Author: skipper1

What’s in the fine print- or, holy baggage fees Batman

We went for the corner of the Melbourne map we hadn’t covered, and landed at Docklands.  A Fort Point like neighborhood, this harborside part of town was growing with condo high rises and slowly populating with coffee shops and restaurants.  But the jewel in the crown?  An amazing public library.  Super modern with a coffee shop included on the ground floor, you can abuse the wifi all day while enjoying a view of Melbourne’s eye/Ferris wheel.  Or, you could use their maker bot 3 D printing station on the third floor, or pop in to indoor ping pong in a room with AstroTurf?  While I love that the Cambridge library lets me load up my kindle on the go, we both had library envy going on. The icing on our day?  We’d been sweating, as so far we carried on backpacks on 8 flights but now we missed some fine print.  Our flight to New Zealand threatened passengers were allowed one carry on bag only (we each had a big and day pack) with a …

Melbun, the sequel

Melbun- the sequel Was there more to see? I swore T walked me all over the city that first day.  Being a big city, we still had points undiscovered and ambled by Parliament and the parks.  Having admired temples through Asia, we finally stopped in a Catholic Church here to pay respects and learn about a history of Irish bishops who found a warmer island.  We meandered through public gardens, and past the Australia Open site which was quite empty without Nadal’s scratching, Djokevich’s gluten free delights or Federer’s fans. Other games were on a few feet further, as the Moomba festival took over the Yarra River with wake boarding and water skiing contests.  Hungry from the athletes calorie expenditure, we hit up a food truck with 90s tunes and more recent burgers.  Meandering from there we found ourselves at the real Fringe festival, where a singer songwriter with a guitar crooned to a crowd that bought drinks from a repurposed shipping container while one woman read your fortune and another man explained how you …

Melbun, in two parts

We had about 50 hours in Melbourne (an eternity!) and to go native here, we dropped our “r”s and left the rental car for trams and mostly walking around. A bigger city and a university town, we were back to crosswalks and cafés.  Where Asia had free wifi everywhere and street food, Australia has “flat white” coffees and food trucks.  Trade offs.  We stopped in the student union and state library, always good pit stops.  T marveled at how in Asia everyone seemed to be working during the day, whereas here people lounged and lingered with time for a midday wine or coffee. We found ourselves in Federation Square, a variation of Fanueil Hall with museums.  In an otherwise pricey town, the free museums at the square were the place to be, and we were both impressed with the Australian Museum of Moving Images.  Downstairs displayed a tribute to the history of film, including shout outs to Mad Max, Dame Edna, Crocodile Dundee and Cate Blanchett (maybe Nicole Kidman didn’t donate anything?).  A second gallery …

Hoppy

A few hairpin turns later, we left the surfers behind.  Bypassing Melbourne for the moment, we went to the Yarra Valley which is known for wine and beer trails set in beautiful hills.  Alternating drivers and beverages, we found a great spot amongst grape vines and apple orchards to enjoy pizza and the views.  When we asked about how the breweries cropped up in wine country, we were told, “even a steakhouse should have a good vegetarian dish!” AirB&B may again be the hero, as we’d found a house set on 40 acres by the hills with friendly golden retrievers, 3 horses, 1 cat and countless kangaroos!  The owners had rescued a few kangaroos whose moms died, and bottle fed them and let them go.  One kangaroo kept coming back and now visits with her youngster.  The family feeds them bananas and sweet potatoes to supplement their diets, and T did have a huge smile as a little roo nibbled banana from his hand. He also managed a selfie with the kangaroo!   Edit  …

Greatest Ocean Road

On the “must do” drives in the world, one will find The Great Ocean Road in southern Australia.  Similar to California’s A1 in its windiness and breathtaking views, it is part of the Limestone Coast with interesting cliffs and formations. On our way, we stretched our legs with a biking day. Unlike our recent bike tours where we were regarded as odd for wearing our helmets (odd for no other reason!), here helmets are required.  We biked past a surf posse, and I briefly wished to change sports. When we hit the road again, we finally spotted a koala crossing the road. Too quick for our camera, but the next day we did spy a wallaby on an ocean walk.  Sadly I’d only spotted dead kangaroos on the side if the road.  One day a few of us watched a mother and baby koalas in the trees, and another napping high up with a good grip on the tree.   The main attraction of the Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles rock formation – which …

No wining

We were leaving Adelaide prematurely, but we were getting used to quick stops.  Always leave em wanting more, right?  With clean clothes and a date with a rental car, it was time to hit the road. To the left, to the left.  We should have had Beyoncé on repeat.  Maybe not driving for two months made it like an empty slate, so it didn’t feel quite as weird to be driving on the left.   We arrived in McLaren Vale wine country in time for lunch at a cheese shop.  I’d been missing my good friend Cheese in Asia, and our wine and cheese reunion was a happy one.  With a sinus cold, T became the designated driver and I was once again the luckiest girl!  Unlike many Napa spots, wine tasting was free at our first stop, and many pours later I’d fallen in love with Shiraz. We weren’t far from the beach, so on a Tuesday afternoon took an amazing stroll down a beach reminiscent of Cape Cod Seashore.  This is one of …

Next at bat

We put ourselves back on the touring circuit. We were better prepared yesterday at the brewery tour than we were today at the Adelaide Oval. The other locals and again a Kiwi seemed familiar with the rules, history and present competition, while I don’t think we could have defined a wicket. I broadened my vocabulary and ability to imitate the accent on the tour. “We have to do it.  The Oval is like Adelaide’s Fenway Park.” “Have you ever done a tour of Fenway Park?” “Um…” But indeed the Oval had a scoreboard as impressive as the Green Monster which requires multiple workers to run up and down stairs to update the scores during a match. After carefully studying the half off tickets for the Fringe festival, we decided we wouldn’t understand the Scottish accent well enough for the comedy, and T eliminated a drama about a couple at odds. So we were in for another experimental circus act! But first, a stop at a wine bar and some advice from locals about which nearby …

“God bless a woman who gives birth to a brewer.”

A cool blast of air hit us on arrival at Adelaide, Australia.  The temperature was perfect, our skin tone blended in and our room was ready for an early check in. G’day indeed! In a bizarre shift, we were now 3.5 hours ahead. How they came up with the extra half will provide you with some good google searching! We’ve eh been too busy to figure that one out. With a nap and shower, we were off to the brewery tour. Coopers is apparently a home town treasure with a broad reach, as reflected in the 10 other Aussies, 1 Kiwi, and 2 Brits on the tour. I had ample opportunity to study the accents, but if only I could come up with the quick quips our guide had! “The beer is best after – that’s normally 10 days because it needs to be conditioned. So today’s February 24, it’s best after February 34.” In discussion of medicinal stout and pregnancy, one commented that maybe drinking stout lead to pregnancy. Our guide, “I prefer to …

Keluar

The end of our Asia time arrived, and one could say it was perfectly times as we were ready to say goodbye to the heat.  I only spent a few dozen hours second guessing the Malaysia over Vietnam choice, and then it was time to move on.  An engineer turned cab driver made our departure more interesting, educating us on the previous mandatory retirement at 55, the growth of electronics business in Penang and now competition from cheaper neighbors, and the country’s various quota systems. But the sweetest part of the exit was the upgrade.  Malaysia Airlines lets you bid on an upgrade, and my savvy partner in crime secured it with the lowest bid!  The legroom and extra wine may have spoiled is for future travels!  Yes, a success with Malaysian Airlines- fear not.

Khoo and the gang

Malaysian is fascinating as a would be melting pot, as I’ve mentioned before.  Here in Penang, a mosque is a neighbor to a Chinese temple, not far from an Indian temple.  Sprinkle in the occasional Christian church and then you may better understand why this country has 14 national holidays (US has 11).  As we landed during Chinese New Year, the temples were decked out.  We went by this temple three times before finding the way to access it.  Hidden by shops to purposefully obscure it’s meeting place, this temple is home to the Khoo clan from a specific village in Hokkien province of China.  Khoo Khongsi temple was built in the 1884 and destroyed in 1901 reportedly because it was too aggrandizing with its gold and paintings.  Rebuilt in 1906, it stands today- the same and different. Before we’d found it, I knew it from the book An End of Rain.  The main character’s grandfather was from the Khoo clan, and took his previously estranged grandson there to help connect with his roots. …