Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Favorite Australian City: Melbourne

Without a doubt, Melbourne was my absolute favorite city to visit in Australia. I adventured through the artsy district of Fitzroy, strolled through the People's Market in Collingwood, and frequented the many vegan/vegetarian restaurants in town. I even met a few Aussie friends.

View from my hotel room

Come on guys, is this really necessary? 
Royal Botanic Garden, Melbourne
Per usual, I visited the botanical garden on several occasions. The garden is not as vast as the one in Sydney, but it still has its share of beautiful flowers and serene landscapes. During my morning jogs I loved zipping along the different garden paths which generally had less foot traffic than the main roads:

View from the garden

The People's Market and Fitzroy:
If you're looking for a crowd of young Indie hipsters, then Fitzroy and Collingwood are the neighborhoods for you! I attended the People's Market  on a Thursday afternoon and was a bit disappointed. I had imagined a grand market with a variety of different food stalls and retail booths; instead, I was underwhelmed by a small parking lot of 3 food stations and 4 pop up shops. If I had known this I might have reconsidered the 40 minute walk from the city center:

The People's Market

Other Miscellaneous Fun:
I felt an incredible sense of adventure while in Melbourne. After visiting the People's Market I strolled to a nearby cafe called Proud Mary's. The reviews on Yelp were good and they had something on the menu that appealed to my hungry stomach. I ended up ordering "The Avocado" which is a delicious plate of ripe avocado, goat cheese, and a spicy quinoa salsa on top of farmhouse rye. YUM. That same day while I was walking back to my hotel from a wine tasting in the city square, I saw a sign for a Tame Impala show. I downloaded the band's album "Lonerism" not too long ago and really enjoy their music. I somehow managed to snag a ticket for the sold out show and had a blast!
AMAZING Avocado Toast at Proud Mary
My new Melbourne friends: James and Nick
Tame Impala at the Ford Theater in Melbourne
The amazing food, friendly people, and an ever-growing list of interesting activities makes Melbourne by far the city I enjoyed the most. And it's been a while since I posted show pictures, but here's one taken by an audience member:

Can you find me?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Biding Time in Brisbane

We didn't spend too much time in Brisbane, but here are some of the most memorable sights:

A random market where people sold recycled clothing out of suitcases
The manmade "beach" by the river
The most surprising characteristic of Brisbane is the difference between the city center and the city's outer edges. I suppose one can say the same about most major cities, but in this instance it seemed much more heightened. The architecture and design in the outskirts seemed like those of a developing Asian country whereas the structures in the city center were more modern:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sweet Sights in Sydney

Sydney, Australia: A bustling city of tourists, bankers, and students. Or is it an oasis of tropical greens,  blooming flowers, and natural wonders? I didn't hesitate to fill every single day (even show day) with a new activity to experience and a new destination to explore.

Art Gallery NSW
We arrived in Sydney on a Wednesday night, and lucky for me the Art Gallery NSW that was a five minute walk from our hotel had an, "Art After Dark" event. The gallery, which usually closes at 5PM, has extended hours and special activities on Wednesday evenings. As soon as I dropped off my luggage in my room I dashed to the gallery and headed straight for the contemporary art wing:

A frame within a frame within a frame
Warhol's "Flowers"
Royal Botanic Gardens
My absolute favorite part about Sydney is the giant botanical garden that is located right along the harbor. Whether it was for a jog, a picnic, or a breathtaking view of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, I visited the park every single day. Cara and I spent the first part of our first day off exploring every nook and cranny of the park:

Sydney Opera House
After our lengthy stroll through the park, Cara and I ended up at the Sydney Opera House, which is located at the northwest corner of the garden. For $25 (using my Bruin Card for the student discount) we took a tour of the iconic building. The tour gives people access to both main concert halls and other areas restricted to the general public.

State Library NSW
After my Opera House tour I checked out the State Library NSW down the street. There were banners all over the city advertising an exhibit called, Time in Motion: 50 Years of The Australian Ballet, which seemed interesting. It features old costumes, photographs, and video footage from select works the company performed over the years. Additionally, the library offers a variety of other miscellaneous galleries and exhibits, including a poetry project with works from grade-school students:

Museum of Contemporary Art of Australia
The next day was show day, and Cara and I decided to spend the morning at the MCA of Australia. There was a great exhibition called, "Primavera" featuring young local artists:

Harbour Bridge
Perhaps the most tourist-y activity I did in Sydney was to climb to the Sydney Harbour Bridge the day after our show. I  was hesitant to pay the hefty price of $228 AUD, but in the end I think I made the right decision! We weren't allowed to bring cameras onto the bridge which is a "safety precaution" and in my opinion a brilliant business ruse. Climbers are essentially conned into paying $25 for the first photo and an extra $10 for each additional photo. I think the guy at the counter was annoyed with how long I was taking to decide between two pictures that he ended up giving me both photos for $25. So indecisiveness paid off in this case!

Other Random Fun
Cara and I found ourselves in a food truck battle happening in Hyde Park!
Paddington Market. Not really worth the hour long walk. 
Casual view from Royal Botanic Garden
Harbourlife Festival 2012. Didn't have a ticket but still enjoyed the music :)
World AIDS Day 2012 goodies 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Adventures in Adelaide

Adelaide is a special 1-square mile city with an endless number of activities for tourists and city dwellers alike. We stayed at the luxurious Intercontinental Adelaide hotel, which is located right along the River Torrens on North TCE. On the same road lies the SA Museum, SA Art Gallery, the Botanic Gardens, and even the University of Adelaide. The city center is surrounded by green parks perfect for a light stroll or a lazy reading day.The moment I stepped foot onto the city streets I new that I had to take advantage of my time here.

Botanic Gardens of Adelaide:
The Botanic Garden is less than a mile away from the hotel, and provided the perfect setting for a picnic. I purchased some of my favorite goodies from Woolworth's and set up camp under a shady grassy knoll. One important thing to keep in mind: hay fever. As I write this I'm still battling with incredible sinus congestion that makes my head feel as if it's about to pop right off my neck. So beware!

National Wine Centre:
As a big Shiraz fan and an aspiring wine connoisseur I felt compelled to visit the National Wine Centre. It is conveniently located at the western edge of the Botanic Garden, which allows the center's cafe patrons to take in the garden's beauty while enjoying a light bight. I indulged in a $10 wine tasting which included 3 different wines and a generous helping of ciabatta bread and oil.

Henley Beach:
Perhaps the most underrated resource in the city of Adelaide is the free bike rental service it provides. All you have to do is provide a form of ID (passport, driver's license, etc.) and the bike center loans you a bike. What's more, there are bike paths all over the city. I took one that stretched about 16km along the River Torrens from the city centre to Henley Beach. It was an amazing ride:

Vegan Food: 
And I of course sought out vegan restaurants and cafes while in town. After a failed attempt on Sunday night (I walked a mile to the restaurant to find that it is closed on Sundays), I successfully had lunch at Bliss Organic Garden Cafe on two separate occasions. I also tried salads from the Foods For Life Health Foods Store on Gawler Place. To be honest, I didn't think the food was as great as some of the other vegan places I've tried thus far on the tour. The UK vegan food had much better flavor profiles.

Adelaide Central Market:
On my final day in Adelaide I biked to the famous Adelaide Central Market where I found heaps of local fresh produce and fine food products. I had briefly strolled through the market the day before but had no Australian dollars and therefore had zero purchasing power. My wallet was full of the foreign currency on Wednesday and I set my sights on buying a good loaf of bread and some local goat cheese.  It was very satisfactory.

I was enamored with these large canisters of honey

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Quick Stop in Auckland, New Zealand

What better time to travel internationally than during Thanksgiving?

I took the LA Metro to Union Station and then took the Flyaway to LAX. It was kind of a grueling trip with my 25kg luggage (yes, it was 3kg overweight), but at least it was a little workout before my 24 hour travel day. My 11PM flight to New Zealand was perfectly timed. With an entire 4-seat row to myself on the 15-hour flight, I slept soundly for the first 9 hours. After the connecting flight we finally touched base in Auckland at around 5PM.

I instantly fell in love with Auckland's vibrant landscape:

Auckland's cityscape
Sunset at Albert Park
Celebrating Kelsey's birthday at Soul Bar

The next morning Cara and I jogged through the gorgeous Auckland Domain and had lunch at Raw Power Cafe:

The best surprise of the trip was getting a chance to meet up with UCLA friends Rachael and her sister Suzanne after the show on Saturday night. They both have been living in Auckland and knew all the fun spots around town. 

I wish I had more time in New Zealand to explore, but I guess I'll take what I can get.

Next stop, Australia!