Sunday, December 21, 2014



      We are enjoying a December summer in Australia. It's a beautiful country with clean air and friendly people that go out of their way to help you. Currently, we are in Melbourne, staying at an apartment that we rented through Airbnb which is every bit as nice as the website described. We are on the 23rd floor with an expansive view of the downtown skyline and surrounding area. A perfect balcony for my morning coffee and cookies.
     We also have a virtual tour guide—my nephew, Bill Peterson, who lived in Melbourne for eight years and only recently moved on to Adelaide. (See his recommendations below.)  Ron and I walked to South Yarra to take a look at his old stomping grounds and former apartment on Fitzgerald Street. This post includes photos of the lovely Victorian homes in his old neighborhood. We also stopped by the Prahran Market that he frequented—Melbourne is known for these wonderful food markets and this is one of the best. With its huge range of fresh food and baked goods, I would love to have it nearby for my shopping needs. Bill's notes follow:

Welcome to Marvelous Melbourne!  You're near where I used to live.  Here are some ideas:

1. Saint Kilda, 1/2 day, an old Victorian seaside settlement originally, though of course it's on Port Phillip Bay and not the sea!  There's a nice pier and some good walks along the beach as well as plenty of cafes on Fitzroy and Acland Streets.  Also a really cool old amusement park from the Victorian era called Luna Park. On Sunday there's an outdoor crafts market along the Esplanade.

2. Chapel Street.1/2day. An iconic Melbourne shopping street, though it's mostly fashion really and may not be of interest to everyone.  I used to live just off this street. 

3. Carlton, Lygon Street, 1/2 day.  The old Italian neighborhood and near the University of Melbourne.  A shopping/eating/walking street.

4. Melbourne's CBD, especially the famous laneways, iconically Melbourne.  You may want to sign up for a Laneways tour or else explore them on your own. They're one of the things that makes Melbourne Melbourne. There's plenty of shopping in the CBD, notably on Bourke Street.

5. The beautiful Yarra River, especially in the city centre.  Walk on both sides, cross the bridges, go to the Casino if only to walk in and out.  If you walk down to the convention centre there's a cool old sailing shop you can check out.

6. Federation Square, one of the most user-friendly city squares in the world.  The branch of the National Museum of Victoria that specializes in Australian and Aboriginal art is there in Fed Square.  Don't miss it!

7. The National Gallery of Victoria.  A beautiful building, even if you don't spend much time looking at the collection.  It's near where you are.  It's free, though if there's a special exhibition you want to see.

8. Chinatown.  It's the oldest Chinatown in a Western city and fairly big.  Combine it with a trip to the CBD.  Lots of shops and restaurants.  If you're interested in the history of Chinese immigration, there's a good museum.

9. My mom and I took the haunted tour of Melbourne.  I think the one we took started at a magic shop.  It was a PM tour and kinda fun.

10. The Melbourne Goal.  Fun for the whole family.  Don't miss it!  If you want to be creeped out take the evening (haunted) tour.

11.  For more ghoulish activity, you may be interested in the (daytime) Melbourne General Cemetery tour.  My mom and I loved it.  It was the social history of Melbourne in the late 19th and early 20th century through the tombstones!  Not for everyone in the family though.

12.  Super kid friendly: The Collingwood Children's Zoo.  A superb little petting zoo on a lovely spot on the banks of the River Yarra.  Truly one of my favorite spots in Melbourne. 

13. Take the ferry down the Yarra and across to WIlliiamston, the original colonial settlement.  A lovely little town, beautifully preserved.  1/2 day.

14. If you don't do the above, take the ferry upriver from Fed Square or across the river at the arts centre.  It's about 2 hours.  A sweet river with lovely views.

That's it for the highlights.  This is making me miss Melbourne. 







Wednesday, December 10, 2014


      We booked a flight from San Diego to Sydney, Australia on Hawaiian Airlines that required a 24 hour stopover in Honolulu (see previous post).  We decided it made some sense to break up the 16-hour flight with time in paradise. The disadvantages were the hassle of gathering up luggage, finding a taxi, and checking into a hotel for one night.


      It was late in the afternoon when we finally walked out of our hotel to enjoy some down time in Waikiki. After putting our toes in Mamala Bay, we continued our stroll along Kalakaua Avenue. We stopped for fish and chips along the way at the Hula Grill, (2335 Kalakaua Ave) just in time to enjoy the spectacular sunset over the turquoise waters of Waikiki. The journey continued with occasional visits to luxury hotels along the way. One of the benefits of visiting in December is a chance to see the colorful Christmas trees, decorated Hawaiian style. We arrived back at our hotel about 9 pm and were in bed shortly thereafter.
      Not surprisingly, I woke up at 4am the next morning which is about the 6am in California. It was dark, but I couldn't resist heading out for another walk.  I loved the quietness of an early morning, even though it included a few party-goers still heading home from the night before. Fortunately, McDonald’s is open 24 hours so I could get my morning coffee. Although I walked out the first time, and reentered later because I didn't want to hear the argument going on at the counter between two of the customers.
     I was glad for the sunrise about 5:30 am because then I felt safe walking along Kapl'olani Park to the New Otani Hotel where we stayed in the 1980s with my parents— my favorite area because it is a little more peaceful than the rest of Waikiki.
      I returned in time to hang out with my granddaughter Mila so her parents could go out for breakfast. She ate too – peas. I fed her real food for the first time using the latest in colorful plastic spoons that the babies get the pleasure of using these days.
Six-month old Mila is enjoying the travel; she likes activity, watching people and, of course, all the attention. 
      We headed to the airport at 8:45 am the next morning for another ten hours of flying. We all agreed that the layover was an experience that we would not forget and was worth the extra effort. Fortunately, the rest of the travel went smoothly and Mila's grandpa said she was the best behaved kid on the plane (there were a lot of kids on that flight).



Saturday, December 6, 2014


      It's December and we are on our way to Australia or “Down-Under.” It's one of those places that we've often considered visiting, but for various reasons it never quite happened. However, this is our time, and it seems to fit everyone's schedule. It might be a bit too hot and crowded, but nothing fits perfectly.
      We are thrilled about being accompanied by our children, including a new grandchild who at six months will never remember a thing, except through the stories and hundreds of photos that will be taken. Plus,we get the added benefit of celebrating Christmas with our nephew, Bill, who lives in Adelaide.
      I booked the flights last July which wasn't exactly easy because we are traveling during the holidays. I got it accomplished on Hawaiian Air, with a 24 hour stopover in Honolulu. The total flight time with be equal to the 15 hour nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. I think, however, the break, with the sweet smells of Hawaiian flowers and sea breezes will make the outbound trip much more palatable. We arrive in Sydney two days after we leave San Diego—24 hours just disappear due to our crossing the International Date Line.
      We plan to spend our first week in Sydney, followed by a week each in Melbourne and Adelaide. After the kids leave, Ron and I will go on to Perth followed by five days in Sydney before our return.
      December is a popular vacation time for Australians, so, I needed to get on the hotel/apartment reservations right away—they were filling up fast. We definitely preferred an apartment rental. I've had good luck booking apartments with in the past, however, in Australia, offered a much better selection and price. I was also impressed with the website, the convenience of paying with a credit card, and their cancellation policy. It's always a challenge to make lodging decisions when you don't know the area first hand, especially in large cities. I spent many hours perusing the Internet and finally reached a comfort level with apartments in each city. Sydney was the toughest, because it's expensive and most of the sought-after central locations were already booked. We finally chose a two-bedroom city-view apartment in Camperdown, about 30 minutes from the center with good bus service. The next three locations were also challenging and time consuming. I felt relieved when it was over—now we just hope for the best.
      We will be flying between cities on Qantas Airlines—I was able to use my British Air points for these flights because they can be shared with family and friends. Staying for a week at each destination will give us enough time to leisurely visit the sights and still allow for relaxing time with family. I'm more interested in enjoying the moment than seeing every recommended sight on the list.
      I will be bringing along Fodor's Travel Australia 2014 and an old DK Australia book. Then I will add library travel books to my Kindle right before we depart. Although easy to carry, kindle travel books are hard to skip around in, so I prefer a hard copy. The publication of travel books is on the decline now that people can search for just about all their travel needs on the Internet. Frommer's last book on Australia was 2012, and I understand that they are not coming out with a new version. I will always be partial to the Frommer books. I followed Europe on $5 a Day religiously back in 1967, when I traveled for eight weeks in Europe spending less that $5.50 per day.
      Unlike China, the visas for Australia are easy and cheap. You just go on line and order with a credit card ($20). It is linked automatically by computer to your passport number and shows up when scanned at the airport.

      Our daughter, Anna, has prepared a loose itinerary. Many beaches are on the list, including an excursion to Bondi Beach, the most famous of all in Sydney. I'm looking forward to the “not to be missed” Coast Walk from Bondi to Bronte Beach and a walk on the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Then, of course, there is the Opera House and ferry boat rides on the Sydney Harbor with its 149 miles of shoreline. Melbourne has outdoor markets, and great cuisine, and with the Yarra River cutting through the center, it should be beautiful. I'm looking forward to the old Victorian Buildings—I also heard they have great coffee houses. Next we will be on to the charming city of Adelaide and the best part of the trip—a Christmas celebration with my nephew Bill who will be competing with his mother in Minnesota for the best Swedish feast.
      Ron and I plan to stay on after the kids leave. We will fly to Perth in West Australia, which I understand is similar to San Diego. It will be fun to make the comparisons and to visit the nearby port town of Fremantle, Rottnest Island, and perhaps the Margaret River wine region.
      We will end our trip with a final five days in Sydney to include a visit to the Blue Mountains. It contains the world's widest variety of eucalyptus in one continuous forest and will be another reminder of San Diego where hundreds of these Australian trees have been planted.
      We are about to depart. I've made hard copies of all of the reservations. Contacted our apartment host in Sydney to confirm our arrival time and the baby bed. Double checked the flights to make sure nothing has changed. Checked in for our flights.
      Off we go on a new adventure and a chance to discover why Australians believe they live in the best country on earth.
      I will report along the way. Next Post: Waikiki.