Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kangaroo Island Shops

So, after Adelaide we drove south to Kangaroo Island. KI is about a forty five minute ferry ride from Cape Jervis which is about a two hour drive south from Adelaide. We were quite surprised when we actually got to the island though. While we had research things to on KI, we had never actually researched the size of the island. Apparently, it's the third biggest island in Australia, and is about 200 kilometers across. This was a shock. Most of the things we wanted to visit were on the opposite end of the island where our hotel was. Yay, more driving! On the upside, KI was just as beautiful as we had been led to believe.

It only took us four tries to pull this picture off with the boat behind us. Totally worth it.

We were going to be on the island for about 48 hours. We had divided our two days so the first day was spent visiting the various island shops, and the second day seeing more critters. We got onto the island right around lunch time, and a little winery was right off the main road. We figured it would be a good place to get some nibblies (and we can't say no to a winery), so we pulled off. For the first of several times, we walked up to a shop and saw the "closed" sign. We were just turning away, when an employee saw us outside and waved us in. Apparently, most places are open only when customers are around. Here's the locally sourced cheese and salami plate we had for lunch with wines, and our absolutely to die-for view.

After the winery we visited Clifford's Honey Farm, which runs a thriving honey export business as well as a small museum dedicated to the honey-making process. We don't have pictures, because nothing was all that photogenic, but it was still pretty neat. They have some super-rare strain of Italian bees (the last of this type in the world), which explains why bees were on the list of things you could not bring on the island. They don't want new colonies intermixing. Although, really, who travels with bees?

Next on the drive was the Island Pure dairy farm. Nothing but sheep products! Mmmm, cheese...

Before going in, we wandered the grounds for a little bit and found the barn where they keep all the lambs. Aren't they the cutest? Baby lambies!

We took a tour and sampled the various kinds of cheeses, and got lucky on the timing. It happened to be during the sheep's afternoon milking so we able to watch how that was done. It's mostly automated. They just round the sheep up, and let them through the gates ten by ten. They feed them while they are milking them, so they really don't mind.

We took piles of pictures during this part of the trip, so we've decided to split the day into 2 posts.  Stay tuned for more cute critters!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Our first visitors

About a month ago, Andrew and Paige came to visit. Our first visitors!

Good thing we just bought a brand new bed for our second bedroom, designed specifically for visitors. Oooo, pretty...

Providing solid proof that it is actually a small world after all, it turns out Andrew is friends with the other guy from NGA who came down to Canberra about a month after we did. This is Brevin. He's a good guy. We both told Andrew we got positions here, so he introduced us before we left.

Now, as some of you may be aware, we had an Iron Chef party, based on one of the greatest Japanese language cooking shows of all time. Each week a contestant challenges one of the Iron Chefs (who specialize in a certain ethnic cuisine- Japanese, Chinese, or French) to a cook-off featuring a certain theme ingredient. To adapt this for us, we gave everyone the ingredient ahead of time, with the only guidance that at least a majority of the cooking had to be done at our place. Thus began the Lemon Battle, and after the sticky, sticky dust had cleared, Andrew and Paige were crowned the Iron Chefs, much to Greg's chagrin. So, to honor their coming, we had a second Iron Chef party to allow them to defend their title. Australia Iron Chef: Pumpkin Battle!  Here are three of the contestants- Tika, Josh, and Katrina (of High Tea fame), eager for battle.

The Pumpkin Battle in full swing! Controlled chaos ensued.

This is just a really nice picture of Laurel and Katrina. Over Laurel's left shoulder are Adrian and Chrissy (spoiler alert) the eventual Pumpkin Iron Chefs.

And this is largely why. Chrissy made homemade pasta! Holy crap, their pumpkin and pine nut cream sauce was absolutely fantastic, and the fresh pasta was amazing. Although after watching all of the effort they went through to make it, it definitely convinced us we will NEVER make homemade pasta for ourselves. In fact, they were just one of a number of contestants that made homemade pasta.  People came to play at this party. We were impressed.

Greg and Tim having a very deep, serious conversation.Yeah right. In the background is Brevin's three year old son, Jackson, who made pretty much everyone at the party play the "kick the ball down the hall" game.

Here is Paige looking fabulous.

This is the silly picture we took when they were leaving. Paige is looking for kangaroos. Sadly, they did not see any while they were here. In another case of "its a small world" Andrew's little sister is studying abroad at Wollongong University which is about a two hour drive from us, so that was a "two for the price of one" trip for them. It was so great seeing them again and having them as our first visitors from the States.

And finally, this is the bag of carrots they bought at the grocery store so Andrew can have his daily carrot. They were amazed how inexpensive fresh veggies are here.  Greg has actually taken up this habit since they left. It's genius. It is both delicious, and strangely satisying to bite the end off a whole carrot with a vigorous crunch.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Adelaide- CBD

Back to Adelaide! After our wonderful, wine soaked time in the Barossa valley, we drove back to Adelaide (after feeding Uncle Rupert the Alpaca of course!). We checked into our hotel, the Stamford Plaza, which is right in the middle of the central business district, or CBD. Little did we know, that we were checking in as VIPs. Our friends April and Tom, who work at the Embassy, hooked us up with a deal at this particular hotel. Apparently, they have some longstanding deal with the Embassy. They roll out the red carpet for people, and the Embassy keeps sending business their way. Its a win/win. We were met at the door by a senior executive of the hotel who escorted us to our room, made sure we had everything we needed, and was just generally super nice and helpful. It was almost a little odd- we are not used to this level of service!  Our room was a suite that I'm pretty sure was bigger than our first apartment in Arlington, and had a jacuzzi. We quickly dubbed it our "fancy-pants suite." They also gave us a courtesy bottle of wine and chocolates to welcome us. Yum!

We considered simply not leaving the hotel for the next two days, but it seemed kind of a waste to have come all this way, so we ventured out into the heart of Adelaide to see the sights. This is City Hall.

This is a statue dedicated to the man who led several of the first British expeditions exploring and mapping the region. Notice we did not say discovered, because like Columbus, it's hard to discover something when there are already people living there.

Adelaide is a planned city, so its center is an easily navigable grid. Interestingly, the designers wanted the city to have an emphasis on parks and public green space, so there are public parks it seems like every other block, and around the CBD is a complete ring of greenspace. It makes for a quite beautiful city that doesn't feel like the home of just over a million people. This is the fountain in the middle of Victoria Square, which is in very center of Adelaide. It was commisioned to honor the Queen when she visited. The top is supposed to represent her crown, and at each of the three sides is a different Aboriginal tribe-member holding a native bird, representing the three rivers that filter into the city. The Aboriginal flag is flying in the background over the lefthand side of the fountain.

We liked the juxtaposition of these two buildings. One old, gothic looking cathredral next to a super-modern office building. We think it represents the city pretty well. Simultaneously, both old and new.

Now, this is just the strangest ad campaign of all time. We kept seeing these signs along the highway that say "Stop Creeping" and nothing else. We couldn't figure out what they were advertising for, and then we saw this bus sign. Greg's best guess was that it was just a campaign telling people not to be creepy and behave themselves, but that didn't actually make a lot of sense. It turns out it's about driving over the speed limit, as in, "Don't let your speed creep over the legal limit." That answer felt a little anti-climactic.

I would have expected to see this in Japan. The world's most high-tech toilet. It's completely automated, self cleaning, lots of buttons and lights, and after it senses someone has been in there for longer than 10 minutes automatically opens the doors. Do your business quick!

Here's a close-up of the sign. You probably can't read it, but it's explaining how the toilet periodically goes through a wash cycle, where it literally soaps and rinses itself down. How cool is that!?

This is Rundle Mall, the main shopping area. Needless to say, it's one of the more popular areas.

Any high-traffic area would not be complete without street performers! This was a Jamacian guy doing the lowest limbo physically possible.

There were also some life-size bronze statues of pigs. Not really sure why, but we kind of loved it. After we saw them on a post-card rack, Greg wouldn't let Laurel go home and relax in the jacuzzi until we found them. Totally worth it! This guy is digging through the garbage.

This is the view of the city looking north from our hotel room. We were on the 26th floor, so it was pretty great. You can kind of see where the buildings stop, and there is a large park before the housing starts again. That's the ring of greenspace we were telling you about earlier. The giant building in the bottom lefthand corner is the South Australian Parliament (Adelaide is the state capital), and the white mansion in the center of the picture is the Governor's house.

We liked Adelaide. We didn't come away raving about it like we did Melbourne, and while it's very pretty overall it doesn't have anything that really compares to Sydney's Inner Harbor. Regardless, it's still a very nice city. Most importantly, the food and wine are fantastic. If you're ever in Australia, it's well worth taking the time to go and see.

Friday, July 15, 2011

High tea

So, once again I have to lead off a post with an apology for the length of time between posts. For once though, it wasn't due to sheer laziness, but rather Greg losing the power charger when he was back in the States for five days a couple weeks ago. Since all our pictures are on the laptop, that pretty much shut us down. Pretty sure it was an unintended tip for the housekeeping staff at the Shirlington Hilton Garden Inn. You did a great job keeping his room clean! Fortunately, though, Amazon had us covered and after a brief delay we are back online and ready to start posting again.

Rather then continue with the Adelaide and Southern Australia pictures we decided to take a breif detour to a post we had intended to get up months ago, but never quite got around to it. About a ten minute drive from where we live is a little area called Gold Creek that has a bunch of specialty shops and restaurants. Cockington Greene, the miniature model villiage we posted pictures from a while back, is also there. In Gold Creek, there is a fantastic tea shop called Adore Tea that once a month does formal High Teas. Our friend Katrina invited us, and it sounded like a lot of fun, so off we went.

Any event that automatically hands you a glass of sparkling white wine as soon as you arrive is pretty much guaranteed to be a good time. That's just science, you can't argue with it.

Here is the two of us being adorable. Laurel is wearing a snappy outfit she picked up in Launceston. Quick pop quiz- which state in Australia is Launceston in? A guaranteed no-prize to the first person to post the correct answer.

Here is the menu. Oh man, this is going to be good. Be jealous.

First service, the traditional tea sandwiches- this was Laurel's favorite. Smoked salmon is hard to beat.

For entertainment they had a live singer. She was pretty good, made for a very nice atmosphere. Greg was also quite jealous of the dude in the foreground's rockin' vest. He needs to get some vests.

Now for the savoury service. Please note the extra, superfluous "u". This was probably Greg's favorite course. Sundried tomatos on basil and pesto? Pumpernickel ham sandwiches with mustard? There is nothing not to like here.

Check out this crazy tea! The menu called it a flowering white tea with jasmine. Sounds pretty good. Had no idea that meant we got an actual flower in the tea. The bulb opened up in the water, until it looked like this. Tea and a show! In picture form this may not seem like that big of a deal, but we were pretty impressed.

Final course! Treats, cakes, and best of all scones. Scones in Australia (and I'm assuming England) are completely different then they are in the States. Here, they are much closer to biscuits and served with cream and jam. Adore Tea probably has the best in the city. We're pretty sure that scones are going to be the number one thing we miss when we move back.

And this is our friend Katrina who we went with. She works with Laurel and is fairly to incredibly awesome.

Mmmmmmm, and a treat to take back home with us! It's a white chocolate truffle infused with tea. It was delicious.  Adore Tea does these High Teas once a month, so maybe if anyone comes to town we can take you for a delightful afternoon of tea.