Oh yeah, I went to Melbourne

OK, so it was 3 weeks ago, but better late than never, right?

Saturday: My flight to Melbourne was uncomfortable and uneventful. Courtesy of Qantas Club I had been upgraded to Business Class, a concession to my superior height (as I had asked for an exit row). Unfortunately this boarding pass was replaced with 5 minutes to go, and I was relegated to literally the last free seat in economy. Not happy. I think one of the hostesses was smirking during the safety demo, so that backs up my theory (as expressed in May). To be honest though, I simply don’t write about the times that they do the whole thing seriously (i.e. the majority). Coming in to land I was surprised at how flat and spread out Melbourne is – so featureless compared Sydney.

Adam was waiting to pick me up at the airport, and it was soon after that I had my first glimpse of Melbourne’s advantages: the Toll road from the airport to the city took no time at all, and the non-crap eTags actually work. Adam’s (Bits’) place in North Melbourne is a new 2 storey apartment, very fashionable and appealing. Adam even went out and bought a Queen mattress for the spare room so I wouldn’t have to sleep on the lounge. Very thoughtful. I just had enough time to dump my stuff before we left for the city.

Full credit to the Melbourne public transport system – a short walk and we were on a tram, semi-comfortably headed into that part of Melbourne that has a “Y” axis. We dropped into Bits’ office for a few minutes, then to a café in Degraves St for lunch. Kirsten managed to rendezvous with us at this point, an amazing feat, given her late-adopter technophobia 🙂

After lunch we decided that we needed a vantage point for the Grand Final, and we needed one NOW. The nearest pub was Young and Jackson, which is apparently quite historic (and right across the road form Flinders Street station). The four of us proceeded to get quite wasted, and so the rest of the afternoon is a bit of a blur. we must have done something after the game (which was an anticlimax: I didn’t even watch it), but I cannot recall what it might have been. I only remember a mad rush to get back to home base so that we could get ready to go out.

And go out we did – to Lemongrass in Lygon St, Carlton. The excuse for this dinner was to celebrate Bettina’s recent birthday, so it was naturally mostly her friends. The food was very good, although I was not particularly hungry. After dinner I went for a bit of a walk down Lygon St – it is like a cross between Norton St, Leichhardt and King’s Cross. Lots of Italian restaurants with men standing out the front trying to entice you to get a table. After this experience we went and got a drink and played a bit of pool. Feeling the worse for wear we retired back to home base for some sleep. Kirsten and I were quite comfortable on the new mattress.

Sunday: We awoke late-ish and got ready for an active day. The first step was to take the wheels off Bettina’s bike and put it in her car boot. Then Adam, Kirsten and I walked the few blocks to a cafe that served my favourite breakfast: Poached eggs on toast with tomato and mushrooms. Yum. The toast was nice and thick. The coffee was reasonable, it did the trick. Bits met us there after bringing the car around.

We drove from there to Kings Domain where we parked and went for a bit of a walk in the park, heading for the bike hire place in Alexandria Gardens, near the boat sheds. We were met there by Daniella, a friend of Bits’, who had also brought her own bike. Adam, Kirsten and I got ourselves kitted up and we were all ready to roll. There is a bike path all the way along the Yarra River and that is what we followed. I really enjoyed myself and, of course, being Dutch meant that Kirsten was in her element. I was a bit tired after the 2 hour ride to Richmond(?) and back but I was equally rejuvenated, as I the bicycle had regressed me to teenagerhood, remembering the time that I spent on a bike in those years at the end of the 80’s. I flirted briefly with the idea of moving to Melbourne and becoming a cycle courier, but then some oxygen got to my brain and I dismissed the idea.

After returning the bikes we walked through some kind of market that is held under the Princes Bridge – sorta reminded me of maybe The Rocks market. We got lunch from Southbank, going one-by-one to get our meals so that none of us was eating together with any of the others. Sigh. Adam decided to challenge us to a race, and took Bits’ bike home. Bits, Kirsten and I then browsed the markets for a while, I bought a B&W photo of St Kilda pier for Bits as a birthday/thanks present. I hope she likes it.

Adam was proud to be circling in front of the house when we returned, with tales of his adventures during the large amount of time he was waiting. We got inside and barely had time for a shower and a cup of tea before we were taking Kirsten to the airport. What I like about this journey is the cool fuselage-looking bridge. When I saw “The Bank” I had hoped to someday see this place IRL when I came to Melbourne, and I was lucky enough to see it four times. There was some massive storm action brewing and we predicted that Kirs’ flight would be delayed – this ended up being true but I did not find out until a few days later. Adam and I were already back at Bits’, sitting on the lounge with beers in hand, watching the ARL Grand Final. I have been following Parramatta since I was 4 years old and I was disgusted by their performance in the first half of the game. At least it made the second half interesting, I guess. Adam and Bits had to work on Monday, so it was off to bed early for us all.

Monday: This day was set aside purely for myself, and I had decided that is was for impulse only tourism. No plans. I got up at about 9am, showered and packed all my things. Then it was onto the trusty tram to Flinders Street station. I rented a locker for the day and dumped all my stuff. There was a girl placing empty strawberry milk cartons in public places and photographing them. Bloody art students. 🙂 . I had coffee at another café on Degraves St and walked over to the tram stop on Swanston St. I got on the first tram, which took me to Chapel St. I spent the day on this street.

Although I am male, I still managed to do a bit of shopping, coming home with a few extra shirts and sunglasses. I stopped off for a cool glass of Hoegaarden at a café along the way and called Fiona to gloat – I was sitting in the sun, on Chapel St, drinking beer and holding an astroboy that I had just bought (for her). Anyway, being male I soon became sick of it and determined that it was time to head back into the land of the vertical – Melbourne proper. I arrived back at the ubiquitous Degraves St and got a cup of Goulash soup from soup.com.au. It was tasty, and the owner who served me was very enthusiastic. I wish they had one near my work. I would eat there every few days. I got a watermelon juice from a vendor in the next block and it only cost $2 – amazing bargain. It was starting to get to that point where I couldn’t really leave the area and make my flight, so I needed something to do. When I sat down to eat my soup I glanced at the sign in the shop window in front of me “Hot Towel Shave”. I knew what I had to do.

She sat me back in the chair and made sure I was comfortable. I had creams brushed onto my face so many times that I lost count, and I had the hot towel twice. She actually shaved me with a disposable razor first, and then repeated the process with the straight razor. Fat lot of good it was – I ended up with a shave that was not as close as my normal shave, with nicks all over my face, and shaving rash that took more than a week to cool down. My recommendation: don’t do it. There was a reason why they switched to the current way of shaving.

After my shave I only had time to walk to the Sky Bus terminal and onto my flight home, which was delayed for at least half an hour. Sigh. I left Melbourne with my preconceptions removed. Don’t get me wrong – Sydney will always be #1 in my heart, but I would not have a problem living in Melbourne – in many ways I think that it is superior to Sydney. I will have to go down there in Winter – see what I say then.


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