Australia Trip: Melbourne

by agirlandhermutt on April 15, 2016

I’m pretty sure everyone has a bucket list vacation spot. A place that they want to visit but for whatever reason, money, time, location, they haven’t quite been able to get there. For me, it was Australia. When I was a kid my Dad would entertain me every now and then with his Australian accent. He wanted to visit Australia so, of course, so did I! As I got older my desire to visit Australia got even greater. Then I met my husband and found out that Australia was his bucket list vacation spot too.

Bing. Bang.Boom….I WENT TO AUSTRALIA! We used our (extremely delayed) honeymoon as the perfect opportunity to spend a ridiculous amount of money to fly half way around the world and experience a country that, up until the minute we stepped foot off the plane, we had only dreamed about visiting.

But first? I got food poisoning the night before we left. I AM NOT KIDDING. I ate at the Whole Foods hot bar and I don’t want to point fingers, but I’m pretty sure that was the culprit. I was miserable. From sundown to way past sunrise I was hanging out in the bathroom regretting ever stepping foot in that grocery store.

Friday morning, right as I was starting to contemplate calling in on our trip insurance, I started to not sweat as much. We made it to the airport and started our journey to Australia via Los Angeles . Do you know what is worse than hanging out in your own bathroom for more than 12 hours? Getting sick in an airplane bathroom. Ugh. Fortunately, the flight attendants were so nice and let me hang out at the back of the plane and sit near the cool air.

The flight from LA to Melbourne was 15.5 hours. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad! I watched a ton of movies, some tv shows and walked around to keep my legs from cramping.

After more than 29 hours of traveling, we arrived in Melbourne at 9am on Sunday morning. We totally missed all of Saturday! It was worth it.

There is so much I want to remember about this trip and since this serves as not only my blog to the world, but also like a little journal for me, I’m going to get a little long winded. I’m just preparing you now.

Lets talk about the schedule and a bit of the planning strategy.

Our Australia itenerary was b-u-s-y. Our schedule looked like this:

Sunday-Wednesday Melbourne
Wednesday-Friday Ayers Rock
Friday-Monday Port Douglas
Monday-Saturday Sydney


For all but one stop, we stayed in an AirBnb. It was the perfect way for us to stay right in heart of the city and experience the neighborhoods like we lived there.

We flew from stop to stop. Did you know Australia was big?! I mean, I knew. But I don’t think I realized how big until I asked about driving between two of our stops and they said it would take a few days. Uh. no. So we flew everywhere. Surprisingly it was really easy! Flying domestically in Australia is so much better than flying in the US.

When I was planning our trip I decided to plan one outing, planned activity or tour per stop and then at least another day for just doing whatever we wanted. Sometimes the best recommendations for things to do come from the locals you meet.

First stop…Melbourne!



A puppy friendly bar was our first stop after getting off the plane. Would you expect anything else from A Girl & Her Mutt?! We grabbed super cold beers and something bland to not aggravate my stomach. You can see how pale I was in this photo, but I was also SO EXCITED to be in Australia!  Plus, we got to chat with several locals and play with their dogs.

The husband fell in love with Melbourne almost instantly. I was still feeling a little iffy from my food poisoning so the 100+ temps made me not as much in love.

BUT! Melbourne won me over the next day when we did a tour of the Great Ocean Road. Gorgeous beaches, stunning views and some really cool landmarks.

One of our first stops was Bells Beach, home to the longest running surfing competition!

Check out that weather! After 100+ temps the previous day, we were happy to have an overcast and slightly chilly day. When the sun peaked out to say hello it made for some really great views at the beach.
Maits Rest (a rainforest!)

As we were driving along we came across this little beach where people stack rocks. Who knew stacked rocks could be so cool?! IMG_9577

Koalas live in the wild in Australia, but according to the few people we talked with they don’t make themselves seen very often. I have no idea how true that is, but we did get to see this little guy up in a tree on the side of the road. Those nails are something serious, right?!


Kangaroos in the wild! These suckers can jump.


We also saw a whole slew of birds that people were feeding and joined in. Honestly, birds freak me out. At one point I had two sitting on my head and they kept trying to pick at my head. Uh no. Shortly after this photo I ran away totally freaked out.


We were on a really small tour and our guide shared all kinds of stories about the road, including how it was built. The GOR was built by soldiers as they returned from WWI between 1919 and 1932. The road serves as the largest war memorial in the world.

As we traveled along the winding road we were treated to amazing  ocean views and some really great pit stops. The finale was getting to the 12 Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks that were formed because of some major erosion.


This spot was originally called the Sow & Piglets, but was renamed to the 12 Apostles to entice more tourism. Despite the name, there have only ever been 9 stacks until about 10 years ago when one of them collapsed.

We got the chance to walk down the beach and see two of them up close and personal. The walk was about a mile down the beach itself, and it wasn’t the best weather in the world so at one point we were the only ones on the beach. It was one of those moments where you think to yourself, “How is this my life?! This is amazing!”

Because of how the stacks are arranged, you can only see one from the beach until you are almost right up on it and then suddenly a second one appears right behind it. It was like a little prize to us for making the trip down to see the stacks up close.



As we walked back down the beach to the starting point, the haze started to finally disappear and the sun started to come out a little. Pictures really do the lighting and views no justice.

A little bit further down the road, at a larger, more organized stop, we were treated to alternate views of the two apostles we had seen up close and view of the remaining stacks.



Our second full day in Melbourne was when the heat was overwhelming. The city is just fantastic, but I’m sure you can all relate to how tough it can be to enjoy trekking around a foreign city when you are sweating from every spot on your body.

We tried to hop from shady spot to cool air spot all day long. This included a trip to the Queen Victoria Market, the beach, and Old Melbourne Gaol (jail!). Untitled

Nights out in Melbourne were pretty chill and relaxed. We stayed at an AirBnB not too far from Southbank Promenade, which is a cool spot to find tons of restaurants, bars and people watching. I love feeling the vibe of a city during the day AND at night. We walked around each night just checking out the sites and finding bites to eat and drink. 😉 Untitled


Untitled A champagne “food truck”. Yes! This should be a staple in every big city! 

Speaking of eating and drinking, let’s chat about food in Australia. When we first talked about going to Australia I realized that the only food that I knew was really unique to the country was Vegemite. And wine. Usually when we go some place new we try to find a food that is really unique to the area to try. I’m sad to say that, overall, the food in Australia just wasn’t great. It was good. But not great. We enjoyed all of our meals, but mostly because of the atmosphere and company.

There were a few standouts, mostly during the next few stops on our trip, and I’m embarrassed to say that they are all junk-type food. HA! Totally out of my norm but we were so happy to find something so good!


The winners for Melbourne were smothered fries, pasta and a doughnut. Lovely. This is going to surprise you, but I came home 6 lbs lighter! 25,000+ steps each day will do that to ya.

Our time in Melbourne was a great way to kick off our trip and introduce us to Australia. Next stop…Ayers Rock!


Road Trip to Mystic Aquarium

by agirlandhermutt on July 28, 2015

YES! I have officially marked off #16 from my 35 While 35 list. Visit Mystic Aquarium! This little line item has been on the list for about 5 years. Every single time I try to visit, something comes up. One year we were in the area for a wine expo event and had plans to visit the aquarium the next day. Random snow storm. Another year there was a hurricane. This year we had plans to visit for my birthday, but that whole hospitalization thing happened.

In the middle of last week it randomly occurred to us that we had a free Saturday and maybe we could just pop down to Connecticut for a quick visit to the aquarium. This was perfect for the whole explore New England thing we have been doing this summer. I was like a kid on Christmas morning!

And we finally made it!

Yes, that is a picture of nothing. I got excited to show my parents I had made it and didn’t realize I wasn’t actually taking a photo of anything. Oops.

Mystic has a few really great outdoor areas for the beluga whales, sea lions and African penguins. Untitled
This is Astro. He is a 9 year old sea lion that weighs about 800+ pounds. Apparently he kept stranding himself on land, would get rehabilitated and then do it all over again. After the 3rd or 4th time they realized that he wouldn’t survive in the wild so they brought him to Mystic.

One of the Beluga Whales, which always get the Baby Beluga song stuck in my head for days.

My favorite exhibits at aquariums are always the jellyfish. I avoid those suckers like the plague in the water, but in an aquarium I just can’t get enough of them. Mystic’s had a really nice collection that were fascinating to watch.
We spent about 3 hours walking around the aquarium, exploring all the exhibits and even touching a few rays.

They had a separate exhibit called Exploration: Wild that had little scenes from the Arctic, Rain Forest, etc. There was even a an exhibit for the Titanic which was random, but really interesting. They had a great picture representation of how many were saved and died from each class on the ship. The crew had the most men perish in the accident, but they also managed to have the most saved. The exhibit did a great job highlighting the division of class without overdoing it.

There weren’t really any animals, but they did have a few fun photo ops set up.

Not the Titanic.

Throughout the aquarium there are pieces of art from an organization calledWashed Ashore. The organization is a non-profit that cleans up debris from beaches and then makes artwork out of it in order to teach about the environment, plastic pollution and cleaning up the oceans.


These pieces of artwork are incredible. Not only are they huge, but they are just really cool looking. You almost forget that these are made from TRASH that is found on our beautiful beaches.


After the aquarium, and being around tons of childrens ;), I needed some food and a beer. We headed over to S&P Oyster Company to grab a bite to eat.

The restaurant was busy, but really nice. Good food, great service and a nice view of the water.

We can’t ever seem to make a trip without a stop at a brewery and this time was no different. We stopped at Beer’d. We had heard good things about this brewery, but I just really liked their logo. :) Beards are the best! Untitled

This nano brewery is located in a space called the American Velvet Mill. Once the mill closed, artists started to move into the mill and created studios and gallery space. It is a unique space that was fun to navigate around. Untitled

The brewery offers free tastings of whatever they have on tap and then you can also get pints and growlers filled. Beer’d seems to specialize in DIPAs, which just so happen to my specialty too.

The last stop on our road trip was to The Malted Barley for a quick snack before hitting the road. Untitled
Chipotle pepper and gouda stuffed soft pretzel. Seriously. With apricot butter. Just kill me now. Untitled

With a full belly and a bucket list item completed, we headed back to Boston!


I got a few recommendations on places to visit the next time I am in Mystic so I will definitely be heading back down again. The city is really cute and it was an easy drive on a Saturday morning.

So where to next?! I’m ready for another adventure!


4th of July in Montreal

by agirlandhermutt on July 9, 2015

For the past few 4th of July holidays, my Dad has come to Boston for a visit. It is always a billion degrees, raining and just overall a miserable experience for someone who is used to central a/c. At the end of June he retired so we decided that rather than come when it is god awful hot, he could come WHENEVER he wanted! He worked for the school system so holidays were really the only time he could travel. No more!

Since he wasn’t coming I had a few extra days to play with and the husband and I decided to do what every great American should do for the 4th…go to Canada! 😉

We hopped up to Montreal for a long weekend and had a blast!

Part of what makes Boston so great is that it is so easy to get SO MANY places for a quick trip. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, etc. Getting to Montreal is just about 5 hours. Lots of gorgeous views and you get to drive through the USA/Canadian border!

On the way up to Montreal we took a pitstop to get some lunch in Burlington, Vermont. I haven’t been to Burlington since 2011 and it was in February. It was lovely, but Oooh boy was it cold!

We ended up visiting one of the places we had previously eaten dinner at, The Farmhouse Tap & Grill. They have a gorgeous patio area, beer garden and excellent food and beer selection. Untitled

I pretty much slept the rest of the trip from Burlington to Canada so you will just have to take my word for it that it was an easy ride.

Montreal is a predominately French speaking city. Everything is written in French. People speak French. And friends, I do not read or speak French. Fortunately, many (most?) of the people also speak English and were more than accommodating to this monolingual gal.

Lets take a minute and talk about how much I wish I knew another language. As a kid, I took many years of Spanish. I’m sad to say that I don’t remember much of anything. I took Sign Language classes a few years ago and while I’m not fluent, I can certainly hold my own. But it seems that when I travel SO MANY people know two or more languages. I *wish* that I had put forth the effort to remember more than “cerveza” and a song about roaches from my Spanish days.

For the next few days, we wondered around Montreal being total tourists. The weather was fantastic and the city was so much fun. Here are a few highlights of our stay.

Food & Drink

Station Ho.St– A microbrewery/bar in the Village. The bar itself wasn’t busy at all, but had some great outdoor seating. They have a large variety of beers but not the friendliest staff ever. It was nice to just relax after a long drive and enjoy a pint, but I wouldn’t make a trip to the Village just for this spot.

Benelux– There are a few locations of this brewery in Montreal, but we stopped by the one on Rue Sherbrooke. We decided on two flights to try all of the beers they had on site. Their triple saison was a hit and definitely one that I would want to try again! The staff was friendly, the patio was large, the inside had a cool industrial vibe and they served food. For sure a place to visit!
Poutineville– If you aren’t familiar with poutine, then you need to get on it! Basically it is fries, cheese curds and gravy. There are a TON of different variations, but the basics are always there. Back in Boston I get this poutine made with tater tots that are out of this world. Would poutine from where it originated be able to stack up? The answer is a resounding YES!

Poutineville also has several locations and they are all so busy. For good reason too! They have a ton of different options for poutine in both small and large servings. If you only speak English, just ask for an English menu. (Phew!) If you were a professional food blogger, photographing poutine would be your nightmare. It looks like something someone chewed up and spit back out. However, it tastes like magic.

Ma’tine– A highly recommended brunch place, Ma’tine, was just down the street from where we were staying. On our last day in Montreal we decided to give it a try. HOLY. CRAP. SO GOOD! The menu was in french but our server was kind enough to translate it into English for us. And without any kind of attitude. Yessssss. The menu changes frequently and making a choice was so hard, but I think we did pretty good.

Untitled Untitled

Schwartz Deli– This is apparently THE place to get a smoked meat sandwich. They are also said to have created Montreal steak seasoning. There was a wicked long line to do the sit down part of the deli so we opted for the take-out side. The line was still really long, but it went quickly. The sandiwches are small but packed full of meat. We also got their poutine. With more meat.
Seriously. Nothing appetizing looking at all about poutine. But oooh boy. It tastes so good.We had a few fancier nights out too.

Pullman– A tapas and wine bar. It was pretty dark so I didn’t get any pictures of the food, but I loved this unique chandelier made out of wine glasses.

The food here was pretty good with standouts from the calamari, olives with candied lemon and gravlax. However, a few of the dishes were just so-so. Specifically, the Italian meatballs and green beans. I also didn’t find the service to be the best. Our server was not pleased that he had to speak English and decided he would rather not talk to us at all. It was kind of a bummer. We would have had a few glasses of wine, but he never came around to check on us. I had a great time because of the company, but I think I would use this place as a drink and apps kind of place rather than a full out dinner. Also, the bathrooms were strange and looked like they were under construction.

Les 400 Coups– I did a quick search on Yelp for French restaurants that had a tasting menu and Les 400 Coups came up right away. I made a reservation for 9pm on our last night in Montreal. The sun sets so much later there than it does in Boston so I found that people seemed to eat later too. Les 400 was lovely. It was an intimate space that was perfect for smaller groups and couples. We did the 5 course tasting menu and really enjoyed it. The ONLY thing negative I will say is that of the 5 courses, 2 were dessert. I love dessert, but I would have preferred to see a salad course or a cheese course.

Our servers were all fantastic and offered some great wine recommendations.

Fun Fact: We also had a celebrity sighting here! There we were. Just eating our little basket of bread and BOOM. Jason Momoa came into sight. He was there with a few other guys just enjoying himself. Since I JUST finished Game of Thrones Season 1, I was totally psyched out to see him. I kept my cool though. My husband on the other hand looked like he was going to have a stroke. 😉

Things to See & Places to Go

Montreal is a really walkable city. Don’t believe me?!


These are my FitBit stats from just Day 1, Friday, of our trip. My FitBit battery died the next day around 2p, but I had already racked up 22,000+ by then.

The best part about walking, or biking as so many do, around Montreal is that you get to check out all the little nooks and crannies of art that are scattered throughout the city. Very rarely is there a blank wall or empty space that goes unused. It was fantastic!

These were a few of my favorite murals.

Old Port/Waterfront- The Old Port area reminds me a lot of Portland, Maine. Brick streets, great architecture, shops and restaurants. It is also right next to the water which makes for a great walking tour.


Notre Dame Basilica

Chinatown- This area is smaller than other Chinatowns I have visited, but still a plethora of great food and interesting shops. Plus, the pagodas on the top of the Holiday Inn cracked me up.

Jazz Fest -While we were in town they were putting on their famous Jazz Festival. We got to hear several great acts (none of which I can remember their names) and enjoyed just being outside.
Mount Royal-
Wiki says that Mount Royal is a large hill or a small mountain. I’m going with small mountain. 😉 Apparently this is the place to go for outdoor exercise!

It was almost 90 degrees on the morning we decided to walk around Mount Royal. We decided to walk up to Kondiaronk Belvedere, where the Mount Royal Chalet is. It was a nice walk and there is an option to take about a billion stairs (256 to be exact) to the top. We did that. We were rewarded with great views of the city!

The Village We stayed at an Air BnB in the Village. It was a cute area and even had its own art festival going on that weekend. It was fun to walk around and check it out during the day, but it was even more entertaining to go and walk around at night. The clubs there were crazy busy and the people watching was on point.

Obviously there is so much more to do and check out in Montreal. We were there for just a few short days and would love to return to explore other areas of the city. If you are looking for a nice weekend away, go to Montreal! The people were nice. The city was interesting. The poutine was fantastic.