Update: We Are Fine! And On Kangaroo Island. 

It’s been a few days since my last post, due mainly to the fact that it takes am insanely long time to upload all my pictures, but here’s a quick update! 

We spent a day in Melbourne, which was great. We happened upon a free waking tour of the city, so we ended up seeing much more than we would have just walking around on our own. And we had the best dumplings I’ve ever had. Matt got steamed squid ink dumplings and I got fried prawn and mushroom dumplings. 

Then we drove part of the way along the Great Ocean Road, where we found literal actual tangible heaven: 

From there we drove up to Adelaide, where we spent a day mainly eating good food and shopping for souvenirs. I have FAR more pictures of each place and will do longer posts on each location when I return to faster and more reliable internet. 

For now, rest assured that we are alive and well and currently in a place called Kangaroo Island, which is just as teeming with wildlife as the name implies. We just saw a bunch of sea lions and kangaroos, and yesterday we saw dolphins in the bay. There are even allegedly penguins here, which we haven’t seen yet but by god we’re gonna try. 

More soon! 

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Vivid Sydney

By some strange coincidence, Matt and I happened to come to Sydney right when the city is hosting a nightly light festival, Vivid Sydney. In fact, the festival itself overlaps almost exactly with the entire length of our trip (Vivid is 26 May to 17 June, and our trip is 27 May to 18 June).

Each night, the Sydney Opera House is lit up with these amazing, extremely trippy, and at points slightly sci-fi animated light shows. At several locations throughout Sydney, the city has partnered with artists and musicians to put on a massive festival. Last night, there were literally thousands of people just in Sydney Harbour alone.

Here are some pictures!

Side Note: Coffee

On our first day here, we went to a little café down the street from our hotel, and I ordered “a coffee,” to which I was met with “Sure, what type of coffee?”

“Just a coffee.”

“But what type of coffee? A latte? Cappuccino?”

At which point I just said, “Okay, a latte sounds nice,” and I had a delicious latte rather than my normal morning mug.

After a couple days of slightly strange encounters like this one, and noticing more and more strange words on the little chalkboard menus above the counters of cafés, I realized that the coffee culture here in Australia is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from the States’.

The first difference, which I already pointed out, is that “a coffee” means “an espresso drink” here, rather than a cup of black coffee, which to my current understanding is not even a beverage that is typically offered here. I haven’t seen a single menu so far that’s had plain old brewed coffee listed on it. (But that’s fine, as long as I get my caffeine. Mama needs her caffeine.)

Some places offer “single-origin,” which is brewed coffee beans from a single location, rather than a blend of beans from multiple locations – the reasons for which would take up another post entirely. I thought for a bit that this doscovwry meant I’d found the code word for “regular” brewed coffee, but when I ordered it this morning our waitress asked if I wanted that as a latte, short black, or long black, so it’s back to the drawing board on that one. Also, when she brought me my single-origin latte, she brought it out with a tiny, tiny cup of sparkling water, which is still flummoxing me. Is it a palate cleanser? Does it go IN the coffee?? It’s a mystery, and I find that extremely charming.

I’ve also been seeing new phrases on these menus that I’ve never heard before, like “long black,” “short black,” and “piccolo.” When I first realized that “a coffee” isn’t a good enough descriptor for what I’m after, I ordered a “long black” imagining that it was a cup of black coffee. I received a tiny cup of extremely dark liquid, which after a fashion I looked up and found out was a double shot of espresso poured over 120ml of water. A short black, then, is just a single espresso shot, no water. A “piccolo” is basically a smaller version of the latte we know and love.

There are other differences, which I was actually already familiar with from my trip a couple years ago to London – a macchiato, for example, is not a big sugary drink from Starbucks with whipped cream and sprinkles and sunshine and rainbows on top, but rather just a shot of espresso with a “stain” of milk froth. Pointedly more bitter and utilitarian. And then there’s the flat white, which Americans have latched onto and are willing to pay quite a bit more for because it sounds more exotic (cough, pretentious), but actually is just a plain latte with no foam on top.

An Americano here is quite a bit less water, also. It’s basically the same as a long black, but the water is added after the espresso, to intentionally “disturb the crema” (i.e. diffuse the lighter layer of froth on an espresso shot, crema, throughout the drink rather than leaving it floating on top).

When I did some reading up on coffee in Australia, I learned that the art of espresso coffee was introduced to Australia by Italian migrants in the post World War-II era, but it really caught on in the 1990s, and now Australia is chock full of “coffee obsessives,” as one blog put it. (Many blogs even claim Australia has the best coffee in the world, and honestly, every cup I’ve had so far has been amazing, so my confirmation bias leans me to agree.)

Matt’s been sticking with tea.

Sydney cont’d

Long, rambling post ahead

On day two (Tuesday), we walked a billion kilometres and Matt rode in a gun.

But in all seriousness, we spent most of the day wandering around Sydney and ended up at the Australian National Maritime Museum, where we got to tour boats in Darling Harbour and found archaeological gems like these:

We didn’t go on this boat, but it was too nice a picture not to include.

For lunch we went to the Fish Market, where we had the most amazing shrimp dumplings, scallops/salmon/roe/asparagus fried rice, and pork bao. (The food here has been delicious; in addition to the seafood we’ve had some wonderful fig brandy cheesecake and a surprising number of passion fruit flavored items, like gelato and muffins.)

In general we’ve been walking everywhere, since our hotel (which is in Potts Point) is within walking distance of everywhere we’ve wanted to go. We’ve found cute bookstores, tiny restaurants with tons of street seating, and art in every stretch of the city. 

On day three (today, Wednesday), so far we’ve gone to the Museum of Contemporary Art, wandered through more of the Royal Botanical Gardens, and seen our first thumb-sized spider.

That spider is too big. I do not like that spider. Here are some birds. 

Some Royal Botanical Gardens pics: 

And some art from the MCA, by French Algerian artist Kader Attia. If you ever get the chance to see his film Reflecting Memory (2016), do so. It’s an incredible work on trauma, collective memory, grief, amputation, race, and phantom limbs.

We’ll be heading to Vivid Sydney tonight; will post pictures of that when the time comes. For now, the jetlag has caught up to us, and it’s time for a nap.

Sydney

We’ve arrived! We safely touched down in Sydney yesterday, 29 May, at 6:30am local time. After a remarkably smooth entry through customs followed by a DEEPLY harrowing experience driving on the left side of the road for the first time, we arrived at our hotel.

(Side note: It’s 4am here and I’m wide awake. Thanks, jetlag)

There are lots of weird birds and plants here! Our hotel is within walking distance of the Sydney Opera House, so we took a nice long walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens to get there. We got screamed at by a gigantic white cockatoo-looking bird, and we saw this weird Australian turkey(???) that was all up in some picnickers’ business. Also, Sydney has a “Fernery,” which is just the most charming thing ever.

Of course we got our obligatory daylight Sydney Opera House picture! But we’re planning to come back in a couple days, when we’re less jetlagged and we’re physically able to stay up past sunset, to see the Sydney Opera House and all of Sydney Harbour all lit up during the Vivid Sydney Light, Music & Ideas Festival.

Someone at the Sydney Opera House stopped us to ask if he could take a 2-second clip of him saying hello to each of us. It was this guy! Check out his vlog, givesaminute.com.

By the way…

…these fiber optic kiwis will be lit up at night during Vivid :O

Hoo Buddy, Vacation Time

It’s been a tick since my last post… but it’s time for a road trip! Through AUSTRALIA.

Matt and I are traveling to Australia and New Zealand for three weeks! We leave TODAY. Really looking forward to a full day’s worth of air travel, especially since I have a genuine phobia of planes. But, uh, it’ll be fine?

Here’s the itinerary:

We’ll be road tripping for two weeks from Sydney, to Melbourne (via Eden), to Adelaide, up (through Port Augusta) to Coober Pedy—a mostly underground opal mining town in the Outback—then back to Adelaide. Catching a flight in Adelaide to Auckland, NZ, at which point we’ll head down for a few days to Taupo—a town on a lake in the caldera of a dormant volcano. Drive back up to Auckland, in and around which we’ll spend the last few days of our trip, stopping in Rotorua along the way.

For reference:

We’re bringing a portable internet hotspot, so I’m hoping to post at least a couple of photos for (if not on) each day, along with thoughts, videos, whatever.

Hugs from the other side of the planet!

(PS – The lovely Desdemona would hate this vacation, since she is afraid of kennels and cars and leaving the apartment and basically everything, so we’re leaving her at home in the care of our lovely friends. Thanks EF & ER <3)

Off to Auckland

So long, Australia! These last two weeks have been lovely, and we’re sad but ready to move on to the next part of our adventure. We’re both a tiny bit homesick, but still feel like we didn’t have as much time as we needed to see everything we wished we could have. We wish we could have a couple days to pop back to the States before heading to NZ, but it’ll be nice to have a change of pace soon. Instead of kangaroos everywhere, we’ll now see sheep everywhere.

New Zealand ho!
In the meantime, here are some pictures from each place we hit since Sydney on our road trip through the land down under.

—–
Melbourne:

We stumbled into a free walking tour of Melbourne, which was fantastic. We got to see several of Melbourne’s famous laneways (narrow alleyways chock full of shops, restaurants, and graffiti art), stop at a bunch of the best tourist sights, and learn a lot about the history of Australia and Melbourne in particular. Not to mention the dumplings we had from ShanDong MaMa, which were easily the best I’ve ever had (not going to speak for Matt but I believe they were up there for him as well). And the Melbourne International Jazz Festival was in full swing (pun intended), so we got to see some wonderful performances after our walking tour. 


Great Ocean Road:

Oh, my god. The Great Ocean Road was insanely beautiful. We stopped along the way a few times (in part to see the sights and in part to recover from the motion sickness that came from the windy, narrow cliff driving) and got a few pictures, as well as ice cream from Dooley’s in Apollo Bay,  a recommendation from our Melbourne free tour guide, Hugh. I tried vegemite ice cream! It was kinda gross. So I got a cone of the pineapple kiwi, which was much better. Matt got Bailey’s and honeycomb ice cream.



Adelaide:

Adelaide was a beautiful small city, where we had lots of good food, found a new favorite local coffee shop, E for Ethel, and Matt finally got to try kangaroo. Oh, and we saw Wonder Woman. And Matt got a new hat. And basically Adelaide was low key and great.



Kangaroo Island:

We realized sometime in Adelaide that our plan to go out to the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary would be pushing it in terms of time and safety, so we rerouted and instead went to Kangaroo Island. We saw kangaroos, pelicans, sea lions, and lots of signs for penguins (but unfortunately no real penguins).

(These are not penguins, they are black-faced cormorants)

Update to come in Taupo, NZ! So long, Adelaide!