Wednesday, 31 July 2013

My Favourite Perth and Perth Area Stuff to Do

I can't believe our time in Perth is already over. Perth is an absolutely beautiful, wonderful city. Steven and I spent a good 10 days in the city and the area, I could definitely imagine myself living there.

View from the Botanic Gardens in Kings Park

The city is built around Swan River, so you'll see a lot of names using the word "Swan" like names of coffee shops and stuff. It's basically the gateway city to the West (after all, it's in the state called Western Australia), so there are plenty of business people here for the mining industry. As such, you'll find the major hotel brands, plenty of shops, food, arts, etc. Like I've blogged about before, there are walkways built all down the river and around the parks, so walking, running and biking are all easy and beautiful.

So, I've decided to compile a list of some of Steven and my favourite Perth area things to do. This list really only covers our FAVOURITE things, so we're missing a ton of Perth City's attractions, restaurants and laneways. Spending 10 days in the area really didn't give us enough time to try out all the restaurants we wanted to, but here are my personal favourite experiences.

1. Margaret River Vineyards

I had some of the best food and experiences here in Margaret River. Some very famous and good vineyards are here in Margaret River, so if you're really into that stuff, this is the place to go!

It all started with our accomodation. It was literally perfect: Prideau's of Margaret River is right in the middle of town, luxurious, gorgeous, and relatively cheap! 

I had one of the most delicious breakfasts I've ever had at Margaret River Bakery: Feta and Avocado with Tomato salsa on toast.

We had an expensive fancy lunch at the oldest vineyard in Margaret River, Vasse Felix. The chips were so fresh and delicious. I didn't really like the wine, but that could have been because of the specific vintage we had with lunch.

The grounds, like all vineyards, are beautifully maintained. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day so we couldn't take a walk around the vines.

We did a guided tour of the amazing Jewel Cave a short drive south of Margaret River. I've never seen stalagmites or stalactites before, so learning about all of these plus the straws and curtains was really cool. Jewel Cave is completely dry, and has been since 1992, so there was no option to do a paddle tour, but other caves near by are still full of water. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to try one of those caves, but I think that would be really amazing.

I would definitely do Margaret River again. In fact, I would even stay for 2 nights or more to get in a surf at the nearby Prevally beach town, and explore more caves. Oh, and drink some more wine!

2. East Perth and Toast 

The best breakfast we have had in Australia by FAR was at Toast. I have never had such buttery hollondaise sauce and perfectly cooked eggs....mmmm..... butter....

The East Perth area is new and shiny and beautiful. They recently re-did this small man-made lake, bringing in cleaner waters and more wildlife. This is where we spotted the grey cormorant in the above photo drying his wings in the sun, and these black swans and their little babies. 

Steven's favourite bird is the Willy Wagtail. He literally perched over my shoulder and watched me eat breakfast. If birds could beg for breakfast, this one was doing a great job at it.

Breakfast and birds? Best way to start the day. :) 

3. Wave Rock and The Pinnacles

I've already blogged about The Pinnacles, but both it and Wave Rock really deserve to be on this list. They're both day-trip-distance from Perth, so 3 or 4 hours one way. We even took our sweet time to get snacks, gas, and breaks along the way. 

Out of the two, I'd have to say Wave Rock is cooler. There are a whole bunch of walks in and around the area, even up on top of the wave. If you venture a few kilometers up north, there's a lake and walks around there too. Unfortunately, we didn't plan to spend hours exploring Hyden (the name of the area), so we couldn't do much but take photos atop a big rock.

4. Fremantle, the Hollywood set

So many people have told Steven and I about the wonderful Fremantle, only a 20 minute train ride from central Perth. Unfortunately, we set our expectations too high and were a bit disappointed.

The town is full of old buildings, like the town hall and round house, but in the dead of winter on a weekday, the streets are bare and storefronts are empty. Against the beauty of the old buildings and streets, the emptiness of the town made it really feel like a creepy Hollywood set, like it was all fake.

A short walk away from the bustling Cappuccino Strip (which disappointed both of us with its food options...vegetarians always get the short end of the cuisine spectrum...), we explored the Fremantle Prison. I wish we had planned for more time to do one of these tours, but they're both pricey and lengthy. From what we learned from the public displays, this prison was built by and housed prisoners from England. There were great fires, escapes, and executions on these grounds. The underground tunnels are half-filled with water, so you can even paddle under the prisons and learn about all the escape attempts.

So there you have it: our favourite Perth area things to do! If you've ever been to Perth, what's your favourite experience there?

Monday, 22 July 2013

How to be a tourist while you're sick and unenthusiastic about everything

Today, Steven and I took a drive 2 hours north of Perth to Nambung National Park, to see the Pinnacles Desert.

 We had been looking forward to seeing this big tourist attraction on Western Australia since we first planned our trip. Out of the green brush, they literally just pop up out of desert. Weird, eerie, psychadelic. Like Stonehenge, but less planned and smaller in size. On our drive there, we even told our own Aboriginal stories for the Pinnacles that made little sense. (They're dead ancestors rising from the sand to slay those who have wronged them.... Maybe Game of Thrones is getting to our heads a little? WINTER IS COMING! OMG!)

We were entertained with these road signs as we drove towards the desert:

Emus crossing.

Kangaroos, emus and... wombats? Porcupines? I have no idea what that last one is.

Anyway, I was a REAL treat on this road trip, coughing and sneezing my brains out while poor Steven had to bear the entire drive. Often I'd fall in and out of sleep while he had to navigate and swerve to avoid kangaroo roadkill (Well, he didn't have to swerve, but we did see a dead kangaroo on the side of the road... sad).

While we hiked a measly little 100 meters, I complained all the way of how hungry and tired and thirsty I was. (I really was! We hadn't eaten since breakfast!). The real hike is something like 1.2 km, but I only barely made it out of the car park.

I was a big grouch until we got back to the car and on the road towards Eff Double O Dee. 

By the time we got back to Perth, both of us were horribly hungry in the worse way. I nearly lost my shit at the Japanese Donburi house because the idiot there didn't know how to package a to-go bag with a bowl AND a box. It was like watching a perfectly intelligent human try to put a square peg in a circular hole. 

Anyway, that was my day being a big ol' cranky, hungry bitch. Tomorrow, we bring the crank-show west! 

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Sick AGAIN! But Luckily there is Game of Thrones

Remember how I complained about how often I keep getting sick this year?

Well, here we go again. Coughing, sneezing, bones aching, head pounding, feverish and sluggish. My body is a wasteland.

All day yesterday, the only things I could stomach were apples and oatmeal.

Luckily, our Airbnb here in Perth has an excellent movie and TV show collection, so Steven and I hunkered down and tackled the first season of Game of Thrones.

Last night, I had Game of Thrones dreams all night, and woke up surprisingly refreshed considering all the head-lopping and horse-riding I did in my sleep. I'm no longer bone-achy, so I'm going to take that to mean the fever is gone. Today, Steven and I venture out into greater Perth for more tourist fun!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Running along Perth's Swan River and Heirisson Island

Today was a beautiful day in Perth.

Steven and I did our tourist thing, which I will post more about later, and then went home around 3 for a break. I took that break to get my run in along Perth's beautiful Swan River, where we are told there are heaps of dolphins (but we've not spotted any yet!).

The riverside esplanade is a busy, paved bike, walk and run path that basically follows the river all along its shoreline. I ran towards Heirisson Island because I read in one of our tour books that there is a colony of wild grey kangaroos living there.

Yes.... KANGAROOS in the city!

It was easy enough to find it, but when I got there, I was stopped by this fence:

As I was moving along at a pretty good clip, I didn't want any kangaroos to come at me with both feet and knock me over. That would majorly ruin my perception of cute little kangaroos hopping around harmlessly. Plus, it would MAJORLY ruin my run. Anyway, so I didn't enter the kangaroo gated areas and took my run back to the riverside.

The Swan River path is basically a flat, straight line. No hills, no detours, no woody trails.

In short, absolutely NOTHING like the hilly, bushy terrain of North Sydney that I'm used to.

My splits were surprisingly fast:

I usually cover the same distance, up and down hills, in 45 or 50 minutes in North Sydney. While it was amazing to see the speed I could get on a flat road, I also got kind of bored of the scenery after the first 10 minutes. I haven't realized how lucky I was in Sydney to have the challenge of hills and the changes in landscape (residential roads to bush). I guess I've been spoiled by the trails.

Anyway, there are still plenty of areas in Perth I'd love to run. For instance, the biggest city park (bigger than Central Park in New York) is King's Park on the west side of the Central Business District. I'm sure it's a great running zone, so hopefully I'll be able to see it soon.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Arriving in Perth, Australia

It's been a long week, Blogger World. I finally made it through my last week of work, training my replacements (yes, my job is so important I've trained 2 people to do it), packing, and moving all our 7 months of Sydney living into 3 big luggages and 2 backpacks.

If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll know that Steven and I have wrapped up our working lives in Sydney and will be spending the next few months traveling and exploring Australia and Asia. This last week at work has been an emotional doozy. I guess I was pretty well-regarded and appreciated in my job, as I got a farewell dinner, a beautiful card, and the well wishes from all my co-workers and my employer. Farewells and "last time to do ---"s always make me emotional.

Like this: One of my last morning commutes over the Sydney Harbour Bridge with the opera house down below: (sigh)

My boss even took me out for one last lunch at Aboutlife, which is a popular health food shop in Bondi Junction. Like a true adult, I had this "healthy" tiramisu for my lunch. Made of nuts, cacao and all sorts of other healthy stuff, I was STUFFED by the time I scraped the bottom of the cup. Nuts and seeds are filling, guys, but not a true tiramisu do they make. Nothing can replace the soft, fluffy cream and cake of a true tiramisu.

On my last day, I left work a few hours early, confident that my replacement could handle everything, and went home to pack.

It is a LOT of work sorting through the items that would come with me for my 3 week trek through Australia, and the items that would stay in the luggage in Sydney, awaiting our onward journey to Asia. Especially since I had worked all the way up until the day before we would leave, there were a lot of things to be thrown away, donated, or wrapped up.

I finally filtered all the stuff that I didn't need from stuff that was really necessary and got this:

This is the backpack that I would be carrying for the next 3 weeks in Australia... I hope it's enough!

This morning, Steven and I got up at 3:30 AM to get to the airport for 6 AM. After an extremely smooth check-in, we boarded the plane. I took a Travelcalm (for motion sickness) "non-drowsy" and fell asleep immediately. The motion sickness drugs always make me feel like I'm weak and jello-y, and I never really knew why. The pharmacist this time explained it to me in a face-palm, obvious kind of way: Motion sickness drugs are muscle relaxants. Like DUH. No wonder I would feel jello-y, HELLO Bachelors in Science, I'm an idiot.

Before we knew it, we had arrived in Perth.

Let the Western Australia adventure begin!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

More Last Things in Sydney

These last days at work, I've been busy training my replacement(s) to do my job and wrapping projects up with the practitioners in clinic. Surprisingly, I didn't have to work past regular hours any time yet this week (fingers crossed!). Today, I even got off early.

Since I didn't have time for my usual Wednesday trail run, I made the most of my early afternoon to pay one last visit to our neighbourhood gym, Crunch.

I got in a quick 40-minute run:

It was hard. I tried to read some blogs on my phone as I warmed up, but it was too jarring for my eyes with the bouncing and all. How do others do it? Doesn't it hurt your eyes to read while you run? What's the secret I'm missing here?

This was the best part of my day, by far:

I got this card from my employer, a naturopath with a love for travel. She and I had been working on a number of projects during the time I was with her. Even though she had told me repeatedly how much she appreciates the work I put in, she still got me this cute little card. Simple things like these make leaving both awesome and hard. I remember my first real-person job; teaching English in a small suburb in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. My students (oh my heart) put together a huge "Passport" full of notes and hand-made cards and pictures of how much they enjoyed my classes and how much they'd miss me.... *tear*

And this isn't even my REAL last day yet...

Sunday, 7 July 2013

My Last Week of Work

Next week, Steven and I are leaving Sydney to embark on a 3-week long trip to Perth, Adelaide, Uluru and the small opal mining town of Coober Pedy.

That means this is our last week of living and working in Sydney. 

I will miss my job SO much!
I know that this is probably weird for most people. My job was possibly one of my favourite parts of my time here. 
I learned a lot and developed a huge appreciation for naturopathic medicine. I have also begun to really think about what i want to do when i return to Toronto in terms of a real adult person career and direction. 

I am going to miss the people in my office so much! And i am so grateful for all the opportunities they have given me. At the same time, I am excited to get home and put all of my plans for the future into action. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

My Last Yoga Class and Ugh, I Washed My Shoes

Yesterday, was my last day as a yoga teacher in Sydney. I boarded the 6:15 train to the city, and was delighted to see the sunrise--the first time after days and days of endless rain.

It was a 7 AM Ashtanga class that went quite well. After class, I did my own practice in the beautiful city studio and then made my way home to start my day with Steven.

Steven took the day off work so we had planned to get our tourist jeans on and explore the city.

Our tourist jeans look a lot like our new skinny jeans by the way.

We took the bus to a quaint nearby neighbourhood called Neutral Bay. It has a small town feel on a heavily trafficked road. We had a morning coffee in the sunshine (oh how we have missed you, dear sunshine).

We strolled along Military Road to Mossman, a larger suburb in North Sydney. Boy, is Mossman ever POSH. Lining the streets were little boutique fashion stores, coffee shops, furniture stores, etc. Soccer moms pushing baby carriages walked along these streets as Porches drove by. And I'm NOT EVEN JOKING. All we needed were some Desperate Housewives running naked down the residential streets.

We found a busy little lane-way off the main strip, and decided to have lunch here. The restaurant is called The Mews, and was actually a bit disappointing. 

Most of the meals were pre-made in the display cabinets, which would be OK, except they didn't even heat my vegetarian lasagne through. It was so heavy and filling that I felt overly stuffed afterwards. Though The Mews is a beautifully presented restaurant, I was quite disappointed with its food.

We did a bit more wandering around the extremely beautiful Mossman area (some of the houses literally looked like CASTLES). Then, we hit up the Chatswood shopping mall to look for new shoes for me. After my beautiful hike on Monday, I was seriously considering scrapping my shoes completely and getting some new kicks. Unfortunately, the shopping malls really couldn't offer me anything I liked enough. 

So when I got home, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. 

Do you ever get that feeling of satisfaction when you suck every last bit of use out of something? The smug righteousness that happens when you've used these things really properly and well? Like you've wrung out every lasting ounce of value from a product, and you therefore win? Well, I'm clearly winning with these shoes.

I've had these Nikes for over 3 years now. They've journeyed with me to several countries, often multiple times, and hiked and walked and ran so many miles I can't even begin to estimate. These puppies sitting out in the sun now, and I'm excited to bring them back on the road.

You and me, babe, we'll go far.

A Sydney Harbour Walk - Spit Bridge to Manly

After 2, 000, 000 days of rain, the Sydney-ers came out on Monday for the first day of full sunshine.

I had big plans for the day--an ambitious 10K walk from Spit Bridge to Manly. I thought I had prepared adequately, a baggie of cut up apple, a hat, my new "Walking Sydney" book (I left the Coastal Walks book at my later regret).

I took a bus from our house to Spit Bridge, which is probably the easiest bus ride to anywhere you can take because you literally look out the window until you get to a bridge...and then you get off --> HURRAY!

Spit Bridge is nothing much to look at (it's actually pretty ugly):

The walk starts under the bridge in a little parkette. Almost immediately, you are plunged into a quiet rainforest, which is actually only 5 minutes from the busy roadway and about 500 feet away from private residences. It was so quiet and jungle-like-- I was in HEAVEN!

Like a lot of Sydney's harbour walks, there are bits of beaches and little bays full of boats all along the way...which is what harbours are all about I guess.

However, my favourite parts were always the jungle trails. I LOVE LOVE LOVE ROMPING THROUGH THE JUNGLE! It's not only a great workout (hopping stone to stone, avoiding puddles, leaping, etc.), but the air is densely green-smelling and refreshing.


Some bright algae growth on the rock walls.

There are 2 detours along this route to go inland if tides are high enough to wash out the trail. My guidebook didn't tell me anything about this, but it is very easy to get back on the right track. Just follow the "MSW" signs - Manly Spit Walk. In fact, this is one of the BEST marked city trails I've been on (Ok, but I haven't really been on so many).

I took a little detour off the main route to Manly to see Grotto Point. My book didn't say very much about Grotto Point, except indicate a lighthouse at the very end of the walk. The map it provided was essentially useless, GPS on my phone was useless, so I was left to my own devices. Luckily, some kind hikers had hand-written "GROTTO PT" on one of the many blue guideposts.

I could definitely see why the government doesn't want you to go this way.


Plus, you can't actually explore the lighthouse area because of unstable cliff edges.

By the time I climbed back up to the main trail, I was REALLY hungry. I was only about 4km into this 10K walk, so I devoured my apple, drank some water and tried to ignore my stomach.

Luckily, there were the Grotto Point Engravings to entertain me. These are Aboriginal engravings into rock.



After all that climbing, the trail finally leveled off. For all my hard, muddy work this view was an AMAZING reward:

However, I still had more than 5K to go, so I snapped a pic, tightened my muddy laces, and set off.

The bush trail eventually ended at a tiny secluded beach, where I emerged from the trees looking like a jungle queen and possibly scaring the little kiddies and their parents sun bathing. But then again, maybe these Australians are used to it, and that's why they just ignored me.

The trail continued as a paved walk-way all the way to Manly.

By the way, did you know that Manly beach is home to the Little Penguin?

I was RAVENOUS by the time I got to Manly. I ordered a mint-orange juice and a veggie pita sandwich. I was so hungry I devoured it within seconds. My feet were muddy and cold, so I boarded the first bus home and went headfirst into a hot shower. My feet stank SO BAD after 3 hours in wet and muddy shoes that I had to scrub my feet like 5 times to get the mud out.

All my walking books have called this walk one of the "best" urban walks in Sydney. In my humble opinion, YES YES YES YES YES! Most of the walk is in pure jungle, which is my absolute favourite, with short breaks into beach/residential areas. It is separated from the pollution of main roadways, and extremely popular with walkers, runners, hikers, families and tourists. It is clearly marked, well maintained, and easy to follow.

The only thing I would do differently is bring a snack, like a granola bar, and a change of socks for wet feet (or purchase some waterproof hiking boots, but those are $$$. Ain't nobody got time for that).

Go get your MSW hike on. It is AWESOME.