Monthly Archives: February 2013

Breakfasts on the road

This morning as we ate the “big brekky” – that is Australian slang – that Hubby cooked for us (a fried egg, sausage, a grilled tomato and toast), we started talking about what we have eaten for breakfast. We are still in our third country on the road, the first of which was the US, so that leaves just two different breakfasts to get used to.

At my parents, we either ate nothing (Hubby) in order to stay hungry for the other two huge meals or the day, or yogurt/fruit/chia drinks (me). Or we both had toast with cheese or something more akin to Norwegian breakfast. We drank coffee every morning. Alternatively, we went out and ate hundreds of calories of pancakes or something.

In Hawaii, it depended on where we stayed, but mostly we ate either yogurt and fruit or bread and cheese. On Kauai we ate out several times because we found this fab restaurant that had organic produce grown on the property. In Honolulu we ate out once at a hipster café because I had practiced yoga in the morning and was starving and required food immediately. In New Zealand we ate toast, yogurt, and eventually big English breakfasts for the last few days when had a place with a proper kitchen. In Sydney we ate out since we stayed in one tiny bedroom. Breakfasts were really tasty there, but ex-PEN-sive. Everywhere since Portland has had amazing fresh fruit and veg, especially tropical fruit and stone fruit. For me, this has been one of the most fun parts of the whole “escaping winter” thing – back home I would be eating apples, apples and…dried fruits, probably. Here it is literally (antipodean) summer, with all the fresh harvest that brings.

Anyway. Most of the time on this trip, we ate in, and we were talking about how nice that is. Usually, I associate eating breakfast out with (a city) vacation. (When we spend the summer at the cottage, we never eat out for five weeks!) Vacation in that sense means not planning ahead, having someone serve me a cute little teapot that I don’t have to clean afterwards, and getting to pick out whatever I want from the menu. But since we are gone for so long, it is actually really nice to have one long stretching weekend feeling, where we lounge around various motel rooms and b&bs, drinking coffee (Hubby) and herbal tea (me – I have tried to wean myself from daily coffee since I so quickly experience severe withdrawal which is annoying if one day we cant get any caffeine in my system), while Kiddo gets to run around – and no one cares!

We talked about how nice it is that we both like good food (and coffee, and beer, and wine!), so that having a nice meal makes the day feel like an accomplishment. We found a cute little food shop the other day that is only open on Saturday, I think, and sells only organic and/or biodynamic food. We got steaks, breakfast sausages, lettuce, rocket, tomatoes, peaches and jam. It was all delicious. We just ate the last of that food this morning, which was sad but fun. What will we find to eat next?

In about two weeks we will be moving on to Asia. That will bring a whole new dimension to food. Probably, it will be awesome. Kiddo loves rice, noodles, edamame and chicken katsu, but we wonder if she will like Singaporean food and Malaysian food. What will WE eat for three meals a day? But we are excited, and if it is anything like these past few months, it will be sumptuously satisfying. 

Mallacoota and environs

In Mallacoota, we finally got our sun.

We thought we wouldn’t, so on the way there, we stopped off at a wildlife park, Potoroo Palace, promising encounters with local Australian animals. Wow, what a good thing we stopped!

Image

Elvis, the Tarran Wallaby that we befriended, with the help of some kangaroo pellets

They had Frog Mouthed Tawneys, which we had never heard of but got to see up close and personal. They really do have froggy mouths. All that is missing is the ribbit! We got to feed Elvis the Tarran Wallaby, and a couple of kangaroos, and three emus that were just walking around. All of those animals were just walking, or, erm, hopping, around the park. We also saw a Koala, some dingos, an echidna, flying foxes and lots of reptiles. The only one we didn’t get a peek at was the wombat. It was seriously the best animal experience we have had here, and we have been to several world-class zoos and an aquarium. It was special because it was so unique.  If you have kids (or NOT, we might have liked it more than Kiddo, actually), and are in the area, definitely stop. The best $17 AU entry fee yet.

Kiddo slept like a rock after that, obviously, and didn’t wake up until we got to Mallacoota. She was tired of the car and so we immediately went to the beach, even though it wasn’t sunny. We got a walk in, Kiddo got to splash a little, and we found shark teeth and cool shells. We made it back to the car just before the skies exploded with rain, so we had a cozy night in a really cute motel room (Blue Wren Motel).

The next morning we had a fabulous two plus hours on the same beach before hitting the road. We got take away lunch from a local diner, including two huge milkshakes, which obviously Kiddo loved, and then took off for Lakes Entrance. This was a little less friendly and cute of a town, but we went for a swim in the motel pool and ate local shrimp on bread – classic Norway – and hit the hay early. 

A great 24 hours, for sure!

Small town Australia in the rain

As we left Sydney, we drove through suburbs for about an hour before – BAM – national forest. Then we hit the rain. It had rained our last morning in Sydney, but we hoped we were escaping it. Actually, we were very lucky because Sydney experienced flooding and even two deaths just after we left. One day after we were past the area, the small seaside town of Kiama, about 80km from where we spent the night in Jervis Bay, experienced small tornado that wrecked a good amount of havoc.

So, we can´t feel too bad about the two nights we spent, in Huskisson (Jervis Bay) and Narooma, where all we did was sit in our motel rooms and watch TV. In Huskisson, we had about an hour of non-rainy skies, which we used to visit the beach and swim in the toddler pool. There was a whole bay full of shark egg cases, something we knew about because we saw them in the aquarium in Sydney. In Narooma, we had about the same, which we used to freeze our butts off in the motel pool.

Image

Hanging out in our “fancy” motel in Narooma.

Both nights we ate salads in our rooms and drank local wines. One night we watched a documentary about the quakes in Christchurch, which was really interesting since we had driven through the city a week or so earlier. The other night we watched three Masterchef Australias in a row. It is our favorite show, so it was pretty awesome!

We drove through some cute towns, like Milton, a little foodie haven outside of Huskisson where we bought organic fruit and veg, organic bread, and even some tasty pastries. We tried to stop in at a winery but it was too busy.

We had a euphoric giggle after we spent a half hour right before checking out of the Sundowner Huskisson Motel looking for my kindle and the key to the motel room, both which seemed to totally have vanished from the earth, only to be found by me when I took a break to nurse Kiddo in the front seat. The Kindle was in the glove box, which was not where I left it (ahem, Hubby!). They key was on the floor underneath the glove box, meaning Hubby dropped it there while looking for the Kindle, but without checking the glove box itself. We went from thinking we were out $160 for the Kindle plus the case (lets not forget this would have been the second Kindle I lost or destroyed on the trip!) and probably $40 to replace the old school motel room key, to finding them both and averting the crisis. It felt like we just made $200. Psychology is funny like that.

It was sad to miss out on the beaches in those two coastal towns, but we stayed safe and dry, and managed to have a pretty good time regardless, so, we count that as a success. 

Exploring Sydney

Sydney was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. I was excited to see my friend, I was excited to be in a place with beaches again, and I was excited to see the city and the zoo. Hubby was not as excited, since he thought he would melt away in the heat.

It turns out we both were right. We had a really nice time, AND we both melted away in the heat.

Day 1 – We drove into Manly, parked, tried to go to one restaurant, but didn’t realize it wasn’t open for breakfast on weekdays, went to another and had amazing breakfast (although Kiddo was not liking the sitting still thing so we had to be quick), and then went to the beach for a little bit. It was beautiful. Then it started to rain, and was done as quickly as it started, but we decided to take the ferry in. It was hot, with amazing views of the city. I don’t think either Hubby or I cooled down again until that evening. Kiddo was hot, too, but we had planned with walk around the CBD, so that is what we did. She fell asleep in the Ergo, which was great, except that I was even hotter with her on my chest. We tried to find a new hat for Hubby, since the goat ate his straw hat at the Honolulu Zoo. No luck. Eventually we had to stop and get a beer. We were just too hot. Afterwards, we decided to head down to Darling Harbour and check out the aquarium. We woke Kiddo up and she was immediately running around, stoked to see the fish and stingrays and everything. The aquarium was the Universal Studios for marine life. It was a maze with only one “right way” to walk, which meant it is always crowded and you keep seeing the same people the whole way. Plus, they piped some weird music in the whole time, depending on the room you were in. For the fish, it was happy water sounds, for the dugongs, it was lazy slow music, and for the sharks, it was jaws music. It wasn’t my favorite aquarium, but it was fun to see all the tropical fish, the Japanese huge crabs, and the sharks. Afterwards we walked back through the CBD and the botanical gardens, got an ice cream, and took the ferry back to Manly, where we took a quick swim in the harbor and finally cooled off. Then we met my friend and his girlfriend at Murray´s, a brewery and restaurant overlooking the beach. We told my friend how insanely hot we had felt all day and it told us it was only 27C. Ouf! All in all, it was a lovely day.

Day 2 – We headed off the for zoo right away. It was punishingly warm, so, probably 28C 🙂 It is the humidity! We are NOT used to it. We spent the day at the zoo, and even ate lunch there. We saw an amazing seal and sea lion show. It was great except that about 2/3 of the way through it Kiddo started trying to walk around and when I tried to hold her back she made lots of noise and I felt like a bad/ineffective mother. (I think she was just as hot as we were. Afterwards we took a break by the fishing cat and just sat in the shade and felt lovely.) We saw them feed the giraffes and the orangutans. They had some amazing lizards. We saw Koalas and even managed to hear the keeper´s talk. He said that Koalas are often killed trying to cross roads, and if you ever see one dead, you should check its pouch because it might have a baby in there that can be saved 😦 After the zoo we headed back to Manly, parked, walked around a bit, and took the ferry into the city to meet one of Hubby´s friends from Geneva. We had a couple drinks at the Opera Bar and watched the sun set and the lights go on all over the harbor. It was magical. I spent a lot of time chasing after the kid, but with a view like that, who cares! They were talking work anyway. We got sandwich stuff from the supermarket and ate them in our car before heading back to our tiny room. Another good day.

Image

Palm Beach, Northern Sydney

Day 3 – We decided to make this a beach day. What a great choice! We drove up to the Northern Beaches area. First we went to Avalon, where we ate breakfast at Swell, and had the most amazing iced coffee ever. It was basically a milkshake. Seriously, it involved ice cream. There was also a really awkward conversation with the server about coffee, where we thought, excitedly, that they served drip coffee, and she thought we were confused about how espresso was made (“it´s made using…a machine..?”) and then we both changed our orders to iced coffee. Ahh, being a foreigner. So fun! We also got bitched at by an old ornery woman because Kiddo was walking down the middle of the sidewalk with her pool noodle. Anyway, we went to the beach on the quiet side of Palm Beach. Basically we had a perfect beach experience, involving Kiddo having a lovely time, swimming with her pool noodle (best $3.50 AU we spent so far!), us feeling warm (not hot) from the sun, while sitting in the cool, mild surf. Then Kiddo was ready for a nap, told us, and we went driving around, looking at all the beaches in the area before heading back to Avalon for some lunch. Kiddo stayed awake until we put her in the Ergo, which meant we got to walk around a bit and then sit down and eat lunch, and use the free wifi to plan the next week of our trip, which was badly needed. I had a chocolate sorbet that lifted my spirits into the next world (I should work on getting there with meditation, man, that was awesome)! We decided we could live in Avalon, no problem, even if there are a few grounchy old ladies walking around. Then we made our way back to Manly to meet my friend for one last meal. We ordered pizza and picked up some Aussie wine and headed back to his place, where Kiddo could play with his roommate´s son´s toys. Good stuff. My friend made us a long list of all the food we had to eat (lamingtons, vanilla slice, caramel slice, etc) and things we had to see (the Koalas in the Otways, Mornington Peninsula) in this great land. We said goodbye, see you in five years or so, and headed back for our last night in the tiny room.  

The next morning we ate brekky in hip Surry Hills, at The Book Kitchen at the recommendation of Hubby´s friend. It was really good, and since the server messed up our order we only had to pay for about half of the meal, which was great because they charged, for example, $5 AU for one piece of sourdough toast, no jam. Eek! And then we were on our way out of town, off on a road trip until we get to Melbourne. 

Arriving in Sydney

Sydney started off as being a bit…interesting…because of bad planning.

We had such bad internet connections in New Zealand, that we barely could plan the road trip there and couldn’t find the time to start planning Sydney. Eventually, we looked and the hotels were so expensive it was laughable.

My friend, who lives in Sydney, told us to check out some pubs, since they have rooms above them for cheap. Well, TripAdvisor told us that was a bad idea: I have never seen such low ratings! One reviewer said, “Only if you are desperate!” Eek! (Once we arrived I saw some of these places. They looked pretty tired. Staying there falls into the category of: “We could have done this if we didn’t have a kid.”)

So we turned to airbnb, and eventually decided on something that was not at all central, but was so cheap that we could justify renting a car to get around.

The place was a private room in a family house. It was…fine. But I don’t know what we were thinking. Well, part of it was the lady had posted a picture of the bedroom on offer as their master bedroom, which had a nice big bed and lots of space. What we got was their oldest daughter´s old bedroom, which was a double (it was possibly a queen, it just felt small) bed and barely enough floor space for our suitcases. It wasn’t in a different part of the house, which is what we are used to. Their three other kids slept, with open doors, in the two bedrooms next to and across from us. We all shared a bathroom.

The first night, we had a nice chat with the family and shared dinner (she had asked us in advance if we wanted her to cook us dinner for a small extra charge). They were nice people. She was German and he was English and they had just spent 6 months living in Germany so the kids could go to school there and improve their language skills. We asked what time the kids went to sleep and she told us 8pm, which it was basically, right then. She added that she went to sleep at 9pm. We said we were going out to see our friend and she seemed surprised and then said she would leave the light on. We drove into Manly, about 8 minutes away, and hung out with my friend at his apartment, which was fun. I haven’t seen him since our wedding, almost five years ago. When we got back, everyone was asleep. We felt like we were teenagers sneaking back in late at night, even though I think it was only 10:15pm. We tried to find all our stuff in the dark, and as I brushed my teeth with my electric toothbrush in the dark, I felt sure that I would wake up all their kids. But I didn’t.

The next three nights were similar. We arrived back a little later each night, finally coming at 11:30pm on the last night, and I felt like an elephant in a glass house.

All in all, it was actually a good place to have no privacy and sleep wedged between three strange children. Since we saw either my friend or Hubby´s friends each night, and were out touring the city each day, we really only needed a place to sleep. And that is what it was.

Next time, we will try to think a little more through what we are signing up for so we don’t feel a bit jipped when we arrive. We might ask, for example, “is the room on a separate floor from where you sleep?” and “With whom will we be sharing a bathroom?”

Still, for approximately %500 percent less than most of the hotels we found, we had a perfectly find place to sleep. We really can’t complain.

 

Central Otago – a little slice of heaven

We arrived in Cromwell having a confirmed place to stay for the following night, but not that night. We had made every effort to contact our host and ask for an additional night, but she wasn’t answering. So, we booked a motel in the city and settled in, only to get an email from the host saying that the key was available at the location, that she was having a family emergency, and that she hoped we would have a good stay.

We ended up staying there for three nights, but it was not without a bit of strangeness. We emailed and texted her with a couple of questions, one of which being about the Internet password. She never responded (she did after 48 hours). We were left with the whole property to ourselves, thinking every car driving in was hers, and wondering: did her husband pass away? Is she in jail for some white collar crime? Did she get hurt?

It was very fascinating and slightly unsettling. 

Finally, she wrote saying she didn’t have Internet (she did, Hubby surmised she was probably in her 60s or 70s and didn’t understand how it worked). She said she was at the hospital. We still don’t know what happened.

Anyway.

We had a blast in the area. We spent the first two days doing wine tourism. We visited:

  • Felton Road – amazing wine, organic and biodynamic and knowledgable and tasty and, did I say, amazing? We bought a pinot and a chardonnay.
  • Mt. Difficulty – we ate lunch here but didn’t taste and didn’t buy. The food was so-so and that made us iffy about trying the wines (there were crowds and we would have had to wait).
  • Carrick – They had tasty pinots. We wanted to eat lunch there but it was packed. Good for them! We bought their cheapest pinot. It was TASTY! Also, their most expensive pinot was amazing but it was, like, $90. So, no. Sorry.
  • Gate Twenty 2 – Really cute mom and pop shop. They grow the grapes and have the winemakers at VinPro make their wines. They had a Pinto Grigio that we bought and a really tanniny Pinot Noir. They were really cool though, we liked them.
  • Burn Cottage – They didn’t have a tasting room, but we made an appointment and got to see their whole operation. It was amazing. The winemaker had been making wines for years and years. They are biodynamic and organic and have an amazing Pinot. We just shared the bottle. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!
  • Quartz Reef – They had sparking wine (fake champagne). It was delish. They also had a lot of cute dogs on the property.
  • The Lazy Dog Café – a consortium of several wineries that didn’t make enough each for a tasting room but together would have enough. It was admirable, but we didn’t love the wine and we didn’t buy any.
  • Rippon – Apparently, this is the most photographed vineyard in the world, and with good reason. It was really beautiful there, and they had some great wines.

Then we spent the last two days just sitting around and enjoying the sun and planning a bit of our trip. We went to the local swimming pool and Kiddo had a blast.

On the last day we packed up and drove into Queenstown, ate a huge burger and took the gondola up to see the city view. It was a nice way to end the New Zealand portion of the trip.

We spent the last New Zealand dollars on a kiwi puzzle for Kiddo and it was a hit. It is funny: she doesn’t need toys, but when she has them to play with she really enjoys it. Maybe that will be another post some time. 

Final thought: drive through New Zealand! We had a great time. 

Geradline

We rolled into Geraldine not being sure what to expect. We had booked a “holiday park”, which is like a KOA on steroids, for my US readers. They have campsites and powered sites, but also cabins for those who aren’t traveling by caravan or campervan.

We paid $90 NZ for an ensuite cabin (bathroom attached instead of 500m away in a central location). When we opened the door and saw the place, $90 seemed…a bit stiff. But then. We saw the part of the park that gives it its name: the Farmyard Holiday Park.

This place was swimming with animals. There were bunnies, guinea pigs, Kuni pigs (12 of them!), donkeys, geese, chickens, chicks, and even wallabies! When I read the description on the internet, I thought maybe there would be a 5 square meter area with a pig, a chicken, a bunny, and a donkey. Whoa. I was wrong.

Not only did this place have animals, but it had a kid´s paradise. It had swings and see saws (three of them!), a fire pit, a concrete boat, a concrete car, a fake submarine, a tire bridge, a marimba made out of pipes, and a tire course. It was crazy! We met someone who told us that there are sometimes 400 kids here in the summer. Wow. We were glad it wasn´t summer holidays!

So, the $90 not only covered our accommodation for the night, but this amazing activity of the evening – seeing all the animals, AND a free donkey ride the next morning. Kiddo LOVED it. She rode the donkey for probably a half hour. Since there weren’t many other kids, it was fine, and no one cared. That is pretty sweet. A 15 minute pony ride in Australia costs $25 Australian, from one place I found. So, it was a steal, basically.

We met some strange characters, ate some food, bought some cheese (Geraldine is known for their cheese production) and hit the road again.

It was a short but very sweet visit for our little fam.