Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Charles Sturt University

Charles Sturt University (CSU) is an Australian multi-campus university in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory; Wagga Wagga is CSU's largest campus, spreading over 640 hectares.

The reason for my stay in Australia was to visit my husband who was doing research at CSU; I went there towards the end of his one-year stint. Visiting the uni one weekend, I was amazed at the vast expanse of the campus. It was also amusing to see “different” road signs, such as “echidna crossing” and “duck crossing”.  Vehicles had to be on the lookout for kangaroos that would suddenly appear in the middle of the road!

It was very convenient to get to the uni on workdays since there was a uni bus that stopped right on Baylis St which was just a few minutes walk from Railway St.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wagga Botanic Gardens and Zoo

My husband and I spent a relaxing weekend visiting  the Wagga Botanic Gardens and Zoo which was just a few minutes walk away from the house, located within the Willans Hill Reserve and  set on 20 hectares of what was an old gravel rock mine. There are no entrance fees for the Gardens and the Zoo.  

The Botanic Gardens features many different gardens: Australian native, Bamboo garden and island, Cactus and succulent garden, Camellia garden, Rose garden, Rainforest area, Shakesperian garden, Tree Chapel, and Waterwise garden.

The Zoo has a large range of both native and non-Australian animals and birds; there is also a Free Flight Aviary. Some of the animals approach visitors and expect to be fed. Children can enjoy petting some of the farm animals.

Walking around Wagga - Part 2

Here are a few interesting observations/experiences from my walks around town.

Crossing the Street

Even on streets that do not have pedestrian “Walk/Don’t Walk” lights, I felt safe crossing as long as I was at the pedestrian crosswalk. I noticed that vehicles would slow down and stop at the crosswalk even when the pedestrian was still some distance away. They waited for you to cross! At one instance, I signaled the driver to go ahead since I was still only approaching; she seemed shocked at my suggestion and signaled back for me to cross first! How I wish the drivers back home afforded pedestrians the same courtesy.  

The Diagonal Cross

On Baylis St one can cross the street diagonally! They have synchronized the stop lights so that you did not have to do an L-cross but could go right through the street intersection; makes sense!

The Roundabout

A roundabout is a circular junction wherein vehicles must travel in one direction around a central island. In Australia where people drive on the left, the traffic flow around the central island is clockwise. The general rule is to give the right of way to vehicles on your right. It was interesting to watch the cars moving in harmony with each other. Again, it made me think of the drivers back home (sigh!).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Walking around Wagga - Part 1

To get around Wagga, I walked. Before heading out, of course, I would consult the Wagga map that I got for free from the Wagga Visitor Information Center.

Brisk walking for exercise became part of my early morning routine.  Each day I would head out in a different direction, go down a different street, walk a little further. I was soon familiar with the area surrounding Railway St. The route heading south from the back of the house became my favorite for these early morning walks. It was generally an uphill walk, just a gentle (no more than 20-degrees) slope, but it gave me a good aerobic workout. This route passed by the Wagga High School and the Riverina Institute; at the far end was the Wagga Botanic Gardens and Zoo, which was usually my turning point and where I start to walk back. There were some days, however, when I went all the way to the highest point; this gave me a good view of the town.

My days were usually spent at the library and to get there I simply walked north from the house. I cross the footbridge (called Mother’s Bridge) that took me across the railroad tracks and into Baylis St, the main shopping street. Baylis St passes in front of the library and if you follow it across the bridge that goes over the Wollundry Lagoon, the street becomes Fitzmaurice (this is at the northern end, the older part of town). So to get to the library, I pass through many commercial establishments  (restos, boutiques, shopping malls). On a few (several is more like it) occasions, I had gotten side-tracked and have gone shopping (the SALE signs are magnets).  At times I have had to go back to the house to deposit my goodies before heading back out again to make my way to the library.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Victory Memorial Gardens / Wollundry Lagoon

Across the street from the library is a park; the Victory Memorial Gardens is along the banks of the Wollundry Lagoon. From the library you will be greeted by a fountain amid the rosebeds. Trees provide shade to the park benches scattered around. There have been occasions when I would cross the street from the library during lunch hour, settle on a parkbench and munch on my sandwich while reading a book. So peaceful and relaxing. Throughout the gardens also are various war memorials (including The Cenotaph) and dedications to the First and Second World Wars, and the Vietnam War.

Walk further along the banks of the Wollundry Lagoon (away from the library) and you will see residences along the banks of the lagoon. The lagoon is also a wildlife reserve and the ducks are the masters in that area!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Wagga Wagga Civic Center

On my first day in Wagga, my husband was showing me around and our first stop was the Civic Center.  The complex is situated beside the Wollundry Lagoon and consists of the City Library, the Regional Art gallery, the National Art Glass gallery, the Museum of the Riverina and the Civic Administration. Little did I know then that this was the place (specially the library) where I would be spending most of my time during the duration of my stay.

The library was such a wonderful place. The collection of books, CDs, DVDs, audio books, and magazines was just amazing! And you could loan these too. There are also computer terminals that can be booked. It was unfortunate that the lower floor of the library was flooded just a few weeks prior to my visit; the carpeting had to be removed. I hope that not many books were damaged. There were other areas in New South Wales that had also experienced flooding. Later on during my stay in Australia, Queensland was hit with floods and the residents of Wagga joined in the relief efforts. There was a growing pile of goods near the library entrance and a local jazz band even performed in front of the library in order to raise funds.

There are two art galleries and a museum just a few steps from the library and one can browse through their displays for free. 

The Museum of the Riverina operates from two sites, one of which was at the Civic Center (the other one was close to the Botanic Gardens). At the time of my visit, the exhibit at the Civic Center Museum was about the history of Chinese migration and settlement in the Riverina (“Tracking the Dragon - A history of the Chinese in the Riverina”).

The glass art pieces at the National Art Glass gallery were so beautiful! However, they did not allow photos to be taken so I just took a picture from outside the building.

Also close by are the Civic Theater and the Wollundry Amphitheater.

On some weekends, especially during the summer, they hold a farmer’s market on the grounds near the lagoon. There are all sorts of goodies that can be purchased; there was also live entertainment when we visited that Saturday morning.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Arriving in Wagga Wagga

Most of my stay in Australia was spent in Wagga Wagga, the largest inland city in New South Wales. It is a regional city nestled on the banks of the magnificent Murrumbidgee River. The city is located mid-way between Sydney and Melbourne, just under 500km from each. The name Wagga Wagga is derived from the language of the original inhabitants, the Wiradjuri, the largest aboriginal tribe in New South Wales. “Wagga” means crow and repeating it means the plural, hence Wagga Wagga is “the place of many crows”. However, hardly anyone says the second Wagga; the city is known simply as Wagga.

My first week in Australia was spent in Sydney; so Wagga was a “quiet” city by comparison. The house my husband and I were staying at was very nicely situated; it was close to the railway station, to the main shopping district and the civic center. So when we arrived from Sydney by train in the wee hours of the morning, we just had to cross the foot bridge to get to the house.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Melbourne’s Gardens

Need a break from the bustle of the city? Head to any of Melbourne’s gardens and stroll through the walking paths or relax amid the beautiful trees and garden beds. You can take the City Tram 35 and the Tourist Shuttle and get off at some of Melbourne’s finest gardens.

The Royal Botanic Garden extends over 36 hectares and displays more than 50,000 plants. There are also various events and activities scheduled the whole year round.

Near the Parliament House and adjacent to the Treasury Building are the Treasury  Gardens .  Just cross the street and you come to the Fitzroy Gardens directly opposite.  The Fitzroy Gardens covers 26 hectares and has a collection of beautiful trees and flower beds. Also in the gardens is Cook’s Cottage (the former home of Captain Jame’s Cook, the discoverer of Australia’s east coast) and the Conservatory. The Conservatory houses five separate displays each year.

November - February:  Hydrangea / Fuchsia (this is what we caught and it was just beautiful!)
February – April: Tuberous Begonia / Gloxinia
April – July: Tropical / Pointsettia
July – September: Cineraria / Cyclamen
September – November: Schizanthus / Calceolaria

The Carlton Gardens is a heritage-listed garden and a popular picnic and barbecue area. The gardens have tree-lined avenues, fountains, flowerbeds and miniature lakes.  The majestic Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens is one of the world’s oldest remaining exhibition pavilions and was the first building in Australia to achieve a World Heritage listing in 2004.

For additional information about the gardens, follow these links

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eureka Tower

The Eureka Tower is a 297.3-metre (975 ft) skyscraper located in the Southbank precinct of Melbourne.  There are 92 storeys and the glass on Eureka’s top 10 levels is 24-carat gold plated! The observation deck is at the 88th floor (Skydeck 88). The lifts are the fastest in the Southern Hemisphere, travelling at more than 9 meters per second. The floor of the lift that took us to level 88 was something else! Look down and you would think that you were actually at the edge of the elevator shaft! It took us less than 40 seconds to arrive at level 88!

What a spectacular view of Melbourne! You can even step onto “The Terrace” and be exposed to the outside elements almost 300 meters above the ground! It was quite windy out there on the terrace and it is said that the top of the Tower can flex up to 600 mm in high winds! And for those who dare, you can purchase a ticket for The Edge Experience – you get into a glass cube which projects 3 meters out of the building and wait for a surprise! . . .

For more info on the Eureka Tower, check out these links

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Federation Square and Flinder’s St Station – Melbourne’s Meeting Places

Federation Square (Fed square) is a public civic center, a cultural precinct, and favourite meeting place in Melbourne’s CBD. It is a complex of buildings and open areas. There are a variety of shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as art galleries. The Melbourne Visitor Centre is part of the square; it is located underground and is a recommended first stop if you are planning to explore the city’s attractions. The Ian Potter Centre is located in the Atrium; the Centre houses the Australian part of the art collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Also part of the complex is the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) which has two cinemas.  The BMW Edge amphitheatre is designed to have views of the Yarra River and the spire of the Arts Centre across. In this open area is a large public screen that is used to broadcast major events. We were in Melbourne at the time of the Australian Tennis Open and the week of Australia Day. The square was always filled with people watching the tennis games; however, the games were pre-empted by Australia Day’s programs and celebrations.

Across from Federation Square is Flinder’s St Station, the bustling hub of city and suburban rail travel. It’s another favourite meeting place; when Melburnians say “I’ll meet you under the clocks” they refer to the rows of clocks above the main entrance. These clocks indicate the departure time of the next train on each line. Or they can say “I’ll meet you on the steps”, this refers to the wide staircase leading into the main entrance. Lots of people seating on these steps is a common sight. My high school classmate and I arranged to meet under the clocks on Australia Day; she was coming from work (on a holiday!) outside of the CBD. That was day 2 of our reunion after not having seen each other for almost 32 years (since my wedding day)! Lots of catching up to do!

You can learn more about Federation Square and Flinders St station at these websites

Monday, March 7, 2011

Queen Victoria Market, Suzuki Night Market

Queen Victoria Market is Stop #8 when you go on the free Melbourne Tourist Shuttle. I was on board the bus and the driver was making additional commentary about the market as we approached it. The market is a historic landmark and a leading tourist destination; it is said to be the southern hemisphere’s largest open-air market. However, it was Wednesday and the market was closed. 

(Note: The market is closed on Monday and Wednesday and on special days like Good Friday, Anzac Day, Melbourne Cup Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day. Trading hours are 6 am to 2 pm on Tuesday and Thursday;  6 am to 5 pm on Friday (except the general merchandise section which closes at 4 pm); 6 am to 3 pm on Saturday; and 9 am to 4 pm on Sunday)

Then the bus driver said something that caught my attention; there was going to be a night market (called the Suzuki Night Market) and being Australia Day (January 26), there were surely going to be added attractions. So that night my hubby and I took the tram heading north along Elizabeth St; the market was within walking distance from the stop.

The night market was such a great experience! There were so many people, and such a variety of food, merchandise, services and live entertainment! There was this food stall offering a sampler consisting of emu, croc and roo! Of course I could not resist their teaser “Are you game?” and ordered a plate. I had previously tasted crocodile in a burrito (in Manly) but the emu and roo were a novelty. I liked the roo best! There was also a stall offering temporary tattoes and so I got a dragonfly painted on the nape of my neck!

The 2010/2011 Suzuki Night Market Season ended on March 2. You can view a video on the Suzuki Night Market here

The next day my hubby and I were on board the tourist shuttle again and got off at Stop #8. That morning the place was just buzzing! It seemed that everything was sold at the market; it reminded me somewhat of Paddy’s Market in Sydney but on a much grander scale and it was very organized too! The Market is divided into a number of market precincts: the Deli Hall, Elizabeth Street Shops, F shed laneway, Vic Market Place Food Court, Fruit and Vegetables, The Meat Hall, Organics, General Merchandise, Victoria Street Shops and the Wine Market.

The market was just pulsating with life! In the fruits and vegetables section particularly, the vendors were very lively, cajoling visitors into buying their produce. And of course there was haggling! As closing time drew nearer, activity seemed to peak and sellers were almost screaming to advertise the reduced prices of their goods!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Melbourne’s Buildings

As I took to Melbourne’s streets, one thing I noticed right away was the mix of old and new buildings. Beautiful, intricate and majestic old buildings (like the Parliament House, the Library, Flinders St Station, the Royal Exhibition Building and other heritage buildings and the numerous churches) are found alongside sleek, modern architectural designs (like the Eureka Tower, Rialto Tower and the building at Federation Square). I found the contrast very interesting and I would guess that students of architecture and design would learn a lot on walking tours. To add to the feel of old and new coming together, one can see trams, cars, buses, horse-drawn carriages and bicycles side by side on Melbourne’s streets.

Even shopping malls are architectural wonders. The Melbourne Central complex is very interesting. It includes a shopping center, a railway station and a tower. It used to be just the tower which was built between 1889 and1890. When the tower ceased to be used, rather than tear it down, they built around it and the tower became the focal point of the center.  The tower (which is now a museum) is contained under a glass cone (said to be the largest glass structure of its type in the world.

The Block Arcade is a heritage shopping arcade. It was built between 1891 and 1893 and is an example of the Victorian Mannerist style. It’s  interior is exquisitely decorated with mosaic tiled flooring, wrought iron and carved stone finishings and a glass canopy. The mall was closed off to accommodate Oprah and her guests when she visited Melbourne in December 2010.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Melbourne – City of Arts

Melbourne is known for its many art galleries and museums but it seemed that one can find art almost anywhere in the city, even in unexpected places.  While walking Melbourne’s streets and laneways, I would find myself pausing to admire works of art, from paintings and drawings on walls and pavements, as well as interesting pieces of sculpture.  

There is so much talent on display as street artists produce artworks as passers-by stop to watch in awe.

Live performances are not confined to theatres; one can be entertained by a variety of talents out in Melbourne’s streets. Of course donations are most welcome.