The Store of Requirement: or, all things Harry Potter, Melbourne Australia

Harry Potter fans UNITE! While walking from my Airbnb to the local Coles grocery store I stumbled upon a really cool store in Melbourne devoted to all things “the boy who lived” … First time I came by it was closed. I assumed that was because it was the wrong time of day, but later I discovered it keeps funky house. It’s closed Mondays and Tuesday, opens at noon most other weekdays, till 7pm; and keeps its most “normal hours” on weekends, Sat & Sun, from 10 till 5pm.

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Apparently the store has two brick and mortar branches, the one in Melbourne, and another in the suburbs of Brisbane, plus a third an on-line portal which on a quick perusal sells pretty much all of what I saw in the stores… including the limited edition stuff (I’m guessing both stores ship merchandise for the on-line store).

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The interior has been made over too a bit conform to the classic/quirky British style that Harry Potter’s world tends to embrace — for instance it has wallpaper that is fake brick, and the back room reminds me a bit of the common rooms in Hogwarts’ dorms, etc.,

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That said, its one of the better collections of these sorts of stuff and has everything from stuff you can easily find for sale on-line like games, puzzles, mugs, bags, figurines, etc.,

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collectible figurines and wands, plus appliqués to put on windows to mimic stained glass

And the sort of stuff it sells is the same sort of stuff you’d see at stores in “The Harry Potter Experience” sections of Universal’s amusement parks… but more from on-line sources and less from the stuff made exclusive to the parks.

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The Jewelry top left is HORRIBLY nar I say OFFENSIVELY Overpriced… $89 Australian, for earring that AliExpress, a Chinese on-line store, sells the exact same pair for $1.36…  while Amazon sells identical ones for $15… but I know from experience that Universal is also selling the exact same erring in its amusement park stores for about the same price as this store… so I strongly suggest that the buyer beware, and Google these things to do comparative pricing before buying.

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At this store, however, were some collectibles I’ve not seen before, like these limited run lithograph/prints and cards from what I’m guessing is a local artist (??) … although I would have to assume that they have permission from Warner brothers or whomever so as to not infringe the copyright.

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For myself these Gryffindor, 3d (puffy) vinyl stickers for the backs of cars, etc., caught my eye (I’m not seeing an equivalent product for sale on Amazon in the US) — only I DID find it selling for 1/2 their price at a different Austrian shop. Also a friend of mine’s son LOVES these metal model things… although these looked more like Hobbit than Harry Potter. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_24cd.jpg

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The Big Merino, World’s biggest Sheep (?), Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia

On the drive south of Sydney (when heading to Canberra or Melbourne) is a tourist shop that is something of an Aussie institution; properly called The Big Merino, it “celebrates Australia’s fine wool industry” …. and is fronted by a “Big Thing”/tourist trap that stands 15.2 meters, or 97 feet, tall (and is probably the biggest sheep statue in the world, but that hasn’t been authenticated), that the locals have nicknamed “Rambo.” [This post was originally uploaded in February of 2018, but I went a 2nd time in Feb of 2019, and am adding new observations and additional photos]

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The tiny person standing below it is me

The statue stands alongside the store, which sells a whole variety of VERY upmarket Australian made items (there are no bargains here, but what they have is VERY nice) mostly made from Marino wool, such as socks, scarves, boots, knitting wool, sweaters, T-shirt (joggers and hikers LOVE this stuff as exercise apparel) and coats, etc.

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A super soft, thin to the point of transparent marino wool scarf with a digitally printed image on it was selling for about $80 (Australian)

I have now been to this shop twice. The first time I went to this shop in 2018, my favorite item at the time, which I forgot to take a photo of and did NOT buy but simply drooled over), was an $1,800+ lambskin/shearling jacket (made from super soft lambskin with the wool still attached).

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2nd trip a year later, the neon was still not working

That, and because I had never comparative shopped for Marino wool items before, so my first time there I had sticker shock, and my travel buddy… who is MALE, wanted to just go straight to the section selling socks, buy some and leave… so I didn’t really have the chance to properly “SHOP” it — which would have included checking on-line to compare prices, etc., and as such, the only things I bought for myself were an assortment of draw string bags with really pretty Aboriginal designs on them, made for protecting your sun glasses, out of the same microfiber material of the sort used to clean glasses (so doubly practical) for $9.90 (AUD)… but no woolen goods. When I got back to the states afterwards, I discovered that Marino wool items are actually quite pricy … even at Amazon, etc., so the prices I had seen back at the Big Merino were in retrospect, much more reasonable than initially believed… although there are no “bargains” here… and promised myself that THIS year I would insist we come here again, and take the time to actually SHOP.

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The first time we went here, it was NOT to please my obsession with big things, but rather because my travel buddy (a native of Sydney) LOVES the Big Merino because it’s the only place he knows of that reliably has nice thick Marino wool socks his size… The guy stands 6 foot something, and wears men’s XXL (size 13 Australian, 15 US and 49 European), i.e., he almost never finds socks his size, let alone Marino wool ones. On this 2nd trip, he did even want to come here saying he’d do it with him mom later … but I said, “well that’s nice, but I WANT to go there. Last time I didn’t have a chance to properly shop it, or even see the place, and I want to,” so we went…. and this time I got a knit cap made of Marino wool, and a cowl-neck lightweight Marino wool top which everyone agreed I looked great in… only it clashes badly with my camouflage pants.

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The store has a large selection of wool clothing, as well as a bunch of tourist stuff

If you’ve never purchased a pair of merino wool socks I STRONGLY suggest you do. First time I ever saw them was at a sort of outdoors/athletic/hiking type shop located in Evanston, IL, near my University. “$15 for a pair of socks, you have GOT to be kidding me?!” I said… but they assured me these socks would change my life (??) and that I should buy one pair and wear them for a week solid without changing them, and then sniff them, and if not impressed I could bring them back. (No seriously, that’s what they said!) Suffice it to say, they won that bet and now pretty much all my daily wear socks are now made of Merino wool. Not only does the wool wick moisture away from your skin, but something in wool makes it antibacterial (the stuff that makes your sweat stink) and it can take a good two solid weeks of my wearing merino wool socks on a daily basis before they even start to smell (I’ve tested them); that and they also LAST for YEARS!! That first pair took a good five years of regular abusive wearing (2 weeks at a time before washing… till they were good and stiff in other words) before they wore out! Not only that but I’ve noticed that since I’ve started wearing them I’ve not had a single blister develop on my feet, even when wearing new shoes. Seriously, these are a different category of sock and totally worth the price…. and T-shirts or anything else made from the wool share those same attributes, so VERY popular with athletes, hikers and travelers.

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Toy sheep made with real wool, plus sheep dogs

According to my friend (the first time we came here) it was a shame we hadn’t arrived at the Big Merino after dark because at night the security lights give it the effect of appearing to have glowing eyes

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On the 2nd level is a small unimpressive museum dedicated to the wool industry

What he didn’t mention at the time, and I found out by googling it (while writing the initial blog post) was that you can actually climb up the statue and look out through those eyes to the road. … I made SURE we did that the 2nd time we went (before we shopped)…

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The two eyes and nose as seen from inside the structure… and the views out

That and the One obligatory picture I SHOULD have gotten but didn’t (the first time), was the view of the back of the sheep… a view which Australians with their sense of irreverent humor seem to love to the point that it has its own Facebook page. Suffice it to say… that oversight has been corrected….

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Paddy’s Market & Market City (the mall for Asian tourists) in Sydney Australia’s Haymarket

In a way this building tells you a LOT about this section of Sydney. It serves the needs of multiple populations living right on top of each other but that somehow remain utterly obvious to each other. Paddy’s Market (open Wednesday –> Sunday), the basement of this building, has a long and complicated history that extends back to 1834, when Sydney’s Governor had moved all of the towns hay & grain markets out of the city into an adjoining area, that henceforth became known as Haymarket. What started out as simply a local market has over the years evolved into arguably one of Sydney’s major tourist attractions, that sits at the edge of the tourism district in the Haymarket neighborhood. And sitting upon that base is a Market City, a mall targeted directly at upper middle class Asians (the 20%), both those who are visiting as tourists and those who live in Sydney

I NEED TO TAKE A PHOTO OF THE BUILDING’s EXTERIOR!!! ARGH!

In actuality, Paddy’s Market is something of a chain. While it still maintains a branch at the original Haymarket address (for locals and tourists) its larger branch is located about a half hour west in Flemington, which also offers a flea market section and night food market. Combined, the two locations offer up over 1000 stalls selling food, fashion and just stuff. The Flemington location is where the Sydney markets were moved too when the city grew well past the Haymarket in the 1960’s (wholesale markets for the metropolitan area that sell fresh… from the ground …perishables, like fruits, vegetables and flowers to NSW and ACT florists)

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Currently the tourist attraction part of Patty’s is in a massive space on the ground floor/basement level (the building sits on a slope) of a multistoried entertainment and housing complex, where it was moved to in the 1970’s

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_bb76.jpgThe lowest floor is of an old-fashioned brick construction (I have the feeling that it had its exterior walls preserved), can get very hot and uncomfortable… and house’s Paddy’s, while a modern, air-conditioned, steel and glass structure towers above it,

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which houses both the Market City Shopping Mall (with 30+ factory outlet stores on its 2nd floor, a food court and wide selection of restaurants) and a separate/connecting apartment building, .

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That said, Paddy’s Market, which sits in the basement of the structure– in what could have easily been the parking area based on the look of the place… is in fact broken into two parts. In the southeast corner of the area, Paddy’s maintain’s it original purpose as a”Farmers Market” that manages to maintain its popularity with locals for the breadth and depth of its offerings, even though there’s an Asian Supermarket (IGA X-press Thai kee) located just above it in Market City, and there’s a Woolworth grocery store just kiddy corner from it, offer up way more in terms of packaged and bottled options. In large part it is because Paddy’s boasts a combination fresh foods which these other more modern stores just can’t really compete with

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…the reality is that in those areas, the more modern markets can’t really compete… that said, I was initially seriously wondering how the new ‘refrigerated’ section of Patty’s manages to compete with them in anything other than convenience

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Thai Kee Butchery

I ultimately realized that both the meat market at Paddy’s, and the fish area is actually owned by the Asian market, Thai Kee, that is upstairs in the modern mall, Market city

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_20e4.jpgand as such seem to be offering up the sort of bits and pieces its customers want but that the modern market upstairs doesn’t sell (that market has no fresh meat of fish sections, just frozen). So for instance, the meat market down in the basement has: tripe, tendons, small intestines, pigs ears, ox-tails, duck, wagyu beef, and shoulder-blade steaks. In a way this makes in that the market’s smelly meat and fish sections are not up in the shiny clean section adjacent to places selling clothes, etc., but are down in the basement, bothering no one.

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… that said, I had difficulty understanding how their seafood section was able to complete, considering their clientele were from the looks of it, mostly Asian (who take freshness in their seafood way more seriously than westerners do); and considering just how nearby this market is to Sydney’s seafood market, which is just a short ride away from Paddy’s by light rail

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And the seafood here is well… NOT so fresh… the eyes of the fish was all clouded and bulging, and the flesh didn’t even look firm… so how this seafood place stays open considering a predominately Chinese clientele, I don’t know.

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Adjacent to the food section of Paddy’s there’s a stall that sells every form of uniform a person might night need, from Chef’s and waiter’s uniforms to construction worker’s safety gear. And beyond that is ….

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the flea market!!! THIS section of Paddy’s is what makes it a mecca for the tourist in the tourist in the know…  these guys have pretty much everything a tourist might need from really high quality and affordable leather goods — These guys had HIGH quality leather men’s belts for about $30 AUD/$20 USD… best prices I’ve seen on comparable belts in the USA was $35.

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I got a particular hoot out of their Ned Kelly statue out front — he’s sort of the Jessie James of Australia. After having learned about him in via some general Australian history books, they all mention him, and then reading the Booker Prize winning novel, the “True History of the Kelly Gang” … so that I pretty much knew as much about his as the average Aussie, I was lucky enough to pass through Ned Kelly’s Home town Glenrowan last year, which of course. The statue basically shows the home-made armor he crafted for himself before his final showdown with police — where he was completely outnumbered.

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There’s no shortage of new ageie, paganie, stuff scattered throughout the market, including scented candles, crystals, incense, taro card and palm readers, massage and reflexology booths, etc., you name it

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There’s sexy costumes and kinky wear for folks who are getting ready for things like Sydney’s Mardi Gras/Gay pride festival in March — which I was lucky enough to attend last year.

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There’s hats and clothes of all variety, and no shortage of suitcases for sale to load them into — so you shouldn’t be restricted by the fullness of your luggage when you came here

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And probably the MOST common shop in this section… I counted at least 5 of them but I’m guessing there’s more … and this doesn’t include ALL the places selling Australian T-shirts… there’s more than a few….  are shops selling souvenirs for tourists… everything from the obligatory boomerangs, to the grotesque … furry kangaroo balls attached to a back scratcher, all crammed together into a small space, so that’s kind of hard to find what you’re looking for or even really see what’s being sold.

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BUT, and this is a big BUT… all of that is just on the ground floor of the building. I suggest taking the elevator upstairs and checking out the modern multilevel Asian/tourist focused shopping mall that’s sitting on top of Paddies.

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YUP, THIS is what’s sitting on top of that, and it’s like a different world. This mall is like every mall in South Korean. Granted, it’s a modern shopping mall so on the surface not so different … but here’s the thing… the whole time I was walking around it I kept feeling like I was back in South Korea, and I mean at the mall that was located across the street from my house when I worked there as a professor.  All the types of products and stores you see in Korea were on sale here. I kept feeling like if I lived in Australia, and went to visit Korea, I’d be sad cause I’d be like… everything here is what’s for sale at Market City in Haymarket…. And then I saw THIS store… UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_20e5.jpg

And I was like, “Oh my God I AM in Korea!!! 100%!!” …. this proved it to me. Giordano is a REALLY common brand there, and I was, I shit you not, actually wearing one of their T-shirt the first day I first found this store…. I’ve got BOXES of their clothing stored back in Chicago that I had shlepped back with me when I moved home after dad died.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_20e3.jpg

That said, my favorite part of this mall is the food courts on the first floor of this building that are full of highly authentic, highly affordable, Asian treats aimed at tourists visiting from Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and China…

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Look at all the people in these photos… I was one of the VERY FEW White people here… the place is like being in Asia

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They even have a Hakata/Fukuoka style Ramen place

On the Top floor of the building there is a whole collection of sit down restaurants, that are AS authentic, and where again you’ll find very few white people having a meal

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Up there, they have a conveyor belt sushi place that I had fallen in love with. I could stuff myself silly with really fresh sushi, for only about $20 US, which is ridiculously cheap… for sushi

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Agawa Crafts & The Canadian Carver, Pancake Bay, Ontario Canada

Back in August of 2016, as I was road-tripping along the Trans-Canadian Highway on my way from Vancouver Island in the far west of the country to Stratford Ontario  (just east of Detroit Michigan) I came across this really unique combination store that I liked so much that I can actually see myself driving back there (albeit, on a more direct route next time) to buy things for my home… once I actually get one.

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It’s actually a combination of a few stores that is only open during the tourism season (closed in winter, even just before Xmas — which is a bit crazy if you ask me), as well as a liquor store and gas station which stay open all year round.

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Smoked Fish and wild rice!!! YUM

Agawa Crafts sells items made by the local First Nations (i.e., Canadian name for Native Americans) tribal members,

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while the Canadian Carver is a gift store, full of hand-made items from local artists

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…some that looks a lot like cheesy stuff you could buy on-line or from gift-shops along highways … but ALL of it is in fact hand carved by artists they represent — although of varying levels of ability….

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The better stuff, from more skilled artists, is usually is grouped together on a wall

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or a shelf, with a photo and description of the artist alongside the items.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1fd1.jpg

Although some of it is just easy to self identify….

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was seriously wanting to buy this fruit bowl (left) and table (right) for myself, but no room

While I was here I did buy a carved duck, but as a wedding gift for two friends of mine who were getting married about a month later in September 2016, in Chicago.

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I’ve known the spouse since kinder-garden, the purple dress was purchased in Victoria, and is made of 100% hemp — so comfortable

 

It was of a sort decoy duck, a type of traditional North American Folk Art, usually carved out of a wood that will float — and sometimes used by hunters to confuse a duck into landing near them … like in the image below, only the one that I bought was MUCH nicer

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the one I bought almost looked like it was breathing … I’m sorry to say I never took a picture of it before wrapping it … my bad… that had been carved by a master level carver by the name of Larry Fell, and was signed underneath by the artist. (Works from some of the more famous master carvers have gone on to be collector’s items that have sold in the high six figures — so I figured, good gift.)

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I took this photo so my friends would know who the artist was who made their piece, should it ever become a collector’s item

… which I later, while in Stratford, ON… paid to have wrapped to my specifications (because when it’s worth doing right, pay a professional) at a high-end chocolate store called Rheo Thompson Candies

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Even though it’s a candy store, when I was walking through it one day I noticed that… because of all the people in that town who like to give chocolates as wedding favors, they had wedding gift paper with butterflies on it … so I asked them if they’d be willing to wrap my gift for me even though I wasn’t going to buy any chocolate, and they said they were…. I also asked if I could have these clay butterflies, which were on display as part of something else in the store, attached to it, and they agreed. I think the wrapping cost me like $30… but I think worth it… Getting the whole thing back to chicago without it being damaged was the tricky part.

Uranus MO, “It’s Not a Town, It’s a Destination”

Located on Route 66, this place was advertised as a town that had taken its name and run with it…. unabashedly. This appealed to me… That said, the place turned out to be SUCH a major tourist trap that it managed to lack ANY charm, wit or finesse at all, and the joke … which I admit totally made me want to come see the place gets REALLY really old after the first 15 minutes actually being there… to the point of irritating.

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From everything I had read the place was a very small town with 25 residents. AND, having just driven past any number of very tiny towns along route 66, that is what I was expecting… 25 residents maintaining a few business all of which played on the name of the place in order to draw tourists to a place they’d have otherwise just driven through… All hail the entrepreneurial spirit!

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Note, the parking lot concrete is stamped with the words “Explore Uranus”

Once I got there was very sad… Firstly, as you can see from the pictures, it’s not really a town. I was expecting a small town… a downtown with a handful of business, surrounded by a few houses… like any number of the small towns I had passed on Route 66…

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Instead what I found was a massive tourist attraction that looks like a strip mall tourist attraction…. essentially a single business broken into a few separate areas….which is not just unforgivable… it’s lazy. When you arrive you see the fake water tower, intended to make it feel like a “small town” with the implication that they have a school somewhere back there, with team called “the Pirates” — but I think they’re referring to themselves… as in the way Carneys think of the customers as marks, to be taken advantage of…

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UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1f83.jpgWhat was doubly frustrating was that in the gift store they have lots of magnets focused on the town’s name….  but no bumper stickers

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…she said up until now everyone’s wanted magnets, so they ordered lots of them… but now everyone wants stickers, but those they haven’t gotten in yet…

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1f7f.jpgand apparently, just recently a big group had come in and bought out all the good women’s T-shirts so there’s none of those either — and definitely not the only design that I was interested in buying — as apparently I’m not the only woman who preferred that design. She suggested I check their webpage over the coming weeks — I did, and didn’t see it there either.

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By the time I was done walking around the place… and I admit I stayed longer than I might have had I not been intent on writing about the place, because it annoyed the CRAP out of me … just … that… much!!! … by the time I got done, I was seriously…. SERIOUSLY pissed at having fallen for this particular tourist TRAP

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There’s also a circus sideshow museum and a tattoo parlor

SO annoyed in fact that I managed to completely miss the fact that around there somewhere (according to Wikipedia) they’ve got the World’s largest Belt buckled … one that even has a Guinness World Book of records designation… yah, I missed that… saw the Funkyard where it’s supposed to be…. did NOT see one sign promoting it…

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Pounding head into wall… will have to go back… pounding head into wall again… THAT said, I’m not seeing it on google either…

The Sydney Fish Markets, Pyrmont, Sydney NSW Australia

Anyone who is a fan of fish (as in eating it) should consider a few hours at the Sydney Fish Markets, located in the Pyrmont neighborhood of the Greater Sydney area. According to their site, they are the largest market “of their kind” in the southern hemisphere (but that’s actually a very vague statement, so I’m not sure what it means exactly). That said, the place is fairly large, a bit labyrinth like, and offers an almost overwhelming number of options to the first time visitor (so reading a blog post like this before going really could help you make some decisions). While I’m guessing at these numbers, the place seemed to be 50% a full-fledged fish market offering freshly caught raw fish (or what the Aussies call “wet fish”), about 40% is fast-food food stalls where you can gorge-out on pre-cooked (displayed) fishy delights till you need to loosen your pants, and about 10% is normal sit down restaurants (for the boring) that specialize in fish — most of which are Chinese food (as most of the tourists here seem to be Chinese).

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As you walk around, especially if you get there earlier in the morning (before 11am), you quickly realize that this place is a bona-fide fish market, in that it is the city’s wholesale (i.e. bulk sales) hub for product to restaurants, and other businesses, as well as offering retail sales (small sales) to the public. I’ve been to a few “fisherman’s wharfs” over the past few years, and till now they’ve all degraded into tourist traps… that is not the case here. The auctions of the morning’s catch begin at around 6:30 am, while the on site restaurants and other shops intended for the public open up for business a few hours later, at 9am and close at 4pm.

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If you walk around the various shops long enough (and peak into corners) you’ll find all sorts of workers de-scaling and filleting ….fullsizeoutput_4f76.jpeg

and deboning some of the freshest fish I’ve ever seen for sale to the public….

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…as well as folks who are busy shucking oysters. And, if you pay attention you’ll begin to realize what isn’t there…  namely, ANY of that fishy smell that one comes to expect around places that sell ‘fresh’ fish… which usually isn’t actually all that fresh… and ALL of the fish here are clear of eye and firm of flesh in a way you just don’t see much of anymore — which tells you just how fresh they are — to an extent one rarely sees at the even the fish stores with the best offerings… this place is just BETTER and fresher.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1eb1.jpgLike I said, about half of the market is a market… as in you can buy an impressive variety of fresh fish to take home and cook. This type is broken into a variety of shops that are scattered around the fish market area.

De Costi Seafood

De Costi Seafood, which is not in the main building (but rather is in a sort of strip mall that lines one side) was the first of these shops that I entered…

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In addition to fish to cook, De Costi’s sells a small amount of ‘prepared’ fish that you could eat as you sit outside while sitting along the bay… such as the ever popular sashimi, which I soon learned pretty much every one of the fresh fish shops offered. This, you can either buy in pre-cut sets designed for one person (usually of the most popular salmon/tuna mixes), or you can ask them to assemble platters of the stuff for your family/group (there is a minimum number of grams of each fish that you have to buy to qualify for this service)

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An older woman is slicing up sashimi trade salmon while a younger worker watches

Although MOST of the customers go for the salmon or the tuna (and as such about half the case was just of those two), in the other end of the case was a wide array of choices that included local cuttlefish, imported surf clams from Canada and scallops from Japan.

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In addition to Sashimi, De Costi offers some other foods you could buy and eat including pre-cooked lobster, smoked salmon, fish pâtés, and shucked oysters on the half-shell… as well as some semi-prepared foods, like “marinara” mixes (combinations of raw seafood) for you to take home and cook at home, with pasta, or in seafood soups and stews.

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But for the most part De Costi’s is about raw fish… of every shape and variety that the Australian shores offer.

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De Costi’s is however just one of about five different stores in the Market that sell to the public.

Musumeci’s Seafood

Another is Musumeci’s Seafood, and this is one of the few shops located in a separate building.

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Of ALL the shops it’s the only one I found to be handing out samples (from the woman standing behind the little table in the middle of the picture above). These “tasties” were of their smoked and/or roasted salmon, and pâtés made from salmon or trout.

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Once inside the offerings were pretty similar to what I found at De Costi’s, only they seemed to have more in the way of shellfish and less in the way of the scaled variety … and what fish they did have looked a little, the worse for wear… just not quite AS fresh… but that could have been because the facilities upon which they were displayed all looked a little long in the tooth

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And this store seemed to focus a much larger percentage of their counter space than De Costi had, on the sashimi trade, with more in the way of pre-sliced combo offerings and side dishes like seaweed salad… so more aimed at the tourists than the cooks… I think…

Claudio’s Quality Seafoods,

Hidden behind Musumeci’s (closer to the water) is another store by the name of Claudio’s Quality Seafoods, which to me looked better and fresher (more akin to De Costi) in terms of their fish…

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and this place had an even better shellfish selection than Musumeci’s had (so the best of both worlds so to speak), a variety of which was being sold pre-cooked (and of course they had the obligatory sashimi as well)…. and it is also where I found the guys in red doing the filleting in the picture at the top of the blog… (I was beginning to think that the presence of folks visibly filleting seafood is one of the attributes you want to keep an eye out for when judging these places. If you can’t see anyone actually prepping fish for sale… move on to the next store.

PjchkQ79QSi4xQU36h1ezwI also saw something at Claudio’s Quality Seafoods that I didn’t notice anywhere else in the market, shark steaks for sale. They have this large piece of shark sitting there. They can’t show the whole thing since small ones are about 10 feet long, and really big ones can be as large as 20 feet. Instead they put out this very large slab, and then you tell them how many “steaks” you want, and they cut them off with something akin to a chain saw. (I didn’t actually SEE a slice being cut, but rather there was a local taking around a group of Asian visitors … a small handful of people… and I overheard him describing the process to them.)

Peter’s Sydney Fish Market

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That said… From all of the reviews that I read before coming here (which I think I agree with), Peter’s Sydney Fish Market is considered the best of all the shops in the entire Market. It has a very large and bright location within the prime real estate of the main building and sells almost (pretty much) EVERYTHING that all of the other fish stores sell… both cooked and raw… and in addition includes almost all of the most popular dishes that the food stalls have on offer (although, based on my personal observations, it sells the duplicated dishes at a slower rate, so the food stalls cooked offerings might be more recently prepared — that said, there are dishes here you can’t find elsewhere and these dishes therefore move faster).

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In the center of the store Peters offers a VERY large selection of fresh fish and unlike the other places in the market that sell the same, Peters will even cook your fish for you, but for a fee….(in the USA stores that do this, usually do it for free, but ok)… But, I noticed that fee varies with, is the fish already filetted or not… if not, it costs about $5 AUD more per kilogram.

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And on top of that Peter’s offer a whole variety of ways that it can be cooked…. stir fried, grilled or steamed … and spices and flavorings with which your choice can be cooked… and there are also side dishes on offer.

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But this was only the start of what Peters offered in terms of prepared foods…. you could also have them prepare shellfish to order, or chose from their pre-cooked offerings….UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1edf.jpg

Among the shellfish you could buy (already cooked), was something I had heard about on a travel Food Channel show, ‘Australian bugs’. From what I learned from the show, these are shellfish that are picked up by accident, i.e., garbage fish that are not considered desirable by the fish trade, that Aussies have taken to eating as a “local dish” that no one else eats

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[… ironically, even though the gelatinous Blobfish, which you do see for sale in Korean fish-markets, originates in Australian waters, I didn’t see ANY of it for sale in the Sydney Fish Market … (that said, my best friend in Korea referred to blobfish as almost inedible… but said that Koreans during The War were so desperate for food that they had figured out a way of processing its flesh with chemicals to make it so)… ]

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Blobfish for sale in a food market in Masan, South Gyeongsang, South Korea when I visited in 2013

In addition to cooked fish, Peter’s offers a not only the obligatory Sashimi option, but also sells pre-prepared sushi for $2.50 AUD each… allowing you to pick and choose from their offerings which pieces you wanted in your set. Be Warned, I noticed — and confirmed this by asking — that once noon rolled around, no new sushi offerings were added, and you will be stuck with what was left over from the morning. So, if you want sushi from Peter’s, buy it early… [That said, one of the food court places offers a much more limited selection of cooked sushi that’s sold adjacent to its hot food (blech), and there is also a nondescript hole-in-the-wall sushi joint within the main building called, “Sushi Bar at the Fish Market”, which makes it to order, but from my observations — I left at around 12:30 did barely any business other than selling drinks during the early part of the day]

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The woman on the right is teaching the younger male worker how to debone the fish

In addition, Peter’s was selling freshly made before your eyes “Aburi” shellfish … which translates to flame seared … these are scallops completely covered in cheese and other stuff… and hence so far off my diet that I couldn’t taste them…. Almost all of the food stalls sell the same, but these seemed to be the only ones that were grilled to order.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1ee1.jpg

 

Nickolas’s Seafood

The only major competitor to Peter’s is probably Nickolas’s Seafood, which to my eye was sort of a 30% fresh/wet fish and was by far more, like almost 70% a cooked foods sort of place….

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Really MOST of what they had, was cooked stuff for the tourist market, like at the food stalls… although like Peter’s it has sushi, but not as much…

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but Nicholas’s distinct product seemed to be these very pretty platters of seafood (the little plastic containers hold the Aussie version of cocktail sauce which is heavy on the mayo… blech). The scallop platter may seem over-priced, but scallops sticks at Doyle’s or Christy’s with five on a stick were $10 AUD… so you sort of have to do the math… and you can of course take home the shells if so wish.

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While Peter’s seemed to specialize in fresh (or what the Aussies refer to as wet) fish, Nickolas’s seemed to do more “swimming” shellfish. While there I saw this almost comical event when a customer came in wanting to buy a six ginormous lobsters… which when taken out of the tanks and laid on the floor for the customer to inspect… who then started skittering around said floor and freaked out this little girl.

Pre-cooked foods only options

So, like I said before, while all of the above options also sold food you can eat on the spot such as the obligatory sashimi…. or cooked lobster or sushi in some cased, about 40% of Sydney’s Fish Market consists fast-food type stalls [not made to order restaurants], where you can pick from the displayed pre-made fish delicacies (although most also have some stuff cooked to order, usually for larger family sized trays, etc). So for instance, adjacent to De Costi’s in the strip mall type area is the…

Salty Squid

Salty Squid, which while they do make a few things fresh (burgers and the like, for those who do not like fish), is essentially no different than a fried fish fast-food place…

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Doles

Inside the main building you have Doles, which is the first such shop you’ll notice as you enter the building as it’s at the very entrance…. here they have a food stall sets up that sells flame grilled fresh fish on a stick…

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This was hands down my favorite of the places because they don’t smother it in oil, and will even do with completely without oil if you ask… even corn on the cob (with no butter)… very healthy food.

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Right behind this stall they have a larger restaurant set up that sells oysters, and all foods unhealthy … either deep-fried or smothered in cheese or cream sauce… which in my mind utterly defeats the point of eating sea food.

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Across the hallway from Doyles, still at the front entrance is

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Christie’s Sea Foods

Christie’s Sea Foods  is yet another food court/stall type business whose dishes vary from deep-fried to grilled — but I noticed a lot of oil added to their grilled foods

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Christie’s Sea Foods

Fish Market Cafe

and adjacent to Christie’s is The Fish Market Cafe — which to me looked to be the least healthy of all of them, but also probably the most popular of these places, as it seemed to be doing the most business in selling prepared foods.

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Sushi Doughnuts and Tacos (in a deep fried seaweed shell coated in panko )

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While most of the customers opted to sit indoor to eat their food, the fish market is directly adjacent to the water and there is seating outside for those who want to enjoy a view with their food.IMG_0956

That said, there are more than a few seagulls and such who hang out at this location, who are fairly aggressive birds who will happily steal your food from you (some on-line sources I read said that it’s not unknown for them to dive bomb you for it), which is why almost every table is covered with an umbrella or located inside a sort of tent… they’re there to help protect your lunch from the bird, not you from the sun.

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if you ARE intending to make a meal of it, the ONLY cooked veggies I saw were carbs… your choices are corn on the cob … which I had… rice or noodles… if you want veggies or fruit with your meal, at the far end of the market there’s a small fruit and veggies market that also offers up things like fruit salad and chocolate covered fruit.

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For your dessert options there is also a bakery and coffee shop inside the main building. And for those in your party who do not like fish... (in addition to the burgers at the Salty Squid) there’s an Italian deli that will make sandwiches. … That said if your traveling companion is like mine, a vegetarian… well those folks should pretty much just stay home because this place will most likely just offend them.

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Sit down Restaurants:

and about 10% sit down restaurants where you order from the menu like normal. Two of these are located on the same strip mall type building that De Costi’s is located, just past the Salty Squid fast food joint… that said, neither of these seemed to be doing a load of business during the whole time I was there (and I was there till 12:30).  The Third is a restaurant I only discovered after when doing this blog, and looks like someplace I’d like to try… Fisherman’s Wharf Seafood is a fancy Chinese place located on the 2nd floor of the Market’s main building (initially, I didn’t made it to the 2nd floor) and during the market’s open hours/lunch they do DIM SUM… yo mama!!! Monday to Friday : 11am – 3pm  Saturday and Sunday : 10am – 3pm  I checked it out later in this trip and did a separate review.

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The only one I took photos of was the Sea Emperor… which wasn’t doing much more business as 12:30 than it had at 11:00 which when I took the above photos.

 

Costco in the Greater Sydney area of Australia… an observation

Well this is going to be a short post. The day I arrived on this most recent trip to Australia I dragged my travel partner out to Costco (which is pretty far out in the Sydney suburbs) to load up on groceries because our Airbnb wasn’t all that convenient to the local stores… and spotted this:

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I’ve only seen these things before in the U.K., you stick in a $1 coin (Australian Dollars, its the gold looking coin) and it unlocks your cart from the others,

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like I said my travel buddy REALLY didn’t want to be there so I couldn’t give it the full appreciation of what’s different from in the USA I would have liked. That said, they did NOT have the Kirkland brand smoked salmon… I ended up buying smoked trout that looked like smoked salmon… didn’t really enjoy it.

 

 

 

Paul Bunyon Statue, Atlanta IL

This 19 foot “muffler man” is a Paul Bunyan woodsman statue (for those who don’t know, Paul is a character from American Folklore), who stands alone without his trusty side-kick Babe the Blue Ox…. and is holding, instead of an ax, a hotdog.

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The Statue was built in 1966, and stood initially on the roof of a hotdog joint on Route 66/aka Ogden Ave in Cicero Illinois. The owner intentionally misspelt the name as Buyon instead of Bunyan in order to avoid any copyright infringements. After a while the statue became such a tourist draw that the owner moved it down to ground level, so that children could climb on it

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When the business closed in 2002 the beloved Route 66 landmark went up for sale and was purchased by the city of Atlanta (a one stoplight sort of a town), as a tourism draw.

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Anyone reading my posts about traveling Route 66 knows one of my pet peeves was most of the gift stores along the route sell generic stuff you could buy on Amazon. The gift stores in town do have some of that stuff, but they’ve also got clothes and towels that have been embroidered with the statue, and even with some of the buildings in town. Didn’t buy any, but seeing these made me very happy. One warning about the town is that during the ‘off season’ which is when I was doing 66 — late October, most of the shop owners just can’t be bothered to keep their shops open. There are two museums in town, both were closed, and there’s a restaurant that’s supposed to be pretty good, and it was closed as well. And there were shops that, according to the signs in the window, SHOULD have been open and where not… the place was bit like a ghost town.

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Henrys Rabbit Ranch, Staunton, IL

Located in Staunton, Illinois, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch really is one of the route 66’s “must sees” and it’s one that lives up to the promise … mostly because of the owner. Remember the Cadillac Ranch and the Slug Bug ranches in Texas? Well this is the Rabbit Ranch…

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In the USA and Canada the Volkswagen Golf is marketed by the name Rabbit

That said, Henry, the owner of this place, who is a lover of rabbits (he told me that at one point he was fostering 27 rescues) really is why you come.

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When you first approach the place it looks like run down pile of junk that’s trying to take advantage of some of the 66 trafficIMG_1266.JPGBut when you get out of your car and start really looking, you realize this is one of must see stops (with accolades from both the route 66 landmark group and the state of Illinois

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Among his “junk” he’s got a sign from a depression era WPA project on the route!!! (this should NOT be outdoors in the elements, it should be in a museum)

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Inside you’ll find Henry. I had read this over and over again but it’s true, he is a ridiculously sweet guy who takes joy in helping 66’s travelers, and will talk to you all day if you let him. All of his bunnies are rescue bunnies and he told me that at one point he had like 27 of them.

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After talking to me for a while, he took me around to see his property, including the fairly large a Rabbit cemetery along the side of the house (each stone marks multiple rabbits), which includes a MASSIVE fiberglass rabbit he insisted of photographing me on top of IMG_1262.JPG

To be honest, I almost missed the place… the two images on the left side of the picture above is what the place looked like approaching from the north bound route 66. NO references are made to it being the Rabbit Ranch… all of his signs assume those sorts of tourists (on 66) will be going south bound… starting in Chicago and heading to LA.

The Nut House, Claremore, OK

One of the places that I kept hearing about as MUST see on Route 66 was The Nut House in Claremore Oklahoma and for the life of me I don’t know why.

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It’s a 40 year old store. As such it dates from 1978, when 66 was already being decommissioned, and is not even one located within interesting architecture. Why This is a must see makes about as much sense as saying ANY gift shop along the route is a must see.  It sells nuts, fresh fudge (tasty, but fudge) and has a deli. The goods for sale are a wider variety than one normally sees in these Route 66 places, but most of it was made in China so … a generic gift shop none-the-less.

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The ONLY interesting thing about this place is that it’s located adjacent to a store that sells RV’s which makes good sense as I’m sure more than a few people at this point are wishing they had one.