goodbye for now…

•June 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve always preferred short goodbyes- like ripping off a band-aid.  Otherwise, I get way too emotional, and end up missing people even before we’ve parted ways.  This goodbye is bittersweet.  There are many people and places and things I will greatly miss here in Australia, and there are still more people and places and things I am excited to return home to.  Luckily, I don’t have to say goodbye to you, blog-reader, just yet.  Although my journey through Australia ends this weekend as I pack my bags and head to the land of the free, I still have a few adventures to share with you- I started my blog late, so I will end it late, filling you in on two of the biggest trips from the beginning of my study abroad experience: Sydney and the Whitsunday Islands (Great Barrier Reef)


But for now, since the plane taking me home is immanent, I would like to say goodbye to the Aussies I will miss, and hello to home!


Things I will miss:

-My Australian, French, American, Venezuelan, and Chinese friends- you have made me feel at home here, and I will always remember Australia through my relationships with you.

-The beautiful “Sunshine State” weather!  I do not want to go home to the hot Texas sun…

-The Aussie accent, and the slang.  I’m sure I’ll be taking a few sayings home.  And with the help of my roommate Britt, I’ve mastered the “G’day Mate”.

-Lectopia.  UT will you please start using this glorious invention?? I will greatly miss being able to watch/start/pause all my lectures online…

-Being less than an hour from the beach, wherever I am

-Australian BBQs (see picture above)

-Australian TV and commercials.  Maybe I can bring a few of the cooking show ideas back to the US?

What I am excited to return to:

-My family (Major, my dog, very much included); I have missed you all more than I could’ve ever imagined.  But, I have proved I can be on my own (to some extent) a lot better than when I went to UT and tried not to step foot in the house until Thanksgiving.  This was a little bigger step….

-My friends who I have missed so dearly! Skype and random phone calls are just not the same.

-Normal sized birds, and their quiet songs

-Reliable, affordable internet

-My car!! And not having to rely on public transport or walk 35 minutes to school.

-The UT tower bells



Goodbye, Australia!




eat fresh

•May 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The “Seven Dollar Footlong”:

Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as a “Five-Dollar Footlong”… Also note that in USD, its about $8. YIKES! And this special “deal” only applies to ham, veggie, and pizza subs.  If Jared had been in Australia, his wallet would’ve lost just as much weight as he did…

foodie mecca

•May 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I never thought the day would come when I would write a food blog.  As my cooking abilities are so limited, it seemed beyond all reason that I would ever need to devote more than a picture or two to what I’m eating.  But, Melbourne deserves a whole post detailing its food.  More about the architecture and culture later, because right now I want to talk about what I actually did in the city all weekend… EAT.  Even the guidebooks wrote mostly about Melbourne’s restaurants, detailing every district of the city by what type of cuisine it was known for.  Hopefully, this makes you hungry….

Our first restaurant: Shanghai Dumplings in Chinatown

We had heard so much about the Queen Victoria Markets, so we went there first thing Friday morning.  Luckily, it was right around the corner from our hostel, so we didn’t have to feel guilty about returning frequently to grab a snack or sandwich.

Australia loves its sausages.

Chocolate: my favorite stall at the market....

And if all that wasn’t feast enough for your eyes, here’s a tour through the other recommended restaurants and districts where we found delectable bites.  Mind you, we were keeping to our backpacker budgets by eating pb&j sandwiches for all other meals, and sipping on the freeze-dried coffee provided by the hostel.  The following restaurants were relatively cheap, but still fantastic!

This restaurant has been run by the same Italian man for 60 years! It was recommended to us by a local, a lonely planet guidebook, and countless melbourne publications.

Inside Pellegrini's: There was no menu; it was all just listed on the board overhead. But, everyone already seemed to know their order anyway. We just asked the owner to give us the best pasta and sauce.

We've had crepes, but never Japanese crepes rolled into cones!

A cakeshop on Fitzroy Street in St. Kilda, the local beach town.

The Little Cupcake. Sadly, we only window-feasted.

The Pancake Parlour was a local chain, but I really wish we had one in Brisbane. My short stack was fluffy and topped with whipped butter- mmm!

We went to Taco Bill's (stickingly close to Taco Bell) with a friend of Grady's fraternity friend who lives in Melbourne. Small world isn't it? Sadly, not small enough to have great Mexican food in Australia...

Our last restaurant in Melbourne, Tiamo, which was recommended to us by Lonely Planet, and was extremely busy for a Monday night.

I think now that I’m back in Brisbane, I’ll be low-budget cooking for a while… More about the rest of Melbourne later!



•May 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

For anyone who’s been wondering where I rest my head each night and make my coffee in the morning, here’s a few pictures of my apartment.  Conveniently, the real estate company selling my apartment has taken professional pictures (after we cleaned the place up) and posted them on their website.  Unfortunately, because the owner has decided to sell (we think it’s because Britt and her parents painted the place and fixed it up themselves), random people frequently come into our apartment for viewings…  But, here’s the website for your own viewing:

Also, I just booked my plane tickets to Melbourne for this weekend.  I’ve heard this city is a lot like Chicago, but I’ll let you know!

new zealand (the return of the king)

•May 12, 2011 • 1 Comment

Maybe I shouldn’t make Lord of the Rings references, since I can’t claim to have watched (or read) all of all of them… but, never the less it seemed very fitting for the final installment of my New Zealand Adventures.

Drive to Dunedin:

The journey is the destination, right?  This one sure was.  I loved Dunedin, but the drive there was even more fantastic.  Here’s what we saw:

Mirror Lake- it lived up to the name

(This picture is upside down!)

We ran into another Spaceship driver from Sweden- and traded our dvds


This city was by far the largest we had the chance to see while in New Zealand.  I had the pleasure of driving into the city, which included our first four-lane highway encounter (with exits!) and one-way streets.  It is hard enough to drive in an unfamiliar city on the right side of the road, so I can honestly say I was terrified.  As soon as I could find a place to park the car near the city center, we all got out, grabbed some breakfast, and went to the iSite Tourism Center.  I made Jocelyn drive the rest of the time…  While in Dunedin, Grady and I explored the English architecture (the city looks like Edinburough), went to the art museum, and even walked over to New Zealand’s first university, The University of Otago.  Although it was quite foggy the day we were there, we all decided to spend the afternoon driving out on the Otago Pennisula- about an hour out to the tip.  On our drive, we saw rolling hills covered in, you guessed it, sheep! and even had the pleasure of seeing a wild sea lion.

Dunedin Train Station, the most photographed building in the city

Church of Otago

The University of Otago

Otago Peninsula:

A lighthouse at the tip

So many sheep....

Drive to Christchurch:

We had heard that this drive up the eastern coast was far less scenic, so we decided to take the majority of it after dark.  But, there were still a few stops along the way.  The first was Wanaka, to see the mysterious Rock Balls on the coast.  Formed similarly to how oysters form pearls, these rocks were created thousands of years ago, and were pretty amazing.  Next, we stopped in Oamaru right after dusk to see the penguins that come onto shore at night.  We weren’t sure if we’d get a chance to see any of them without doing an organized tour, but the penguins were all over the place!  They were pretty cute, especially when they wattled.

Full Circle to Christchurch:

Before returning the car, we took one last adventure within Christchurch.  I’m sorry to have not written more about this city, but to be honest I didn’t see very much of it at all.  What I did see was extremely devastated.  Much of the central city is still restricted from access, many homes and shops have been abandoned, and others torn down.  Whole lakes have even been drained to allow for street repairs.  It didn’t help that the only rainy days we encountered while in New Zealand were the first and last- when we were in Christchurch.  Please pray for the people of this city.  We met two guys on our plane who had lived there all their lives, and I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it is for them to see their hometown in ruin.

Grady took this of some oysters growing on the rock

I was so blessed to have had the chance to so many beautiful sites over the course of a week.  Hopefully I can return one day to this delightful island, and explore the Northern one as well.  I’ll try to make Australia sound interesting in my future posts, but I might be struggling a little after what I’ve encountered in New Zealand…

Just kidding Aussies! I LOVE IT HERE TOO!

new zealand (pt three)

•May 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I will begin the third of my four posts about New Zealand with the quant little city of Arrowtown.  This was my favorite “developed” area of the country, and it was absolutely beautiful with the autumn trees and small nearby creek.  The town itself consisted of one street along which cafes and bakeries boasted sweet aromas, and boutique stores offered wool clothing and furry boots.  We were also lucky enough to see Arrowtown during their Autumn Festival, so the town was bustling with people.

The Drive to Queenstown:

Arrowtown was just one of the many stops along the West Coast road to Queenstown.  We also camped at the roaring gorges (and got to see more of the bright blue water from our hike before), passed wineries in the mountain valleys, and got the chance to work on our left-side driving skills.

The Roaring Gorges

Wine from the Valley

Jocelyn Wins: She parallel-parked on the left side!


It was such a beautiful drive along the lake into Queenstown.  Nestled in the mountain valleys, this little city is very much centered around tourism and thrills.  A ski-town in the winter and a bungy-jumping destination year round, Queenstown has earned the title of Adventure Capital.  Grady and Robby decided to save their money after skydiving, and went on an extended afternoon hike, while Jocelyn and I window-shopped.  Along with viewing all the latest winter ski trends, we got a taste of the New Zealand foodie experience, beginning with lunch at Fergburger- a hamburger restaurant recommended to me by my roommate Britt.  Later we tried some gourmet cookies at CookieTime before drinking some afternoon coffee.  (I finally figured out my Australian coffee order!  In the US, I would want just straight black coffee, but the extensive lists of options here left me very confused.  Ironically enough, a cup of joe is called an ‘Americano’.) Finally, Jocelyn and I completed our afternoon feasting at a fudge shoppe.  We entered after reading the sign about ‘free-samples’, and boy did we get samples.  The lady working the counter was basically throwing them at us! After trying about 8 different flavors, I eventually decided to purchase the most-highly-requested Creme Brulee.  I think I ended up purchasing less than she had already watched me eat in her store…  When the boys returned, we went out for our first non-ramen noodle, non-McDonald’s meal, and it was quite delicious!

A street in Queenstown

Lake Wakatipu

Hot meals by a warm fire

Te Anau and Milford Sound:

This, along with the glacier walk, was my favorite part of the trip.  To get to Milford Sound, we had to drive back up and around from Queenstown through the fiords.  Because we would be driving the road twice, we decided to rush up to the Sound at night and then take our time on the drive back down.

Known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, the Fiordlands are truly a gift from God.  The u-shaped valleys were carved by glaciers millions of years ago, and what is left behind are towering mountain cliffs rising straight up from rivers and lakes.  To view Milford Sound, we had to take a boat through the mountains and eventually out to the Tasman Sea.  We could even see Australia faintly off in the distance!  Most recognizable was Mitre Peak, which is surely on every postcard from the Fiords, but we also got to see waterfalls twice as tall as Niagara Falls, and even little seals.  The trees growing off the cliff walls were pretty interesting too, as their roots were intertwined with each other rather than buried into the ground, causing a tree avalanche whenever one would begin to fall.  Following our cruise (and dealing with a dead car battery), we took our time driving back, stopping to take lots of pictures and for a half-day hike in Te Anau.

Mitre Peak

Our ship

View from our Te Anau hike (before we started up the mountain...)

Hope you enjoyed the scenery as much as I did! I’ll try to wrap up the New Zealand trip with one last post tomorrow…

new zealand (pt two)

•May 7, 2011 • 2 Comments

And the adventure continues…. You are in for quite a treat today!

Franz Josef Glacier:

Exploring this glacier was by far one of my favorite parts of the trip.  Although it stretches over 12 km, the glacier looked pretty small to me and Grady, at least until we had to hike up to it.  With our guide, hiking boots, spiky cramp-ons for walking on ice, and way too many warm layers, we hiked uphill for about 2 miles before eventually reaching the ice.  Thankfully, our trekking was rewarded with beautiful ice formations, massive crevices, and boundless views of the river, Tasman Sea, and mountains.  I really enjoyed seeing some real-life examples of what I had learned about in geology, but I was amazed at how much the glacier is still changing today.  Our guide would point over to a huge crevice and tell us that last week, she was leading people through there, and this week, it was now 30 meters deep!  Needless to say, posters were located all over the nearby town warning of the dangers of attempting the glacier without a guide.

At the foot of the glacier, but still about 1km away...

Looking back on the Waiho River

I was really excited about the boot cramp-ons!

Fox Glacier:

This glacier, only 30 minutes down the road from Franz, stretches 13 km, and is also very accessible for walking tours.  But, we (and by we I mean Robby and Grady- not me) decided to explore this glacier in a different fashion…

Their scenic flight and views of the glacier

New Zealand claims to be the adventure capital of the world, so I can understand the boys need to get their adrenaline pumping.  After a 20 minute scenic flight (which I’m sure I would’ve paid no attention to if I was skydiving…) they jumped out of the plane and free-fell for about 45 seconds before opening their parachutes and gliding down.  Both guys seemed to have a lot of fun- Grady is already talking about doing it again.  I am just very relieved to have him back on the ground.

And now for my thrill-seeking activity… Driving on the left side of the road!!

After a long day of lots of hiking, we relaxed at the Glacier Hot Pools

Roughing-it in the campervan:

Each night we would search for a suitable campsite to park our car.  We had to find a happy medium between just parking on the side of the road (people would honk at you early in the morning) and the $25 per person Holiday Parks.  Our answer: Department of Conservation regulated campsites.  During peak season, we would have had to pay to park here too, but luckily we were traveling during a slow time.  These campsites were located in scenic spots all along the highway.

Our campsite at the foot of the glacier

One morning we made pancakes!

I think that’s enough photos for now, but some of the New Zealand towns and cities are up next!