Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Week in Food

I'm back!

I've been away from the blog for over a week while my sister Ali and her friend Jess were visiting. We had so much fun and packed more than I thought possible into their five days in Melbourne. They headed up to the Whitsundays yesterday and will spend four days there before finishing off their Australian adventure in Sydney. 

Yesterday was also Australia Day, so in honor of the holiday, I figured I'd share a few photos of some of the amazing food we enjoyed this past week. Because food is definitely one of my top five favorite things about Australia. Potentially number one ;).

I'll post tons more about Ali and Jess's visit when I can get my hands on some of the pictures Ali took on her good camera. Until then, I'm hoping to lure some more visitors to Melbourne with the pictures below! 

Hotcakes at The Kettle Black in South Melbourne 

I technically enjoyed this amazing giant pancake before Ali and Jess arrived, but it was too good to leave out. The Kettle Black is one of my favorite cafes in our area. The place is bright, pretty, and they even crank up the air conditioning on hot days, which is somehow a rare find in this city. Peter says they have some of the best coffee in Melbourne, but as a fairly new coffee drinker, I haven't tried it yet. I suppose that's an excuse to go back! 

Pear Cider at Republica in St. Kilda 

Okay, this isn't a meal, but I'm on a pear cider kick and this one tasted particularly good on the beachside patio at Republica. This place always sticks out to me due to the ridiculously-comfortable-looking egg chairs on the patio, which I've unsuccessfully tried to snag on multiple occasions. They tend to be monopolized by the under-12 crowd.

Margherita Pizza/Salami Pizza at Rococo in St. Kilda 

I met some friends here for pizza a few weeks ago and loved it so much I had to take Ali and Jess while they were here. We enjoyed these amazing pizzas before heading over to see the penguins at St. Kilda pier. Bonus: an adorable Cavapoo puppy was sitting under the table next to us and I have now decided I need one. Or five. 

Chocolate Pancakes at Two Birds One Stone in South Yarra 

Two Birds One Stone is the kind of place that's too cool for a sign. The first time I went, I couldn't find it for the life of me and then finally spotted the smallest little lettering ever on the door. Despite the slightly pretentious entrance, I love this place and really enjoyed the chocolate pancakes. They were light and not too sweet, so I was able to finish them without feeling sickly. 

Ali and Jess ordered the avo toast, which didn't disappoint: 

Smashed Avocado at Three Bags Full in Abbotsford

One of my favorite avo toasts to date, complete with feta cheese, tomatoes, corn and quinoa salsa, and some other stuff I couldn't pronounce/had never heard of. I don't think I've ever had quinoa on avo toast before, but it was so good I'm motivated to try it myself.

Chocolate Cakes at Brunetti in the CBD

Brunetti is one of our favorite places to go for quick and relatively cheap dessert in the city. I took Ali and Jess here on their first night and we shared a couple cakes before walking around the city in an attempt to beat their jetlag!

Sandwiches at Centro Espresso Caffe in the CBD 

After spending the morning at the Australian Open one day, we were in the market for a quick and cheap lunch in the city. Centre Place is arguably the cutest laneway in Melbourne, but it can be overwhelmingly crowded, especially around the lunch hour. We somewhat randomly decided on a cafe with a relatively short line and an assortment of $5 sandwiches in the window. We weren't sure what to expect; at $5 a pop I was entirely convinced they would be inedible, but they were shockingly good!  

Fish and Chips at Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe (on the Great Ocean Road)

This isn't technically in Melbourne, but is worth mentioning as the $10 fish and chips platter at Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe on the Great Ocean Road can't be beat. We all agreed that the fish was extremely fresh and I thought the coating was perfectly crispy (I can't stand when it's soggy) without being too fried-tasting, if that makes any sense. If you're ever driving by, definitely stop!

Red Velvet Cake at Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Melbourne CBD 

Ali, Jess and I went for tea on their last day and finished with this ridiculously good cake. Is there anything in the world better than red velvet? I think not. 

It was so fun introducing Ali and Jess to Melbourne and eating some amazing food in the process. Hopefully I've convinced a few of you to visit as well ;). Speaking of visitors, Peter returns on February 1st and then his parents arrive on the 4th, so we are excited to show them around as well! 
Friday, January 15, 2016

2016 Plans and Random Things

I've been solely posting about our New Zealand trip lately, so I think it's time for some updates! I actually only have one or two more posts from our trip, which I'll complete this weekend. It's taken me awhile to get all of the New Zealand posts done mainly because Peter is working in the US this month, and I generally blog from his work computer, which he obviously took with him. I've been doing most of my blogging from my phone and our old computer, which has a large crack down the center that obstructs about an inch of screen (super annoying) and is pretty slow. My 2016 resolution is to buy a new laptop. This would have been an extremely attainable goal had Peter won the Powerball yesterday, but sadly, he did not. Shocking, I know. The odds were heavily in his favor. Alright, so here's a random collection of things that have been going on around here lately!

This Month So Far... 

Peter left for Minneapolis on January 1st and got to spend a couple of days with family before heading to a meeting in Iowa. He then drove back up to Minneapolis for the weekend and got to attend the devastating Vikings game before flying down to Kansas City this week. He will be working there for the rest of January and should be home around February 1st, although I don't think his ticket has actually been purchased yet. 

It's been a little weird being alone for this long, but I've kept busy with friends (thanks for basically adopting me, Lauren and Matt!!) and my sister and her roommate are coming to visit next week, so that will be eventful! They'll spend a week in Melbourne with me and then they're heading up to the Great Barrier Reef before ending their trip with a couple days in Sydney. I might meet back up with them in Sydney at the end of the month, but that's still TBD. 

February and March Plans

We have a pretty packed schedule of visitors for the next few months, which is super exciting! Peter's parents are coming for three weeks in February and we are tagging along with them down the Great Ocean Road and then to Sydney. Then my family arrives in mid-March for a couple of weeks Down Under! We love showing visitors around Melbourne and it will be good to see everyone since we weren't home for Christmas.


We don't have a lot of travel planned yet this year, but we have booked to go to Japan at the end of April. We are really excited for this trip, as neither Peter nor I have been to Asia. Plus, everything I've ever heard about Japan is positive, so I've got high expectations. We fly in and out of Tokyo, and stay ten nights total, so suggestions for what to do there/other cities to visit would be appreciated if anyone has done a similar trip! 

The only other travel I have planned is a trip home to Minneapolis for a couple of weeks in May/June. Peter will sadly have to work during that time, so I'll be doing the dreaded Melbourne-LAX flight alone again. Luckily, I've got a couple of really fun events to look forward to, so the flight will definitely be worth it! My brother's girlfriend is pregnant, and due to have the baby around May 18, and then I am in one of my very best friend's wedding the first weekend of June. I am so excited and can't wait to be home during such a fun and exciting time for both my family and friends!

2016 Plans 

We haven't booked many trips this year because, frankly, we have no idea what we're doing. Our visas are set to expire in August (boo), but there has been some talk of an extension through the rest of the school year, which would probably be sometime in November. I'm hoping we get to stay as long as possible, and when we inevitably have to leave, we're planning to make a stop in Fiji or Hawaii on the way home to make it all a bit less painful ;). 

The Apocalypse 

So the world almost ended the other day. We've been having an extremely hot summer, like at least two days a week over 100F hot. I am not a warm-weather person and it's made infinitely more miserable by the utter lack of air-conditioned buildings in Australia. I've probably ranted about this multiple times on the blog, but I just can't deal. Even the places that are allegedly air-conditioned feel like a sauna. There's no relief! Anyway, two days ago was the hottest day in a couple of years, and my phone read 111F at one point, which basically means the world is ending in my book. 
I have to admit, I didn't leave the apartment that day, except to head onto the balcony when a huge dust storm rolled in. I'm not kidding; the winds were insane and the visibility was awful. Lauren sent me this picture via Snapchat from her side of the building:
I also saw this news story: 
I honestly don't blame him. Luckily, the storm brought in some unseasonably cool weather and today's high was only 65F. It was glorious. 

I think that about covers everything...stay tuned for my last couple New Zealand posts this weekend!  
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mount Aspiring National Park

If you've come for sheep pictures, today is your day! After arriving at Lake Wanaka in the morning, we spent the afternoon at Mount Aspiring National Park, basically chasing around farm animals trying to get selfies.

Disclaimer: Mount Aspiring National Park can be reached from Wanaka via an extremely rough/long/sketchy dirt road ("road" is a generous term in places) and multiple large puddles (some bordering on lakes) that you've got to drive through, so if you care about damaging your rental car (we didn't, YOLO) then this may not be the trek for you! Actually, I shouldn't say we didn't care about damaging our rental, because obviously that wouldn't have been ideal, but the road started off paved and then turned into a somewhat legitimate dirt road and by the time we reached the "off-road" section, we had gone too far to turn back. Luckily, our car survived without a scratch. I would say the 1.5 hour Google Maps estimate is pretty accurate. It's only about 30 miles from Wanaka to Raspberry Creek, where the road ends, but you're obviously not traveling at high speeds on these roads.

Wanaka to Mount Aspiring National Park:

We set out to see Mount Aspiring, which I think is the highest peak on the South Island outside of Mt. Cook National Park, and hopefully hike a couple of trails at the end of the road. Unfortunately, the clear skies gave way to low-hanging rain clouds as we drove deeper into the mountains and we couldn't see anything save for a few small hills. Since our original plan was more or less foiled, I concentrated mainly on taking pictures of sheep. Not quite as interesting as Mount Aspiring on a clear day, I'm sure, but a decent alternative for my fellow sheep enthusiasts. 
Peter GoPro-ing.
Jealous of this amazing sheep selfie. None of mine were this successful!
I told you I took a lot of sheep pictures...these little ones were just so adorable! Someday when we've got a yard I'm going to invest in a mini herd of sheep. I'm sure Peter is 100% on board with this idea.
This was right before we reached the end of the road, and I'm assuming that's Raspberry Creek. Mount Aspiring is somewhere in the fog!
These pictures make the conditions look a bit more pleasant than they were. It was raining pretty steadily and was extremely windy. We considered trying the hike anyway, but without a guaranteed view of the mountains I vetoed that idea. 
These poor guys stalled in the middle of one of the river crossings...I'm guessing they underestimated the depth and didn't fully commit. You kind of had to just go for it and plow through the standing water, as I'm guessing a loss of momentum would pretty much guarantee a struggle. In hindsight, I'm a bit shocked our car fared so well. 
Peter tourist-ing again. 
He was apparently pretty proud of that picture!
There were quite a few really pretty waterfalls cascading down the mountains. 
I amazing is this picture. We got pretty close to these guys before I tried to get out of the car to realize my sheep selfie dreams and promptly scared them away. 
Who knew sheep could gallop?
Cow crossing!
We saw approximately two other cars/people the whole afternoon, which I didn't mind one bit. In another life, I would love to own a farm in the middle of nowhere and hang out with horses, cows, and sheep all day!
Overall, if you're willing to risk your vehicle and don't get car sick, I'd definitely recommend trying to catch a glimpse of Mount Aspiring. The road took  us through quite a variety of scenery and the foliage seemed to changed with every mile, making the trip well worth it even without the hike we had planned! 

I'll leave you with this:

More New Zealand adventures:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Milford Sound to Lake Wanaka

After exploring Milford Sound in the morning, we headed back up to Queenstown to spend the night before continuing on to Lake Wanaka.

Milford Sound to Queenstown:

We took our time and explored a bit since we didn't have any time constraints on the way back. I snapped this photo while we were waiting to drive through the mountain via the extremely claustrophobic tunnel. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like tunneling through a mountain is contrary to every survival instinct we should have developed as a species by this point. 
I took about 18,000 pictures on this leg of the trip, but lucky for you I only chose a couple to post ;). 
This is one of our more successful selfie stick photos ever taken. I use the GoPro app on my phone to take the pictures, so as I was walking back to the car, an extreme close-up of Peter's face flashed across my phone as he was fiddling with some setting on the camera. I had fun snapping a few highly unflattering photos of him, which I will cherish forever, but I think he'd kill me if I posted them! 
So the entire time we were in New Zealand, I had this fantasy of getting an adorable sheep picture, preferably with my face pressed up next to it on the other side of the fence. When we spotted a bunch of sheep just hanging out up near the side of the road, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to make my dreams come true and potentially capture a frame-able picture. I was all excited until I got within about 20 feet of them and they freaked out and ran away. Turns out sheep are actually sheepish. Go figure. This was the closest I got to a sheep selfie- not quite what I envisioned, but I'll take it!
We spent a quick night in Queenstown at a lodge right off the main road. Funny story: when we checked into our room, there was a queen bed, kitchen area, and bathroom as usual, but then we discovered a door that led to another room with two bunk beds. For a few terrifying seconds, we thought we had inadvertently signed up to share a room. Peter called the lodge and, thankfully, it was just one large private room. Whew. I spent one night in a "dorm" hostel with my sister in Switzerland, and let's just say, it was top five most horrifying experiences of my life. As in, there was a homeless woman living in the dorm room and everyone else was under the age of thirteen horrifying. Never. Ever. Ever. Again.

We were up early the following morning to embark on the next leg of our trip.

Queenstown to Lake Wanaka:

There was an amazing scenic lookout just north of Queenstown, so we stopped for a few minutes to take pictures and enjoy an aerial view of the valley below.
We came across another scenic turnoff that required some off-roading. We had to jump a fence and then climb up a rock and I'm pretty sure it was 20 degrees. For some reason, I remember being FREEZING during this stop. Apparently Peter wasn't fazed:
Peter had researched some Lord of the Rings sights in the hotel the night before, so we knew to stop at this restaurant, which is rumored to be the filming location for the Prancing Pony. I've never seen the movies so I can't offer too much context, but it was a fun stop!
We arrived at Lake Wanaka just before noon and hung out a bit by the water. We weren't sure what to expect from the small town of Wanaka, but it turned out to be really cute. There were plenty of good restaurants, a great brunch spot with free WiFi (!!!), and multiple walking tracks nearby. 
This is one of my favorite photos from the whole trip, taken as we walked along the lake after dinner:
We spent the afternoon exploring Mount Aspiring National Park, which will be featured in my next post!

More New Zealand adventures:

Monday, January 4, 2016

Cruising Milford Sound

It was pretty much love at first sight when we arrived at Milford Sound. Of all the places we visited, this might have been the most surreal. I can see why the South Island is a popular filming location, because I've never seen a place that looked so straight out of a movie!
We waited a few minutes to board the boat and then took a seat in a covered area, which turned out to be a good choice because it was pretty chilly and windy out in the open. We chose one of the smaller tour operators, since we heard some of the large boats were too crowded and couldn't get as close to the shoreline. There were only about 30 people on our cruise, so it was nice to not have to fight for space! In fact, we really only had to compete with 28 fellow tourists, because two of our fellow passengers drank a bit too much wine and then slept on the benches inside the entire time. It was the weirdest thing.
We went outside to take a few pictures and this happened. Story of my life. No matter how many hair ties I buy, I never seem to be able to find one in desperate times.  I swear they just disappear into thin air, along with bobby pins and socks. That's my theory, anyway.
Just a few minutes into the trip, we saw a whale surface. I missed it for the most part, but got this tail picture as it dove back down. 
In other wildlife news, we got up pretty close to a bunch of seals just chillin on this rock.
After seeing them up close, I've come to the conclusion that seals, as a species, aren't that cute.
We continued down the coastline and came across a lone penguin waddling through the rocks. Who needs a zoo when you can just cruise around Milford Sound instead!
We made it to the edge of the Sound before turning around to head down the other side. At this point, the waves were decent-sized and the ride was pretty rocky, even though the captain said it was a relatively calm day. Someone on the boat asked how far out they go in choppier conditions and he said they turn around when people start to look green! I hope he was kidding...
Oh look more seals!
We saw a couple of pretty epic waterfalls during this portion of the cruise, and we even went under one. I made the mistake of staying outside to try to get some pictures under the waterfall but pretty much failed and ended up soaked. Here's a selfie we took just before the waterfall incident. Peter had the good sense to head inside after this.
The last picture I got before getting completely soaked. 
The cruise lasted about two hours and we got back just in time to grab some lunch at the cafe across the street.

We took a couple more pictures, because how could you not with this background, and then were on our way!
We drove back up to Queenstown and spent the night there before continuing on to Lake Wanaka, which I'll post about next!

More New Zealand adventures:


Welcome! I started Laura and Peter Down Under in July 2014 when my husband and I moved from the States to Melbourne, Australia for his job. I blog about expat life, our travels, food, and whatever else comes to mind. Follow along on our adventures Down Under!



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