To the end of Australia
A month in Australia sounds like a long time, but it flies by very quickly. It becomes very apparent when planning an itinerary and quickly realizing how little of Australia one can actually see in that time. We were lucky to be able to spend a week in the Outback, but as we worked our way down the east coast we were forced to pick and choose only a few of Australia's innumerable sights along the way. I guess that alone warrants a trip back here, not to mention the north, west, and south coasts! Well, at least we got to see Sydney and Melbourne! Sydney, the capital of New South Wales and once a contender for the capital of the new country back in 1901, is an interesting mix of cultures. There is a distinctly European flair, but a large Asian (namely Chinese) had me wondering more than once whether we somehow ended up in Asia. The modern skyrises give the feel that the city desires to match wits with cities like New York or Tokyo. Of course, there is the Australian sense of national pride hovering above all that, but I still find myself scratching my head at what exactly that is. It is certainly found in Sydney’s famous sites such as the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House.
Sydney's iconic Opera House
Sydney's Harbor Bridge We ended up staying in a smaller suburb immediately to the west of the CBD, so spending time in the city itself wasn't quite as convenient for us. We made sure to do some major exploring though, including a 3 hour walking tour in the intense heat that Ethan walked without a single complaint! In a bit of poor planning we didn't have the stroller with us, but he took it all in stride.
As a bit of a reward we spent the following day on the beaches along the Pacific coast, which he really enjoyed. He had no fear charging into the waves, even after getting knocked down a few times from their intensity! Even though the water was over 70 degrees, it felt freezing to me because it was so hot outside, but it didn't faze Ethan at all. The kid doesn't cease to amaze me… especially since we walked from beach to beach… again without the stroller. We must be terrible parents…
Beach life On our last day in the Sydney area we took a day trip to the Blue Mountains. Only an hour from Sydney, the stunning backdrop is a world away from the city and is full of waterfalls and rainforests to explore. We planned ahead this time and brought the stroller only to discover that 90% of the trails are not stroller friendly, so Ethan ended up walking yet again, this time on hikes up and down through the rainforest, including a path with 900 uneven steps to get to the valley floor. He's just an awesome kid, is all. We stumbled across some dinosaurs in the valley though; an outdoor exhibit with animatronic creatures that Ethan really enjoyed. Definitely a highlight of the day before we took a train back up to the top of the valley - a train that runs on an incline of 60 degrees and makes you constantly feel like you're going to fall out! Spoiler alert - we didn't.
Hiking the Blue Mountains
View from the top
Couple of dinosaurs crackin'
Late that evening we boarded an overnight train to Melbourne. Modeled after European trains, we were able to fall asleep shortly after leaving Sydney and woke up right outside of Melbourne. As a plus, the train actually had a shower on board. It was definitely difficult to use, but it was quite a neat experience! Unfortunately, we found Melbourne in a very rainy state. Not known for any sites of particular interest, the real joy of Melbourne is just walking around and exploring - not something ideal in crummy weather. We did the best we could in the morning to explore the CBD, and when the sun finally came out in the afternoon we gathered with the crowds to watch the city's most famous race - the Melbourne Cup. The horse race certainly gives the Kentucky Derby a run for its money (pun intended), and the entire city stops to see it. I think moments like that are what travel is really all about.
We spent the rest of our time in Melbourne just walking around, exploring the many alleys and hidden coffee shops and food courts invisible from the main streets. We spent more than one day snacking at the Queen Victoria Market, the largest outdoor market in the southern hemisphere and choc full of delicious fresh produce, beads, meats, and plenty of little restaurants. We really enjoyed just being Melburians for a few days.
Queen Victoria Market
The Royal Arcade, one of Melbourne's many hidden alleyways
Melbourne’s rather unique history of becoming the capital of the new colony of Victoria in the 1850’s and very shortly after finding large amounts of gold in its new land (coincidence? I think not) quickly catapulted it to becoming the second largest city in the British Empire and the richest city in the world for a short time. This wealth is shown in the many beautiful old buildings that still stand throughout the city and they are quite sights to behold. In fact, the beauty of the city, quality of life, schools, jobs, parks, shopping, etc. have made Melbourne the most livable city in the world for many years!
Old meets new
Our next stop takes us back a bit east to New Zealand, where we'll be spending a month driving up the country seeing what there is to see along the way. Stay tuned boys and girls!