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Friday, January 11, 2013

An Australian Holiday Downunder - Part Two

Part Two of the Australian adventure starts us in Sydney living like a local before traveling down to Melbourne and the forests and beaches of the tiny town of Lorne.  For those who read my Croatia blog you should recognize some of the names in this post.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Up bright and early on my first real day in Sydney, one of my favorite places in the world.  Ponyo happens to be a stellar tour guide and was determined to introduce me to all the local spots on my trip (since my last trip to Sydney had covered all the touristy ones).

First up was First Drop for brekkie in an area called Red Fern.  The restaurant is located on a quiet leafy street which perfectly fit the organic feel of the food and the decor. I ordered a chorizo and egg scramble with spinach on a piece of warm toast and an espresso which turned out to sound more interesting on the menu (I forget the exact description) then the result.  It tasted okay and was fairly expensive so not sure I would need to come back here.  And the wait staff took FOREVER.  I mean it's eggs and toast people!

It was the day after Boxing Day so Ponyo then forced me to go shopping for boardies and wallets for the next few hours.  It did give me the opportunity to see a little bit more of the CBD area of Sydney though.

From there we returned to Bondi Beach to spend a little time stretched out on the sand before meeting up with Party Pants and Little Sailor (who henceforth with be referred to as Mr. Hands) for some lunch (I feel like I spent a lot of time eating on this portion of the trip!)

Bondi Hardware was one of my favorite restaurants of the trip.  The food was a little hit or miss but the attitude of the place was awesome.  I would come here for drinks anytime!

Photo Credit: Bondi Hardware Website

First up was the pork belly slider with pickled cabbage and apple chutney.  First of all this was juicy deliciousness with a little pickling to spice things up.  Loved it!  Wish I'd gotten more than one.  Although I think it's cool you can just order one!

Next up was the grilled polenta cakes with tomato, basil and blue cheese.  The polenta was too dry, the tomatoes too green and the blue cheese was WAY too overwhelming.  I didn't finish this one.

Last up was the honey, soy and sesame chicken drumettes with fresh chili, coriander, spring onion and lime which were unbelievably, finger-licking good.  Only problem was I was so full at this point with beer and nasty polenta cake that I could barely stomach more than one.  With great trepidation I passed them along to the boys who noisily ravaged them to the bone.

From there we changed and prepared to go out but after pre-party at my friend's in Bondi Beach, Ponyo couldn't get his second wind so we ended up crashing early.  The only plus was that I discovered a new chocolate treat that may rival my age old favorite Arnott Mint Slices!!

It's a chocolate bar with jelly beans and pop rocks inside.  It sounds disgusting and yet is amazing.  I brought three giant bars home with me.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Up and about early again thanks to an early night.  At least it's making my days feel longer!

Brekkie today was in Bondi Junction at Savta.  I apologize because I got almost the same type of thing that I had at First Drop because it's my favorite ingredients mixed together and is like an Aussie brunch staple!  It was toast with roasted tomatoes, a poached egg, feta and avocado with herbs sprinkled on top.  The feta was really salty but used sparingly the dish was still delicious especially the tomatoes which just exploded with flavor when you bit down on them.   And the egg was perfectly cooked and hot.


From there it was, you guessed it, back to Bondi Beach for what we thought would be a beautiful day at the beach.  It definitely started out that way as you can see from the picture below.

But within an hour it was so windy I could barely see Ponyo stretched out on the towel next to me!  We were forced to retreat to the Beach Burrito Company up the road where we washed our sand-tans off and downed some Coronas.  This place is SO cool.  If it was in NYC it would definitely be on my shortlist of day drinking bars.  In addition to Shwood, I met a couple of Ponyo's other uni friends who were delightful! 

 Photo Credit:

So delightful in fact that we all ended up at dinner together.  Ensuring that I saw yet another neighborhood of Sydney, we dined in Surrey Hill at Fratelli Paradiso.  While my risotto looks like throw up, it tasted like heaven.  I like my risotto a little soft and this just melted its way down my gullet.  The restaurant itself features extremely attractive Italian waiters, chic furnishings, and delectable Sangiovese wines.

Photo Credit:

But what is dinner without dessert?  My Aussie pals were extremely excited to introduce me to Messina in Darlinghurst where I had the best salted caramel gelato of my life.  Highly highly recommend.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

On my last day in Sydney before heading to Melbourne, I had to take advantage of the famous Taronga Zoo!  I've heard SOOO much about this zoo and even my resident Sydney friends were excited to go.  We spent the morning seeing everything from the reptiles to monkeys to the big cats to the elephants.  We even managed to make it in time for the seal show. 


 The highlights included:

While hanging out in the monkey exhibit, Mr Hands showed me a new, delightful YouTube video titled "Chimp rapes frog" which features footage of exactly what you think it does.  For those of you who lack imagination I have graciously provided a link to the video (Animal Rated R).

Next up was Shwood telling me the terrifying story of Mr. Shuffles the murderous elephant.  Apparently a few months earlier, Mr. Shuffles had crushed a zoo keeper up against a metal pole at the zoo causing a heart attack and severe injuries.  She slipped into a coma and was in critical condition for several days.  Recommendation: Suggest a different career path for your seven year old.

A rare glimpse of an authentic D-Hole (the animal kind - yes they do exist!)


And lastly, Mr Hands and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the seal show where the largest, stupidest seal ever to grace the stage of a zoo managed to screw up his routine so many times that he was practically booed off the stage by the children in the front row.  You have to be TERRIBLE for little kids who have suspended all belief to BOO you.  For us immature adults it was the most hilarious thing ever.  The worst part is apparently this seal and the female seal who had performed prior (she wasn't a brain surgeon either) mate "backstage."  I worry for those offspring...

Overall a very enjoyable visit complete with a trip on the air trolley back to the top of the hill which featured stunning views of Sydney Harbor's bridge and opera house.

Watching seals shovel fish into their mouths had made us all unbelievably hungry so we stopped at the Buena Vista Hotel in a neighborhood called Mosman (again props to Ponyo for showing me literally ALL areas of Sydney).  They had just recently built an awesome indoor/outdoor rooftop dining area which definitely made me feel like I was on a tropical holiday between the open stovetop where you can cook your own steak and the wooden paneling of the walls and window shutters.

I wasn't hungry enough for a giant steak and there was no way the boys were about to share so I went with the Devils Wings with Hot Homemade Chilli BBQ Sauce, the Vegetarian Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls and the Tuna Sashimi Wasabi and Soy because as starter plates you can do three for $25.

The wings were almost too breaded but instead were perfectly crispy and really hot although could've used a tiny bit more flavoring.  The vegetable rolls were pretty terrible.  The rice paper was freezing cold and rubbery and the veggies were sliced too large making it kind of hard to bite into.  The sashimi though was some of the best I've ever had.  SUCH fresh fish.  And I topped the meal off with a lemon lime bitters which is my new favorite drink.  If you are curious what's in it reread my last sentence.

 Photo Credit: BV Hotel Website

SUPER full we paid and scurried back to Kirribilli to finish packing and get to the airport in time for our evening flight to Melbourne.  We were originally going to DRIVE to Lorne for the Falls Festival but avoiding 30+ hours of driving was well worth the $250 round-trip ticket.

After spending an hour trying to find parking in permit-riddled St. Kilda, we grabbed a steak sandwich at Grill'd and passed out.  The burger was all kinds of awesome with chewy ciabatta bread and thick, juicy steak.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

So you've heard me mention Lorne and Falls Festival a couple of times now so let me give you a little more information.  Australia has two major festivals (and a third one on the rise) for music each year.  There is Falls on New Years in Lorne and Tasmania and Splendor in the Grass in May in Byron Bay.  Lucky for me, my trip was perfectly timed for Falls and even more lucky, my favorite band, Boy & Bear was playing!!  They've never come to the States so this was my one chance to see them!!

We woke up at 7am to start the two hour drive from Melbourne to Lorne.  Luckily I'd put together a slammin' playlist that made the hours melt on by.  Just outside of Lorne we stopped to get food and alcohol in preparation for this festival camping extravaganza.  Past festivals we'd been to had a no alcohol policy which really just means "be as creative as possible with how you hide your alcohol."  Most amateurs refill other liquid containers and are thus always caught.  We went a different route...turns out the largest uncut loaf of bread at the grocery store is the perfect size to fit a small bottle of Absolut.  Absolut-ly Genius.  My task the remainder of the drive was to construct a hole in which to fit said bottle.  The irony?  We drove right in and they never even asked to look inside the car.  What a waste of time!!

 After pitching our tent, we slathered ourselves in sunscreen and spent the rest of the day at the festival.  It's about a five minute bus ride from the camp site we were at to the festival grounds.  The festival grounds are divided into two stages - Valley Stage and the Grand Theater.  The lineup for Day One included Oh Mercy, SBTRKT, Beach House, Boy & Bear and Flume.

The first three weren't particularly memorable for me.  Boy & Bear was incredible but I was surprised by how physically forceful the crowd was considering they are a low-key band and they didn't play my favorite song!!  WTF!  Flume was on all counts incredible... I've never seen so many people swaying in unison.  It was like everyone was on the same drug, on the same roll, at the same time.  CRAZY.

The only letdown was the the day started off so hot you could see heat wiggling off metal.  But by the time Boy & Bear finished it was so cold I could barely breathe.  Hot Chip was scheduled to go on at 2:30am and by 1am we were so frozen we gave up and spent the night huddled next to each other for warmth in an attempt not to lose any important body parts.  The cold also resulted in me buying the only sweatershirt over at the concert - DZ Deathrays.  God I'm gangster.  Can't wait to rock that on my next L.A. hood trip.

Monday, December 31, 2012

None of the bands in the morning were ones we had to see so we decided to take advantage of the ten minute bus and go see the town of Lorne for a little beach retreat and a much need "shower" in the ocean.  Lorne is the most adorable town with a gorgeous beach and tranquil, turquoise water.  It felt so good to nap in the sun after a frozen night on hard ground in the tent.  It was pretty crowded though probably due to the festival attendees.

Once the heat finally got to me, I retreated up to Tom's Bar on the beach where I snacked on fish n chips while reading the best book - "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao."  I HIGHLY recommend.

We were quick to get back to the festival post-lunch so that we wouldn't miss First Aid Kit.  They blew away all the bands from the day before.  I've never heard such pure, angelic voices.  And they had two tiny little ballerinas dancing around the stage as they sang.  Quite the show.

We stuck around for Maximo Park (who was absolutely awful) before heading back to the camp.  We'd learned the hard way the night before so this time we layered ourselves in every warm article of clothing we had before heading back for the night sets.

Upon arrival back at the festival grounds, we were astounded at the number of people who'd showed up for Hilltop Hoods.  For those non-Australians, Hilltop Hoods are an Aussie rap group who are surprisingly amazing.  I found myself jamming with the rest of them in no time!  I highly recommend checking them out.  This crowd was WILD.

As you can see from the photos we spent a fair amount of time towards the back enjoying the bigger sets from an enjoyable, non-sweaty distance.  This would not be the case for Two Door Cinema Club that is not only one of my favorite bands of all time but my favorite band live and the set that would be ringing in 2013.  All these reasons resulted in my fighting tooth and nail to the very very, and I mean very, front row where I spent the next hour singing lyrics to Settle, Sun, Beacon, and all my other much loved songs.  Oh, and dancing my ASS off.  It was one of the best moments of my life...


Not to be outdone by watching a bunch of Australians singing Gangster's Paradise with Coolio.  Yeah, that happened.  Coolio looks like he is about fifty years old but he still knows how to get a crowd going.  I was repeatedly crushed until the front fencing which definitely fit with his lyrics about "walking through the valley of the shadow of death."  I felt like Mr. Shuffles zoo keeper! (Too soon???!)  The final icing on the cake was Coolio launching himself into the crowd, crushing three small girls with his gut, and crowd-surfing his way the length of the stage.  So surreal.  So awesome.  Please retire.

The night ended with a couple tracks by Total Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs but I was completely wrecked at that point so we headed back and passed out.  Best start to 2013 ever!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2012

At the crack of dawn the next morning, we were up, tent packed, and on the road before most of the hungover revelers had a chance to wake.  There was no way I was getting stuck in the five hour crush of cars trying to leave later that morning.

Because we'd managed to avoid the traffic we decided to skip the freeway and instead take the Great Ocean Road back to Melbourne.  It is a beautiful drive along the ocean and we even stopped to take a quick picture of the famous Split Point lighthouse.  Ponyo, ever the awesome tour guide, explained that every young Aussie knows this lighthouse because it is the prominent location in the kid's TV show, Round the Twist.  Just for kicks I've provided a link to the theme song.  So entertaining.

We made crazy good time back to Melbourne which allowed us to grab brekkie at Il Fornaio and spend some time at the beach.  Yes, I ordered Aussie toast again and it was the best one yet.  This one was enhanced by heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese. YUM!  The place is super cute too although the wait staff takes forever.  Uugh.

Photo Credit: Timeout AU

It was a quick, easy flight back to Sydney where I immediately repacked my festival bag with beach clothes and hopped on the bus to Palm Beach to spend two days BBQing and beaching with Party Pants and his friends.

But you'll have to wait until next week to hear about that.  Happy weekend!

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