Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Honeymoon Adventures: Australia Part II

Blogger's Note: So the order of this post is a tad misleading--we were in Melbourne before heading to New Zealand, but for the sake of keeping my posts organized by country, I'm including Melbourne here.

After spending an adventurous 5 days up at the reef and rainforest, we took a three hour flight down to Victoria to spend some time in Melbourne.  To us, this was one of the coolest and hippest cities we've ever been to (Montreal and Austin are also on that list).  If we ever moved to Australia, we would totally live in Melbourne.

All photos personal.

Melbourne at night, from 55 stories up at the restaurant Vue de Monde
What We Did
  • Lanes & Arcades Tour
This was a fascinating tour that took us through all the little alleys (known as arcades) throughout the city of Melbourne.  Not only are there tons of cool little shops and restaurants in some of these alleys, but there is an INCREDIBLE amount of street art that changes every month.  Here is some of the amazing artwork that we were lucky enough to see.

Mr. M got a panorama of this incredible mural
This huge mural was created by a husband/wife team who go around the world painting different chapters of a storybook in each city.  How cool is that??  When we got there, her bottom half was already painted over, so our tour guide sent us this original.
Beautiful and intricate street art
More cool street art
We found an Ankh!  This symbol has been special to us ever since the day we met.  I also got Mr. M ankh cufflinks as a wedding present

  • Wine Tour in Yarra Valley
The next day, we booked a tour with Epicurean Food and Wine Tours and were lucky enough to be the only people on the tour.  Our guide Fiona took us to some amazing wineries in Yarra Valley where we drank and bought some fantastic wines.  We also stopped for lunch at the fabulous Chandon winery.
Fabulous weather for a day in wine country
This was the last winery we visited and we ordered a case of their Pinot Noir to be shipped back home
Where We Stayed & Ate

We stayed at the Hotel Lindrum, a really nice, modern hotel.  There are a ton of amazing restaurants in Melbourne, so we went on a food frenzy while in town.  And luckily for us, we were within walking distance to quite a few of them!  Our most elaborate, indulgent and most expensive meal of our lives was at Vue de Monde.  We had to make the reservation a month in advance and decided to do the Degustation menu, which consisted of 14 courses of (very) small plates.  The chocolate souffle we had for dessert was to DIE for.  The cost of this meal was insanely expensive--about half of what we pay for a month's rent.  But if there is one time to indulge in the finer things in life, it's on your honeymoon ;)  Needless to say, we have been on a strict budget since returning from our honeymoon  and have been cooking MANY meals at home.

But hands down, the best meal we had in Melbourne and quite possibly on our entire trip was at the Asian fusion restaurant called Chin Chin.  For only $66 a person, you ask for the "Feed Me" menu, where they continue to bring dish after dish of special items from the large menu.  At around the seventh course, we threw in the towel and said no more--so of course they brought us one last dish of dessert (I can't even remember what it was, we were so full!)

Chin Chin, the best restaurant in Melbourne!
After Melbourne, we headed to New Zealand then came back to Sydney for the final week of our trip.

View of the Sydney Opera House from our hotel room
 It was bittersweet coming back to where we started, knowing that we only had 4 days until we had to head home, so we didn't waste anytime.  We cracked open a bottle of delicious sparkling pinot shiraz from Chandon in Yarra Valley and toasted to our trip so far.

A drink with a view!
What We Did
  • Sydney Pub Tour
This tour was a blast!  We booked through Sydney Pub Tours and once again lucked out as the only people on the tour.  We got to learn more about the history of Australia through the city's oldest pubs and subsequently through drinking some great beers (for Mr. M) and hard ciders (for me).  I tried to keep up drinking-wise with the guys but got pretty tipsy only 3 ciders in and had to slow my roll.

I was still getting over my cold from New Zealand so the tour guide was kind enough to introduce me to a whisky hot toddy, claiming that it would kill the germs.  It must have worked because I finally felt normal again the next day (and slightly hungover lol).

Checking out some awesome pubs and having kangaroo pizza for the first time
Showing us where unfortunate soldiers used to get "Shanghai'ed" back in the day.  So of course we had to pose in one of the cells.  Scary!
  •  Wildlife Tour
We explored the wild yet again, this time about 2 hours outside of Sydney and instead of a wildlife park, this was out in the wild on 1,000 acres of privately owned land.  This tour was really cool because we got to see kangaroos, wombats and koalas in their natural environments.  And our guide Steve was awesome!  We booked this through Boutique Tours Australia.

After searching for hours, we finally got to see two koalas.  It was truly amazing to see them eating and traveling in their natural environment
This is a gigantic wombat hole--these animals basically look like huge hamsters and dig these massive holes.  Underground, they have an intricate network of holes where they can hide from predators

  •  Sydney Bike Tour
The next day, we did a bike tour of Sydney and got to see various city sights up close and personal.  We booked this tour through Bonza Bike Tour

Riding over the Harbour Bridge; upper right, across the water with the bridge and Opera House in the background
The upper images are from our ride through Hyde Park; lower photos are from the Botanical Gardens

  • Surf Lessons at Bondi Beach
On our last full day in Sydney, we booked surf lessons at the world famous Bondi Beach.  We took the city bus about 45 minutes east to get to the beach and it was a brutally hot day (almost 95 degrees!)  Lucky for us, the water was ice cold.  Unfortunately we don't have any photos of us actually surfing (I'm still a little peeved that the surf school we booked through didn't have their photographer on hand that day).

But after a grueling two hour lesson, I finally managed to stand up on my board and road the wave all the way to the shore.  I had NO idea surfing was so incredibly hard and such a crazy workout--definitely have a newfound respect for surfers!

We snapped this photo while having lunch at the Icebergs Sports Club, right before our lesson

  • Watching a show at the Sydney Opera House
We got tickets to the show South Pacific, which felt like an appropriate way to end our trip. 

This is what's up on the stage before the show starts
Mr. M enjoying a glass of champagne during intermission
 Where We Stayed & Ate

We stayed at the incredibly gorgeous and luxurious Shangri-La hotel in The Rocks (a really cool part of Sydney).  I'm just realizing now that I didn't take any pictures of our room :(  But here's an idea of what it looked like.

Similar room to ours at the Shangri-La / Image via Agoda
We also ate at some fantastic restaurants while in Sydney, most notably the Glenmore Hotel (with a rooftop deck that has sick views of the harbor and awesome bar food), Din Tai Fung (AMAZING soup dumplings), Robocog (delicious brunch), Malaya (yummy Malaysian food), and a pre-theatre dinner at Guillaume et Bennelong, a gorgeous French restaurant inside the Sydney Opera House.

Inside Guillaume et Bennelong
View of the sunset at dinner
And with that, our incredible journey down under came to an end.  We were actually pretty sad to leave but it was time to get back to reality.  Luckily, the plane ride home was just as fabulous as our way there, so it made the transition a bit easier, though it took me about a week to get back on East Coast time.  The night we got home, we went to bed at 9pm, woke up at 4am and Mr. M was so wired that he went to a deli to get us breakfast sandwiches.  I fell back asleep at 8am and didn't wake up again until 2pm. Needless to say, it was ROUGH getting over the jetlag...but totally worth it!


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