Last few weeks in Melbourne

Over our last few weeks in melbourne david took part in the medibank melbourne marathon-! Here’s what he had to say about it:

‘After a few weeks training and some serious carb loading, race day had arrived. Needless to say I was nervous at what the day ahead was to bring as temperatures were due to hit 27degrees by lunch time. With the race due to start at 7am we had arrived at the tram stop in ample time only to find that the trams weren’t running. A quick taxi got us there just 5minutes before the start having picked up some other marathon runners on the way. It was a beautiful morning & lots of hot air balloons floated over the city.

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ready to rock

7am start and the 7000+ participants got moving. There was a great atmosphere throughout the run and although the course was beautiful as it moved through Albert park and the foreshore, there were too many areas where it backtracked onto itself to make up the distance.

After 3hrs 34minutes the pain was over as I crossed the finish line at the MCG, where Jen was waiting to greet me! The heat was now intense and the thought of it getting hotter kept me pushing myself along the way. I was very happy with my time given the somewhat lack of training & it was awesome to think I had completed a marathon on the other side of the world! Afterwards I was lucky to get a free massage courtesy of the medibank corporate tent! We then headed home & rested up for a few hours before heading for a drink & some Mexican food in St Kilda with jen.’

 

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I did it!

In our last week we took ourselves on a self guided tour down around the docklands area of the city. As with most major cities, Melbournes docklands has been regenerated recently having previously been wasteland. It is now home to the cities financial centre boasting large skyscrapers, luxury living and lots of trendy bars/restaurants. Along Southbank and the docklands there are a variety of different art pieces and modern architecture comprising of buildings and bridges. For jen and I it has allowed us to practice our amateur nighttime photography skills.

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We started at the river along by the Crown casino & then headed down to find the Webb Bridge which was as amazing architecturally as it had looked in the pictures we had seen.

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We then wandered down to the docklands across from the Ethiad stadium & over towards the observation wheel.

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At this stage it was pretty late & we were tired so we headed back to the casino & put a small $20 bet on roulette! Needless to say we lost it. This was jen’s first time in a casino & she wasn’t really impressed to be honest!

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The city is so beautiful at night & the shots turned out well! all in all a good night was had on one of our last nights in Melbourne!

Before leaving Melbourne, we also headed back to the Shrine of Remembrance where we went to the viewing point at the top for some last shots off the Melbourne skyline!

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We then met up with the couple that we done our first 3 weeks of regional work with, for a drink at Chuckle park bar & café.  The bar is down an entry in the main shopping area & nice on a sunny day 🙂 the photo doesn’t even do it justice!

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Jen had also planned to do a neighbours tour on our penultimate day but due to the weather this was cancelled!  Next time we are in Melbourne we will be visiting the Eureka Tower as we bought tickets ages ago which we still haven’t used as we are waiting on a nice day to visit at sunset!

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Great Ocean Road & Grampians Roadtrip

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On one of our last weekends in Melbourne we were lucky to borrow a car from David’s relative and take a 3 day weekend trip to the Great Ocean Road & the Grampians!  I had done a day tour of the GOR 2.5 years ago but David hadn’t been so we made the most of having the car & headed off for a weekend out of the city.  We left the city Friday morning and drove out of the city past Geelong and along the coast, stopping every 5 minutes at the numerous viewing points along the way!  Our first stop was the town of Torquay which is home to alot of surf shops and the nearby Bells Beach where the Ripcurl Prosurf competitions take place each year.

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We then carried on driving along the coast, stopping at Aireys Inlet where we took a walk up to Split Point Lighthouse otherwise known as the lighthouse from the TV programme ‘Round the Twist’ which we both loved when we were kids.  Definitely worth a stop, you can also do a tour of the lighthouse if you have time.

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From here we continued onto Lorne, stopping at the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch for some photos.

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We then stopped outside Lorne to have a picnic by the beach.

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The whole way along the GOR you will find turnoffs for numerous waterfalls. We visited Erskine Falls just outside Lorne, which were lovely & worth the detour.

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The views along the way are absolutely stunning, the roads are windy but such a beautiful drive and so many beautiful houses too – so easy to see why it is in the Top 10 most scenic drives in the world.

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Another stop was Kennett River, where we had been told to stop to see koala bears in the wild & sure enough it didn’t disappoint.  When we stopped before we had even got the chance to walk up the hill, there was a koala sitting in the tree.  It sat for a while, whilst we took lots of pictures, and then began to climb down the tree and run away.

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After Kennett River we continued along the road, and then took a drive out to Otway National Park.  The drive there was long and windy yet spectacular as the trees were huge & the park was bigger than we imagined.  Unfortunately the Treetop Adventures part of the park, where you can do ziplining and take a Treetop walk, was closed when we arrived! O well there’s always next time 🙂

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Another good spot to stop is Otway Lighthouse where you can also see koalas along the way, though we were too late to stop here.

After a day of driving we stopped in Apollo Bay for the night, where we stayed in the YHA hostel.  The hostel was very clean & had a rooftop terrace where we sat & ate our homemade bolognese, drank moscato & took a walk along the beach!  Beautiful end to a beautiful day!

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The next morning we had breakfast in the hostel & off we went on the road again towards the famous ‘Twelve Apostles,’ off which there are only 6 left.  We stopped along the way at Gibson Steps, where we went down onto the beach & had beautiful views of the remaining Apostles.

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Our next stop was the viewing point and visitor centre for the Apostles.  Here you can take a helicopter flight over the Apostles, which I highly recommend after doing it on my last trip to Australia.  It really is a beautiful place & David was very impressed.

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After the Apostles we made a stop at Loch Ard Gorge which was gorgeous.

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Next & one of our final stops near the Apostles was London Bridge.

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After this we made our way to Port Campbell, where we stopped and had fish & chips by the water.  A nice stop if you have time or you could stay here for the night for easy access to the Apostles.

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We then made our way to Port Fairy, stopping at a cheese factory in Warrnambool for David’s favourite – milkshake & to try and see the whales with no luck!

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After this we headed towards the Grampians, and it took us around 2.5 hours to arrive in Halls Gap where we stayed on the Saturday night in the YHA hostel.  Again as you would expect, the drive was magnificent & didn’t disappoint. David even saw a snake in the road which I missed as I was driving.

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After checking into the hostel, we had dinner in a cafe ‘Base Camp’ and along the way  stopped at the oval (football pitch) to admire the dozens of kangaroos that were casually grazing! We even got to see a joey in its mama’s pouch!  We then returned to the hostel & chilled out for a few hours before retiring to bed after a long day!

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On sunday morning we left the hostel at around 9.30am & headed out to find a few of the well-known viewing points in the Grampians.  First we visited the Balconies, which is a beautiful viewing point giving views of the ranges & amazing photo opportunities.

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We then made our way to McKenzie Falls where we visited the lookout point as opposed to the base of the falls, due to time constraints.

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After this we went to Sundial carpark & had a picnic & then took a 4km hike to Sundial peak.  It was a hot day but a worthwhile walk to the top.

 

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After this we left the Grampians at around 2pm and drove a few hours to Ballarat where I met up with a friend, with whom I had worked with 6 years ago at Camp America.  We had a drink by the lake & a catch-up before making our way back to Melbourne.

We had an amazing weekend away, and would definitely recommend taking the time out to explore the Great Ocean Road & Grampians & I think 3 days was the perfect amount of time!  If you are in Australia make sure and do this, don’t take a day tour unless you really have to! You won’t regret it!

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Our Travel Bucketlist

 Life is full of adventures, so we have put together a bucketlist of our travel goals! Some on the list either one of us has done already but we want to share the experiences together!  Life is for living….Aim for the stars even if you fail you’ll land in the clouds 🙂

  1. Trek the Great Wall of China
  2. Go up the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpar
  3. Travel through the Red Centre, Australia & see Uluru (Ayers Rock) at sunrise & sunset, take a helicopter flight at Uluru
  4. Spend Christmas & New Years in Sydney, Australia
  5. Pamukkule & Cleopatra’s Bath, Turkey
  6. Visit Park Guell, Sagrada Familia & Gaudi’s Casa Mila, Barcelona
  7. Go up the Eiffel Tower, visit the Louvre & Sacre Coeur, put a lock on Love Locks Bridge, see the Mona Lisa,, eat snails & croissants -, Paris
  8. See the Northern Lights
  9. Go on a skiing holiday
  10. Go up the world’s tallest building- Burj Khalifa Dubai
  11. Take a tuk tuk ride & visit the Grand Palace, Bangkok
  12. Stay on a Thai island – Koh Samui, Koh Phangan
  13. Visit London at Christmas
  14. Skydive
  15. Trek the Inca Trail & visit Machu Picchu, Peru
  16. Visit New York at Christmas, ice skate in Central Park & see the Rockefeller Christmas tree
  17. Visit Canada – Toronto, Niagara Falls , the Rockies & Quebec
  18. Take a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon
  19. Visit Europe – Budapest, Prague, Krakow, Copenhagen, Italy, Berlin, Switzerland, Salzburg, Vienna, Munich, Bratislava, Amsterdam, Bruge.
  20. Backpack around New Zealand’s North & South Islands – hike the Franz Josef Glacier, walk the Tongariro Crossing, visit Waitoma Caves & Milford Sound.
  21. Island hop in Fiji
  22. Stay in an overwater villa, Maldives
  23. Stay in the Glass Igloo hotel, Finland
  24. Backpack Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam & Burma
  25. Take a hot air balloon over the temples in Burma
  26. Learn to paddleboard
  27. Stay in the Marina Sands hotel & swim in the rooftop infinity pool, drink a Singapore Sling in Raffles hotel, Singapore
  28. Go to a F1 Grand Prix
  29. Go to the Australian Open or Wimbledon
  30. Visit Hong Kong, Beijing, the Terracotta Warriors, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square & pandas, China
  31. See the Leaning Tower of Pisa & visit Pompeii, Italy
  32. See Koalas & Kangaroos in their natural habitat, Australia
  33. Take a gondola ride in Venice
  34. Visit the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, the Vatican & the Trevi Fountain, Rome
  35. Visit Moscow & St Petersburg
  36. Trek to Everest Base Camp
  37. Take a bullet train
  38. Visit the Egyptian Pyramids
  39. Travel through India, visit the Taj Mahal & the Gateway of India & stay on a houseboat in Kerala’s backwaters
  40. Drive the Great Ocean Road, Australia
  41. Visit Johannesburg, Capetown, Victoria Falls & take a Safari to see the big 5, South Africa
  42. See crocodiles in their natural habitat
  43. Take a roadtrip in Western Australia – Swim with dolphins at Monkey Mia,visit the Pinnacles & Wave Rock
  44. Do a shark dive
  45. Go white water rafting
  46. Visit Angor Wat at sunrise
  47. Sail in Halong Bay
  48. Visit the Bolivian Salt Plains
  49. Visit Rio de Janeiro & Christ the Redeemer, Brazil
  50. Visit Iceland’s geysers and Blue Lagoon
  51. Visit Jordan, Petra and Wadi Rum
  52. Visit Mexico – see Chichen Itza
  53. Visit Antarctica – see penguins & polar bears
  54. See a Geisha, visit the Harbin Winter Festival, see Mt Fuji, visit Tokyo & Koyoto, Japan
  55. Go to the Olympics
  56. Stay in the Ice hotel, Sweden
  57. Do Hang-gliding/Paragliding in Switzerland
  58. Visit Santorini & Athens, Greece
  59. Visit the Christmas markets, Germany
  60. Have a waterfight at Songkran Festival, Thailand
  61. See the Golden Gate Bridge, visit Alcatraz, take a cable car ride, San Francisco
  62. Visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame & Hollywood sign, LA
  63. Take a limo down the strip & gamble, Las Vegas
  64. See a Broadway show, New York
  65. Visit Yosemite National Park, Death Valley & Monument Valley, USA
  66. See the White House Washington, USA
  67. Visit the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
  68. Ride a camel, Dubai
  69. Watch the burning ghats at the River Ganges, India
  70. Take the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to Beijing
  71. See the Statue of Liberty & climb the Empire State Building, New York
  72. Learn to surf, Australia
  73. Ride a bike around Amsterdam’s canals & visit the red light district
  74. Watch the Penguin Parade, Philip Island Australia
  75. Visit the floating markets, Asia
  76. Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi
  77. Go whale watching
  78. Ride on the London Eye
  79. Do a hill tribe trek & see the White Temple, Chiang Mai
  80. Live near the beach, Australia
  81. Go to Stonehedge, England
  82. Ride an elephant, Thailand
  83. Eat pizza & Gelato, Italy
  84. Do a bungee Jump
  85. Visit the Shard, London
  86. Go to a drive -in movie
  87. Go to an open air cinema
  88. Go inside the Burj al Arab, 7* hotel, Dubai
  89. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge & take a tour of Sydney Opera House
  90. Visit the Northern Territory, Australia
  91. Sleep under the stars
  92. Visit the Iguassu Falls, Argentina
  93. Visit the Amazon Rainforest
  94. Take a hot air balloon over Cappadocia, visit Ephesus & Istanbul, Turkey
  95. Trek in Sapa, Vietnam
  96. Visit the Ubud hanging gardens & the temple of Ulun Danu, Bali
  97. Visit the Matterhorn & Jungfrau, Switzerland
  98. Float in the Dead Sea
  99. Visit Patagonia, Chile
  100. Visit Croatia
  101. Visit Jerusalem
  102. Eat at a rooftop restaurant, Bangkok
  103. Visit Neuswanstein Castle, Germany
  104. Visit the Galapagos Islands
  105. Visit Tasmania
  106. Visit the Grampians, Australia
  107. Backpack Central & South America
  108. Take our children to Disneyland, Florida
  109. Learn Spanish
  110. Live in another country, Australia
  111. Travel in Africa
  112. Take a roadtrip in America – Boston, San Fran, LA, San Diego, Big Sur, Washington DC, Chicago, Texas
  113. Travel the East Coast, Australia – Fraser Island, Sailing in the Whitsundays, Snorkel/Dive the Great Barrier Reef
  114. Visit Easter Island, Chile
  115. Visit Alaska
  116. Visit the Norwegian Fjords
  117. Visit Papua New Guinea
  118. Go to Oktoberfest, Munich
  119. Spend Christmas in Canada
  120. Stay in a hotel with our own private pool

In and around Melbourne Sept 2014

Since the walking tour we have been out & about enjoying our last few weeks in the most liveable city in the world – Melbourne! We had a few weekends when we couldn’t do a lot after I tore my calf muscle badly playing netball with work, & was off my feet for a week or two!  Sadly no half marathon for me! But David continued to train for his full marathon!

beautiful run by the sea

beautiful run by the sea

south melbourne market

south melbourne market

David was lucky to go to the semi final of the Aussie Rules football at the MCG with his relative Ross, & when my calf muscle was on the mend we got out and about & did what we could!

On Grand Final day (final of Aussie Rules footy), which is massive in Oz and particularly in Melbourne as the final is held here, we headed down to Federation Square to watch the match on the big screen! We were a tad hungover this day, so missed the start, but soon found a spot along with hundreds of other avid fans!  The atmosphere was great, but the match was a bit boring if I’m honest as the Hawthorn Hawks were well in the lead most of game!

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Grand Final Day

DSCF0096One other weekend we headed out to explore the city, and stopped by Melbourne Central shopping centre! The shopping centre is home to the beautiful Shot Tower & has a large Fob watch which plays Waltzing Matilda every hour with moving birds & people.  Definitely worth a look!

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Shot tower

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After this we headed to the Royal Exhibition Building for a tour. The tour departs from the Melbourne Museum and costs $10pp & lasts around 45mins.  We learnt about the history of the building & learnt something new – it is a Unesco World Heritage Building….It is beautiful building but not sure if the 45min tour is necessary!

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Inside the Royal Exhibition Building

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After the tour, we headed to see St Patricks Cathedral but unfortunately couldn’t get inside due to a wedding. We then stumbled across Fitzroy Gardens by chance, & saw Cooks Cottage.  Definitely a place to take a picnic on a sunny day!

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St Patricks Cathedral

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                        Fitzroy Gardens

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On the day before the Melbourne Marathon, we headed into the city & wandered down by the Yarra river, checking out rowers & a kids skatepark along the way.  The city never ceases to amaze us with all that it offers, in the space of about half an hour, we saw numerous sports being played. We also passed by the Tennis arena, where we saw the ball boys & girls training for the Aussie Open Tennis in January!

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Yarra River

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After this we headed out to Brunswick on the tram, to check out a rooftop bar – Naked for Satan.  Here we had wonderful views over the city, had a few drinks and some gorgeous tapas & caught up with a friend. Don’t miss this place if you are in the area!

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                   View from rooftop bar

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inside Naked for Satan

We have also been walking each evening after work around St Kilda, towards Port Melbourne and Brighton & seen some beautiful sunsets as well as people cooling off in the sea, and enjoying volleyball on the beach!

St Kilda sunset

St Kilda sunset

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sunset from our balcony

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Evening walks by the sea 🙂

Beautiful St Kilda

Beautiful St Kilda & city in the background

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Volleyball tournament

Volleyball tournament

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St Kilda marina

O and did I mention a few bbqs & drinks by the beach thrown into the mix! Now you know why we loveeeeeee Melbourne!

Riva Bar and restaurant St Kilda - worth a visit

Riva Bar and restaurant St Kilda – worth a visit

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Free Walking Tour of Melbourne

A few weeks back we decided to do a ‘free’ walking tour of Melbourne with ‘I’m Free walking tours.’  The idea being that you tip the guide, as much as you think the tour was worth (we gave around $50 for the two of us)! The tours run in Sydney and Melbourne at weekends, twice daily and last around 3 hours.  The tour started outside the State Library of Victoria in the city centre, about 5 mins walk from Bourke Street Mall.  Our guide was a Melbournian & was very knowledgable, hence the tip!

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Statue of Sir Raymond Barry at State Library     of Victoria

After the State Library we visited the grounds of Melbourne Gaol & learnt about famous Ned Kelly.

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From there made our way towards the Royal Exhibition Building, which was beautiful & surrounded by parklands & had a gorgeous fountain out the front.  A few weeks later we took a tour of this, so more to come on that later!

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Nice church

Luckily we got a gorgeous sunny day for the tour, and on the way back towards the city, we went down laneways to discover bars such as the Science Bar & the Berlin Bar (which we hope to visit before we leave Melbourne), we saw more street art along the way, as well as passing through China Town.

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China Town Melbourne

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Berlin Bar

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Cool bar at Stevenson Lane

We then went to Hosier Lane, where we have been a few times but as the artwork changes regularly it’s never boring!

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Melbourne’s laneways

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Just hanging at Hosier Lane

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We then passed through some of the beautiful arcades, and saw David’s favourite Haighs chocolate shop & an English tea shop.

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Beautiful arcade

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Along the way we also passed by beautiful theatres & some old trams.

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Princess Theatre

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Old trams of Melbourne

The tour finished close to Fed Square, at the Arts building. All in all, I would definitely recommend this tour if you are visiting Melbourne.

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Lentil as Anything

So we have been very quiet on the blogging front over the past few weeks, since Jen tore her calf muscle but we have been trying to get out and about as much as possible as we now only have 2 weeks left living in wonderful Melbourne before we head to Adelaide for a few days, then up the Red Centre to Ayers Rock/Uluru!

A few weeks back we headed out to Abbottsford Convent with our friend Kylie to eat at the infamous ‘Lentil as Anything’ which is a not for profit vegetarian restaurant with locations across Melbourne.  We headed to the Abbottsford one as it is a buffet, and Kylie had recommended it.  When we arrived there was along queue outside, but we quickly moved inside where we had a selection of Dahl, rice, pumpkin curry, other curries & poppadoms.  The food was beautiful, apart from the dessert which to be honest looked like a big bowl of snot!  Here you pay what you want for the food, and the restaurants rely on volunteers.  Definitely worth a visit if you have the time and want to give something back to the community.

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                             Yummy curries

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Penguin Parade at Philip Island

At the end of August we took a half day tour to Philip Island to watch the Penguin Parade.  We had booked the tour through Viator online, as it was half price – normally around $150 & included fish n’ chips for dinner & access to Penguin Plus – access to better viewing platform.  We left the city at about 3pm with the tour operator AAT Kings, and made our way out to Philip Island about 1.5 hours drive from Melbourne.  On arrival we had about an hour to spare before we had to be down at the viewing platform, so during this time we had our fish n chip dinner & walked around the tourist information centre.  We then made our way down to the viewing platform, and when we arrived there we took our seats and waited for the guide to give us some information on the penguins we were about to see.  The platform overlooked a cove bay, and whilst waiting we saw a few kangaroos hopping around.

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The penguins at Philip Island are the smallest of the penguin species, and it is estimated that around 3o,ooo live on Philip Island.  They are about 30cm in height, weigh around 3 lbs, and live on average for 7 years.  As they have very sensitive eyes, you cannot take photos at the Penguin Parade, as it can scare them and make them sick.  We waited til around 6.30pm, and then we saw the penguins start to emerge from the water.  Out they came in groups of around 30-40, waddling along the beach & over rocks.  We sat and watched as about 6 different groups made their way up the beach, and towards the viewing platform, then along past the viewing platform through the conservation area to the numerous burrows.  It really was a sight to be seen.  Although we could not take pictures I have attached one below from the Philip Island Nature Parks Australia website &  yes this is really what we saw.  All in all we had a good time at Philip Island…..would I recommend the tour….I would probably recommend hiring a car and combining this with a stay on the island or a roadtrip of the Mornington Peninsula, or at least a day with stops along the way at the beautiful countryside on the drive from Melbourne.

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Dubai continued!

So as if a boat trip, sand dune safari and visit to the tallest building in the world wasn’t enough for a short stopover in Dubai, on day 3 we made our way out to the Emirates mall for some ski lessons at Ski Dubai!

We had pre-booked online (the cost was about 220 Dirham or roughly £40) and on arrival were given everything we needed except gloves and a hat (which we bought inside, though I would recommend you to bring your own).  There were lockers for your belongings, and once fitted up with skis and boots, we headed onto the slopes to meet our instructor.  Having only ever spent a day learning to ski on the dry slopes in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, we had booked beginner lessons so we were on the nursery slopes. Now I would say this was more a free for all than a lesson to be honest, and I wouldn’t have been too happy if I had never set foot on a slope of any kind before! Nevertheless we had a few hours of good fun, and it has definitely given us a notion of a ski holiday in the near future!  Within Ski Dubai, you can do zorbing, take the chairlift to the top for some better slopes, meet the penguins, and chose from lots of other activities for kids in the Snow Park.  After our lesson we had lunch in a beautiful Japanese restaurant which overlooked the slopes.  What amazed us was how Dubai has it all, you just have to decide what you want to do!

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Ski Dubai

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The Snow park

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Tempura Prawns – yummm

After all the other activities we used the last day to relax, and done so by having a massage at our hotel as well as relaxing by the pool & beach.

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Cocktails at the swim up bar

Cocktails at the swim up bar

Over the couple of evenings we spent in Dubai, we mostly went for cocktails in bars with beautiful night views.  One evening we visited the Marriot hotel near the marina, which had a bar with beautiful views off the marina and reasonably priced cocktails.  I highly recommend the strawberry daiquiri & mini burgers if you want a nibble!

Finger food and cocktails at the Marriott

Finger food and cocktails at the Marriott

Another evening we went to the rooftop Uptown Bar at the famous ‘Wave’ hotel otherwise known as Jumeirah Beach hotel.  We were able to walk into the hotel & take the lift to the 24th floor, and walk into the bar without a reservation!  The view from the lift out to the Burj Al Arab lit up at night was itself brilliant, as was the view down from the 24th floor!

View downwards to lobby at Wave hotel

View downwards to lobby at Wave hotel

We were seated at a tall table outside with magnificent views over the city and the Burj Al Arab.  We stayed for a few hours and had a few cocktails (at around £12 each they weren’t cheap but hey darling we were in Dubai & on honeymoon) & a cheeseboard, whilst admiring the views around us!  Definitely a must do in Dubai, I recommended it to one of my friends a while back and she loved it too!

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Burj Al Arab by night

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Cocktails at Uptown Bar

On our final evening, we took a taxi to the Madinat Jumeirah which is made up of a few hotels, restaurants and a traditional Arabian Souk.  When we arrived we had a wonderful view of the Burj Al Arab’s changing colours & we took a boat trip around the complex.  It was beautiful and when you stay in the hotel you actually take the boats around the complex!

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Souk

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Burj selfie

DSCF9468  Overall we had a wonderful time in Dubai & will hopefully return one way to do the things we didn’t have time to do.  Dubai also offers much more, if you have the money & time, such as:

1. Afternoon Tea at the Burj Al Arab which at around £90pp isn’t cheap but probably worth it since you cannot get inside the 7 star hotel without such a booking

2. Swim with dolphins at The Atlantis Palm hotel

3. Visit the Aquaventure waterpark at The Atlantis Palm hotel, where you can take a slide through a shark filled lagoon or the world’s largest slide

4. Take a day trip to Abu Dhabi & visit the beautiful Sheikh Zayed Mosque & Ferrari World

5. Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo

6. Miracle Gardens

 

If you are flying long-haul, for example to Australia, you can easily stop in Dubai for a few days and the flight is usually the same price!

 

Dubai part 1 – September 2013

Whilst planning our honeymoon in 2012, the cheapest flights out to Thailand were with Emirates who stop to refuel in Dubai!  Although Dubai wasn’t in our original honeymoon plans, I decided to include a 4 day stopover here on the way to Thailand as a surprise for David!  He had always wanted to visit, and now seemed like the best time, as flights were no extra cost, just the hotel & food etc.  I had hoped to keep it a secret but this didn’t last long as he soon guessed with the dates!

We left Dublin on a Saturday and flew to Dubai with Emirates, arriving there in September it was very hot and humid, and felt like someone had turned on a huge hairdryer!  We had 4 days to relax & explore the city, and had already planned a few activities with Trailfinders before leaving home.

We arrived at our beautiful hotel – the 5*  Meridien Mina Seyahi, which was set on the beach with a swim up bar, various different restaurants, a spa, a couple of pools and lots more!  When we entered our room they had rose petals on the bed and in the bathroom, and a card wishing us a Happy Honeymoon!  The room was massive, and very modern.  On our first morning we had a complimentary breakfast in our room, which was excellent! We sat at the wee table surrounded by croissants, fresh fruit, fresh orange juice & a cooked breakfast, and with the sun beaming in the floor to ceiling window!  This was the life!

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On our first full day, we wandered along the beach by the hotel & explored the grounds and facilities including the Club lounge on the top floor, which we had access to for breakfast, afternoon tea & in the evening canapes and cocktails all free off charge (well we paid a bit more for a club room but still great value)!

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Hotel beach

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View from the Club lounge

Club Lounge

Club Lounge

We then took a taxi to the Dubai Mall where we visited the Burj Khalifa  – the world’s tallest building!  It is a good idea to pre-book this online, as it often books up in advance and is also cheaper online!  We spent most of the day walking around the huge mall, which was in itself amazing with water features.  inside the mall there is an ice rink & an aquarium and underwater zoo – the largest suspended aquarium in the world – unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit!

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Inside the Mall – Impressive

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Dubai Aquarium – view from the mall

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Ice rink in the mall

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At about 5pm we went up the Burj.  The view from the top was breathtaking!  We had been up the Empire state building and other tall buildings around the world, but nothing could compare!  From the top we could see the sunset in the distance and could also see the dancing fountains from above!

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Tallest building in the world!

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View from the Top!

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The Burj by night

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Once it got dark, we viewed the dancing fountains in action before we left to return to our hotel. The fountains go each day and evening on the half hour. Definitely a must in Dubai!

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On the morning of day 2 we took a boat trip out from the marina and saw the 7 star hotel Burj Al Arab from the water, numerous Superyachts, the World islands, the Atlantis Palm, the Dubai Marina & the Sheikh’s superyacht & house. We booked this through our hotel, and although we asked for a shared trip, we ended up being the only ones on the boat for the same price!  The trip was highly enjoyable & a good way to see some of the sights from a different perspective if time & money permits!

Atlantis Palm

Atlantis Palm

Us in front of the 7 star hotel

Us in front of the 7 star hotel

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina

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That very same day in the afternoon, we set off for the desert for our Dune Dinner Safari which we had booked with Trailfinders before we left on honeymoon.  It cost around £50 each and was money well spent!  We were in a 4×4, with another honeymoon couple and a driver & drove for about an hour to the desert, stopping along the way at a shop (where they tried to sell us things that we had no desire to buy) and at a place where you could take a ride on a camel or do some quadbiking!  When we arrived at the dunes, we drove convoy-like behind lots of other 4×4 tour groups.  The dunes were massive, and to say it was a bumpy ride was an understatement, yet the views and experience were amazing.  We stopped along the way to watch the sun disappearing behind the dunes, and Jen was nearly sick whilst many others were sick!  Arriving at the ‘camp’ which had been set up for a traditional dinner and bellydancing, we had the chance to take a quick ride on a camel!! This was something which neither of us had done before so we gave it a go. Whilst the getting up and down was a bit ropey we enjoyed the experience 🙂  After dinner and a bellydancing show we made the journey back to the city, fortunately on a level road!  All in all we had a great day at the dunes, and this is a must for anyone visiting Dubai or Abu Dhabi as there aren’t many places you can experience the desert!

Sand dunes as far as the eye can see

Sand dunes as far as the eye can see

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Sunset

 

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Footprints in the sand

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Melbourne

After a quick flight from Adelaide to Melbourne at the end of June, we arrived on a Saturday evening in Melbourne and made our way out to our new apartment in St.Kilda to meet our new housemates and see our home for the next few months!  We were not disappointed as the apartment was lovely and so were our new housemates Deirdre and Paul – a young Irish couple.  We were on the sofabed for the first week until the other couple moved out and we took over their room.  The apartment is a good size for 2 couples, and has a lovely balcony with views of the marina & a Barbie – looking forward to the warmer weather 🙂

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Beach by our house

The following day, we got sorted with our monthly tram tickets – myki, familiarised ourselves with Melbourne and Jen’s work location & done some food shopping 🙂 Starting a new job with Medibank, a private health insurer and knowing only 1 person was daunting but everyone was and still is lovely, and very welcoming!  Fortunately after 1 day David found a job too, in Camberwell, bit of a trek to get to but he soon got the journey down from over 2hrs to under an hour once he mastered the tram and train system!  From speaking to other backpackers we feel we have been really fortunate to have found jobs so quick in Melbourne.

Over the first 2 months in Melbourne, we have tried to do touristy things each weekend in order to make the most of our time here!  A few weeks back we went to our first Aussie Rules football (AFL) game at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground)! The tickets were a bargain at only $30 each.  Off we went one sunday afternoon, not knowing much about the game and wrapped up warm.  The stadium is the largest in Australia and the 11th largest in the world, and has a capacity of around 100,000!  The atmosphere was amazing, and during the 2nd half we were lucky to join friends of Aunty D’s who had tiptop seats with an even better view of the game & Craig was able to keep David up to date with the rules!  All in all a great day out, and a must for your time in Australia.

our first Aussie Rules game at the MCG

Our first Aussie Rules game at the MCG

AFL at the MCG

AFL at the MCG

Another weekend we took a day trip out to Geelong, about 1 hour by train from Melbourne and only $8 return with our mykis.  We spent the day walking along the promenade, had a nice lunch by the sea, viewed the The Baywalk Bollards (timber painted sculptures reflecting local history and identities) and visited the home of the Geelong Cats football team.  Dare I say we managed to miss 3 trains this day!!

Geelong Bollards

Geelong Bollards

Fun day in Geelong

Fun day in Geelong

As Jen had celebrated her last birthday in her 20s this week, we had planned a night out with Deidre & Paul, our housemates after the trip to Geelong!  We kept it local & went to Veludo & Big Mouth in St Kilda, where we drank too much, boogied, spent too much, & had sore heads the next day! We didn’t do presents since we are travelling but I got Jen a lovely cake from one of the bakeries in St Kilda.

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Birthday night out

Birthday night out

Birthday cocktail

Birthday cocktail

Over the other few weeks in Melbourne we have walked the famous laneways, and streets lined with street art including the well-known Hosier Lane and visited the Shrine of Remembrance with another girl we met at Parkrun.

Hosier Lane street art

Hosier Lane street art

More street art

More street art

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Steps at southern cross station

Steps at southern cross station

Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane

Shrine of Remembrance

Shrine of Remembrance

view over Melbourne

view over Melbourne

Visited the Melbourne Aquarium where we meet up with a former work friend from Belfast who was over visiting family. The aquarium is well worth a visit, sharks, penguins, crocodiles…a lot better than the one in Sydney I thought. You can also dive with sharks here, but apparently they have their teeth removed!

Shark!!

Shark!!

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wouldn't like to come against him!

wouldn’t like to come against him!

Mel & Jen

Mel & Jen

Delicious cupcakes at Little Cupcakes on Flinders Lane – this place is tiny but amazing! You can grab a drink and a mini cupcake for about $6, well worth a visit if your in the city. We have visited a few times already 🙂

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went to the Fitzroy Projection Festival

Projection festival

Projection festival

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Projection festival

 

Took a walk around the city at night & got some class shots

Flinders railway station

Flinders railway station

Arts Centre

Arts Centre

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Melbourne Recital Centre

Melbourne Recital Centre

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Art Gallery

Art Gallery

 

watched the free Winter fireworks in the Docklands

Docklands fireworks

Docklands fireworks

 

Walked to Brighton Beach and the infamous bathing boxes where we watched the sunset. Another must on the list & we plan to go one morning to watch sunrise!

Brighton Beach Selfie

Brighton Beach Selfie

Bathing boxes

Bathing boxes

sunset at Brighton Beach

sunset at Brighton Beach

View of the city

View of the city

In August we went to see Wicked in the beautiful Regent Theatre after getting cheap tickets on lasttix … the show was amazing & well worth the $75 ticket!

Regent Theatre

Regent Theatre

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Love this!

 

Went to Federation Square and the DreamWorks Exhibition with some of David’s relatives who live in Melbourne & Canberra

 

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Sunny morning selfie

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At the end of August we visited the Victoria market winter night market, which is on every Wednesday evening over winter! we visited twice as it was so nice and the first time we forgot our camera!  The market is much bigger than we are used to in Belfast, and provides a variety of arts and crafts ranging from homemade candles to artwork, and foods from around the world, including soup served in a bread bowl,  pies, fish n chips (highly recommend the barramundi), Hungarian Goulash, different types of Asian food, carvery, Mexican…the list goes on.  There is live music on, and places to sit or stand and enjoy the atmosphere! Also worth a mention are the deserts, such as our favourite Crème brulee and strawberry & nutella crepes!  They also have a summer night market, so I would recommend checking out if this is on when you visit Melbourne and if so pop along for good food 🙂

 

Victoria market

Victoria market

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Work friends

Work friends

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Evening runs along the beach to St Kilda pier and back, 5km parkrun at Albert park on Saturday mornings and generally loved living in Melbourne! It’s no wonder it has been voted the most liveable city in the world again!

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Evening run to St Kilda pier

Evening run to St Kilda pier

Albert Park

Albert Park

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sunset at St Kilda