Thursday, November 26, 2015

Being an American in Australia on my favorite foodie holiday of the year proved to be less difficult than I thought it would be.

Luckily, I’ve met a few other American expats and one of them decided to host a Thanksgiving lunch at her house in Melbourne. Our international Thanksgiving meal included the traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy as well as Asian dumplings, chicken wings, tofu with rice, Indian curries and samosas and a couple French desserts. It certainly was delicious!
I made two desserts – a French cherry clafoutis because cherries are in season now and a pumpkin tart using my gluten-free crust recipe. I forgot to take a picture of my whole pumpkin tart so you’ll only see a slice of it with a glass of wine that I had saved for my husband.
Though our move to Australia has probably been our most difficult one, I was happy to be included among such a warm and friendly circle of other expats. For many, this was their first time experiencing Thanksgiving, a holiday I cherish because it’s not based on religion but on being thankful for what you have and your loved ones. I’m thankful we are able to travel and see so much more of the world, but there are times I wonder what a “normal” life would be like again…if that’s possible.

After lunch, I literally took a nap for an hour before my husband came home so we could go out for dinner. A newish restaurant, Nieuw Amsterdam, an American-style bistro located in the CBD, served up a delicious spread of all the traditional Thanksgiving Day components. Our server was even from the NYC-area. The only thing missing was American football and, of course, our family and friends. 
I don't know how I managed to eat a second Thanksgiving Day meal, but I did! We’ll definitely be giving this delightful restaurant another go during the non-holidays!

Happy Thanksgiving Day to my dear US readers and any other expats who might be celebrating abroad like we are!


My Traveling Joys

Monday, November 23, 2015

I love simply wandering around cities with my camera in hand, stopping whenever I want to take photos.

On a recent trip to Perth, the largest city in Western Australia, I had two whole days to myself to explore while hubby had work meetings. I planned my two days around wandering through the CBD and then the more funky, offbeat neighborhoods of Mount Lawley and Northbridge.

When I learned the city was filled with street art, I basically created my own DIY street art tour. I downloaded an interactive map to my mobile phone from Streets of Perth, a website dedicated to showcasing Western Australia's evolving urban art scene. (The website also gives detailed information or links to the artists.) While Perth doesn't quite have Melbourne's street art culture, there are still quite a few areas to discover these large murals adorning the city’s walls.

I wandered down unknown streets and laneways, which concealed magnificent street art pieces, often several meters in width and height, and behind skyscrapers, restaurants and small businesses. I followed my map and saw the main sights of Perth along the way. I took more than 100 photos of these colorful murals and selected the 20 best ones to give you an idea of what you can find here as well. Enjoy!

My DIY walking tour was a wonderful way to really discover a new city and the creative side of its local artists.

Do you enjoy exploring off-the-beat locations too?


Snake mural by well-known Belgian artist called ROA painted in 2014.
Various murals in Perth. Bottom right: Bold mural on Munster Lane by @anyapaintface for @formwa's street art festival in April.
Pretty Patterns in Prince Lane, painted by Australian artists Clare McFarlane & Paul Caporn. 
The Conversation by @stormiemills in Howard Lane in the CBD.
Girl and Butterfly mural, a collaborative effort by local artists, including IdolMotions. This is located on the exterior of Morris House on Pier Street in the CBD.

Mount Lawley

Colourful laneway, located on Beaufort St. between Mary St. & Chatsworth Road, by Perth-based Drew Straker.
One of my favorites! Lemon Tree Girl by Paul Deej on 150-meter-long Grosvenor Laneway is one of 30 murals painted by 30 different artists in 2014. 
Green Goddess on Grosvenor Laneway was painted by @ms_t0nes & @flauntster as part of the “30 Artists, 30 Walls, 1 Laneway” project in 2014.
Santa Frida mural depicts Mexican painter and famous self-portrait artist Frida Kahlo, which is also located along the laneway. 
Unknown artists painted this mural on the Beaufort St. Laundromat’s building.

Girl Blowing Leaves, 51 Vincent Street, was a private commission painted by local street artist called The Black Mountains.


Beautiful kaleidoscope mural by Perth artist Ian Williams on the wall of the Central Institute of Technology's Gallery Central.
"Baba Yaga's Houses" sculpture by Marwa Fahmy in 2011. The artwork was inspired by a character in Eastern European folklore called Baba Yaga, a supernatural being who lives in a hut that stands on dancing chicken legs. See these quirky characters for yourself on Aberdeen Street in Northbridge.
Left: “Memory of the Land,” painted by Ukranian artist @aec_interesnikazki as part of this year’s Form WA project. On his blog, Aec explained that the intention behind the piece was to show “the contrast between past and modern, between precolonial and colonial part of Australian history.” In the lower part of the mural, the artist said: “The kangaroo-humans symbolize modern inhabitants, the new aborigines of Australia.”

Right: “Migration” mural created by Argentinian artist Ever in 2014.
"Border Crossing" by local artist Audrey Fernandes-Satar in 2012, which was commissioned by the City of Perth. Up close, you’ll see beautiful lines of poetry, including: "Between water and land we’d stay, for the rest of our lives. Bodies displaced. There is no going back. I saw tears in her eyes like I’d never seen before, flowing like the ocean and I promised not to leave. Never leave." 

This larger-than-life Chinese dragon mural is located in a laneway off Roe St. (Nick’s Lane) in Northbridge behind several Chinese and other Asian restaurants. This new mural was painted by Brooklyn-based artists Space Candy and The Yok and local artist Fecks in April 2015.
Adorable mushroom mural by @miseryland located at 255 William St. in Northbridge.

My Traveling Joys

Monday, November 16, 2015

Luckily, we live in what I’ve learned by first-hand experiences is one of the world’s foodie capitals - Melbourne.

Yesterday, we attended the 11th annual Taste of Melbourne, a foodie festival that featured more than 50 tasting dishes from Melbourne and Victorian region chefs as well as local wines and distilled liqueurs.  This festival, held at the scenic Albert Park Lake, made me fall in love with this city’s thriving culinary scene all over again. Life as an expat isn’t always easy, but when events like this happen, I remember why we moved abroad in the first place.

So here’s a foodie recap of the delicious dishes and new-to-us restaurants we tried at the 2015 Taste of Melbourne festival.

Bon Appetit!
We started out with a plate of four spicy prawn and chicken dumplings by highly acclaimed chef Andrew McConnell at Supernormal, a 1 Chef's Hat restaurant located in the CBD. A dry apple cider by Yenda Beer paired well with the peppery Asian food. 
We shared a skewer of Moorish-spiced, charcoal-grilled lamb by MoVida, a popular Spanish tapas bar.
We sampled two dishes from Peruvian native Alejandro, chef at the new Pastuso, which included: salmon ceviche with plantain chips and 8-hour, slow-cooked beef ribs with sweet corn puree. The tantalizing ribs simply melted in our mouths!
In between eating, we also sipped on some fresh, vibrant New Zealand wines by Oyster Bay and Villa Maria. Since moving to Australia, I’ve fallen in love with the N.Z. wines from the Marlborough region, which we plan on visiting in December. I cannot wait! 
We also attended a free rum tasting by Bundaberg, a family-owned business since 1960. We love this Aussie company’s brewed ginger beer, and now we need to look out for its rum! Hubby tried some local vodkas and gins as well.
One of my favorite dishes was a crispy soft-shell crab souvlakakia with mint and coriander by Gazi, a Greek restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD by MasterChef judge and foodie celebrity, George Calombaris.
Another culinary delight was the crunchy chicken “nuggets” with a 7-spice Japanese tartare sauce by Sake Restaurant (bottom right photo). This Japanese eatery, located along the Yarra River, also dished up a delicious dessert – a toasted meringue raspberry bombe with umushu caramel and broken raspberries.

We ended the day with ox cheek braised in root beer with carrots, ginger and sesame by St Kilda's longtime Circa (awarded 2 Chef's Hats this year - top right photo.).
How about some crunchy tostada bites from the Mexican restaurant, El Cielo?
In addition to sampling some of the best of Melbourne's eateries, local chefs gave several live cooking demonstrations at the Electrolux Taste Theatre. We watched Chef Victor Liong of Lee Ho Fook prepare Kingfish sashimi with radishes and burnt garlic and ginger soy cream. This looks like another restaurant that we need to try here.
Just being silly at the Taste of Melbourne festival! 
My Traveling Joys

Thursday, November 12, 2015

As we drove along the Great Ocean Road, I constantly found myself being awestruck by all the indescribable natural beauty around me.

Sure, we came to tick the 12 Apostles off our bucket list, but in the end, we discovered so much more here. Standing along this rugged coastline, with the howling winds whirling around and the light sea spray in your face, is an invigorating feeling. I was amazed at every turn we took!

Don’t do this trip in one day! You’ll barely scratch the surface if you do. I’d recommend at least two days, three preferred, to see as much as you can on one of Australia’s most famous road trips. In fact, we’re preparing to visit for a second time once my in-laws arrive for the holidays.

Here are 8 more dramatic landscapes you’ll find along the GOR:

Bay of Martyrs

Starting at the western end of the GOR trail, just on the outskirts of the small town of Peterborough, this is a wonderful place to see the beautiful Bay of Martyrs. This area has several walking paths that run along the cliff-hugging coast and feature several lookout platforms. The Bay of Martyrs is not as popular as the 12 Apostles, but I’ve heard this area is just as beautiful at sunset when the rocks are backlit by the sun.
2 km west of Peterborough
As you can see from the photos, we were plenty impressed with the Bay of Martyrs.

The Grotto

Our next stop was at The Grotto, basically a sinkhole that was created in the limestone cliffs. I took dozens of photos here trying to frame the peaceful Grotto in contrast with the wild ocean behind it.  
9 km west of Port Campbell

The London Bridge

Well, I guess technically this rock formation is now called the London Arch because of the relentless waves. Originally called London Bridge, this natural archway and tunnel collapsed in 1990 and became a bridge without a middle section. Mother Nature also left two tourists stranded here that had to be rescued by helicopter. There are several wooden platforms here to look out over the rugged landscapes.
7 km west of Port Campbell

The Arch

This natural arch gets pummeled by the surrounding rough seas as the waves crash around and continue to erode the rock. I also took dozen of photos here, trying to capture that perfect moment when the waves crashed into The Arch.
6 km west of Port Campbell

Loch Ard Gorge

Another popular tourist spot right before you land at the 12 Apostles is the Loch Ard Gorge. The gorge is named after the ship Loch Ard, which ran aground in May 1878 on nearby Muttonbird Island at the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne. Only two passengers survived. Here, you can stand on top of the cliff and be amazed by the sheer size of the nearby cliffs, or wander down to beach and sit awhile watching the crashing waves.
8 km east of Port Campbell
The Loch Ard Gorge also featured predominately on the cover of my Lonely Planetguide for Melbourne and Victoria.

In addition, the shipwreck site is a good dive spot where you can still see general cargo such as lead ingots, lead shot, tiles, bottles and pottery.
Creating shadows along the Great Ocean Road.

The Razorback

The next three landscapes are all located at the Loch Ard Gorge site. Simply park your car and give yourself an hour or two to explore these amazing landscapes.

This rock stack is called the Razorback because of its sharp edges and bumps along the top, caused by wind-spray and erosion. Notice how the waves also cause deep smooth grooves along its base. You can even see vertical cracks along the Razorback’s side, so it’s only a matter of time before more rocks collapse.

Island Archway

We followed the signs out to the Island Archway, which collapsed in 2009 and crumbled into the sea. Mother Nature continues to erode Victoria’s coastline, so it will be interesting to see how the coast changes over the years.

Thunder Cave

We could see Thunder Cave, but we couldn’t really hear it (apparently as loud as thunder) during our visit. The cave is about 25 metres deep and a local dive site that can be accessed only by charter boat.

Have you visited the Great Ocean Road? Or would you like to do so?
 This Great Ocean Road trip was my first time driving on the "wrong side" of the road.
Definitely takes some adjustment!
My Traveling Joys