Posts tagged: botanical garden

Australia: Mel-bun

By , February 8, 2011 12:45 am
Federation Square

Federation Square

We heard Melbourne is more like San Francisco out of all Australian cities so we cannot deny it a visit. As we walk around downtown, it feels much more mellow than the super active city of Sydney. I enjoy the extreme contrast between the old and new buildings. Even more, I admire the bold risks taken in the modern buildings like SBS Studios and RMIT.

Funky RMIT Building

Funky RMIT Building

St Paul's Anglican Cathedral & SBS Studios

St Paul's Anglican Cathedral & SBS Studios

Modern and Wooden ... We Like

Modern and Wooden ... We Like

As we leave downtown, the area around the Olympic Park seems newer and there is more open space. We have a pleasant stroll in the botanical garden, admiring the various trees and plants. As we make our way out of the park, there is mob of runners who just got out of work and are going for their daily run. Once we escape the mass, we then make way for the bicyclers who keep on coming.

Pond Inside Botanical Garden

Pond Inside Botanical Garden

Boris Munching A Massive Leaf

Boris Munching A Massive Leaf

Pretty Flowers

Pretty Flowers

With a high reputation for wonderful food, we expand our budget for fine eats. However with so many choices, we consult a food guide at the bookstore for some help. We want to try Yu-U for Japanese food but after spending some time finding the place (an unmarked black door), we are turned away as they were fully booked for two days. As we are still determined to have Japanese food, we run into a cute place called Hako. The dishes are very tiny, but very tasty. With a little lemon juice, avocado, and shiso leaf added to the crabmeat, it makes a big difference in taste.

Crab Appetizer @ Hako

Crab Appetizer @ Hako

Udon Soup @ Hako

Udon Soup @ Hako

On our second night, we head to MoVida for tapas. Around this area are many cool alleyways filled graffiti art that help brighten up the rather dull alleys. At first glance, I wouldn’t think to find so many fine eateries and bars here. We even find ACDC Lane. The location of MoVida is great and the atmosphere reminds us a little of SF, but as much as we want to like this place, none of the dishes we try agree with our palette.

Graffiti Art Across From MoVida

Graffiti Art Across From MoVida

Scallop With Meat @ MoVida

Scallop With Meat @ MoVida

Anchovies With Smoked Strawberry Ice Cream @ MoVida

Anchovies With Smoked Strawberry Ice Cream @ MoVida

We even find time to squeeze in a little holiday shopping. Just as impressive as the modern architecture in the city is the inside of the shopping malls. At one mall, we are served a glass of free bubbly white wine. Then we find an adorable indoor lawn to relax on.

Melbourne Central Shopping Centre

Melbourne Central Shopping Centre

Indoor Lawn

Indoor Lawn

Amazing Skylight

Amazing Skylight

Overall, we find Melbourne to be a young hip city that is best explored when not on a budget.

Inside St Paul's Anglican Cathedral

Inside St Paul's Anglican Cathedral

Royal Exhibition Building

Royal Exhibition Building

Small Parks In Downtown

Small Parks In Downtown

ACDC Lane

ACDC Lane

Anyone Up For A Game Of Chess?

Anyone Up For A Game Of Chess?

Nice Touch To Downtown Condos/Hotel

Nice Touch To Downtown Condos/Hotel

Welcome To Chinatown

Welcome To Chinatown

Victorian Terrace Houses

Victorian Terrace Houses

Flat White @ Gridlock Coffee

Flat White @ Gridlock Coffee

Me & Frenchie & Zoom

Me & Frenchie & Zoom

Pukeko

Pukeko

Lovely Wild Flowers

Lovely Wild Flowers

What We Paid: AUD USD Euro
– Flight On Jetstar From Sydney To Melbourne 92/pp one-way 92.50 67.75
– Skybus From Melbourne Airport To City 16/pp 16 11.80
– Room At Formule 1 Hotel [clean and great location; book online for discount] 69/room 69 51
– Dinner at Hako 42/pp 42 31
– Dinner at MoVida 35/pp 35 25.75
– Pho Lunch 12/pp 12 9
– Coffee at Gridlock 3.20/pp 3.20 2.40
– Firefly Express Bus From City To Avalon Airport 20/pp 20 14.75

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Australia: Sydney

By , February 3, 2011 4:29 pm
View From The Royal Botanical Garden

View From The Royal Botanical Garden

We couldn’t get any luckier with our timing into Sydney. Our awesome buddy, Zhi, who we know from San Francisco, just moved into a pretty phat place. Every day, it was just a short walk to Darling Harbour. [Zhi, if you are reading this, did we tell you how awesome you are.] While it is known to be a touristy area, it feels wonderful to walk through there. The city did a really great job designing the area with lots of interesting fountains, wide walkways, restaurants, bars, shopping mall, tourist attractions, and the overall modern architecture of the buildings. I liked coming here to enjoy my daily cup of Joe.

Great Place To Enjoy A Cup Of Morning Coffee

Great Place To Enjoy A Cup Of Morning Coffee

Kids Playing In The Fountain

Kids Playing In The Fountain

Amex Building Reflection

Amex Building Reflection

While we didn’t plan this either, U2 was in town. We just couldn’t say no to that so with last minute tickets, we were jamming to Jay-Z and singing with U2 LIVE! It was a really great show and nice to be in an open stadium with fresh air.

As we roamed the city, everything about it was beautiful. The botanical garden puts all other gardens to shame. We saw so many interesting plants and flowers, but what topped our visit were the hundreds of huge fruit bats in the trees. They made so much noise and with so many above our heads, it was kind of scary.

Fruit Bats

Fruit Bats

Ibis

Ibis

Heart Shaped Flowers

Heart Shaped Flowers

I have seen many pictures of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but being there was definitely better. The city is very well laid out and everything, including the bridge, Opera House, parks, were all where they are supposed to be; it all just made sense. As we were walking through the park, there was a wedding taking place, people exercising, and others enjoying the views. After work one day, our buddy took us out for drinks at the Opera Bar and it was packed with professionals all dressed to impress. It was a great place for happy hour and to watch the sunset.

View From Opera Bar

View From Opera Bar

Happy Hour

Happy Hour

Sunset

Sunset

In the east part of the city called Surry Hills, we went out for drinks and had delicious Thai food. The Winery is a neat wine bar with funky decor, but what I liked most was that we were able to hear each other talk. This doesn’t happen at many of the other bars. While there is so much to love about Sydney, the only thing I did not enjoy so much was the young party scene.

The Night Scene @ The Winery

The Night Scene @ The Winery

Overall, the restaurants in Sydney were yummy. Since I love my Asian food, we explored Chinatown a few times. I like it when I can have my classic Chinese dishes just the way they are supposed to be prepared. Just don’t have high expectations of the service at any of the restaurants in the city. As people in the food industry are well paid in Australia, tip is not expected and I felt service was somewhat degraded compared to what I’m used to. However, if you are under 30 and need a job or just a change, Australia gives one-year working visas and their minimum wage is $15 an hour. I’m not making this up.

Food For One @ Hurricane's Grill & Bar

Food For One @ Hurricane's Grill & Bar

Chinese Congee With Pork & Thousand Year Old Egg

Chinese Congee With Pork & Thousand Year Old Egg

Also a short walk from Zhi’s house is the Pyrmont Fish Market. To my surprise, I was expecting something bigger for Sydney. It was simple but filled with lots of great seafood. We went there for breakfast and had oysters and fish. This was also where I discovered these cute white flowers called Bouvardia. Brides, I think these would look great in a bouquet.

Sydney Fish Market

Sydney Fish Market

Bouvardia Flowers

Bouvardia Flowers

One of Boris’ old buddies from France, Alexis, has also been living in Sydney for a few years now. We joined him for a French gathering over a game of Pétanque, which is much like Bocce Ball. Afterwards, the boys played catch-up at a bar while stuffing their faces with some good old saucisson and Pastis.

Boris Playing Pétanque

Boris Playing Pétanque

Alexis Plays To Win

Alexis Plays To Win

Just as popular as the Sydney Opera House is Bondi Beach. It’s located 30 minutes by public transportation, right out of the city. What a great deal for city and beach lovers; you don’t have to choose. As we strolled along the strip of beaches, each beach had a different vibe but they were all beautiful. When you didn’t like one beach, just walk over to the other one. What I most adored was how there were public infinity pools at most of beaches. Did I mention they were free?

Walk Along Bondi Beach

Walk Along Bondi Beach

Cliff Views

Cliff Views

Lorikeet Parrots Along Our Walk

Lorikeet Parrots Along Our Walk

One thing I took notice of and definitely Boris was the amount of clothing, or should I say lack of, the females had on. We are talking about working professionals showing a whole lot of skin at the office. By the end of the week, there was very little of it left. So boys in the Silicon Valley, why live where the ratio is 1 female for every 15 males when in Sydney, it is the opposite! I mention this with no disrespect of course.

When there was no more to expect from such a wonderful place, the city was hosting their annual Christmas in the Park, also free. The place was full to capacity when we arrived. There were lots of children and families enjoying the live music, Christmas Carols, and dancing. Then Josh Groban came on stage and made me melt with that talented voice of his.

Carols In The Domain

Carols In The Domain

The Crew

The Crew

Josh Groban Doing His Thing

Josh Groban Doing His Thing

Thanks Zhi for a wonderful time in Sydney. We still are having withdrawals.

Thanks Alexis for meeting up with us. It was great to see you again.

Inside Victoria Gallery

Inside Victoria Gallery

Xmas Tree With Swarovski Crystals

Xmas Tree With Swarovski Crystals

Mini Sydney

Mini Sydney

Flower @ Botanical Garden

Flower @ Botanical Garden

Soft Velvet Flowers

Soft Velvet Flowers

What We Paid: AUD USD Euro
– Skybus from airport to city [45 mins] 16/pp 16 11.60
– Groceries 25/pp per meal 25 18
– Average Lunch 15/pp 15 11
– Average Dinner 20/pp 20 14.50
– Cheap Seats For U2 Concert 45/pp 45 33

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

New Zealand North: Dramatic Whitecliffs of Taranaki

By , January 30, 2011 1:12 am
Whitecliffs

Whitecliffs

I head back to suburbia with our arrival in New Plymouth. In the middle of the city is Pukekura Park. I wish every city had something like this. We spend over three hours enjoying everything about this marvelous park. The botanical garden includes a collection of Japanese plants. I find a new beautiful flower, which I still don’t know the name of. The ponds are filled with ducks waiting for thoughtful visitors to bring bread. There is even an amphitheater where we spot a wild Takahē bird speeding by us. At the free zoo, I watch the cutest monkey entertain himself. I later find the funkiest white bird.

Pukekura Park in New Plymouth

Pukekura Park in New Plymouth

Interesting White Flowers

Interesting White Flowers

Boris Sitting In The Amphitheatre

Boris Sitting In The Amphitheatre

Funky White Baby Bird

Funky White Baby Bird

Cute Monkey

Cute Monkey

Cotton-Top Tamarin

Cotton-Top Tamarin

Takahē Bird

Takahē Bird

In the morning we hike in Egmont National Park through an interesting young rainforest. With all the fog, we don’t see much of Mt Taranaki. Later in the afternoon, Boris is able to finally get a decent shot of the mountain for afar.

Hiking To Taranaki

Hiking To Taranaki

Leaves In The Sunlight

Leaves In The Sunlight

Young Forest

Young Forest

Can't See The Top!

Can't See The Top!

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

A short drive later brings us to the whitecliffs of Taranaki. Here we do a hike along the farmlands. Unfortunately because of the high tides, we are not able to do the shortcut along the beach. Alone with the dramatic views, it is a great spot to just chill out.

Whitecliffs Walkway

Whitecliffs Walkway

Whitecliffs Beach

Whitecliffs Beach

MuiMui

MuiMui

Enjoying The Afternoon Views

Enjoying The Afternoon Views

Along our road trip, a French custom I am acquainted to right away with is the mandatory coffee break every 2-4 hours, regardless how we travel, by foot or car.

Enjoying A Good Ol' Cup Of Joe

Enjoying A Good Ol' Cup Of Joe

I do not regret any pounds I gained here in NZ. My favorite meats here are lamb and fish. It is so fresh and with every bite, I can taste how natural it is (without all that chemical they have in US meat). Snapper and Trevally are really good too. Some local recommendations that I did not get to try are Tarakihi and Red Gurnard. A great fishery to try all this would be at Thames Wholesale Fisheries.

Lamb With Blue Cheese And Goat Cheese Salad

Lamb With Blue Cheese And Goat Cheese Salad

As for wine, I usually drink red but here in NZ, I stick to the whites. Some of our favorite NZ Sauvignon Blancs are: Babich, Villa Maria, Tohu (on the floral side), Cloudy Bay, and Oyster Bay.

2009 Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

2009 Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

Read about beautiful Auckland in our next post.

Ice Cream Shop In The Middle Of Pukekura Park

Ice Cream Shop In The Middle Of Pukekura Park

Parrot Face

Parrot Face

Lemur

Lemur

Pretty Flower

Pretty Flower

Shaved Lamas

Shaved Lamas

Little Pig

Little Pig

Farm Door

Farm Door

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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