Thursday, May 30, 2019

Australia 2019: Bondi Beach & Sydney CBD

And we've finally come to the last day of our Australian vacation. We woke up early in the morning to go to the world famous Bondi Beach. Three trains, and one bus ride after, my sister and I found ourselves at the southern end of Bondi Beach. We enjoyed the light breeze and listened to the sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks. What a wonderful way to spend our morning! We then realized that we hadn't eaten breakfast, so we hurriedly looked for a nice cafe. The Pokecado at Preach Cafe was amazing-- clearly the best dish I had in Australia! It had cured salmon, edamame, smashed avocado, rocket, cucumber, mango, and black sesame seeds with soy sauce on sourdough. The combination of the flavors, and the presentation was just marvelous!

We absolutely adored the walking tour in Melbourne, so at 2pm, we joined another walking tour in Sydney. And after that, we joined an evening tour of The Rocks. For dinner, we had ramen from Gumshara in Chinatown. There were a lot of walking so I wasn't surprised that we were all so tired! I checked the health app on my phone and it said we walked 14 kilometers that day! Whew!

During our time in Australia, our tour guides would say that Sydney and Melbourne have this long-standing rivalry. Personally, though Sydney has more iconic sites, I prefer the city of Melbourne. I think Melbourne has a lot in common with San Francisco. Both have hilly terrain, and have trams as public transportation. They also have the same young, hipster vibe. I feel very lucky that we got to visit a lot of different sights with the limited time we had. In Melbourne, I think we only skipped Great Ocean Road, and in Sydney, Manly Beach. The next time I'm in Australia though, I plan to go the Outback! Until then!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Australia 2019: Sydney CBD

My aunt offered to take us around the city on our second day. She taught us how the transportation system works, and which trains or buses to take to get around the city. We visited the Sydney Opera House, and the Harbor Bridge, and strolled along the streets of The Rocks. Thankfully, there weren't a lot of tourists walking around, probably because it had been raining on and off. After walking for some time, we stopped to eat lunch at this pub called The Glenmore, and also to rest our feet. We then took a train to Parramatta and spent the rest of the day souvenir and grocery shopping.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Australia 2019: Blue Mountains

Hello Sydney! Upon arrival at the airport, we were greeted by my aunt (my dad's sister) and her family. They've been living in Sydney for as long as I can remember and because of the distance, we don't get to see each other often. We were really happy that we got to spend time with them.

We wanted to take advantage of the sunny weather on our first day in Sydney, so instead of taking a city tour, which is usually the first thing we do when we arrive in a new city, we decided to spend the day at the Blue Mountains. We went to Scenic World first to try the rides. There were three different rides-- the Cableway, the Skyway, and the Railway. The Cableway and the Skyway just felt like riding a big cable car. The Railway was the most exciting among the three because it's the steepest railway in the world! We then headed to the Blue Mountains Heritage Center for another scenic view of the mountains. This was also where we started trekking to the Three Sisters. The trek was very easy, so we didn't have any problem at all. The next time I'm in Sydney, I'd probably skip Scenic World, and do more nature hikes at the Blue Mountains instead.

After our short trek, we drove to Leura, a small, charming town just twenty minutes away from the the Blue Mountains Heritage Center. We walked around, and decided to grab lunch at a restaurant called Leura Garage. After eating, we started our drive home.

My aunt just celebrated her birthday the day before we arrived in Sydney, so she invited us for a post-birthday dinner at her family's favorite Japanese restauarant called Hukuya Sushi Bar. Definitely a day well-spent!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Australia 2019: St Kilda & Brighton Beach

Aww I couldn't believe this was our last full day in Melbourne! To start the day, we grabbed a cup of coffee from Patricia Coffee Roasters, the best coffee in Melbourne according to some random website. Lol. Melbourne is the coffee capital of Australia, and they say you've never really experienced Melbourne until you've tried their coffee. True enough, their coffee was good! 

We wanted to buy some souvenirs at the Queen Victoria Market so we walked all the way there, but it turned out that they are close on Mondays. Boo. We dropped by the State Library of Victoria next. It looks wonderful from outside, but looks even better inside! If I were studying in Melbourne, I would definitely come here everyday. We then took an Uber to St. Kilda where we had our lunch at a local cafe called Cafe Banff. They serve some amazing pizza and pasta, and the dishes are not so pricey too! 

From Cafe Banff, we walked to Luna Park and Palais Theatre. It was a long walk, but we didn't mind because we passed by a lot of nice sceneries. We took a few photos at Luna Park, and then took another Uber to Brighton Beach to see the colorful bathing boxes!

And that's it for Melbourne! Going to Sydney next!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Australia 2019: Yarra Valley

We started our day with some bread and tea at this cafe at Sherbrooke Forest called Grants on Sherbrooke. We had some spare time before the bus leaves so we went on a short walking trail. There were a lot of birds in this area, such as cuckaboroughs and lyrebirds, and you could actually hear them chirping! Next activity was the Puffing Billy train ride. The Puffing Billy is a century-old steam train and runs on its original track through the Dandenong Ranges. After getting off at Menzies Creek station, we rode the bus and headed to Yarra Valley for our lunch and some wine tasting. We visited three different wineries in total: Rochford Wines (where we had our lunch), Dominique Portet, and Yering Farms.

It was a Sunday, and we arrived in Melbourne pretty early so we were just in time for the 6pm mass at St. Paul's Cathedral. Our family's Roman Catholic, but since there wasn't any Catholic church in the area, we went to St. Paul's instead.

After the mass, we rested for a bit at our Airbnb, then walked to Supernormal for our dinner. (Seriously, everything is so near our Airbnb! I am so going to stay there again the next time I'm in Melbourne!). I first came across Supernormal while browsing The Monocle Guide to Drinking and Dining, and after reading lots of positive reviews online, I decided to book a table. We got a banquet menu for 69AUD per person (quite pricey but so worth it!). All the dishes served were fantastic, and we were so full afterwards! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Australia 2019: Philip Island

One of the top sights to see near Melbourne was the Penguin Parade at Philip Island. Getting there through public transportation was difficult so I booked a tour for the family. The tour started at Moonlit Sanctuary where we saw wombats being fed, and kangaroos, and wallabies walking around. We had a simple lunch of sausages, potatoes, bread, and some greens. I loved it! But the rest of my family didn't lol. We then went to Churchill Heritage Center where we watched a sheepdog herding sheep, and a guy shearing wool from a sheep. I even got to touch the wool afterwards! Lol.

Next was the Koala Conservation Center. There were only very few koalas in the centre, and it made me quite sad. According to the guides, koalas are dying because of the destruction of forests. They eat large amounts of leaves from the eucalyptus tree, and even in the conservation center itself, the koalas eat more leaves than the trees can regenerate. To make sure that the koalas have enough food in the centre, they have to continuously plant and grow eucalyptus trees.

We had a light snack which I really appreciated because the tour agency made no mention that there was going to be an afternoon snack. It was very simple-- tea and coffee in plastic cups, and a few pieces of crackers, but very much appreciated, nonetheless.

Next stop was the Boardwalk at the Nobbies Centre. It was terribly cold but very much worth it! We saw some rock formations called seal rocks, home to the largest Australian fur seal colony. Our stop here was quick because we still had to travel by bus to the Penguin Parade. 

After dinner, we headed outside the boardwalk to watch the penguins emerge from the sea and walk on the shore towards their burrows where they would be staying for the night. They were so incredibly cute! There were so many penguins and you could see them up close, like a meter away. This truly was the highlight of the day! Too bad it wasn't allowed to take photos of the penguins. This day could've been perfect if it wasn't raining on and off. Oh well, I guess you can't have everything! :)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Australia 2019: Melbourne CBD

So this year's family trip was in Australia! I've been planning this trip since last year because I was just so excited. It was my first time in Australia and I wanted to see so many places! Unfortunately, we couldn't leave work for a long time. With the time we have, we could only go to two cities, and I chose Melbourne and Sydney obviously.

I did a ton of research, especially on Melbourne's transportation network. It took me hours to understand how they work lol. I got them eventually. I was surprised to find that the trams travelling within the city center were free. Yay! We stayed in a gorgeous three-bedroom Airbnb apartment along Flinders St. and just across it, was the tram station. Talk about convenience!

On our first day in Melbourne, we joined a walking tour by I'm Free Walking Tours. Meetup place was outside the State Library of Victoria. We got to see the highlights of the city and learned some interesting history in just three hours! The tour ended at the South Bank, and we just walked all the way back to our Airbnb. 

My family decided to stay in the Airbnb the whole afternoon to rest, while my sister and I dropped by Federation Square to check out the exhibits at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. For dinner, we went to Degraves St., which again, was just a short walk from where we were staying. We ate some pizza and pasta at The Quarter, then our parents headed home. Us, kids ordered ice cream from Pidapipo, and brought them home so that we can share them with everybody. We thought that our sister walked back home with our parents, but when we arrived home, she was nowhere to be found! Lol. Apparently, she was waiting for us outside Pidapipo! I took a photo of the ice cream shop before we left, and when I checked the photo after we realized she was missing, she was there! My dad hurriedly went back to the ice cream shop to pick her up. What an eventful first day! Lol.