Big Ol’ Family Trip

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So my mom, dad and brother came to visit in November. I was really excited to show them everything Australia had to offer, but as luck with have it, both mom and dad landed in Melbourne with a cold. >.>

Despite hacking coughs every hour, my parents were good sports and even went on a Sunset Tour with me to see the 12 Apostles. From being attacked by those darn Australian flies to almost missing the sunset on the sunset tour (blame the pizza place…), I had forgotten how hilarious it is to travel with each other.

After visiting Melbourne and Sydney, we all went to Hong Kong to attend my cousin’s wedding.

While we were there I took the opportunity to go back to Disneyland Hong Kong and show my brother how fun this Disneyland can be. I mean look at the fabulousness of it all.

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We also took a ferry to Macau. I had never been to Macau, but I heard it was basically the Vegas of China and it didn’t disappoint (sort of). From the outside it is pretty spectacular, but after you go in, you notice a big difference. The games were all exactly the same in EVERY casino, and there was definitely a lot less people gambling their life savings away. It was all just too new and too empty to be fun.

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I also found out that Macau has quite the split personality. On one hand, it has the glitz and glamour of Vegas in Cotai, but when you drive across the bridge in to actual Macau, you get hit with an old Chinese town with Portuguese influences! I also found out that my mom took a bus here from China when she was six (all by herself) to meet up with her grandma to live and go to school until her mom got her Hong Kong papers ready. It was really great to see how excited my mom was to see her old haunts. She took us to the exact spot where she met up with her grandma, the place they lived and where she went to school.

Macau, you hold a special place in my mom’s heart and now in mine as well. I would definitely come back to show my kids in the future.

 

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How to fly to Australia and visit a few of your favourite places in the world along the way

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So for the past month, I flew back to Calgary while Doran stayed in Melbourne since my leave of absence was over. Then I received an offer to work in Melbourne, so I resigned and spent the next 3 weeks preparing our condo for rental and packing everything to start a new career back in Australia. This is my step-by-step guide on how you can fly from Calgary to Melbourne and visit a few awesome places in between!

Step 1: To save money, book a standby flight back to Melbourne via two connections: one in Vancouver and another in Sydney. Remember to give yourself a few days just in case you don’t get on (eg. If you are supposed to start work Oct 5th, leave Sept 30).

Step 2: Have heartfelt goodbyes and start your journey to Vancouver.

Step 3: Find out that your flight to Sydney is somehow overbooked and there isn’t another flight until the next day. Show your standby ticket to the gate person and get scolded: “Absolutely not, no staff will fly on this flight.” Thank them without showing how devastated you are and head to the nearest hotel to rest while your boyfriend tries to figure out the answer to the question at hand: “Now what?”

Step 4: Flights from Vancouver to Sydney for the next few days look overbooked as well. New plan: Go from Vancouver to LA to Honolulu, then from Honolulu to Australia. Go to sleep and be happy that there is a plan.

Step 5: Arrive in LA and head over to the connecting flight to Honolulu in the domestic terminal in LAX. Meet a really nice Delta agent who comments on how fun you are by looking at your fun carry-on and bag tags.

Step 6: Don’t get on the Honolulu flight because it’s severely overbooked. You’re 44th on the standby line. That’s last place. Talk to the Delta help desk to see what you can do, only to find out the flight has been overbooked. Your checked luggage, however; somehow has a seat and has already been put on the plane to Honolulu.

Overbooked flights

Step 7: Run to the United Airline terminal to see if you can get on their flights.

Step 8: They are completely full for the day and overbooked too, so run to the American Airlines terminal to check there.

Step 9: Be sweaty and distraught while you go back to Delta to inquire about the extent of how overbooked everything is.

Step 10: Get lucky and find out someone cancelled their flight tomorrow morning to Honolulu. Pay for a confirmed ticket and be satisfied that you have a way to get to Honolulu. Thank the Delta agents for their help and sympathy.

Step 11: Things are looking up so why not get out of the airport (it’s 5pm) and go to Disneyland to lift your spirits?

Step 12: Rent a car and get stuck in LA traffic.

Kill me now.

Step 13: Drive up to a hotel in next to Disneyland so that you can stay as late as possible in the park. Talk to the hotel for rates and find out the park closes at 10pm tonight. It’s 8pm.

Step 14: Die a little inside and head to the only place that has Wi-Fi (McDonald’s) to lament your situation to your boyfriend on the phone and have dinner.

Step 15: Since all your toiletries are all in Honolulu already, head over to Walmart to buy some small travel stuff and an apple because dinner at McDonald’s is not filling.

Step 16: Have your Visa payment be declined at Walmart for the 15 dollar purchase. You’re already dead inside so this is nothing. Just ask to use the phone to call Visa.

Step 17: Visa has office hours? Apparently so, because they are closed. Head back to the Walmart cashier and say you don’t need those items anymore and head back to a Wi-Fi area (McDonald’s) to find a hotel.

Step 18: The cheapest hotel near the car rental place smells like marijuana, but be glad you have a place to sleep and collect call Visa again. Don’t forget about the LA traffic.

Step 19: Find out your card was fine and realise you could have used your Visa debit card. Again, no worries, you’re already dead inside.

Step 20: Wake up and head to Honolulu.

Step 21: Make the best of the situation and utilize the 18 hour layover in Honolulu to have a mini vacation. Reminisce about your last couple of times here. Eat an Acai Bowl, walk along the beach in Waikiki. Eat the best Japanese curry of all time (Coco Curry House) and enjoy your time at the Ala Moana mall.

Ahhhh, it's so nice to be back!

Ahhhh, it’s so nice to be back!

Yummy!!!

Yummy!!! (Acai Bowl)

Step 22: Wake up and head to the airport. Pray you get a seat from Honolulu to Melbourne.

Step 23: You have a seat and you’re on your way home, but just before you land, have the 10 hour flight be meal-less because apparently you have to pay extra for a meal. And be ignored by the flight attendants when the drinks cart rolls by. Watch other people eat.

Step 24: Arrive in Melbourne 16 hours before your first day of work on Oct 4.

Thanks Doran!!!

Thanks Doran!!!

Craft Time: Needle Felting

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So Doran and I tried the art of felting for the first time….

Needle Felting is the ancient art of sculpting with wool or acrylic fibers into objects by stabbing the fibers with a barbed needle to create a solid. For us, we decided to try to make a bear and penguin.

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You can get them at Daiso. They are $2.80 each here in Melbourne.

Once we opened the package, we began to wonder if we were in over our heads with this project.

IMG_5501How can we turn that into a bear and penguin??? It’s just sheets of colored wool.

So we start separating the fibers and stabbing the heck out of it… and one hour later we get:

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Our necks hurt from hunching over, so we decided to take a break and continue this another day.


On the second day and another hour, we get to this:

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Almost done!

 


 

Finally, after three hours (1 hour a day), countless amounts of stabbing and surprisingly only a few pricked fingers (Doran: 0, Eric: 3) we are done!

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Not exactly like the pictures on the package, but pretty good for our first time!

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Final thoughts:

  • Was it fun? – No, our necks hurt
  • Are you satisfied with the results? – Yes, they are supa adorable
  • Did you have fun doing it? – Not really. It’s too much work for such a tiny thing!
  • Would you do it again? – Never again

 

 

 

Tour Inception!

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This past July, I had the pleasure of becoming a Melbourne tour guide for two groups of friends that came to visit us. Within those two Melbourne tours (a la yours truly), we joined several other group tours as well! Tour Inception!!!!

It’s a general rule in the tour guide handbook that when you have friends over, you have to bring them into the city to see all the magic this metropolis has to offer. From walking through all the laneways and arcades to seeing the fairy penguins (within stealing distance) at St. Kilda, I was happy to be able to find enough things to do here for my friends and not be bored! My favourite part of the Eric Tours, and my friends can attest to this, is all the food and sweet treats that go with sightseeing. I’ve been here long enough to confidently say that I know a few good places to go eat. ESPECIALLY for sweet treats. I’ll have to leave that for another blog entry because for this entry, I want to talk about two awesome tours Doran and I did with our friends when they came over.

 

The Great Ocean Road Tour

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The beginning of the Great Ocean Road.

I’m a great tour guide. I got great reviews from my customers (read: friends), but our tour guide on this Great Ocean Road Day Tour got me beat. With well-curated music to go along with his educational banter, we were treated to stories about the great ocean road including: love stories, UFO sightings and shipwrecks!

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An obligatory shot of a Koala because every tour in Australia will (and should always) include one.

Once we arrived at the 12 Apostles, the main attraction on the Great Ocean Road, Doran and I decided to partake in a little helicopter ride to see all seven of them. Yes, there are only seven left because of erosion, so see them while they are still here!

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I would tell you more about these natural structures, but it seemed to me that the pilot forgot to plug in his mic or turn up the volume because while I enjoyed the view, I was also forced to lip read during the 10 min flight. Needless to say, I learned nothing.

The views were amazing here at the 12 Apostles, so here are a few pictures.

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Yes I took this picture.

 

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Amazing eh?

 

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And where would a tour be without a flood of Asians to get in your way…

 

The Great Barrier Reef

The highly anticipated attraction on my personal bucket list has finally been fulfilled!!! I have waited almost an entire year to see this natural wonder and I was not disappointed.

We joined up with our friends in Cairns to do zip lining in the Daintree Rainforest and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reefs, about 1.5 hours out from Cairns for both.

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We only got to two reefs, but I saw a lot of colorful fish and several sea turtles! Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef showed me what it was like to live under the sea. Why would you want to leave all of this for a land dweller? Listen to Sebastian, listen to your father, Ariel.

Doran

Doran

 

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Eric

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The waters were getting choppy by the end of the tour and I guess it’s a normal thing for seasoned boat riders, but coming back to shore was rough. All I can say is that I was glad to be back on land.

 

 

Boat crash with people thrown back and forth

 

 

 

“Live” Blogging: My First Degustation Experience

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So Doran made a reservation for his friend and I at Vue de Monde, one of Melbourne’s finest fine dining restaurants in the city. It was quite the experience and I shall try to blog our time there to the best of my abilities. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.

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6:25pm: We are 10 mins late for our reservation. (This is important because through out the week before, Vue de Monde called to confirm that we’ll be there at least 5 times. Apparently you are charged a lot of money to cancel or no show). Luckily Doran was on time and told the concierge that we were on our way.

6:26pm: We are told to go up the elevator to the 55th floor. The elevator is black with floor-to-ceiling white lights. I feel like I’m going to a top secret dance club.

6:27pm: The doors open and a lady greets us in a poorly lit welcome room (black seems to be the colour scheme of choice here) and she takes us to our table. But first we walk through a long corridor which also happens to serve as the chilled wine room. Pretentious factor: 50%.

6:30pm: They take our jackets and seat us at our table which was wrapped in leather, and decorated with a ring of stones and some beach wood on top of flat circular slates of stone. I think we are going to have a small campfire on the table.

Vue de Monde place setting

– We take in the wonderful evening Melbourne skyline views. It is quite spectacular.

– Our server, which closely resembles Edna Mode, comes and places cloth napkins on our laps with mini tongs and asks us if we have any allergies. She then takes the beach wood and uses them as utensil rests. Pretentious factor: 80%

– Our complimentary “snacks” arrive. First was a small bowl of salt and vinegar chips and some dip. After we finished that, three duck tongue skewers showed up, then three oysters on the half shell, then three strips of wallaby cured on a salt rock was gingerly rolled up and placed in front of us on 3 of those rocks on the table, and finally three mini rolls of smoked eel with white chocolate and caviar. It seems that the campfire setting was our dinner place setting.

Vue de Monde salt cured wallaby

 (Salt cured wallaby)

– Edna returns to ask us how many courses would we like to have for the evening (to my surprise, our dinner hasn’t even started). We have the option to have 5 to 10 courses. I wanted all ten, but common sense (ie. Doran) suggested we should go with seven.

– Without even seeing what’s on the menu, our first course arrives.

– Not knowing what will come next is quite the experience.

Vue de Monde late breakfast

(Duck Yolk, Pear, Truffle)

 – Between courses 2 and 3, our palate cleansers came as individual bowls of flowers. But wait. Here comes the rest of it. Liquid nitrogen is pour into the bowl and we each use our own pestle to personally grind the fresh flowers into a powder. This was our base for a lovely cucumber sorbet. AMAZING! Pretentious factor: 100%

– Course 4 came as what I can only describe as an uprooted plant placed upside down in a pot. It turns out that there were three artichokes in amongst the roots that have been plucked from the earth earlier that day, cleaned and cooked for us. So fresh! Pretentious factor: 500%

– A pre-dessert of 3 strawberry sorbet lollipops was a nice surprise. Pre-desserts should be a thing for all restaurants.

– Doran went to the washroom, but got lost in the maze of glass, mirrors and darkness. Pretentious factor: 800%

8:15pm: Our seventh and final course was a cheese plate. However, by this time our table was needed for the next reservation so Edna returned to escort us to the bar to finish the meal.

– The cheese plate arrived and it was large enough to feed 5 people. So as we lay on two chaise lounge chairs slowly picking away at our cheese platter, we discuss how this evening has been quite an experience. Every moment was a gem. Full to the brim with food and satisfaction, we ask for the bill.

– But before the bill, we were given after dinner treats. An assortment of candies that included: 3 bourbon jelly marshmallows, 3 pieces of crackling pork rinds, 3 salted caramel shells and 3 cherry ice cream balls.

Vue de Monde candies

– We pay and leave, but before we get into the elevator, another lady comes up to us with a surprise take-away bag. Inside was breakfast items that we were told to enjoy in the morning. Pretentious factor: infinity. Does the food ever stop?

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So that was our evening and as we waddle home each with a full belly, Doran mentions that the water was 9 dollars per person. Pretentious factor: infinity + 999

A Hop, Skip and a Jump

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We haven’t really talked about our Australian adventure in a long time, so let’s just jump right into it.

In February we went to Melbourne’s White Night festival (in Canada we call it Nuit Blanche… it sounds so fancy in french). It’s basically an evening of art, high def projections and music. There were a tonne of really neat things to see, but the highlight of the night for us was in the State Library of Victoria. Normally it looks like this:

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However during White Night, it turned into a magical place like this:

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You can see a magical video on my Instagram post. (Amazing right?)

Skip on over to March, Doran and I went to our first “meet up” with this group that apparently loves dumplings. The group was called “Kung fu dumplings”, but the meet up was at a Thai restaurant. We met some pretty interesting people, but we didn’t eat any dumplings. Despite Jinda Thai becoming our new favourite Thai place, I was disappointed that we didn’t even have any dumplings.

We then bought tickets to see Pitch Perfect at the Moonlight Cinema, but got rained out. Bought tickets to see Birdman at the Rooftop Cinema the week after, but got rained out. So we went to see Mean Girls the next day at the Moonlight Cinema and it was great.

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The lady in the blue blanket, in the picture, kept sitting up through out the movie. Why rent a bean bag chair, if you’re not going to lay on it. Her silhouette was also accented by bats flying overhead. I had a great time, but Doran just said that he’s “over it”, so I don’t think we’ll be doing this again in the near future. Outdoor cinemas, you get a 8.5/10.

And so this brings us to this past weekend. Our friends from Canada decided to do a massive vacation that started with a week in Sydney, then a cruise from Sydney to New Zealand to a bunch of Polynesian islands (like Bora Bora) then ending in Hawaii. Doran and I hopped on over to Syndey for the weekend to see them and have a mini vacation as well. We even joined them on a day tour of the Blue Mountains, which to me, was really more like the Blue Canyon.

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It’s beautiful, isn’t it. Apparently, the oils from the eucalyptus trees in the rainforest below scatter the light waves in such away that it gives a blue hue to the mountains. Hence the name: Blue Mountains.

And that pretty much gets you to today. Thanks for reading this big update!

We are going to go for another adventure mid April, so look for another update later this month!

(Oh and if you’re wondering how my drawings are going, here’s another collage.)

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Merry Christmas From the Land Down Under

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Our first Christmas in Oz and I think we can get used to this!

All the shops are closed today so walking outside was like walking around a ghost town. It seems that everyone is either at family functions or the beach. Since our family and friends are back in Canada, Doran and I went to the beach.

Sandringham Beach is a lovely secret oasis that we have grown to love. A short 20 min ride on the train and we are greeted by the Port Phillip Bay. Nerd Alert: Port Phillip Bay flows out to Bass Strait which is between the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean. So Melbourne doesn’t really touch the ocean.

This beach is currently my favourite because you can encounter so many cool sea life creatures in their natural habitat while getting a bangin’ tan.

First we saw all these clear jelly tubes that we thought were man-made, but are actually sea snail egg sacks! There was one every 10 steps.

Sea Snail Egg Sack

Then we saw clams right on the rocks during low tide.

Clams

Then I was brave enough to pick up an eight-legged sea star! Imagine that! Eight legs! Side note: notice how I protected myself with sand… don’t do this at home, kids!

Starfish

Then the coolest thing washed up on the shore…. A JELLYFISH! Some kid was poking at it with a stick. Another father gingerly touched it with his toes. I just took a picture of it. Then the tide came in and took it back. I hope it’s okay.

Jellyfish

Anyway, our Christmas day beach-day fun-day was a lovely experience. I can’t wait to come back to this beach as the days get even hotter!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Merry Christmas from Australia