As previously mentioned, Andrew is currently working on a project in Melbourne. While this means we unfortunately have to deal with long-distance, it also means I have the perfect excuse to visit Melbourne. My first impression wasn’t great, as the airport itself was filled with people less considerate than those to which I’m accustomed. I’m spoiled living in a country now where friendly is the default (unless driving). I’m sure there are loads of lovely Australians, but none of them ran across my path that first day.
That being said, after arriving in the city, Andrew took me to the market to pick up some noodles. Of course, it turned into a big wander. There were heaps of food stalls, and trinkets, and flowers among other things. It was a great market not more than a few blocks from Andrew’s place. There was a liquor store where we found Andrew’s FAVORITE beer (he’s been searching for it for the better part of a decade) as well as a variety of strange, strange liquors (chipotle spirits anyone?), several yummy looking bakeries, cheese stalls, a nail parlor and a pretty good band playing covers of my favorite 90’s alternative music. We even ran into friends! Small world. After a pretty good lunch, we picked up some noodles for later in the week.
In the evening, we met up with a good friend at one of the Melbourne laneways. A laneway is basically an alley but filled with restaurants, cafes, and other shops, like barbers. Several days later, I was actually wandering downtown looking for a burger joint and all I could find were McDonalds, KFC, Subway and I started to get frustrated wondering why there weren’t any food places in town that weren’t American chains?! Then I remembered it was a city of laneways, popped down half a block, and I had my pick of cafes and local burger joints! Unclear why, but many laneways do not look inviting from the outset, but take a few steps in, and they look like the hippest place to be.
Sunday morning we met up with our friends we had ran into at the market and Andrew made his soon-to-be famous waffles. Yum! No better way to start off the morning. That afternoon, Andrew found a showing of Raiders of the Lost Arc and we caught front row balcony seats to watch this gem on the big screen! I love old theaters that show classic films! This one, called the Astor, sadly, was in its final season, no longer able to remain profitable. Granted, I can understand. Not sure how many of those shows I would have attended. There was an obnoxious 4 year old talking throughout the movie, and his parents did nothing to cull the constant interruptions. The theater was beautiful, ornate railings, the wooden balcony creaking with every movement, there was a high dose of charm. Not quite enough to combat the “Where’s James Bond?” “Can I have more popcorn?”or even the constant “Shhhhh’s”. In Australia, as is the same in New Zealand, ice cream is the movie theater food of choice. As popular, if not much more so than popcorn. Peculiar. I wonder if that stems from a time before air conditioning?
In Melbourne, there are all these flats called terraces around the city. I love how each city has their own version of these buildings. In Chicago it’s a two-flat, DC it’s a rowhouse and in Boston it’s a brownstone. Auckland doesn’t really do city living, just shoebox apartments and houses. No middle ground. Andrew lived in a single level unit, but it was gorgeous. The unit had the appearance of being lived in by two bachelors, but what did I expect, as two men did live there. There was a front porch, a moderately sized backyard (for a city), and even a small outdoor area outside his bedroom and the bathroom in the middle of the unit for some sunlight and a breeze. There are even two fireplaces. With a woman’s touch, or perhaps some hired help, or most likely both, this place had heaps of potential!
Melbourne had some great restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. One evening, we met up with friends at a bar for one of the best old fashioned cocktails I’ve ever had! I chose the old fashioned with tequila and grapefruit and thyme bitters while Andrew chose the bourbon with maple and chocolate bitters. I’d highly recommend visiting Lily Blacks. That being said, I’ve heard that there are so many great bars, and roof-top bars, that it’s a tough call to make. Trying something new, or going with what you know is great. There was a restaurant called Merrywell which was purported to make the best burgers in the city, which Andrew and I also ventured to trial. My blue cheese burger was fantastic! Though Andrew wasn’t sold on his spicy burger, as the combination of spicy flavors was a bit too diverse for a single bun. I met up for lunch with another friend in the suburb of Carlton one afternoon and had, by a long shot, the best Flat White (coffee with steamed milk) I’ve ever had at a place called Assembly. Another night we hit up a cafe on the beach. True to form, I got a fruity drink on the beach to toast to my vacation! Yum! So many good choices on a variety of price points. One of the things I love about big cities.
Andrew got off work a little early on Friday so we went to St Kildas beach and Luna Park just off the water. It was a nice day, reaching 90 degrees, but with a fruity drink, and the wind in our hair during a ride on the roller coaster, it was pretty perfect. The amusement park had pay per ride tickets, like Coney Island in New York City. The roller coaster did two loops around the entire park, which was a neat way to encase the park and also offered a great view. The old wooden roller coaster was probably the bumpiest ride I’ve ever been on, but unlike Andrew, at least my knees weren’t squashed up and banging against the seat in front of us. The park was a nice little diversion, and I’m glad we could just pop in and out. On our walk along the beach, after dipping my toes in the water, we even saw a Cockatoo in a palm tree, just chillin’. (The next day was in the 40’s all day long and freezing! Talk about a drastic temperature change! All day hot, all day cold, I didn’t know what to make of that.)
One night, we met up with some friends for Korean Fried Chicken and a show. We got half price tickets to a show called Potted Potter, which was awful. As a pretty easy going, low expectations kind of Harry Potter fan, I can try and be gracious here, but if I’m honest, this was the only play I’ve ever been to in which I ended up laughing, simply because it was THAT bad. I mean, it wasn’t even geared towards kids, it was just awful. The actors went in and out of character, and in and out of the scene. Sometimes acting as if they just thought up the ideas, other times discussing how this worked in the last show, or this hadn’t happened in the shows previously. Had we paid full price, I would not have shied away from asking for our money back. Terrible. They had even asked for two volunteers from the audience, and somehow three kids ended up on stage and the actors mercilessly made fun of one of them, and not even humorously. The kid couldn’t have been more than seven. Worst of all, they kept talking about how they had planned to spend the money from the show on set and actors, and I get it was a bit, but there was clearly NO money put into set or actors, so it called attention to how overpriced the show was. Perhaps it’s someone else’s cup of tea, but I wouldn’t quite know to whom the target audience was. Watch at your own risk.
So let’s see, what else was interesting about Melbourne? The public transportation system was pretty swanky, and I went on two day trips I’ll write up shortly. Trams in the city, trains for the suburbs. Easy to use! I hit up a free tram in the city which was supposed to have commentary about popular attractions and historical bits. The audio track was broken on the first two trains I jumped on, the third train had me squashed against a large man and back to back with both a snoring sleeping man and a crying baby, so that didn’t last long. The train stations, Federation Square, Harbor and Yarra River Promenade made for lovely walks. I found the local swimming pool and kept up with my swimming as best I could. I pinched a nerve in my shoulder a week prior, so I’d only just gotten back in the water after a brief break. Mostly though, the accessibility, the architecture, the variety of food choices and ambiance was so very similar to my hometown. It made me miss Chicago immensely, but also it was a great adventure to explore Melbourne. It was also fantastic to catch up with so many friends! And, I can’t wait to go back! A friend from the US is visiting shortly and we got some great tickets to Melbourne for a long weekend!
So, more to come!