Saturday, April 30, 2011

Exploring St. Kilda

Our apartment is small, but it's right across from the beach and a block from the happening Fitzroy Street in St. Kilda. St. Kilda is a beach town 15 minutes South of Melbourne proper.

On our arrival day, we went for a walk on the beach, where we saw a dead sting ray, starfish, and the world's biggest jelly fish washed up on shore. The sunset was amazing, and the sun seemed so huge. After the beach, we walked through a park with lots of runners, palm trees, and a hippie doing the hula hoop - reminding me of the Haight-Ashbury area in San Francisco. Then we walked up and down Fitzroy Street and stopped for a bite at an Italian restaurant. The food was okay, but I was nervous when I got the bill. Prices are steep in Australia, but we've heard tipping is not a common practice as the waiters are paid a salary which compensates for tips. Still, it felt weird to not leave a tip, so I did this time.

We stopped by a crowded bar on the way home to try a Virginia Bitters Australian beer, which it turns out is called Victoria Bitters. After the bartender and I got that sorted out, and I tried to figure out how many ounces are in the 225 ml beer (it seems really small), we headed outside to breathe the smell of cigarettes. I met a friend out there who bikes. He invited me to go biking on one of the world's best road biking trails on Sunday. Though he was 'admittedly pickled,' he actually followed through with an email and we're all set to ride. He's providing a bike and new tubes for the bike. I can't wait. We went home and alternated between watching rugby and the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

We made it! Morgan and her friend dropped us off at the Denver airport and we got our fourteen boxes checked without incurring any extra fees other than the expected $200 per box, and we had five hours to spare. Then two days later, on 4/29, we landed in Melbourne at 9:30am. The flights were surprisingly easier than expected. Air New Zealand had delicious food, free drinks, and a hilarious safety video starring Richard Simmons and his spandex posse ( We had over 150 movies and TV shows to choose from during the flight. It felt more like a cruise ship than an airplane.

Once we landed, the fun began. We had fourteen boxes/checked bags plus carry-ons to pick up from baggage claim and navigate through customs. It required six trolleys. The customs official said we set the record for most bags he's seen. At least Aubree now has all seventy pairs of shoes to choose from! We wheeled the trolleys up to the customs checkpoint, and the customs officials took pity on us and helped us push the trolleys up to the security scanner machines.

We presented the customs officials with our detailed inventory of the box contents, and they decided they'd trust us and didn't open any boxes. Potential crisis averted. I almost wish they would have opened my bike box to remark at how clean it was, since I spent so much effort getting it spotless!

The customs official, Stephen, ended up helping us push the carts out of customs and all over the airport, even tracking me down at the Budget rental store to let me know the best place to park. We offered him $10 AUS, but he refused. This is in stark contrast to the Denver airport baggage worker, Huang, who we paid a tip of $20 for moving our boxes on two trolleys from the curb to the check in counters, and he acted like it wasn't enough.

The Australians have not ceased to amaze us. We got lost between the airport and our new house (at least we survived driving on the left side of the road) and pulled off the highway to find some poor unfortunate soul to help us find our way. We ran into this nice construction worker on a side road who brought out a map book of Melbourne and walked though the directions; then he gave us the whole book to keep! The weather was 70 degrees, the sun was shining, we found our apartment in St. Kilda, and we got settled in.

Monday, April 25, 2011

T-3 Days = Easter/Goodbye Molly

Today is Easter...Happy Easter everyone! Actually it's technically the day after Easter since I'm up past midnight again. That's kind of what happens when you don't have to work the next day. You could say I'm getting ready to adjust to the Aussie time zone.

We spent Easter at Aubree's parents' house. Her extended family came in to say the goodbyes. The food and company were great, and we dominated in ladder golf.

Then came the time to leave our beloved dog Molly. Molly is staying with Aubree's brother/sister-in-law/dog-in-law (Mascot), who will take great care of her. But leaving Molly behind was one (of several) very difficult parts of going to Australia. Molly has been there for us every day since our wedding, and we love her so much. Aubree says Molly is that one special dog you find once in a lifetime and compare all your other pets against. I agree. Life will be quite different without Molly. Plus, I wouln't be half as funny, since most of my jokes come at Molly's expense.

We took Molly for a walk around the park in Aubree's brother's neighborhood and stopped to play by the lake. We played the usual games (hide and seek, fetch) and ran through her arsenal of tricks; then I took Molly inside to her new family and managed to quickly muster a 'Thank You' and 'Bye' before heading out the door. I'm sure Molly will be much happier where she is than if she was living in an Australian quarantine and our little Australian apartment, and we look forward to joining her in a couple years.

Speaking of our apartment, we got a place right on the beach in St. Kilda. It is a fully furnished studio where we'll stay for 1-3 months before finding long-term housing. The apartment is right on the St. Kilda beach strip, and if our room is facing the right direction, we'll be able to watch the kite surfers on the beach.

We (Aubree) also signed up online for 15 or so clubs in the Melbourne area, so we hope to meet some nice folks there for surfing, biking, and having fun.