Day 5: Queen Victoria Market and Phillip Island

Day 5 was interesting because I had planned my whole trip out pretty well, but then before I headed to Australia, my tour of the Queen Victoria Market needed to be rescheduled.  This meant I was fitting it in just before heading to Phillip Island.  I looked at a map, and one hour looked like enough time to walk from the mountain, back to my hotel, and then over to the pick up location.  I had the open to cancel and get a refund, but I figured without the market tour I would just be wandering around the market and probably wouldn't ever want to leave.  I also wanted the tour so I could learn more about the market.

The morning started off a little on the rainy side, but I still wanted to walk to the market (about 20 minutes away on foot).  I knew I would spend most of the day on a bus, so I wanted to take advantage of time on my feet.  Walking over I had the chance to pass by a few interesting buildings.  This first one is the National Library.  It was actually much longer than this, but this was all I managed to get in this photo.
This is another interesting looking building.  The photo really can't capture the uniqueness of this building, but it was pretty cool to look at.  I believe it is part of a University campus.
This was another interesting building near the picture above.  It is a giant indoor rock climbing wall.
Before I knew it, I had found the Queen Victoria Market.  I was very happy to see that the market offers tours.  Of course you have to pay for the tour (the Foodies Tour as it was called), but at least I knew there was no hidden agenda of the tour guide in the information that was given to us or the places we were taken for samples.
I arrived a little early, and although I knew there would be samples, I also knew I really needed to eat some breakfast.  I spotted this breakfast place on the corner.
Most of the menu items contained meat, but they were helpful and created me this meatless version, subbing in mushrooms for meat.
On my way into the market I passed one more of those elephants they have painted and displayed all over the city.

I was still a little early, so I went inside to check out the nearest section, which was the fish section.  This is a huge, and I do mean HUGE, market, and it has been around since the 1800's, where it originally started as a dairy market.

You can see that people are around making their purchases.  It did get busier as the morning went on.  This was about 9:40 am.
Lots of fish and seafood.  I spotted 'Fresh Atlantic Salmon' a little later during the tour, so obviously I had to ask about this since we are no where near the Atlantic.  They are farm raised here in Australia so that they can have fresh Atlantic salmon.

Lovely lobsters!

Beautiful presentation in the shells.
The next stop for me was to check in at the visitors center at the market.  I got lucky and it was just me and one other person on the tour.  Basically, it was a private tour of the market.

We started out in the outside area, which houses mostly clothing and goods, but some produce as well, including an organic section, as well as some cheaper items because they are outside and pay less rent there.  They also had a cute little donut truck there too.  The guide said this sometimes has a line that goes pretty far back and around.
These are the biggest cherimoyas I have ever seen.  They are called custard apples here, and my guide had never heard them called cherimoyas before.  If you have never tried a cherimoya, I definitely recommend it.
Then we entered the butcher area.  Obviously not my favorite section, but it was definitely interesting to learn about this area.  You can see here a sign that says "we don't yell to sell".  Basically there are 2 kinds of meat sellers.  High end, high priced goods that sell quality and not necessarily aimed at quantity.  But others aim for quantity and their prices are cheaper.  Those are the vendors that yell and call out to potential customers.  Here his prices were nearly 3 times that of the guy in the stall right across from him.
Another interesting tidbit I learned was that the female pork is more desirable and considered better quality, and so it will be labelled if it is female.  This is because it is not as tough from all the testosterone present in the male.
Yuck!  That was all I said to say here.
I took this picture from my grandma.  Don't ask, but she would definitely understand.
Then we took a look at some more produce.  All the colors made for awesome pictures.
Eggplants in a variety that I have never seen before.

This was a new fruit for me.  It is called a lemonade.  Shocker!  Seriously, though, it is a separate fruit from the lemon and apparently has a better flavor for making lemonade.
This was also a crazy citrus fruit that we spotted, called a Buddha's hand.  Have you seen this before?  This was definitely new to me.

After touring all of the produce, meats and fish, we headed in to the prepared foods hall to start our tastings.

Look at the options at this place.  Naturally, I passed on samples, but they were offered to the gentleman on my tour, as well as some others passing by since we didn't want to let it go to waste.
This is kangaroo, which was sampled, and as I said, I passed on this.  Apparently it is a lean meat, and better on the environment to raise for meat than beef.
Mmmm bread!  Here we got a bagel, which we ate a little later on with some dips.
Olives!  Always my favorite area in a market, along with cheese.

So it was a good thing that next we got to sample a little of both.
This is an award winning cheese, and after tasting it, I can see why.
This was amazing goats cheese and goat yogurt.  If you live in Philly, I was told the Whole Foods there now carries this product.  Give it a try.
More olives.
This is actually a tower made from anchovies.
Here are the pesto dips that we ate with the bagel.
This is an awesome idea.  Ok, this is wine, but it is sold in reusable, resealable litter bottles.
While we were looking at the wine, I decided to try out a Shiraz.  Cheers!  Yes, I know it was before noon.  But I am sure it was 5 o'clock somewhere, right?!?!
Again, I passed on these, but there were some Polish meats offered from the Polish deli.
Our last food was this Borek, which I have never heard of before, but apparently it is very good, so we tried a vegetarian version.  It is basically a bread filled with stuff, and in our case that was spinach and cheese.
Yum!  Definitely delicious.
They also sold these wraps, and I must say they had very good prices.
So what comes at the end of a food market tour?  Dessert!
Last, but not least, we got to try some chocolates.
These are dulce de leche filled chocolates.  Definitely a great end to an awesome tour.  Our tour guide was knowledgable and passionate about the market and her job there.  I highly recommend this tour if you are ever in Melbourne.
Once the tour was over, I had one hour to head to my hotel and then to Federation Square, where my AAT Kings tour for Phillip Island was departing.

Phillip Island is a special place where the little penguins still have their colonies and march across the beach every night as they return from fishing out at sea.  Pretty interesting that they just do this.  They have for thousands of years, and apparently do this every night without fail.  I really wanted to check this out, so I made sure to book my trip early.

The bus was comfy and the driver was awesome, so I made sure to listen to all the little fun facts he shared with us.

Here are some pictures I took as we headed away from Melbourne and off to Phillip Island.

Our first stop was at Warrook Cattle Farm.
One of the main reasons for our stop here was afternoon.  With this came a scone with some jam and cream.  Yum!
The other main reason was to check out the kangaroos and wombats.
First up is this very hungry wombat.  I am not so sure I have ever seen one of these guys before.
This is the wombat a little closer up.
Next up were the kangaroos.  They were just there, sun bathing, relaxing, and didn't seem to mind at all that a group of us just wandered up to them.
In fact, they were curious.  Of course they were...we had food for them!
That's right, I got the chance to feed the kangaroos.  Not just through a fence, but actually right there with them. 

I was amazed by how gentle they were when they were eating out of my hand and how soft they were when I pet them.  This was absolutely awesome!  They are so adorable!

One last photo op with the kangaroos before we had to board the bus and keep heading on to Phillip Island.
Phillip Island...straight ahead!
By now we could see the water, which is not the ocean, but rather the bay, as Phillip Island, along with French Island, is located in this bay.  Melbourne is all the way up in the bay.

Nearly there!  You can see the bridge just off in the distance.
It is not too far off the mainland, so the bridge is the way on and off.
Phillip Island has a few other park areas, not just the penguins.  Since we still had time before the penguin parade, we were taken to see the koalas, which is another species native to Australia.
Koalas spend most of their day sleeping (and digesting), with only a couple hours awake and eating.  They do not need to drink water.  They fluid they get comes from the leaves that they eat.  So mostly you will spot them sleeping high up in the trees.  At this conservation center there are platforms build high up on the trees so that you ca  get closer to the tree tops and therefore attempt a better view at the sleeping koalas.  Thankfully, we did manage to spot 3 out of the 5 in this area.

So cute!
Before the penguins there was one more animal to check out.  That would be the wallaby!  Looks a little like a kangaroo and hops around like one too.  The bus driver told us a good "joke" about telling if the wallaby is male or female.  Obviously this one below is a female because you can see she is posing for the cameras!  I thought it was a cute joke.  Anyway, these were on Phillip Island.  They just hop around.  Actually, in those grasses and bushes behind them are burrows for the penguins.  They make their homes in little holes in the greenery.
I zoomed in on this one to get a closer look.  Yep, these are cute too!
The area out here that we came to look at is known as the nobbies.  We had some time before the penguins, so we got off the bus to take some photos.

It reminded me of the island (the Azores, where I lived before for 2 years).

The wind was so crazy that I had to hold my hair in place.
The penguins march home each night around 6:30 pm, so as that time approached, we made our way over.
I didn't travel all the way to Phillip Island just to see the penguins waddle by.  I actually wanted to be as close as possible and learn as much as possible, so I signed up for the private experience.  The brochure says up to 10 people, but a few others were no-shows, so it was just me, the park Ranger, and one more employee.  It was extra private!  This meant I could ask all the questions I wanted.
Sadly, there is no photo taking while down on the beaches.  Flashes blind the penguins, and people were not listening to the 'no flash' rule, so this resulted in a new rule of no pictures at all.  But that is ok because it is very dark out there and you would waste your time trying to get the penguins in view and miss them actually walking by.

But, I was able to take a picture of this penguin sitting on her egg in a little area that is man made, but that the penguins may choose to live in.  It is sheltered and some are less afraid of people, so they may decide this is a good place for them.
And while I couldn't get pictures, I can share with you what I learned about the penguins here.  There used to be 10 colonies on the island, but now they are down to only 1.  They decided that in order to protect the last remaining penguins, something needed to be done.  In essence, the people are the ones in the "zoo" and the penguins are free to roam about.  Everything is done for the penguins, so if they need to cross an area, it will be roped off and people will need to wait for the penguins to go.  The penguins here are the smallest of all the penguins in the world.  I think the neatest thing I learned was about their coloring.  

Ever wonder why the penguin is black on the back and then white on the front, and there is a perfect line separating the two?  There is a great reason why!  So when they are swimming they camaflouge with the their environment.  Predators below see the light color, which blends with the sky, and predators from above see the dark color, which blends with the ocean.  Since these are small penguins, they really need to protect themselves, and another added bonus for them is that they are agile because of their small size.  They can easily out maneuver a big shark.  But because they are an easy target, they only travel in the dark.  This means every morning, they leave their burrows and walk down to the beach, following the same path every time, and then head out to see.  Some return back that same day, but others will stay out a few days at a time.  Then at night fall, they form groups and come ashore, waddling in groups until they safely reach their burrows.  

People come from all over to watch this natural phenomenon, which happens every night.  There are bleachers to sit on, and with my VIP pass, I was able to sit right up in the front row and had a nice cushion to sit on.  The main "show" lasts about a half hour, which was perfect because it was cold out and it had started to rain a little.  As soon as we went back inside I quickly bought my souvenirs, and then got some fish and chips so at at least had some before boarding the bus and heading back to Melbourne.
Oh, and don't forget to check under your cars for Penguins!
All I can say is that was an absolutely amazing day.  So many new things to see and do.  I definitely recommend Phillip Island.  It was absolutely a wonderful sight to see, even if it was freezing out.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever taken a market tour?  What is the most unique item that your local grocery or farmer's market carries?  Have you ever visited Phillip Island (or heard of it)?  What was the last animal you had the chance to feed?


Jessie said...

What a fun, action-packed day! I love to take food tours whenever I visit a new place (my fav so far is the one I took in Beijing). A near-private tour -- how lucky! I have to ask: is that picture of tongues?? They look very large.

As for the Buddha's hand, I don't see them often here, but somehow we managed to acquire a Buddha's hand plant from a tropical greenhouse in Connecticut. So substantial fruit yet, although I did get a mini hand about 1/2 inch long a few months ago.

I never knew that about penguins coloring! Love the sign :)

Anonymous said...

OMG I love the pic of you and the kangaroo! sooo cuuuuuute! xo! Mer

PS - watch out for penguins!

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