What I ate – New York

New York has such a broad array of cultures and it shows through all the food options.

Below is my list of What I ate and also some places I still want to try.

 

Nolita

Lombardi Pizza32 Spring St

Lombardi Pizza is one of the oldest pizza joints in NYC. Coal-fired and thin crust goodness that uses the freshiest and best ingredients.

 

Café Habana – 17 Prince St

Cafe Habana is very tiny establishment with so much character. 3 people in total – We sat by the front window and ordered ourselves 2 orders of the Mexican Corn, a Cuban and a Chicken Diablo sandwich. The corn comes with 2 per order so I took one for the team and ate 2. All the food was fresh and flavourful and we ate every single morsel off the plates. The corn alone is enough to make you want to come back for more.

Lower East Side

Katz Delicatessen205 E Houston St

Cash Only Deli.

Donut Plant379 Grand St

Hand crafted donuts made with interesting flavor pairings.

 

Midtown 

Cafe Zaiya – 18 E 41st St

Great place for lunch if you are craving sushi, bento and other affordable Japanese sweets like red bean buns in the bakery.

 

Ippudo65 Fourth Avenue – 1 other location

High quality ramen that usually has a line out the door.

Bryant Park Grill – 25 West 40th St

This restaurant is located within Bryant Park and hidden gem behind the New York Public Library. It is a great place to people watching. Bryant Park Grill is a American, European steakhouse. It is a little pricey but the food is delicious. I chose the clam chowder to start and for my main I chose the Kumquat Grand Marnier Duck breast with confit leg. it was absolutely mouth watering and ended off the meal with a sweet and savory crepe filled with apple and ricotta cheese.

Little Italy / Chinatown

Ferrara Bakery & Cafe195 Grand St

This institution has been around since 1892 and serves up some great gelato and famous for their cannolis and other wonderful Italian pastries.

 

Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich369 Broome St

Highly rated as the best Banh mi. What makes it even better; it is under $5USD – Cash Only.

 

Red Egg – 202 Centre St

Excellent quality Chinese cuisine with a contemporary take on dim sum. The Peking Duck sliders are highly recommended.

 

JJ Noodles – 19 Henry St

Chinese cuisine made using fresh ingredients before your eyes where you can get a plate of BBQ Pork or a noodle in soup that is the most satisfying anytime of day. The wonton noodle soup hits the spot.

 

Xian’s Famous Food67 Bayard St

Homemade pulled noodles and Chinese cuisine made Xian-style. This is a place to go when you want something spicy.

 

North Dumpling27A – Essex St.

North Dumpling is literally a hole in the wall but they sure pump out some delicious and cheap dumplings. Whether you are craving fried or steamed – the filling options include pork & chives to vegetable. What’s even better is that you can get 10 dumplings for under $2USD! You heard right. You can see they are being freshly made over the counter as a team of ladies are making magic with their hands. The sesame and scallion pancakes are also delicious items to add to your meal and for all the food, you won’t break your wallet.

East Village

Baohaus238 E 14th St

Taiwanese steamed buns

Momofuku Noodle Bar – 171 1st Avenue

A staple ramen spot in the East Village that also offers a roster of dishes such as fried chicken meal. The Noodle Bar also serves slushies and soft serve. They have been quite successful that they have expanded into multiple locations such as Ssäm Bar, Ko, Ma Peche, Fuku and Nishi to name a few. They have even expanded up north to Toronto.

 

The Halal Guys10-02 34th Avenue

Middle Eastern food. They are wildly known for their Halal Guys cart which serves huge portions at killer prices.

 

Greenwich Village

Piadina – 57 W 10th Street

Piadina serves up rustic Italian fare in a very intimate setting lined with brick walls. Dinner service is run by candlelight making it the perfect date night spot.

Nomad / Midtown / K-Town / Kips Bay 

Brasserie Les Halles411 Park Ave S

Brasserie Les Halles serves up classics using French techinques. They are known for their escargots and their steak frites for only $22USD. This restaurant is the origin of where Anthony Bourdain once started. Reservations are highly recommended.

 

Shake Shack – Madison Ave & E.23rd & multiple locations

East coast version of In-N-Out. Fast food chain that serves up burgers & frozen custard. Multiple locations around and yes there are lines. When it gets busy, they give you a buzzer to let you know when your order is ready. The Peanut butter shake is my GOTO and I have it every chance I get.

Trader Joes – 675 Ave of the Americas

I found this treasure when I lived in Los Angeles. This is the best grocery store for anyone who wants good quality items for reasonable prices including organic and all natural ingredients. It is a College kids dream or anyone on a budget type of grocery store similar to Whole Foods.

 

Yaki Taisho5 St Marks Pl #8

Yaki Taisho is an Izakaya located in the heart of St Marks Place – Between 3 people, we ordered Takoyaki (this was just right), grilled squid, a set of skewers, Unagi roll and the Duck sashimi paired with a delicious plum sake.

Kyochan319 5th Ave

Zesty wings are the signature, but all chicken dishes at this quick Korean stop are uniquely spiced.

 

Woorijip12 W 32nd St

Popular, no-frills staple with buffet-style hot & cold dishes plus prepared foods for a quick lunch.

Overview – New Zealand 2010

Did you know New Zealand is the first country to see the new day.

-Kiwis are flightless birds that have bad hearing and eyesight

My observations of New Zealand:

-GPS is your best friend, carry a torch (flashlight), start your day early and enjoy the scenery!

-It’s hard to find non-carbonated here besides water

-New Zealand has a lot of Koreans

-driving on the right side is so weird and nervewracking

-Very laidback here

 

Auckland

-City but doesn’t feel as city-like as Sydney or Melbourne

 

Rotorua & surrounding

-Smells like eggs – due to all the sulphur and geo thermal gases

-all about outdoor activities

-Driving to different cities isn’t too bad – Waitomo, Taupo, Taraunga – all within 1-3 hours from Rotorua.

-adventure and nature everything

-Tongariro National Park is my all time favourite place and I wish we had more time to actually get further immersed… Next time…

Overview – Australia 2010

8_RWU6752

Apparently, Qantas and Air Canada have some sort of agreement where you can connect with one another allowing our checked baggage to transit through to our next flight although they are not connecting flights in one ticket purchase.

My observations of Australia:

-Cairns is pronounced “caines”

-Brisbane is prounounced “brisbeen”

-Melbourne is pronounced “melbin”

-Shell gas station is called Coles here

-Sportsgirl is like Zara but less variety and more expensive

-Woolsworth is the main supermarket chain here

-It’s weird but no matter what eye colour or hair colour the parents, majority of the kids, babies I’ve seen here are blond hair, blue-eyed

-Tons of tall people everywhere

-Ugg boots are ugly anywhere; what’s worse, a guy sporting ankle high ugg boots with shorts

-There are 8 digits for landlines and 10 digits for mobile in Australia while in New Zealand there are no area codes and only 7 digits

-The ambulance doesn’t have backwards letter to see forwards in mirrors; they spell things differently as in cheep instead of cheap, yoghurt instead of yogurt and tyres instead of tires

-Different laws for parameters of a koala depending on state – the more north – Cairns – you are allowed to carry a koala (they are much smaller); Melbourne – you must stay 10 meters away at all times – touch a koala and get fined and potentially injured

-They use tons of roundabouts instead of traffic lights

-They paint LOOK on the ground before crossing the street for safety

 

Sydney

– Sydney reminds me of Toronto but has a better balance of city / nature.

-There is a huge population of Cantonese speaking people in Sydney & Melbourne.

-When people speak cantonese, they lose their accent (sound like normal canto I hear back home and on television) but once they start speaking in english – aussie accent. Not all the time though (I have heard someone with a really thick aussie accent speaking canto and it was interesting)

-Very easy to get around using public transit.

 

Cairns

-Huge population of Japanese in Cairns

-Cairns is tropical and HUMID

-O Zone layer is very thin – Apply and re-apply sunscreen

 

Melbourne

-Melbourne looks like downtown Toronto

-Melbourne also experiences all 4 seasons in the span of 1 day

-Free inter-city tram

-Federation Square – FREE WIFI!

 

 

 

  • – I could picture myself living in Australia one day

 

 

 

Waitomo, New Zealand 2010 – Day 18 & 19

05/12-13/10

So it turns out I hurt my foot surfing yesterday. I feel like the over use of landed on my toes from Badminton and volleyball has caught up to me especially banging it on a board barefoot for a hour.

We woke up, packed and was out the door by 745AM to drive down south 30 minutes or so arrive at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park (201 Waiotapu Loop Rd, Rotorua 3073, New Zealand) (32.50NZD). Our schedule was pretty tight if we wanted to fit in all we wanted to do before driving back to Auckland to catch our flight out.

The park opened at 830AM and started walking through around 9AM.  The park has 25 different thermal pools – all different. It was pretty cool with a variety of natural colours with bubbling and gargling. Of course, it stenched of sulphur. My favourite without a doubt was the Champagne Pool. It is enormous, and all you can see from a distance is steam but up close there is a outstanding orange/red colour with blue/ green water. There was also a naturally highlighted green pool of water. We walked the park for a good 1-2 hours. The Lady Knox geyser erupts everyday at 1015AM but since we needed to drive 2 hours west to get to Waitomo for our cave tour/trip we left early.

It rained today and I had to drive in it on some crazy roads. I tell you, I’d take Toronto roads any day – less curves. After 2 hours of driving, we arrived at Waitomo just in time for our tour and 5 minutes to grab some lunch. The first cave we went to was Ruaruki Cave also known as the Den of the Dogs – The Maori people named this area after the animals they found there. Our guide Lucas was actually apart of the design process behind this 4.2 million dollar creation. It features a huge cylinder that you walk down into another section that is very James Bond like and then he leads you along the cave. This cave is 100% wheelchair accessible as well and without knowing it, you walk 2KM. He also explained glowworms and showed them to us. The glowworms are actually larvae or maggot stage of a fly and the glow is the mixture of enzymes and their excretions – yup its a fecal matter mixture. The fly only lives for about a week and then reproduces hundreds of eggs at a time. Much like a spider, they glowworm drop up to 20 lines of webs to catch their food.

We then drove out to Arnaui Caves which is a smaller cave but nonetheless has the best view. Sadly, it was just Andrew and myself for the second cave and our guide Christian who thought we we’re “together”… But since it was just us 2 and the guide, we talked and sorted things out. At least today is the last day for that to happen… problems travelling with a sibling of a different gender eh. This cave was discovered later than the other two by a farmer who was chasing a wild pig that ended up in that undiscovered cave. There aren’t any glowworms in this cave as there are no rivers running through and an earthquake shut out the main source of water that helped create the formations.

Our last cave for the day was the glowworms cave – Waitomo Caves and let me tell you, our group was small but a mighty good time. There were 3 from England – Charlie, Ben and cannot recall the lady’s name. They had arrived 2 days ago in New Zealand and take the blame for bringing the wet weather. They had previously visited the caves in the 70’s or 80’s. They might of been a older bunch, but they were great for laughs. We were also joined by another Canadian! This time from Saskatoon but since people have no idea of anywhere in Canada besides Vancouver or Toronto, she tells people Toronto. In this cave in particular no photography is allowed so we left out cameras behind. My favourite formation in the cave was one that looked like a kiwi doing a bungee jump. The boat ride was spectacular and felt very Alice in Wonderland-like as you sailed on. The guide would show us the glowworms and then shine a light on them showing their true form which make them less mystical.  I wish brought my camera anyways because at the end, we went lower into the river where the caverns were first discovered. The sight of a thousand glowworms lighting up the ceiling was an amazing sight to be seen.

We finished the caves and back on the road by 455PM. Drove into Auckland by 7-715PM and are basically staying in the airport until check-in. Our flight is at 7AM. It is now 215AM and there are sleeping bags and people sprawled all over the place. I didn’t sleep. The check in desks opened around 4AM and we checked in. Got on the plane by 630AM and flew over to Sydney by 925AM (NZ time). We gain 2 hours flying back to Sydney (725AM AUS). Since we don’t have a re-entry visa for Australia we cannot leave the airport to have a final dinner with uncle Ronald and auntie Maisie but instead, we landed in Sydney and were trapped in the international terminal awaiting our flight to connect to back home. I barely slept on the flight from Sydney To Vancouver – 15 & half hours. 4 hours more in the air and finally arrive back in Toronto.

Tauranga, New Zealand 2010 – Day 17

05/11/10

At our hostel the day before, we had used Skype to call and try book surf lessons as we missed the opportunity to surf in Australia. We ended up booking surf lessons with Discovery Surfing NZ (89.95NZD for 2 hours beginner)and headed to Mount Maunganui Main Beach in Taraunga. Our awesome instructor Tully took Andrew, myself and an American from Seattle named Brendan out to catch some waves. He outfitted us with wetsuits to stay warm as it was the first week of autumn then taught us the basically instructions. We practiced on land for a bit to get in the motion of popping up off the board and what foot naturally leads. My left goes naturally forward but Andrew’s was goofy (right foot first).Did you know that when you pop up, its your comfortable leg that leads. If your right foot leads; its called a goofy foot and if left; your a natural. Basically when you pop up, you want your lead foot to be where your sternum was when lying down. When you are lying down, you use your foots position at the back end of the surfboard for reference thus your weight isn’t to forward etc. For me I have to have my feet further back. I can tell you its tiring. I worked with 3 different boards. The first one I had gave me trouble trying to balance and then he switched it for a smaller one which I think was the best one for me. He then made me switch with Brendan and his longboard which was a heavier and bigger board which meant pulling it over the waves was that much more difficult.

There are technically 2 techniques Tully showed us; the easy way and the hard way. The winning combo that worked for me best (where I actually stood and rode the waves) was a combo of the 2; Get on the knees and then pop up.  There were many times I nose dived in and some where while I was about to pop up my foot got tangled with the cable as well as 2 that I think would of been perfect rides my left leg didn’t charlie horse. Even Tully was riding hard and broke a board on a wave. Now I can say I’ve surfed and surfed in New Zealand to add to it. Hopefully next time I go surfing, it will be warmer.

I drove back in the direction of Rotorua for about an hour and we went zorbing. Zorbing is pretty much a giant inflatable ball that looks like a hamster ball that humans jump into. Andrew and myself both did Zydro (39NZD) where there is water in your zorb. I chose the straight a way and basically I went down a huge hill in this hamster ball with water inside. At first, I was turning all over the place then my back settled near the end. I should’ve done what Andrew did because the zig zag course made him do a few flips. I also made a friend with one of the zorb guys – Che. We did a bunch of jumping shots which are my favourite type of shots. Be prepared and bring a change of clothing as you pretty much can go zorbing in anything from a swim suit to full clothed. It was very chilly leaving. We got back to Rotorua and ate bentos. There is a large amount of Japanese and Korean restaurants in Rotorua (mainly Korean).

Taupo, New Zealand 2010 – Day 16

05/10/10

The agenda for the day was to head south towards Taupo for a day of hiking in Tongariro National Park (Manawatu-Wanganui 4691, New Zealand) also known as the site of Mordor.

Since Andrew drove yesterday, I drove today. It took about 2 hours and a bit. It’s a weird feeling to be driving on the left side of the road but you get the hang of it. The turns still get me though. This Hyundai Gatz has absolutely no pickup when you try to gun it. There are passing lanes on the highway which are nice. I tried to floor it past a truck and almost didn’t make it.

The first stop of the day was to Huka Falls which was a recommendation from a fellow traveller and told us it was a must see. And it was. Huka Falls is where New Zealand’s largest lake drains into its largest river; the Waikato.

Driving past Lake Taupo and passing by a few small towns we made it to Whakapapa Village – the village/chateau area inside Tongariro National Park and we decided to hike one of the smaller trails inside – Taranaki Falls which lasted about an hour and a half. This park is the first park to be both a cultural and historical world heritage status. We then wanted to hike up to emerald lake but we were running short on gas so we went to find a gas station to fill up first because we didn’t want to get stranded in the dark on unfamilar roads (no street lights in this area). Its a 46km drive out of the Tongariro area to the station. Our real destination was along Mangatepopo Road, the Tongariro Alpine Trail. By the time we got back we started hiking toward the Emerald lake by teh Red Crater (its actually a 4hour hike in and a 4 hour hike out) and Soda Pop Falls but the sun was already setting fast. To get to either locations (springs or lake) we had to go up rocks and I mean rocks.  No actual bridge or path and when there was a path or bridge, it quickly would turn into cliffs and hills of rock. The ranger or person who worked there flew by us so quickly but told us we weren’t too far from Soda Pop Falls and that we would have maybe an hour left of sunlight. We finally made it to Soda Pop falls but it wasn’t as exciting as it would be made out to be. We did however see other people hiking nearby and because its a national park, there were cabins where people could come and just stay the night. We quickly turned back out the way we came since the sun started setting fast (6PM) and the paths become very unclear. Our eyes did adjust to the lighting and we could partially see nocturnally. We ran parts of the way back and would stop on occasion just to stare up in the sky. With no light pollution for miles, the sky was lit up with stars. Let me tell you though, I haven’t seen stars that since Toronto had the blackout in 2003. It was magnificent. It’s also weird to see Orion’s belt on the opposite side I usually spot it. What I also noticed and found strange is that I haven’t seen the moon since Sydney. The drive back to Rotorua took about 2 hours and night driving is very intimidating not being able to see 100M ahead so we were driving with our highbeams on and switching between passing cars.

I do have to say so far, Tongariro National Park is my favourite spot. Being outdoors and hiking through this magical place… I think I left a piece of myself here and I’m sad that we never got to finish our main hike to Emerald Lake. I guess it’s something to make note of on my TO DO list one of these days.

Rotorua, New Zealand 2010 – Day 15

05/09/10

Heading out of Auckland today and we wanted to rent a car to continue our journey to Rotorua and area. We got picked up by the car rental van. The guy was a total jerk and we definitely didn’t vibe with him. Ill refer to him as jerk. Anyways, we were told terms beforehand which couldn’t be offered for example parking. We will be driving back on the 12th as our flight is on the 13th at 7AM meaning we need to check in at 5AM. The jerk put us through a lot but luckily there was a customer who had just returned a car and was getting dropped off at the airport so we asked to be dropped off at the airport where we can rent a car for the rest of our trip and also drop off the car anytime. We rented with Europcar and prices were a little higher because we are “young drivers” under 25 and picked up a Hyundai Gatz. We drove straight to Rotorua as this was a hitch in our day with the jerk who took away 3 more hours than we would’ve liked.

GPS is our friend. I highly recommend making sure your rental has GPS included. Andrew was driving and well… I hate how he drives in toronto… Add new zealand driving on top of that…. Great… but I get to drive tomorrow! New Zealand/Auckland feels like a mixture of Pasadena/NYC filled with the hustle and bustle but its not crazy busy as NYC is. The streets especially residential are filled with slopes similar to Pasadena terrain. Getting on the highway from Auckland going towards Rotorua, the hills reminded me of LA like the the route heading up to Golden Oaks Ranch.

3 hours later we arrived into Rotorua and its got a very distinctive smell of rotten eggs due to all of the geothermal sulphurous gases. We checked into our hostel Crash Palace Backpackers (1271 Hinemaru Street) and basically strolled the town or surrounding streets. Can I tell you how dead it was… Mind you it’s Mothers day and a Sunday. The streets were empty and very much like Ottawa at 8PM.

We booked a Mitai (Mitai Maori Village – 196 Fairy Springs Rd) and Kiwi (Rainbow Springs) encounters upgrade for tonight and it was not let down. The Mitai was run by one family for generations but now is run by multiple families. They also called themselves the Maori. Aoeteroa – land of the long white cloud. We went to Mitai to enjoy a ceremonial hangi dinner where we participated in the burying lamb chicken potatoes and sweet potatoes in the earth where the heat would slow cook it making everything perfect. As we waited for the food to cook, we were led down to a river where a canoe arrived with men welding torches appearing then led us to a stage where they performed a cultural piece for us. In this performance, they showed us their traditional weapons, instruments, fighting techniques, training, music and games – well done!

They also explained the meaning behind the moko tattooing of birds. The story begins with a god and goddess in a quarrel where the god strikes his wife. The wife runs away and the man goes after her. On his adventure, he comes upon another god who has a beautiful moko tattoo on his face. He befriends him and asks him to give it to him as well. That man decides that he will only if he gives him his bird – owl, parrot, bat and kiwi in return for a custom/unique design. On the women, they have owls tattooed on their chin as they are the protectors. The males have bats on their foreheads with wings spanning over their temples. The face represents a home where the bat represents intelligence and wisdom. By doing so, the bat is historically placed in the very top of the house. The next bird they present on the face is that of a parrot being the watchers. They would place the parrot on the windowsill. the parrot’s eyes become the person’s eyes thus seeing both sides of the beak on their nose. The kiwi; the flightless bird remains on the ground, protecting the home by eating intruders. The beak and head of the kiwi is tattooed around the mouth. On the left hand side is the design of the mother clan (intelligence, calmness, femininity) and the right the father clan (rage, anger, power, masculinity). Yin and yang.

After a wonderful dinner and show, we went on a 45 minute tour at Rainbow Springs to see the kiwis at night and other animals. The Kiwi’s are nocturnal with very sensitive hearing and sight. The park had 4 on site and we would catch glimpse of them at the back of their cage.

Rotorua is the largest tourist area in New Zealand and it thrives off of that. This town is in it’s down season at the moment because its fall and snow hasn’t fallen just yet.

Tongariro National Park tomorrow!

Auckland, New Zealand 2010 – Day 13 & 14

05/07/10

Rangitoto island was on our schedule for the day. We ran to the dock to purchase our ferry tickets (30NZD Auckland->Rangitoto Return) but missed the ferry we intended to catch. So as we waited for the next ferry to arrive, we walked over to Westfield mall to do a little souvenir shopping and grab lunch. Since I’ve been down under, I’ve been really intrigued with the aboriginal culture of the Maori. I love the symbols and the meaning and wanted to find myself a pendant. I had no luck finding one in Australia that I truly loved but I got a nice seal or whale bone fish hook (hei matau) necklace for myself. The fish hook’s meaning in Maori culture signifies abundance, strength and determination. It is believed to bring peace, prosperity and good health. It harbours good luck and energy, and is believed to provide safe journey over water. It’s a good luck charm by travellers, boaties, fishermen and surfers.

The ferry ride was nice but very chilly riding on top. We got to the island and began our hour hike to the summit. Basically, Rangitoto Island is an inactive volcano with black soil and loads of volcanic rock. The hike was long but not too long. The paths are uneven as you are stepping on jagged and odd shaped volcanic rocks. My feet and knees cried in pain for a bit afterwards. There are also lava caves that have formed and are great to explore however we didn’t bring a “torch” aka flashlight but luckily a nice family lent us a torch to explore it ourselves. After we finished the cave, it was a gruesome slope of a hike to reach the summit where we could look into the core of what use to be an active volcano. Mind you, we felt we were running out of time so we rushed back to the docks to catch the ferry and return the torch to the family. The rest of the evening was spent walking around town and we visited the Skytower. We were too late to see Toi O Tamaki (art gallery) so we found ourselves at Jimmy Wong’s for dinner and then headed back to the hostel.

 

05/08/10

We decided to skip Bay of Islands because it is far North from Auckland and for a pickup it would be an extra 100 on the tour price. Instead we decided to take the link bus over (1.70NZD a ride) to Newmarket (the south point) to do shopping. Breakfast at Massimo. We tried to shop for a bit then made out way to Auckland Museum (25NZD). It’s a nice museum with 3 floors and many exhibits to see. I purchased a beautiful jade fish hook necklace from the gift shop here and its one of the more appealing ones I’ve seen. We spent a good 2-3 hours here exploring. After that, we walked up to Parnell Rd; another shopping area but by the time we arrived it was roughly 430PM and stores were closing. We ate dinner at La Porchetta (167-171 Parnell Rd) and wanted to get Movenpick Ice Cream after but alas, we decided to order 2 medium pizzas, a jug of coke and garlic bread thinking with our eyes over our stomach.

Melbourne, Australia – Auckland, New Zealand 2010 – Day 12

05/06/10

Since we did 2 full day tours in Melbourne, we weren’t able to really get a chance to see the town. I for one wanted to see Flinders Station and Federation Square and Chinatown area. We decided to get a late flight to Auckland so that we could explore. We took the tram – it runs on a honour system. You purchase your tickets on the back of the bus from a coin machine as the driver is sitting in a box and doesn’t interact with you. The trams run quite frequently. We made our way to Queen Victoria Market which is very similar to Toronto’s St Lawrence Market including a similar looking building albeit white instead of our burgundy one outside. We had a quick bite before we scurried past Chinatown and took to the main touristy streets I suppose. Did you know Federation Square is Australia’s largest free wifi hotspot or that Flinders Station is their Union Station as the central hub for transport. As I was taking a panoramic, a group of school kids with bright orange hats were crossing by and this little boy made my day. He basically saw me and had walked along with his class but then he turned back and walked back towards me and said hello! than ran back to his classmates. We didn’t have enough time to go shopping nor go through the National Gallery of Victoria (180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne VIC 3006) (mind you the gift shop was lovely) but we we’re able to stop by San Churro Chocolateria (Shop LTL 255, QV Centre/Swanston Street) – basically gourmet chocolate churros and other chocolate products. I got a raspberry rumba which is a white chocolate shake with raspberry topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

We noticed the time and were running a tad late in returning to our hostel to catch the shuttle. We hopped on a tram but apparently the wrong one, hopped off and got back to the hostel right on time. We got to the airport about 4-430PM and our flight was at 605PM. We got to the Qantas check-in counter for our flight from Melbourne to Auckland and the lady asked to see our boarding pass out of New Zealand; having only booked a one way to New Zealand, we had to go purchase another ticket before we could even check in. Our minds weren’t clicking before that we were flying internationally meaning to another country so we didn’t think we needed to book a flight out. Anyways, we wanted to fly from Rotorua back to Sydney and stay a day with uncle Ronald and auntie Maisie but apparently the visa we had trouble getting before departing toronto (the ETA) is only valid for a single entry only so once you leave the country, you cannot come back in unless you reapply off of Australian soil overseas.

So this put us in a predicament as our international flight home was in Sydney. There were 2 plans that we looked into with the helpful people at Flight Centre, the first being – fly home from Auckland (cost double the price of our existing flight home = no good), 2- book a ticket to Fiji and show that to get us approved for our Auckland flight (which was almost ready to depart) and once we get through, cancel the ticket and reapply for Australian visa once we landed and book a ticket back to Sydney. So for a split second we purchased a ticket to Fiji. As we purchased that ticket, we went back to the check-in desk and the manager of the check-in  desk with the Qantas team had told us since we have proof of our returning home flight that all we need to do is purchase a ticket back to Sydney but we would not be able to leave the international terminal as we would be “transiting” to our home of origin flight thus, no need for a new visa. Andrew ran back to change the ticket while I waited at the gate. We were indeed the last ones checked in but luckly not the last ones to board as we cleared security quickly. Apparently, Qantas and Air Canada have some sort of agreement where you can connect with one another allowing our checked baggage to transit through to our next flight although they are not connecting flights in one ticket purchase. We hopped on and flew roughly 3 and 1/2 hours and because of the time change (2+) we arrived at 11PM-12AM-ish.

We are staying Freemans Lodge which apparently is New Zealand’s #1 hostel and last year NZ’s cleaniest hostel. Once you enter, your shoes must be taken off. Did I mention free wifi the whole length of the stay. This hostel is apparently known as a B&B but there is only free tea and coffee and our twin private shared bathroom is actually a double bed in a smallish private room with a shared bathroom.

Melbourne, Australia 2010 – Day 11

05/05/10

We booked Great Oceans Road Classic Tour (125AUD) with Bunyip Tours. Same as the previous day, we hopped on a 20 seater van but we had a more interesting and animated group of people today. Our guide/driver Cameron was cool and a noted plus was that it barely rained.

We drove through Torquay, the hometown to brands such as Quiksilver and RipCurl. Bells beach is situated in this small town and holds one of the largest surf contests. We had a bunch of tourists from around the world on our tour – Germany, France, Ireland, Thailand, Japan and Korea.

Cameron told us that the great oceans road was built by the returning soldiers of WWI. Since they did not have jobs when they returned they were shown gratitude by being given this task which proved to be difficult and actually take some more lives, adding to the many already lost in the war. The roads are windy and have a beautiful view the whole way. So clear that we saw multiple rainbows.

Our next stop was Split Point Lighthouse which was a location for an old comedy that aired in Canada. We stopped at a koala park where there are wild koalas unlike the ones I had seen earlier on this trip. Cameron reiterated the rules that are in place in different states in regard to Koalas. In Queensland, you can do whatever you like to them (as in hold them, take a photo with them) but in Victoria, you are not allowed to touch one or you will be fined. The reason being, the koalas in Cairns are in the humidity and much smaller (anorexic let’s say) while in Victoria, the climate is much cooler (giving them the ability to be full weight and larger – plump). Cameron told us some stories of animal accidents that took place involving koalas and others with kangaroos. A girl on one of the tours came to Australia with her mind set on cuddling a koala, but being disappointed that the first ones she saw were up in the trees too far to hug. On her way to the toilet she spotted a koala sleeping on low tree and just had to get her hug! She ran up to it and tried to pry it off of the tree to no avail. Managing to wake the male koala, it held out an arm and she saw it is an invitation and ran in… Only to receive a nice big slash in the cheek 75mm deep.

Our next destination was to Loch Ard Gorge that I must say is one of my favourite locations of this trip. It is located in the Port Campbell National Park. There were 3 paths you could walk to and view view beautiful rocks. This rock formation is named after a shipwreck story with a romantic twist.

The Loch Ard, an iron clipper rumoured to be jinxed, set sail from Gravesend (I’m not kidding!) in Scotland in 1878 with 54 passengers and crew on board for a 3-month voyage to Melbourne. It struck Muttonbird Island near the Loch Ard Gorge. 52 people died and eight-foot high wreckage was spread across the golden sands, along with the only 4 bodies that were retrieved – and later buried in the clifftop cemetery in coffins made from piano cases! Tom survived, was recuperating in a sea cave and heard cries from the water. He valiantly dashed out into the raging sea to rescue Eva, who was clinging for dear life to a chicken coop and then a ship’s oar. large image Tom rescued Eva, they sheltered some more in the cave, drank some brandy and, unfortunately for the romantics amongst us, did not go on to live happily ever after, but went their separate ways. (link here)

We then drove over to see the 12 apostles and I must say it was stunning. I ended up running out of battery and running back to the van to get a new one but it was so amazing how all the photos turned out without even trying. Apparently the formations were named the 12 Apostles to attract tourists especially Europeans.  Before heading home, we stopped by a nearby town and had a pizza dinner at Red Rooster. Had a long day but a fun one. Met some cool people although didn’t get their names.