Sunday, August 2, 2015

First days in Australia

We arrived in Melbourne, Australia at 7:30am and we didn’t know what wonderful adventures were in store for us. After flying for 21 hours to get here, we decided it was best to stay awake and begin researching ideas in this beautiful city. We headed straight to the Melbourne Visitors’ Center and found that to be extremely helpful. We took the City Circle Tram all around the city and it was awesome. The temperature was definitely chilly as it is winter here. We walked all around and discovered China Town and had lunch there. We also went to the National Gallery of Victoria to explore some art. We visited the Immigration Museum and the Melbourne Aquarium. We spent some time shopping and speaking with a variety of Australians to find out what would be of interest to high school students. The people here are so friendly and helpful. We are loving their accents, although they insist that we are the ones with the accent. After a long day of exploring we came back to the Victoria Hotel located in the heart of the city.

Our second day in Melbourne included a trip to Phillip Island. Our charismatic Australian tour guide, Doug, picked us up first thing in the morning and we ventured on a short journey to the National Wildlife Park. We visited a Trout Farm where we ate lunch that included some freshly caught trout and we walked around the grounds to taste some natural plants and spices. We then went to the Koala Conservation Center and saw many koalas sleeping up in the trees. From there our adventure continued to a kangaroo sanctuary where there were dozens of kangaroos in their natural habitat. The best part was the Penguin Parade at dusk where there were literally hundreds of penguins within arm’s reach. That was truly amazing! When we returned from Phillip Island, we went for some Greek salads at a Greek restaurant.

The next morning started with an outdoor breakfast under the heaters at an outdoor cafe near the city arcades. There are many “arcades” that are filled with cafes and shops. The cappuccino was much better than any Starbucks! From there we completed a walking tour of many other arcades. There is so much great shopping in Melbourne. The chocolate at Haigh’s Chocolates was unlike any other chocolate in the U.S. After that we walked all along the Yarra River and saw beautiful views of the city. We ended up at the Eureka Tower and took the “lift” to the 88th floor where we had spectacular views of the city. We took a few selfies and pictures, but none of the pictures did any justice to the incredible view, and as the Australians would say “no worries”. We ran into a group of girls from a Catholic high school at the top of the tower, and talked with them about other ideas for our students. We ended our day of adventure with Mass at the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We were able to participate in the Mass because there was no language barrier. We went to Lygon Street for some Italian food for dinner because we are trying to have a variety of food options.

-Mike Smith and Joni Mullen

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