Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Are you tired of hearing from me yet?

Wednesday August 31, 2005 2:39pm

One of the things we like to do when we visit someplace new is check out their art museum. They have a huge cultural center here in Brisbane that houses a performing arts center, science and technology museum, art gallery and general museum about the area. To our surprise, it didn’t cost a thing to get into the art gallery! So, we took a nice little ferry ride over to the South Bank (we are getting really good at these things BTW) and walked over to the art gallery. The gallery featured a large assortment of aboriginal art from local artists, art from Australian artists from the 1800s to present, and a video installation. I think we had the most fun with the video installation pieces. Some of them were very thought provoking (a continually panning video shot of a storeroom with a dozen people methodically destroying the food and other contents of the room) and some were very artsy (a guy’s hand’s mashing up palm fronds or the guy making a series of “1-minute poses”). Also I must mention here that Australians know how to make a fantastic cup of coffee! At the little café at the museum we stopped for a caffeine break (well, I did – B was just going to be an observer). I wasn’t really expecting much especially given we were at the little café in the museum. But, they handed me one of the most exquisite looking cappuccinos I have ever seen and the taste held up to the appearance - the best foam and not overly milked down espresso (which the Big Green can’t even get right unless I specifically tell them I want it dry, which I shouldn’t have to because I don’t want it dry, I just want it the way it is supposed to be 1/3, 1/3, and 1/3). Anyway, the best part of this particular cappuccino is that B wanted to try it! Yes, the non-coffee drinker who usually responds to – Coffee? With - Uhhh, no. I told him - you’re not going to like it, it tastes like coffee (not sweetened) - but he still wanted to try it and that’s right – he liked it! I am hoping this was the crossover experience like the meal he had a few years ago that finally got him into sushi.

Yesterday we decided to take a trip out to the Australia Zoo – that’s right Steve Irwin’s stomping ground – hee, hee. The zoo actually seems pretty nice. It’s a new zoo – started in 1970 – and they add animals as they expand the zoo, so they don’t have to fix an old concrete zoo from the 20s like in San Diego. So most of the enclosures have been built with the animals in mind and the animals seem to really enjoy their spaces. The zoo is definitely entertainment-based with shows pretty much all day long. But the shows only show the animals doing what they do and are often based around a feeding time, so you can see the animal get a snack while the keepers talk about it. We saw otter sisters at snack time as well as the oldest animal in captivity – Harriet, the Galapagos Tortoise. They also have three walkthrough areas where you can get up close to kangaroos and koalas. We were able to feed and pet kangaroos as well as see a joey (sp?) in its pouch.

The zoo also featured a set of shows in their “Crockoseum” around noontime. The keepers still have an amazing respect for the crocodiles despite working with them everyday. In fact, during the afternoon feeding show of Charlie – the grumpy crock – he jumped higher than the keeper expected and the keeper was like – oh, shit! Oops, sorry. I mean, crikey! Needless to say the whole audience laughed. I’m pretty sure B’s favorite part of the whole day was the crocks. One thing that was different about this zoo is that their tigers aren’t hands-off. They work daily with trainers and are rented out to the entertainment industry to help cover expenses. The trainers actually hang out in the exhibit with the tigers, so it’s more Siegfried and Roy than the SD Zoo.

One thing that we didn’t realize before we went to the zoo was that Steve Irwin actually owns the zoo. We thought that he was just one of their keepers, like Joan Embry, who got famous for showing their animals and talking about crocodiles. It turns out his parents started the zoo in 1970 and he took over in the mid-90s. So he is really a key figurehead at the zoo, not just a famous keeper. Plus, it appears that he lives at the back of the zoo. When we were watching the elephants, there was a house behind the enclosure and a woman who looked a lot like Terri Irwin sitting in the shade of some trees out front. We didn’t think too much of it (since Steve hadn’t been involved in any of the shows during the day and figured that they weren’t around), until we were waiting out front for our bus after the zoo closed and Steve drove passed us on his motorcycle! He drove up, with his son on the front of the bike (both without helmets, I might add) and said G’day to us (there weren’t many of us around) and then drove through the front gates and into the zoo. Ha! I guess this is my near-brush with near-fame.

We are also getting quite the hang of public transportation here. Our zoo trip involved a ferry ride and a 1 hour and 20 minute train ride, then a 20-minute rail bus ride, train and another bus ride on the way back. The good thing is that I got a chance to do a bit of knitting on the train ride home. And I was able to finish my Starry Night Kyoto re-sleeve and get started on my right front panel.

We both feel that we are really getting a feel for life here. Today we are going to go for a scenic walk on the other side of the river and check out the botanical gardens.

Highlights of the zoo:
A super teeny, tiny koala baby on its mums tummy.
A black swan walking around outside its enclosure.
Hearing an emu voice for the first time.
Seeing what kangaroo toes look like up close.
Steve and Terri Irwin paraphernalia, including ceramic plate, key holder for next to the door, thermometer, apron and stuffed dolls.
Buying a misfit platypus for my desk at work.
Tasmanian Devils.

Lowlights of the zoo:
The ticket price - A$34 each!

Things we realized about Australia:
Telephone numbers are two sets of four digit numbers, except 800 numbers, which seem to be two sets of three digit numbers.
You have two choices for flushing the toilet – light and heavy.
Alcohol is super expensive - A$18 for a six pack, A$12 for a low-end mixed drink.


knittersmom said...

No - not tired of hearing from you. Keep them coming!

Nonnahs said...

How interesting about Stever Irwin's zoo- I had no idea! I like that the enclosures seem to be built with the animals in mind. Zoos can be somewhat depressing at times, when the animals look totally bored and hating life, all for our enjoyment. I think zoos are getting better about that, though, in general. It's a nice movement.

Too funny about B's coffee experience! My B has the same response to coffee. I guess we'll have to go to the little museum cafe at the Brisbane cultural center in order for him to "get" coffee! ;)