Melbourne Mews 5th Edition (Christmas Edition)

XMAS Concert at Como Park - dusk

XMAS Concert at Como Park

Welcome to our Christmas edition. We started this in November and now Christmas it knocking hard on our door. Like a good Christmas tale or the 80’s movie starring a DeLorean car (if you don’t know what I’m talking about then ask your parents), this blog is going to flash backwards and forwards through time. Actually this is not so much a blog but a Newspaper full of articles, a mini-series as opposed to an episode and a banquet as opposed to a degustation menu.

I’m sitting here on a rare rainy night in Melbourne, reflecting on our adventures over the last couple of months. We are still enjoying Melbourne but also miss our friends, family, Wellington and New Zealand as well. When we eventually return to NZ we will leave part of our hearts in Melbourne. There is definitely a reason why it’s voted the most liveable city in the world.

Melbourne Star

Melbourne Star

Wall sculpture

Wall sculpture

Dame Edna

Dame Edna at the Docklands

'Little Penguin' colony at St Kilda Pier. They come in a dusk

‘Little Penguin’ colony at St Kilda Pier

Luna Park from St Kilda Pier

Luna Park from St Kilda Pier

Melbourne is known for its entertainment, culture, shopping, sightseeing and food. When in Melbourne (whether a visitor or a local), food walking tours of Melbourne are common, interesting, take you to places you may have been past many times but have never seen, and good value for money. They give you a taste of some of the flavours of Melbourne and introduce you to the Laneways and street culture that pervades the city. The one we went on took us to a range of places that included a chocolate shop, a few bars serving a range of out of the ordinary food, or ordinary food like burgers or hotdogs that were done differently. We eventually ended up at a cocktail/dessert bar but the most interesting place of the day would have to be a bar called Ferdydurks on the 3rd floor in a lane in Chinatown.

Studley Park Boathouse

Studley Park Boathouse

Fairfield Boathouse cafe

Fairfield Boathouse cafe

We’ve spoken of parts of the Yarra River Trail before but it’s definitely a very scenic and accessible part of Melbourne. The part around the Yarra Bend area is definitely worth a look if you have time when visiting Melbourne. It contains the Studley Park Boathouse, the Fairfield Park Boathouse, Abbotsford Convent, Collingwood Children’s Farm, Dight Falls (it’s more a concrete spillway, but the only place you’ll see any white water on the lower Yarra), plus a smattering of playing fields, golf course and driving range and mini-golf.

 

 

Spanish Festival

Spanish Festival

If you’re in to markets then a quaint one is the Rose St Markets. They have stalls there with stuff you won’t see at other markets in Melbourne,

Nitrogen Icecream in the making

Nitrogen Icecream in the making

plus there is a lot of interesting street art graffiti in the area. Rose Street is off Brunswick Street in Fitzroy and the whole area is best described as ‘alternative’ (think Cuba Street in Wellington, but on a larger scale). Good café’s, Naked for Satan (a great rooftop bar), N2 Extreme Gelato (gelato made with liquid nitrogen – Bellissimo) and Johnson St that has a number of Spanish related food (Spain, Mexico, South American, etc) and which happened to be hosting a Spanish Festival when we were there last. The food looked and smelled delicious but unfortunately we were still full from breakfast we had at Three Bags Full (one of the many eating places recommended to us).

 

Cocktails at Tonka

Cocktails at Tonka

Madam Brussells

Madam Brussells

In the last couple of months we’ve tried a number of places to eat/drink in Melbourne and on some of our trips around Victoria and South Australia. We managed to get back to a few favourite places to eat such as Saigon Sally, Hanoi Hannah, The Top Paddock  (with different people coming along – so we didn’t break our rule), but have also found some average ones (Duck Duck Goose – cafe, The Patchwork Teahouse – speaks for itself, Two Bouys – bar/restaurant), some really nice ones (Baby – Italian, Oscars on the Yarra – Modern Australian, Madam Brussells – a cute bar, Weylandts – café and African furniture store, European – need we say more, Fonda – Mexican, Super Normal – Asian, Maggie Beer – rustic country style picnic lunch, Hahndorf Inn – German Beer Hall food), and some that leave an indelible mark on your palette (Hellenic Republic and Gazi are both Greek inspired restaurants owned by George Colambaris of Masterchef Australia fame, Tonka (Indian food with a difference) and then finally Penfold’s Magills Restaurant in Adelaide would rate in the top 3 dinners we’ve had of all time, especially with a wine match that included a Grange. We’ve also found a couple of places that make ice cream on the spot using liquid nitrogen, so you don’t need to go to the Fat Duck Restaurant or a fancy cooking show to try some. Nitro Lab in Bourke Street and N2 Extreme Gelato (mentioned earlier) make what is really more an ice cream texture than a gelato texture that is very creamy and smooth. Both have a range of around 6 to 8 flavours.

 

Part of the reason why we came to Melbourne was to explore Victoria (and Tasmania – because it’s close, and we also got to Adelaide recently – but more about that soon), so we pick out various parts of the State and find out what’s there. If there is an event there then that’s an added bonus, or a good reason to visit.

Black Hill Reserve - Kyneton

Black Hill Reserve – Kyneton

Organ Pipes

Organ Pipes

Kyneton is one such place. Why would you go to Kyneton – good question? We didn’t know either but I think it might have been an article in the Weekender newsletter we subscribe to. It’s off the main highway but is at the cross-roads of some the bigger towns in the area. Well, it was a quaint place to visit. The older part of town had some interesting shops and café’s (like visiting Martinborough in the Wairarapa). We had lunch at the first place we saw ‘Duck Duck Goose’ (mentioned earlier, and it was pretty average), but we saw some places down the street that looked better. We then took a drive to the Black Hill Reserve out of town that had great views of the surrounding countryside and some interesting rock formations. While working out our route to get to Kyneton (using Uncle Google) we saw a place called the Organ Pipes National Park just off the motorway so we stopped there on the way back. It definitely had some interesting rock formations (about 10 – 15 min walk down a hill on a sealed road from the carpark) that is worth a visit. The Organ pipe rocks reminded us of the rocks at the Giants Causeway in Ireland but as they say in Bali, same same but different.

 

The Yarra starts down by those trees

The Yarra starts down by those trees

Dusting of snow at Lake Mountain

Dusting of snow at Lake Mountain

Burn Forest - Yarra Ranges

Burnt Forest – Yarra Ranges

Another place we visited was Warburton. John had signed up to do the Big Forest ½ marathon but due to his calf injury was unable to do it, which is a pity as it was an off-road event that John prefers to do. Since we’d booked the accommodation we went anyway so we could explore the area as we hadn’t been to that part of the Yarra Ranges before. Warburton itself is a bit of a one-horse town but is definitely worth a quick stop if you are passing through that way. It’s an aspiring tourist town that has lots of natural beauty on its doorstep but hasn’t developed the upmarket shops or cafés and restaurants that you’d get in the more developed tourist towns. So what was there to see in the area? Lovely bush to start with. While we didn’t have time to take in the bush walks because of John’s injury and the scattered showers we did things that we could easily drive to. One was finding the source of the Yarra River which starts at the Upper Yarra Dam (go figure?).  While nothing more than a small obscure stream, we joked at being a little bit like Livingston finding the source of the Nile (although with a first world problem like is there a road there?). We also drove to Lake Mountain which is close by in the Victorian Alps and somewhere we’d tried to visit during the winter but the road was closed by too many Melbournites checking out the fresh snow. The weekend we went to Warburton, the weather on Friday at home in Melbourne after work was a baking 32C, while less than 2 hours’ drive and 120km away at Lake Mountain on the Saturday the temperature was  0C and had a slight dusting of snow. We decided to drive some of the less travelled roads in the area and while on the Acheron Way we came across an usual sight – a guy standing with his hand leaning against a tree, he was dressed in FULL  fishing gear (hat with hooks, fishing jacket, etc. – you get the picture), holding an unfurled fishing rod and looking very nonchalant. We both did a double take as we drove by and after a quick check of the map figured that he’d been fishing in a nearby stream. The only stranger sight we’ve ever seen was around 6am in the dark in London driving up the entry ramp onto the M1 and we shot past a bearded guy dressed as Jesus dragging a very large cross (2m at least) on his back.

We also visited Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsular that has sprawling views of the Peninsular and back toward Melbourne (if you can find the gaps between the trees). It used to have a chairlift that were chairs as opposed to Gondola’s. They closed it down after someone fell to their death and the place looks a bit run down and ho-hum, although on the news tonight they had a story about someone seeking planning permission to put in a proper gondola and revamped café and visitor facilities. We walked around some of the tracks and lookouts but found little to inspire us. One thing about visiting places is you never know what you’ll find. If you didn’t like it then at least you’ve seen it and know that you won’t visit again, and other times you’ll see or do things like you’d never imagine (like seeing a guy in the woods in full fishing gear).

Panda eating

Panda eating

Remind you of Shrek?

Remind you of Shrek?

Grange

Grange

Lunch at Hahndorf

Lunch at Hahndorf

A couple of weeks ago we took a 3 day weekend trip to Adelaide with some friends. It’s a great place to visit but we don’t think we could live there. It would feel like moving from Melbourne to Ballarat, Sydney to Newcastle, London to Reading or Wellington to Palmerston North. We visited Hahndorf (a pretty German style town in the Adelaide Hills) and sampled some of the German beer and food for lunch. In the afternoon we saw the Panda’s at Adelaide Zoo. Because the Zoo was due to close in hour we thought we’d missed the Panda’s as they were nowhere to be seen, but the keepers coaxed them out about 15 mins later with a food trail and we soon had great close up views of them exploring their outdoor area looking for treats that had been tucked into rock crevices or under logs. You can see why people warm to them as an animal as they seem friendly, gentle and cuddly. Dinner that night was a gastronomic experience at the Penfolds Magill’s Restaurant. Supposedly a 7 course degustation menu, we counted around 11 courses (not taking into account a range of items that came out as the petit fours). John had the accompanying Sommelier wine match selection that included an option to have a Grange as one of the wines. All four of us were transported to Heaven that night and when we left it took us awhile to float back to earth again.

A Barrosa Valley winery

A Barrosa Valley winery

Maggie Beer's

Maggie Beer’s

Day 2 was spent mostly in the Barossa Valley having some wine tasting at a couple of vineyards that looked interesting. A simple lunch of pate, bread and pickles at Maggie Beer’s Country Café and then off for more touring. Our friends were keen to do a Helicopter Flight over the valley so we did too. Helicopters are a great way to see the scenery as they give a wider and more uninterrupted view of the landscape than looking out of a plane. That night we were tired and after a few drinks at a pub in town we went to nice Italian Restaurant called Cardone’s at Glenelg feeling in the mood for seafood. Day 3 was a leisurely day with a few hours in the vicinity of Rundle Mall and then back to Melbourne in the early afternoon.

Gaultier Punk

Gaultier Punk

Closer to home around Melbourne we visited the Jean Paul Gaultier Collection at the National Gallery of Victoria. Even for someone with little appreciation of Haute Couture such as John, it was incredible to see the boundaries that were pushed with what is more art than clothing, the style you can bring to things like Punk, and the incredible level of work required to produce the garments. Many of the clothing dummies had faces projected on to them that spoke or sang. Freaky!!!

Through work John got some free tickets to ‘The Comics Lounge’ in North Melbourne. The venue features many of Australia’s well known stand-up comics and many overseas acts. The main act that night was OK, and well worth the price we paid J. The MC wasn’t quite so funny. His opening line was ‘I just got off a plane from LA this morning’ and John’s reply straight back was ‘When are you leaving?’. Consequently we came in for a bit of attention as part of his act, but he was a bit of an amateur, certainly no Billy Connelly.

 

Gardens near Parliment

Gardens near Parliment

Parliment

Parliment

Princess Theatre

Princess Theatre

Last weekend we went to see the musical ‘Once’ at the Princess Theatre in Spring Street (an area worth a visit with the Parliament, Cathedral, Old Treasury buildings, Hotel Windsor and some quant gardens in the vicinity). The Siglo rooftop bar is great place to see parliament as the sun sets or when it’s lite up at night but you have to know which door to push to find the bar as it’s not marked). We’d heard great reports about the show from a couple of different people who’d seen it so decided it was worth checking out. It’s hard to say much about it. We didn’t know the story or the music before we went but knew it was Irish in origin. Johns Mum was visiting and we thought it may have been something she might like to see. We enjoyed the foot tapping Irish music at the beginning more than the show itself. It was ‘nice’ but quite slow paced.

 

After the show we caught a tram down to the Town Hall in Swanston Street to see the Christmas Light projection and sound show on the side of the building. Jaw-dropping beautiful and spectacular is all I can say. Photo’s and video can’t do justice to being there and now we can’t wait for the White Night festival to start on Feb 21st where even more buildings will be lit up, as well outdoor music acts and other events around the city and on the river. If we hadn’t been to see ‘Once’ we might not have made the effort to check out the light show and would have missed out on something special. We are going to go back and see it again when Tristan and Judy get here.

Town Hall lights 1

Town Hall lights – 1 –

Town Hall lights 2

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Town Hall lights 3

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Town Hall lights 4

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Town Hall lights 5

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Since we’ve been in Melbourne we’ve enjoyed the temperate weather compared to where we’ve lived before. We haven’t yet had the extremes but have had the occasional dose of cold or heat and an amazing thunderstorm a few weeks ago. In Brisbane or Sydney they are worse but this one was very wild and pretty, with lightning and thunder rolling through the night until mid-morning the next day. The rail system was in chaos and John was stuck on a stationary train for an hour on his way to work. He could have walked to work faster.

Melbourne Cup Parade act

Melbourne Cup Parade

Melbourne Cup Parade kids

Melbourne Cup Parade

Flemington Raceway

Flemington Raceway

The girls with Shane at the Melbourne Cup

The girls with Shane

Time to bet at the Melbourne Cup

Time to bet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For anyone living in Australia or New Zealand, or bet on the horses, if you don’t know anything else about Melbourne you do know about the Melbourne Cup, the horse race that stops a nation (well two nations if you count NZ as well). You can’t live in Melbourne and not at least attend the Melbourne Cup or one of the other large cup days that are part of the Melbourne Spring Festival. It’s not a cheap day out and if you include the ticket, transport, food and drink it will cost you anywhere from $100 into the $1000’s per person depending on how lavish you want to go. We spent the day with friends in an enclosed area behind the grandstand (no direct view of the track but did have a couple of large screens showing the races). Almost everyone dresses up in their best clothes or smart casual at least (maybe the 7’s in Wellington could try this as an alternative dress style one year – it might help with the behaviour of the crowd). Most of our group walked away about even or with a good profit on the betting for the day. Some of us also had a chat with Shane Cortese (a reasonably well known actor in NZ) who was with a group of friends at the table next to us. He was a nice guy to chat to and Heather and Emma managed to score some selfies with him.

Walking to the Melbourne Marathon

Walking to the Melbourne Marathon

The Melbourne Marathon seems so long ago now. Leading up to the marathon John had a number of months with little or no training due bad shin problems. The physio eventually sorted him out and with not much time to train he was able to run it in 4 hours 13 minutes. Being inspired by this John didn’t take a break (against his good wife’s sound advice – and the Physio also said later) and he went on to post faster and faster times while training for the Queenstown Marathon. That was until his calf decided it had enough strain and gave way. Needless to say it was a number of  weeks of rest and visits to the physio (who advised not to run the Queenstown marathon). We had tickets booked so flew to Queenstown for a holiday anyway. John managed two 5km runs in the week leading up to the marathon and decided to run it (with his injured leg heavily strapped by a local Queenstown physio). It was the inaugural Queenstown Marathon and an event not to be missed. It was great to catch up with some close friends in Queenstown who were also there to participate or be a supporter. Everyone participated in the pre-Marathon training session (drinking their favourite wine, beer or cider, followed by generous lashings of tequila and Sambuca shooters). It wasn’t a messy night but there was one (not John) the next morning with a foggy head, unexplained bruises and not able to eat their breakfast. Everyone who ran enjoyed the marathon, with varying degrees of success despite the horrendous wind and rain that came in toward the end of the race. Toward the end of John’s run he was dodging branches being ripped off trees and pinecones plopping around him as he ran through the pine forest at the edge of the Queenstown lakefront. He finished in 4:43.

Pre-race Marathon Training at Queenstown

Pre-race Marathon Training at Queenstown

The flight back was very pretty as it was a stunning day as we left Queenstown. It was calm and clear because a Southerly had blasted through the previous day (during the Marathon) and cleared the air. The mountains still had good coatings of snow that had fallen a couple of days before, and the ranges seemed to extend forever in every direction as we climbed out of Queenstown. The clouds across the Tasman looked like white coloured pork crackling with groups of small clouds with puffy centres bulging up from the centre of each cloud. The weather was still clear when we hit the Victorian coast and we could clearly see a number of places we’d visited over the last 9 months. The girl sitting in the row with us was Ricki-Lee Coulter, an Australian pop singer (with a Kiwi heritage and love of kiwi sweets – judging from the bag she was nibbling from) who is a contestant in the Australian Dancing with the Stars show and has made it to the finals of the show. She seemed like a nice down to earth person and she gave us a good insight to some of the behind the scenes effort that goes into the show and how demanding it is. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricki-Lee_Coulter).

The Block & Cam Van

The Block & Cam Van

 

For the Block Heads out there the new series of The Block is being filmed about 10 minutes walk from our place. The new Block is at 27 Darling St, South Yarra. The series that finished here a couple of months ago ‘The Block Glasshouse’ (in High St Prahran, about 20 min walk  from here) has just started showing in NZ. One of the more controversial couples on that Block series are in this new series as well and we saw Darren being filmed when we walked past the other day. So if you are a Block Head then come and pay us a visit and we’ll take you on a tour. It’s been great to get visitors come and stay and would be good to see some more of our friends and family visit.

 

 

Heather has had a couple of trips away – 1 to NZ to see WOW and had a great time catching up with friends. He show was good as always. It was nice to be back even though it was such a short trip. A few weeks later Heather headed to Brisbane for a week to catch up with some old friends from her work days in Dunedin. She had a lovely few days reminiscing and looking at old photos as well as catching up on the last 30 years.

Wall Tree

Wall Tree

Melbourne Square

Melbourne Square

Well it’s that time of year when everyone is preparing for Christmas. Melbourne certainly does decorate the city well. The light show mentioned above was absolutely fabulous, but there is also a large Xmas tree at City Square along with Santa’s grotto, there are a myriad of different decorations along the streets, and some of the buildings are done up with decorations too. Then there is the Meyer store window display. That’s if you can get anywhere near it! The queue to see it at any time of the day is very long. We were able to look over people’s heads and watch each window animation luckily. We are so looking forward to having Tristan here for a week as well as our friend Judy until 2nd Jan. The tree is up (you’ve heard of wall flowers, well we have a wall tree), the presents are wrapped, and we have a list of places we want to take them both to. Xmas lunch will be the 4 of us at our apartment and we are doing a mini version of Xmas Eve here too with 4 other friends joining us. Won’t be anything like our Xmas eve get together in Wellington but we will be thinking of you all with fondness.  Have a very merry Christmas everyone and be safe. Good wishes for 2015!

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Melbourne Mews 4th Edition

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Cityscape from the Yarra – at dusk

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The War Memorial

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The city at dusk from the Albert Park lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rather than leave it too long since our last blog, we thought we had better get another out there – 2 months is too long between posts and there’s way too much for us to remember so here goes the recount of the last 5 or 6 weeks:

On the fitness/exercise front, John is slowly getting back into running after a couple of months off due to tendinitis of the shins. He’s been seeing a physio for a few weeks and the exercises for stretching and strengthening they’ve given him have helped quite a bit. It’s now about getting back on the road and building up strength again as preparation for the Melbourne Marathon in October.

Heather has been hitting the gym and getting out for walks. John got her a Vivofit (tracks your steps, distance, Calorie burn) and she’s been using that to follow her training output.  While her hip still gives her problems, she has been making use of the onsite gym and cycling but unfortunately the Vivofit doesn’t register cycling exercise.

Too much dining out has made us decide we need to loose weight. Both of us have been doing the ‘Lite & Easy’ diet for around 5 weeks now. We’re doing the 5 day a week option that provides breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus snacks. The other 2 days allow us to indulge in eating out, socialising and trying out new cafes and restaurants. It also means John doesn’t get tempted to have a beer while he is cooking so it’s a win win situation!

‘I see tall people’. One thing that John’s noticed since moving to Melbourne is the number of tall people. Being relatively tall himself he’s not used to seeing many people taller than him so notices it more. Also the number of smokers seems to be quite high as everywhere you walk there’s a smoker beside a rubbish tin, in a doorway or walking down the road in front of you. It seems worse near railway stations as people light up once they’ve got off the train. And of course outdoor eating areas are for the smokers which is a bit of a pain given when the weather is nice, it’s great to sit at an outdoor table but you have to put up with 2nd hand smoke.

So what have we been up to…… There is a ‘News with a difference’ program on here on channel 10 at 6.30 called The Project. There are a panel of presenters including Rove and other comedy celebs and the news is presented with a bit of humour. There is a live audience and you can email them to go along and be part of the news for the evening. We went along as the recording studios are in the building on the corner up from our apartment. Was quite good fun and interesting to see how it is put together. And yes, they do wear jeans and shorts with their business attire that you see above the desk.

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Rippon Lea House & Gardens

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Old Melbourne Jail

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Ned Kelly spent time in Melbourne Jail

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Padded Cell

Heather had made a list of things she wanted to do so took herself off during the week to visit a few places. The first was Rippon Lea house, an historic house that is now kept by a trust and a popular place for weddings with a lovely garden. Probably not the best time of year to go as it was winter and the gardens didnt look that spectacular but would be pretty amazing in spring and summer. Another day was spent visiting the old Melbourne Jail which was dark and creepy. They take you on a tour and treat you like a criminal, and lock you up in a cell. Would have been good with a group of people but there was only Heather and 1 other person there. John wants to go and see it so a return trip will be necessary. On the same day, Heather wandered passed the old swimming pool north of the city. It was well restored and lots of historical information, news articles etc on the walls in the gallery surrounding the pool. And shock horror, an article about scantily clad women wearing what was being called a bikini!

 

 

Mlbn140816_0081Mlbn140816_0088One weekend where we had nothing planned we decided to take a drive towards the Dandenongs again but explore the region surrounding the base of the hills. We drove past the Puffing Billy tourist train which takes you on a ride up the mountain. We had done this previously when we visited Melbourne so didn’t really want to do it again. There was a lovely reservoir and gardens called Cardinia Reservoir where we stopped and went for a walk along the dam wall. Very peaceful and pretty. Along further was Lysterfield lake where we also stopped and went for a wander. There was another dam there too and lots of rather large kangaroos with joeys in their pouches lazing in the sun. We stopped for a coffee in Emerald and found this amazing bakery with all sorts of yummy treats. We were very restrained and John had his favourite custard square (which they call a vanilla slice here, and this one was probably the biggest he’s ever had).  It was a nice days driving which was topped off with going to meet a friend over in Williamstown for dinner.

 

Olympic Rings on the lake

Olympic Rings on the lake

The hotel we stayed at

The hotel we stayed at

Arch of Rememberance

Arch of Victory

We received notification in the mail that there was to be tram works on the tracks out in front of our apartment block for 4 days over a weekend. They were digging up all the tracks and replacing them. Work started at midnight on the Friday night and what a racket! After some broken sleep, when we awoke in the morning, we decided to escape for the weekend to get away from the noise. After a hasty breakfast, we got in the car and drove with no clue about where we would go. We decided on Ballarat seeing as it was only a short drive away. With nowhere to stay, once we got there, we sussed out the place we have booked for when we come back from The Grampians at Christmas time. It actually didn’t look that great so after a bit of google searching, we found a lovely boutique hotel (which we have subsequently booked for our time there after Xmas!). We drove around a pretty lake called Lake Wendouree and stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the lake front (Pipers by the Lake) which was nice. After lunch we walked through the botanical gardens which was also pretty and the pathway with bronze busts of every Australian Prime Minister was interesting. We also found the Olympic Rings beside the lake. These were there because the lake was used for the rowing champs when Melbourne hosted the Olympics. It was rather cold though and while the lake was pretty, it will be far prettier when the trees have leaves on them in the summer. After we checked in to the hotel we went for a wander around the streets. There are some beautiful old buildings in the town and was lovely to just wander and take in the surroundings. Dinner was at a Japanese restaurant  – Kambei – that was very traditional and excellent value for money. On a Saturday night they do a set menu and it was delicious. John felt like having a dessert wine after dinner so we called in at the bottleshop (Bottle-O they call them) that are often attached to the supermarkets here (as they don’t sell alcohol in supermarkets in Aussie). The first place only had one brand so John went to check out the other shop. He asked the shop assistant if they had any dessert wines and she asked him if it was a red or a white. He turned around and walked out without buying anything. Note to self – take your own dessert wine when going to Ballarat. We had thought about doing the ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’ show at the Sovereign Hill Gold Mine but talk about bad timing – there were no shows on the weekend we were there. Probably a good thing as it would have been pretty cold. We had a look at the Black Hill lookout, the Arts Museum and  drove through the Arch of Victory and down the Avenue of honour (a memorial avenue of trees).

Apple Dessert

‘The Apple’

The Lakehouse - Daylesford

The Lakehouse – Daylesford

On the Sunday, we drove over to Daylesford and went to lunch at the infamous Lake House. This is owned and operated by Ella Wolf Tasker who is a well known celebrity chef here in Australia. It is an institution apparently. The whole place is a hotel/spa but very expensive. The lunch was reasonable for fine dining. We thought the entrée’s and mains were nice but not exactly blow you away meals. However, the signature dessert was a completely different story. Called the Apple, it seemed very unassuming on the menu but OMG it was fantastic and definitely of a Chef Hat or two level of quality. That alone made the whole experience worth it. Shaped like an apple on a bed of green granite, there was a very thin white chocolate shell with a creamy and caramelly goo inside. Absolutely exquisite!

 

 

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Make your own Magnum

 

We subscribe to an email called the WeekendNotes which lists all the interesting things going on in Melbourne. It has been invaluable for us to find out what’s happening and we use it often when deciding what to do at the weekends, or Heather uses it to keep herself busy during the week. One of the things that is big here are Pop Up shops, and there was a Pop Up Magnum store at the recently opened Emporium Shopping centre. The idea was you choose a magnum icecream of your preference – Vanilla or chocolate ice cream and white, dark or milk chocolate coating. You then choose up to 4 toppings to go on it. I chose pistachio’s, vanilla crumble and rose petals with a white chocolate drizzle.  John chose nuts, strawberries and dark chocolate drizzle. Decandence! Quite a neat idea and yes, they were as scrumptious as they sound.

 

 

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The Cathedral

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One of the connecting tunnels

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One of the spheres

 

Another thing we heard about from the WeekendNotes was an art display (for want of a better way of giving it a title) called Luminosity.  It is a large installation made out of coloured plastic which is pumped up like a massive tent with all nooks and crannies that you can walk in to. There is music playing and the various areas are different colours. Its hard to explain but hopefully the pictures give you an idea. Many years ago we went to something similar in London so were keen to see what this one was like. It was erected on the top floor of the carpark of the Jam Factory in Chapel St. It was also on show at the Opera House in Sydney before it came to Melbourne.

 

 

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Enjoying the late winter sun on our balcony

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Having a beer at Bankpop

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Girl’s having cocktails

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Chris & Jenna, contestants from ‘The Block’

We had a visit from some good friends in Sydney – Gina & Oscar and had a great weekend with them catching up and eating and drinking our way around Melbourne. After meeting them at Southern Cross station, we headed to the apartment for them to drop off their bags then went out to find a place for lunch. Hanoi Hannah had been on our list of places to try and we were fortunate to get a table outside in the glorious spring sunshine. It is Vietnamese (I guess you could have picked that by the name) and was beautiful simple fresh flavours. Being a big fan of The Block TV series, Gina wanted to go and have a look at it as it was close by. As we wandered out the front, 2 of the contestants (Jenna & Chris) walked by. So, obligatory photos were taken and Gina was extremely excited and she also zipped up the back steps and took a sneek peak inside. After more wandering, it was time for more refreshments so we adjourned to our balcony for afternoon drinks before heading in to Southbank for dinner. While we had been there before, we decided to take them to Bangpop. This was a Thai restaurant we discovered a while ago when Jo (Heathers friend from Sydney) was here. Of course in line with our pact, we were allowed to go there if we were taking people who hadn’t been there before. Loved the food and the cocktails. Was such a balmy evening that the walk along Southbank after dinner was very pleasant. Stopped for a coffee and sat on the waterfront drinking it before wearily heading home. Just to make sure we kept the theme of good food going, we went to Top Paddock for breakfast the next day. One of our favourites that we will take visitors to as it is so close. (If you’re into star watching then this neighbourhood is pretty good for it. Since we’ve been here we’ve seen a number of TV actors at various restaurants or just walking up the street).

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Fairfield Boathouse

On a lazy Sunday we took a drive to the Fairfield Boathouse on the river which John had spotted during a training run. It’s a really well preserved 1920’s looking boathouse that has been preserved and they serve meals, tea and coffee there. We decided to go for a coffee and they had the most delicious Devonshire tea. Scones with lashings of cream and jam! Mmm yum! We definitely needed the exercise we did afterwards to walk off the excesses!

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Noojee rail bridge

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Piper on the hill

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Bird feeding time

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The Walhella Hotel

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Old house at Walhella

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Railway at Walhella

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Bandstand Illumination display

When we were in Sale several weeks ago (see last edition for details) we detoured to Walhella and we mentioned that we were going back for a weekend. Well, we did. Looking at the route on the map, we decided to take the long way from Yarra Junction on the C425 so we got a bit of a scenic tour on the way there. It was a pretty drive with a stop at the Noojee rail bridge along the way. We also needed a coffee stop so went to the Outpost retreat but while it was a quaint spot with very rustic restaurant and outdoor tables, we didn’t think the coffee was going to be too good so decided on the Parrot café in Noojee instead. We weren’t overwhelmed by the coffee there either but at least it was drinkable. While we were relaxing in the sunshine, the old chap who owned the café came out to speak to us. He was a bit weird and basically told us about the B&B they had and that we should stay there and showed us some photos. Personality plus – I don’t think. If you wanted to step back into the 60’s – 70’s then this is the place for you. Certainly wouldn’t want him in charge of any marketing I needed done! We stayed in the local hotel which was quaint and comfortable, with the purpose of going on the train illuminations tour that evening. Well, we have to say it didn’t really live up to our  expectations. The village itself was lit up with lights and lanterns and did look pretty at night, but the train trip was very underwhelming. We both had visions of there being different coloured lights etc strung up through the gorge to see during the train journey but all it was, was a spotlight mounted on the roof of the train that shone on to the trees and stream as we chugged along. A tad disappointing. The hot chocolate at the halfway point was good, and we were given plastic tubes that had different coloured lights in them. We did enjoy wandering through the village and going for a walk along the top cliff track though. While we were dawdling along the track, we saw a guy dressed in a kilt walking up the hill with bagpipes over his shoulder. He came up to the outcrop we were standing on and proceeded to play the pipes for about an hour. It was pretty cool even though we do have to say his musical technique was a bit lacking in places. You could hear the pipes all over the village so people down the bottom were stopping and watching too. As we wandered down the hill, one of the shop owners had put some birdseed out and there were dozens of birds feeding. They would come up and sit on your hand while they feed and what a racket! From there we took a walk down to the railway station then detoured up the hill to the local cemetery. The permanent population of the town is 20 now but in the gold mining days it would have been significantly more – probably in the thousands. Reading the headstones from some of the graves was interesting. Some obviously died young in mining accidents but it was surprising how many graves there were where the people lived to 70 and 80 years old. Wouldn’t have thought in the early / mid 1900’s they would have had long lives given the harsh conditions they were subjected to.

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Government House from ‘The Tan’ lake

Melbn1409 (47) Melbn1409 (18)2 weekends ago we had a weekend in Melbourne and did some local spots. Friday night we went to Cafe e Cucina which is an Italian restaurant down the road that is a bit of an institution. Good traditional Italian food with very suave young Italian men as waiting staff. All from Italy (going by the 4 different ones that attended to us at various stages during the evening). Had some interesting conversations about Rome, Sicily and Venice with the waiters. We did ask if they served Sicilian Canolli for dessert but unfortunately they didn’t. We were recommended a similar dessert in a similar style with the pastry type base and ricotta filling. It was nice but not as good as the true Sicilian Canolli. The next morning we walked from home to the botanical gardens. Heather hadn’t been through the gardens themselves, just around them several times. Its extremely pretty there and so many different paths to take. The lake itself by the cafe is exceptionally pretty. From the gardens, we headed over to the Shrine of Rememberance as John hadn’t been. Its pretty impressive and something to definitely put on the list of things to see here in Melbourne. It was such a beautiful day and we took some great photos of the city from the top of the Shrine. Looking back towards the city kind of reminded us of looking along the avenues in Paris from the Eiffle Tower.

Heather has found a local café that has become her favourite as it makes good coffee. Its called Elephant Stamp. When John was working from home one day, Heather took him there to sample the coffee which he agreed was certainly one of the better places he has been to. Yay! Finally a good local place to get a decent coffee. We got talking to the barrista there who knew all the ‘in’ places to go. (and yes, we had been to several that he mentioned so we must be in the ‘in’ crowd!). Apparently the best coffee in Melbourne is a place called Proud Marys in Collingwood. So, of course, we had to try it out. Went over there one Sunday afternoon and got there after the crowds to have a late lunch. The food was awesome and the staff very attentive. We got talking about cold drip coffee. Don’t know if that’s made its way to Wellington yet or if anyone has heard of it but it’s basically a slow drip coffee through cold water. It takes about 12 hours to drip then is served over ice. Didn’t try it yet but have seen it in a few places so might have to give it a go in summer. Now I know this might be hard to believe, but we actually didn’t end up sampling the coffee that day. So, we need visitors to come over so we can go back there to see if the coffee lives up to its reputation! John did have the milkshake though that was chocolate, banana and peanut butter and thought it tasted pretty good.

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Too Right!!!

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Old homestead at Moet Chandon

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View toward the Yarra Valley from the Moet vineyard

For Father’s Day, Heather booked a Yarra Valley Wine tour for John. It was a stunning spring day with a light breeze which made it a very pleasant day. It was good to have someone drive around who knows the area and we got a different perspective on the roads that wind through the valley. Went to some good spots and learned a bit of the local history about some of the vineyards as well. On the way into the valley we passed by a huge mansion owned by some ex-mafia bosses (who are currently enjoying a long term holiday in little concrete rooms with a view through the bars). We were told that the current house owner is not happy with a house being built across the road that’s blocking a bit of his view. I wonder how long the house or owners will be there? Back to the Valley – Interestingly, vines were planted in the 1920s in the Yarra Valley but by 1940 they all got dug up. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that vineyards were replanted and the wine region expanded here. Our tour stopped at 4 wineries – Yering farm, Chandon, Rochford wines for lunch – a huge restaurant that was rather busy given it was Father’s Day and the final vineyard was Coombe farm. Coombe and Yering are related and have ties to the Aussie Opera singer Dame Melba. Apparently the owner of the winery is some hobnob who manages all the Queens horses in London. Our tour also included stops at the Yarra Valley Dairy which had scrummy cheeses, the White Rabbit brewery in Healesville  where we sat in the sun drinking cider and beer for an hour, then the Yarra Valley chocolate factory was the last stop before the drive back to the city. Yarra Valley wine tours have several different tours you can do but Heather chose this one as it had a bit of variety. You could go several times and do different wineries every time. They are quite flexible and will even take requests for particular vineyards if you ask them in advance.

IMG_3731Two weekends ago we popped up to Brisbane for a quick weekend getaway. Heather wanted to go and see a friend she had recently connected with on Facebook that she hasn’t been in touch with for over 30 years. We managed to see some other friends too while we were there and had a lovely relaxing weekend. Was so nice to catch up with the long lost friend. So much so, that the few hours spent wasn’t enough so Heather has booked to go up again in late October to spend a week there to catch up properly.

Didn’t quite get this published during the week so now have more things to write about….. we celebrated a friends 30th birthday at a restaurant in Prahran called Charlie Dumpling. It was a set menu and the food was delicious. A bit over the top with the chili on the noodle dish but everything else was just lovely. A good night was had. We also went to the movies to see ‘Lucy’ which was an interesting story. Worth a watch if you are interested.

Restaurant Tram

Restaurant Tram

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Like stepping on to the Orient Express

On Friday we had reservations to dine on the Melbourne Tram restaurant. We went along with a colleague from Johns work and his wife. We had a really lovely evening. It was a good experience and very reasonable when we found out all alcohol was included. The main course (steak or chicken, and we all chose steak) was tasty enough but Heather’s was rather tough unfortunately, although John’s was fine. A good all round experience and was nice to do a touristy thing we had on our list for a while. We finished off the night with cocktails at Crown Casino and watching a semi final AFL game as the friends we were with are huge Sydney Swans supporters. So Heather finally got to watch a match with someone who could explain some of the rules. John was completely disinterested of course. Being a Sydney team, most of the crowd were hooting for the other local Melbourne team so we definitely had to keep the cheering to a minimum. There is a parade here on Friday as next Saturday is FINALS DAY. Huge event on the Melbourne sport calendar and everyone here is footy mad.

 

 

IMG_3774IMG_3785IMG_3776It’s now the weekend again and we have been out and about again.  Saturday was open day at the block and we decided to brave the crowds and go and have a look inside the apartments. The thinking was if we went later in the afternoon, the queues wouldn’t be so bad. Well, it was kind of a good thought. We waited in line for about an hour and 10 mins which wasn’t too bad. If we had left it an hour later we probably would have had a lesser wait but may not have gotten in as they closed off the line at 2pm. It was worth going to see the apartments. Seeing them in real life was interesting – some of the rooms were considerably smaller than what they appeared to be on TV. Hard to believe that they will most likely sell for over $2Million each. We got to see 2 of the area’s that were finished but haven’t been broadcast on TV yet. Heather merrily took photos in some of the rooms only to hear someone else being told no photos were allowed. Oh well, anyone on Facebook got a sneak preview of the ensuites and the outdoor areas!

 

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Sculpture made from buttons on mesh

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Birdhouse sculptures

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Flowers, Flowers everywhere – and not allowed to pick

IMG_6817 IMG_6816 IMG_3791This morning (Sunday) we headed off for breakfast to Proud Mary’s. We debated whether we have broken our golden rule of not going back to the same place twice unless we have visitors…… John thinks not as this time it was for breakfast (last time we went for lunch and didn’t sample their famous coffee). Heather thinks we kinda broke the rule but one small indiscretion in six months isn’t too bad. And the breakfast and coffee were definitely worth it. After brekky we headed towards the Dandenongs as there has been a Tulip Festival running for a few weeks now. Talk about perfect timing! Got there just before 10.00am opening time, managed to be one of the first through the gates so this presented perfect photo opportunities without hoards of people hovering around the flowers. Was a great display and a pleasant way to spend the morning.

Heather is also looking forward to going back to Wellington at the beginning of October for WOW which she booked tickets for ages ago. She is leaving John behind to work and to get in some decent training before the Melbourne Marathon.

John’s original contract finished last week but he has a renewal until the end of November at present. The work is plentiful for him but while they sort out budgets, they are only extending to the end of this deliverable. It is expected he will get renewed again with hopefully a longer term to see him through until about May/June next year.

Well that’s it for this instalment. We have a few social things to go to this week which gets us out of the house in the evenings. We are definitely looking forward to the summer weather when the days are longer and it will be pleasant to wander out to bars and cafes during the evenings. While it has been nice here, there have still been a few cold days and the nights are cool.

So long for now. Heather and John.

 

Melbourne Mews 3rd Edition

It seems like a lot has been happening here over the past 2 months for us and time is going quickly. Sadly nothing happening on the job front though – no change in the job situation for Heather which is not through lack of trying. John is enjoying his work but while he keeps telling the boss that there are some delivery issues in terms of timing, there doesn’t seem to be any appetite to pay overtime to get the work done and deadlines just keep getting pushed out. He is waiting to hear whether he will get a contract extension so we should have an update on that next time.

Sitting here in the office starting to write this on what is probably the coldest day we have had since we have been here. Yesterday so much reminded us of home with the windy conditions but it was a balmy 20 degrees in the city. Bizarre for mid winter. However the tables turned today and it makes us feel like we are back in Wellington.

After our trip to the Great Ocean Road, Heather departed to the USA. She went to visit a close friend who has been diagnosed with Cancer. We were planning to visit in September, however with Heather not working, it seemed an ideal time to go and spend some time there. While the situation wasn’t ideal, she had a lovely relaxing time catching up and managed to see a few sights as well. Being summer over in Atlanta the temperature was between 28 and 35 most of the time. Very humid and hot but a nice opportunity to have time lying by the pool reading, swimming, chatting and chilling. One day was spent going to a wee village up in the mountains called Helen, a pretty German influenced town with typical architecture from Germany. A trip to Piedmont Park in midtown Atlanta for a picnic on what was the day before America’s Father’s Day was also a highlight. It was a stunning park with beautiful gardens and a lake. One huge park! Great spot for running if you were so inclined. Heather also spent a day in the city visiting the World of Coca Cola and Olympic Park. A ride on the Ferris Wheel was too good an opportunity to miss as it was a gorgeous day. Walking down the street heading to the park was strange as it was in the middle of the city but there was hardly anyone about. Lots of traffic, but no-one walking anywhere. Just a jungle of high-rises and very little signage so what was in the buildings was a mystery. Mainly offices probably. It was a lovely break (all things considered) of 2 ½ weeks. John held the fort back in Melbourne having to suffer through a cold and a multitude of computer issues with our PC which resulted in a new one having to be purchased. Then of course the job of having to transfer everything across, and making sure everything works with the new operating system took a bit of time. We are still struggling now with issues with external devices. Ahh the joys of technology.

Piedmont Park

Piedmont Park Atlanta

Olympic Park Atlanta from the Ferris Wheel

Olympic Park Atlanta

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German village of Helen

Touch of NZ at World of Coca Cola

Touch of NZ at World of Coca Cola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have been out and about seeing and doing lots of things since then and making the most of our time here. There seems to have been a lot of dining out occurrences in the past 2 months. Nothing too fancy, just a lot of really great recommendations and places we have wanted to try. But first an example of just how tough it is here in the restaurant trade. You may recall we mentioned last time that we went to a restaurant called Le Grande Cirque which is owned by Manu who does My Kitchen Rules. Well….. it’s been open just 4 months and they are closing down next week due to lack of patronage. No doubt the space will get snapped up and reinvented as something else within the next few months. Now, where to start on the restaurants and dining experiences we have had…. Had an amazing meal at Chin Chin when Sydney friend Jo came down again for the weekend after Heather got back from the States. Like so many places in Melbourne, it seems trendy to not be able to book a table (but why would Chin Chin bother when they are getting over 1000 patrons a day and queue goes out the door and down the street at peak times). So, our plan was to get there early so as to not have to queue for too long. Seems 5.30pm on a Friday wasn’t early enough. However we only waited about 10 mins and agreed to take a table at the bar. Such a great spot to enjoy the Thai delights that we consumed that evening. We were able to watch the preparation of many of the dishes while we ate and drank spicy Thai inspired cocktails. The menu was pretty extensive so the 3 of us chose to do the banquet and got a really good array of various types of dishes. Of course we want to go back but keeping true to our pact, we won’t go back to the same place twice unless we are taking friends who haven’t been there. That same weekend we also indulged in fresh croissants (the best we’ve ever had) for breakfast from Zumbo’s and John also purchased the infamous V8 cake for us to have for dessert. It was delicious. So many layers of different types of things but not overly sweet that you couldn’t eat a whole piece.

V8 Cake decadence

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Our next exquisite dining experience (and rather unexpected) was at O’Neills in Sale. We decided to have a weekend away basing ourselves in Sale which 2 ½ hrs is East of Melbourne. Arriving at our (terrible) accommodation we checked in and googled a place to eat. O’Neills came up as the number 1 restaurant so we thought we would give it a try. It was terrific. The owner is the maitre d and was very attentive. He talked to us about the local wines and made a great recommendation. Of course it was something we had never heard of. The wine was a 2010 Cab Sav from Tambo in the Gippsland Lakes area. We would love to have gotten our hands on some more but apparently there’s none left to purchase. The flavours were Japanese inspired but very delicate and delicious. Scallops, Wallaby, Pork belly, wagyu beef and a bombe Alaska with yuzu icecream were our choices for the evening. Mmmmm, my mouth is watering just remembering the meal. The remaining restaurants we have been to have been local to us or in the city and have been more Asian influenced places. It is very trendy here to serve what is termed ‘street food’. Lots of smaller plates of food but delightfully put together and is an opportunity to taste several different things. As with Chin Chin, Kong (a sister restaurant just 2 blocks from us) is one such place. Again hard to get a table without queuing but we decided to go for lunch on a Saturday and managed to get a table straight away as it was just after 12.00. This place is Japanese/Korean flavours and was good. We didn’t get to try too many things though as we got pretty full pretty quickly. It’s good to go to those places with more than 2 people so you get to sample different dishes. Again, one to go back to. In the same vein was Mamasita’s in the city but this is Mexican. They have all the traditional things on the menu that you would expect – taco’s enchilada’s, quesidilla’s etc but they are not as you would expect. Very light, fresh flavours but not your typical Mexican. They use all the same sort of ingredients (guacamole, salsa etc) but the sauces and presentation are outstanding. Another must to try if you ever come to Melbourne. Our final dining out restaurant visit was at a French restaurant locally here called France Soir. It is ranked as one of the top 10 in Melbourne and we had friends staying in the city so booked a table to go out with them. It was nice. Very traditional French cooked well, and the waiter’s manners where very much like going to a café in Paris (communication was to the point and somewhat indifferent). The waiter did give us excellent recommendations for wine to match the food though. I think we have been spoilt by our good French friends back home that cook awesome French food so we weren’t as wowed we could have been. The Foie Gras was superb though. This one is a restaurant that we were pleased to have tried but are happy to experience the other vast selection of restaurants on offer. While on the foody theme, Heather attended a free cooking demonstration at the Queen Victoria Market on chilly Friday morning. It was Adam Liaw (whose cookbook she has and yes, actually cooked several of the recipe’s) of Australian Masterchef fame. She enjoyed it and even picked up a few tips. The final food experience we had just last week was a visit to the Night Market at Queen Victoria Market. It was A M A Z I N G ! ! ! So many different sights, smells, sounds to take in. Again, this is all street food and our biggest problem was what to choose to have. Heather settled for Asian style food – dumplings, while John had a taste of the Mediterranean – baby octopus. The highlight though would have to be the Italian stand selling Sicilian Cannoli. This was something Heather had when we were in Italy in 2012 and was heaven. While it was a smaller portion (read a more respectable sized serving rather than the HUGE one she shared in Sicily), she said it was exactly the same and was chuffed to have found them. We will definitely be going again and yes, it’s within the rules as long as we don’t go to the same stall (unless we’re with different friends) Our final eating experience before this episode gets finished was at a café on Church Rd called The Top Paddock which is 5 minutes walk from our apartment. A couple of weeks ago we walked past and there were crowds of people waiting to be seated. Apparently it had a good reput ation so we wanted to try it out. It was fantastic. It opens at 8 so you need to get there about then. Any later than about 8.45 and you will need to queue. We both ordered the same thing – Hotcakes. John says it’s the best ever hotcakes he eaten. And they were pretty damned good. All the other food around us looked awesome too so now we definitely need visitors so we can go back there again. So now that we probably have your taste buds overloaded, we shall move on to the places we have visited and the things we have seen.

Abbotsford Convent

Abbotsford Convent

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Sculpture at McClelland Gallery

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Sculpture at McClelland Gallery

There was a need to make a list of all the things we have been up to before starting to write about this and wow, didn’t realise we have squeezed so much in to the last 6-8 weeks. Phew, I’m exhausted just thinking about writing about it and we hope you don’t get bored with reading about it. There has been a lull of a few days putting this together though as we had quite a full weekend playing tourists but more of that later.
To start with, when Heathers friend from Sydney was visiting, we did do more than eat – we backed that up firstly with a wander around the Abbotsford Convent ( an old catholic cathedral, landscaped grounds and various spaces supporting artists (http://abbotsfordconvent.com.au). This was a nunnery at one point as well as a place for pregnant unmarried girls to be housed until they gave birth. A lot of the rooms and buildings are used for small businesses now but some of it is starting to get quite weathered and derelict. There is also the Collingwood children’s farm (http://www.farm.org.au) here. We looked at some of the animals as we strolled along the Yarra Trail which passes between the Convent and farm. A farmer’s market is held once a month there too which we will try to attend at some point. From there, we drove towards Frankston to the McClelland Gallery (http://www.mcclellandgallery.com). John had read about this and it’s a garden with large sculptures that you can wander around for free. It was a bit of a dreary day, cold and drizzly but kind of added to the appeal. What an awesome place and definitely one we will take people to visit. There was an exhibition at Te Papa a few years ago of an artist (Ron Mueck)who makes lifelike sculptures of people that are either really big or small. The inside gallery had one of his sculptures call ‘Wild Man’. A nine-foot sculpture of a naked, bearded, fearful man clutching the stool he is seated on.

Queenscliff

Queenscliff

Sorrento

Sorrento

Wildlife encounter Echidna

Wildlife encounter with an Echidna

 

The next weekend saw us heading on a circular loop around Philip bay. First we headed to Queenscliff for a look around then after coffee and a hike up the lookout tower, we took the car across on the ferry to Sorrento which is on the eastern side of the bay. On the drive from the ferry terminal to the western point at Point Nepean, we had a wildlife encounter – our first sighting in the wild of an echidna. It was hilarious watching it bury its snout in the ground and roll in to a ball thinking it was hiding when we got too close. We also saw on the news tonight that the first Australian shot fired in WWI was at Point Nepean where a German merchant ship was trying to leave Port Phillip just after Australia had declared war on Germany. Sorrento is a pretty little town and fortunately we missed the band of rain that was coming ever closer – it caught up with us once we got on to the highway back to Melbourne but by then we’d already had a leisurely drive along the coast road as far as we could. Apparently Sorrento is known for great Vanilla Slices (Custard Squares in NZ lingo). We didn’t have any there but we may have to go back and explore.

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Squeaky Beach Wilsons Prom

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Proof we patted a Wombat

Mid July we decided to have a weekend away to explore the Gippsland region. We chose to base ourselves in Sale. It’s about 2.5 hrs east of Melbourne. It’s a lovely area (not Sale particularly) with lots of bush walks, coast line and national parks. The intention was to drive around the region and stop off at various places along the way. Saturday’s forecast looked to be the best weather wise so we headed down to the Southern-most point of Victoria to Wilsons Promontory (http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/wilsons-promontory-national-park – As with everything Australian, this too has been shortened and is referred to as Wilsons Prom). As you enter the national park there are many different beaches you can drive to. Our favourite was Squeaky beach with some amazing rocks to wander through and around. Probably the highlight of this drive was our wombat encounters. Not one but two sightings. The second was awesome as we crept up close to the wombat and it was comfortable enough with us standing there. This enabled us to take lots of photo’s as well as getting near enough to pat it. Apparently we were extremely lucky to see a wombat in the wild, let alone be close enough to have a pat without getting attacked or it running away. We had been told of a good restaurant to have lunch in Port Albert so we headed there but by this stage it was about 2.30 and the restaurant was closed. Before returning to Sale for the evening, we drove to 90 Mile beach – yes, they have one here too. The tide was very high and we wandered along the beach to a set of stairs to get up off the beach. John climbed through the fence but Heather wasn’t tall enough so she had to go down the sand bank and attempt to beat the oncoming waves to get to the steps. She made it by sprinting with milliseconds to spare before the water almost got her.

90 Mile Beach

90 Mile Beach

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Swing Bridge Terra Bulga National Park

On the Sunday the weather was rather gloomy cold and wet but we headed towards the Terra Bulga National Park to see a waterfall (which was a waste of time) then on to a swing bridge. Fortunately the rain (mostly) stayed away while we walked the 2 kms to the bridge and took some photos. It was a lovely drive through the national park with lots of ferns and greenery. It is a rain forest. Shame about the amount of rain and mist as it reduced the impact somewhat. Before heading back home we drove past the Loy Yang coal mine and power station. This is a massive open cast mine (currently 200m deep and 6 square km’s in size and there are sufficient deposits of coal in the entire Latrobe Valley region to last 1300 years). Many years ago we drove back to Sydney from Melbourne via this route and did a tour of the mine. It’s really fascinating.

 

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Walhalla

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Long Tunnel Goldmine

Our final stop was a tiny town called Walhalla (http://www.visitwalhalla.com) which is in the mountains and has a mine you can visit. It’s a very quaint town and one that we wanted to spend more time in and around but didn’t have time this visit. However, there is a light festival on during August and we have booked to go back there and stay the night at the end of this month. There is a train ride that takes you through the gorge and there is a light show that you see during the journey.

On the subject of light shows, another thing we read about in a newsletter we have subscribed to online was a light festival in Gertrude St in Fitzroy. On the evening we went to the night market, we wandered through town passed the Royal Exhibition building (backlit at night which looked stunning) to Fitzroy to the light show. Wandering down the street there were a few projections on to buildings and some TV screens and light stuff in shop windows but the main attraction was projected images on to a large apartment block. It was such a lovely evening that we ended up buying a bottle of wine and sitting outside a pub on the pavement enjoying the wine and watching the light show. All in all it was a fun evening.

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Royal Exhibition Centre

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Gertrude St Light Show

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Gertrude St Light Show

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Gertrude St Light Show

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Gertrude St Light Show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A friend from Auckland was here is Melbourne for a few weeks and we caught up a couple of times. Heather introduced her to the world of Costco! We also took a trip to the South Melbourne Market. While it is smaller than the Queen Victoria Market, we prefer the South Melbourne one. It has more ‘upmarket’ goods to look at instead of all the cheap tourist crap. South Melbourne is also an area we want to explore more so will no doubt head off there one weekend day to wander.

One lunchtime Heather met up with John and we went to visit the National Library of Victoria. It is absolutely incredible inside. We will let the 4 pictures below speak for themselves.

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National Library

National Library 1

National Library

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National Library

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National Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Planet Walk St Kilda

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The Sun

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Pluto

Another thing to do to tick off the list was the Planet walk along St Kilda beach. There are plinths with each of the planets on them stretching 6.6 kms in one direction. They are supposedly spaced to represent the distance from each other in space. It took a long long time to get from Neptune to Pluto. John had seen these once when he was running but misjudged just how far away the last one was. But, we made it to the end. Unfortunately Heather’s hip was giving her significant pain by the time we had got most of the way back so John jogged the last km to the car and came to pick her up.

Last week the weather was so perfect that once John finished work on Monday we went up the tallest building in Melbourne. The Eureka Tower down at Southbank. It was a clear sunny day so a perfect time to take shots of the city during daylight hours. You certainly get a good perspective of the city and where everything is from the 88th Floor. We hung around until sunset and got photos of that as well. Once the city lights came on it was so pretty.

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Government House

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MCG

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Looking West

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As the sun sets

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Southbank

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Shooting flames outside Crown Casino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mooranbin Resevoir

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Snow towards Lake Mountain, Yarra Ranges

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Yarra Ranges

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Steavensons Falls in Maryville

This weekend just gone on the Saturday we decided to go for a drive into the ‘Mountains’ (hills compared to home) to see the snow. On the way stopped at the Maroondah Reservoir near Healsville in the Yarra Valley. Given the crisp cold still winter’s day, the water on the reservoir was like glass and we got some nice mirrored lake photos. We then drove into the Yarra Ranges to Marysville and then up to Lake Mountain (well close to Lake Mountain before being stopped by a wall of traffic also up there to see the snow). With many bare burnt out gum trees that had peeled back to a greyish white colour and bright green ferns supporting a layer of fresh bright crystal white snow it was very pretty. The sun was warming the snow so we had large clumps falling off the trees plopping onto the car as we drove through the forest. We stopped at Marysville on the way back for lunch and noticed the town looked brand new. At the café they told us that the whole town had burnt to the ground in the 2009 Victorian bush fires. Just out of town we visited the Steavenson Falls (worth a visit) and then headed further north to Alexandra andthen back through Yarra Glen and home (we won’t bother going north of Marysville next time as its mainly farmland and a few vineyards). On Sunday we played tourists in the city. First we went to the National Art Gallery of Victoria to look at the display of Polar Bears in the entrance. Apparently this has been one of the most popular displays they have ever had here. We will have to go back again when we are in the mood to look at some of the exhibitions inside. Next stop was the Melbourne Star – the big ferris wheel that is similar to the London Eye. Again, another glorious day so a perfect opportunity to see the city from on high, but from a completely different angle than the Eureka Tower. We both came to the conclusion that the attraction is in the wrong place. While you get a good view in all directions, when you look East, you see the city but cannot see anything of the gardens, Southbank, the stadiums etc. If we needed to make a choice of which attraction to go on for an aerial view of the city it would have to be the Tower. Of course you are a lot higher up as well which helps. And finally, to round off the day playing tourist, we hopped on the city bus ($5 per person for the whole day and a bit like the hop on hop off buses you can find in lots of major cities only much cheaper). We just wanted to do the circuit to see if there was anything we want to put on our ‘to do’ list. As there was a footy game on at the MCG the bus couldn’t go there which was a shame as we haven’t actually been there yet. We did see where the Melbourne Museum was which we will visit some time soon, and it reminded us that we also want to go and see the old Jail.

On the health front we seem to have both spent a bit of time at the doctors and subsequent Ultrasounds and x-rays to deal with injuries. Heather with her hip which she has had a cortisone injection for as she has Bursitis, and John with sore lower legs which has meant he hasn’t been able to run for a number of weeks. He has had the x-rays and ultrasound but is now waiting to see the doctor about the prognosis.
In terms of entertainment we have been to the movies a few times when its been raining and seems like the best use of time. We have seen Sex Tapes, Mrs Browns Boys D Movie and Anchorman 2. All of which were a bit ho hum to be honest. And for any of you who are fans of the Australian Voice which has just finished here (not sure how far behind it is in NZ), we went to a live performance of the final 8 singers. Was quite a good show and each of the singers sang the songs they sang during the series.
If there are any Block fans out there, the current TV series of the Block Glasshouse has just started screening here. The building is about a 2 km walk from our place. Heather went for a walk the other day to see what state the construction was in. Apparently they have finished filming now and all the professionals are now in there finishing everything off. Heather spoke to a tradesman that was about to cross the street and got talking to him about the show. He was saying it is absolute chaos and that in fact the contestants don’t actually have too much of a hand in the building of things. They paint, shop and manage the budget. The rooms are all just staged then everything gets taken away while the professional tradesmen finish off everything properly. So there you have it – a bit of inside information.
Well that’s about all for this instalment. We have experienced Melbourne at its coldest over the last couple of days but it hasn’t lasted long and we are told the winter is relatively short lived. A couple of windy days but nothing like good old Wellington.
We hope you are all well and happy and enjoying reading what we are up to here.
Lots of love
Heather and John.IMG_3087

Support Tristan and Dry July

At the request of my son I am posting the following link and sending out a request for you all to consider donating anything you can to a wonderful cause. He and his Wings course are going Dry for the month of July. That’s a pretty mean feat for young men today to give up alcohol for a month in our society. It is also especially poignant for me right now as I sit here in the United States visiting a close friend who has been diagnosed with Cancer.  I hope you will be able to support this in some small way. Thanks in advance. Here is Tristan’s notification and the link:

Hello everybody! 132 Wings course and I are doing a dry July which means no alcohol for alllll of July which must be a big shock to most people who know us but it’s a for mint cause, supporting adults living with cancer so if you’ve got some spare change to throw our way it would be greatly appreciated. Wish us luck and donate for what could be the most challenging part of our careers so far either on my page or by searching for the ‘Sesame Street Kids’ group! Thank you in advance, much love, 132 wings and Tristan 
https://nz.dryjuly.com/profile/tristannysse

Melbourne Mews 2nd Edition

12 Apostles at sunset

12 Apostles at sunset

So what has been happening in our neck of the woods over the past 5 weeks? Before starting this, I needed to make a list of all the things we had done to jog my memory. We have actually done rather a lot since the first blog. It doesn’t seem that way for Heather as she is home during the week (still no luck on the job front) and has a lot of time to herself. She reckons she hasn’t read so many books in a long time! The kindle is getting a good work out now that she is not swapping books with her bookclub ladies back in Wellington. And just to make sure she gets that kinaesthetic fix, she has also joined the library which is just down the road. Her time is spent going to the gym or doing lots of walking, cleaning the apartment, occasionally having the odd lunch date with the couple of friends she has here, looking for interesting things to go and see at the weekends, and the everlasting task of job hunting. She was informed Tuesday that she didn’t get the role she has been waiting several weeks to hear about which was disappointing, so now it’s back to the drawing board. Given it is coming up to the end of the financial year at the end of this month she is hopeful this will mean an increase in opportunities. We have done quite a bit of driving around the greater Melbourne area and are feeling a lot more familiar with the various routes around and about. You know you are feeling comfortable with a city when you don’t feel you have to plug on the GPS every time you get in the car.

1000 Steps, Dandenongs

1000 Steps, Dandenongs

One thing we had been told about and wanted to do was the 1000 Steps in the Dandenongs. It’s a tribute to the Kokoda trail which was forged during the Vietnam war. On a beautifully sunny autumn day, we took a drive with friends from Wellington. We walked up the hill with lots of steps and got to the plateau a tad puzzled as there wasn’t as many steps as we had expected, nor was it as challenging as we had been led to believe. No wonder – we took the ‘downward’ track. We walked down the proper steps as our descent and it was certainly a lot tougher. It’s a stunning track though and very busy. Runners use it as a training spot even though there are signs everywhere saying ‘Do Not Run’!

Autumn Colours, Bright

Autumn Colours, Bright

Our first long drive was to the Victorian ‘Alpine’ area for a weekend in Bright. The main reason for this trip was to catch the stunning autumn colours. We were not disappointed. Many years ago we had travelled through this way and vowed to return in the autumn. It was so lovely to be able to fulfil that wish. The trees were turning and there were piles of dried leaves lying on the ground and it made for a very picturesque journey. As well as looking around the town, we drove up to Falls Creek (one of the Victorian skifields), and also to the other skifield in the area – Mount Hotham. Whilst it was cold up there, there was no snow yet. There is a huge lake at Falls Creek which we didn’t know existed. It’s a great place to do tramps and summer activities as well as skiing in the winter. The bush on the road up was burnt out in the early part of 2000’s and was quite an eerie sight. The trees still stand but are effectively dead. Because it’s a National Park, they can’t fell the trees. I guess eventually the bush will regenerate and it will look lush again but for now, it’s almost like a moonscape with the white trees standing out against the sky. Probably the most picturesque part of our trip was Mount Buffalo. First stop was at the Eurobin waterfall. A short walk from the carpark to a very pretty waterfall. The rocky outcrops and stunning views were fabulous from the top of the mountain and the drive was really pretty. Definitely the most scenic and beautiful spot we visited from our base in Bright.

At the top of Mount Buffalo

At the top of Mount Buffalo

One Saturday we decided to explore the Yarra Valley. We didn’t go with the intent of wine tasting as we were driving – might be best to do that another time on an organised tour or with a non-drinker so we can make the most of it. We really just went for a drive to familiarise ourselves with what was there. Stopped in Healesville for coffee then visited a wildlife Sanctuary. It was worth a visit and the show about platypus was entertaining. Someone had told us about a chocolate factory out that way which we also managed to find. It was called Yarra Chocolate factory (wow – wonder how long it took them to come up with that name?). Of course we had to sample some of their products – market research of course! We stopped in at Tarrawara Winery for some lunch. Lovely spot, and good food.   image

Cape Otway lighthouse

Cape Otway lighthouse

Our next excursion was our road trip via the Great Ocean Road. As it was Queens Birthday long weekend here this past weekend, we decided to make the most of it. We had been along this stretch of road before many years ago but did it as a 1 day round trip. That makes for a very long day and we hadn’t really had the opportunity to take the time to see all the district had to offer. We certainly made the most of it over the 3 days. Bells beach was the first stop but as it was a calm day there were none of those famous dumping waves coming in that the surfers love. There were a few try-hards out there surfing but there weren’t many waves for them to catch. We drove through all the little towns along the way making a stop when there was something that took our fancy to look at. Our first stop was a Coffee stop in Lorne. You all know how much John loves his coffee and unfortunately this is not something that anyone does well along the great ocean road (well not where we stopped anyway).  Next stop was about 500 metres up Grey River Rd at Kennet River to look at Koala’s in the wild and then Apollo Bay for a nice lunch. It was then on to the Cape Otway lighthouse where we saw a number of Koala’s in the trees. This was the first time either of us had seen koala’s in the wild so we were quite excited. At the lighthouse a bit of a rainstorm was coming in over the sea so we did a bit of a rushed wander around the old telegraph house and the oldest lighthouse in mainland Australia. A pretty wee spot and worth a stop if you are ever down that way. Our bed for the night was at a motel in Port Campbell but before we got there we stopped at the famous 12 Apostles. Such a lovely spot. With a very cold wind blowing and it being near sunset, we hurried along the walkway to the cliff edge. Unfortunately there were some clouds about so not a perfect time to get those anticipated shots of sunset behind the formations but the light proved to be good for taking photos. It’s quite amazing that none of the attractions can actually be viewed from the road itself. If it wasn’t for the signs, you could merrily drive along and not realise what you were missing. The most famous of sights here are of course the 12 Apostles (of which there are only about 7 now), and London Bridge which is further along the road but fallen down (and yes, there was a song to be sung about London bridge is falling down). There were also other things to see which we didn’t know about – the Gibson Steps which take you down to the water’s edge alongside one of the Apostles, and Loch Ard Gorge. As it was getting dark, we pushed on to Port Campbell deciding we would drive back in the morning to see the other sights. It was only about 12kms away. Port Campbell is one of the lowest yielding towns in the area. Apparently tour buses come in and use the facilities but no-one spends any money. Shame as it’s a nice wee spot. Sunday morning and after breakfast and another really lousy attempt at coffee, we tottered down the Gibson Steps to the beach and took a wander along the cliffs, then went on to Loch Ard Gorge.

Loch Ard Gorge

Loch Ard Gorge

The 12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are several paths to take you to various viewing platforms along the cliff faces. We saw some aerial pictures of the gorge which looked amazing and while the views from the ground were impressive, seeing it by helicopter would definitely be the best way to see this. Maybe next time…. We were heading to Port Fairy but there were some other sights to see along the way that the Motel Owner at Port Campbell told us about. Bay of Islands, the Grotto, and a few others whose names can’t be remembered (and we tossed out the map!). Port Fairy was listed as one of the top 100 towns but it didn’t really grab us that much. There is a lighthouse to visit but as Heather had a sore hip we decided not to walk it. Instead, we opted for a red wine and a Guinness at the oldest pub in Victoria. Our dinner was lovely – went to an Italian Restaurant called L’Edera. Very tasty Spinach, Ricotta and Pinenut Agnalotti in a burnt butter and Sage sauce. On the return journey to Melbourne we went via the inland route on the B140. The vista was 300+km of dairy, sheep and wheat farms on mostly flat land. It was a fast trip but boring as hell. By all accounts the A1 would be as boring as well. Next time we’d come back via the Great Ocean Road or head further inland via the Grampians. We stopped at Geelong for coffee before heading home. Need we say that the coffee was bad, but the lemon meringue pie was delicious and the harbour had a few pretty photo opportunities.

St Kilda at sunset

St Kilda at sunset

Apart from travelling around the countryside, we have done a small amount of dining out and seen some shows.  Our dining out has been a little more restrained than when we first arrived. We try to go out at least once a week to somewhere on the wish list. On the entertainment front – on Mother’s Day we went to see Harrison Craig. For those of you who watch The Voice, he was the one who won last year. It was a very enjoyable evening. One of the highlights was walking through the city across the Yarra at night and looking at the city lights. Melbourne at night is spectacular. Last week we saw the stage show Wicked – was very good. It was confusing because we knew the stage show had been in Auckland earlier in the year and seemed weird that it had been to NZ but not Melbourne. However, it was pointed out to us that in fact, Wicked was performed in Melbourne in 2008 before it went on tour and this was in fact its second stint here. The actors were extremely talented and the sets were incredible. Neither of us knew the story line but was interesting to see things follow through from the Wizard of Oz. Thoroughly enjoyable and would recommend it to anyone who was contemplating going to see it.

Adriana Zumbo's cooking class

Adriana Zumbo’s cooking class

The Good Food Show was on here a couple of weeks ago and we decided to go along with half of Melbourne! We had an enjoyable day but exhausting. You need to purchase tickets to the cooking presentations (although some don’t cost anything) and we managed to get seats for Ella Wolf-Taskers demonstration. She runs a famous restaurant in Daylesford called the Lakehouse. Its on our wish list of places to go so will have to schedule that in at some stage. We were also fortunate to line up for a champagne tasting and were the last 2 to get a seat at the presentation. We were given 6 different bubbly’s to taste (all for free) and had a commentary from a guy (whose name was forgotten 2 seconds after he introduced himself – not that memorable, he was a wine writer for some publication who was a bit of a laugh. The most memorable quote of the day – ‘the yeast eats the sugar then farts the bubbles in to the bottle.’ And the only other bit of entertainment we have imbibed in was going to the movies to see ‘A Million Ways to be killed in the West’. Written by Seth McFarlane this was one seriously funny movie. If you aren’t too precious and have a warped sense of humour then this is a definite must see.  We haven’t laughed so much in a long time. Someone told us that you don’t have to go all the way to Phillip Island to see penguins coming home to roost in the evening. They swim in down at St Kilda Pier every night as well and there is a viewing platform there. A few weeks ago on a stunning calm evening, we popped down when John got home from work to go and watch them. Of course it’s dark when they come in so is a bit hard to see but we saw a couple swimming in and waddling up the sand and heard a few in their nests. The bonus was that we got some awesome photos with the sun setting behind the city scape.

Scallops at Le Grand Cirque

Scallops at Le Grand Cirque

What – hardly a mention of dining out I hear you cry? Well of course we have been to a few restaurants but not as many as the first few weeks we were here. Le Grand Cirque is a French style Tapa’s place set up by George Kolumbaris of Aus Masterchef fame, and Manu Fiedel from My Kitchen Rules fame. It’s a modern very simply decorated spot (quite industrial looking) with an interesting menu. The water glasses are arcroroc tea cups and you get served a little pottle of popcorn when you sit down at the table. We had the crispy prawns, scallops, beef tartare, bone marrow and snails (not one to have again but sometimes you just have to try these things), Crème Brulee for dessert and cheese. All washed down with a lovely French Chablis. Being a Friday night, we were very fortunate that Manu was on the pass so of course had to get a photo taken with him. Another night out with some good friends from NZ and we went to a local middle eastern restaurant here in South Yarra. Zurouna. This has to be the best middle eastern food we have ever had. Because there were 6 of us it was easiest to order the banquet and there was so much food we couldn’t eat it all. Everything was authentic and delicious. The standout would have to be the parting taste of the Turkish delight and candy floss they served at the end. It wasn’t very busy at all for a Friday night and I hope this isn’t one of those places that doesn’t last – they deserve to be busy every night so if you are reading this and live in Melbourne – go there!!!! Our final eating experience to share this time round was an Argentinian Restaurant in Myers Place in the City called San Telmo. Again a Tapa’s (or sharing plates) type of restaurant. Very tasty food and great atmosphere. Would also thoroughly recommend this place. Meat cooked to perfection and really lovely flavours.

That about rounds up the comings and goings for us but we do have to mention the weather. Apparently Melbourne has had one of its warmest May’s on record – a heatwave so they said. 12 days where the temperature was above 20 degrees every day. While we are officially now in Winter, the days have been very pleasant. It’s probably unseasonally warm in other places as well but if this is a typical Melbourne winter, bring it on! On that note, it is time to sign off for this episode. Heather is off to the States until the end of June so there may not be too much to report in the next episode of Melbourne Mews. Until then, stay warm and happy. Missing you all but enjoying our adventure.

.Cityscape sunset from St Kilda Pier

Cityscape sunset from St Kilda Pier

Melbourne Muse First Edition

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Carrying on the tradition of when we live away from New Zealand, here begins the commentary of our lives in Melbourne. But oh how times have changed. No longer is it via the antiquated method of handwriting, or even via e’mail. No, we have gone very modern age and decided to write a blog. This first one will be posted on to Facebook as well as us sending out a link via e’mail. If you wish to subscribe to reading this, you can click on it and say you wish to receive a notification when we post a new instalment. We will leave it up to you to manage whether you wish to receive these or not as we don’t want to clog everyone’s mail boxes with our escapades if you aren’t interested.

This first edition will probably be longer than subsequent ones as we’ll have to bring you up to date with our first 2 months.

A quick recap of how we got here in the first place…John was finishing a contract at Loyalty NZ (Flybuys) in Wellington and was looking for work. There wasn’t a lot going on in the market at the time and coincidently we had talked about Melbourne being a nice place to do a working holiday. John happened to see a contract in Melbourne on Seek late on a Thursday night. By the end of the following week he had the contract signed, left Loyalty that week (he was due to finish then), we had a weeks holiday walking the Routeburn Track (absolutely amazing and we recommend it to everyone) visiting friends in Central Otago, a week to pack up, and then he headed off to start work in Melbourne.

Wow, we love this place. General impressions are friendly helpful people, great shopping, restaurants, cafes, markets, public transport, parks, walkways, cycleways, weather (compared to Wellington anyway – although we still love Wellington too), shows, some great old buildings (they are tearing down a lot though to make way for apartments and offices), interesting art, easy to get around (except during rush-hour). They do make far better coffee in Wellington though. After 7 weeks John is still looking for a café close to his work with great and consistently well made coffee. He has had a few good ones at some of the restaurants we have been too but nothing close by to provide him with his daily fix. Some things he has learned is to ask for a double shot as all standard coffees are served as singles, ask them not to heat your muffin or sandwich (they shove them into a microwave or sandwich press before you can blink – even if some of the sandwiches don’t look as though they are designed to be heated up), don’t expect Estate Agents, Telco’s, Banks and any service industry to get back to you when they say they will. You have to keep on their back otherwise things don’t get done (and even if they do something they don’t get it right a lot of the time).

Heather has been here just on a month now and is getting very familiar with the local shops and surrounds in South Yarra. She has also made several trips in to the city to wander around. For those of you on Facebook, check out all the photos. As at time of starting this, she is still not working which is causing her some concern. It’s difficult to get established with contacts here so is taking longer than she had hoped. John is enjoying his job now that he has gotten more familiar with what he is doing. While he doesn’t run at lunchtimes, he often takes a stroll in different directions from his office so he can get familiar with his surroundings. There is so much to see in the city that every day you can discover something new. We both love all the little laneways with treasures to find – be it an old building, a street of cafés or restaurants, walls covered with graffiti or a shortcut to somewhere.

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We have settled in a suburb called South Yarra in a 2 bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of a 6 floor building. Actually there are only 4 levels of apartments, the other 2 levels are basement car parks. We are a 500metre walk to the train station (which takes about 10 mins to get to the heart of the city) and have trams going in all directions pretty much outside the door. We love the location and are very happy in our wee apartment. Our apartment

Parts of Melbourne remind us a lot of London. The suburb names, street names, the layout of the some of the parks and types of trees, some building architecture, the train system (although they don’t say mind the gap over the load speakers), the layout of the streets and some of the design of the houses are very strongly reflective of what we saw when we lived in London. It has that sort of quaint feeling about it, the land of the gentry, especially around Toorak. The mansions there rival some of the massive mansions you would find in the UK. John ran upstream along the Yarra River today and some of the mansions would be sitting on a few thousand square metres of land. They were massive houses with tennis courts and boat ramps and expansive gardens. The 4×4’s around that area are nick-named Toorak tractors. Just last week there was a Ferrari meet in a park about 1km up river from us. There would have been easily 60 to 80 Ferrari’s parked there (95% of them were Ferrari Red).

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The Yarra River meanders its way from the bay, through the city and up into the suburbs. From around the Bolte Bridge on the east side, and from the Docklands on the west side the Yarra River trail (walking and biking trail) winds its way up the river. At about 9 to 10km the trail stops on the eastern side but the western side carries on. John made it around 7.5km upstream on the western side from our place before the track was closed for maintenance, but we believe it goes for a number of km’s beyond that point (although the trail criss-crosses the river at various points along the way). John thinks it’s probably possible to run a 30km loop from the river’s edge by our place without having to cross a road. He’s very much looking forward to measuring it one day.

As it’s been a while since we have moved countries, it’s easy to forget the trials and tribulations of getting established. And we certainly feel like we have had more than our fair share of trials to contend with which have been stressful from time to time. Nothing too overwhelming but more nuisance factor and dealing with incompetence. If we tallied up the time spent on the phone to Telstra it would probably be about 8 hrs worth at least. We had to call them about everything from why can’t we get free to air channels on Foxtel (resulting in us cancelling it after 2 days because we couldn’t receive them [something to do with the area we live in apparently!], then having issues sending back the Foxtel box, receiving our T-Box and so it goes on). You would think in this day and age that they could set up your account and at least activating it would be simple – no. But enough of that, we won’t bore you with the details of their incompetence. The bank hasn’t been any better either. Firstly, credit cards sent to our address we had 10 years ago in Sydney; cards not activated even though we had done this at the bank; auto payments to pay haven’t come out as they ‘forgot’ to put through the paperwork then proceeded to loose it! Thankfully we have everything sorted now so can get on with exploring, sightseeing, eating and drinking our way around the fabulous selection of places.IMG_2293

That leads in very nicely to the places we have been. Let’s start with the dining experiences. Before we left NZ, we made a pact that as Melbourne has so many choices for dining, we aren’t allowed to visit the same place twice. The caveat is that if we have visitors, we are allowed to take them to somewhere we have been before, but we can’t go again just on our own.  Melbourne is all about dining and for those new, trendy, popular places, you either have to wait for a table or decide to come back another time. Lots of places won’t take reservations. The demand is so high. Having said that, we wouldn’t want to be in the food industry here – places come and go very quickly and go in and out of favour with the public just as quickly. We have been to a wide variety of places already and sometimes it’s very overwhelming trying to choose something. We have only had 1 average meal out so far, everything else has been fabulous. On a rainy evening walking to a comedy festival show in Prahran (15 mins walk from our house) we wanted to stop for a quick bite on the way. We chose ‘Juicy Dumplings’. The dumplings were being made fresh in the window and they looked inviting, and the place was busy. Maybe we ordered the wrong thing but the food was just very average. However, apart from this one experience, everything else has been superb. Heather is keeping a list of all the places we have been just to make sure we stick to our pact! Our first dining experience was at Movida with our friends who allowed us to impose upon them for John’s first month in Melbourne. This is a very popular Mediterranean Tapas place. There are about 3 restaurants of the same name. The original one in Hosier Lane was packed and we would have had a long wait but we managed to get in to Movida Next Door with only about a 15 minute wait.  It certainly set the tone for our dining experiences and we haven’t been disappointed. With the volume of restaurants, they have to be good else they won’t last. Heather sampled several cafés in South Yarra for lunch in her first couple of weeks here and has several she wants to take John to. We won’t bore you with every place we have been (as per a comment on Heathers Facebook page – Don’t you ever eat at home? indicates, we have sampled many spots already). That’s what we are here for! The standouts would have to be Bangpop and Chez Olivier. Thai street food for lunch, then French the same day for dinner. That was with good friend Jo from Sydney, and was Tristan’s last day of his visit over Easter/Anzac. One place that has to be mentioned though is Adriano Zumbo’s café. Dr Dot cake at ZumbosIMG_2265

It is literally round the corner from our apartment and for those of you who know who he is, you can imagine the amazing cakes and treats on offer. We won’t say any more – just know if you have a sweet tooth like Heather, she will happily take you there for coffee and cake when you come and visit. A must on our list is another place we discovered while Jo was here – Grand Cirque. Its next door to Zumbo’s and is owned by Manu (French chef of My Kitchen Rules fame), and George Kolumbaris of Australian Masterchef fame. We tried to book to go with friends in a week’s time but they are fully booked. We will just have to try it another time.

The comedy festival was on for a month and in keeping with our commitment to get out and ‘do stuff’, we attended 5 separate shows. The most memorable was a Glaswegian comedian wearing a kilt – Craig Hill. He was very risqué and absolutely hilarious. We were seated in the 2nd row from the front but as there was no-one seated in the front row, we got picked on. When he found out John was from NZ, the accent jokes started. John didn’t do us any favours when he said he had a big deck! That comment came back to haunt him many times during the show. John also got pulled up on stage to dance. The comedian was a great dancer and John is not known to sweep graciously around the dance floor. Craig Hill vowed he could make a straight man dance well and showed John a few moves. The Jury is still out as to whether the mission was successful. The first show we saw was ‘The Best of British’. John bumped in to an old work colleague from Sydney one day in a coffee shop here and he invited us to go along with him to the show. 3 of the comedians were very good and one was very bad! The 3rd show we went to see was Julian Cleary. We booked this for when Tristan was here. Unfortunately it was very disappointing. Tristan and his mate Dylan then suggested we go to see Chopper afterwards. (He is an Aussie comedian who is sometimes on NZ’s 7 days). It was the late show (started at 11.30) and that seemed to mean anything goes. It was actually a variety of comedians doing about 10 minutes each. Was very funny and made it a good end to the evening. An unexpected attendance to a live stage show of Mrs Browns Boys also added to our comedy line-up. On Tristan’s last day in Melbourne he wanted to go down to Southbank towards the western end of the city. We happened to walk through the Convention Centre and saw that there was a matinee on at 2pm. It was a toss up between the show or the aquarium and the show won out. What a great afternoon. We had saw sides from laughing so much.

Apart from going to a couple of movies, that’s been the extent of our entertainment. Not too shabby though for the time we have been here.

There has also been a trip to the Melbourne Zoo, riding the free City Circle Tram, lots of driving around the suburbs for familiarisation, and several visits to Costco!

Heather made contact with a friend from Dunedin who now lives in Melbourne. They hadn’t seen each other or been in touch for over 30 years! But as it always seems to be with good friends, they carried on as if they had seen each other last week but of course had so much to catch up on. We also managed to contact Caroline (old friend from Wellington and also the UK) and spent a lovely afternoon/evening with her and the family.Brighton Beach houses

We did have a bit of a shopping spree when we first arrived getting furniture and necessities for the apartment. While we wait for our contents to arrive we have been getting by with the minimum of dishes for cooking, eating off etc. Finally our gear arrived in Melbourne last week just before Anzac day but of course now we have to wait for it to clear customs. Could be another 2 weeks! It’s very annoying when the expectation was that it would be 3 to 4 weeks from collection to delivery. It’s been about 10 weeks so far.

Our thoughts are now turning to going further afield during the weekends. We took a drive to the Dandenongs a couple of weekends ago and took in the view from the lookout. Unfortunately it was humid and a bit hazy the day we were there so no decent photo’s of the city in the distance. While Tristan was here we drove down to Phillip Island and had a good look around. We also attended the Dawn Service on Anzac Day at the Shrine of Rememberance along with about 30,000 other Melbournians.

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Heather was also told about a little town about 1 ½ hrs drive from the city called Daylesford. Apparently it’s well known for it’s relaxation spa’s, restaurants and shopping. I guess a bit like Wellingtons weekend getaway to the Wairarapa. We went today (Sunday). It appears we made the right choice to get away from the city with it being a grey, rainy day. Daylesford was very quaint and with the autumn leaves starting to appear, it was very colourful. There are a couple of lakes which we drove to for a look and we wandered through the town centre to browse at the shops. It was probably the coldest day we have had so far – about 8 degrees with a cool breeze.

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Now that we are home, it’s a tad warmer in the city at about 12 degrees. Certainly easier to put layers on for the cooler weather than it was having to deal with the heat and humidity of a month ago when Heather first arrived. She had the Aircon up full blast in the apartment to cool down from the 31 degrees outside while she was putting kitset Ikea furniture together.

The next thing we have booked is a weekend away to a town called Bright. We drove through it many years ago when we had been down this way and always wanted to go back during the Autumn. It has lots of trees and looked very pretty so thought when the leaves change it would be a good time to visit. The plan was to go this weekend (first weekend of May) however trying to get accommodation proved difficult. There is an autumn fair on so everything is booked up. We will go the weekend of the 17th instead. Some photographer guy is offering photography tours that weekend so we figured it must be about the right time for the changing of the autumn leaves. So we will go that weekend and hopefully get some good shots ourselves. Mothers day is also coming up and John has brought tickets for us to go and see Harrison Craig. He won The Voice Australia last year. Hopefully it will be a good performance.

As you’ve seen, food occupies a great deal of our time and interest. We’ve made a few trips already to the Prahran Markets. It’s a 10 to 15 minute walk from where we live. Fabulous fresh veggies, meat and poultry and lots of deli’s to get awesome cheeses, dips, cold cuts,bakeries and pretty much anything you can think of. Of course there is also the Queen Victoria market in the City which we wandered around yesterday. It seems like the food is less expensive there than Prahran so we might have to make that our destination of choice instead.IMG_4533

School holidays are 2 weeks earlier here than back home and of course retailers make the most of this time of year. 2 new stores opened in the CBD just 3-4 weeks ago. One is H&M (huge in Europe for very cheap relatively good quality clothing). For the duration of the holidays, the queues to get in were horrendous. The line snaked right round the block and would have easily been 500metres long. There was absolutely no way Heather was going to queue to get in to a store. When Tristan was here we wandered past and there were no queues so we popped in. Very crowded in the store but Tristan picked up a couple of great bargains. A new Mall was the other thing to open – Emporium. Its about 5 levels of shopping. The biggest drawcard there was a store called Uniqlo. It’s a Japanese fashion store and again very low cost good quality clothing. Heather met John in town the day after it opened and we went in. Too early for people to have cottoned on to it being open so it wasn’t too busy. Heather picked up some coloured jeans for $30 each and some Merino cardigans for $40 each. John picked up a couple of Merino Jumpers for $40 each as well. We took Tristan there on the Saturday of Easter (the shop had been open 3 days by then) and OMG what a nightmare! We got in to the mall and it was as if every man woman and child in Melbourne had decided to go that day. We walked straight out again!

On the subject of shops, one thing a girl has to do is find new places for maintenance. Heather has managed to find a great place to get her nails done which is local. She is very happy with them and has now been twice. She also had to scout around for a hairdresser and has been recommended one in Windsor (a 10 minute tram ride along Toorak Rd). She has her first appointment next week and as you girls will know, it can be very nerve-wracking going to a new hairdresser! Lets hope he is good. And funnily enough, both her nail technician and hairdresser are Japanese.

We hope you have enjoyed our initial recount of the first month or so in our new home. Its off to get our Victoria Driver licenses tomorrow and hopefully a week where Heather gets some good news on the job front.

We hope you are all well and happy. Missing you all lots but also loving our new adventure.    IMG_4593