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Bars and restaurants

Three weeks in Victoria, Australia

We lived for 9 months in Melbourne back in 1994-95, visited again about 8 years ago, and wanted to come back to visit friends and see all the changes.

First stop was in Woodend north of Melbourne to visit Justin and Rob who we met in Split, Croatia, while checking out a menu and then sharing some wine.  Justin rescued us from the busy Melbourne Airport on Friday evening and we spent a fun 4 days with them seeing some of the area around Mount Macedon.

Rob and Justin at Mooroba Winery

Rob and Justin took us to the Mount Towrong winery up the road from their new house and helped us spend a superb Sunday afternoon.

How better to spend a Sunday afternoon than drinking wine and eating food with friends at the Mount Towrong Winery?

We babysat with the girls – Ruby and Molly, the cocker spaniels – while the guys were at a party.

Terry and Ian were our second set of friends to visit. We met them 24 years ago before they even had any children (now in college and high school).  It was like we saw them just last week.

Ian and Terry – it seemed like just yesterday we saw them.

Essenden Bomber mascot

Mark had front row seats for the Essenden – Adelaide Footy match thanks to Ian. It was even the first match of the season. Ian was thrilled when Essenden came form behind to win!

Ian and Terry took us for an afternoon road trip to the Mornington Peninsula for a brewery visit, 2 wineries, and Arthur’s Seat.  This is a view of the Mornington Peninsula from Arthur’s Seat – a drive, not a hike.

We rented an AirBnB for 10 days right in the middle of the city, conveniently located by the Coles Market and Liquorland.  Melbourne has a free tram zone now to attempt to reduce traffic in the CBD.  Our place was in the free zone making it convenient when we wanted to go around town.

Tall building with Airnb.

The tall building with the red arrow is where our AirBnb was.

View of Etihad Stadium in Melbourne from our AirBnB

Electrical Outlets

See the extra button in the middle? For the cook top to work, this has to be turned on!

We visited the Shrine of Remembrance that now has an informative museum about the role of Australia in various wars and military actions.

Shrine of Remembrance

Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, dedicated to WWI

MCG

The Melbourne Cricket Ground, the mecca of cricket in Australia and site of the Grand Finals in Aussie Rules football.

Flinders Station

Flinders Station in Melbourne

What else did we do in Melbourne?  Haircuts, a little clothes shopping and toothpaste shopping – all the important tasks!

December 2016 – A few days in Bruge, Belgium

Time to head off to Bruges, Belgium (one of our favorite places) before we head back to Amsterdam to fly home on New Year’s Eve.  Berlin Tegel is quite easy to get to from center city – hop on the TXL bus and in about 20 minutes you are at the old and dingy airport.  We can’t figure out when the check-in desks open but the U.S. idea of checking in 2 hours before departure doesn’t exist here! Security is right at the gate because the airport is so old it has no place to do a central security.  Everyone on the flight uses ONE security line and the line does not move quickly – take off coat, put phone, computer, Kindle, belt, in the bin.  New airplane rule on Brussels Air … exit row cannot have anything under the seat in front of it.

After landing, we took the train to Brussels Midi and then to Bruges where we stayed at the IBIS.  Standard IBIS – small room, clean bathroom, excellent breakfast.  The ongoing mystery for us is why European bathtubs with showers are so deep.  People with short legs have great difficulty getting out of the tub after a shower!

Belgium and Bruges are known for beer and chocolate and that’s what this stay was about – visit to Halve Moon Brewery for a beer and Bourgogne de Flandres brewery to do the tour – self-guided with a map to hunt down the moles in the brewery.  Mark had a lovely chat with the brewer who’s working on a degree in brewing even although he has a degree in microbiology already.  The Bourgogne de Flandres house beer is brown mixed with lambic and that makes a pretty nice sour beer for me.  We also stopped at Trappist Beer Cellar (great selection of Belgium beers and knowledgeable staff) and Bieratelier Bruges -on Wijngaardstraat 13.   Bieratelier is a tiny bar with 7 beers on tap, 6 of which are Christmas beers. We tried 4 of them.  It’s a fun bar and the bartender is always helpful.

Christmas beers at Bieratelier, Bruges

Christmas cupcakes in Bruge

Bruges canal in the fog

Bruges canal in the fog

We had to buy some Neuhaus chocolate for a variety of people and make a stop at our favorite little chocolate shop in Philipstraat. We found this one in 1990 on our first visit to Bruges and have returned ever since.

One night dinner was at Malesherbes on Stoofstraat and you’ll need a good map to find this.   Maleherbes was yummy and our splurge – champagne, pigeon pate with a side of duck foie gras, lamb filet that was rare and tender served with potatoes and ratatouille. Finally, we had chocolate mousse for dessert.  This was a typical French meal – 3 hours.  The manager told us they only do one seating at dinner so no one has to feel rushed.   (more…)

November 2016 – Weekend in NYC

We had quite the adventure in New York City last weekend. We were in town for the New York City Marathon!  Mark won a lottery spot last February, trained for the event and then he had to run it! After flying in last weekend and using the train from Newark airport to Penn Station in Manhattan, we spent one day at the 9/11 Museum. We did get tickets ahead of time so we had a time slot and the line was pretty short to get in and go through security even though it was crowded once we were inside.  The museum is well-organized but it was hard for me to see some of the exhibits.  I spent most of the visit in silent tears remembering all the events on 9/11 – waking up to the news, watching it on TV, cancelling class because no one was capable of learning that day.  We had friends flying back from London and they were diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Another friend on his honeymoon was returned to Orlando and a colleague drove back from Columbus, Ohio dropping people off along the way.

9/11 Memorial, New York City

9/11 Memorial, New York City

Thanks to being a Diamond Member in the Hyatt Gold Passport we had coupons for 2 free drinks at Bar54 on the 54th floor of the Hyatt Centric Times Square Hotel on 45th Street in Manhattan.  The hotel is a great location for all things marathon related since we could walk to and from Central Park and Mark walked to the New York City Library to catch the bus to the Staten Island start at 6:30 AM.  His report – not many people on the street at that hour on Sunday morning! We timed our bar visit for sunset although we had to wear coats when we opted for seats on the deck outside.

View from Bar54 at sunset

Looking south from Bar54 at the Hyatt on 45th Street at sunset.

The next event was the Abbot Dash to the Finish 5K on Saturday morning.  The run (we walked!) started at the United Nations and ended in Central Park at the Marathon finish line. In between we got to walk down the middle of 5th Avenue on a Saturday morning.  Now, I can say I’ve walked in the middle of the Champs Elysees AND 5th Avenue!

Mark ran the Marathon along with 50,000 of his closest friends and he finished – his goal!  The atmosphere was electric – one big party for 26.2 miles with runners and spectators from around the world.  One French tour company, France Marathon, brought 1000 French runners – and lots of them were staying at our hotel. I’m pretty sure we were in the English as a 1st language minority at the hotel. I used the New York Subway system to watch him at Mile 11 and Mile 23 and then meet up at the end at Central Park West.

Mile Marker 11 in Brooklyn

Mile Marker 11 in Brooklyn

Monday was our day to go walking some more and after we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral we ran across NBC’s setup for broadcasting for the Presidential Election the next day.  They had Rockefeller Center decked out in red, white, and blue including the ice rink.  Fox News and CBS were further along on the walk.

I am happy to report we had no problem flying back to Denver from LaGuardia – no traffic and no long security lines – despite all the horrors we’d heard about the place.