Wohhhh…..It’s All So Beautiful!!!!!

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I’m just going to put it out there now, before I say anything else, to get it out of the way. The south island of New Zealand is totally like a mini Canada. Seriously. It totally reminds me of home. There. Done.

This November, Doran and I joined two of our friends on a trip to New Zealand. It was our first time using a travel agent (I think her name was Suzie) to help book everything for us, and boy did she deliver!

 

Nelson

Our first stop was Nelson. This small town is where we got to see the Centre of New Zealand and the Museum of Wearable Art (which included a car museum). Honestly, there wasn’t much here, but Suzie did hook us up with a cute little hotel that looked like a Bavarian Cottage.

 

After a day of exploring this town, we embarked on our adventure down the number six highway. Next stop, Greymouth, but first a quick pit stop at the pancake rocks at Punakaiki.

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I have no idea how these rocks formed, but it was so cool to see these structures jutting out of the beach. At certain times, you are able to see water shooting out of blowholes. We missed seeing that, but here’s my artist rendition.

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Wow! AMAZING!!!

Greymouth

Gurl, Suzie, you were doing so well. I understand this was an “overnight” stop, but there is nothing here. Nothing.

Franz Josef Glacier

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This is a popular scenic location (even the Contiki kids party through this place) were you have an opportunity to get up close and personal to one of the glaciers that carved this country. Heli-hikes are a fun option to try, but occasionally low clouds (as seen in the picture above) cancel that tour. Therefore, all you can do is the guided hike on solid ground. Doran and I went on this hike and was shown a Jurassic era temperate rainforest, edible plants, waterfalls, cool layered rocks and of course the Franz Josef Glacier. Geologist’s heaven.

 

Curly Tree and Wanaka

These two locations had the most memorable food stops of our trip.
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The Curly Tree Whitebait Company is one of the more well known locations where you can have whitebait patties.

Pro tip: This is just a place for a snack. You may think you can come here for lunch, but be forewarned, you can’t. Whitebait patties are all they make, nothing more.

 

 

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When you are in Wanaka, I highly recommend you go to KIKA. This tapas restaurant has such delicious food, you can totally over eat. How can you not when your food looks and sounds so amazing. Look at the lamb on the bottom right. YUM!

 

Queenstown

It seems that Suzie saved the best for last. From it’s famous film and tv locations to a shockingly popular burger joint (Fergburger), this small town and area has a lot to offer. Before we get to the most famous part of the south island, let’s first appreciate the hotel Suzie hooked us up with. This place was bigger and nicer than my apartment! Thanks Suzie.

I had always thought Milford Sound was a mountain. To my surprise, a sound is not only a noise, but also “a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a fjord; or a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land (see also strait)”. Again geologist’s heaven.

Stunning. Just Stunning.

As you all know, the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed here and on Dart River Jet tour, we got to be right where the action happened. We also flew across the river at about 90km/hr.

And with that exhilarating ride, our trip came to an end! New Zealand, you are sure beautiful. The following are just more pictures for your enjoyment.

 

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Italy – Part 3: When in Rome…

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Read Part 1

Read Part 2

After filling up with watermelon gelato (the best flavour of all time), Doran and I sped off to Pisa. Our research indicated that Pisa didn’t have much else to see other than it’s famous tower, so we decided to put aside three hours of our journey between La Spezia and Florence to see it.

So here it is, being chummy with Doran.

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Obviously doing the hands up pose was too cliche. Therefore, I instructed Doran to do this. Genius work, if I do say so my-self.

After spending 1 hour taking hilarious pictures of other people doing the “hands up” pose with the tower, Doran and I got bored. There was nothing else to do. I even helped an elderly Italian lady walk to a gelato store. True story. We walked by her on the way to the train station and she just grab my arm and told me to walk with her.

Then we were off to Florence.

This place is amazing. It’s such a different vibe from all the places we’ve been to in Italy. Its got a small town feeling but large city infrastructure (including terrible public transportation… they changed bus routes on us without a map showing where the changes were… we literally ended up staying on a bus for the WHOLE loop). But I digress. This place is beautiful.

Our favourite vegetarian restaurant in Italy is in Florence. Brac is half bookstore and half vegetarian restaurant. The food was amazing and after eating so much gelato and pasta, it was a nice change of pace for us.

Other than being such a scenic place (even DNCE enjoyed the views… their security guard didn’t even let me take a picture with them. He lied by telling me to wait one second only to find Joe Jonas walking away toward their car… cock blocked by security…), Florence houses the original statue of David.

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Look at how perfect this statue is. I was blown away by how huge it was! (That what she said…)

Similar to Venice, there are so many small lane ways and alleys to explore. There is always something cool to see or eat.

After two short days in Florence, it was time to head to Rome. I had high expectations of this city and it didn’t disappoint. There is so much history in Rome, I can’t even understand how buildings that we can touch and walk into are thousands of years old. Everywhere you turn something has been hanging around for many years. It’s a shame that when Christianity rolled in, many pieces got destroyed or defaced.

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Why cut off all the heads?!?! I mean… Come on!!!

Our first major tourist thing was a bike tour around Rome. This is a great way to get all the top tourist spots out of the way first, which then allowed us to enjoy all the other things Rome had to offer.

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One memorable moment in Rome was when Doran and I watched Carmen at the Baths of Caracalla. It was quite special to see a classic opera under the night sky in an area built around 212 AD.

Another memorable moment while we were in Rome was a visit Vatican City. I found the option to have breakfast at the Vatican Museum during my research and took the opportunity to get early bird access so that Doran and I could see the Sistine Chapel with the least amount of people. We had to be there at 7am, but it was totally worth it. We basically had the whole museum to ourselves for the first hour!

It even turned out that His Holiness, Pope Francis, was there that day giving his blessings. So, I basically had breakfast with the Pope.

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He’s up on the steps. Trust me, he’s there.

As for the food in Rome? It didn’t disappoint. We found an awesome truffle place that sold truffle dishes (black and white) for under 28 Euros! Osteria Barberini and a tiny gem tucked away in one of Rome’s many little roads. Definitely make a reservation if you plan to go.

 

And THAT was our trip to Italy. This was just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, how amazing was this adventure to a whole new country we never been before! We would definitely return to Italy in the future.

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I can’t believe I actually flew completely around the world this trip!!!

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.

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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

 

 

 

The Flies and the Jam

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So last month Doran, his friend and I spent four days in Uluru (Ayers Rock) and three days in Hobart, Tasmania. Here are some of the things we learned.

Ayers Rock Resort

Uluru

  • It’s hot, like 40 degrees hot
  • Buy a fly net because you will go insane trying to swat them away from your face if you don’t have one. Apparently they think your eyes and nose are pools of water, so since we are in the outback desert, it’s like an oasis for them
  • Although you can just tilt your head up anywhere at night to see stars, the Sounds of Silence evening dinner is the best place to see the stars and the Milky Way (plus the resident astronomer who tells you about the constellations uses a laser pointer which is so strong that he had to register it as a weapon)
  • The flies go away when the sun sets
  • Be prepared to wake up at 4am every day to see the sunrise, because that’s all there really is to do

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  • All tours involve the sunrise, the sunset or both
  • THE FLIES!!!!
  • The camel rides are a super fun way to see the sunrise, some of the camels are really adorable

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  • OH LORD, THE FLIES ARE EVERYWHERE!!!
  • Oh yeah, the Uluru and Kata Tjuta rock formations are cool to see as well

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Hobart (and Bruny Island)

  • It gets cold in the winter! Apparently, it can even snow. Especially on Mount Wellington.
  • Modern art has arrived in Hobart. It comes in the form of 77 porcelain vagina casts and a fat Porsche, which can be seen at the MONA museum (see pictures below).

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  • This new and crazy art has drawn a lot more tourists to Hobart and I’m glad I came
  • If you’re ever here, we highly recommend a Bruny Island food tour.
  • Scones and raspberry jam are to die for. Seriously, that jam was something else.

Hot House Cafe Bruny Island

(Hot House Cafe, you win at life)

  • Tasmania reminds me of the Maritimes. Just look at the views!

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  • The winds at the peak of Mt. Wellington are so strong (up to 200 km/hr), we thought we would have been blown away if it weren’t for the metal railings.
  • The forest smells like the spa because of all the eucalyptus trees.

So, there you have it! Australia, you’re amazing!