Petersham to Sydney Olympic Park to Kangaroo Pizza

Today, I was alone while journeying through Sydney.  Sam was busy with a conference for work , so I decided to take the opportunity to hop on a train and check out the Sydney suburbs.  I rushed into the Town Hall train station, jumped on the Inner West train, looking back only because the only seat available was facing the back of the train.

My first stop brought me to a little Portuguese community called Petersham.  I jumped out of the train and left the smell of the train, to an open air station with one exit.  I followed a few people around, and just looked at the interesting home architecture and the crazy water tower that stood up on a hill behind the homes in the area until I found New Canterbury Road.  This was an interesting little block, I walked with some old Portuguese ladies, who were all too happy to say ‘hi’ to their friends as they crossed the street.  Why were these ladies so happy?  I was just about to find out.

 

Sweet Belem

I looked inside this shop and saw three elderly people drinking coffee and sharing stories like old friends should.  I knew this was my place.  Looking at the bakery window, I see cakes, buns, and then I see it.  The sun was shining through the window right on the golden tarts as if it was calling to me.  The custard looked firm, yet moist, and the crust looked like hundreds of tiny crunchy flakes ready to break off and melt in my mouth.  “I’ll take one Portuguese custard tart and a latte, please.” “Eat here, or take away?” the young barista asked.  “Eat here,” I said hastily, something like that shouldn’t wait unless it was absolutely necessary.  It didn’t take long for my latte and tart to come.  The latte itself was pretty standard fare, so I won’t say too much about that.  The custard on the hand, was everything I explained and then some.  The egg custard was tasty and not too sweet, the crust was buttery and flaky, and the little sprinkle of cinnamon added that little bit of goodness that brought this over the edge.  I ordered one to go, and picked up one last bit of goodness before heading to Darling Harbour.

Traditional Portuguese Charcoal Chicken

It was getting close to lunchtime and I had to bring something extra good with me to meet up with Sam.  Across the street from Sweet Belem was a huge sign that said Traditional Portuguese Charcoal Chicken.  I ran inside and ordered a quarter chicken.  The woman at the counter asked, “Tangy or Spicy?”, my mouth watered and I said, “Yes.” “Sir, sir, please choose one.” “Both please.”  “That I can do.” I watched as she chopped up a quarter of a chicken, and brushed the Tangy sauce and then brushed the Spicy sauce, and placed it in a foil bag and in a plastic bag.  Oh man, the smell was wonderful!  I rushed back to the station and hopped on the Inner West and got off at Town Hall.  I sent Sam an email that I was at the Convention Center.  We sat in the mall close by, and we opened up my goody bags.  The chicken was still warm, and on the first cut, was still juicy.  The taste that really makes it is the Piri Piri sauce.  Garlic, butter, chillies, and citrus hitting all my tastebuds.  This is definitely something I will have to look for in San Francisco.

Sydney Bicentennial Park

After lunch, I decided to hop on another train towards the Olympic Park.  The train from Darling Harbour is the Northern Line, taking it from Town Hall to the Concord West Station.  I could have continued on a special train to the Olympic Park station, however I wanted to walk through Bicentennial Park towards the Olympic Stadium and Aquatic Park.  Upon entry into the park, I found families having picnics and organizations running events on really large fields.  I decided to follow this businessman and and jogger further into the park towards what looked like a huge tower.  A handful of people were just strolling through the park or exercising, and no one was climbing to the top of the tower.  I saw a staircase, and decided to make the climb.  The view from the top was mediocre at best.  No wonder there was no one else climbing the Treillage Tower.  I had a view of the park I walked through, a river, and the city line… oh and Ikea!

Sydney Olympic Park

In the year 2000, the Summer Olympic Games were held in Sydney.  The Sydney Olympic Park is quite a sight.  I checked out the Aquatic Park, ANZ Stadium, Allphones Arena, and the grand Sydney Showgrounds.  The coolest thing I saw there was the Monster Skate Park.  There was a group of Japanese tourists learning how to skateboard by Australian skateboarders.  After a while, I got a little lost and ended up at a convention center with a lot of loud music, and a guy shouting encouragement and numbers.  I peeked inside and saw a bunch of people punching the air and jumping around.  Ah, a sign said, “Train the Trainers.”  And seeing the fitness level of the people inside, I realized I was at a fitness trainers seminar.  Definitely not what I was expecting.

Bourke Street Bakery

After walking around for about 3 hours, I decided it was time to return.  While sitting patiently on the train, I remembered hearing about a bakery in the Surry Hills area.  Bourke Street Bakery is about a mile from the closest train station, Central Station.  The walk is pretty nice, you walk through Ultimo into Surry Hills.  The style of the homes in this area seem Victorian with some a lot of metal fences.  I thought they were pretty unique and interesting to look at.  The people here reminded me of Noe Valley in San Francisco, a lot of young families, hipsters and dogs.  I finally reached Bourke Street Bakery, and waited in a 4 person line.  By the time it was my turn, the clerk was pretty rude. “What?” “I’d like two Lemon Curd Tarts please.” “You want what?” “Two Lemon Curd Tarts.” Rolls eyes. “$9.” Hmm… it doesn’t sound that rude when I type it out, but trust me, I felt like I wasn’t wanted.

The Lemon Tarts were pretty delicious.  Lemon custard surrounded by a flaky crust.   How can you go wrong?  First bite you crack the crust a bit and let the lemon custard goodness attack your tastebuds with that sweet, tangy cream.  Despite the rude clerk, I would still make the trek here to try their other pastries.

The Australian Pizza

After bringing that second tart to Sam, we headed out for dinner.  Sam had asked her Australian coworkers about a good place to try Kangaroo and Crocodile meat.   I was pretty excited to try Kangaroo.  The place is called The Australian Hotel” and is located in The Rocks.  We entered the bar/restaurant and asked for a table for two.  The server just told us to pick a seat anywhere that’s open, so we found one by a window away from the bar.  After sitting for about 5 minutes, I noticed a sign that said, “Please order all drinks and food at the bar.”  So, Sam went over to the bar and made our order of Pepper Kangaroo Pizza and Salt Water Crocodile Pizza.  The crust on both pizzas is thick.  Definitely, not the fancy thin crust that we’re used to with Napoletana pizzas.  The Kangaroo is marinated in pepper and sliced thin on top of a bed of roasted capsicum and cranberries.  The Crocodile is also thinly sliced but is on a bed of thai basil and coconut cream sauce.  Croc meat tastes like fish and chicken marinated in mud, not my favorite.  Kangaroo was tough and gamey, and I can tell they marinate it in Pepper to add some taste.  The staff at Australian Hotel is very friendly, but I would definitely want to try some of the other stuff on the menu next time, i.e. Roast Peking Duck Pizza!

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Pure Gluttony on Day 2 of Sydney, Australia

There has been no shortage of eating on this trip. Even as I write this post, I am bursting at the seams. Diet starts when I return. I swear…

Early Monday morning, K and I headed for Circular Quay to grab a ferry to Taronga  Zoo.

Meal #1

On our way, we each grabbed a personal pie for breakfast at Pie Face, an Australian fast-food chain restaurant that has been taunting me since I arrived. K got a breakfast pie filled with scrambled eggs and sausage and I got one filled with chicken and mushroom. The pies sound better than they taste. Dry and flavorless is what I would describe them. I was disappointed since the pie took up a good portion of my stomach and I still had tons of eating to do.

After the short delay, we were back on track to Circular Quay. We purchased a ferry/zoo combo pass (Zoo Express) for $50 per person. It was a little overcast that day, but the skyline of the Sydney Harbour was still picturesque. We stood out the back of the ferry and took pictures like there was no tomorrow, as did everyone else on the ferry.

After about 20 minutes, we arrived at Taronga Zoo. This zoo is amazing! The animals were so alive and happy, completely opposite from the zoo in San Francisco. You start by taking a gondola to the top of the zoo and work your way down. There are about 9 areas of the park each dedicated to a series of animals – seals, giraffes, koalas, etc. The best part of the zoo was the gorillas. They were hilarious! There was a sign outside of the gorilla pin stating, “The gorillas are getting used to a new adult gorilla that has recently joined the group.” And after watching them for several minutes, we immediately figured out which one of the gorillas was the new kid on the block. The poor adult gorilla was being picked on by the 2 younger gorillas!

Meal #2

While there, we split an order of fish n chips from one of the stands. It what you would have expected purchasing food from a stand at an amusement park. Frozen, mass produced.

Meal #3

When we got back to Circular Quay, we walked over to the Woolloomooloo district for the Tiger Pie at Harry’s Famous Pies. Now this combination is the strangest combination I’ve ever seen. This Australian favorite is a personal beef pie with a scoop of mashed potatoes and a heaping scoop of “mushy” peas. All that topped with gravy. We doused a couple of their sauces on the pie and dug in. It’s an interesting mix. Tasty, meaty, salty, heavy. It was pretty good, and I’ll probably grab another if I ever come back to Sydney.

Meal #4

At this point, I have no idea why we stopped at the Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar at the Westfield Center. But, we did and ordered 3 golden lava buns to snack on.

Meal #5

After killing some time at the mall and in the hotel room, we headed out for dinner at Mamak, the most recommended restaurant from my Australian coworkers. Mamak specializes in Malaysian food. Sydney seems to have a great representation of really good Asian foods because of its proximity to the native countries. With a fully packed restaurant and a line out the door, it was obvious this place had it going on. Luckily, K and I were seated right away. We ordered the Roti Canai, the chicken satay and fried chicken with coconut rice. To drink, we order 2 hot frothy milk teas. The best meal of the day by far. The roti is much different than the one back home at Banana Island. It was soft and chewy with a little bit of crunch on the outside. It came with 3 dipping sauces – mild, spicy and a little dab of shrimp paste. The chicken satay was uh-mazing. 6 skewers of really tender, juicy chicken with a giant bowl of sweet peanut ginger sauce for dipping. There was obviously way too much sauce for the amount of chicken, but we managed to consume it all somehow. Last but not least was the fried chicken and coconut rice. I have never had a piece of fried chicken like this. The coating on the outside was orange and extremely thin and crispy. The inside was flowing with juices. Oh gosh, I hope I can find this meal back home somewhere.

At the end of the day, I did not want to look, smell or talk about food for the rest of the night. Tomorrow, was a new day.

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Bye bye with Versailles – Day 13

Just like WWI and Marie Antoinette’s reign of France, our two-week European vacation ended with a trip to Versailles. We did have one more day, but all we did was shop. So, the last post will only be of our last meals in Paris.

Versailles is about a 1.5 hour train ride from Paris. We were lost in the train station for a bit, so it took us a little more time to get there. Tip: take any train that starts with a “V.”

When we got there, the weather was nasty. Cold, rainy and cloudy. The grand palace of Versailles was actually closed when we first got there due to poor weather. So, we decided to roam the famous gardens first. The place is huge! Rick Steve’s rule of thumb is 1.5 hours in the museum, 1.5 hours in the gardens and 1.5 hours at the chateaus. The gardens were beautiful, although I seemed to enjoy the Tivoli gardens near Rome more. I’ll blame it on the rainy weather. Also, Versailles’ garden is famous for it’s fountains, but unfortunately, they’re only open in the spring and summer so we didn’t get to see the garden at it’s full caliber. Here’s a funny story I’ve heard. Louis XIV built Versailles way before there was actual plumbing, so in order for the fountains to work, his servants would run from fountain to fountain to manually pump the water as the King roamed the garden.

K and I stopped for a quick lunch at one of the many restaurants in the garden. We each ordered a savory crepe which we were both dissatisfied with. The crepes must’ve been pre-made and frozen. The cheese was cold and hard, the crepe was almost as thick as a pancake and it was topped with perfectly cubed frozen veggies. Blegh!

We walked to the far end of the garden to see the Grand Trainon, a large pink chateau where Louis XIV used to spend time with his mistresses.

Nearby sits Petit Trainon, a chateau given to Marie Antoinette by Louis XIV.

Last but not least, we visited the grand palace. The rooms were filled with gold trim, velvet curtains, and crystal chandeliers. If there’s anything I’ve learned being here, it is that Louis XIV is not one to skimp. There was an exhibit for a Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, on display at the palace and I found it really weird to see the modern cartoon sculptures sitting in each of these old rooms. Although it was very cute, I thought the exhibit took away Versailles’ limelight since most of the visitors were paying more attention to the sculptures rather than the rooms themselves.

We rushed back to Paris to see the Orsay before it closed. The Orsay was included in our Paris pass, so I figured, “Why not take advantage of the free admission?” We had about 30 minutes in this museum – only about 3 hours too short. It was very different than the other museums we’ve been to on this trip. The Orsay houses one of the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art which includes works by Van Gough, Monet, Manet and Gauguin. Unfortunately, a lot of the museum was on loan at SF’s de Young Museum. So when we were in Paris, the famous pieces were right in my home town. Bummer!

On our walk back to the hotel, K and I stopped at Angelina which serves the “best hot chocolate in Paris.” Although it was very good, I think the hot chocolate at Cacao Sampaka in Barcelona is the winner. Angelina’s hot chocolate was sweeter. I preferred Cacao Sampaka’s because it seemed to be made with a darker chocolate and I could really taste the complexity of flavors in the drink. If you’re not heading to Barcelona though, Angelina is a great alternative for a hot, thick, chocolaty drink. I can’t find my hot chocolate photos, but I’ll get them up soon.

Throughout this entire trip, I wanted so badly to go on a double-decker tour bus. We finally got around to it this day and paid a hefty amount for a night time tour around Paris. The sights are beautiful lit up, but for some reason, I couldn’t keep my eyes open! I was so exhausted, I kept nodding off. It wasn’t until I saw the Moulin Rouge that I stayed awake. That site was a must see on my list.

From here, we called it a night.

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Paris Adventures – Day 12

This post took me days to write! I am still shocked at the amount of activities we did on this day. Let’s get right into it.

The Louvre

Paris Louvre Day

Some say you can spend a whole day or more at the Louvre. K and I did it leisurely in 4 hours thanks to Rick Steves. In Rick Steve’s Paris 2010 book, he walks you through the Louvre in a 2 hour tour, but we added on sites along the way which stretched the tour to 3-4 hours. Here are some highlights:

The inverted pyramid – This is actually outside the Louvre in the Carrousel du Louvre, the museum’s underground mall. You may recognize this from the end of the Da Vinci Code. Robert Langdon finds the Holy Grail under the pyramid next to the Virgin Records.

Paris Louvre Venus de Milo

Venus de Milo – This is one of the most famous sculptures from ancient Greece. It is believed to be of Aphrodite, but experts are still unsure. The fascination of this piece is that it’s history is mysterious. No one knows the artist, who it is depicted of, and what her arms may be doing in the sculpture.

Paris Louvre Winged Victory

Winged Victory – The Winged Victory is one of the most famed sculptures in the world. The sculpture of the Greek goddess, Nike of Samothrace, was constructed in 190 BC to honor a sea battle.

Paris Louvre Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa – No explanation here. It’s the Mona Lisa! It’s probably the most celebrated piece in the Louvre, and there’s no doubt judging by the crowd of people surrounding the painting. The size of the painting is much smaller than I expected and the colors were a dull as well. I wasn’t as excited as I thought I’d be, but it was still very cool to see it in person.

Paris Louvre Mummy

The Hall of Mummies – I actually don’t know if there’s a real name for this, but they have a room dedicated to mummies. So cool! I’m very fascinated with Egyptian history and I even have plans to travel to Egypt in the next year or two. In this room, they have several different mummy cases on display. At the end of the hall, they even have an actual Egyptian mummy enclosed in a glass case.

Paris Louvre Napoleon Apts

Napoleon’s III Apartments – In the Richelieu Wing at the Louvre, there are a several rooms on display where Napoleon III, the first president of the French Republic, used to live. This is not on Rick Steve’s itinerary, but I’m glad we added this in because it is the most different thing to see in this museum. With painted ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and decor of gold, marble, silk and velvet, it’s amazing to see these rooms in such good condition.

Lunch: Carrousel du Louvre

Paris Louvre Snack

The Louvre has a few cafes, but they can be expensive. We did take a break in the Louvre for an apple tart, a coke and a cafe au lait. That was a fun experience… sitting in the Louvre enjoying a snack. For lunch, I suggest walking over to the Carrousel du Louvre to their food court. K and I shared this Moroccan plate of couscous and chicken phyllo pastry. It wasn’t that great, but it was cheap.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris Notre Dame Exterior

We still had the afternoon, so we headed off to the Notre Dame. In case you haven’t seen the Hunchback at Notre Dame, this is a famous Gothic style church sitting on an island in the Seine River.

Point Zero

Paris Point Zero

In front of the cathedral is Point Zero, the official center of Paris. Distances from Paris to other cities are measured from here.

Sainte Chapelle

Paris Sainte Chapelle Stained Glass

Our last cathedral of the day was Sainte Chapelle, a French Gothic church made of 15 panels of stained glass depicting more than 1,100 scenes mostly from the Bible. The glass-work is so intricate, it would take months to actually look at every single panel. Unfortunately, the stained glass behind he altar was under construction, so I couldn’t get a photo of the entire interior. The Paris pass is not accepted here, so be prepared to pay around 8 euros to get in.

Dinner: Picnic in the hotel room

Paris Dinner Picnic

Hands down. This was our favorite meal throughout the entire trip. On our way back to the hotel from Sainte Chapelle, K and I stopped at a bakery and a meat and cheese shop to purchase a few items for dinner. We got 2 baguettes, a slice of paté and a round of chevre cheese, a soft and mild goat cheese. We took it back to our room and devoured everything. The paté isn’t the typical paté Americans are used to. This was more like a meatloaf consisting of pork, peas and carrots and other ingredients I couldn’t identify. Sounds scary, but it was delish. The combination of the creamy cheese and the salty paté with the crusty bread was to die for. This was the most fun I had during a meal on this entire trip.

Seine River Cruise

Paris Canal Tour Seine River

The night is still young! As if we hadn’t done enough already, K and I went back out to take a canal tour of the Seine River via the Bateaux Mouches cruise line. The cruise takes you on a hour long tour along the Seine from the Eiffel Tower to the Notre Dame. I suggest doing this at night since Paris is beautiful when it’s lit up. As soon as we took off, the Eiffel Tower began to twinkle as it did on our first night. Things couldn’t have been more perfect. The cruise comes with an audio tour that is translated in 10 different languages. I couldn’t really hear what the recording was saying, but it didn’t matter because I enjoyed being on the water. Best part is that this tour only costs 10 euros per person.

Paris Eiffel Tower Twinkle

From here, we trekked back home for a good night’s rest.

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Bonjour, Paris! – Day 11

The title of this post comes from a song in “Funny Face,” one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies. In this movie, Audrey is discovered by a big name fashion magazine editor and is taken to Paris to become a model. When they first land in the city, Audrey, Fred Astaire, and the magazine editor visit several famous sites from the Eiffel Tower to the Latin Quarter while singing, “Bonjour, Paris!” – which was my inspiration for this Parisian itinerary.

Hotel Beaubourg

This day was mostly a travel day for us. We really only had time to do one sight and have dinner after checking in. We had previously stayed in vacation apartment retails in both Rome and Barcelona, but we decided to end our trip at a cute 3-star Parisian hotel, Hotel Beaubourg, in the 2nd arrondissement. It was in such a convenient location. Just moments away from Notre Dame and the Louvre. It’s close to a grocery store, a bakery, and several meat and cheese shops too. The only thing this place lacked was a complimentary breakfast. Their breakfast was at around 9 euro per person.

Eiffel Tower

Paris Eiffel Tower View

I pre-purchased tickets to the Eiffel Tower for a 6pm entrance time so K and I could bypass the ticket line. Thank God I did because it was about 20°F and I could not wait outside in a line an hour long. We eventually spent that hour in another line for the elevator to get to the top of the tower. I chose 6pm because I wanted to catch the sunset from the summit, and luckily, we made it just in time. It was amazing. Watching the large orange sun sink behind the city of Paris was breathtaking. I did kind of have to fight my way to the front of the window as the sun was going down, but once I stopped and actually looked at the view, I immersed myself in the experience. I was at the top of the Eiffel Tower watching a sun set over Paris in a cloudless sky. How many people get to experience that? Well, I’m sure many, but now I am one of them.

Paris Eiffel Tower Night

The one Cliffbar I had during the day wore out about 4 hours before, so I was ready for dinner. On our way to the closest restaurant we could find, the Eiffel Tower began twinkling! Just like a Christmas tree! Every night at 9pm the Eiffel Tower twinkles for about 10 minutes. The picture above is not of a twinkling Eiffel Tower.

Dinner: Le Champ de Mars Brasserie

Paris Champ de Mars Cafe

The first restaurant we found was Le Champ de Mars Brasserie, a cute little French cafe at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower. Since it was my first authentic French meal, I went all out. I ordered coq au vin (chicken cooked in wine) with the French onion soup to start. Parisians actually don’t drink French onion soup, but I wanted it anyway. The chicken was amazing. So tender and juicy, the meat fell off the bone. The fettuccine served with was naked. No sauce at all. That’s because you’re supposed to use the wine reduction sauce from the chicken to wet the noodles. Oh mannn, so good. French onion soup can often be salty, but it wasn’t the case for this one. You could actually taste the onions and the crusty cheese on top. K got the steak frites and the escargot. He was a happy camper because he never gets to eat snails (I don’t like them). The snails were swimming in a butter, garlic and parsley sauce, but for some reason, K was a little unsatisfied. After his first bite, he mentioned he actually preferred the Chinese snails over this. His steak, however, was a winner. Beautifully charred and seasoned, the medium rare steak was tender and juicy. Rick Steves says that Parisian steaks are a little more rare than what Americans are used to. Tip: order medium if you want medium rare.
Paris French Onion Soup

Paris Escargot

Paris Steak Frites

Champs-Élysées

Paris Arc de Triomph

After dinner, we headed for the Champs-Élysées, Paris’ famous shopping street, to see the Arc De Triomphe. It was about 11pm at this time, and the street was still filled with people. Thank goodness we made our way here because we found an H&M that seemed to be open 24 hours. Did I mention it was about 20°F? We stocked up on gloves and scarves to keep us warm.
Paris Louve Pyramid Night

We trekked back home by foot and stopped at the Lourve for a night time photo op. Gosh it was beautiful. The white lights shining through the glass pyramids lit up the museum square.

We finally made it home and called it a night for our next full day of Parisian fun.

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