Daniel Visits: Adventures in Melbourne Pt. 1

On December 14, our good friend (and Joe’s best man) Daniel arrived for a month long visit. It was his first time Down Under, so we knew that we had to do lots of special things. First on the docket was a trip to Melbourne and a 12 hr bus tour of the Great Ocean Road. The road is an Aussie Heritage landmark – a 243 kilometer road built between 1919 and 1932 as a tribute to Australian soldiers killed during WW1. It was a long, hot, exhausting day filled with gorgeous sights and maybe just a few anti-nausea pills.

The road is filled with twists and turns. Unfortunately from a giant tour bus it’s not easy to grab a picture. We paused for lunch and had a quick ice cream/sorbet.

The afternoon was all about the Twelve Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks formed by erosion. Harsh and extreme weather conditions from the Southern Ocean gradually eroded the soft limestone to form caves in the cliffs, which became arches, which eventually collapsed. The end result was a dozen rock stacks in close proximity that can reach up to 45 meters in height.

So that was day one of our visit to Melbourne. Stay tuned for more fun as we visit the Old Melbourne Gaol, take in the traveling Bond exhibit, and catch an outdoor Christmas light show.

A bientot!

Wait what? Christmas is coming?!

I don’t know that I can get used to this Christmas in shorts business.  We diligently bought Christmas cards with good intention, and there they’ve sat.  We’ll get to it, I thought .  Loads of time! And now, wouldn’t you know it, Christmas is just weeks away.  All this to say, some of you can maybe possibly expect Christmas cards in January.

But these Australians celebrate the holidays all funny.  They’ve gone and wrapped our build up.  And poorly, I might add.

They have this house surrounded.

They have this house surrounded.

Construction has begun on our building to fix major design/window leaking problems.  Work on our place is scheduled to start Dec 13 – which is super convenient since Daniel Lennox arrives for an extended visit on December 14.  Perfect timing.

Sorry Daniel, but we hope to make up for the construction mess with breathtaking views,

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All the windows and patio doors are sealed shut. You can hardly see the Anaconda anymore. Odd to have workers passing by the 8th story windows.

Christmas cheer,

At least it isn't one of those white trees  - "to look like snow", said the girl at the gym.

At least it isn’t one of those white trees – “to look like snow”, said the girl at the gym.

And boxes of wine.

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The latest offerings from our silly wine club just arrived (while supplies last).

Melbourne: First Anniversary Trip (Part 1 – Sept 2013)

Join us for a walking tour of Melbourne’s Arcades & Lanes

We know that we’ve been incredibly delinquent updating the blog, so we’ll be posting some long overdue content over the next little while. First up is our September trip to Melbourne to celebrate our first anniversary.

According to most of the people we’ve met, Melbourne is a very different kind of Australian city. In many ways it truly is the Montreal of Down Under. It has a distinctly European feel thanks to its narrow alleyways, indulgent coffee shops and apparently high fashion (that’s not exactly something we investigated). As usual we stayed in the CBD (downtown) for our 2.5 day stay and seemed to spend the majority of our time eating (our running joke is that we ate our way through Melbourne). In actuality, that’s only partially true: we may have eaten a ton, but we walked most of it off thanks to two walking tours Bryan discovered. Thankfully the notoriously unreliable Melbourne weather completely cooperated and we were able to see some really cool sights that we undoubtedly would have otherwise overlooked.

Since pictures tell a thousand words, here’s a pictoral recreation of the tour we embarked on for the first full day of our trip: the Melbourne Arcades & Lanes walk (follow along with the PDF here)

Look for our anniversary day “Secret Gardens” walk soon!

J&B

Looking Back on 1 Year

It’s a bit surreal to think that we’ve been married for a year. Part of this may have something to do with the fact that we’ve lived in Australia for half of our marriage (isn’t that weird?). The other half of it is that being married hasn’t really changed things that much for us. Oh sure, we like to put up a fuss about finger density and misplacing rings on occasion, but the day to day stuff remains more or less the same.

Picking out sample pictures to finally share from ‘The Wedding’, now 365 days ago, is pretty crazy. One of the reasons that we never really got around to posting them is because of how disappointed we were with the final result. These are a very small portion of what we received, but this is more or less the best of them. Our grand plan to have “red carpet” photos went horribly awry and for many guests there’s only one or two pictures (that didn’t turn out), which makes it seem as though they were never there. So apologies to anyone who came out to see Bryan and I blubber through vows and speeches but don’t see themselves reflected in these pictures. Know that it hurts us not to have a better record of the day’s events.

On the positive side, we can say that the day went almost exactly as we had planned and hoped. We threw a party for ourselves and forced all of our favourite people to come!

Love you all and hope you share the same great memories as us

Love BJ JB

Channel [V] and the Australia Playlist

As the strange novelty of living in a foreign country is replaced by the routine of business as usual, it becomes easy to take for granted some of the experiences that were once considered so unusual. I imagine when summer hits around Christmas time there will be a new round of strangeness, but Bryan and I have mostly come to accept what day to day life in Australia is like. We may complain when things aren’t the same as what we got used to back in Canada, but it feels much less “foreign.”

One thing that does still feel weird is Channel [V] – the music station that plays at our local gym. Unlike its spiritual predecessor, MTV (or Canada’s MuchMusic) this channel still plays music nearly all the time (what a concept!) Now because we’re in a different part of the world, the music and promotions are completely different…and ever changing. So we’ve gotten a good sense of how much Aussies love outdoor music fests and just how frequently big named, familiar acts come to visit (in the next few months that includes: P!nk, K$sha & Pitbull, Fleetwood Mac, Beyonce, Justin Beiber and, rumour has it, Bryan’s very favourite artist, Katy Perry).

As interesting as that’s been, what I’ve loved is being exposed to artists that I’ve never heard of and likely never would have if we had of stayed in Canada. Some of these acts (Imagine Dragons) have actually broken out in North America, but some seem destined to remain hidden. None of them are local Aussie artists, but I can honestly say that without Channel [V] I likely wouldn’t have noticed them.

*Now if only the station would ditch its four annoying VJ-type hosts, who represent both hipsters and bogans in one stupid package.

First up is my favourite: Lorde. I posted the video for Tennis Court on FB a while back, and you’ll see I would recommend that as my favourite. I love this New Zealand artist’s voice. It’s especially impressive considering she’s only 16 years old (something I would normally hate since I dislike talented young people, but she marks an exception).

  • Must listen song: Tennis Court, but she’s gained more traction with her first single, Royals (which charted on the US Alternative and Rock charts). The whole EP is fantastic and the full album drops in November

I wasn’t in love with this next song initially – it was the video that grabbed me. Eventually the overly catchy child-like chorus won me over (I’m a sucker for pop choruses). Naughty Boy is a British-born Pakistani who frequently works with Emeli Sande and does a lot of producer work. It doesn’t look like this song has done anything in North America yet.

One of the interesting things about Channel [V] is that they play a lot of different kinds of music – traditionally when B and I go to the gym the Top 10 Tracks countdown is playing. The hit list focuses on the most popular viewer tracks of the day. As a result you get some traditional pop, as well as rap, R&B and electronica.

Zedd is a Russian-German DJ who works in the electro house genre. I like this song primarily for the vocal by Foxes, so I was more attracted to the acoustic version, though those who like to dance will probably prefer the traditional dance version.

One more single to share: Laura Mvulva’s Green Garden. Mvulva is a British singer whose song became popular when it was used in a BONDS commercial (think Hanes), but it also gets airplay on Quantas Flights (the airliner forces you to listen to their song selection while taxi-ing)

Next up is AWOLnation, a LA band. This one is ironic because the debut album, Megalithic Symphony, was released back in 2011 but the big lead single (Sail) is only now gaining traction in Australia. Apparently the band has had singles featured on tons of different US shows, as well as the Vancouver Olympics. So clearly this is one that slipped through the cracks for me

  • Must listen song: I love the super-song Knights of Shame because it’s a big music mash-up, but Wake Up (and the rest of the album) is pretty great, too

Finally another American band, The Neighbourhood (NBHD). I’m more on top of this one as the album I Love You just came out in April 2013.

  • Must listen song: The first single, Sweater Weather, is the best known (it hit #1 on the alternative chart) and it’s the most accessible song off the album. If you like this one, I’d recommend checking out the others, particularly Alleyways and Float

Bogey Holes, Bird Attacks and Surveillance Towers

I’ve been taking a leadership seminar off-campus for the last few months. The program meets in the conference rooms of a prestigious hotel called Noah’s On The Beach, which offers an amazing view of the surf just outside the windows. It’s a bit mean-spirited to spend the day cooped up inside with the beach just feet away, so I asked Bryan to meet me after the last session for a walk down the coastline.

I’d taken this route earlier with a co-worker and she pointed out a local attraction nearby that we had yet to see. The Bogey Hole is a nearly two hundred year old pool carved out of the rock by convicts for Major James Morriset (you can check out the fascinating history here) . It’s one of the big tourist attractions for the city, but since this was during the middle of the week (and in 22C winter weather – Brrrr) there was no one else around.

Unfortunately a bird decided to ruin the fun after we checked it out, which cut short our walk a bit. We ended up climbing Shepherds hill above to check out the Missile Surveillance site. It’s a popular wedding site now, but looks like an old jail (strange allusion). Anywhoo, check out the pics and if you want to go on a virtual tour, click here

First Trip: Sydney (June 2013)

After what probably seemed like an extremely long time, a few weeks ago we decided to take the plunge and make our first trip outside of Newcastle (my brief sojourn to wine country notwithstanding since I left Bryan behind). And so Sydney it was!

Sydney and Newcastle reside on the same train line, so despite the 2.5 hr time difference, the price to travel between the two is ridiculously minuscule ($8.40 each direction). We discovered that it’s not the price of the train ticket that may keep us away in the future – it’s the exorbitant hotel prices! Perhaps we’re forgetting what it costs to visit another city back in Canada, but the prices of a hotel in the biggest city in Australia seemed shockingly high. Availability was another challenge: originally we intended on going a week earlier, but we couldn’t get a hotel in a desirable area for under $250 a night. And so we delayed, booking our hotel for a weekend that was nearly washed out by rainy monsoon weather.

At least now we know better!

We wanted to take our time exploring a single part of the city (the CBD, aka the downtown) and since we know we’ll be back, we didn’t feel the need to discover everything. This proved to be a good strategy; despite restricting ourselves to just the downtown core, there was a lot to discover.

Our journey had an interesting start as we shared the train with some genuine “characters.” It turns out that this was the same weekend as Sydney’s Comic Con equivalent, Supranova, so we got to ride down with Link (from Legends of Zelda) and a host of other colourful cosplayers.

After exiting the train and immediately getting lost (thank goodness for iPhones and google maps), we began our journey to the Sydney Opera House via Hyde Park (with a brief detour through the Botanical Gardens). Check it out:

We ended up spending the night in an understated hotel in King’s Cross, a popular section of town for tourists and twenty something party kids. It was a touch seedy (ex: there were a number of competing strip clubs, including one called the Bada Bing Club after The Sopranos). This definitely made King’s Cross an interesting area, though the torrential downpours seemed to be dampening most people’s spirits as the streets weren’t quite as busy as you’d expect for a Saturday night.

I had selected a fun sounding resto in advance called Santa Barbara – a Haiwaiian/Asian fusion hybrid decked out in full-blown camp – but we nearly didn’t make it after the location proved nearly impossible to find. Thankfully we eventually figured out it was on the main strip (right in front of our eyes) and we had a fun, tasty meal. Upon exiting the restaurant, we discovered that the rain had subsided so we made a quick trek to the village to check out the nightlife. We weren’t really in a mood to party (soaking wet shoes and blistered feet – grrr!) but we hung out for a few drinks to catch the vibe. It felt remarkably similar to MTL by way of London, thanks to the Aussie’s fascination for all things British (especially fashion).

The next morning we grabbed an expensive/fatty/delicious brunch in a quaint little place before setting out to explore more of downtown. This next batch of pictures will take you through the rest of the journey.

Ultimately our trip to Sydney was a lot of fun, despite the rain. We ended up missing the worst of the wild weather, though; the city ended up getting pounded for several days following our departure (though it pales in comparison to Calgary’s situation). At the end of the weekend, we had a number of fun memories, misadventures and a stack of digital photos.

Ideally we’ll head back to Sydney to check out some other areas of the city in the next few months!

Creepy Commercial: “Goodnight Big Dog”

Television in Australia can be divided into two categories: FOXTEL (paid) and Free TV. We opted not to pay because we figured we would still be watching a certain amount of North American TV and because we’re already spending a great deal on just Internet. So Free TV it is, which seems built on the UK model of naming channels by number (ABC1, SBS2 with only the occasional GEM or NBN). This last channel has a history of providing a goodnight message for childhood and has for nearly 51 years.

The thing is the mascot for the channel, Big Dog, is freaking creepy! This dog just totally gives us the heebie-jeebies.

Take a look for yourself and let us know:

Long Weekend: Merewether Beach

As you may remember from the last post, Australia celebrates the Queen’s birthday as a national holiday in early June. On the Saturday we ventured to Blackbutt Reserve. On Sunday we decided to take a long walk to Merewether Beach which, according to Newcastle City Council, is one of the city’s most famous beaches.

This area of the city is currently in the midst of a coastal revitalization project. Merewether is part of a 2010 public domain plan designed to protect the beach, improve the area and make it more pedestrian friendly.

Perhaps because we’re so close to “winter”, the waves were absolutely ginormous. This – combined with warm weather – meant that there were lots of people out surfing and enjoying the boardwalk (Bryan and I nearly got run off the sidewalk more than a few times by spandex-clad speed-walking moms).

Take a look:

In truth it was not our original intention to walk all the way to Merewether (it’s approximately 45 minutes away on foot). We were actually on a mission: looking for tennis courts. Unfortunately all of the courts that we’ve found have been shockingly expensive ($14 an hour?!), which is a difficult price to swallow. Perhaps the free (though admittedly poorly maintained) courts back in Ottawa have spoilt us?

The tennis court search was part of a desire to discover new areas of town, and eventually led us to a steep hill near Cathedral Park, a heritage site containing the city’s first burial ground. We didn’t go in (perhaps another time), but we did discover some other fun stuff.

Long Weekend: Blackbutt Reserve

This weekend is a long weekend in Australia thanks to the Queen’s birthday (June 10). To celebrate the extra day off, one of my co-workers, Tammy, offered to take us to Blackbutt reserve to see some “local” wildlife.

The reserve is a zoo located within the city limits. It’s free to the public, which is kind of shocking for Australia.

Here are some pictures of the day, which despite an early rain turned out to be quite enjoyable!