December 22, 2011

Sydney, But No Sun

Ok, so I missed out on telling you about our last week in Melbourne. We did some tours and then we left for Sydney! We met up with my brother Dan on Tuesday and headed for Nowra to catch up with a friend from my semester abroad in Switzerland and to spend Christmas there. Since we've been here we have done a walk to see the local sights and most importantly, we went to find KANGAROOS yesterday and we found them!! Seeing them was one of the coolest things we've done since being in Australia. Now all we're waiting for is the 4 day cloud over New South Wales to pass and for the sun come out!!

December 15, 2011

Touring Melbourne

On Monday, Luke and I did a tour of Etihad Stadium. It is a stadium which is mostly used for Australian Rules Football (kind of like rugby), but they also use it for concerts, bit soccer events, and loads of other sporting events. The stadium can change its shape depending on the event, and can seat up to 76,000. The tour was really good. Because they were setting up for an event we weren't allowed to go onto the field or go into the changing rooms, but that allowed us to go to something far more interesting, the executive boxes. Once a company pays their fee for a private box, they are allowed to decorate it however they like, and decorate it they do! We went into some seriously memorabeliazed boxes. One in particular had not only gotten in a marble bar and put their family seal on their seats, but they also had so much movie and sporting memorabelia that we couldn't even capture it all with photos. The tour was only an hour and because it was apparently 'closed off' in some sections it was only $8 instead of $16!

December 12, 2011

Beach Bums

Last week Luke and I headed out for a lazy beach day at Brighton Beach. It's about a 20 minute train ride from the center of Melbourne, but it feels miles away once you are laying on the boiling hot sand listening to the crashing waves. A simple peak north though reminds you that the city isn't too far away.

One of the reasons we chose Brighton Beach over any other beach is becaue of their historically protected beach huts. They line the beach all painted a really fun bright color more garish than the next.

I still don't have a tan...

December 07, 2011

Secret Gardens

Yesterday Luke and I decided to get out of the house and walk over to Fitzroy Gardens in the center of the city. We spent some time wandering around all of the different areas of the gardens which included a really nice conservatory with some really amazing smelling flowers inside, sitting and soaking in the sun and frequently finding respite in the shade. After wandering all around the gardens we decided to head out of the park and into the city for a bit of shopping.

After modelling the entire contents of several of the stores I thought looked appealing, we headed to a pub for a few beers. We have both been pretty disappointed with the quality of the beer in Australia after finding so many boutique and craft beers in New Zealand, so Luke did some searching online for where the craft beers could be found in Melbourne. The first place we went to was Young and Jackson which turned out to be a pretty nice pub with really good beers. Our next stop was to fill our empty bellies with the most incredible fish burger I've ever had. We decided to explore one of the many laneways that I told you about to find a tasty new restaurant, and find one we did. It was called Sea Salt and they make a mean fish burger.

Our last stop of the night was Beer Deluxe where the list of beers was so long it filled an entire menu aptly named the Beer Bible. It was a perfect way to end a day of exploring.

Today we carried on exploring new gardens by heading to the Botanic Gardens, Queen Victoria Gardens, and Alexandra Gardens (aka we did a LOT of walking). First we stopped at Hosier Lane, a lane that is known for its unbelievable street art. I took photos of probably every section of the street because everything was so amazing. I cannot believe that people can do this with spray paint!

It was so sunny and warm today so we were pretty much applying sunblock after every few steps, but in between we saw so many cool things. The highlight for me was the Shrine of Remembrance which is just outside of the Botanic Gardens. It is a war memorial for all of the soldiers lost in the wars that Australia has fought in. It is a massive monument which gives incredible views of the city once you climb the stairs to the balcony. By the time we got there we were pretty beaten by the sun, so the stair climb seemed much harder, but we made it and it was worth it! The Botanic Gardens were massive! The paths seemed to go on and on and we could have easily lost ourselves there for the entire day. We took a break in the shade and read for a while. Once we rested, rehydrated and re-applied we were ready to carry on. There were native plants like Eucalyptus and not so native ones like Bamboo; there was a makeshift volcano, and some floating islands in the man-made lake. By the time we left all of the gardens we were ready for a seat. We stopped at Federation Square just as the after work hustle and bustle was beginning.

Luckily, Melbourne doesn't want anyone to die of dehydration even if they are in a drought, so they seem to have plenty of these!

December 01, 2011

A Non Travellers Day

Unfortunately, not every day of the week can be an all out exploration of a new place. Sometimes we have to do more mundane 'real life' things. I must admit, sometimes its nice to be able to sleep in, watch all of the missed episodes of Sons of Anarchy, and drink tea and coffee all day leaving the house only to sit out on the back patio. It's nice to take a break from being a tourist and instead just be a normal person in our home. Today was neither of those things, instead we got up at the crack of 11 and got down to business opening a bank account. Before that of course we needed some fuel for the day. We realized that its not too far a walk into the city center from our suburb and its a pretty stroll through the different villages. We stopped in Fitzroy for some lunch at a yummy sandwich place called Gutz. I got a falafel wrap and Luke got a chicken and avocado sandwich on focaccia. Both were delicious and toasted to perfection. There may also have been a side of fries/chips involved.

Once we stuffed our faces we were focused on the task at hand. We opened up a bank account and got the rest of our Christmas related things to send home to our families. There is one small detail that I think of which makes all mundane things less mundane and that is that we're doing these things in Melbourne, Australia.

Yummy Lunch Spot in Fitzroy

Not a bad place to pass the time...

November 29, 2011

Melbourne's Laneways

Today Luke and I walked into the city and headed for the information center to get a map of the city's laneways that we have been hearing so much about. Melbourne has all of these little alleyways and lanes that are hidden between the main streets of the city center that you would probably walk right past if you didn't know they were there. Hence why we thought we should grab a map so we would know exactly where to look. Some of these are actually just little alleys with nothing other than a delivery truck blocking the way while others are filled with restaurants, cafes, bars and smells that make you wonder how you could have ever passed them by unnoticed. Others were empty but the walls were covered with street art (graffiti) that is better than most hanging in nearby art galleries. It was an absolutely perfect way to spend the day and really showed us a whole other side to Melbourne.

We also made a quick stop on the way home after we spotted the Hotel Sofitel that Luke had read about on our free website I told you about. On the 35th floor is a hotel restaurant with an interesting bathroom that he recommended we check out. When you walk into the bathroom you get an immediate and incredible view of the east side of the city. It was like being on an observation deck! I quickly took photos before someone actually dining at the restaurant came into the bathroom!

The cutest macaroon shop!

Fresh bread on Presgrave Place!

View from the bathroom, nice pool!

The BCG Stadium - cricket and AFL stadium
and nearby is the Australian Tennis Open Stadium

November 27, 2011

Sooo sorry for the hiatus, it has been a busy week! Last Sunday I started my first day of work at a retail clothing store in a mall in the center of Melbourne. I worked all day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and was EXHAUSTED! This whole working thing can be pretty tiring! I slept for 12 hours after getting home from work on Tuesday night. It was the best sleep I've had in Australia!

I had a few days off so Luke and I decided to take advantage. We found this really great website with free things to do in Melbourne which obviously is right up our alley! On Wednesday once I finally woke up we headed over to the Old Treasury Building where we had a tour of where they used to house all of the gold nuggets that were dug up in Victoria during the early 20th century. Our Irish tour guide didn't know much about the treasury, but he was really nice and gave us some travel advice!

Then we headed up Collins Street to two beautiful buildings - 333 Collins Street and the ANZ Gothic Bank. I'm sure those don't mean anything to you, they certainly didn't mean anything to us (except ANZ is our bank), but they were on the free website and they were nearby, so we went exploring. Both have some beautiful interior decoration. The ANZ Gothic Bank was my favorite. It is still a normally functioning bank and used to house the stock exchange, but it feels like you are walking into an old gothic style cathedral. The ceilings are very high, there are stained glass windows and wonderful wooden archways. We capped off the day by heading to the Queen Victoria Night Market. It is just as good (or possibly better) than the normal daytime market. It is basically only food and drink stalls and there was live music!

We had planned to go on a tour of the Parliament building on Wednesday as well, but they were in session so we didn't end up getting a tour until Friday (they only work 3 very "hard" days a week). The tour was interesting. Australia is similar to the US in the fact that there is state as well as national law, but it seems that the state government has much more power here than in the US. Each state has it's own house of parliament with an upper and lower house as well as a Premier, which seems to be akin to something like the state version of an Prime Minister. The party that is in power chooses the premier from within that party. We were able to get into and even sit in some of the MP's seats. It was a pretty fun tour!

We capped off the week by going to a Melbourne Victory match today vs the Gold Coast. It was a pretty good game with lots of goals scored so it kept us on the edge of our seats! Well that and the fact that a little boy was kicking the back of my seat the whole time. And the Victory were victorious! (sorry, had to).

There is so much more of Melbourne to see still and we plan on doing as many FREE things as possible!

The Gothic Bank Building

The hallway of the Old Treasury Building
This is where they kept all the gold!!

Outside of the Treasury Building

Luke sitting in the chair of Speaker of the House

Sitting in the Premier's Chair

Watching some football/soccer!

November 18, 2011

4 Seasons in a Day

If I hear one more Melbournian say that about the weather I am going to have to go up to Darwin. But seriously, the weather in Melbourne is as very interesting thing. Today it was over 30 degrees Celsius (which is about 85 degrees F). And not only is it stupidly hot, the wind actually feels hotter than the sun! Ok thats not entirely true, but it is a hot wind, not the kind that makes it feel cooler out.

We decided to enjoy the beautifully stifling heat by spending an amazing afternoon exploring the Queen Victoria Market. It is incredible. We started around the stalls where all of the souvenir shirts, leather bags/shoes/jackets/belts, and all the other chachka you could think of. Of course we loved every minute of it and went up and down every row of stalls.

The start of the chach

Although those stalls were pretty cool, the best part of the market for me is the Deli Hall. It is filled with cured meats hanging over your head, cheese from every corner of the globe, colourful and beautiful olives, decadent cakes and cookies, fresh bread and the smell of freshly ground coffee. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I was while we circled this hall. Luke must have heard me say "oh my god look that that!" about 23948209384 times. I was nearly salivating at the sight of all of the goodies in this place. I wanted to buy everything and eat it all at once while washing it down with a fresh cup of Colombian fair trade coffee (not a flat white or a latte or a short black, a CUP OF COFFEE).

Look at that meat!

This whole stall was olives and I stood
staring at them for far too long

We left with our hands full of bags and our wallets a little bit lighter, but I skipped back to the tram - after a short side trip to 7-11 for a coca-cola mixed with citrus flavored slushee of course. We packed ourselves into the un-air conditioned tram home and were welcomed back inside with a beautiful coolness that we hadn't felt all day. It is so humid here! Sometimes you feel like you can't actually breath properly.

The dark sky before the rain

Not the best photography, but its pouring!
(also those are the shops outside our front door!)

Right so you see what I mean about this saying '4 seasons in a day'. Once we got settled back in for the evening the sky changed horribly dark. Just a few minutes ago it opened up! The thunder feels like its shaking the house and the rain is coming down sideways! Just another day in Melbourne!