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Sunday Afternoon Miniature Train Ride

21 Aug

The weather forecast today promised clear skies – so we figured it’s time to get our lazy butts outdoors and enjoy a fine winter day. And what more can be exciting for our Thomas-loving little 19-month-old than an afternoon at the Box Hill Miniature Steam Railway πŸ˜‰

This place, situated on the east pocket of Melbourne, boasts of miniature trains that adults and kids can actually ride on.

There are a few trains/train lines and the one we chose to ride was the V-Line train above because it had the shorter queue. But the popular trains are the steam-engine ones below.

Our little boy was so excited and couldn’t help but continuously say “choo choo” while we were in the queue waiting for the track to be cleared (apparently, a train broke down just before we arrived).

It was our first time to visit this place and I was a bit anxious about how he will behave during the ride. There are no seatbelts so it is up to you to ensure that your kid is safely inside the train. True enough, he was anxious at the first part of the ride, leaning backward against me in an awkward position. But soon enough he was able to relax and I think was able to enjoy the rest of the ride 😊

I didn’t really have expectations for this visit but it turned out to be a fun experience, one that both kids and adults will enjoy. And for just $3 per ride, it’s not a bad option for a family outing at all! Just ensure though to check the run times on the Box Hill Miniature Steam Railway Society website (http://www.bhmsrs.org.au/events/) as public running days are scheduled only once a month. 

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Hey I’m back!

21 Aug

Wow, has it really been 2 1/2 years since I’ve posted anything here on my site?

So what happened to me exactly?

 Am I still here in Melbourne? Yes.

 Have we finally decided to settle in Australia? It looks like it. We are now officially Australian citizens, and have recommenced looking for a house of our own to build/buy.

So what’s with the 2 1/2 year writing hiatus? Well, we had a bun cooking in the oven, and now the bun is 19 months old πŸ˜‰

Don’t you agree it’s a good enough excuse to have put a personal hobby on hold? 😎😍

The Royal Melbourne Show

22 Feb

The Royal Melbourne Show is more than a carnival event for kids – it is a one-stop event for family and for tourists visitingΒ Melbourne around mid-September or October. DSC_0001 Some our friends from Melbourne actually shrugged off the idea when I asked them if it was worth going to this event, but I was really interested in going anyway so we still gave it a go.. Animal shows, live music, art, craft & cookery competitions, stunt shows, fireworks, a glimpse of the Masterchef kitchen, and so many more activities – you name it, and this event would probably have it. It has something to offer for each person in the family, so it is worth having the family spend a day together here. 20140924_131024 As a Masterchef Australia enthusiast, I enjoyed going to the Masterchef pavilion the most. DSC_0413
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20140924_132811 We got to see the kitchen and pantry up-close, and we were even able to see Emma from season 5 and Byron from season 6. DSC_0414

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DSC_0440 My next favorite would have to be the sheep-shearing demonstration, as it was my first time seeing this done. I know being sheared is just similar to us humans getting a haircut, but I couldn’t help but feel pity on those poor little things.. DSC_0003

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In addition to sheep-shearing, there are other agricultural experiences like wood chopping, cow-milking, and honey-making.

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For animal lovers out there, there are animal (alpaca, dog, cat, horse, goat, sheep, cattle, etc) shows throughout the event.

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I am not a pet lover but I enjoyed having a look at the dogs, so I imagine dog lovers out there would love a visit to the pavilion housing the canines waiting for their turn in the dog show.

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Though we did not get to see the actual art, craft and culinary competition, the entries were on display for us to have a look. There were amazing pictures in the photo exhibit. I especially enjoyed seeing the different creative cakes on display.

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Amazing cake showing different places in Australia

Amazing cake showing different places in Australia

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For food lovers, there are plenty of food-tasting opportunities.

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For TV enthusiasts, you will have a chance to pretend to be a contestant in X-factor or Million Dollar Minute.

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Hubby and I trying to have a go on answering questions for Million Dollar Minute. Behind us are brave ladies playing anchors for the local news

Hubby and I trying to have a go on answering questions for Million Dollar Minute. Behind us are brave ladies playing anchors for the local news.

You can have a go at playing anchor in the local news channel and get to take home an actual recording of yourself delivering a news item. We didn’t have the confidence and time to do this, but for brave souls out there, this would be a blast and a good keepsake of the experience πŸ™‚

Lastly, the majority of the show is ultimately devoted to the kiddies.. So I can’t end my post without saying that there are a lot of rides the kids will enjoy – animal rides and thrill rides. Plus tons of show bags for taking home! It really is mainly a carnival, after all πŸ˜‰

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We arrived before lunch, and went home without even having a chance to check out the musical shows and other attractions (there really were so many things to see and do). But it was getting dark and our feet could not bear the standing and walking anymore, so we had to call it a day.

An Afternoon in Chocolate Heaven

24 Feb

Yarra Valley is not just about wineries, but it is a haven for good produce and fine food as well.

My husband and I keep coming back to Yarra Valley, not only when we have friends or family visiting Melbourne, but when we feel like going for a relaxing drive around greenery or when we want to have a break from the usual places we go to in the city or around our suburbs.

We would go to the farmer’s market once in a while, and lately, we found ourselves going back to the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery, a relatively new place in Yarra Valley.

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To people’s delight, when you step foot inside, this is the sight that will greet you : three big bowls of free chocolate you can help yourself to –

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As you can see, you can sample their white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate. So everyone’s tastes, no matter what type of chocolate you prefer sinking your teeth into, is well-catered for. It’s free, so you can nibble on some chocolate while finding something to buy inside the store.

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Aside from the wide range of typical flavours you can choose from off that chocolate wall down that far end of the photo above, they also have a garden line of chocolates below, where flavours such as celery, lavender, curry leaf, fig and fennel are incorporated into the chocolate –

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This makes chocolate sound healthy, don’t you think? πŸ˜‰

They also have a chocolate therapy section, which offers chocolate or sweet infused lotions and other body products.

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Chocolate flavoured lip balms, anyone? πŸ™‚

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Chocolate body therapy soaps should provide a relaxing and interesting bath, huh?

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For hard-core chocolate lovers out there looking for the chocolatier type, their three-meter signature truffle cabinet will not disappoint.

What’s good about this place is that it’s not just a store but it’s an activity hub for the family.

They have a viewing window for their chocolate machinery so you can have a look and observe how the chocolate is made –

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They have a cafe that serves breakfast and lunch, Β and the greenery outside provides a nice ambience (where you’ll normally find both kids and adults hanging around).

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Although I’m not sure if the lying around as shown in the photo above is allowed, since there is an actual sign that says no picnics allowed πŸ˜›

For lunch, I had smoked salmon on rye toast with rocket, red onions, capers and lemon myrtle cream cheese. The salmon tasted fresh (thank goodness, as we hate a fishy taste) and the rocket and capers go well with the salmon. I couldn’t quite place what the cream cheese and its supposed flavour brings to the dish, though.

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Lawrence went for their chicken, bacon and barbecue sauce pizza. They have their own homemade pizza sauce. We liked it at the beginning but then towards the end we found it too sweet already (would have been nice if there’s a bottle of Tabasco nearby πŸ˜‰ ).

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The coffee, as expected from a Melbourne cafe (yes, I’m a newly converted Melbourne coffee junkie), was great. I didn’t even need to put sugar on my coffee (as I always do!).

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Of course I wouldn’t miss mentioning that aside from the chocolate, it’s the ice cream here that majority of people who come here would queue up for –

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To cap off our afternoon here, we chose to indulge in one of their oh-so-yummy-looking desserts on display below (which by far outshines all the dessert places I’ve come across with here in Melbourne).

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Our choice of dessert was the raspberry macaron delight (note the massive size :D). It’s served with cream on the side and their couverture chocolate. There is a lemon filling along with the fresh raspberries you can see in the photo, which neutralised the sweetness of the dish.

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So there you go. I’ve practically listed everything you can do in your visit here. I think you will agree with me that you can easily spend a whole afternoon here like we did πŸ™‚

Encounters with Tasmanian Devils

30 Apr

I recall that during my childhood days, I was interested more in cartoons from Looney Tunes than the Disney ones (no offense to Disney fans out there :D). My favorite back then was Tweety. Taz, the destructive one, was one of the other characters I had fun watching.

I’ve seen kangaroos, koalas, and wallabies here in Australia but I’ve yet to see a tasmanian devil in the flesh. So I remember telling my husband how disappointed I am when we went to Healesville Sanctuary because the only tassie devil in the park chose to nap when we were there πŸ˜›

Hence, checking out a tasmanian devil was on top of my list when we went to Tasmania.

Choosing between Bonorong Wildlife Park and Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park, the latter won out because of its proximity to Port Arthur. We wanted to see if we can swing by the historical site after our visit to the park.

Tasmanian devils are not exactly cute, little, cuddly creatures. They look more like giant rodents, understandably because they are now considered the world’s largest surviving marsupial –

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Now we can actually note only a very little resemblance to our mischievous Taz, huh?

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Our brief visit to the conservation park made us feel sympathetic to these fierce-looking, high pitch screeching marsupials, as we came to know that they are already considered endangered species and now face a grave threat from a cancer known as the facial tumor disease. We came to understand that the relatively expensive entry fee ($33 per person) we had to pay for this seemingly unkempt park is being used to care for them and keep them from extinction.

In fact, much effort is being done to keep their habitats as natural as possible, and so they let these devils just wander about in the wild around the area. That’s why you can see warning signs for these wildlife while on the road –

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We’ve been told that cameras are installed around the vicinity to monitor these animals.

While in the park, we were given the chance to get up close to these creatures:

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Forgive the photo, it was the best my husband was able to take of me while in the observation glass. But seriously, they could have tried to keep the glass cleaner and clearer so we can see better, don’t you think so? πŸ˜›

We were able to witness a feeding of these tassie devils. We learned that it was a long ritual of finding the meat, running off and trying to chase the one who was able to take the meat on its jaw, and then a seemingly tug-of-war mutual feeding of the meat. They normally feed on wallaby meat, so that’s what you can see them feeding on in the following photo.

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There were other animals in the park. And birds too. I was able to take a photo of the Eastern quoll below.

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After quite a number of visits to different Aussie parks, I was finally take some decent photos of kangaroos, and get to actually touch one and get a souvenir photo of the moment.

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This is a big step for a ‘neutral’ person like me who neither likes nor hates pets. I just enjoy looking at them πŸ˜‰

So that caps off our visit to the park. We dropped by Port Arthur to see if the little time we have left is worth paying the expensive entrance fee.. But ended up just having lunch at the cafe there πŸ˜€

We then decided to go to Mt Field National Park instead, because Law wanted to see Russell Falls.

You need to pay for a National Parks pass when entering Mt Field, and the hike to the falls takes about 15 minutes. It’s good that it wasn’t such a challenging hike because we were a bit disappointed because the falls at that time seemed dry 😦

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Then, as if we haven’t tortured ourselves enough from the long drive back to Hobart city, we made a quick visit to Mt Wellington summit. I think it was one of the scariest nights in my life πŸ˜› I was horrified by the steep, narrow, winding road going up the summit. Add to that the fact that the sky was already pitch black when we were up in the mountain already, and we’ve almost committed several road kills along the way.

Good thing the ride back to Zero Davey was a short one.. And we were able to give ourselves an excuse to indulge in some more seafood at Fish Frenzy in Elizabeth St Pier;)

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Finally concluded this quick but delightful trip to Tasmania. I wouldn’t mind going back πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

Under The Tasman Sun

29 Apr

We’ve devoted most of our weekend in Tasmania to checking out different sights around Hobart.

We joined a Tours Tasmania day tour on Sunday. There were just six of us on the tour, all Asians. The van was a decent one. Our tour guide is a 23-year-old lad named George, who just started going to university because he spent some time living in Europe and in Asia.

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The first stop in our tour was Kate’s Berry Farm. A farm on just a small plot of land, I think the charm of the place comes from the cozy shop that Kate has installed, which showcases the produce from her land. There’s a berry-tasting table to help you decide which berry jam suits your taste. There are sugarless options (which are still sweet by the way) for those trying to cut back on the calories. We’ve bought a raspberry jam and tried out a berry ice cream.

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Majority of the itinerary of our tour is spent at Freycinet National Park. You just have to buy a National Parks pass when visiting parks here. Our tour is inclusive of this pass.

Looking back at the pictures I was able to take, it seemed like majority of our time was spent bay hopping.

First bay up was Coles Bay. There was a bit of activity when we arrived. People were fishing, some on a boat, some on the deck. If I were a fishing person, I’d probably spend some time here. The place seemed so serene and relaxing.

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We then went on to Wineglass Bay Lookout. This part of the tour gave us a surprise because we didn’t expect that we need to climb up a considerable height to be able to get to the lookout.

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Totally unprepared, the hike was a challenge to both of us – for me, who had a back injury a few years ago and has been told to avoid using the stairs, and for Law, who found the climb difficult on Β his shin. I realized how unfit I was as well at that time as I was panting so hard that it feels like my heart’s going to pound out of my chest πŸ˜› This is definitely a no-go for old people and the weak of heart.

We're such good posers, eh? You couldn't tell how tired we were already ;)

We’re such good posers, eh? You couldn’t tell how tired we were already πŸ˜‰

Anyway, the climb was worth it –

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There is actually a lookout further up the mountain which gives you a more spectacular view as you can see the entire bay and how it seems like a wineglass, hence the name. But of course we didn’t opt for that, this lower lookout was already too hard for us to get to πŸ˜›Β It was a good thing that we joined the tour. Otherwise, we would’ve been too exhausted to drive back πŸ™‚

Next stop was Honeymoon Bay.

I was quite intrigued by the name, and true to its name, this bay provides a romantic, secluded atmosphere.Β This is where we had our lunch (which we bought from a bakeshop along the way). There are no public establishments here, and no toilets even. That’s how ‘true to nature’ and virgin this place feels like.

What impressed me the most were the mixture of colors around the area. I loved the combination of hues of blue and green in the water and of hues of earthy red of the soil, rocks and sand here.

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The last stop was a ‘marine farm’. Supposedly. But we didn’t see anything, except that the sign says it’s a farm for oysters and scallops. This bit of the tour would have been really disappointing if it weren’t for the splendidly cooked scallops that we ordered from their kitchen –

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So there goes our Sunday tour adventure. I’m going to have to cut this post short as I’ve realized it’s kind of long already. I’ll be posting soon about our encounters with Tassie devils and our brief visit to Mt Field’s Russell Falls.

Our Tassie Weekend

28 Apr

Wanted to make the most out of our free days before I started work last March, and well, celebrate our anniversary πŸ™‚ From Melbourne, Tasmania was one of the closest and cheapest places that we found interesting and worthwhile for a quick, spur-of-the-moment, out-of-town trip.

Spent just around $250 for a late-booked airfare to Hobart because one of us travelled for free, thanks to that once-a-year free Virgin Australia round-trip ticket that American Express gives to its clients here πŸ™‚

Hobart CBD is very near the airport. Taxi fare would cost you just around $30-$40 dollars depending on where you are staying, plus $5 airport surcharge. Since there were just two of us, we opted for the Airporter shuttle from the airport going to the CBD, which charged $17 per person.

We decided to just chill and relax on our first day. So we went for a stroll around Hobart CBD and the Salamanca Market. This market, which showcases so many stalls and products along Salamanca Place, is open only on Saturdays so it was really great that we were able to come by.

A band of men in kilts playing bagpipes welcomed us –

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We went around lunch time, but thank God that the weather was not so hot (16 degrees) even though the sun’s high up, because of the Antarctic breeze. I enjoyed checking out the different stalls, but I must admit that the scent of bratwurst everywhere is absolutely distracting, making you want to stop and eat everytime :p

I’ve taken pictures below of some interesting finds.

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The tasmanian devils above don’t really look much like Taz in the Warner Bros cartoons, huh? πŸ˜›

And of course, I had to take a pic of one of the bratwurst stalls –

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You’d pretty much be covered for lunch while going through the market because there are several stalls that sell food, plus, we’ve found a particularly interesting both selling unique drinks below.

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We were hungry but we held back eating because we wanted to get the most out of our experience and have a bite of what Tasmania is known for – seafood.

After a look around nearby places, we decided to buy lunch from Flippers, because we were curious about why there’s a really long queue here.

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The food’s nice. We liked the scallops and the fish seemed really fresh. We just ate our lunch while sitting in the benches surrounded by trees in St. David’s Park below.

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The CBD of Hobart is so small that someone who walks at my pace can just walk around in 30 minutes to an hour on foot. It is a city surrounded by water, which we found really refreshing. There are neighborhoods just around the city sidelines. I’ve found the ones going uphill from Davey St to Mt Wellington particularly charming, as they offer a nice view of the waters while being in close proximity to the CBD.

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Found a giant chess board similar to the one we have back in Melbourne, along Swanston Street πŸ™‚

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Above is Hobart’s version of the red decker bus, which provides service around the city loop.

So there goes my account of our days in Hobart CBD. Will be posting on our visit to national parks and some of Tasmania’s beautiful bays next..