Happy “Down Under” Holidays

Trying to reach Perth, is no easy task let me tell ya.  It started with the driver from our apartment to the Dubai Airport (which we normally get for free and book in advance) wanted me to pay full amount.  After a back and forth and calling a few people, waiting at the airport door we finally got it.  Then apparently we needed visas to Australia, and here I thought we were common wealth buds!  So after an additional 300 dirhams (about 80 dollars) and another 1-hour wait (which felt longer) we made a quick stop at the lounge and off we went for our 10+ hour journey to the land down under – with about 30 minutes’ minimum delay in taking off.

Our hotel room in Perth

Perth – first impressions

The trip went relatively well, and my little one was cooperative for the most part, having him sleep half the trip (5 hours) was a big help.   At the hotel, via taxi, we managed to regroup and head out for a quick walk and a bite to eat at a Malaysian place, but was really a Chinese restaurant.  We had tasty beef stir-fry and tofu with iced tea and milk tea.  Was impressed with what little we saw at night; nice architecture, public art, and easy accessible public spaces, especially with a stroller.  Will have a better look tomorrow after our early river cruise, zoo visit and Freemantle tour.  A bit peeved that a couple of work issues are coming up (typical, as soon as I leave!).  Hopefully what vague responses I made will resolve them or buy me some time. (10:50p.m. in our Mercure Perth Hotel).

Today was surprisingly laid back and relaxed for what I was expecting.  After a quick grumpy fight between all three of us, which ended in angry looks and silence; we went to the pier to pick up the boat. It was a generally slow and relaxing boat ride through Swan river.  On the way back, the sun came through the cold cloudy morning sky and it finally ended up feeling like a summer day, a very pleasant one.  The people once again provide way too polite, even more so than Canadians I think, with a very relaxed demeanour.  After making our way back to the port, and after I got flashed by a lady on a boat nearby – we headed to the pier for the zoo (separate boat) which was much shorter, quicker, and roomier. We got our money’s worth there, practically covering the entire zoo. Got a few very small things from the gift shop, big mistake as we know it is a complete rip off, and had a quick bite to eat, another rip off.

At Elizabeth Quay

We took the ferry back and walked through a couple of shopping arcades where the misses bought a couple of things.  We made our way to a bar where I had fish and chips and both of us had great ginger ale; on the way back after wifey got her take out sushi.  Full of food and content, we hit a nearby more reasonably priced souvenir shop and got most of our required gifts.  We like to get those out of the way so we don’t have a manic last minute shopping spree where we end up paying much more.

The city and the zoo

After an attempt in the hotel to use the pool, which was too deep for my kid and too cold for me, we are now fully in technology’s embrace taking it easy in the hotel room.  Might go for a walk later but likely to stay in and sleep early since we have a two-hour tea route tour and then we see my friends who live in Perth.  So far very impressed with the city, very beautiful, clean and well designed.  All their buildings are airy and fresh with modern designs and their public spaces and playgrounds are top notch (the little guy spent a good hour in one after our zoo trip back in Elizabeth Quay).  Their food is from all over and the weather did not disappoint at all.

Looking forward to a more relaxed tomorrow and then off we head to Melbourne early Saturday morning spending Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day there. Hope not everything is closed all those days there. (9:00p.m. in our Mercure Perth Hotel).

Was another relaxed great day starting off with a heritage walking tour which gave us some interesting info on the city and its beginnings – meeting my culture fix, included a coffee at Moana’s which was a hidden coffee house gem in a converted old building with a couple of tasty flat white coffees.  It was a bit hot, we got great tans, but my little guy was a sport (with an iPad) and we got through it.  We ended in a disappointing chocolatier where they were too busy to talk to us and the tasting was one bowl; because of the Christmas rush they were very distracted.  I bought a white chocolate with cardamom and rose but tasted like just a regular white chocolate really.  Then we headed back and went out again to grab lunch, and went back to relax and get ready for our early flight tomorrow to Melbourne…excited!  That’s one city I really want to see.  Our fun was slightly dampened by news than my wife’s  grandfather was not doing well and his brain stopped working.  I hope no further bad news trickle in (11:00p.m. in our Mercure Perth Hotel).

The heritage tour

After a quick morning wake-up (and no breakfast) we took surprisingly longer than expected to get ready, but somehow managed to get through it.  I got a great “Monocle” issue on Canada which definitely made me homesick.  We quickly headed to the hotel apartment which was amazing and very stylish.  The executive lounge was lacking, but the reception was very friendly and the misses got her Molten Brown gift (today and tomorrow to celebrate Christmas).  We cleaned ourselves up and made our way to Queen Market which was closed for the day being Christmas Eve, that was disappointing.  Instead we opted for a Korean restaurant nearby which was delicious – lots of Asian restaurants here!

Our beautiful home in Melbourne  – wish I can live her permenantly

As we walked back I took plenty of pix just of Queen Street.  The city reminded me SO MUCH of downtown Toronto, it’s as if I was there!  The weather was much better here though.  We hung out in the apartment soaking in the place and getting our money’s worth, washing laundry, had a nap, eating some groceries we bought a bit earlier, unpacking, getting things in order.  Mostly me trying to get a Rubix cube done to get a free can of Pringles (it’s the principal mostly!).  Hoping tomorrow we get to see more of the city at the Eureka Skydeck tower in the morning, then planning to go to Federation square, Chinatown and maybe to end it off at the Royal Botanic gardens.

Got a bit of a dent on our happy vibes here, especially my wife getting pretty paranoid reading about a recently discovered terrorist plot in Melbourne (one of the targets was Federation Square).  So she’s been edgy in general, hopefully I can try to get her to stop reading and watching the news… I feel it’s just a lot of negative energy for no reason.  As if she wants to have negative vibes…which there is certainly plenty of with her’ Grandpa’s situation (he’s been very sick lately).  Here’s to a safe Christmas Eve and Christmas Day tomorrow.  (1:00a.m., Treasury at Collins Hotel).

A new day, which went according to plan – as in all the boxes were ticked.  Had a nice long walk in a warm summer day here in Melbourne.  Up the Eureka Skydeck to get full views of the city, the “Edge” at the tower was a disappointment though to be honest; walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens (we really wanted to see the “Government House” but it was closed off and the day was getting too hot), went to Federation Square and had a small bite to eat and replenished on liquids; and then off to Chinatown where we ended up in a great Japanese Ramen restaurant (forgot the name) but the Chicken (I want to say….Hiyashi?) and the Fuji Apple Cider was amazing.

Snapshots of my favourite city

In between took lots of pictures of the amazing architectural features of this city.  Really loving it, reminds me so much to Toronto but newer, more laid back and of course better weather.  The river and sea give it a much nicer character.  Honestly if I didn’t have family back in Canada this would be the place to live in.  And the people are amazingly friendly, I would dare say more so than Canadians.  The urban planning, open space, public realms, and amazing Architecture is incredible; way better than expected – despite the fact that 99% of everything was closed, even convenience stores!

Our good time though were tempered the passing of my wife’s grandpa, which definitely created a sad feel to an otherwise nice easy going day.  It was an expected ending but a sad one nonetheless, hoping he rests in peace after a long health battle for the last two months.  Definitely a downer of a Christmas Day.  Didn’t help that my favourite singe, George Michael, was also no longer on the same day (10:00p.m. in our Treasury at Collins Hotel).

Graffiti Art and alleyways in Melborne

Amazing arcades of Melbourne

I created my own walking tour this morning; went down the many arcades and street art (graffiti) alleyways in the early hours of the morning.  Following the Lonely Planet self-tour of Melbourne Arcades I followed on the coffee shop stop but not the cocktails and lunch.  After that nice brisk walk made my way back to the hotel (with some groceries and detergent) and the wifey made a delicious egg and cheese omelette breakfast.  Had a quick change, because the weather was nice and breezy, and had another quick walk among the crazy Boxing Day crowd madness; apparently it’s really big here, and enjoyed a nice walk about through the city streets (not many things were open), beautiful Melbourne.  (11:00p.m. in our Treasury at Collins Hotel).

Fairly straight forward day starting with a walk to the Queen Victoria Market by myself early in the morning, they were starting to set up but I still ended up getting and finishing up my souvenir shopping.  Had a nice cappuccino nearby afterwards to sustain me until I go back to the hotel.  In the afternoon we set off to the Afternoon Tea at Hotel Windsor, pre-booked of course. I started to rain as soon as we got there (in what would be an all-day rain-a-thon).  After the very classy tea and snacks we shovelled into our mouths, we passed by the Emporium, Melbourne Central and the Strand (shopping centres connected to each other).

Afternoon tea at the fancy Windsor Hotel

After waiting around and giving the wifey 2+ hours to do her thing, much deserved, we headed to the hotel where I took a nap.  We walked around for a nearby dinner spot eventually agreeing on a Vietnamese corner place where I had Crispy Chicken with broth and noodles, and she had Tofu vegetables Stir Fry, and the little boss was fine with just steamed rice.  Looking forward to Sydney tomorrow for our last stop of our Aussie adventure.  (Dec. 27, 2016 at 8:40p.m. in Treasury at Collins Hotel).

Started with a rushed rainy day in Melbourne (the taxi and the airport process was very fast and efficient) and ended in a relaxed sunny day in Sydney.  I was a little anxious since I didn’t receive any confirmation for the airport shuttle but luckily the driver was there – albeit he drove like a bat out of hell and I’m pretty sure a few things broke in our luggage along the way, how could it not?

Our Sydney digs

We made our way to the apartment which was more spacious than expected and checked out the pool deck (hoping to be there for the fireworks on New Year’s – it had a great view).  After a very brief walk around circular key had a nice Italian lunch in a hidden gem nearby which was very tasty, but the setting was exposed and it was extra windy today; needless to say things were flying off.  After dropping the fam off to relax, I had a long walk crossing the Harbour Bridge, which was very windy but the views were AMAZING!  I must have taken hundreds of (repeat) pictures, but I couldn’t take a chance really.  Wound my way through the historic Rocks area which was a nice surprise for me, and the architecture was very interesting.  Then of course onto the Opera House where I was this close to buying tickets to Circus 1903 but managed to hold it until I got back.  The tickets were all sold out and the only remaining seats were all over the place so we passed on it – big regret for me, would have like to see the inside.

Harbour Bridge – the “coat hanger”

Can’t get enough of this amazing icon

After resting in the hotel for about 30 minutes we walked back to circular key for dinner where I had a Kangaroo Fillet for the first time.  The background at night with Harbour Bridge and the Opera house side profile was very dramatic. The lighting on the bridge looked like a nice prelude to the New Year’s Eve party.  The service was really slow and the little guy, impatient as ever, began getting on my nerves.  In hindsight as my better half rightly pointed out, it’s because he’s extra tired, waking up at 8:30 in Melbourne and eventually sleeping at 12:00 a.m. in Sydney – the crazy life of a jet setting child!  We got a few groceries on the way back for our end of day chillaxation. Might be another active day for me tomorrow going to Skydeck tower in the morning, followed by QVB, and Westfield mall, should be good exercise after the chocolate coconut bar I had late tonight! (12:15a.m. Quay West Suites Hotel).

Today I head off with an ambitious long walk along old Macquarie Road which has a lot of historical government buildings and leafy treed avenues. It was a nice brisk sunny walk with the Royal Botanic Gardens on one side.  Took a cappuccino along the way which is probably the best I had so far, eventually making my way to the Sky Eye Tower of Sydney.  Up there it was a nice 2 minute promotional 4D video (although the 4 didn’t work and it was more 3D). Went up quickly to the observation deck and did the mandatory 360 views from up top looking down on the harbour and the main downtown area of Sydney.  Soon after, and just in case I wouldn’t come back with the fam, went to the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) which has very traditional architecture despite the Mall that it is now home to.

Out and about in Sydney

Walking up George Street had more than my fill of Architecture nerdity and satisfied my snapshot addiction.  Had a quick break (a sit down) finishing my favourite new drink, sparkling red grapefruit; got a few more souvenirs (some cheap jewellery for my two ladies, the misses and Mom) –  apparently the souvenir shop was going out of business and liquidating. The gang of two and I headed out for a shopping day for our designated family shopaholic (which is fine since it’s all her own money).  After two and a half hours at the Strand Arcade, 2 hours at Westfield and an hour and a half at QVB, with plenty of photos for me along the way the misses had a disappointing but not unproductive shopping adventure.  My boy and I left her and did our thing, at some point having pasta lunch just the two of us in Westfield.  After heading back York Street (foregoing Din Tai Fung and Kinakonya – we have them in Dubai so no need really) I took a much needed nap (I feel like old man charley here!).

The Rocks at night

We finally made use of the pool and the views (which I am getting anxious about not having when the fireworks strike – luckily there are two sessions at 9 and 12 but I have a feeling on both times we will be left out by a crowded terrace!).

We got our swimming fix and we ended the day with a dinner at the Rocks.  It was a different feel at night, and the restaurant was interesting making you buy your own raw meat (I had marinated kebob) and then I had to cook it myself in a nearby BBQ – so Aussie!  The lady and the tramp (my son) had the salad bar only.  All in all, a nice day but tomorrow should have a few highlights – done with shopping now, time for more sightseeing! (10:30p.m. in our Quay West Suites Hotel).

So today went as planned with a major highlight being the Koala Encounter at the Wild Adventure Zoo in Darling Harbour.  We walked there first thing in the morning after boo made us a nice egg and cheese crumpet sandwich.  After waiting in a long queue that moved relatively quickly and talking to a lady who lives in a farm 9-hours out of Sydney we walked through the Zoo.  It was nice because it focused only on Aussie animals, given that we saw a lot of “regular” animals in Perth this was a nice focused visit.  The highlight was the Koala encounter which got us really close (even though we couldn’t touch) and it was well worth it.  We walked after that towards the Chinese Garden of Friendship which was incredibly beautiful.  My wife described it as “heaven”, which I have to agree with; it was so picturesque and exotic, a nice unexpected surprise, even the little one loved it.

At Sydney Zoo

We then walked towards China Town where we had an amazing authentic Chinese lunch near Paddy’s Market (which is like Dragon Mart for those in Dubai); we had honey chrysanthemum eggplant and chicken with walnuts and beetroot – exotic overdose!  China Town itself was small but managed to go into a few shops and bae got me a nice refreshing melon milk tea.  Walking back we stopped by a playground for our son to release some of his energy – much needed and deserved. We assumed, unsuccessfully, it’ll tire him out – but then we walked back to the hotel for a quick “regroup”.   On the way I had an interesting and very refreshing green apple soda, the drinks, chocolates, candy and groceries are very interesting here, unheard of flavours.  Proof there are still differences between countries out there.

The Chinese Garden in Sydney

Following a quick change and went out to the Lindt Café to give our son a promised hot chocolate treat.  Big bummer! It was closed, so as per the wifey’s suggestion we went to the Guylian café on Circular Quay.  After a chicken club baguette dinner for me, and toasted bread and cheese for our discerning guy, and of course hot chocolates all around (had the Peppermint Hot chocolate) we walked around the Opera house and views onto the bridge at night one last time before New Year’s and the madness that will be tomorrow night.

Our boy was super excited, typical of a very tired child who is way passed his bed time and hopped up on hot chocolate.  Upon returning to the hotel apartment I asked about Bondi beach for tomorrow and they showed me a map of roads that close off starting at 5a.m.!  So needless to say that is a no go.  I think instead we will take it easy and head back to the Royal Botanic Gardens to fly a kite or something, have some Indian for lunch at the Spice Room we passed by today which the misses was craving, and maybe take the little guy swimming in the pool one last time.  Especially since cabs or cars of any sort are not an option tomorrow.

Which begs the question, tomorrow is our last day and we will need to head to the airport at some point.  Should be interesting, right after the fireworks as we head out to the train station to make it to the airport.  I’ll see if I can journal before the flight tomorrow since we will arrive at the airport early…. or upon reaching Dubai, what a long flight that will be!  Unlike coming, which we stopped in Perth for, this is heading straight back with no stop over.  Fingers crossed; anxiety setting in.  (9:50p.m. Quay West Suites Hotel).

Fairly light day today, woke up late (slept in) took a lazy walk to the Botanic Gardens after Bondi Beach was rendered a no go by cab, and had a great Indian lunch at the Spice Room near Circular Quay – just as planned.  Cleaned up, took the little guy swimming and packed up.  Will take a nap before we get ready for the dual fireworks set.  Going to be a long 24 hours from the late night – no sleep – to getting to the train on time with luggage, to being in the airport early, to no lounge access, to a very long flight back and work the very next day!  But was well worth the trouble, loved this country, impressed with the people and history, the cities were amazing.  Would have loved to venture out of the urban areas – maybe one day…. maybe.  Very unlike Darwin (which was my first visit to this country, and would have loved to see the outback, Ayer’s rock, Tasmania and New Zealand.  The list gets longer (4:40p.m. Quay West Suites Hotel).

Sydney’s New Year’s celebrations – bucket list item

Post Script – so after what was a very impressive firework display (both times, and we managed to get great views), the walk and train ride back to the airport was hell.  Because roads were closed trains were the only way out, and it seemed like all of Australia (and Asia) were going back to their homes.  So you can imagine the two of us, with a child and a stroller (which I then folded for space) and two luggage pieces, and jam packed trains.  Dealing with people going back, some were drunk – and accordingly acted the part. We reached to the airport, which was closed!  Never knew there was such a thing, where an international airport, for a city like Sydney, on New Year’s day, can be closed.  So we waited outside until it opened.  Very strange experience.  But the flight back was easy and smooth, made it safely with lots of memories to boot.  Great way to start the new year!

Where do you think is another great place to celebrate New Year’s? New York, Hong Kong, London, Moscow, Dubai?


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