Sunday, October 4, 2015

Australia: The Markets

On Saturday morning, Meagan and I headed into Melbourne (pronounced Mel-bin) to meet up with my friend Katie at the Queen Victoria Market. After waiting in line at the ATM for nearly 30 minutes we grabbed some lunch, I forgot to take a photo, but it was delicious--I had an eggplant and artichoke focaccia sandwich. Sometimes I wish I could cook like that at home.

The market was huge. Aisle after aisle of Australian souvenirs: wood carvings, wool slippers, T-shirts, soaps, opal jewelry, etc. It seemed to never end. I was on a mission to get some gifts for a few people back home and had such a difficult time deciding what to bring them. I was anticipating the sticker shock as I had heard Australia is really expensive, but really it wasn't too bad coming from San Francisco. And the Australian dollar is down right now, so that helped too. Both at the market and the grocery store, I thought prices were pretty comparable to where I live.

See the Christmas booth behind us -- this place had everything!

The other part of the market was food. There was a separate area for the produce and another for the meat (indoors meat counters with coolers and ice, no worries).

Later on in my week I also went to Paddy's Market in Sydney, which had very similar souvenirs, and many booths looked identical to the one down the aisle making it really tricky to back track and find that one gift that looked a little nicer. Paddy's Market was all indoors, with booths set up a little like a trade-show. Aisle after aisle we wandered looking at all the different merchandise. (It was a great activity for the rainy-morning we had.)

I realized after visiting these two very touristy markets, that I am a little more like my mother than I thought -- I really liked the shopping! And I felt like I needed to bring home something for everyone . . . but I didn't and I'm sorry.

William ended up with a stuffed kangaroo and a kangaroo book, and a kangaroo T-shirt and a koala puzzle. I missed him and it was his birthday, what can I say!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Australia: The Wildlife

My time in Australia started in Melbourne where I met up with some dear friends of mine who I met when we first moved to San Francisco. Pierce and Meagan now have two children and have lived there for four years. (I can't believe it's been that long since we were neighbors.)

The first day was basically a day of getting settled in and getting to know the kids. Meagan picked me up from the airport and showed me around Melbourne a bit. We had a great time catching up and I loved seeing her home.

Day two was Animal Day, or at least that is what I'm calling it because we saw so many animals, both at a reserve and in the wild, I just couldn't believe it. We drove outside of Melbourne to the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park where I had a "Koala Experience" and got to feed wallabies and kangaroos. The Koala experience was a must. I have loved Koalas ever since I was little and stopped being scared of them (Mom used to put my stuffed koala on the step to keep me from trying to go up the stairs). I entered the koala area, was told not to touch his face or his food and that I could give him a little hug from behind. They kept him preoccupied with lunch so he probably didn't even know I was there. He fur was short making it a little more prickly than I expected, but he was still soft and lovable.

The wallabies and kangaroos are loose in the park and were on the walkway, so naturally we just held out our hands with their food and they walked over and ate. I was startled when one put his paws on my hand, although his claws weren't sharp and it didn't hurt, it caught me off guard. It was really neat getting to see three of them with their joeys in their pouches!

We saw a Tasmanian Devil, a wombat, dingos and a lot of birds that I don't remember the names of and a few other animals before Meagan and I headed to Philip Island.

Once we got to Philip Island, we stopped for afternoon tea. I love Australian afternoon tea. I am not usually a tea drinker, but I think I became one on this trip! And the cakes they make -- yummy! My favorite was the Sticky Date Cake. Then we drove to the Nobbies. The greens were so green and the water was so blue. I didn't want to leave, it was so pretty and I just love the sound of the waves crashing into the rocks.

But once we left, we saw this big guy crossing the road! There were two or three kangaroos in the tall grass on the right, the other two jumped in the other direction.

Then we made it to the Penguin Parade on Philip Island. Each night, "Little Penguins" the smallest species of penguin leave the ocean and scurry across the beach to find their nests or their mates and feed their young. We couldn't take photos, but you can check out a video on their website. We watched them for nearly an hour before returning to the warmth of the car. (It was somewhere near 50 degrees I'd say.) On the walk back up the boardwalk we could see them coming up the grassy hillside and hear them calling for one another. Little Penguins are only about 12 inches tall and are very cute!

It was a very exciting day, but I was ready for bed! We didn't get home from Animal Day until after 11 p.m.

You can see more photos on Facebook!