Melbourne (pron: mel – bin)

Yep, that’s right.  As soon as we arrived Down Under we were notified that if we are going to “fit in” we better pronounce Melbourne as Melbin.  So we do!  🙂

This was our first trip after getting back from the states. We were SO excited!!

Our first stop: The Qantas Lounge a.k.a. free drinks at the airport.  The absolute BEST way to start a vacation!

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We arrived in Melbourne late on Friday night.  We took an airport shuttle from the airport to the bus station in the Melbourne CBD and could tell just from our walk to our hotel that it was a pretty neat city.  The next day, we woke up to this view:

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It was SO AWESOME!

The majority of the time, we were just our own little tour guides in the city.  We went there not really knowing what we should do so we made it up ourselves!  Sometimes that makes for the best vacations, right?!

The main mode of public transportation in the city is their tram system.

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Some of them were super old, like the first one, but they had really new modern ones too.  My favorites were the older ones.  For some reason I thought they were just really neat!

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This is us on the free tram.  They had a tram that just looped the city.  You can hop on and off as often as you wish so we took it for a ride!

Here are some more random pics from around the city:

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The city was FILLED with these little alleys.  It seemed that every single alleyway between buildings was utilized in some way, either shops, restaurants, street music.  Really neat!

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This is kind of a weird picture but it’s of the Federation Square in the city.  I don’t have a picture of the entire area because it was HUGE!  Tons of steps and chairs were all around this open, bricked area.  There was a big TV that showed movies and commercials and other things going on in the city.  It was really neat and a perfect example of how the city caters to the tourists!

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This is just to the right of the picture above.  Everywhere you looked, there were the cables for the trams and every intersection looked like an electrical fire just waiting to happen!

I feel like it is this way in all the cities we’ve visited in Australia so far, but the architecture is really mixed.  They are old cities so they have the dated architecture which reminds me of some European city but right next to the old building there will be an ultra modern building – all glass and white and bright.  It’s really neat and definitely makes the cities very interesting!

We were told we had to see St. Kilda!  It was about a 45 minute tram ride outside of the city to the coast.  Everyone that told us to go was right!  It was so fun!  I love seeing public beaches and in Australia they all seem so legit! A bunch of adults hanging out with their friends, having a beer and taking in the rays!

We just happened to show up during an air show!

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I think the neatest part of St. Kilda were all the boats out on the water!  It was SO cool – there were hundreds!

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Lunch 🙂

More of the beach…I’m telling you – I love the look of a crowded beach!  And thanks to a nifty Instagram filter you might just mistake me for hanging out on the beach in 1973…

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The next day we woke up to boat races on the river outside of our hotel.

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And since we had taken in the most of what the city had to offer we decided it was the perfect time for both of us to visit our first aquarium!

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I think this little (huge) guy is at the bottom of the Lake of the Ozarks… *gag*

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Yes, those are sharks behind my little honey bun’s head…and now I’ve officially scared myself out of ever diving again. Whoops.

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The sting ray was legitimately the size of a VW Beetle.

Can you tell we were like kids in a candy store at the aquarium?!  It was a blast!

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We ended the day, before catching our flight back to Brissy taking in some of the best sushi in Melbourne!  It was my first experience with a Sushi Train! I know, sounds a bit *ahem* fishy 😉 …but all it is a moving platform. The sushi chef prepares each plate individually and puts them on the moving platform.  Everyone is lined up and when you see something you like you grab it and enjoy! So quick, so easy and not nearly as relaxing as one would think!  Since only one or two of an item come out at once someone might pick it up before it gets to you…yeah, I know.  Stressful and totally worth it!  😉

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A few hours later we boarded our flight back to our ‘home for now’!

Oh, and shout out to Qantas…your free cocktails on all domestic flights during the week is still a real treat!

The Ocean, Surfers, Dolphins and More!

Last weekend Ben and I *hired* a car for the first time since arriving Down Under.  At first, my driver was a little uneasy about taking on the open road from the opposite side but after a few turns, turn-arounds and windshield wipers instead of turn signals he became an international ambidextrous driver.

Our first stop off was within the Brisbane City limits at the Brisbane Dive Academy (more to come on this Ozsome Adventure soon.)

After that pit stop, we continued our way down the M1 – headed south.  That’s right; we were on our way down the Eastern coast of Australia!  Our destination:  Byron Bay

(Ben found this article a couple days later…look at #44!)  http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/life/worlds-50-best-beaches-364981?page=0,0

We ended up going on an adventure within an adventure.  We kept passing signs luring us to Surfer’s Paradise so we had no choice but to make a pit stop in the Miami of Queensland on the Gold Coast.  It was amazing.  The waves were huge, there were quite a few surfers and the beach already had heaps of people taking in the rays in the middle of winter!  The high rises against the ocean was an incredible sight!

We walked down the beach and ended up having barramundi (a local fish) and chips for lunch at a sidewalk café.  It was a little breezy so we were on our way out shortly after lunch but I must say, I CAN’T wait until it’s hot out!  At just 30 minutes from the city, I am confident we’ll spend more than a couple of days at this beach! YAY! 🙂

Back on the M1 we were on our way to Byron Bay.  The drive was quite scenic.

There were signs to report any koala sightings so of course I had my koala glasses on the entire time!  I didn’t spot any but the signs were enough to remind us that we were in Australia.

It was about a 1.5 hours from Surfer’s Paradise to Byron but it was totally worth it.  We got a little anxious and pulled off at the first mention of beach access.  Thank goodness we did!

The beach access was through someone’s private land which was beautiful.

We had our first wild kangaroo sighting!  It was a little far away but once it turned around and hopped, it was clear it was a roo!

The beach was filled with locals surfing and watching the surfers.  So cool!

We got a gorgeous view of our final destination – the lighthouse at Byron Bay.

After a brief walk with the Aussie locals we were on our way.  The town of Byron Bay was AMAZING!  So far, it’s my favorite thing we’ve done!  It was a hippie little town, filled with restaurants, coffee shops and surf shops (that actually sold surf boards!)

The beach and water, again, were filled with locals looking to catch some waves.

The last and most impressive part of our adventure was the lighthouse at Byron Bay.  This is actually the most Eastern point of Australia.  At first, I didn’t really care to take the hike up to the lighthouse but like everything else, it was SO worth it.  This was the view, opposite of the Bay.  Incredible!

We couldn’t hang out for long because it was so windy and cold!  No wonder there were no surfers over there!  The waves were huge but it was icy!  So up to the lighthouse we went…

It wasn’t far up to the lighthouse but once we got up to the top we were again enticed by another path down towards the water…this was quite long but after a few minutes we figured we must do it – I mean look at that view!

The waves were HUGE.  I mean, crash against the rocks and make you a little scared even though your 20 feet above the waves HUGE!  It was so neat and an obvious photo op!

It was so neat.  We probably could have stayed there for hours just watching!  Just as we were about to turn around and make the thousand step climb back up the dolphins came!  We weren’t able to do it justice but here is the one measly dolphin we captured in a picture. (You can just see the little fin out of the water)

We guessed there were actually about 50 dolphins out there.  They even put on a show for onlookers by jumping a couple times – causing a few oooohhs and ahhhs from the other tourists enjoying the view.  I’ve never actually seen a dolphin in its natural habitat so this was awesome!

By this time it was approaching 5pm and time for us to make the trip back to the big city.  We made the hike back up to the lighthouse and down to our car and hopped back on the M1 heading north – eyes still peeled for koalas and more wild kangaroos. 🙂

We took so many more pictures so I’ll try to post more to Facebook.

The Ocean!

It has been one month since our arrival Down Under and we finally made it to the ocean!  Our new friend, Amanda, rented a car on Saturday and invited us on a road trip to Bribie Island, about an hour and half north of Brisbane.  First, I have to say, an hour and half of sitting in the back seat while driving down the wrong side of the highway was stressful.  I guess we were technically on the correct side of the road but it was stressful, none the less.  I was convinced that our driver (Amanda) kept looking the wrong way, therefore not seeing the millions of cars that were going to hit us.  I was wrong. She was right. And we made it perfectly safe and sound to Bribie Island. 😉

 

Upon arrival it was absolutely gorgeous!  You could see Moreton Island (which I assume to be the home of the tasty Moreton Bay Bug) just across the ocean.  The water was blue as can be and the sand was white and soft!  All characteristics of what I call “The Perfect Beach”.  Well…what is GOING to be perfect, when the weather warms up about 20 degrees and the wind dies down a bit.  It was quite windy but overall a beautiful day.

 

 

 

We walked quite a way down the beach and could see the Brisbane skyline! (I promise, it’s out there)

 

 

And quite a few beached jellyfish!  **Don’t worry Kim – I didn’t touch it!**

 

After an hour or so of walking we decided to head back.

 

Amanda had visited just a few weeks before so she had another adventure to take us on…to see the Glass Top Mountains!  From what she remembers from her original visit, they are volcanoes that have eroded in to just the shafts which is why they are so narrow.  I think these guys are pretty cool!

 

We finished up our road trip with a stop at a local fruit stand.  They had carrots for $0.06 a kilo!  I still don’t know how much a kilo is but I do know that it is CHEAP! So we loaded up on Strawberries, Avocados, Broccoli…none of which were $0.06/kg but still much lower than what we’re used to paying in the city!

 

Our first adventure to the ocean was fantastic and only makes me more excited for winter to end and move into warmer temps.  70 and sunny is beautiful in the city but definitely does not make for lying out at the beach!

 

we’re here!

As promised, I’ve started a blog…it’s been almost two weeks and there is already so much to share (if I haven’t already done so with you!)  I am definitely what you’d (I’d) call a “fun pusher”…or something like that.  I am guilty of sending as many texts, posting as many pictures and check-ins as I feel appropriate to make sure others are significantly jealous. 😉  Have I succeeded?

Ben and I have had a 2 week whirlwind!  Every time I sit back and think about what we are doing and where we are I literally can’t believe it!  It seems like months ago that we left for our 20-some hour trip Down Under!  For all of you coming to visit, ahem ;), I want you to know that it is not nearly as bad as it seems it would be.  I was enamored by the plane alone – it was huge!

Me and Ben at the airport before leaving…only a few tears

Our plane!  It was a double decker!  (and no, there isn’t a great bar to socialize at or a movie theater up there…it’s just for those important enough to fly First Class…i.e. not me.)

First, let me start by saying this city is *GORGEOUS*. (and I will be using the word ‘gorgeous’ much more often.  The Aussies really know how to make someone feel good or describe a tasty dish…they are all GORGEOUS!)  Every chance we get we are walking around and exploring the city.  The Brisbane River runs right through the middle of it, which makes for beautiful scenery and quite the view out of many of the boardwalk restaurants and coffee shops.

I like to compare the city to Chicago…just on a much smaller scale.  There isn’t the extent of buildings and the downtown precinct isn’t nearly as expansive but the “feel” is very similar.  There really isn’t much of a need to take public transportation unless you’re just sick of walking which we haven’t hit yet.  Although, we did take our first City Cat ride. This is the public water transportation, the stops zig zag across the river.  We did it just for fun…and ended up in no man’s land only to walk another hour back home.  But it was fun!

Almost a week after arriving, a relocation associate that Peabody set Ben up with, picked us up *just on the footpath* outside of our temporary apartment.  We visited 22 potential homes for the next year.  We liked about 4 of them and we loved one!  Pictures of our future apartment are to come but let us just say we are thrilled to be on the 31st floor of a perfectly located building with a *marvelous* (yep…that’s another common word!) balcony overlooking the river (the corner of the river counts, right?) and Ben’s office is just a few blocks away! YAY!

I must say, though, getting used to city living is going to be an adjustment – let alone getting used to a new city on the other side of the world!

1.  Grocery shopping now requires a *trolley*

2. Buying deli meat was the most stressful thing I’ve had to do yet!  I mean…who knows how to convert lbs to kilos?!?

3. Speaking of meat…

4. The self checkouts have an Aussie accent.  It’s English but it’s oddly hard to understand…I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

5. No one jaywalks. Everyone stands patiently waiting for the walk sign to chirp and let them know it’s time to go…even if a car hasn’t driven by in 3 minutes.

6.  There are NO dogs.  This means that every time we see a dog – whether it be a mastiff or a miniature poodle – I mention Tilly (who I literally can’t wait to Skype with!)

7.  My desk is my computer in my family room…

It’s pretty weird getting used to TV too…It seems that shows start whenever they want.  We are really into Australia’s Master Chef.  The shows are on every night of the week, which is awesome – no need to wait til next week for the next episode but the time it comes on each night varies…Monday it could be on a 7:30 then Tuesday it’s on at 7:14 (literally, I don’t think they start on the hour or half hour all the time!) and Wednesday it might be on at 8:07…and The Price is Right is prime time!  Who doesn’t love that?!

We did stumble upon this on Monday morning at about 7:00am 🙂

What a pleasant surprise!