Within 40 hours of traveling, we set foot in Africa, the Middle East and Asia before finally arriving in Australia!
For the next month, our home base will be the Melbourne area. The Jays are family friends and are gracious enough to let us stay with them while we are in Australia. We are very lucky! Their house is complete with a tennis court (Chris beats me every time), pool table, pool and spa. There are three Jay siblings – Meredith 25, Chris 27 and Phil 30 years in age. Two of them live at home and they are all in relationships so there is always someone to hang out with at the house.
Every year, the Jay siblings attend a three-day music festival just outside of Melbourne with their friends. When they heard we were going to be in town, they bought us a ticket and planned for us to attend Meredith Music Festival with them. And just like that…after spending two nights in a proper bed, we were back in a tent.The atmosphere of the festival is very laid-back and it was a complete hipster fest. Most of the bands and musicians that play at Meredith Music Festival are from Australia but a few come from across the globe. We only recognized one band name but we were assured from the beginning that it doesn’t matter who plays at the concert, it’s a guaranteed good time. There is one stage and over the course of three days, we saw blues/jazz, rock, metal, hip hop, acoustic, dance and pop bands play. The last night, everyone had gone to bed while Chris and I danced the night away in the middle of a huge electronic/dub-step dance party. So fun! Huts throughout the festival offer free breathalyzer tests because as soon as you pull out of the parking lot, you are going to be tested by the police that you are under the legal limit (0.05 BAC in Australia). Chris and I gave it a go even though we weren’t driving. More than eight hours after drinking and eating brekkie, Chris still managed to blow a .035 – yikes!Speaking of alcohol…we heard that things would be pricey when we came to Australia, but we weren’t expecting the price of alcohol to be SO outrageous! A slab (24 beers) of the cheapest beer costs a whopping $37 on sale but can easily cost around $45. Thinking about mixing your own cocktails? Think again. A 750 ml bottle of Absolut is about $45. One liter of Coca-cola (one liter, not two liters) sells at the grocery store for $4.50. Insane! There are so many great bars in Melbourne, some of the coolest and most unique we’ve seen on our trip. Bummer that cocktails are $16-25 each at just a normal bar!
Mr. Jay is a master chef and cooks us delicious homemade dinners almost every night. We arrived back in Melbourne after surviving the three day concert and he was already busy preparing dinner. When we first arrived to Melbourne, the Jays wanted to know what we hoped to do while here. Eating kangaroo was on our list, so that evening he made us a lovely kangaroo steak dinner. It was so delicious and is much leaner and better for you than beef. As they would say here in Australia…yumm-o! While we are in Australia, we wanted to find time to head up to Sydney for a few days. With the holidays quickly approaching, we wanted to go sooner rather than later to avoid peak holiday travelers and higher prices. We ended up booking a last minute flight for the middle of the week.
Our first day in Sydney was overcast and drizzling. We checked into our hostel and left for a walk down to the harbor. As we began to approach the water, we were thinking the famous Sydney Opera House would be viewable in the distance at any moment. We were surprised as we turned a bend in the sidewalk to realize we were standing right in front of it. It’s so exciting and surreal seeing these iconic buildings in person. We took a walk around the neighboring botanical gardens, museum of contemporary art and the shops and restaurants around the wharf before heading back for the day. Our hostel had a really nice rooftop terrace with skyline views so we cooked dinner in and had a few drinks before bed.The next morning, we caught a ferry across the harbor to Manly Island. The ferry ride was half the fun as it gave us some great views from the water as we passed the Harbor Bridge and Opera House. We walked through the town of Manly and to the beach to watch the surfers before setting off on a walk around the island. On our last full day in Sydney we walked around The Rocks, Sydney’s oldest and most scenic neighborhood. We found a rooftop bar to enjoy some beer and calamari before our afternoon adventure.The Sydney Harbor Bridge stands 134 meters and was the longest single span bridge in the world until 2009. The bridge is impressive from the ground but as a Christmas present, Mr. and Mrs. Jay gave us tickets to actually climb the bridge. We arrived for our bridge climb and were given a safety briefing, breathalyzer test and all the equipment we would need including a radio, light weight jumpsuit and harness. Personal cameras weren’t allowed to be taken along so most of these photos are from their website (and are much better than what we could have shot anyway).
Our guide led us through the undercarriage of the bridge, around the support beams and through catwalks until the start of the main arches. Out of the whole experience, this was the scariest part. The entire bridge would tremble as trams and cars passed overhead. We were walking on see-through metal flooring about three feet wide while heavy traffic zoomed right below us. Once we finally began climbing up the main part of the bridge, we were rewarded with stunning views of the Opera House, Sydney harbor and surrounding areas. It was really interesting to learn about the history of the bridge and how it was built. Climbing on the stairs, walkways and support beams of one of the most famous structures in Australia was such a surreal experience. It was a very memorable day and such a cool way to see the city! We ended the day with drinks on a rooftop bar in the Kings Cross neighborhood.We caught our flight back to Melbourne midday so we could attend Meredith’s boyfriend’s birthday party at Mountain Goat Brewery. We tried all of the local beers, ciders and several of the homemade pizzas. It was a great way to end a wonderful trip to Sydney!We still have lots on our plate for Melbourne (and the surrounding areas) over the next three weeks including my birthday and of course, celebrating Christmas and New Years! A huge thank you to the entire Jay family, not only for welcoming us into their home but for being extremely generous and accommodating. We are extremely appreciative to Philip, Belle and Matilda Jay for the Meredith Music Festival ticket and to Mr. And Mrs. Jay for the lovely bridge climb Christmas present. We are looking forward to enjoying the next three weeks in OZ!