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!

November 15, 2011

Why Run?

So now that Luke and I are finally settled (well for a few weeks at least) in a short term apartment in Melbourne, I have been able to go running again. I have made a mental plan to try to go every other day, and since I started I have stuck to it (ok I mean its only been 4 days...), but its been really hard. The first day that I laced up my sneaks and headed out to explore our new neighborhood I knew it was going to hurt. I knew what I was in for and I sort of revelled in it. It felt good (well not physically) to be out on the pavement again. It was in the morning so I was around all of these other people trying to get a workout in before work, except of course for the fact that I didn't have to go to work so obviously I liked it even more.

Now what I wasn't prepared for unfortunately was the agony that I would feel the next day. Ouch. Everyone who has ever exercised knows that its not the next day, but the day after that which kills you. I woke up on that second day wondering why I had promised myself to go every other day. My quads had their own heart beat every time I even looked at the stairs not to mention when I had to bend over and lace up my shoes. But I did it, I went out on that second day and ran for even longer than I had the first day. This is only because I got lost while running, trust me I was in far more pain wheezing on this run (which turned into more of a wog (that's a jog at a walkers pace)).

Anyway, I'm sure you're wondering why I'm complaining to you about getting my butt back into shape. Really this has something to do with travelling I promise. While I was wogging yesterday I couldn't help but smile as I took in the sights around me. I suddenly remembered: I'm going for a jog in Melbourne Australia. Kind of like that time I remembered I was in New Zealand. It made me think of something a professor at Babson once said. It was a management consulting type of class and he was telling us about how he has travelled the world with different consulting work, but it is hardly travelling because all he gets to see is the inside of a boardroom. He told us that his only escape and real chance to see a city he visits is to go for an early morning run. Although I have no connection with him in the sense that I am never in a boardroom (thankfully) and I can run whenever I want, I really think sometimes it is the best way to see things. I have seen some of the most interesting people just living their normal lives while I've been running. I've seen sunsets, beaches, and cityscapes. For me it has become a way to explore my surroundings and get to know the streets, find the busy cafes and restaurants and as a bonus I don't get fat from all of the Tim Tams.

So that's why I run.

November 05, 2011

G'Day Mate

Australia has been a whirlwind! I cannot believe we have only been here for 5 full days, it seems like we’ve been here much longer already! We touched down in Melbourne on Monday night and headed straight to the hostel with our 20kg backpacks on our backs and our only slightly lighter bags on the front. We looked like every traveller that we always giggled at in New Zealand who was wandering the streets lost in a city. Luckily the hostel was easy to find and we had our first sleep on Aussie soil. The next two days were spent exploring Melbourne and getting sorted with new bank accounts, tax numbers for working and finding some work. The plan had initially been to try to find some fruit picking work. In Australia, the Working Holiday Visa (which is what we’re on) allows you to stay and work in Australia for up to 12 months. If you do 88 days of farm work during that first year you are granted an additional 12 months of work in the country.
We thought we would try to do some of that work now so that if we decided we wanted to stay a second year we had the option. So we quickly found a hostel about two and a half hours north of Melbourne in a town called Shepparton. The hostel promised fruit picking work within the next 7-10 days which sounded perfect to us. Wednesday night we were on a train to Shepparton and arrived at our “hostel” to find that there would be work the next day. We were pretty glad about that because the thought of spending a day sitting in the hostel was a scary one. It is more like a prison than a backpackers hostel. When we arrived we were given a container each that had one plate, one bowl and one of each utensil. We were to keep our food only in those containers and anything else would be thrown out. When we got to our room that was supposed to be a double bed we found instead two single beds, bunk beds. There are signs everywhere telling you all of the things you are not allowed to do and if you are caught doing them by the numerous security cameras you will be fined and/or evicted. To top it all off, after a hard day working in the fruit fields, it is absolutely forbidden to drink in the hostel. Unfortunately for us we paid for an entire week when we first arrived and this isn’t the type of accommodation that gives refunds. We also used this address for our tax number and bank cards to be sent to, so we needed to stay until they arrived.

Our first day of work seemed daunting. We had to be up and ready to get on the bus at 6:45 to get to the orchard to pick cherries. The work itself isn’t all that bad. You are given a container that gets strapped around your waist and you put the cherries you pick into the container. Once you’ve filled that up you put it into another larger container. That larger container gets you $14.40. Luke and I are picking one of those an hour collectively, so we are making $7.20 an hour. Minimum wage in Australia is $16/hr. So to add insult to injury not only are we staying in a heap, but also we are being largely underpaid. The perks are that we are out in the sun all day and even with SPF 30 on we are getting some pretty nice tans! We have met some really nice people as well and although English is the second language of all involved, everyone manages to have a laugh.

As you can tell from the descriptions we are less than impressed with this situation and will be leaving once our week is up. Most of our mail has already arrived and that which doesn’t by Wednesday will just be returned to sender. We always said we would give it a try, and we have! After spending a year travelling, camping and hiking rugged New Zealand, we are ready for city living again. Our new plan is to head back to beautiful Melbourne and try to get some work there and an apartment as well. Please wish us luck!!