Monday, September 1, 2014

SJK Travels - Australia

I've just returned from down under and I had the most amazing trip! I made the loooooong haul (36 hour travel time), and my first stop was Townsville, a small town in North Eastern Australia. Billabong Sanctuary gave me the most giddy moments of the trip - I got to feed kangaroos!!! See my surprised-face above. AND I GOT TO HOLD A KOALA!

The little koala! Oooooh too much cuteness! I have to say - he clawed onto me for dear life and I had a few scratches to show for it, but it was worth it :)

And how about the scenery? The mountains near the beaches made for a totally different beach experience than I'm used to. I'm from Florida so I've seen some gorgeous coastline, but this - this was absolutely breathtaking. 

I picked up some Vegemite in Townsville and gave it a taste once I got home. It's really not half bad! I met a few Australians who gave me instructions on how to eat Vegemite:

How to eat Vegemite
1. Toast a slice of bread
2. Spread butter on the bread
3. Spread a THIN layer of Vegemite over the butter
4. Chow down

Seriously though, I kinda liked it! It's very savory and salty. I got a very strong soy sauce type flavor from it! My colleague who tried it with me said it tasted like strong, sharp cheese to him. I didn't get the cheesy notes, but it's definitely intense. Topped with some caramelized onions and a slice of tomato, Vegemite toast would be delish!

After Townsville I was off to Melbourne for a few days! Melbourne is actually the biggest city I've ever visited. I'm headed to New York City in October, and this was a nice primer! I BARELY scratched the surface of restaurants and attractions in Melbourne, but I crammed a good bit in during the few days I was there!

My favorite part of Melbourne was the little side streets lined with small shops and restaurants. These little streets were every foodie/shopper's paradise! With such a wide variety of specialty stores and local restaurants, it was difficult to tear myself away when it was time for work! Most stores and restaurants had open store fronts, which was something I didn't expect considering the weather! It was rainy and in the 50s and 40s while I was there, yet store fronts stayed wide open! I did like the open, artsy feel the open fronts gave everything though, even if I was a little cold while I shopped :)

I imagine this is true with many big cities, but Melbourne restaurants spanned a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. Naturally there are quite a few British restaurants, and there is definitely strong Asian influence in the cuisine, but I also saw a fair amount of Mediterranean restaurants! Getting a feel for Australian food was kind of a challenge, but maybe that's saying something - Melbourne definitely seemed like a melting pot. A few general things I noticed though, were lots of meat, lots of pumpkin, and lots of scones!

I ate dinner at Il Tempo, a small Italian restaurant on Degraves Street.  My dinner (pictured above) was Orecchiette Lamb Ragu with slow cooked lamb shoulder and peas *googly*eyes*. The lamb was tender and ultra savory and the peas brought a touch of sweet contrast. And personally I believe the most pasta, the better, so I was on board with the orecchiette ;) Italian comfort food at its finest.

The next morning I had a proper English breakfast at Hopetoun Tea Room! I love me some American breakfast with all the rich classics, do NOT get me wrong, but sometimes I get a hankering for fancy breakfast. I'm talking tea cups, scones with triple berry jam and double cream, and salmon with poached eggs, salmon roe, and crushed avocado over sourdough bread as pictured above. Unfortunately, I can't get breakfast like this in my home town. It's probably something that only exists in big cities. But between this breakfast and my favorite breakfast of all time in Vienna, my heart will long for fancy breakfasts for quite some time.

After breakfast it was off to Queen Victoria Market! With both indoor and outdoor shops, produce stands, and covered tables with clothing and other goods, it was kind of a combination of a farmer's market and flea market. And it was enormous! I found quite a few souvenirs ;) I picked up a St. Kilda footy scarf for myself (see below), locally roasted coffee beans for my parents, local wine for Paul, and breakfast for the next few days for myself. Again, it's probably a good thing that my shopping is strictly limited to what I can fit in my suitcase on the way home!

One of the highlights of my trip was an Australian Football League game at Etihad Stadium! As a huge American football fan (which Australians call "gridiron"), I HAD to see what Australian footy was all about. One of my Australian colleagues is a St. Kilda Saints fan, so I adopted St. Kilda as my footy team :) Scarf in tow, I attempted to understand the footy match, with admittedly little success. It's a rough, fast paced, high scoring, pad-less and helmet-less combination of American football, rugby, soccer, and basketball. They bounce the dang ball! It was so strange to watch, but FUN and intense.

The only drawback to my trip to Melbourne was the weather. My trip to Australia was 10 days long, so I of course checked the weather as I packed, but 10 day forecasts are only so reliable. Unfortunately it ended up being about 10 degrees colder in Melbourne than it was supposed to be, and I simply did not pack the proper clothing :( With the temperatures in the 40s and 50s and intermittent rain, I was shivering most of the trip! One of the best dinners I ate was a warm bowl of Chicken Teriyaki Ramen from Yuzu. The chicken was super tender, and the warm broth with ramen and veggies were exactly what I needed!

Unfortunately even with the above bowl of goodness I couldn't fend of my impending cold, and I spent the long journey home and the following week with a mean cold AND jet lag. Talk about the perfect storm! Eastward travel definitely causes worse jet lag than Westward travel, and the cold and the jet lag both made it hard to sleep, which made both things worse! Ugh.

If it wasn't for the cold, I really think I could have kicked the jet lag sooner! I've done surprisingly well with jet lag. I was completely adjusted to my destination time after the first night of sleep with all of my other long haul trips. I think the key is sleep deprivation (which isn't hard for me on planes). Keeping myself awake at all costs until my destination's proper night time worked for me in all cases besides the Eastward trip across the Pacific.

What are your travel essentials and tips?
Perhaps I'll do a post on some of the tips and tricks I've learned in my recent travels!


  1. I am so excited for you that you are having all these adventures

  2. These are amazing! Especially the vegemite tasting. Such an awesome trip!

    1. I've still got some Vegemite in my fridge with your name on it ;)

  3. So many delicious things! I really like the place where you were, especially parrots who are not afraid to sit on their shoulders


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