Oops, I got a little distracted for the past 10 days and haven't made time to blog! I have been busy in large cities, so there hasn't been as much time to sit and write...until now.
We arrived in Australia late in the evening and got settled in our first city - Melbourne. The next 5 days were for cafes, coffee, street art, and trams. Melbourne is a spirited city of almost 5 million people, which was certainly a shock on our first day. Think about it, there are that many people in ALL of New Zealand and now we stepped out into a city chock full of students, professionals, and tourists all bustling about in the city's Central Business District. It felt like being in Time Square compared to the quiet of NZ!
Melbourne was easy to get the hang of. It's well laid out and there are free trams criss-crossing the city's center that come by every 5 minutes or so. When I got tired of walking, we hopped on a tram to get where we needed to go.
Highlights for me included the Immigration Museum, the State Library, the Queen Victoria Summer Night Market, and a delicious sushi dinner.
We took one day to get out of the city and visit Phillip Island. About 2 hours outside the city , this island is known for the massive colony of Little Penguins that live there and parade from the ocean into their burrows across the beach every night. They were adorable and we learned about their lives and habitats in-depth, it was a treat! I was reminded that having a good tour guide makes the experience unbeatable. I love learning about what I'm seeing and I love having the chance to ask questions, I'm so grateful for knowledgeable and talented guides -- like the one we had at the Penguin Parade (yes, that's what they call it).
I would be remiss to skip over mentioning coffee as it relates to Melbourne. This city is sophisticated and prides itself on being one of the best coffee cities in the world. We heard that baristas can make serious money - it's a profession, not an in-between job, thank you very much! Everywhere you turn there are tiny charming cafes, it's awesome. So how was the coffee? Well... I only drink decaf, so I couldn't try the top end of what was available. But what I did have was pretty darn good.
On Friday, we packed up and headed to the airport to fly up to Sydney. I had been really looking forward to Sydney, as do many other people - it's a more popular tourist destination then Melbourne, but that wasn't always the case. Historically, Melbourne was the place to be, a thriving city with a global eye on it. Now apparently there's some friendly competition between the two cities, so much so that when it was time to decide where the capital of Australia should be, neither city would give up the fight, so the capital was put in a small city in between them called Canberra.
The sight-seeing in Sydney did not disappoint! The Opera House is beautiful (we saw La Boheme!), we climbed the Harbour Bridge and it was great, and there are plenty of beaches and neighborhoods to explore. Not to mention, the melt-your-heart animals at the Featherdale Wildlife Park. On our day-trip to the Blue Mountains we had rain, but it cleared up in the afternoon. In fact, Sydney has been the only city so far on our trip that I wish we'd had one or two extra days to visit. There were a number of other things I wanted to see, but we couldn't fit them in without going crazy.
My caveat with all this Sydney praise is that Sydney was actually a lot harder to navigate as a visitor than I thought it would be. It's a sprawly city, it's not particularly walkable, and the streets can be confusing. One morning, we planned to take the subway to our destination and when we arrived at the station, the whole train was closed for the day!! What the heck?
So, in summary, Sydney required some patience. And if I had to pick one of the two cities to live in, it would be Melbourne!
Now we're way up north in the tropics. Here in Port Douglas, it's so humid that nothing outside will dry and we immediately start sweating when we leave the air conditioning. My hair is going crazy!
This resort area is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, two awesome World Heritage sites. AND a place to relax by the pool and catch up on some reading. We've been going hard in two great cities, so now I'm glad to have a few quiet days.