Melbourne Day 1

Melbourne Day 1

Started with waking up at 4 in the morning, so that I could catch the 5am bus and train to the airport. Got to the airport with plenty of time, but mistakenly left a small pocket knife in my carry on bag. Not sure how because I checked the bag before as i had been using it for field work and always carry at least one knife. Apparently, under Australian law, any knife that has a locking mechanism is considered a weapon and because I had one in my bag I was supposed to be turned over to the Australian Federal Police. Luckily the security woman seemed to think that my 1.5 inch blade knife wasn’t that dangerous and said she would just confiscate it. I felt lucky in the end, but that was a handy little knife.

I flew Qantas down to Melbourne. What a great airline. They have a super fast machine based check in procedure with lots of staff to help people. The planes are big and comfortable and they feed you a meal on every flight FOR FREE! I highly recommend them for all domestic Australian travel.

Melbourne doesn’t have public transit that goes out to the airport, but a company called SkyBus runs a bus service direct to one of the city transit hubs and you can buy a return ticket for $26. So, I hopped on the bus and made my way to the city via Southern Cross Train Station. From there it was just a few blocks to the hostel I was supposed to stay at for the night. However, something got messed up when I changed my reservation and I didn’t have a reservation for that night anymore. Luckily I got a room in the other YHA hostel in North Melbourne. Though, I hadn’t taken the time to figure out the tram system in the city, so I walked up there with my two bags.
It only took about 30 mins, but was just an extra little insult to injury.

Finally after my room situation was all squared away, I went out to explore the city. I checked out the Queen Victoria Market (but wasn’t there on the right day for the famous foodie tour). Then got on the free City Circle Tram. Melbourne uses a tram or streetcar system as its main system of public transit. The city circle tram is a literal circle around downtown and has a narrated guide. A nice way to start off your Melbourne visit. My one complaint is that it was quite crowded with low windows that made picture taking near impossible.

Although, I found Melbourne, on the whole, a bit drab with more of a dirty urban look to it. It wasn’t until I got to Federation Square that I started taking some pictures. This is some really unique architecture there with a nice contrast between very contemporary Film ands Art Museum contrasted sight an old Cathedral, and the really classic looking Flinders Street Train station.

Here’s Flinders Street Station and a good view of the City Circle Tram

Federation Square

Quite a unique look. Apparently Melbornians either love it or hate it. I thought it was pretty cool.

A full view of the ultra classic looking Flinders Street Station. I think this was my favorite building in the square.

I had to eat here. I always loved this book and am known to appreciate a good reference. It was a little pricey, but the burger was quite good. The fries were very fresh tasting, but a little soggy for me to really like them.

This was the view from the rooftop lounge of my hostel. On the whole, I found the Melbourne Metro YHA a little too cramped to be comfortable, but this rooftop lounge was a nice unique feature that makes up for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highlight of day one was finding this awesome jazz club, The Bennetts Lane Jazz Club.  It’s hidden in this back ally but is well known as Australia’s best jazz club. It certainly was an awesome little venue. A small stage and a tiny bar, but the perfect size to fit a lot of people and still make the feel very intimate. I ended up making some friends waiting in line to get in to the show. I met some expat Britts who now live in Brisbane and they were kind enough to invite me to join them at their table. They even bought me a couple beers. People really like that I am from Hawaii. It seems to be a rare place to visit from and everyone in OZ loves it. Plus, people can’t ever place my accent and get a kick out of learning about my past places of residency. No one ever can believe that I was born and raised in Jersey. Ha!

I truly was fortunate to be in Melbourne for the second night of Vince Jones and his band.

He’s a bit of an Aussie jazz icon, and I was really excited to get to see him at one of the clubs that he calls home. I have to say that after the first two songs, I was afraid that Aussie jazz just wasn’t going to hold its own compared to American jazz. However, after that point the concert just took off.

Vince Jones is a soulful performer who you can just see pour himself into the music. His band was top notch and followed his every musical whim. It’s been far too long since I saw live jazz, and this concert just blew me away. I never thought I would find music of that quality here, 10,000 miles away from where jazz was born. Truly sublime.

It was a strange and somewhat hectic day of travel and tourism, but it ended with magnificence.

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The Taronga Zoo

Two weekends ago, I went with a few of my fellow fellows to the Taronga Zoo.  I know, this was nearly two weeks ago and most blogs have a linear time progression, but I took heaps of pictures (check out that Aussie vernacular) and it took a while to edit all of them.  So, I apologize for any agony you’re experiences from the mental gymnastics of my blog’s timeline.

The Taronga Zoo is a quick 10 min ferry ride away from Circular Quay.  From the wharf, you can walk 5 mins to the entrance, or, amazingly, you can wait and take a bus up there (and they say Americans are lazy).  After waiting for the bus, (haha) I actually biked up the path as I had come directly from sampling in the intertidal.  It’s $30-$40 to get in depending if you are eligible for a student, military, or senior discount (I had to fight for 5 mins to get my student discount).

Immediately, this zoo won points with me by starting with marine exhibits.  Granted, it was only mammals and birds but still marine animals.  They actually have a decent sized penguin exhibit and seal and sea lion exhibit.  Both exhibits were fairly quiet as I went through, but we did catch the last 10 mins of the sea lion show (about as much as I can handle anyway).

From there, you follow a winding path through several exhibits including elephants, rainforest birds, otters, gorillas, lemurs, crocodiles, etc.  This zoo feels huge and has a lot of space not only in its exhibits, but there is also a ton of open park space.  It’s kept really nice and you really feel like you’re in a park that has a zoo.  It seems, in a lot of ways, that it was modeled largely around the design of the San Diego Zoo.  Although, I found Taronga slightly better designed than San Diego because you could follow one path and basically see all the main exhibits.  San Diego is so big that it’s almost impossible for most people to see every exhibit, but I appreciate not having to follow a map all the time to find all the exhibits you want to see.

The second show we caught was on spiders, and we got a chance to get up close with the Sydney Funnel-Web Spider, the most venomous spider in the world.  They also had a few examples of the large Huntsmen spiders (Hawaii friends, think Cane Spider).  Most of the presentation was spent debunking common myths of spiders and how they aren’t really scary.  Spiders are great!  They eat insects!  Don’t kill them!  They won’t hurt you.  Oh I almost forgot, we even had a close encounter with an Emu during the show.  They have one that is apparently very friendly.  The zookeeper had to chase him away to finish his spider show.

Right after the spider show was one of the highlights of the zoo for me, a saltwater croc. The croc was out of the water in its little display and was absolutely larger than life.  It was great to appreciate how enormous this thing is, had to be at least 10 feet long.  It also stood completely still, convincing some would be prey (children and some of the dumber parents) that it wasn’t real.  Awesome.

The zoo also has a great section on Australian fauna with an array of kangaroos, koalas, Quokkas, tasmanian devils, lizards, and platypuses.  However, the tasmanian devils were sleeping and the platypus was cryptically hiding.  Between two trips to the Sydney aquarium, a trip to the Wildlife World, and now here, I have not actually seen one platypus. So, don’t really expect to see one, and if you do, you are very lucky.

The last part of the zoo had lions, tigers, snow leopards, ostrich, bears, and a pigmy hippo! The pigmy hippo was cool to see and after having most of the animals shy and turn away from you, the male tiger was a nice change.  He came right up to the glass, checked us out, and then he actually posed.  Got one of my best pics of the day.

The zoo closes at sunset basically, so you also get a great view of the harbour as you leave and a twilight ferry ride back to the city.  Overall, I highly recommend the Taronga Zoo to anyone who visits Sydney and would put it on my must see list.  See all my pics on FB and check out the gallery of highlights below!

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Bonus: A video of a crazy Australian animal and some lemurs.