only had to provide dessert.  Will had been wanting a King Cake since I had made one for Mardi Gras and I was happy to oblige.  A couple of days before the party he told me he wanted to have an apple pie, which was fine.  I did ask him why he changed his mind, as he had been quite gung-ho about the King Cake.  His response was that apples were healthy!  I told him not to worry about that, but I was happy to oblige.  Apple pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream was a hit!

The kids were hysterical bowling.  I had no idea how competitive they would be, but they were still great sports.  Here a few pictures from the event.

Watching his bowl

Celebrating his strike

Chowing Down

Will was excited about inviting his entire class, but our general rule is you can invite one person for the age you are turning.  We also let Nath invite a friend so he wouldn't get too bored.  Will had a lovely group of friends come.  The girls were pleased to be invited as well, cheekily telling me it was because they were his girlfriends.  Apparently that description was accurate!

Yep, it was right on the lips

And not to be outdone....

This one ended up on the cheek

At least they're both sweet girls - and cute to boot!

Sunday after church we skipped the usual morning tea and headed straight to our house to finish the last minute party details.  Pretty soon we had our food spread ready - Hot Browns, Grilled Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce, a few greens, and for dessert - Bread Pudding and Derby Pie.  Yummy, but not exactly on my diet plan!  I did cheat a little bit and it was worth every bit of sugar!  I think everyone enjoyed the food.  One person remarked it was like being in a foreign country.

Since the Derby ran about 7am local time we DVR'ed a program called Run for the Roses.  The description stated it would be a history of the Kentucky Derby and would include a replay of the race.  Apparently that mean a replay of the last 200 yards - pretty helpful.  So I grabbed my iPad and gathered everyone around.  All in all it was pretty funny.  I had to look up separately Call to the Post and My Old Kentucky Home.  They group was fascinated that each state has it's own song.  I never thought about that being interesting. 

One of the other things I had a hard time finding were red roses.  Every time I asked a florist for red roses they handed me a dark, burgundy type color.  Apparently in Australia that is what is defined as red.  I was frustrated and trying to decide if fake roses were better or should I go with red Gerber daisies.  Finally, during my final shopping trip, we found red roses in the local grocery store!

It ended up being a nice party.  The kiddos all played together in the boy's rooms and outside, letting the parents just hang around and spend time together.  Sorry I have no pictures.  I've decided you need someone else to document a party if you're hosting.

It was a fun weekend, but boy were we exhausted on Monday!  We haven't done much at all this week, just relaxed along with the usual boring things.  Hopefully we'll have some fun this weekend!