The Grounds of Alexandria

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There are a lot of lovely places to eat in Sydney, but nowadays we really fall into the daytime eating out crowd.  Lunch and brunch is mostly where we land.  I won’t even tell you what time we eat dinner because it will make you feel sorry for us.  So along with all the Blue Ducks chatter I heard when I put my ear to the ground in this town, there was another spot with an equal amount of good vibes: The Grounds of Alexandria.  When I saw on their website they were only open until 4pm, I thought…this place is for us.

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Once inside it has a very bistro feel with Tolix chairs and fancy coffee accoutrement hanging about.  Fresh bread is stacked on tables for you to taste and the varying menu on offer has something delicious for even the pickiest eater.  But what makes this place so special are its grounds, any place with a double entendre in its name gets the thumbs up after all.  So yes…the grounds are coffee, but the grounds are also the huge plot of garden that waits for you outside after you finish your meal.

It was school holidays when we were there.  There was quite a party for the little ones in the gorgeous gardens replete with a secret garden playhouse and slide, a craft table and a pet-able pig named Kevin Bacon.

The adults were not left out as there were lots of little spots hidden throughout to grab a coffee or a homemade doughnut.  There were then plenty of seats to take to admire all the patinas and daydream of Provence.

 

 

 

 

Taronga Zoo-Roar&Snore-Part 2

If you missed Taronga Zoo-Roar&Snore-Part 1<—–click here. Spoiler Alert:  While the Taronga Zoo Roar&Snore experience is different every time, if you plan to visit you might want to read this post after you go.  It’s all better as a big surprise.


After we slept (sort of) the night away at Taronga Zoo we woke at 630am to this… IMG_9179Breakfast and coffee awaited in the main tent and then at 7 we were summoned to meet our guides near the mountain goats. IMG_9187 The zoo was closed to the public until 9am so our guides still had surprises in store for us for the next two hours.  7am is generally the time all the animals get fed and their habitats get cleaned, so they are at their most active.  We paid a morning visit to the Tapir who is a vulnerable species, not just unsure as to whether he’s a pig or an elephant or an anteater…

Malayan_Tapir

wikipedia.org

and the Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard.  Neither fun to be nor to be around, the Komodo dragon must run for its life the minute it’s born so the older Komodos, including his parents, don’t eat him.  If he bites one of his friends, they will walk away possibly only offended, but then they’ll slowly die from a bacterial infection due to all the crazy things that live in a Komodo’s mouth.  Moving on…

earthtimes.org

earthtimes.org

The big cats awaited their brekky while Michael stole some gorgeous shots.

Then we were off to our next stop and mind you, they wouldn’t ever tell us where we were off to next.  It was always a surprise.

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 they took us inside the giraffe enclosure!  SURPRISE!

And then they let us feed the giraffes (!!!) which is maybe the best thing I’ve ever done I had no idea I ever wanted to do.  Michael took this rapid fire series we like to look at while we hum the theme from Jaws.

We will not be outdone by the Royals.  For more on their visit to Sydney click here—>William & Kate

dailymail.co.uk

dailymail.co.uk

Then we moved on to the Koala.  She was just waking up from her 20 hour nap and had enough energy to actually jump from one tree to another which I guess is something to see because it made G and I really happy.

Can you believe after ALL this they then took us back to the education center to show us an echidna?  Who even knows what that is? David Attenborough, that’s who.  He’s the one who told us about it one evening on some fantastic BBC program before we moved down under.  He explained this creature who along with the platypus is the only mammal left on the planet who lays eggs.  Again, they are only found in Australia.

Then came the Flying Fox, just like the very one we saw/heard at Paperbark Camp <—click here to read more about him.  I will be honest, close up he was no more endearing to me than he was when he flew past us that night, but everyone says they are very sweet.  I’ll take their word.

After the Flying Fox we thought for sure this must be the end of the tour. There couldn’t possibly be any more to see at this zoo, except for the chimpanzees we passed en route to one last (unbeknownst to us at the time) surprise.

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just look at that cheeky monkey

IMG_9480 Each animal at Taronga lives in an enclosure which mimics its actual habitat in the wild. In the morning the animals are moved into pens so their keepers can clean the enclosure and implement daily enrichment activities for them. Rather than just leave a bowl of food at the door, they make the animals hunt for it. It keeps them sharp, entertained and ultimately happier. Notice the Mama chimp up above using a stick to get some food placed for her out of a hole in the rock.

So our last hurrah at Taronga was to go inside the Sun Bear enclosure to set up all sorts of activities for them for the day. It was oddly exhilarating to be inside the enclosure when the animals who live there are in their pens. As we awaited instructions one of the bears banged on the metal door because he wanted to come out.  Maybe two or three seconds were shaved off my life at that moment.

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that was loud

We divided into groups of six and our group was given the following:  some chicken livers wrapped in paper to hide, a hollow medicine ball to fill with nuts and dried fruits, some scented oil to spritz around, and lots of jam and peanut butter. IMG_9494 We let the kids hide everything, which was as much fun to watch as it was to then watch the bears come out and find it all.  When we were done, we exited the habitat, made our way backstage past the bears in their dressing rooms and came outside to where you would normally watch the bears if you were just passing by at the zoo.

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here comes mister hobbs!

It was such a treat to see them find all the things the kids placed around.

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mary tries to get inside our medicine ball

These two particular bears were rescued from South East Asia.  A business man purchased them from a restaurant when he discovered they were on the menu for bear paw soup. Restaurants take great pride in serving this delicacy in their restaurants, but in order to serve it, they keep the bear alive in the back and chop off each paw as needed until all four paws are gone and then they leave the animal to die.

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These two escaped this fate and the zoo developed an app called Wildlife Witness.  You can get it on iTunes.  When and if you ever travel to areas where there are endangered animals, you can use the app to make a clandestine report if you see anything illegal.

Now after all of this, our tickets also included the ability to stay at the zoo all day if we wished. So we took our friends to see all the Australian animals like kangaroos, the platypus and the wombat, then we all had to take a nap.

It was terrific.  Is that whole thing not terrific?  It exceeded our expectations.  As our group dispersed they thanked us and let us know the bulk of the money we spent on the experience goes to their conservation efforts.  I thought it went to Prosecco, so you can imagine how excited I was to learn I was wrong.

If you’re so inclined to make a donation to Taronga Zoo’s conservation efforts, you can do so here—>Taronga Conservation Society

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