Monday, March 18, 2013

Australian Animals at Healesville Sanctuary

This is one last post about my time with my parents and aunt and uncle. When they came back through Melbourne after their time in New Zealand, we had a day to enjoy some Australian sights. Our first stop was Brighton Beach for "morning tea." I bought them various flavored macaroons from the market and brought along some strawberry lemonade.
Speaking of the market, I brought them all to the South Melbourne Market first thing in the morning and made them go pick out and buy their own meat item for lunch. They had fun navigating the crowds, seeing Australian items for sale (lamb and kangaroo), and trying out their knowledge of the metric system and Australian currency!

After morning tea, we drove out near Healesville Sanctuary and I cooked up a BBQ lunch while my family took a short hike in the park. The flies were insane and prevented us from even sitting down while eating, but we made it work. Then it was off to Healesville Sanctuary, where you can see all of the Australian animals in one place.

We started our visit with the bird show. They flew all around our heads while we learned facts about them.

The best part was when this eagle spotted a wild version of itself high up in the sky. Well, the wild one spotted this one too, and ended up swooping down incredibly close. We almost got to witness an attack; you could tell the handler guy was kind of freaking out!

Sleepy dingo.

After the bird show, we walked around the other exhibits, checking out several Australian animals. I've included a few of my favorite pictures for you to enjoy: a dingo, emu, lyrebird, red kangaroo, koala, pelican, colorful bird of some sort, Tasmanian devil, and kookaburra.

It's hard to believe that we won't be living in the land of these animals much longer. The shipping company came today and packed up all our things to send to California. We rented a car and made one trip to the op shop and two trips to the rubbish collection place. We're down to just one large backpack and one daypack for ten weeks of survival. This is getting really real!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

White Night Wonders

A few weekends ago, Melbourne hosted an all-night extravaganza in the CBD called White Night. There were musical performances, art exhibitions, light shows, and all sorts of random cool things going on throughout the night. We went downtown to check it out, and it didn't disappoint.

Flinders Street Station was all lit up and looked awesome. There were various bands and performances taking place in front of the steps. Federation Square was busy too; at one point Zack was even learning to hip-hop dance in the middle of it!
This was one of the art sculptures at the National Gallery of Victoria. It was a tower of cascading suds! Throughout the night, as various portions fell and people swatted at the parts they could reach, this "living" sculpture changed, and that was exactly the point. I wonder what it looked like in the morning!
My favorite part was the lighting they did on the fronts of some of the cool buildings. My least favorite part was the crowd. This was White Night's first year, and I don't think Melbourne anticipated how popular it would be. The streets were literally packed with people; it got to the point where you couldn't even get from one side to the other. After a few hours of exploring some of the things going on and fighting the crowds, we walked home, satisfied that we had gotten a good taste of this neat cultural event. I hope (for the sake of those who live here-since I won't much longer) that Melbourne makes White Night a yearly event!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Our Big Announcement About Leaving Australia

Yep, this is the post where I actually admit that we are leaving Australia. And not later this year, or next month, or something logical and normal like that. We are flying out on March 20th, which is only five days away. Yes, we are insane! Actually, we've been working on this for about a month now, but all of the actual details are finally getting finalized.

Here is the deal. Zack's official start date back in the United States is June 3. We wanted to do some more traveling before heading back, so he is taking a leave of absence, and we are traveling for eight weeks. Where? Well, after much deliberation and reworking of itineraries several times, here is the final plan:

-Philippines: Boracay (beach time) and Donsol (swim with whale sharks)
-Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hanoi (including Halong Bay)
-Laos: Luang Prabang
-Cambodia: Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) and Phnom Penh
-Thailand: Bangkok
-India: Golden Triangle-Delhi/Agra/Jaipur
-Nepal: Kathmandu, trek the Himalayas (deciding between Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit)
-India: Goa (beach time with my friend Ameeta)
-United States: Michigan (pick up our dog and Jeep and see my family), St. Louis (see Zack's family), San Francisco (move in)

Yes, we are moving to San Francisco, California! We love Colorado and plan on moving back there in a couple of years to settle long-term, but we're not ready to "settle" quite yet. Zack has always wanted to live in California, and I'm excited about living near my sister in Santa Cruz and exploring a new part of the country. We think it will be an easy transition to move there from Melbourne, and now seems like a good time to give it a try.

So that's our big announcement. I've been pretty bad about keeping up with the blog lately, as life has been crazy with organizing this move and huge trip, but I'll get in a few more entries before we go. I won't be blogging about our travels, mainly because I'm honestly kind of sick of keeping up with this blog and partly because it will be difficult and annoying to find internet access in most locations, but also because I really only started and maintained this blog as a record of our expat time in Australia for ourselves (I was just lucky enough to have readers!). So once we leave, keeping up with "Keys Down Under" won't make much sense. I will, however, take PLENTY of pictures, and those will be on my Shutterfly site when we return.

So, this isn't goodbye quite yet, but it's a warning of an almost-goodbye. Yikes-so much to do! Back to packing...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Colonial Tramcar Restaurant

After their time in New Zealand, my mom, dad, aunt, and uncle flew back through Melbourne for a couple of days before heading home to Michigan. Zack and I treated them to a night at/on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, something we've been wanting to tick off our Melbourne bucket list for awhile.

The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant is exactly what it sounds like. They've refurbished old tramcars and turned them into a fancy, moving restaurant. It's pretty neat. We did the Thursday night late dinner seating, so we had a five course meal with unlimited drinks and got to travel down to St Kilda and through the CBD before ending up back in Southbank after a few hours.
Kangaroo fillet was one of the five courses!

The food was good, but not amazing. It was cool how they served uniquely Australian dishes, like kangaroo and barramundi and panna cotta.
Thumbs up for Frangelico!

Our waiter was hilarious. He was an Italian guy who would break into song randomly while serving us, and he was very eager to keep our wine and drink glasses very full. He even introduced me to Frangelico, a delicious Italian liqueur that tastes like liquid Nutella!

Overall, I'd say the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant is a great touristy thing to do just once, especially if you've got visitors in town and you can all have fun together. It's not cheap, but you can get your money's worth with drinks and realizing that you're paying for food, entertainment, and a tour of the city!
The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant was pretty cool.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Byron Bay Birthday

My 34th birthday started the week before January 27, when Zack brought home these beautiful yellow roses for me. Unfortunately, they only lasted a few days, but they were gorgeous while they lived!

In Byron Bay, I awoke on my birthday morning to find my mom had made "Aubree's Dessert," a treat we used to make as kids. I'm not exactly sure why it was named after me, but I remember making it over at Aunt Kathy and Uncle Greg's house one time and it didn't have a name, so I think we started calling it that. Anyway, it made for a good first breakfast, but then we had scrambled eggs and toast outside under the veranda.

I also got a morning "Happy Birthday" serenade from my mom and Aunt Kathy. This video absolutely cracks me up every time I watch it, and this was the second version, because I didn't have my camera ready the first time they did it (they are completely sober by the way-this is just how crazy they are!).

It was a rainy day (of course), but we managed to get out and walk around town. Zack scheduled a surprise massage for me, so I got to relax for an hour. For dinner, we all went out to a nice Italian dinner near the water. It was a wet, windy adventure to get there, but the food was good (and the martinis were delicious!).

When we finally managed to escape wet and windy Byron Bay a few days later, I arrived home in Melbourne to more beautiful flowers courtesy of Adam and Emily. I may not have gotten the beach birthday I was hoping for, but I'd say it was a pretty decent day anyway!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Byron Bay was a Bust

This weather forecast might give you an idea of our time in Byron Bay. Now this is in Celsius, so it actually was pretty warm, but it rained. A lot. And the wind blew. Hard. We were getting the remnants of a cyclone occurring in Northern Queensland.
We still managed to get out and walk around the city (mostly because there was nothing else to do), but we wore our raincoats all day long and waded through puddles everywhere we went.

Australia Day, a day meant for BBQs and playing cricket games on the beach, was basically rained out. The beach was closed, parades and events were cancelled, and everyone huddled in restaurants and shops looking depressed.

The streets and yards of Byron Bay were a mess. These were just a few of the branches on the ground in the backyard of our rental house.
We watched a lot of the Australian Open to pass the time, played some cards, and ate at various restaurants around town. There wasn't much else we could do. Our kayaking with the dolphins was cancelled. Our snorkeling trip to Julian Rocks was cancelled. Even our flight out of Byron Bay was cancelled, and we had to stay an extra night (the last thing on earth we wanted to do!). And then the power went out! So we ate and played some cards by candlelight for a few hours before it went back on. My poor parents and aunt and uncle had to miss the first day of their New Zealand trip.

My family finally did get out of Byron Bay the next day, but they had to take a shuttle bus to the Gold Coast airport and catch a connecting flight before they could go to New Zealand. On the way, they took a few pictures of the streets that were flooded. Meanwhile, Zack and I went to the beach one last time before heading back to Melbourne (of course it started raining while we were there), and we got a few pictures of some of the damage done to the big trees in the area.

So Byron Bay was definitely not the place for the glorious beach vacation I had envisioned for Australia Day weekend. We managed to make the best of it, eat some good food, and have some laughs, but overall, I'd say Byron Bay was a bust!

P.S. We did watch the movie The Impossible while we were there. It's about the tsunami that happened in Thailand a few years ago. That kind of put things in perspective!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Byron Bay Lighthouse

On Saturday, we headed out in the cloudy, gray weather of Byron Bay to walk to the lighthouse at the end of the peninsula. The hike took us through the woods, along the water, past some beautiful overlooks, and finally to the big white lighthouse. The intermittent rain and constant strong wind didn't stop us from enjoying the views and getting some pictures. We even saw a large Eastern water dragon. Enjoy!

The most Easterly point in Australia!

The weather only got worse from here on out, so get ready for cyclone-related posts coming soon!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Beginning of Byron Bay

On Friday, we arrived to a cloudy Byron Bay. After avoiding the lizard in the window and checking into our house (aptly named "Shirley Blue"), we walked around and explored the funky, little town.

We ate at the Railway Bar, where a mix of locals and tourists enjoyed fish and chips, local beer, and live music.

Then we stopped by the market, where my dad got a song played for him by giving a dollar to this man dressed in gold.
We picked up some groceries for the house and then headed down to the beach to enjoy the sunset. It was a pretty good start to the weekend, and we would have soaked up the dry weather a bit more if we had known what was to come!