Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)
10 A$ = £6.15 £1 = 1.63 A$
Time Zone: GMT +11
3rd – 7th Nov
So this blog update comes to you handcrafted not once but rwice. I had it ready to go, just one picture to upload, but then there must have been an issue with the WordPress app and it all disappeared. So here goes attempt number 2…
Our time in Melbourne was to be a Leeds reunion (the home of Mel B, hence the terrible title) but before we could do anything we needed to catch up on our sleep, what any wise person would do after an overnight flight. Thankfully the Airbnb host let us check-in early so we were able to crawl straight into bed.
On waking we arranged to meet up with Fabien. He was going to meet us at Richmond Station, a 6 minute walk according to Google Maps. We found some trains and set about finding an entrance. After 10 minutes of crossing various roads under and around the train lines, discovering doors and turnstiles that were all shut, we received a call from Fabien who directed us to a small gap between two shops a short walk up the road from the station which lead to the station entrance. Of course.
Our main attraction for the evening would be karaoke with a bunch of his work friends, but first we got some pies and gravy, one of the few things Asia was lacking. We also went to one of Melbourne’s many rooftop bars, Cookie, for a whistle wetting, where we encountered a lady from Buckie, a small village in the north of Scotland, not far from where Kate grew up.
We finished our beers/ciders and made our way to Rainbow Karaoke, a bar in Chinatown with multiple themed rooms for singing your favourite Asian songs, with a few English options in there too. We started off in the British themed room but after a few tentative sober efforts at Adele and Barenaked Ladies our numbers grew and we needed to move to the Matrix themed room. Our attempts became gradually more enthusiastic throughout the evening and covered a lot of musical ground. From Whitesnake to Linkin Park to Taylor Swift to Oasis. It was good fun indeed.
The next day started pretty late. No idea why, probably the jet lag. When we finally got up and about we realised the weather was behaving itself and it was a lovely sunny day. We used this opportunity to walk the 20 minutes into the so-called CBD or “Central Business District”. Basically Australasian for “City Centre”.
After some lunch and coffee we wandered back out of the CBD towards the botanical gardens through some lovely parks with great views of the city.
On the way we found a floral clock that just so happened to be celebrating its 50th birthday. Perhaps celebrating is a bit strong as no-one seemed to care but we wished it a happy birthday nonetheless.
We made it to the botanical gardens and had a lovely stroll around the space. I am no horticulturist so perhaps didn’t appreciate the diverse variety of plants as much as others, but it was such a pretty, relaxing space.
That evening we walked back through some more of Melbourne’s green space to a supermarket near the hostel to make some pasta and get food in for breakfast. That evening Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was playing on the TV so we took the opportunity to kick our feet up and plan our upcoming trip to New Zealand!
The next day we were supposed to be guided around the city by Fabien but he was called into work last minute so instead we found another free guide in the form of Matthew, a very enthusiastic free walking tour guide.
These tours are conducted twice a day for free (minus the definitely-not-compulsory tips that you are regularly reminded about) and last 3 hours or so, taking in the many highlights around the CBD. Highlights included the prison where Ned Kelly was banged up…
…Melbourne’s most famous street art location, Hosier Lane…
…as well as various important buildings, museums, parks, streets and alleyways. On our tour was a chap called Brian with a very thick Glaswegian accent who had stepped off his plane from the UK that morning. He had decided to take this tour to kill some time before being able to check-in to his hostel to nap, like any wise person does after an overnight flight.
After our tour finished at the riverside we said goodbye to Matthew, Brian and the rest of our walking tour group and headed back in to the CBD to grab lunch in one of the cute little alleyway cafes. We spent the rest of the afternoon in ACMI – Australian Centre for the Movinh Image. We learnt about the history of film before being more like kids watching viral videos, playing video games, trying out a VR headset and jumping in a Matrix-style bullet-time camera pod (Melbourne seem to like their Matrix themed things). They also had an incredible zoetrope, a spinning model that gives the illusion of movement under the correct lighting.
That evening we met back up with Fabien and went to Fitzroy, Melbourne’s premier hipster district, or hipstrict, for dinner. We hit up Shawcross for pizza before going to our second Melbourne rooftop bar, Naked For Satan. Apparently it is named after a local artist, Mr Satanovic, who would regularly strip off when working in his stuffy studio. We followed this up with a drink in a bar called Rooks Return where we saw the hippest of all the hipsters with a white all in one Adidas tracksuit, socks with sandals and a beautiful moustache. We finished off the night in a Hawaiian/Dinosaur themed tiki bar where we had some rather potent cocktails.
The following day Fabien had ensured he was off work and we enlisted him as a guide once more. After overshopping for our one meal in the hostel, we had a rather large amount of bacon and eggs to scoff before Fabien met us. Bellies full we headed to Abbeydale Abbey, one of Melbourne’s few historic buildings, for a mini festival. We saw another collection of hipsters in the printroom exhibition and a few sticky tape men dotted around, including this guy making his escape.
After a couple of drinks in the sun we made our way to St Kilda, the area around the beach. One if the big draws of this area is a small peninsula where tiny fairy penguins hide amongst the rocks. The crowds were large so seeing them up close was difficult but, with some persistence, we found a little guy.
On the way back to the mainland we spotted the Eureka tower once more. It is named after the Eureka Rebellion, a fatal protest by working class gold miners and has a section of windows made with gold leaf (an odd choice for a building named after an anti-capitalist protest) and a red line to represent the blood spilled. The golden windows reflected the sun rather spectacularly.
We walked along the beach and found a bar for dinner and drinks. We sat down in this cosy little bar and ordered but when I enquired where the toilets were I discovered an expansive upstairs seating area with live music, so we all moved upstairs.
On the way back from St Kilda we transfered at Southern Cross station, a huge station where we would be getting our bus to the airport from, and got a train to Richmond. We had one more stop to make at an artisan gelato called Messino for some delicious ice-cream (apple crumble and white chocolate & hazelnut, two of their less adventurous flavours) before we said goodbye to Fabien and went to bed before our next international flight.
The hostel (kinda)
Our accommodation was not a hostel but an Airbnb rental. Except it was definitely a hostel. A good one too. We had a double room (possibly the only option) and there were shared bathrooms, kitchen and living space. The lounge had a huge TV which made LOTR all the more dramatic and the night time entertsinment was provided by the nextdoor strip club playing 80s hair metal classics. Apart from this the location was great, with a station nearby and walkable to the centre.