Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Western Australia

Margaret River and Perth were our final 2 desinations in Australia.  They are on the west coast and miles from anywhere.  Not many travellers make it out this way as there is not that much to do, but we decided to check it out.

Arrived in Perth from Adelaide early on Tuesday 28th Jan, pick up another car and started the drive to Margaret River taking in a few of the sea side towns on the way. Like most of Aus, these town are lightly scattered along the coast, all offering shops, cafes and restaurants, but the ones we stopeed at on this route were slightly different.  They seamed more family focused and livable rather that just a pit stop for travellers or a bed for the night.  There were massive parks, all filled with swings, play areas and ice cream stalls.  There were even inflatables in the sea!

The houses were new and modern.  And, by all accounts, these towns are full of British ex-pats.

The only downside to living here is that you might get eaten by a shark.  But there are area in the warm, clear, blue sea that are surrounded by shark proff netting, making it safe.

It took us about 6 hours to drive to Margaret River, making our usual stop for lunch and coffee etc.  The hotel here was Cazzie's favourite.  An old manor, now used as a hotel.  There were about 20 rooms, all suites, a massive garden and a pool.  It was lovely and relaxing.  That night, we wandered into the town for some tapas and some wine!  

The Wednesday was all day wine tasting!  Love doing this sort of thing.  I don't claim to know much about wine, but I do know I like being driven around all day getting drunk.  

The first 1/2 of the day, it was just us and the driver, and we started off by going coffee tasting.  Now, I do think I know about coffee, but I now know I don't.  I told our coffee tasting expert that I have a Nespresso machine, thinking that made me sophisticated, which proved to be a great source of amusement for him.  We were taken through how to make, brew and taste coffee.  We bought a bag of beans for trying out when we are back home.

Then it was onto wine tasting. Visited some amazing wineries and tasted some great wine, with the best place being the first.  

In the afternoon we were joined by 2 other couples, took in 2 more vineyards, a cheese shop, a chocolate factory and an olive making farm before spotting a few kangeroos on the short drive home! This area is known for producing some amazing red wines, so we picked up a couple of bottles.

That night we decided to BBQ at the hotel and sample some of our new purchases.

We checked out the next day and decided to visit some of the underground caves in the area which was a great experience.  Very different from above ground! 

It was then onto Perth. A smaller city than Sydney and Melbourne, but one that I quite liked.  It's got all the shops, resaurants, parks and bars, without being too busy or crowded.  There is also a very cool rooftop bar culture here, of which we frequented many.  Spend 3 days here and there's not much to tell that I've not said before.  We did take the ferry to Fremantle, a suburb about 30 mins outside of Perth. During the ferry ride, we saw some spectacular houses, with the most expensive being $57 million.  

Fremantle is, like so many places in Aus, a very cool, relaxed area.  Loved it here.  Grabbed some lunch, a few beers and wandered around visiting the local brewery, pier, beach and even the prison.  

We are both glad we included Perth and Margaret River in our trip as it was well worth it!



Monday, 3 February 2014

The Really Great Ocean Road

We left Melbourne on Saturday 25th Jan with a bit of a hangover and, after picking up a pretty cool 4x4 Jeep, started our Great Ocean Road adventure.  In fact, we'd planned to drive from Melbourne to Adelaide, some 1100 kms in 3 days.  The first 2 days we would probably cover 450kms in total, with the rest on the final 3rd day.  I wasn't looking forward to day 3.

The Great Ocean Road is exactly that.  It's a great road that pretty much follows the ocean.  It winds, lifts and dips, is scattered with tiny coastal towns and has some of the most amazing natural landscapes you will ever see.  It seemed that every few kms there was another scenic lookout, waterfall or photo spot to stop at.  There were also some huge and rather expensive houses along the way.

A few of my favorites places were....

1 - Gibsons Steps.  These, surprisngly, are steps that lead you down to the beach where you can look up and see the towering cliffs about you.  

As well as getting a look from ground level at 2 of the 12 Apostles, 

2 - The 12 Apostles, which are huge rock formations out at sea.  Due to the power of the sea eroding them, there are only 9 now, but still spectacular.

3 - Grotto Bay.  This is where the sea has carved a massive hole in the rock.  Really stunning.

The final thing was just how clear the sea was here. 

There are many, many more I could mention.

The towns we stayed in were Apollo Bay and Port Fairy.  Very small, quiet and not much to report.  

Finally, during our long 3rd day drive, we stopped 1/2 way at a placed called Blue Lake, a lake formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago.  We read that this was one of the bluest lakes you will see.

Overall one of my favourite 3 days of the trip so far.




Tuesday, 28 January 2014

What to make of Melbourne

On the first part of our trip, people often asked where we were heading to next and Melbourne always got a mixed reaction, ranging from "you'll have a great time's such a wonderful city", to "I'd miss out Melbourne altogether".  I'd been here before, albeit to see the cricket 8 years ago, and I liked it.  I knew it was going to be very different this time round.

We arrived late on Monday the 20th Jan, having spent the day travelling from Byron Bay.  After a wander around a very quiet city, we were done.

Up bright and early on Tuesday to take in a few of the sites, including Captain Cooks cottage, (the oldest building in Oz), a few of the parks, the shopping disctrict, Federation Square and the waterfront. Breakfast was first on the agenda though.  Melbourne has plenty of little, narrow side streets that are full of tiny cafes, all busy and all serving delicious food and coffee to tourists, locals and business people.  This was a real unexpected surprise and pretty much where we had breakfast every day.

Tuesday night we had tickets to the tennis, and were delighted to learn that it was Wawrinka v Djokovic.  Jokingly we said we wanted a 5 setter....and we were not disappointed.  A brilliant game of tennis, great atmosphere and a lot of wine.  

Wednesday we headed to St Kilda, a cool little suburb about 25 mins on the tram. Main street had outside bars, cafes, restaurants as well as the quirky shops we have seen in so many other places like this.  It even had an allotment...

After a spot of breakfast, we headed to the beach for the rest of the day.

On Wednesdy evenings the Queen Victoria Night Markets take place.  Wasn't really sure what to expect, but delighed to report that it's a foodies heaven.  A few clothing stalls, but rows and rows of red hot grills, steaming pots, open BBQs and wood fired pizza ovens all offering food from a different country.  It was teriffic.

But, that night we headed out for a very average steak and a few hands of blackjack at the Crown Casino.  

Thursday we had booked ourselves on the Colonial Tram Lunch.  This was a 2 hour, 4 course, all you could drink tram ride around Melbourne, and pretty fab.  The tram was kitted out with all vintage decor and Cazzie was in her element!

The trouble with an all you can drink 2 hour lunch is that it becomes a mistake to stop drinking once finished.  With that in mind, we embarked on a pub crawl round waterfront, taking in a bit of the tennis in one of several outside viewing spots.  

Friday's plan was to meet an old school friend of my Dad's for lunch...Real Robert, do some shopping and then have dinner with a couple we met during out Daintree Rain Forest tour.  Richard and Carina met us about 5.30pm, and after seeing that Chin Chin's - Melbourne's hottest restaurant had a 2 hour waiting line, found somewhere else to dine.  After visiting Carina's favourite ice cream place, and sinking a few beers in a bar while watching the tennis, we found a lovely rooftop cocktail bar before dancing the night away in a cheesy club!

Top night had by all.

We've been asked a lot that "if" we were to move to Australia, would we pick Sydney or Melbourne.  For me, Melbourne has the edge.  Sydney is great, and I know we didn't see all the outer suburbs, but, from what I've seen, Melbourne has more to offer.