Queensland!

by Ann-Sofie Bradford Email

 

In May we went to Brisbane thanks to a Conference George was sent to. We decided to take a week vacation while we were up there since we like to take every opportunity we get to see more of this amazing place. The city of Brisbane has a very different layout compared to Melbourne and Adelaide which both have a rectangular form to the CBD (City Business District). The city of Brisbane is built along the Brisbane River that snakes its way in from the Moreton Bay! The Brisbane River is the longest river in south east Queensland, so it takes a little studying to find your way around. Also, there is no tourist trolley or bus to take around town to get an idea where things are. They do have a subway system and a great tram that takes you back and forth to the airport. What this meant for me was that I did end up doing a lot of walking to get to places which I don’t mind anyway. Downtown Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
The visits to the Gallery of Modern Art, and the Art Gallery together with the City Botanic Gardens, and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (one hour by boat from town) were highlights of the days in the city. While I fell in love with the city of Melbourne, I felt like the city of Brisbane didn’t quite have a heart. It felt like a very big city with lots of people running around busy, busy. It also got really cold those days in the city, and that didn’t help. We did end our days in Brisbane by taking a tour with a BBQ at the town’s famous 4X brewery and that was a great experience. We ended up getting a couple of extra free beers thanks to the tour guide who took liking to us, and told us some inside stories after the tour was over. Brisbane, sidewalk near bridge
Brisbane, modern art museumBrisbane river, tour boat Brisbane, City Botanic Gardens
Brisbane, cable bridge Brisbane, 4X Brewery - with George
On Saturday morning we picked up a rental car and started our drive north. Our goal was to reach Airlie Beach by Sunday since we knew we would be able to visit The Great Barrier Reef from there. Not much after leaving town we soon started to see the most beautiful nature on our way north. Large mountain ranges, huge fields of sugarcanes, and driving across many rivers and creeks on the way. We spent the first night in a town called Rockhampton. We found an affordable motel and walked to a restaurant and had a delicious meal. Left pretty early next morning and made it to Airlie Beach in good time to have a look around and find a decent place to stay. Motels are really funky looking sometimes, and come in all kinds of colors inside and outside it seems like. Queensland, drive north on Bruce Rd Queensland, Airlie Beach hotel
After driving for 2 days we took it easy the next day did some laundry, and George needed to get a new chip for his phone that had broke. In the morning I walked to the grocery store to get some lunch for us and saw for the first time Black Cockatoos in the wild. Three of them walking around on the lawn in a park.  Very cool! Adult Red-tailed Black Cockatoos are around 60 centimeters (24 in) in length and sexually dimorphic. Males are completely black in color, excepting their prominent red tail bands. That night we took out some Thai food, ate early and went to bed since we needed to be ready to be picked up by the bus at 7am next morning that would take us to the boat for our whole day visiting the Great Barrier Reef. Airlie Beach, Fanta Sea Tour Boat Tour boat - leaving Hamilton Island Tour boat - image of islands east of Airlie Beach
We were very excited the next morning boarding the boat that was going to take us out to the Reefs. It was quite a windy morning with 3 meter/10 feet swells. Luckily the boat was a high-speed catamaran that kind of rides on top of the waves, but still a lot of people got sea sick. The boat made a short stop at Hamilton Island to let some people off, and then continued out to the reefs. Arriving at Reefworld, which is the base for exploring the reefs, was almost surreal. It was so incredibly beautiful! The color of the water with the the long rows of reefs showing was amazing. The reef here is named Hardy Reef and is located in the Great Barrier Reefs Marine Park. Reefworld is the largest floating pontoon facility in Australia (2 pontoons measuring a total length of 86meters/282 feet.) There is a semi-sub you can ride in to get a close look at the reefs, and we did that first. Then we got in to all the outfits and gears provided for us for snorkeling. Body suits to protect us from jelly fish then wet suits to keep warm and help us float. Snorkels, masks and fins at last and then in to the water. That was a really awesome feeling to get in and take a look at the reefs for real. The water was still pretty choppy out there, so I got tired pretty fast, but George stayed in longer and got some good looks at it. After snorkeling we had worked up a big appetite, and dug in to the buffet lunch that was served. Grilled meats, chicken, fish and lots of delicious salads, bread and more. The boat ride back was just as bumpy as the way out, still this is one of the most amazing things we have ever done! Reefworld, Great Barrier Reef Great Barrier Reef - underwater image of coral Reefworld - Semi-Sub George and Ann-Sofie snorkeling off Hardy Reef on the Great Barrier Reef
The next day we started our drive back towards Brisbane. This time taking our time and enjoying scenic roads. We made it to a town called Yeppon, and checked in to a purple motel called Tropical Beach Hotel on the beach. Next day before driving we visited Cooberrie Park, a wildlife sanctuary, and had the greatest time with all the animals kept there. Among some new animals we were introduced to was a bird called Tawny Frogmouth (I kept thinking she said "Tony") a very interesting creature that when they open their beak it’s an enormous gape. And then there was the Cassowary – very scary looking thing! We then drove on south to Childers where we spent the night in another funky motel. The drive the following day was the most beautiful of this trip. We first went by Tin Can Bay, a small, very picturesque and peaceful place. Tin Can Bay is one of only three places around the whole of Australia, where you can officially hand feed dolphins in the wild. We took a stroll and had a cup of coffee watching locals launch or pull their boats out of the bay. After that we went to Rainbow Beach. This I believe is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The sand has a golden color, the water is blue with a turquoise tint to it, and with the mountains in the far distance it’s just breath-taking. We spent at least an hour there just enjoying and taking it all in. We continued driving down the Cooloola coast towards Noosaville, and came upon one pretty beach after another. South of Noosa Heads it’s all part of what’s called the Sunshine Coast. Right before Noosaville we found a mountain, Mount Tinberwaah 265m/820feet above sea level that we could drive up and then walk up the last part to the top where we got a beautiful 360 degree view of the area. That night we enjoyed some delicious seafood at the Boathouse restaurant in Noosaville. Next day we drove down the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane and after dropping of our rental got on to our plane and flew back to Adelaide. We really enjoyed our visit to Queensland and know there is much more to see. Hopefully we get a chance to go back there again. Koala Bear at Cooberrie Park - wildlife sanctuary Ann-Sofie hand feeds a Kangaroo at Cooberrie Park The dangerous Cassowary at Cooberrie Park
Rainbow Beach, Sunshine Coast Rainbow Beach, footpath to beach Rainbow Beach, beach with dramatic weather change and driftwood
View from Mount Tinberwaah, Noosaville, sunshine Coast The surf on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Melbourne!

by Ann-Sofie Bradford Email

MELBOURNE VICTORIA

We got a chance to go to Melbourne for a couple of days in the beginning of April thanks to a conference George attended there, and we immediately fell in love with this city. We took the train there since we love train rides, and it was really affordable: $99 one way. It’s a 7.5 hour drive or 10 hour train ride taking the straightest way. The landscape passing by our window was a little bit of everything. Mountains, (The Grampians, Mt Williams) vineyards, and lots and lots of sheep farms. We also stopped in some small and country towns.

Arriving to Melbourne was exciting. The train goes right by the Port, which seems to hold all the containers in the world! I have never seen so many containers in my life – it was like a city of containers in all kind of sizes and colors. The train then went through some really narrow tunnels to get into the city.

 

Our hotel was right off Exhibition St. in the east part of CBD (downtown). Very close to everything: Theatres, China Town, Bourke Street Mall, and the free City Tram that circles the city every 15min. The first day I pretty much went by everything either on foot or by tram. I had lunch at the Central Station – a very cool place where all the underground trains end up. It’s a 6 level building that holds the train station on the underground level, and then there are shopping levels, restaurant levels, movie theatre level with a food court on the same level. After that I walked to the Queen Victoria Market. It was very nice and had an abundance of meats and fish, but when it came to produce and cheese, they did not even come close to what you can get at the Adelaide Central Market. What they did have that was really fun was a huge outdoor market for everything: clothing, shoes, souvenirs, jewelry, and anything you can think of. I ended up buying a pair of UGG slippers for $25!

I took the tram to Federation Square after that, and what a cool place! First there is Flinders Street Station – the train station for the Suburban trains that are housed in the coolest building. I don’t know why, but I have this thing for grand and spectacular train stations, and this one is fabulous!  Right across from the station is Federation Square, which is architecturally amazing! Big square for meeting, performances etc. Big outdoor TV screen for watching sports games or other events. Bars, restaurants, and the Ian Potter Center: National Gallery of Victoria. The Melbourne Festival of Comedy was in full swing while we were there, and we watched a couple free performances on the square. Walking down some stairs, you find yourself by the Yarra River where I had a BBQ sausage and a beer for afternoon snack and sat and enjoyed the peaceful river. Delightful!

That evening we had dinner with a colleague of George (in town for a different conference) and his wife at a restaurant on Swanston St. We sat outside, and the food was great, and people were out and about. It was a really great atmosphere.  Next day George had the day off, so I could now show him town. Of course we ended up at Federation Square at the end, and George saw this bar called Beer de Luxe and had to have a beer there. It was a really cool place.

In the evening we had reservations (or “booking” as they say here) at the Sichuan House restaurant in China Town. I had seen this restaurant in one of Anthony Bourdain’s TV shows, and it sounded great. Boy did we have a good time – the atmosphere was amazing with a buzzing energy, and yes the food was super hot, but delicious.

The next morning we picked up a rental car and started our drive back to Adelaide, which would take 2 days to drive, so we could take the scenic route. We drove along the coastline through some beautiful tree lined roads at times, and then some spectacular ocean views. The most beautiful were the rock formations called The Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell National Park. We made it to Portland, a small town with not much to choose from, where we checked into a Best Western and went to a very local restaurant for dinner. (If you are in Ukiah, it was just like the Garden Café). I had John Dory, which happened to be the fish of the day, and it was the best fish I have had I think!

The last day’s drive took us through a wine region, and to the city of Coonawarra where one of our favorite wineries, Yalumba, has a tasting room, so we had to stop of course. Since we were out early in the day, we had the place to our self and tasted everything they had and some more. Wine tastings are still for free down here, and they happily pour you a taste of every wine they sell. I think we tasted 9 different wines! George, whose turn it was to drive, had to spit most of it out unfortunately.

 

We really liked Melbourne! It felt very Cosmopolitan and cultural. Everybody was very friendly and seemed happy that you were visiting. Sydney does have the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but the atmosphere is a bit stuffy and everything is very expensive. (Darling Harbour reminded me of the French Riviera.) Melbourne just feels so alive, vibrant, and approachable. Not to forget I saw that there were three different Broadway shows being performed while we were there. Ok that might not be so amazing if you live in NY, but we just came from Orlando don’t forget, and Adelaide seams a little more like Orlando. They just opened Wicked here, which George and I saw in Chicago 5 years ago!

We worried that it would be a letdown coming back to Adelaide and Henley Beach South, but it wasn’t at all. We have had some beautiful days since then, and the most beautiful Easter weekend after this trip. It takes a lot to beat living on the beach. But if you come visit, we will go to Melbourne!

 

Adelaide

by Ann-Sofie Bradford Email

The train ride to Adelaide from Sydney took 24 hours. We left at 3pm in the afternoon from Sydney, Indian Pacific train and arrived the next day in Adelaide about the same time. On the train we meet some interesting people, mostly Australians, ate delicious food, and enjoyed the views trough the windows. The Blue Mountains were amazing, and the stop in Broken Hill (population 21,500), known as the Silver City because of its grand mining heritage founded on silver, lead, and zinc, was very special thanks to the private sightseeing we were given by George’s boss’ mom who lives there. Sleeping was a little rough due to some serious rocking and shaking all night. A fellow traveler said she felt like she was sleeping in a washing machine. It turns out the train tracks between Sydney and Adelaide are the roughest, but they do get better as you travel on we were told. Arriving in Adelaide, we were met by Gavin (George’s boss) and his wife who were putting us up for a couple of nights. For the next couple of days it was a whirlwind of sightseeing and touring around town and even getting a trip out to Barossa Valley www.barossa.com/ and Riverland http://www.riverland.info/. River Murray in Riverland, South Australia They did a wonderful job making us feel welcomed and giving us an idea of where we now were going to live for at least a year. Then we moved in to a Hotel in the city. George went to work at the University, and I went to work trying to find a place for us to rent. We spent two weeks in town, that was kind of nice, and gave us a chance to find our way around, but we wanted to live outside town by the beach since we had that option. Then we would be able to enjoy the outdoors a lot more. It’s also so easy to get back and forth with public transportation (parts of trips are for free in the city) Tram in busy Adelaide, which is amazing down here in every town we been to so far! (Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne). So let me tell you a little about Adelaide with a population of approximately 1,204,000. The ethnicity backgrounds of most people in this area are English, Greek, and Italian. Therefore the city is full of Pubs, Greek restaurants, and Italian cafés and restaurants. Restaurants in Adelaide I am not kidding. Out here where we live by the beach, we have within a 10 min walk a really nice Italian, a very nice Greek, and a Fish and Chips place that has been named the “best in Adelaide”! There were also a lot of Germans that came here and some moved up the hill and built their own town called Hahndorf. Hahndorf is Australia's oldest surviving German settlement. I guess this explains why every restaurant seems to have Fish and Chips, Schnitzel, and Gyros on their menu. The café life is very vibrant, and they are always full of people having their “short black”, “long black”, “regular white soy”, or cappuccino (my favorite and the best I ever had). Adelaide is definitely a nice and somewhat small city, easy to get around, and with the best open air market in the country, I think. I go there usually every Thursday or Friday to load up with all kinds of tasty stuff for the weekend www.adelaidecentralmarket.com.au/. Adelaide is also known for all the festivals held here, and let me tell you there was one after another and sometimes more than one going on the same time in February and March. But the beauty of Adelaide I think is the closeness to the long beautiful beaches and all the quaint beach cities along it. Henley Beach, West Beach, Glenelg, www.glenelgsa.com.au/ and more. There are walk and bike paths along the whole stretch, Bike path towards Glenelg and nice parks and benches along the way where you can sit and take it all in. There are always people out and about biking, walking, and swimming, no matter what the weather is it seems like. And always a few tourists and many different languages are spoken around you, but there is plenty of room, and it never feels crowded, not even on a beautiful weekend. The river Torrens runs right through Adelaide and out into the ocean just south of where we live, so you can also walk or bike along the river all the way in to town. Looking towards the ocean on bike path along the River Torrens, Adelaide There is the most amazing birdlife to watch along it like Australian Pelicans, Egrets, Cockatoos, and many more. Everybody you talk to down here seem to be from somewhere else. My hair dresser was born in Germany. George’s workmate who had us over for a dinner party is from Iran, and there we met people from Scotland and Holland. Most people born here have parents born somewhere else, so you realize quickly how young this country is.

Some Discoveries and Observations

by Ann-Sofie Bradford Email

-Everybody is Caucasian (vita) at least in Adelaide it’s seems so. Not what I expected I guess since this surprises me and feels strange.

-You never see any Aboriginals. I have seen only a few in 2 months! Absolutely not what I had thought. Lots to learn there.

-Every restaurant has fish and chips on its menu, and some have been the best I ever had. Very much the English influence I take.

-There are two kinds of fish you can only find down here: one is Barramundi, the other John Dory, and they are both delicious!

-You would not believe the school uniforms the kids have to wear here! Just be happy you went to school somewhere else!

-Kangaroos are nocturnal!! Am I the only one who didn’t know that? In any pictures I have seen, they are always out in full daylight? Hmm…

-Sad thing is that you see a lot of dead Kangaroos along the highway. Road kill!

-Because there are so few cities here, it does seem like they talk about the same sport teams all the time!

-And then there is Cricket? They play for days, and the scores are huge, and there are Wikis?? It’s all they are into here, and we don’t understand one bit of this game. Then there is Footy of course where the players look like they have been in a big bar fight after each game!

- Driving on the left side is not as weird as we thought it would be, and quite easy to get used to actually.

-Gasoline is expensive! $5 a gallon.

 

Sydney

by Ann-Sofie Bradford Email

Starting from the beginning, we left San Francisco for Sydney very late on Saturday January 22ond 2011. I was thinking this was going to be the longest flight ever (13,5 hours) having never flown for so long before, but ended up sleeping for at least six hours, so it didn’t feel that bad at all. I guess that everything we did in the last 3 weeks before leaving was catching up with me. Packed up and emptied our house in 4 days (while sick as a dog with the worst cold) thank god with a lot of help from our son!! Drove to Raleigh to see our daughter and rest for a day which was great! Then drive like crazy cross country to make it to San Diego in time for one of my best friend’s 50th birthday bash! And then up to Northern California for the last week visiting family and rearranging our storage shed.

We thought we could ship some stuff by boat (ground) from the post office, but learned that they only ship by air now a days! Super expensive!! So home and repack again and leave more stuff behind! We repacked and repacked! Still ended up at the airport with overweight and one bag too many. $400 later, we were on the way.

Arriving SydneyWe arrived in Sydney on an early Monday morning to a very busy airport. Lots and lots of people. Long lines to everything, but mainly the customs. Australia is very particular with what you can bring in. I guess it makes sense since they grow and produce pretty much everything you see and eat and want to make sure you don’t bring anything that can cause any problems. Telling from the amount of families with lots of luggage and boxes and papers in their passports, the immigration to Australia is still very much alive. Our Taxi driver (that was another very long line) told us that this is how every morning is at the airport up till 2pm.

Sydney looked pretty much as I had expected it to Sydney Buildings!. It’s very pretty right up there with Stockholm and San Francisco. We arrived during a heat wave, and also during one of Australia’s biggest celebrations: Australia Day celebrated on January 26. This meant that there were a lot of people in town. We did some serious walking around visiting the sites you have to, the Opera House the Opera House, Darling Harbor and The Fish Market (my favorite) Sydney Fish Market. Ate some delicious meals and went to bed pretty early changing hours. We were staying at a hotel next to Hyde Park, which kind of turns into Gotham City after dark. Walking home through the park at night these huge bats fly around right above your head. They are called Flying-foxes. They are large bats, weighing up to 1 kg, with a wing span which may exceed one meter!! They sleep during the day and feed on pollen, nectar and fruit at night. Here is the link to flying-foxes. That was pretty scary actually not being used to it.  Turns out they live at the Botanical Garden located right next to the park. Australia Day was also our day to leave Sydney by train making our way to Adelaide. We took a taxi from the hotel to the train station and had a very colorful ride there. Our taxi driver was unhappy with the operator that booked him for this short 10 minute drive from our hotel to the train station and kept on cursing at her, and other drivers the whole way. Anyway arriving at the train station we got the most amazing help and assistants from the people working there on this very very hot and humid Australia Day!

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