Australia

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Here is a brief run down of cities and attractions we visited down under during our winter break in 2014:

MELBOURNE

MelbourneAustralian Open (Tennis)

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Being tennis fans, Melbourne was all about the Australian Open Tennis before our visit in Jan 2014. (Of note: Only one more Major for us to complete our own Grand Slam…Wimbledon here we come! Someday…)

We could not miss the Australian Open while visiting the country and we were the luckiest, or not so, to catch the hottest consecutive days in the latest 100 Australian Open years . It was the first Tennis Open for the girls and we hope to further show them more about tennis in the near future. Check these clips from the hottest days of AO with the best players!

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Djokovic and Sharapova were also around. 🙂

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Hats, cold towels, water spritzer, loose clothing, and lots of fluids came in handy on and off the arena.

We also visited various places by foot, car, boat, and rail:

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Queen Victoria Market: one of the places that we often check out when visiting a new town or city is the local markets and this is one not to be missed in Melbourne with its fresh foods (seafood, meat, chicken), sausages, oils and vinegars, pasta, antipasto/dips, different eats covering Italian, Indonesian, Indian, Malaysian cuisines, and many more. Borek, a thin flaky dough (phyllo) filled with meat or other fillings (spinach, etc), and meat pies are a few to be devoured.

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Healesville Sanctuary: was a 60-minute (about 65 kilometers) drive from Melbourne and provided opportunity to see local fauna and close encounters (like the Magic Moments with kangaroos and koala) for an additional fee from its admission. The girls enjoyed seeing the different local animals and plants in the area.

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Dingo even gets a cool down.

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Sky High at the Mount Dandenong Lookout with the Giant’s Chair: on the way to or from Healesville, this is a good short stop to get a view of Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula and Port Phillip Bay. A AU$5 per car gate fee does apply.

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Warrantina Lavender Farms: is another stop before heading back to Melbourne. As expected for literally swinging by at the very end of the day, the farm and cafe were closed but we caught a glimpse of a partially-blooming lavender field.

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CAIRNS

Cairns = tropical weather (hot and humid); Great Barrier Reef gateway town with a prolific fox bat population and Swiss ice cream at Movenpick

 

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Below is the community pool at the Promenade and adjacent to the ocean. Great for kids to wade in.

 

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We caught the tour to the Agincourt Reef (Outer Great Barrier) with Quick Silver Cruises, which provided all transportation (ground and sea) between Cairns and Port Douglas and buffet lunch .

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The cruise package did not come with drinks (important to note especially with the heat) or wetsuit (handy when “jellies” are rampant or high) rental. Very well thought of set-up to provide amenities in the middle of the ocean (with showers and bathrooms), lots of snorkels and flippers, underwater observatory, semi-submersible vessels,scuba diving, and helicopter ride (the two latter for an extra fee). Enjoy the underwater company of the fishes, corals, sometimes jellyfishes (which were small and with stings that are barely felt), and turtles! Too caught up in the moment, we were unable to capture the jumping foot-wide parrot-fish and other fishes during feeding time. Both girls, at 3 and 4 years of age, were ecstatic to be out in the 40-meter (or more) deep water of the Great Barrier Reef, swimming and snorkeling with the fishes.

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A first for us: to swim in a pool with white sand. Wow, the girls loved it – a semi ocean swim in calm and non-shark infested waters!

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Take a look at these giant bats! They’re at least 8 inches in height and are rampant in the neighborhood and in mango trees.

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Of course, the night market offers multi-colored trinkets, local goods and many more to tempt you with.

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Cairns had the tropical feel with stores opening later in the morning, humid and warm weather and laid back residents.

SYDNEY = Bustling city and shopping

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Well aside from the shopping and stuffing our faces, our time at Sydney was jammed packed with activities with:

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– a visit to the world renowned Opera house

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– tour around the bay

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– whirlwind day tour to the Three Sisters at the Blue Mountains (the Grand Canyon of Australia as Americans may refer to this beauty) and Featherdale Wildlife Park,

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and of course,

–  a chance to visit with a resident family friend, Miss Viv.

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Featherdale Wildlife Park is a must see for the families visiting Sydney or its nearby cities. It provided really up close and personal time and photos with kangaroos, koalas, and other local animals.  The passport to check off which animals have been spotted was a big hit with our girls! Petting of the animals were included in the admission too! Yes, no extra fees unlike the Magic Moments at Healesville Sanctuary.

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Of course, Bondi Beach  couldn’t be missed despite the light sprinkle of rain at the time of visit.

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‘Twas a great Oz visit!