Torquay – Enchanted Treat for Ocean Lovers and Utopia for Surfers

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Bells Beach

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Surfing Bells Beach

Since I’m working in Melbourne during the week, I’m taking advantage of this adventure by heading out of the city on the weekends, exploring Australia’s countryside.

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Great Ocean Road

This weekend, I’m driving The Great Ocean Road.  My jumping off point was Torquay, about an hour and a half outside of Melbourne.  Torquay (pronounced ‘Tor-kay’) is Australia’s surfing capital.  As the birthplace of renowned surfing brands Rip Curl and Quicksilver, the culture of surfing is embedded deeply.  Torquay is home to world-famous beaches such as Bells Beach and Jan Juc, with its heavier breaks for the experienced surfer, and the Surf World Surfing Museum.

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Surfing Torquay – Bells Beach

There are lots of wave riding schools and stores to choose from, you can’t go wrong as there are so many experienced sets here.  Also in town as are gear outlets by Rip Curl, Quiksilver, Strapper, Gash and Rojo.  Carrying everything from gear to clothing, shades to shoes, if you need it for surfing, it’s here at Surf City Plaza.

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Rip Curl Pro

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Rip Curl Pro Winner

And if you’re around during Easter break, head to the infamous Rip Curl Pro, one of the most sought after titles on the World Championship Tour, which is held on Bells Beach.

Surf Coast Walk

Surf Coast Walk

Stunning Beach Trail

Stunning Beach Trail

What made me feel at home in Torquay the Surf Coast Walk.  Unlike many places in the world, the beaches are not developed, structures basically only exist off of the shoreline.  Instead, the Surf Coast Walk meanders along the cliff tops above the perfectly khaki sand beaches below.  Anytime I can walk for miles along an unspoiled beach and also snorkel beautiful areas like the Point Danger Marine Sanctuary, I feel at home.

Head to Torquay, if nothing but for the sound of the water and a walk you’ll never forget.

For more information on Torquay:

Surf World Surfing Museum
Beach Rd, Torquay, Victoria 3228
Phone: 03 5261 4606


Australian ANZAC – A Day of Honor and a Dawn Service to Remember

Today, I experienced one of the most moving events I’ve had abroad.  April 25th is The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps holiday, or ANZAC day.   One of their most important holidays, it is comparable to Memorial Day in the US.  Originally it began as a means of commemorating the forces who landed and fought with the British in Gallipoli, Turkey during WWI on April 25, 1915.  This was the first major action of war for Australia and felled more than 8,000 of their troops.

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Since then, ANZAC Day has evolved to honor those who have served in all capacities.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’m on assignment in Australia.  All week I had my head down buried in data and meetings.  Despite that, six different people suggested I attend the ANZAC dawn memorial service.  In a way that most people never share in a business environment with a stranger, I was related stories of how personal and poignant this ceremony is to Australians.  One, a receptionist, shared with me that while she and her family are actually South African, she still wears her fathers colors to honor him and attends every year.  Another told me about his uncle and father who served.  Likewise, I shared my experience of taking my grandfather to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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Following their suggestions, I found myself walking to the ceremony at 5:30am this morning.  According to,  “Each dawn and dusk, the most favourable times for attack, soldiers were called to ‘stand to’ and manned their posts in full kit, ready to repulse enemy attacks or launch their own.”  Out of respect for those men and women who have to ‘stand to,’ there are memorial dawn services all over Australia, one of which is in Melbourne, just a 20 minute walk from my hotel.  As I approached, tired and sleepwalking, I was among 40,000 folks streaming towards The Shrine of Remembrance.

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The Shrine itself is set on 13 hectares of land known as The Shrine Reserve which also contains several memorial gardens, statuary, and an unknown soldier tomb.  While still dark, The Last Post was played, stirring speeches were made, a young girl recited In Flanders Fields, and an Afghanistan veteran spoke about the spirit of ANZAC.  All around me was a well of emotion, palpable and raw.   Then, when sun began to peak out and the dawn break, the flag was raised and tears spilled over.


It felt wholly inappropriate to take pictures, so I’ve taken the liberty of using others from around the web, hopefully they give you a sense of what a moving experience it was.


Unique Facts:
– Australian troops are known as ‘Diggers’ and New Zealand troops are ‘Kiwis.’  They lived, fought and died alongside each other creating a bond that still exists today between the two nations.

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– Poppies are traditional to place as remembrances on graves and plaques.
– Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia on ANZAC Day 1999 said it well:  “ANZAC is not merely about loss. It is about courage, and endurance, and duty, and love of country, and mateship, and good humour and the survival of a sense of self-worth and decency in the face of dreadful odds.”

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The Shrine:
– Is open 10am – 5pm daily and guided tours are available from 11 – 2.
– General & group enquiries T: 03 9661 8100    F: 03 9662 9411 E:

March of the Penguins – A Wild Waddle You Won’t Forget

One of the wonderfully unique things about Australia are the fauna unique to this continent and hemisphere.  I had, along with a bunch of tourists, the pleasure of experiencing the penguin march while on Phillip Island.  The nature conservatory there is home to one of the largest penguin colonies around.

Every night the penguins waddle up the beach to their nests along the coast line.  It’s an amusing and worthwhile sight.  If you’re visiting Australia from abroad, be prepared for it to be a long night, as it doesn’t start until very late (9pm or later) and you’ll have a bit of a drive back to where you are staying.  You’ll want to dress warmly and bring a blanket as it can be very cool on the island at night.  I didn’t have the right clothing, so I opted for the VIP Skybox Tour, which is held in their elevated, comfortable skybox.  It was a worthwhile spend as they provided binoculars, a ranger guide, and we got to help do the nightly count of penguins waddling.

There are a variety of different tickets you can buy, all reasonably priced:
VIP Skybox tour – VIP treatment, elevated views and a close encounter with penguins on this ranger guided tour. Ages 16+. Tickets from $69.00.
Basic tickets – Viewing from beachfront stands with tiered seating and penguins at your feet along the boardwalks. Adult tickets $22.60.
Penguin Plus – $44 AUD Situated next to the main path of penguins, and limited to 190 people, Penguins Plus offers fantastic up close viewing of penguins. Includes a small gift and a free drink. Adult tickets from $44.
Ultimate Adventure – An intimate wildlife experience like no other! Limited to just 10 people accompanied by a ranger guide, this fully accredited eco tour takes visitors to a secluded beach away from the main parade grounds. Ages 16+. Tickets from $80.00.

If you plan to go, check out the nature park website and buy tickets in advance online:

Also, if you’re looking for a gift for the child (of any age) who has everything , check out the adopt a penguin program.  For just $75 you can adopt your own penguin via a donation to the Penguin Foundation.  Check it out here:

General penguin facts

Fun Penguin Facts:
What type of animal are penguins? Penguins are seabirds that don’t fly. They have a beak, feathers and lay eggs. Penguins have modified wings called flippers that they use for swimming in the ocean.
How many species of penguins are there? Around the world there are 17 species of penguins. All penguins are found in the southern hemisphere (Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, sub-Antarctic islands, South America and Africa).  Little penguins are only found in southern Australia and New Zealand.

Why do penguins waddle? Waddling is the most efficient form of movement for penguins. Little legs and big feet make movement awkward on land but waddling helps by raising a penguin’s centre of mass, allowing the penguin to swing its body forward.
How big are little penguins? Little penguins are the smallest penguin in the world at only 33cm (13in) tall and one kilogram (2.2 lbs).

How many little penguins are there? Phillip Island is home to an estimated 32,000 little penguins. Current estimates put the total little penguin population at one million.

Penguin breeding – “Little penguins have an annual divorce rate between 18 and 50%.”  Little penguins do not mate for life. If breeding success is low, penguins may look for a new mate. Researchers from Phillip Island Nature Parks have recorded an annual divorce rate for little penguins of between 18 and 50%.

How much time do little penguins spend on land? Depending on the season, a little penguin may spend between one day and one month at sea. When little penguins are breeding they will regularly return to incubate the eggs and feed their chicks. During winter little penguins spend more time at sea chasing fish and only return to rest and renovate their burrows.

Why do little penguins only cross the beach at sunset? When returning to land little penguins will only cross the beach at sunset. Crossing the beach in darkness provides protection against potential predators.

Do little penguins migrate? Little penguins usually remain in the same colony their whole lives. They typically return to within 40 metres of the area they were born. Little penguins find their burrows by looking for familiar landmarks.

It’s not all black and white: Adult little penguins are the only penguins in the world with blue and white feathers instead of black and white feathers.
The dark back of penguins blends in with the water to camouflage against anything flying or swimming overhead, and the light stomach blends in with the sky to camouflage against anything swimming underneath.
How far can a penguin swim? Researchers use satellite and GPS trackers to record where penguins go at sea. Satellite tracking from Phillip Island Nature Parks shows that Phillip Island’s little penguins swim an average 15 to 50 kilometres (9-31 miles) a day. This includes diving up and down as they look for fish. Little penguins swim at an average speed of 2-4 km/hr.  “The deepest little penguin dive recorded was 72 meters.”

How deep can a little penguin dive? The deepest little penguin dive recorded is 72 meters. An average dive in search of fish is between 5 and 20 metres.  “The longest little penguin dive recorded was 1 minute 56 seconds.”

What do little penguins eat? Little penguins must go to sea to find food, preferring to eat fish such as pilchards, anchovies, warehou, red cod and barracouta and a small quantity of squid.

Coda, My Colleague’s “Best Lunch of His Life”

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Coda is a truly wonderful restaurant, located just off Flinders Lane, among a row of banner restaurants in the Melbourne, Australia’s Central Business District.  A colleague and I found ourselves in need of lunch one day last week between meetings.  It was one of those stressful days, where work takes precedence before all other things, and we just needed somewhere to go for sustenance before our next round of training.

Less than a block away, Coda seemed a great choice.  It was well reviewed, we’d walked past it a number of times, and the menu looked interesting.  As Americans, especially southerners, we tend to eat lunch earlier than most so we were the first to arrive at straight up noon.  The staff was welcoming and warm, and seated us in a corner spot which allowed us to review our work materials while enjoying a great view of the entire restaurant.

The menu, which tends towards tapas style, gave us the opportunity to sample a number of dishes and linger for an hour over sumptuous selections.  My lunch companion (who is also a bit of a foodie) proclaimed this Coda feast as the best lunch of his life.  Indeed, it was a perfectly composed menu from which we made stellar selections.

We shared: 1. Chargrilled lamb cutlet with harissa and honey yoghurt $8 that was simply divine – a perfect blend of savory with hint of sweet, it was perfection on a bone (and if I’d been home alone, I would have gnawed the bone a bit!).  2. That’s Amore Buffalo mozzarella, zucchini fritters, mint and pea salad$22 – which went perfectly with the lamb.  3. Yellow fin tuna, daikon, green apple salad with pinenuts, ponzu and fresh wasabi $22.  4. Wok fried bok choy and lettuce with garlic and ginger $8 – which was lovely, the way I wish bok choy would come out as I cook it at home.

I highly recommend visit Coda, it was spot on both with service and flavors.  Plus for the Melbourne CBD, was very reasonably priced.

 Open 7 days – Lunch: Midday to 3pm, Dinner:      6pm to 10:30pm.
Basement 141 Flinders Lane (Cnr Oliver Lane) Melbourne      3003 Map
They recommend Secure Parking, 114 Flinders Lane
Telephone +613 9650 3155 Facsimile +613 9662 2117

Losing & Finding Jen

Until a few years ago, I’ve always been relatively fit and active.  When I was younger I danced ballet for 20 years, lettered in 4 varsity sports each year of high school, and later even did intense boot camps everyday at 5am for a while.  Over the last few years working 70+ hours a week, constant travel, eating out on the road, and generally not taking good care of myself have taken their toll.

While I’ve lost things that meant the world to me, I haven’t lost weight.  Today I’m 40 lbs. heavier than I was when I turned 30.  I can’t believe I just publicly admitted that, but my philosophy of late is to not have any secrets and gradually gaining weight simply can’t continue.

This month I find myself in Oz (slang for Australia), in one place for 5 straight weeks.  I’ve decided there is no time like the present…and the unintended gift of this work assignment abroad is to give myself the opportunity to jump-start getting back into shape.  Being in one spot I can get into a routine and have no excuses for bad choices.

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The reality of my starting point is embarrassingly documented here, in my hotel mirror.  Since I don’t have a scale in my hotel room, I’m just going to judge my progress based on how I feel physically and how tight this outfit feels.  After all, as every woman knows, there is no hiding in a tight pair of jeans and tank top  So what is my strategy?

– Be active every day: biking, swimming, pilates, yoga, ballet, hiking – the activities I love most

– Trade my beloved Louboutin for Cole Haan and walk everywhere (kinda have to since I don’t have a car)Louboutin

– Several times a week go to Cross Fit: the first class a few days ago kicked my butt, but was great and I can’t wait for the next onecrossfit

– Eat healthier: increasing the fiber/veg/protein components and limiting the white stuff (rice, sugar, flour)

– Meditate every day: its been a year of heartbreak and it strikes me I should try to quiet my mind rather than feed my angst dessert….  Hmmm, wonder if I can meditate on dessert?meditate3

Why did I choose Crossfit?
It combines strength with cardio in a time efficient, intense work out. Having reached a stage in my life where time is my most precious resource and more often than not my #1 limiting factor, I was looking for more bang for my minute rather than my buck. It’s also known for being a supportive yet competitive environment, the type of place I usually thrive.  Plus the gym I chose is on a rooftop, and I love scenery.

While I don’t expect miracles overnight, I hope to come back home to the US feeling and looking better than I do today! Stay tuned for updates!

For more information on the Crossfit CBD gym, check out this video or the below reference information:

111 Lonsdale Street Melbourne CBD
+61 0427 966 779

Ezard – Epic Degustation Dinner in Melbourne, Australia

While planning for my extended Melbourn sojourn, I researched restaurants that would be must visits.  One that consistently floated to the top of all best restaurant lists I found was ezard by renown chef Teague Ezard.

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Specializing in ‘Australian freestyle’ cuisine made with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, ezard offers a memorable experience for the foodie.  Teague says, “I love the food we create, the focus on flavour and texture, heavily influenced by Asian techniques, in particular Thai, Indonesian and Chinese. I believe that at ezard we ‘taste outside the square’, presenting unusual combinations where flavour is paramount.”

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Upon arrival, I was surprised to find a simple door and stairs leading down into the  small, intimate yet formal, subterranean space.  My dinner companion and I elected to have the full degustation menu, but you can select a la carte or a smaller pre-theatre dinner menu.  The full experience, complete with wine took about four hours and isn’t cheap, but was worth every penny.  Actually, we would have lingered even longer but by the end my jet lag reached new heights and I was struggling to stay awake.

If degustation is a new word for you, it is defined by Wikipedia as, “a culinary term meaning a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods and focusing on the gustatory system, the senses, high culinary art and good company. Dégustation is more likely to involve sampling small portions of all of a chef’s signature dishes in one sitting. Usually consisting of eight or more courses, it may be accompanied by a matching wine degustation which complements each dish.”

The menu served us was below and every course was exceptional, every morsel a delicious creation.  I would suffer through a 14 hour time difference jet lag for the pleasure of enjoying a meal like this anytime!

Eight Course Tasting Menu

We started with an amuse-bouche (a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre)20130416_214746

Course 1 = japanese inspired oyster shooter served with 2002 pol roger brut, champagne, france


Course #2 = mezcal cured salmon, pickled snow pea salad, wasabi jam, smoked yoghurt, sesame seed crisp and tangerine vinaigrette served with 2012 kirei shuzo ‘karakuchi 80’ junmai nama genshu sake, hiroshima, japan


Course #3 = steamed spanner crab dumpling with yarra valley salmon roe, chervil cress and tom kha served with 2011 j. hofstatter gewurztraminer, alto adige, italy


Course #4 = salad of beetroot, asparagus, witlof and black fig, serrano jamon, whipped goats curd, hazelnut dressing served with 2009 bella ridge estate chenin blanc, swan valley, western australia


Course #5 = crispy skin baby barramundi with caramelised eggplant, tomato and lime salad, yellow curry dressing served with 2012 levantine hill estate rose, yarra valley, victoria20130416_200211

Course #6 = slow cooked pork belly, five spice pear pudding, fennel salad, pressed apple, pedro ximenez jus served with 2011 eric bordelet ‘brut tendre’ cidre, normandy, france20130416_204038

Course #7 = chinese style roast duck, green chilli and oyster sauce dressing with coconut rice and mustard greens 2005 gaja ‘pieve santa restituta’ brunello di montalcino, tuscany, italy20130416_211236

Course #8 = Dessert: 20130416_220334

If you opt for ezard, I suggest you book a reservation a couple of weeks in advance, +61 3 9639 6811.  Located at 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, its conveniently within two blocks of hotels like the Grand Hyatt and Westin.

Lunch Mon – Fri, 12 pm – 2:30 pm

Dinner Mon – Sat, 6 pm – 10:30 pm

Amusing Sights in Australia

One of my favorite things about travel is that you never know what you’ll see.  Invariably you wind up with funny stories and one of kind sightings.  During my first trip to Australia, I ran into a number of amusing and giggle inducing scenes.  Here are a few of my favorites…perhaps they’ll make you chuckle, too!

1.  While en route and still in the airport, I saw this guy who was completely serious when he said he was ‘The Emperor’ and his hammer hand was ‘The Will of the People’…Weirdest one of all!


2.  Surfer Wagon on Phillip Island – the best!  I want one of these!

Surfer Wagon

Surfer Wagon

3.  Newly-wed photos with graffiti – not what I dreamed of for my wedding day but to each their own.  Do they realize the graffiti says once bitten twice shy?!


4.  Sign “Look Under Your Car For Penguins”…not something you see every day


5.  A high end clothing store called ‘Acne’


6.  Beware the rhino on a skateboard?


7.  I’m always visiting retail stores for work….This was in Target – the tv on the wall was showing a video about wearing bras!

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8.  Another fun hippie van or two or four!

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9.  And my favorite – a sculpture of a heart out in the middle of a field on Phillip Island


As always, I’ll keep collecting these funny shots…one day they’ll make a great coffee table book!

The Nobbies on Phillip Island, Australia

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The propietor of the Clifftop Boutique Hotel where I was staying told me one of the things I really should do while on Phillip Island is take time to walk ‘The Nobbies.’  Located on the southwest side of the island, the entire point was reclaimed to create a preserve, now home to the second largest penguin colony in Australia, wallaby, koalas, and more (which I’ll write about in another post).  At the very end of this preserve lie The Nobbies.

Comprised of an enormous outcropping of knobby rocks, the open ocean meets these geologic wonders with intense force.  This harsh bit of nature knocks up against the softest green, rolling cliffs under which the penguins build their nests.  It’s a landscape that ignited my senses and made me feel tied to the earth.

I’ve seen many beautiful places around the world and this was in my top five.  The Ayung River (which means beautiful woman) in Bali and the Kalalau Trail in Kauai remain the most breathtaking but The Nobbies are stunning in their own right.

I took a picnic and lunched on one of the benches spotted along the path.  It was the perfect way to spend an hour or two, reflecting and being mesmerized by the sounds and force of the ocean.

There is one long winding road to get to The Nobbies, with beach access points and lookouts along the way.  The views from these lookouts are stunning and are a great place for a couple to spend together on the beach or a family to have a picnic.  With winter on its way in March/April there were very few people except me and the die-hard local surfers.  It felt like having heaven all to myself with a bit of amusing entertainment.

Just me and the surfers, my thoughts, and the cragged grace of The Nobbies.

Click here for a beautiful video on Phillip Island Nature Park:

To learn more about The Knobbies and the nature park, visit this website:

Phillip Island Winery, Australia

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I had all of one free afternoon in Melbourne during my first visit.  After a walk through The Nobbies – one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been – I stopped at Phillip Island Winery.  It turned out to be the perfect laid back, interesting place to relax and enjoy the culture of Australia.

I was met at the tasting counter by Gaeten.  He led me through a tasting of the vineyards varietals.  From the refreshing Merlot Rose to the most delicate Pinot Noir and finally a rich Cabernet.  The wine was a delight and so was Gaeten.

Having settled on a glass of the Pinot and a mini platter of the meats and cheese assortment, I sank into one of their cushy chairs and felt the stress of travel, life, and work begin to melt away.  With the sound of a gentle rain pattering on the roof and live acoustic music by owner Tim O’Brien, it was one of those moments of simple contentment that I yearn to have more often.

Tim played his guitar and sang for a couple of hours, some songs that we all know and some he wrote himself.  Two were my favorites, one which he wrote about Melbourne, ‘his sweet companion’ and the other was his rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah – the best I’ve ever heard.  I would go back just to hear him sing that song.

All said, this winery is well worth a visit, even if you find yourself alone and wondering about the countryside on Phillip Island on a rainy day as I did.

414 Berrys Beach Rd  Ventnor VIC 3922
(03) 5956 8465

Getting Over Jet Lag in Melbourne, Australia

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Leaving my personal life in shambles at home, I’m off on another Australian adventure.  This time five weeks, jam-packed with work.  Upon arrival I had 24 hours to acclimate to the 14 hour time difference before diving head first into full on work mode.

Having committed the sin of going to sleep at 7:30pm the night I arrived, I of course woke at midnight, unable to sleep.  Fortunately I found a great cure.  In many cities around the world there are bike rental stations peppered here and there.  In Paris they are chrome colored, in Melbourne they are bright blue and impossible to miss.  A Sunday morning two-hour bike ride along the Yarra River was the perfect remedy.

If you are staying in the central business district (which locals call the CBD), a great location to pick your bike up is at the southeast corner of Flinders and St. Kilda, opposite the train station.  From here you can follow the Capitol City Trail that meanders alongside the river, giving you beautiful views of the skyline and the rowing teams.

I recommend taking the trail eastward along Alexandra Avenue, and then turning back to retrace your steps and go towards the Southbank area.  Here you can stop and have a beautiful brunch at any number of places along the water.  Plus, at only $2.75 for the day, it is the best bargain you’ll find in Melbourne.

Ultimately, a good ride to get your blood flowing, beautiful scenery to feed your brain, and a nice place to eat outside are just what the doctor ordered to overcome jet lag.

For step by step instructions of how to rent bikes, click here:

Also, try the Spotcycle phone app to help you as well or the overview website for routes and other info: