Brunch @ St. Ali Roasters. First time having coffee in Australia and probably in a good six months! Coffee was splendid. For food, I ordered buttermilk pancake. Two pancakes with fudge, berries compote, and hardened brown sugar. Super good but super filling.
Spent the rest of the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. Kind of like a farmers market, tons of craft and good stands, sectioned off by category. I was also treated with a cool performance from a band called Amistat, made up of two talented twin brothers. Find them on Spotify and give them a listen!
I lunched alone at Wonderbao where I ordered the pork belly + fried chicken. The pork belly was really underwhelming but the fried chicken was good.
Then took the tram to the Royal Botanical Gardens to visit the Shrine of Remembrance, which was stunning. Beautiful architecture and beautiful view. It reminded me of the memorials in DC (and I mean that in the best way possible). If I had more time, I would have loved to walk through more of the botanical gardens.
I headed back north into the main city centre to meet friends at Rooftop Cinema. No movie the night I went so there was no cover charge, which was nice. It's a super hip rooftop bar with seating, and bleachers covered in turf, with the type of music kids in their early 20s would listen to. I should've hated it, but I loved it. Tough luck that it rained about 5 minutes after I got my drink so I had to down it and run over to dinner in the rain. It's definitely on my places to go for next time though. Unfortunately I don't have any good photos to share, but take a look at their Yelp page. Highly recommended!
Dinner was at Burma Lane, obviously Burmese food. I saw good reviews online but there weren't that many people in the restaurant so it got me nervous. We ordered the tea salad, which was probably the best dish (but not the best tea salad I've had); the cheeseburger dumplings, were basically dumplings filled with beef and cheese, but really did taste like a cheeseburger haha; the noir noodles which were solid; and the beef brisket bao, which was salty and probably too much for us. It was okay, not the best meal in Melbourne but I suppose it was worth a try and my friends enjoyed it enough.
We started our day early with a breakfast stop at Baker D.Chirico. Every pastry and bread on the menu was phenomenal. My friends claimed it was the best bakery. It indeed was one of the best. It's a hidden gem of Melbourne that not too many people know about, thank goodness. I ordered a chocolate croissant and bombolini. You wouldn't think there isn't much of a quality different in chocolate croissants, but there is. It was perfection. The bombolini is basically like a filled donut, but fancy. It was filled with lemon zest and vanilla and the flavors were perfect, too. I probably enjoyed the bombolini much more just because of the flavors.
Then spent some time walking around the South Melbourne Market, where I walked around the stalls and stores, and ate yummy oysters.
We made our way towards the Great Ocean Road, which is basically like the PCH with the ocean on one side and a great forest on the other. It's an absolutely beautiful drive! I got to see the 12 Apostles, Loch and George, and the London Arch. We reserved an AirBnB in Torquay. On the road, I got to see a wild pademelon(I think) crossing the street, and signs for kangaroos (like the ones we have for deer). You'd have to get a hire car, unless you go with a tour company, but it's so worth the drive and seeing the more nature-y, beautiful side of Australia!
Melbourne Transportation Card: myki. My most common method of transportation using this card was tram. Be careful when getting off! Some of the trams let you off in the middle of the street near lanes cars can come in. By law, they need to yield to you but it's also good to look both ways. PS Australia drive on the other side of the street, like the UK.
Weather was HOT! I definitely wore my most summery items in my suitcase. Like Sydney, it wasn't humid which was nice. I feel like it was dry, if anything.
Find my Map here!
My wonderful hosts, Grace and Martin, used to host guests at their place via AirBnB + they're designers so it looks super hip.
I spent my first morning at a juicery called Urban Projuice and ordered an acai bowl. Met a lovely lady, a new mother, who gave some additional recommendations and shared some insight on motherhood.
Since I was in South Melbourne, I took the tram into the city centre and started my tour at Federation Square. Went through St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Treasury Gardens, the Old Treasury Building, and through some of the larger streets of Melbourne. I found a cute shop called Melbournalia that was full of local crafts and goodies! I bought these hilarious greeting cards that featured puns made from the various Melbourne train stops.
Lunch was at Chin Chin, probably the most anticipated restaurant on my trip. It's mostly Thai fusion, although I did see more Asian influences. I had seen it featured on tons of websites, and was recommended by multiple friends. Confirmed by three people that "everyone on their menu is good." I can honestly say: confirmed. We ordered the pat see ew, the crab fried rice, and barramundi salad. To my surprise, the barramundi salad was my fav. It was incredibly flavorful and delicious and I'm craving it now that I'm thinking about it.
I continued my self guided walking tour through Swanson St, Bourke St, Block Arcade, Royal Arcade, Walk Arcade... basically just a bunch of "arcades" AKA shopping centres haha.
One thing I love doing before I travel is looking for local events to the place I'll be visiting. To my luck, there was a night noodle market happening (free admission, woot woot). I've realised early on in my travels is that traveling alone doesn't give you the benefit of ordering multiple things on a menu and sharing it. Thus, I was limited to ordering just one item at the market. There were three different sections of the market, and I probably walked through each section at least twice to make sure my decision was the right one. I ended up getting the Oz Special Yakisoba(which means it had egg on it) from a Teppanyaki place. The portions were so big I ended up refrying it the next morning for brunch.
I spent half the day wandering around Fitzroy, which was supposed to be the hip, grungy neighbourhood of Melbourne. I visited a great deal of stores, but to be honest, I didn't find Fitzroy to be as amazing as people made it sound. Some of my friends went back because they didn't get to see everything, but I ended up finishing earlier than expected, which was kind of a bummer.
I did get to eat at a restaurant in Fitzroy called Alimentari. We ordered a small salad (which is basically a sampler because you're able to choose 3 salads from the menu) to share. The veal and pork meatballs over polenta seems to be the most popular dish on the menu, so we ordered that, of course. I also ordered the meatball wrap(panini pressed), which was freaking bomb. It was actually my favourite from everything. For dessert, we ordered a few items off the bakery menu and they were delicious! I highly recommend this restaurant, particularly the meatball wrap!
Since I finished Fitzroy early, I decided to go back to the city centre. I got to visit the State Library of Victoria, which was gorgeous. There were plenty of tourists and as well as people actually trying to read and study. The state library had plenty of beautiful reading rooms, a museum, air conditioning, and free wifi.
Next was exploring the shopping malls of Melbourne: Emporium + Melbourne Central. One of the items on my bucket list for Australia was to buy myself some jewelry. To my luck, I found a shop with jewelry that I might like. Looked around and fell in love with their items. I ended up buying myself a ring and gifted a dainty necklace for a friend. By the way, the store's name is Francesca if anyone is looking for some new nice jewelry!
I made a pitstop at Shortshop Donuts and got their Australian honey and Sea Salt. It was good, but too soft for my liking. It looked like a churro so I thought it’d be crunchy but it wasn’t... I would, however, go back to try another donut next time.
Later that night, I walked along the boardwalk of St. Kilda and made my way to il Casio ii for dinner, a very authentically Italian restaurant. We ordered the quattro formaggi pizza, and the mushroom pizza, a salad, and their house wine. I'm the type of person that will happily eat mushroom pizza but never really order it on my own will so I was worried about what the mushroom pizza would taste like. But to my surprise, it was spectacular. Easily the best mushroom pizza I've ever tasted.
We made it back to St. Kilda Pier in time for penguin watching. I've seen penguins at the zoo, but never in the wild so I was curious to see what this experience would be like. The penguins go out during the day to feed and come back around sunset. I saw a few of them coming in but they were pretty hard to spot at first. Once the sun went down, a bunch came riding in to the sand and would hid in the rocks. Some of the more confused ones would actually end up on the pier where people were so we got to see them upclose. There were some volunteers there with red flashlights to spotlight penguins, as well as sharing useful important regarding the penguins. I thought it a miracle that Melbourne even lets us see them so close, without putting up stricter borders, though I'm sure that would change if someone were to do something very foolish... My opinion is that it was mating season because I heard a lot of... noises from the penguins, and would see the male penguins running up against the back of a female penguin and then running away. It was quite entertaining. My friends said they've been a few times but never saw this many penguins so I count myself lucky. It was definitely a memorable experience and so happy to see this live for free!
Sydney transportation card: Opal card, prepaid loading card. Top up at any station, most convenient stores, or even online!
Sydney has lots of buses but a train system that has no name.
The weather was hot, but at least not humid. The sun really was scorching- I could feel my shoulders burn. It would randomly sprinkle from time to time, just enough to make you feel uncomfortable but not enough to put in effort to prep yourself for both weathers.
Random tidbit: Lots of places seemed to be closed on Mondays, and close early in general, so do check hours before making a trek someplace.
Find my Map here!
Arrived @ SYD in the early morning. Shout out to Nancy who woke up super early to meet me at the airport. We took the train with a car full of students on their way to school in all of their cute uniforms.
For brekkie, Nancy made me toast with Vegemite. It was not what I imagined. Going in, I knew people usually love it or hate it. Nancy describes it as burnt soy sauce. She is accurate. Needless to say, I wasn't a huge fan and I didn't take any home with me.
We went about our day to explore the grand city of Sydney. Stopped by The Australian Heritage Hotel for some Australian pizza. We ordered half kangaroo meat and half emu meat. I've had a Kangaroo burger in the past (in London) and remember it being quite juicy and delicious, but the kangaroo on the pizza was unexpectedly gamy, although the emu did taste flavorful and well.
We continued our tour through CBD, ate some dessert at Gelato Messina. I always do the same thing at any gelateria: sample like 4 flavors and end up getting nocciola (hazelnut). Gelato Messina is a popular (well-deservingly so) chain, with plenty in Sydney and Melbourne, both.
Inside QVB, a sign caught my attention: 40% off. I walked into the store, and just about everything inside was cute. I took a few more steps in and a wall of beautiful colours and patterns caught my attention; signature duffels with the store's logo on both sides, and perfectly sized to fit in an oversized bin. Of course I bought it, and I'm so happy I did. Apparently, the Country Road logo tote is a staple for Australian women. I ended up seeing a handful more at the airport, just like the retail associate said. Here's a link to the bag! I was able to find one photo I took of my bag for y'all to see. (:
Next we walked through the most popular sites, like the rocks, Circular Quay, Opera House, Botanical Gardens, etc. Of course I brought Hugo along with me!
Dinner was at a restaurant called Mappen (ramen/udon bar). You can choose your noodles, type of soup (they have both hot and cold), meat, and toppings. It was great for the price too. I got plain udon while Nancy got a fancy udon and hers was much better than mine haha.
Most of our day was spent at the Featherdale Wilderness Park. A wonderful place about 40 minutes northwest of central Sydney. Check my separate post on it here! Sneak peek: KOALAS AND KANGAROOS.
For dinner we went to this random pho place in Cabramatta. Some people told me Sydney was the place to eat Vietnamese food, but to be honest, it was just as good as the Bay. I didn't think it was phenomenally better, but again, I'm not a foodie so what do I know. The night ended with boba from Gong Cha because, it was right there in front of us so why not? :)
Brunch @ Three Williams in a lovely hipster neighbourhood. The wait was about 10-15 minutes for 2 as the place was awfully crowded. We ordered the Joe and the Spanish Omelette, photographed below. Both were really good. I probably preferred the omelette over the Joe from my recollection. However, I do regret not getting the Prawn Toast. It seems like their most famous dish on the menu and I failed to order it.
After brunch, we good Christian girls made our way to Hillsong (Waterloo campus). [If you want to know how it was, ask me in person.]
Post service became one of my favourite parts of my time in Australia: BONDI BEACH. Mind that I'm not much of a beach person, but Bondi was gorgeous and well worth the trip. The weather was expected to be cold and gloomy but for the 3 hours we were there: sun, wind, and perfection. And then as soon as we left the beach, rain. HAHA.
There were plenty of people on the sand sunbathing, playing volleyball, playing in the water, listening to music. It seemed like such a chill weekend activity! There's also a pool nearby called the Iceberg Pool that makes for a great photo juxtaposed to the beach, which I do not have. I compensate by showing you two photos I've taken and are quite proud to share. Ask me for more and you may regret the flood of photos I share (or not because this place is so freaking beautiful).
My flight was for the evening so I had a free morning of wandering alone. I dropped my bags off at the baggage storage inside Central station. It was about $15 for 2-3 hours?
Once that was all sorted, I brunched alone at Bills, a modern Australian restaurant. I ordered the Prawn Burger but immediately regretted it as soon as I got it. It was messy, not as good as I thought, and just not really my appetite. Those much wiser than me, ordered the ricotta pancakes. My reasoning for not ordering them was I ate brunch past noon, which is more like a lunch for me, plus the order looked huge and I wanted something smaller.
After brunch, I walked around Surrey Hills for about an hour. It would've been more but most of the stores were closed as I went on a Monday. I did get a chance to stop by and grab some goodies from Bourke Street Bakery. I got myself a pain au chocolat and a ginger brulee tart. The tart, pictured below, was freaking exquisite.
I wish my time in Surrey Hills was longer and that stores were opened. Lots of blogs and friends hyped it up saying it was the coolest hipster neighbourhood of Sydney, but I'll be sure to visit back!
the bottom line
All in all, my first trip to Sydney was a success and absolutely lovely all thanks to Nancy, who housed me, fed me, drove me, and entertained me. Also a huge shout out to her roommate Jess who was such a treat and who thoughtfully bought me Australian chocolate biscuits that I got to share with friends back home.
Thank you friends, and Sydney, for your hospitality, and I will be back!
Featherdale Wilderness Park is like a zoo in that it's a park with some animals in enclosures and some animals that are able to roam more freely. The location is about 45 minutes northwest out of Sydney, so you'd need to get there via car or tourist shuttle. It's a quite inconvenient getting there by public transit.
The entrance fee was $32 in Aussie dollars (discounts available for students, children, seniors). If you want a professional photo taken with a koala, it's $25 per session (they'll also take extra photos on your phone if you want them). The photos the park takes are printed instantly: 1 large photo + 2 smaller photos + digital copies online, so I felt like it was super worth it. Lastly, you can feed some of the animals (like kangaroos) by purchasing a cup of food for $2. We probably spent a totally of 2.5-3 hours there, which felt really worth it for us, especially most of the animals were Australian animals I'd never see otherwise.
For the Koala photos, I'd recommend checking in as soon as you get in the park since the queue can get long. We lucked out since there was no one in the queue when we got there.
They also have a gift shop for souvenirs. :)
which animals did you see?
Most of the exotic Australian animals you'd think of, I got to see: