May 10, 2009

There's a Lighthouse at Byron Bay!

The great thing about home exchanging is that you meet some really wonderful people that are always happy to share information with you about where they live. They love to give you tips on the best places to eat, which typically are not in any travel book. And they love to tell you what "must see" places you should visit.

Helen has certainly made my trip to Australia an unforgettable one! With all that she has to do to prepare for her 9 week trip to Europe, during dinner last night she can't help herself but to offer to take Sharon and I to Byron Bay!

Why I'm I so excited about this little excursion today? There is a Lighthouse there people! And for those of you who have been following this blog and reading about my travels, know very well how excited I can get about a Lighthouse.

What a beautiful drive to Byron Bay which is about an hours drive south of Surfer's Paradise on the Pacific Highway.

Helen decided that it would be great to see the Lighthouse from a distance first. What a great idea! And apparently this is also a great spot to wake up in the morning and brush your teeth.

Okay, I'm ready to get closer to that Lighthouse you see in the background of the picture above. Helen dropped Sharon and I off at a lower parking lot of the Lighthouse so that we could enjoy the views as we walked up to the Lighthouse.

Helen opted to drive around to the other side and walk the trail up from there and meet us at the top.
The Cape Byron Lighthouse was built in 1901 and stands 22 meters (approx. 72 feet) tall and has the most powerful light in the Southern Hemisphere.
After taking pictures from every possible angle, we decided to take a closer look at the little cottages that you can rent. We then came across someone selling ice cream and decided it's time for an ice cream cone! Mmmmm, nothing better than fresh mango ice cream on a hot day walking around a is good!

It's time to start taking the trail down the other side. On the way down I am breathless by the views of the ocean, the coastline, the Lighthouse! And then to top all this off, the trail takes us to the "Most Easterly Point of the Australian Mainland".

Well I say "Let's get down there so we can say we stood on the most easterly point of the Australian Mainland!"

As we continued walking along the beach to get to where Helen had parked the car we came upon some surfing competition.

We make it to the car but Sharon and I decide to continue to walk along the path that will lead us to where Helen will once again meet us. It's time for some lunch now and we decide on a great little restaurant, The Byron Bay Cafe which is located right on the beach. So you know what this means....lunch outside on the deck!

As we were enjoying our lunch we noticed that a triathlon was taking place just a few yards down the beach.

The time has come when we have to start thinking about heading back to Surfer's. So we decide to take a little walk through the streets of Byron first and check out some of the sites. It was pretty exciting to see "The Beach Hotel". Why? Because it is owned by Paul Hogan, you know "Crocodile Dundee"!

Now the next thing we come across might not seem to exciting but I have never heard of an organic donut. So you know I had to try one!

This was such a great day and we will never forget all the amazing sites that we saw today. The Lighthouse, the most Easterly point of the Australian Mainland, surfing competition, a triathlon and Crocodile Dundee's hotel.
If you would like to see more pictures of our day just go to "Where's Debbie" and click on the album "Byron Bay"

May 9, 2009

So Many Wineries, So Little Time

When I went up to Tamborine Mountain for my second hike into the hinterland I was so happy to see that there were wineries all over up there. So you know I had to get back up there to sample the Australian wines!

Sharon hasn't had the pleasure of seeing Tamborine Mountain and when I suggested we make today (May 8) a day of wine tasting, it was a race to the car.

Our first stop is St Bernards Hotel. No this isn't a winery but we had our first glass of wine here because I knew Sharon would love the views. But what I really knew was that she would fall in love with Leo the St Bernard.

Okay, let's get to those wineries! We had picked up a little brochure at St. Bernards Hotel that mapped out where all the wineries were located. "Follow the boutique wine trail" it read, so we did just that.

However, on our way we spotted a great little antique store "Vintage Frills" located at 92 Main Western Road, and we decided to take a peek.

I love poking around antique stores and what a treat to be able to do this while I'm in Australia and see what types of antiques and vintage items the Australians have to offer. We were finding pretty much all the typical items like glassware, jewelery and furniture. And of course Sharon loves vintage clothing and she was having fun trying on boots and looking through the bed jackets when she calls out to me "Debbie, you have to see this".

Because I work for Ann Taylor part time I thought this was hysterical! The only thing I can say that's vintage about this would be the price! $25.00 AUD converts to about $20.80 USD. These days you can't even get a cami from Ann Taylor for this price!

Okay, I need some wine! As we continue on Main Western Road we see our first winery, Witches Falls Winery

As we walk towards the entrance we see a magnificent poinsettia. And it wasn't in a pot! I had no idea how big this plant can get until I saw my first one in Okinawa and then in Africa. So of course we had to have pictures.

I love Australian wine and how great to actually be able to visit an actual winery. We had so much fun hearing about the region, the grape, the process. But what we really loved was tasting the wine!

We even had the opportunity to meet the owner.

We decide now that it is time to grab a bite to eat so we head to an area called "Gallery Walk". This is a street lined with some great shops where art, handcraft, books and antique shops abound, as well as some quaint little restaurants. We chose this great little place called "Amore Cafe" because it had outside dining. And if you know me, when at all possible, eat outside!

I decided on a chai latte......

and then some Bread and Butter pudding while Sharon had the garlic flat bread .....YUM!

We got to chatting with our waitress and discovered that she was leaving in the morning to Brisbane to try out for "Australian Idol". She wouldn't give us a sampling of her singing because she wanted to save her voice for the audition. We're looking forward to seeing her hit the charts and say "We knew her when".

We didn't want to eat too much because we had a dinner invitation tonight to Helen and Grant's and we needed to be there in just about 2 hours. So we decided to shift gears and do a little shopping. It was fun to see some other countries represented on the "Gallery Walk"......... Cuckoo Clocks from the Black Forest in Germany.............

.....and I think this one speaks for itself! I miss you Stijn!

Time to head off the mountain and fore go the wineries....Rats! But we were rewarded with a spectacular view when we reached the bottom.

What a treat to be guests to an Aussie Barbie!

Helen cooked us up some chicken on sticks with different marinades, along with some Kangaroo. No it doesn't taste like chicken.

What a perfect way to end our day of wine tasting and exploring. Good food, good friends and more good wine!

If you would like to see more pictures of our day on Tamborine Mountain check out "Where's Debbie" and click on the album "Tamborine Mountain"

May 8, 2009

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

The day has finally come when I get to hold a Koala Bear and see some Kangaroos!

I had been to Australia once before while on my very first home exchange in December 2006 to this very same place on the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise. But as unbelievable as this may sound to you, I NEVER got to see a Koala Bear or a Kangaroo. Well I wasn't letting that happen again, so today(May 7th) Sharon and I headed to the Wild Life Sanctuary in Currumbin. The Sanctuary is home to the world's largest collection of Australian native animals. It's not a zoo but a research and conservation facility with a collection of over 1400 mammels, birds and reptiles.

We wanted to make sure that we would get there in time to hold the Koala's so we left about 9am for the 30 minute drive down the I2 Gold Coast Hwy. Within 5 minutes of paying our $39.60 AUD admission we were holding a Koala Bear! His name was George and he was handed to me by one of the sanctuary employees. She first made sure I had my hands in the right position, then she placed a towel over my hands before she put George in my arms. What was the towel for you ask? Well it seems Koala's just keep poop'in and they will do so during the split second that you get to hold them. I was surprised how heavy George was and I was informed that he weighed about 20 pounds.

After Sharon got to hold George we noticed all the other Koala's nestled in the trees still sleeping. It's amazing how they do this and don't just fall out of the trees.

Okay, where are the Kangaroos! On our way to see the Kangaroo's we stop in to check out the Australian reptiles, some of which seemed to be pretty friendly.

We happened to meet a very nice sanctuary employee who was sweet enough to walk with us in the direction of the Kangaroo's and share some information about the sanctuary and some of the shows that would be going on throughout the day. We came to a fork in the road....Kangaroos to the right, Dingo's to the left. Hmmmm. Well Sharon is a big dog fan so we decide to detour to the left and catch a glimpse of a Dingo. On our way we come across some more Koala's hanging out in the trees munching on some eucalyptus leaves.

Of course we spent entirely way to much time here taking pictures. Somewhat satisfied that we have taken pictures from every angle possible, we wander around a bit trying to decide which way to the Dingo's but we can't seem to figure it out. We did pass a spot where the Wombat's hang out though, but they were nowhere to be seen. Alright then, let's get to the Kangaroo's.

I realize I am a bit obsessed with seeing the Kangaroo's but it comes from a picture that was taken when my son was in this very same place in 1997 and he is kneeling beside a Kangaroo! I was so impressed when I saw that picture and thought what a great experience. And now I have the chance to do the same thing. Who knew!

When entering the area of the Kangaroo's it reminds me of taking my children to a petting zoo. Minus the goats of course. There are Kangaroos everywhere! This was so cool because you could just have a face to face conversation about life in Australia.....

or just lay out together and work on your tan.

Well it's time to get something to eat so we decide to buy a sandwich and we settle in at a table that wasn't occupied by an Ibis.

Then Sharon decides that she needs some of those little mustard packets for her sandwich. So she leaves her sandwich behind certain that it would be there when she returned. No I didn't eat it. But within seconds an Ibis swoops down on our table, snatches her sandwich and then boldly lands just steps away from us and proceeds to eat it. I guess this happens a lot here because her sandwich was replaced immediately.

We then bought an ice cream cone and decided to take the little train ride that takes you through the park. But when it arrived at the front of the park, which is where we started, it stopped and the conductor annouced that it would not continue on because the bird show was about to begin. Bummer! So we decided to walk back in the direction of those Dingos! This was the better choice as we were able to see so many more animals. We saw crocodiles, tree kanagroos, wombats, red tailed black cockatoos, emu's, a cassowary, black winged stilts and several other types of birds, and lizards. We were unfortunate though and did not get to see the Tasmanian Devil. But we did see that Dingo!

This has been a full day of being one with the animals of Australia. So what better way to top off this day then to drive just around the corner and be back at the Viking Surf Club. We enjoyed a glass of wine while looking out over the waves crashing against the rocks and tried to wind down from the excitement of our day at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

If you would like to see pictures of all the animals we saw just click here "Where's Debbie" and then click on the album "Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary"

May 5, 2009

A Day in Springbrook National Park

The last few days have just been a lot of taking it easy and enjoying the beach. But it's Monday, and Sharon has been here one full day now and we agree that it's time to get out and see some more of the Gold Coast!

Actually Helen and I had already planned a little outing for today while we were shopping in Surfer's on Saturday. So today Helen, Sharon and I are heading into the Hinterland to Springbrook National Park with Helen playing tour guide once again.

Our first stop is "Natural Bridge". Now this is Sharon's first glimpse of the rainforest and she is amazed with the Strangler Figs

and Yellow Carabeen trees that we pass while crossing bridges over creek beds to reach our destination. Of course I am still equally impressed even after hiking twice now through the hinterland.

This is a very short walk and it doesn't take us long before we come upon a waterfall that is spilling into a cave below.

As you well know I could just stand here all day and look at this waterfall. Of all the waterfall's I've seen I have never seen one falling into a cave. The "Natural Bridge" was actually created over millions of years by water tumbling through the roof of this basalt cave. But what has me really excited is that we can actually go into this cave and see the waterfall from there.

This is the coolest thing I've ever seen.

It's too bad we were here early because at sunset this cave is illuminated by thousands of glow worms. But there is more to see here in the hinterland and the day is a wasting!

As we continue on this scenic winding route through Springbrook we come to the border where Queensland meets New South Wales and there are some breathtaking views of the mountains from here.

On our way down the other side of this mountain range we come to the little town of Chillingham N.S.W. which is in the Tweed Valley. We decide to stop at the Chillingham Village Store and have ourselves a bite to eat.

This historic general store was built in 1922 and as we entered, it felt as if we were not in 2009 anymore. We placed our orders with John who seemed to have that bygone era friendliness.

And what better place to enjoy our coffee's, latte's and meat pies then in the beautiful little beer garden just outside.

When we finished we absolutely had to walk next door to the" Chillingham Bush Tucker".

This is Australia's version of a vegetable/fruit stand but not with your typical items you would find in America like tomatoes, corn, bananas, apples, and oranges. No they have Yuzu Fruit, Kaffir Lime Leaf, Budda's Hand and unique Bush products. And plenty of fresh Australian Native Fingerlimes.

I'm sure you are asking yourself "What the heck is a Budda's Hand"? Well it is a citron with a very strong scent and very unusal segments which represent fingers. I have never seen anything like this and I was having some fun with it!

Now what's really neat about this stand is that you can actually take a walk out back and see all of these unusal fruits and vegetables growing. So you know we had to do that!
We end our day in Currumbin at the Vikings Surf Club where we met with some friends of Helen and enjoyed a glass of wine while watching the sun set on another wonderful day on the Gold Coast.

You can see more pictures of our day by clicking here "Where's Debbie" and then click on the album "Natural Bridge"
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