Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 5 - Misc.

After we walked a large portion of the Botanic Garden, we headed back to our hotel on foot, crossing the Yarra River over one of many bridges. We stopped to take some pictures of the river, the trams, which are a major form of transportation here, and Federation Square, a combination of open space and buildings that fronts part of the river. The buildings are rather interesting and geometrically patterned. Then we decided that since we had made sandwiches to bring along for lunch at the zoo, and were going home to have pasta for dinner in the hotel room, all in the name of saving money, that we at least deserved a really fine dessert. Enter Murray's Doughnuts, which is just down the street from our hotel and which makes an apparently famous eclair. Famous according to them, at least, though after partaking of it, we have to agree. It was immense and delicious, a satisfying end to a really lovely day. The conference starts back up for me tomorrow, and then Saturday we'll leave for the little field trip with the lab. There probably won't be much to post until then, so enjoy the photos from today's adventures!

Federation Square:

The Yarra river:


Our token Australian souvenir, probably the only one we'll get on this trip: a stuffed peacock, in honor of all the peacocks we saw at the zoo.

Fabulous and tremendous eclair:

Day 5 - Royal Botanic Garden

After the zoo, we got back on the tram and rode through Melbourne, across the river, and to the Royal Botanic Garden which is in the southern part of the city. On the way to the garden we walked by a large remembrance shrine to WWI, which was a large building on a hill with nice views back across the river to the city. At the time of WWI, Australia's population was less than 5 million people; just over 400,000 men enlisted, and over 200,000 were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. The impact was apparently really large in Melbourne, where almost every inhabitant knew personally someone who was killed or wounded. This shrine was built to provide the relatives and friends with a place to remember and mourn, since most of the bodies of the dead were obviously never returned to Australia.

We continued on to the garden, which is huge and really lovely. It's more like a large, semi-forested park than our typical botanical gardens; we saw very few plantings of flowers, although it is winter, which might account for this. Mostly it was alternating lawns and forested areas, with lots of walkways. It's free entry, which was really nice, and is obviously used extensively by the local residents. I made another Facebook album for this one, but here are a few of the photos we took. It was about 4:30 when we got there and you can tell it's winter by the low angle of the sun. It's been setting around 7pm.

Day 5 - Zoo

Today we started off with a lovely breakfast including the fabled Australian bacon - which is in fact very much like sliced ham. It's delicious. Then we caught a tram to the Melbourne Zoo, which is north of the city. We got there about 10am and stayed until after 3... it was by far the nicest, most wonderful zoo either of us has ever been to. The animals were all in great shape and clearly healthy and happy, which often isn't the case at zoos (the inhabitants of which we frequently find to be just depressing). The design of the place was also wonderful. It was full of vegetation, and the walkways were determined by lush, forest-y plantings that directed your course, rather than concrete barriers or walls. The whole thing was just great. Particular highlights included a walk-in kangaroo enclosure where you could go right up to the 'roos, and an incredible aviary that went on and on and contained tons of incredible birds. We spent about 45 minutes just in there and found it really difficult to leave.

Here are just a few photos, but I put a big album up on Facebook, which has better photo management capacity than this blog. Here's the link to the album.

A meerkat:

Jon and I each acquired a hop-on in the butterfly house. Here's his:

The amazing aviary:

A lovely tree fern:

Us and kangaroos:

Very nice giraffe/zebra enclosure:

Black-lipped cobra (behind very thick glass. The Taipan was next door):

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Days 3 & 4 - Conference for Emily...

Well, it's now Wednesday morning, and what a week it's been! I don't have much in the way of photos, since Monday and Tuesday were completely consumed by the conference for me. So far it's been great. My talk went well, and most of the other talks I've attended have been really interesting. Last night a few of our Madison friends came over to our hotel room to relax and drink some wine, as we're the only ones here who have a room larger than a shoebox (which is all thanks to Jon!). It was quite pleasant and nice to sit around and chat on the other side of the world. Today was designed as a rest day by the conference organizers, so we're taking advantage of it! The rest of them are going on an expensive pre-organized day trip, but Jon and I are going to have breakfast in the city, mostly to experience first-hand Australian bacon, which is supposed to be very different from our bacon, and then we're taking a train to the Melbourne Zoo, and then finishing the day at the Royal Botanic Gardens, which are supposed to be lovely despite it being winter. Then the conference resumes for me tomorrow. Jon has been busily working on files for his clients but has gotten out to explore the city over the past couple of days too. Here are a few photos of the conference center and the Melbourne skyline by day and night... some are a bit blurry because taken with my phone's camera. Nicer ones will come today after our travels!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 2 - More exploring

Yesterday (Sunday) we met up with my friend Ursula from the Museum of the Earth, who now lives here in Melbourne, and did some more exploring of the city. We visited several markets, which were interesting, and the central farmer's market, which was pretty neat. Then we had burgers at a great little place she knew in one of the Arcades, and then it was time to register for the conference and to practice our talks. The Melbourne Convention Center is gorgeous, and I'll take more pictures of it today as I've over there for the conference. Rachel and I give our talks today, so hopefully all will go well! Jon is going to seek out coffee shops in which to work, and we'll meet up again for dinner with fern people.

Day 1 - Aquarium

A few photos from our trip to the Melbourne Aquarium:

For $150 per person you can take a walk in the large shark tank...

Jon observes a ray about to swim over us:

Colorful reef fish and sea horses:

The deadly Stonefish:


Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 1 - Morning wandering

So after breakfast we headed out with Tim and Rachel to find coffee at a neat place Jon had found online, called DeGraves Espresso or something like that. It was on one of the many little alleyway/arcades that are all over Melbourne (see photos). They are very not fast-paced here... at the coffee place and the cafe we ate at last night, you seat yourself and they get around to you eventually, and it's all very relaxed. This kills me, as I always like to move quickly and be on to the next thing, but I'm trying to settle down and enjoy it and it's actually rather nice.

After coffee we parted ways from Tim and Rachel and we walked to Federation Square and then to the river, which is only about a block away from our hotel and runs parallel to it. Then we picked up some more groceries at a larger supermarket we had missed last night, and came back to the hotel for lunch. Next we're off to the aquarium (which is right across the street and a block away from our hotel), and then we'll meet back up with the others for dinner.

Views down the arcade:

Us in the arcade, with seating for the coffee shop behind us. Even though it's winter, it's still mostly warm enough to sit outside if you're dressed appropriately.

Jon and Rachel with excellent coffee beverages:

Rachel's cappo had a fern design!

By the river:

Downtown buildings:

The Flinders Street train station:

'Burger King' was trademarked here when they tried to expand to Australia, so instead the chain is called Hungry Jack's:

Hotel Room tour

My first attempt at video... a tour of our hotel room. More will come!


Although we were up at 4am, we waited until a more respectable hour before eating. Here's me cooking and Jon eating our first meal in our lovely hotel room. He did dishes :)


Us on the first flight, JFK-LAX.

We made it!

Well, we've arrived safely in Melbourne! We'll try to post movies, photos, and descriptions of the trip here over the next two weeks.

We spent several hours in JFK before boarding our first, extremely posh flight from JFK to LAX - Qantas has by far the nicest planes we've ever been on, and we really enjoyed this first flight. The food was great, the inflight entertainment system kept us entertained, etc. However, we barely made it to LAX in time to catch the second flight, due to extensive delays at JFK. They held the plane, though, and after a shuttle ride and a dash from one end of LAX's international terminal to the other, we made it with a few minutes to spare. This flight was the 16 hour monster, and it was ok. Food was still good, we watched lots of movies, and caught up with Rachel and Mercedes, our friends who are also attending the International Botanical Congress and who both ended up on the same flight as us. The airsick guy behind us was the only damper on our enjoyment of this trip (that and the 16 hour part). At length we made it to Melbourne, where it's in the 40s-50s (being winter here), but sunny and extremely pleasant.

We took a shuttle to one of the main train stations downtown, Southern Cross, which is walking distance to our hotel. Our room (which is fabulous), was ready for us, so we checked in, showered, and then went out for lunch. A short nap followed, which may or may not have exacerbated our jet lag, and then we went out exploring with Mercedes, Rachel, and Rachel's boss Tim. We found a small grocery and stocked up on some essentials for our little kitchen, and had a small meal at a little cafe. Then we went to sleep at 8pm, only to wake up at 4am, and we've been up since. Not a bad start to the trip! Today we'll go exploring again and try to stay awake until a respectable bedtime tonight!