February 2018 – Home for a rest (sort of)

As I am trying to catch up on my blog entries, we are all in luck (particularly me) that this will be a short entry as February was a quiet month!

I started the month by flying up to Brissy for the weekend for a quick visit. How I missed the sun, smiles and relaxed style of Brisbane! Unfortunately, I brought the cool rainy Melbourne weather with me. But oh well! 2 out of 3 is still winning in my books! C and G, my lovely hostesses, let me crash on their couch. On my first night in town, we decided to go out dancing, Brissy style. As you likely know from your own crazy nights out, one of the best parts about going out dancing is when the DJ plays your favourite tunes, enabling you to scream (I mean sing) along at the top of your lungs. We definitely stayed up late screaming (I mean singing along) to our favourite tunes.

The next day, I met up with the C and V and the gang at The Scratch for a peanuts and a Jenga-off! One of the great things about Jenga is that there are no winners or losers…or if there are winners and losers, a few months later when you are writing a blog entry, you don’t remember who won or lost, you only remember heaps of laughter and fun. The Scratch is a great chill place to hang out with friends. Check it out!

As part of my non-new year resolution, I am trying to increase the frequency of my weekly runs. Taking advantage of being close to the Brissy River, one morning I decided to run along around Kangaroo Point. Boy! The difference in humidity between Brissy and Melbourne is unreal. By the time I was finished the run I was drenched in sweat. Drenched! As a reward for waking up and dragging my body out of bed for a run, I decided to have lunch with H at the Netherworld restaurant- a restaurant with a twist. Everything on the menu is vegan and then you can opt in for dairy or meat options. The food was delicious.

After lunch, I thought I should treat myself given that I spent the morning exercising  (wait…had I already done that?). H and I parted ways, and C and I met up and  decided to have fancy nitrogen frozen sorbet dessert near the Southbank Streets Beach. Definitely a must see.

During this trip to Queensland, I also had the opportunity to visit the Varsity Lakes area. The name is spot-on! There are heaps of beautiful lakes with houses scattered around the edges. It actually reminded me very much of Canada. However, word on the street is that these lakes have a huge bull shark and crocodile problem (very unlike Canada).  Another reason Varsity Lakes reminded me so much of home was because of the subtle reminders everywhere. See for yourself:

 

Interesting fact that I learned whilst on this trip, Queensland does not observe daylight savings. This means that Coolangatta, which is a city Queensland, and Tweeds Head, directly across from Coolangatta in New South Wales, can be in different time zones during certain parts of the year! Imagine trying to get to work on time if you lived on the other side! Or, the panic you feel if you need to catch a flight and you’re not sure which side the airport is on (….it’s on the Queensland side).

Panic aside, my first night back in Melbourne I went to a salsa class! I can’t stop dancing! The theme this month for salsa was enchufla and outside turns for bachata. I sometimes try to take notes during my dance classes and while I find the dance pattern fairly easy to transcribe for salsa, for some reason I find it very difficult to do for bachata. Maybe it is because it is a much more partner dependent dance or because the steps flow more into one another? I’m not sure. But in either case, what has became apparent is that I need to practice, practice, practice.

Pretty standard question – have you ever gotten into a fight with an ATM before? Now, I’m not saying that I got into a fight with an ATM, but I did put my Australian debit card into an ATM (the ATM and debit card belonged to the same bank), and shortly thereafter the ATM freaked out and literally went into a meltdown mode. It crashed. Went to some insane website. Tried to restart. Froze. And then decided that it wanted my card “for keeps.” As someone who only has one Australian debit card and who waited outside the ATM for 15 minutes in case, IN CASE, the ATM changed its mind, the solution to this stressful solution was to call the bank immediately to cancel the card. NOT. If you call the emergency line to speak to a representative of this particular bank, you will be on hold, ON HOLD, for 30 minutes. On the emergency line!! Emergency!! I can only say that if a hypothetical fight was started with an ATM, I definitely lost.

In about mid-February (so still Australian summer), Melbourne has White Night (also known as Nuit Blanche). Summer is the perfect time to host this event! Toronto has Nuit Blanche in the fall and it can sometimes be pretty chilly. With cooler evenings also comes the desire to stay inside, which can impact your desire to walk around looking at artwork.

We started our White Nite adventures around 9/9:30 pm, which is high crowd, peak time, but as I’m not very good at staying up until 4:00 am something’s gotta give. The fire breathing serpent outside of the Melbourne Museum was unreal. Almost dragon? Perhaps. In any case, it gave off a ton of heat and was amazing to see!!

Also very cool were the projections. I suspect that Melbourne is very into this type of projection artwork. There was a lot of it and it was all excellent. Outside the exhibition building there was an incredible 3-minute movie projection, part of which was the architecture of the building coming in on itself in dynamic ways. It was some amazing imagery.

The La Trobe Reading Room in the State Library also had this sort of magical, books come to life projection. It was like stepping into another world. Slightly disappointing was an interactive metamorphosis exhibit. It was not particularly interactive or metamorphosis-y, but we moved on to bigger and better things!

The last art piece we saw was the Federation Square Living Skyline. This was very cool. Hard to describe as it was so much more than a bunch of tassels in the sky that moved in the wind – but if I was going to describe it in a literal sense – that is what I would go with. In any case, it was awesome.

It was actually White Night, that inspired my next adventure, a visit to the Melbourne Museum. I am a huge fan of the Melbourne Museum. It is one of the largest museums in the Southern hemisphere. It has an indoor forest exhibit which is incredible. While we were visiting, there was also a very interesting and interactive exhibit on the human brain, as well as an exhibit on the history of Melbourne! Perhaps for people who live here, the history of Melbourne is not that exciting, but as an outsider, I thought the exhibit was great. The way the museum incorporates interactive elements into all of its exhibits is top-notch. I highly recommend a visit to the museum.

 

Lastly, have you ever watched a sport (your sport) in a foreign country? I found myself glued to the gold medal Women’s Olympic hockey between Canada and the US in Australia where most people don’t even know that the winter Olympics are a thing. I happened to be watching the tail end of game while I was on a tram and my gasps, sighs and then gut-wrenching disappointment earned me quite a few stares. While I don’t find there are many drastic difference between Canada and Australia, love of hockey is a stark difference.

Tips on Eats (from a non-food critic)

  • Queen Victoria Summer Night Market: Good. Again, I really like the Night Market vibe, but the Summer Market seemed very meat focused and their weren’t a ton of vendors.
  • South Melbourne Night Market: Excellent. Shorter timeframe than the Queen Victoria Summer Night Market and smaller, however, there seemed to be a more diverse variety of vendors and the calibre of the food vendors was excellent.
  • The Shaw Davey Slum: Okay. Not a fan. Wouldn’t go again.
  • DOC Pizza & Mozzarella Bar: Excellent. Have been several times.
  • Boney: Excellent for snacks. Have been several times.
  • The Petty Officer: Excellent. However, in the space of writing this blog it has now closed down. Hopefully, something equally amazing will pop up in its place.
  • Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya: Excellent sushi! Fantastic vibe. Would go several times!

A New Year: January 2018

While I like to think I’m the centre of the world, I know that’s only partly true. Just kidding. Not true at all. That said, do you ever find yourself walking down the street, with your headphones in, listening to music, thinking to yourself, this is the soundtrack to my life? As I strut down the street, it’s almost like the scene out of a movie. No? Just me? Okay, moving on.

My 2018 (not counting the wee hours of dancing in the morning) started off fairly quiet. During the first week of January, I experienced my first 42 degrees Celcius day. That’s right!!  42 degrees!! Do you know how hot that is? It’s like an OVEN. AN OVEN. I spent the afternoon hiding from the heat with my new Canadian friend, A, at the NGV. The NGV had a special event on – the Triennial –  which I definitely had to Google (Triennial: means recurring every three years). The NGV Triennial was a free exhibition of contemporary art on all 4 levels of the gallery from artists around the world. It was spectacular. If you happen to be in Melbourne in 3 years, I highly recommend it.

The NGV Triennial also had an event called Extra. Similar to First Thursdays at the AGO or Friday Night Live at the ROM, it’s a chance to be (or act) posh as you listen to music, have drinks and snacks, and are surrounded by art work until the wee hours of the morning. At this event, I met yet another Canadian – yay ex-pats! – and we had a fantastic time. We spent quite a lot of time on third floor which was great – as I hadn’t been yet. There was this really interesting exhibit which was a video playing of Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin. Moore and Baldwin were portraying stories of refugees and immigrants. In a smaller room behind these giant screens were smaller tvs. On these tvs were videos of the actual refugees. The point of the exhibit was that we only stop and pay attention to stories that are told by celebrities. Those who are viewed as less important in society do not get their voices heard. At Extra, I also tried virtual reality for the first time. Very very cool!

Circling back to my tirade about the heat and feeling like I was baking in an oven, one of the interesting thing about Melbourne weather is that it can change at the drop of a hat. Later that afternoon as I was sitting at one of Melbourne’s infamous rooftop bars the temperature dropped from 42 to 27 degrees within in hour. It’s called “the cool change.” If you’re ever in Melbourne in summer, you will come to appreciate it and love it.

I think I’ve mentioned this before but there is a real lawn culture in Melbourne. As in – it’s really common to see people sitting on the front lawn of the State library or chatting away on the lawn in the park, or sitting near the river bank reading a book (which is one pastime that I’ve adopted). It is partly this love of reading near the river bank that led to me venturing to the south side. As I may have said previously, there are some serious geographical divisions in Melbourne. North side. South side. West and East side (but some people would question whether there is  even anything west or east). Anywho, my southern adventures took me to South Melbourne and my first ever float tank or isolation tank. I’m not going to lie, I don’t think I get it. I didn’t find that I could calm my mind and enjoy the relaxation experience. I kept thinking – “how long have I been here?” and “how clean is this water?” and “how many people floated in this water before me?”. Germaphobe much? I logically understand that the high salt content of the water means that nothing can thrive in it but still…

I’ve also trucked to south to explore the south side brunch scene. Not going to lie. It was spectacular. I then went even further south to get dance flats (yes!!! My first ever pair of dance shoes!!!!). At some point, I even decided to go to the South Melbourne Market on a weekend (I would describe the SMM as a classier, smaller version of the Queen Victoria Markets. It is less about fruit and veg and more about trinkets and crafts). I also checked out Port Melbourne, which is right near the beach!

Northerners beware, the South Side has a lot to offer!

Salsa update – in the month of January we did “block turns”. I can only describe them as very intense and difficult. What contributed to the difficulty may have also been that this was my first ever salsa level 2 class. But braving the unknown, I wore my new flats and danced my heart out. It may not be true, but I like to think that I’m getting much better!! During the month of January I also signed up and participated in a 4 hour bachata bootcamp. There were a ton of people at the bootcamp (maybe too many people…) but it was great to do repetition of the basic bachata steps. Over the course of 4 hours we learned 12 steps and 1 turn pattern. In case you are dying to know, a 4 hour bootcamp is equivalent to about 10,500 steps. After the bootcamp I had a moment of delusion where I thought I could then go out social dancing afterwards but once I finally sat down I was COOKED.

I have not done heaps of shopping since being in Australia. Subconsciously or consciously, I realise that I over packed when I initially came to Australia and somehow I have to get it all home. That said – one evening my housemate and I went on a serious shopping adventure. My friend has a pair of black wedges with a thick ankle strap which are cute and very reasonably priced. I looked online to see where I could get a pair and the website informed me that the store “nearish” to my house had them in stock! Lucky! Even more fortunate, my housemate was kind enough to drive me for a quick trip to the shops. After wandering the store for about 5 minutes unable to find the shoe, we spoke to one of the sales reps. The sales rep did the same walk around we did and then looked in the internal stock system. She quickly came to the conclusion that the shoes were not actually on  the premises. The website had been referring to “phantom stock.” I think the sales rep must have felt bad because she went the extra mile to call some nearby stores and locate a pair of the shoes. What was supposed to be a 30 minute trip ended up taking almost 2 hours and included significantly more driving than intended. Lucky for me I have the best housemate ever.

Did you know that the Australian Open is held in January in Melbourne? I for one have never paid a lot of attention to tennis or given it much thought but what a time to carpe diem.  I attended with my friend T and his friend J and we got a ground pass for the full day. We arrived just after 10. The crowd was huge (worryingly so) but it ended up that the crowd size was  a result of the gates not being open yet. All and all it was pretty smooth and easy to get in. Looking back, I would recommend going to the Hisense arena first and then getting a re-entry pass. We ended up going to the show courts first and trying to get into Hisense later in the afternoon. At that point, the woman at the Hisense entry basically told us it would be a 2-4 hour wait and it would be better to watch the matches on tv if we really wanted to see a particular match. That said, as a non-tennis person, I was totally happy watching the show court games. I saw 4 matches (women’s’ doubles, men’s’ doubles, men’s singles, a legends match) and the start of a second women’s doubles. My favourite was probably the legends match because they were hilarious and were obviously not taking the game seriously at all. I also really enjoy the style of doubles matches. By the end of the day I felt like a pro with all my tennis knowledge. “Love.” “Let.” “40-all.” “Deuce.”

I had my first Australia Day in Australia. The actual date of Australia day – January 26 – is a pretty controversial and many Australians do not celebrate the day. I went to a chilled out bbq but I would say the bbq was more about spending time with friends than an Australia Day event per se. Who knows – maybe next year the date will have changed.

In January, I also had a chance to check out the Mornington Peninsula. I went to Point Nepean National Park and walked from Gunners Cottage to Fort Nepean. It is a beautiful place. The landscape is very dry and the sea breeze wafts in from the ocean. On my walk, I saw another echidna (go me for spotting Australian marsupials).

Unfortunately (and fortunately) the hike was pretty rushed as I needed to be back in Melbourne to go the AO women’s finals. What a incredible game that was. The match was a nail biter. Simona Halep from Bulgaria versus Caroline Wozniacki from Denmark. The separation in points was close throughout, with intense rallies between these 2 pros. The court was an unbelievable 36 degrees (which seems impossible for any kind of physical activity). I was cheering for Caroline (who at the start of the match was ranked #2 and the underdog) and she ended up winning! Woohoo!!

The Australian summer heat ultimately led me seek solace at an ice skating rink (…. so Canadian eh). I think that day was an unbearable 38 degrees and going outside meant melting to death. Skating was heaps of fun and reminded me of home. It felt almost like a normal January day back in CA. That is, until I left the safety of the ice rink and walked back into the heat. What is worse? Really hot days or really cold days? I’m still undecided but my summer January in Melbourne was busy and fantastic! A great start to the new year!

Melbourne: November to mid December 2017

Yes, yes, I am severely behind in my blog writing. Again. Obviously, weekly or bi-weekly blog writing is not a strength of mine. Moving on, what’s been happening? Well, let me start with a little pre-Tasmania adventure  update. I’ll try my best to go in chronological order(ish) but because I want to cover a lot of ground and want to keep it short, I may (i.e., will) jump around a bit.

Before I left for Tassie, I decided that I needed to be properly outfitted. So I picked up a pair of Blundstones (which are a Tasmanian brand) and I was ready to face the wilderness. One thing you learn about Aussies is that they shorten most things (if not everything). Blundstones become blunnies and Tasmania becomes Tassie. You get it.

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At the start of November, my salsa class had the graduation party for my level (1.5) in Southbank! It was heaps of fun. The goal, as set out at the start of the party (which I missed hearing by virtue of being late) was to dance with 15 new people. I have to admit this was a hard fail on my part. I definitely did not dance with 15 new people, but I’d say that I danced 5 or 6… so…. go me! Related to this but definitely a time jump, I decided to repeat weeks 3 and 4 of salsa level 1.5 at the end of November because these were the really tough steps to learn. I’m glad that I did because the foundation steps are… wait for it…the foundation to more advanced steps. After repeating the last two classes, I felt much more confident and comfortable with the steps. Unfortunately, it seemed that everyone had the same idea as me because the two classes I attended were jammed packed. I didn’t take any salsa classes in December because of my upcoming birthday and the Christmas holidays but I am excited to return in the New Year and see what salsa in January has to offer.

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At the start of November I also attended my first ever spring races – a.k.a. Derby Day, pronounced DARBY Day in Australia. Derby Day is a themed day – black and white – so everyone dresses up in their black and white finery. I found the races interesting to say the least. I definitely got into the swing of thing in a black dress, pearls, and fascinator. Not going to lie, I kinda loved dressing up. To get into the races, you have to go under the Flemington Racecourse flowered arches and it kind of feels like you are in a movie. Our tickets were cheap, so we went out to sit on the lawns but it was sunny and fun and fantastic. I bet on one horse, Ocean’s 14, in one race. While he had a strong start, unfortunately he didn’t win. While I’m not into horse racing, it’s a milestone that most Aussies seem to do – so I’m glad I had the experience.

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Shortly thereafter, I went off to Tassie. When I returned to Melbourne, the next week and half was pretty much spent in recovery mode. Vacation from my vacation from my vacation. Some of the highlights from this time were:

Going to see Harry Potter in Concert with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I can’t even describe how good this was! The orchestra was playing all the music to the first Harry Potter movie, but the orchestra was so seamless and fantastic, I definitely forgot that they were even there. Every so often I would look down and it would be like, BAM!, Oh Yeah! There is an orchestra playing.

I also visited a Melbourne hallmark – Dejour Jeans in Brunswick. There is a line up to get in and there’s a line up to try on the jeans. Why? Because it’s Dejour Jeans. Obviously. While I think there is a more legitimate reason, I don’t know it. I didn’t leave with a pair of jeans, but I definitely will be back because I am sucked into the idea of having a pair before I leave Australia.

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I also went to the Night Noodle Market, which was a noodle festival just near Flinders station. I’ve got to say, Melbourne and more broadly Australia has its lawn festival culture on point. So at the Night Noodle Market there are a bunch of stands where you can purchase almost any kind of noodles and some non-noodle things. It’s set up in a large park/riverside area. Once you have your food, everyone just chills on the lawn eating, chatting, and listening to music. It’s hard to put my finger on it but it’s just such an easy vibe. Love it!

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I also assisted my ex-housemates in painting the backyard table. Did I mention that both of my ex-housemates are super artistic and fantastic? By assisting, I mean that I had minimal involvement, but it was still a great way to spend a Monday afternoon.

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On a random day in late November, I checked out the Abbotsford Convent and Brighton Beach Bathing Houses. The Convent used to be a Convent and is now used a mixed art centre space. It’s a great place to check out and grab a bite to eat. There are three or four restaurants on the grounds. The Brighton Beach Bathing Houses are an iconic Australia image. They were cool to see but not an experience I would need to repeat. I have also since learned that they are insanely expensive. Like 1.5 million dollars. For a beach house. Which is tiny. Without running water. Or electricity. Gobsmacked!! That night, after a long day of sight seeing, my housemate hosted a Taco party that was great!

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On another random day of sight seeing, I went to Alumentari for breakfast. I then went to the Shrine of Remembrance, followed by the botanical gardens. One thing about such a lovely warm climate like Australia is that all of the big cities have these amazing botanical gardens. If this was a thing I could transplant to Canada I totally would. Later, I checked out ACMI (the Australian Centre for Moving Image), Melbourne’s iconic graffiti alleys, I had lunch in a lane way and went to the DFO. I finished off the day at Smith & Daughters restaurant and a drink at Naked for Satan in Fitzroy.

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I’ve mentioned this before but Melbourne has so many good cafes. Like amazing. For instance, Code Black just off Sydney Road. In a perfect world, I would like to be a paid travel food blogger in Melbourne. Any ideas on how to make this happen would be appreciated.

In non-sight seeing news, at the end of November I moved houses! I have two amazing new housemates and a dogmate. I will definitely be sad when it’s time to move again.

Shortly after moving in, there was breaking news across Melbourne of an impending rain-apocalypse. People left work early for fear of flooding and the news anchors warned people to stay in doors. Taking their advice seriously, I decided to be prepared and dress for the weather. While there was some rain and even some heavy rain on the Saturday – I would not describe it as even close to a monsoon storm.

At some point at the start of December, I wrote about a million postcards. I use the term “million” loosely, but that’s how it felt. Also, postage is really really expensive. It’s basically the same price as the postcard. Come on – international postal system. Surely there is a better way. That said – I think there is something special about receiving international snail mail. It’s nice that someone put in the effort to write to you a letter. However, as I write this blog (almost a month after sending the postcards), I know that many of the postcards have not yet arrived which makes me a bit nervous. I’ll follow-up with the intended recipients in another month or so but if the postcards never arrive, it’s the thought that counts right?

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As I mentioned above, Australia has all these amazing markets with such fun, vibrant, positive vibes. During the second week of December, I went to my local neighbourhood Coburg Night Market and had a great time. Great music, good fun, lots of knick-knacks to buy. So, to revise my statement above, if there were two aspects of Australian culture I could transplant back to Canada, it would be the markets and the botanic gardens. And yes, yes, before Canada yells at me, I know that there are markets in Toronto, but they just aren’t the same. As an entirely unhelpful suggestion, I suggest you come here and check them out and you’ll agree with me.

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Tassie: November 2017

So I am breaking my own self-imposed internal structure and skipping slightly ahead (a week or so) in what is my sort of chronological blog of what is happening while I seek summer. The reason being that I really really really want to talk about my trip to TASMANIA (and rules are meant to be broken, right?)!!! In the blog below there is heaps of detail (points of interest) that would be really helpful (I hope) if you are planning a trip to Tasmania. If you are not planning a trip to Tasmania, you may find the blog more boring than “usual” but in fairness to me, I am warning you in advance.

Where to start? Probably the first thing that I will discuss are my general tips for Tasmania:

  • Tip 1: Cell phone reception can be sketchy outside of the main centres so it is best to have a companion with a different provider (e.g., Optus and Telstra). Even with different providers, you may both may receive the SOS or No Service sign A LOT. So I would highly recommend taking advantage of any of the free maps that are generously provided to tourists. They will help. We used them (it was like going back to the dark ages).
  • Tip 2: Again, once outside the main centres and unless you are on the main highway between Hobart and Lonnie all the roads are really windy. Literally, all of them. While the driving signage says 80 km/hr or 100 km/hr unless you are a local, I highly recommend going slower.  Also, you will notice that there are a number of turns with slower recommended speeds. You should follow those.
  • Tip 3: There is road kill everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Avoid driving at dawn or dusk where possible.
  • Tip 4: The best way to get around Tassie is a hire car but you will have a much more comfortable time driving a slightly larger car like an SUV. There were only 2 of us, but the roads are not always great and we at least felt safer in a larger vehicle.
  • Tip 5: If you are visiting 2 or more national parks (excluding Cradle Mountain) you should buy a park pass for your vehicle ($60). You need a park pass to visit any of the national parks. Individually, each park visit is $28.
  • Tip 6: If you visit the Port Arthur historic site, the pass you purchase allows you access for 2 days so why rush it (if you have the time). Also bring snacks.
  • Tip 7: If you are travelling the east coast of Tasmania (and visiting Cradle Mountain) I would recommend flying into either Hobart/Launceston and flying out of the opposite airport. Saves a lot of driving time.  

My friend C and I, decided to explore Tassie for 8 days and 7 nights. I wish I had slightly more time to spend in some of the locations that we visited so if you have slightly longer to stay that would be better. That said – we managed to see a ton of stuff in the short time we were there.

We landed around noon the first day and after checking into our airbnb we drove up to the top of Mount Wellington. What a spectacular view overlooking the city. It is just incredible. It is about 10 degrees colder on the top of Mount Wellington then elsewhere in the city so be prepared to be cold. On our way to dinner on our first night we stopped to play a rousing game of giant chess in Franklin Square (I felt a bit Harry Potterish I have to admit). We then continued onto the wharf to find somewhere to eat.

Our second day we headed off early with plans to see Fortescue Bay and Port Arthur.  Unfortunately, we had not yet learned the park pass lesson and thought it was a bit steep to pay $28 per park visit given that we were only going to do a short walk in Fortescue Bay. So, we skipped the walk and went straight to the Port Arthur Lavender Farm. Totally worth a visit. The fields are at full bloom in December and January (not the time we were there – early November) but were still worth it. We then spent the afternoon wandering the Port Arthur historic site. We only had a half-day to wander, but the historic site starts with a 20 minute free tour talking about the history of the site as well as a free boat cruise along the harbour. There are heaps of buildings to explore and if you are so historically inclined and want to read all about it before visiting (you might get more out of the experience then I did) but that said – it was great to wander the buildings on the site with no specific plan in mind.

Before heading back to Hobart, located closeby to the Port Arthur historic site is the Remarkable Cave and Crescent Bay. It is about a 10 minute drive. Totally worth it. Apparently, you can see the outline of Tasmania in the unfilled spaces at the Remarkable Cave. It is kind of difficult to see from the viewing platform but as I mentioned, it is so close that it would be criminal not to check it out (insert bad joke here. Port Arthur. Criminals. Get it?)  

We then headed back to Hobart for our second night. We went to the Burger Haus in North Hobart (where there are tons of restos/bars) for dinner and then wrapped up the night walking around the Salamanca Market area (the market itself was not open because – helpful tip, it’s only open on Saturday and you know, during the day).

On our third day we had an early start and drove to Freycinet National Park. On the way, we stopped by Kate’s Berry Farm. At Freycinet we did the Wineglass Bay Lookout walk (about 45 mins to 1 hr return) and then I did the Wineglass Bay Trek which goes down to the beach (about 1 hr return). Spectacular views from the lookout and if you have the time (and energy to walk up about a million steps. Okay. Maybe I exaggerate but at least a couple hundred) then I also recommend the Trek.

For a late lunch on that day we then stopped at Devil’s Corner Cellar Door (which is also an award winning winery) and enjoyed a tiny break. It is about 30 minutes from Freycinet to Devil’s Corner. So after lunch, we decided to head back and finish the day with the Tourville Lighthouse walk (which is a super easy 20 minute boardwalk trek). The lighthouse itself is nothing special but again the views are worth it. This is one of the times – I wish I had more time to spend in Freycinet as there are a ton of hikes in that I would have loved to do.

We spent the night in Bicheno. There is not much happening in Bicheno but you can check out the Bicheno Tasmanian devils if you have the time (we did not) or check out the Bicheno blowhole (which we did).

On our fourth day we drove up the Bay of Fires Conservation Area. To see the outstanding red rocks that the Bay of Fires are known for check out Cosy Corner Beach, Jeanneret Beach and Swimcart Beach. We then stopped by the only winery in the Bay of Fires Conservation Area region which is Priory Ridge Wines. It is a tiny cellar door with a lovely owner and I highly recommend visiting.

After Priory, we went to Pyengana Dairy Company. A short 18 minute drive from Pyengana Dairy is the St. Columba Waterfall. Tip  – the entrance to the Waterfall trail is away from the washrooms, you should go through a little hut, and there is a clear signage. It is not the giant road at the end of the parking area. I don’t know where that road takes you but it definitely doesn’t go to the waterfall.

To wrap up this very long day we finished the drive to Launceston (stopping of course to check out Brook Eden Wines Cellar Door).  For dinner (at like 8 pm) in Launceston we went to Baker’s Lane (the name of a resto/bar not an actual lane). If you are looking for a good night out apparently Baker’s Lane turns into a bar around 11:30 (but I’m too old to stay up that late). Instead, we went to Saint John Craft Beer for a local brew.

On the fifth day (being a Saturday) we checked out the Harvest Market in Launceston. It is amazing. There are so many delicious treats and arts and crafts to browse. I highly recommend it. We then went to the Cataract Gorge Reserve (it is basically within the city and free except for parking so this should definitely be on anybody’s list). The bridge across the gorge is or feels like a death trap (I’m sure it’s perfectly safe) so of course we crossed it.

We then checked out Penny Royal (good for kids, ice cream, zip lining, etc)  and Relbia Estate Cellar Door (also basically within the city). We then went on a wine trail of the Launceston region including Jinglers Creek Cellar Door, Joseph Chromy Wines, and Sharmans Wines. To note about Tasmania wines – if you like a dry wine, this is the place for you. The cool climate results in heaps of Pinot grapes and dry wines. So even a riesling, which is typically a sweeter wine, is on the dry as opposed to sweet side. Tasmania is also known for its sparkling wines (see I listen!). We also stopped by Ashgrove Dairy and the Christmas Raspberry Farm (the raspberry sorbet is so good).

Generally speaking, during this day we were headed in the direction of Cradle Mountain and so the stops were located along that route. We also stopped by Sheffield Town. Sheffield is known for its murals. There are literally murals everywhere. It’s pretty cool.

On our sixth day, we woke up in Wilmont and headed to Cradle Mountain. I love love love Cradle Mountain. What should you know? Basically, everyone has to park outside the park limits. 30 cars are allowed into the park itself at one time, but unless you are the first one there – just park outside the park limits. What does this mean? You will have to take a shuttle bus (free with your ticket into the park) to get around to the different walks. If you want to do the most well known walk – Dove Lake Circuit –  (which is also the farthest from the lot) it is a 20 minute shuttle bus to the starting point. Add this time into your calculations. The last bus back is at 5 pm. We basically had left enough time to do 3.5 hours of walking (the Dove Lake Circuit is 2 hours) – so I would really recommend leaving a full day to do explore Cradle Mountain (if not 2 days) plus if you are staying for a full day bring plenty of water, snacks, sandwiches, etc (we were woefully unprepared for a full day).  I also did the Ronny Creek to Dove Lake (via Lilac Lake) walk. During this walk I saw a wombat (which is not unusual) so I highly recommend doing the walk. I also tried to go up to Marion’s Lookout (made it about halfway) but due to time constraints had to start heading back down (hint hint – leave more time to spend in Cradle Mountain).

We then drove to Devonport for dinner. There’s not much happening in Devonport. However, there is even less happening in Wilmont, which is where we spent the night. If we were to do it again and only leave one day for Cradle Mountain we would probably have driven back to Launceston (but if you are staying multiple days in Cradle then obviously you want to be closer).

On our seventh day, we did the long drive from Cradle Mountain to Hobart. It is about 4.5 hours on the main highway with a stop in Campbelltown. We arrived in Hobart just after noon. We then immediately headed to MONA (The Museum of Old and New Art). The ticket into MONA is $28 AUD and the ferry is an additional $22 AUD.  You can drive and park (so as to avoid the ferry cost) but as another blog pointed out to me, how much did it cost to get to Tassie that you don’t want the full MONA experience. When we visited Mona, the special exhibit was the Museum of Everything! There were some really interesting pieces but like all art it’s probably hard to take in everything in an afternoon. I would give yourself a full day, have lunch, take a break, and then try and absorb more art during the arvo. My favourite piece (or at least the one that stands out in my mind) is the White Library. Everything in the room is white. The whole room is art (so – and this is for you C – you can’t touch anything. ANYTHING). I should mention that if you’re on the ferry you can have a snack and you can also sit on sheep (obviously fake. Of course I knew that before getting on the ferry. Obviously….). MONA lives by the O – meaning there are no labels on any of the artwork and you carry around an iphone that they give you. The iphone gives you basic info like the name of the artist and maybe some background information but I think the point is for you to interpret the  meaning of the art without labels. Meta. I know.

For our last night in Tassie, we went to Urban Greek for dinner! Delicious and great customer service.  

For our eighth day (and last day in Tassie) we spent the day exploring the Richmond area. On the way to Richmond you can stop by the Wicked Cheese Company (which is great and has great customer service). Then you go to the historic town of Richmond which is quaint and cute and lovely. We spotted some baby ducklings going down river and got really excited (yes we are adults). Be sure to check out the oldest bridge in Australia (or so I am told). There are also heaps of vineyards in this area so we stopped by Puddleduck Vineyard, Coal Valley Vineyard and Frogmore Creek Winery for lunch.

After that it was time to get on a plane and head home!! I miss you already Tassie. You are INCREDIBLE! 

Melbourne – the Day to Day (kind of. not really.): September and October 2017

What to say about Melbourne? Well given that I haven’t written in about 6 weeks (I know, I know, bad me) I will stick to the highlights and try to keep it short. I blame the delay in writing on the spring time change. That’s seems entirely reasonable, right…?

 

Salsa Wednesdays

During October I signed up for a 4-week salsa course known as salsa 1.5! It became quickly apparent that I am not a natural dancer (like at all) but it was heaps of fun. I hoped to meet me people (which I did not entirely do – I mean obviously I met people because I had to dance with people but will they become friends is a question yet to be determined). Anywho, 1.5 has a steep learning curve. The first and second weeks are fairly basic and then the third and fourth weeks involve some complex footwork for the women. Nothing like a little challenge at the end of the day. All that said, it was great and I will definitely be back.

 

Canadian Banking Woes

Sometime after my arrival in Melbourne, I tried to take out money from a particular Canadian bank via an Australian ATM. After several failed attempts to access the account, I gave in and decided to make the international call. What a freaking nightmare. Almost an hour later on the phone with said Canadian Bank, in answer to the question what if it is my PIN and not the account, the bank rep said: “yeah, there’s nothing we can do over the phone to reset your PIN, you have to attend a branch.” Ummm hello. You have got to be kidding me. I repeated to the friendly (but apparently oblivious phone rep) that I was in a foreign country and would not be back for a year. “What am I going to do in the mean time? Can I add someone to my bank account? Appoint a POA? What are my options?” Bank rep to me: “I am sorry, I don’t think there is anything that can be done. Perhaps Western Union?” USELESS. SO USELESS. Let’s just say that was not a great night and to make a bad night worse, I was drenched in a storm. On a positive note, a week later it did get sorted out.

 

Finding Canadians Abroad

In Melbourne (like in Brisbane) I have been fortunate to meet some amazing Canadians abroad who have been super welcoming and inviting into their lives. I went to a lovely family dinner style potluck, my first ever clothes swap and a super fun spooky Halloween movie night. Big shout out to these peeps and their friends. Making new friends is no easy feat, and they have made it easier!

 

Melbourne Inner Suburbs and the Transit System

I know that this was discussed in my first blog – the conception of Australia burbs versus Canadian burbs – but I think a friend has hit the nail on the head re: the difference, so I would like to share this insight. As I mentioned previously, the Australian inner suburbs are not what Canadians think of as suburbs. Rather (as explained by my friend) they are just the different neighbourhoods that comprise part of a megacity. E.g., in Toronto there are neighbourhoods like Little Italy or the Junction.

Melbourne has a ton of inner burbs, but some of the more interesting burbs that I have explored (and I use the phrase “explore” loosely to mean picked a location (usually a restaurant) and walked to it) are St. Kilda, Fitzroy, Thornbury, North Melbourne, Carlton, Richmond and South Yarra. I can’t believe how many bars, restaurants, and cafes there are in Melbourne!! If you ate one meal at a different restaurant every day for entire year I don’t think you would see a quarter of the food/watering holes Melbourne has to offer. The point being –there are an untold number of fantastic options for eating and as a result my pants are getting the opposite of lose.

As you may know from my second blog, I live in Boburg (or the boundary between Brunswick and Coburg). Unlike the other suburbs, I think it would be fair to say that I have done a pretty intensive exploration of these two  – and still I have so much more to see. So far I love it. Close to me is the creek, which has quickly become my favourite running route. I am trying to run twice a week. As I am writing this blog entry, I am a bit bummed because they are doing major construction in our area and it is almost impossible to access the creek. While I usually find it pretty difficult to get out and run (and to you know to keep running), I always feel great once the run is over!

On an totally unrelated side note –the Melbourne Transit system is out of this world! It is so good. With the mix of trains, trams and buses, there are usually at least 2 ways of getting where you need to go and it is kick ass! This pic is only the train lines!

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The St. Kilda Pier

Did you know the St. Kilda Pier has penguins? I bet you didn’t (or at least I didn’t). The penguins are super cute and you can get fairly close to them (but no – you cannot take a penguin home with you). The penguins are very miniature! I sort of imagined them as these larger than life waddling bears (I don’t know why) but they are not. St. Kilda’s penguins are Eudyptula minor (in case you are interested).

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The AFL Grand Final and Go-Karting

The AFL Grand Final was hosted in Melbourne. The two competing teams were the Richmond Tigers versus the Adelaide Crows. I have only ever seen 1 live AFL game – and it was an Adelaide game but I currently live in Melbourne and felt the need to cheer for the home team. Divided loyalties. So I decided to stay neutral. Richmond ended up winning and Melbourne went nuts (as Richmond should. I think it was over 50 years since they made a final). On a more self reflective note, this is definitely an instance where I should have exerted some more independence. I really wanted to watch the game but because I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to watch with me, I just stayed in (booo me). That was totally silly. Lesson learned for next time – when you really want to do something – just do it.

I also went go-karting for the first time ever (not by myself). How the AFL Grand Final and go-karting go together, who knows but I decided to chuck them together for the purposes of this blog. Go-karting was heaps of fun! I thought I did fairly well. I am not saying that I am now an avid fan of karting but I definitely want to go back (a couple hundred times). It’s probably the closest experience I will have (and need to have) of being a race car driver! Vroom!!!!!!

 

The Dandenongs (and Emerald Lake) and the Tulip Festival

To date, I have been fortunate enough to go the Dandenogs twice (once for the tulip festival and once for a hike)! The tulip festival were good (although admission was pretty expensive for being in the middle of nowhere) and I’m sure the cold and rain did not help my impression of the festival.

The hike (which is free once you get there) was amazing!! There are heaps of trails. I highly recommend it!! I was lucky to spot an Echidna (which is like an Australian porcupine). Apparently, Echidna are some of the few mammals that lay eggs. Weird. I know. I also went to Emerald Lake. To manage expectations re: Emerald Lake, you just drive up to this smallish lake and walk around. It’s not exactly what I would describe as special. Canadian lakes are way better. But f you are out in the Dandenongs already you might as well visit it!

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Queen Victoria Market/Melbourne Winter Night Market

So the Queen Vic Markets double as a functioning market during the week and a food festival in winter and summer. Pro tip, if you go to the regular market on a Sunday, close to the end of the day you can get some great deals on fresh fruit and veg. DEALS!! They also have all other sorts of things at a regular market like chocolate, cheese, and meat. During winter (and summer, although what’s that saying – you got to see it to believe it) one night a week – the Queen Vic Market turns into the winter night market. At the night market there is great music, food vendors, vendors selling other wares, drinks, fire pits and an overall fantastic time!!!

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Trivia Tuesdays

During September and October – most Tuesdays evenings – I participated in Trivia nights. This was my first ever time trivia experience. I would say that I (and/or my team) are not exactly trivia champions (repeatedly coming in dead last) but it is so much fun! This is something that I certainly want to make part of my regular routine. My favourite team names: A Tribe Called Quiz and the Harry Potter and the Quizards.

 

The House of Mirrors Exhibit

The Melbourne festival was during September. One of the exhibits was an outdoor maze called the House of Mirrors. You entered into the maze and (no surprises here) the mirrors are set up to disorient you, confuse you, and hamper your way to the exit. It was great! I think I went in to the maze a bit over confident but by the end I was sticking out my hands and feet with the best of them.

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Hanging Rock

Hanging Rock is about an hour north of my suburb Coburg. Apparently Hanging Rock is the scene of a famous Australian book (which I have not read) and Australian movie (which I have not seen). It is a volcanic formation and the views from the top are incredible. It’s about an hour easy climb. There are loads of nooks and crannies to explore. I would definitely recommend going, getting to the top, and just enjoying the views.

 

The Hair Product Crisis

Last but not least, a minor comment about moving across the world and trying to find a hair product that works for you. It’s basically an experiment. And by basically, I mean is. It took me 3 attempts, conditioner give aways and very damaged hair but it can be done!!! Eventually you will find something that works for you. Can this principle be applied more broadly to life generally? I don’t know. It seems too deep to think about at 5 pm on a Wednesday afternoon.

Melbourne – Home Sweet Home in Brunswick

Okay so I’m told shorter blogs would be appreciated. So here goes. I landed in Melbourne on Saturday September 9, 2017. I may or may not (definitely the former) had to buy a small carry-on suitcase to shift the weight in my luggage due to differing domestic and international baggage rules. All went smoothly thanks to H (who may or may not have held my hand through the entire process starting with lending me a baggage scale prior to arriving at the airport).

As soon as I landed I was greeted by S and T. Very kind! Our first stop, was an apartment I had arranged to see before leaving Brissy. It was so dingey and the housemates looked, shall we say a bit rough around the edges or worse for wear. Sorry, not sorry. On to the next one.

The next day I scheduled 2 appointments in the afternoon. It was a late night the evening before so I was a sleep deprived emotional wreck of a zombie. To kill time beforehand S and I decided to go 10-pin bowling (which seems to be a big thing in Australia). We then headed to house number 1. It was shall we say, better than the first apartment but not by a lot. The housemates seemed friendly but the house did not have that homey-let’s chill in the living room and netflix and  vibe. So, on to the next one.

House 3 was amazing.It was in the eastend. The housemates were so lovely! It was definitely the nicest I’d seen so far and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring my friends (still working on those) home. However, as may be the problem with being a millenial (not how I would define myself but that is an argument for another time) I was on the fence about committing to the house. The house was leaps and bounds ahead of the other houses I’d seen but it was still missing that glass slipper feel.

So I decided to see 2 more house on the Monday. By this time I needed to get out of my current living arrangements. While my hosts were quite generous, we were all a little bit squeezed for  space. The first house was in St. Kilda, which seems like a great area of town. Unfortunately for me, the house was lacking in many ways. There was no comfortable seating area (and as set out above, the netflix and chill sort of housemates were on my checklist).  Also (and perhaps more importantly) there was no bathroom door. I mean, I suppose that is not technically true. The door existed. Just not on hinges or in any convenient way to open and close it. So you know….. no thanks….

The second house was in a Northern inner suburb. I am told that the City and inner burbs are very divided by north, south, east and west. If you are the north side, you don’t go to the south side. I mean, obviously I will go to the south side because I am exploring and travelling but you take my point. So, back to the Northern house. The house and more importantly the housemates were perfect. As part of the interview chat we had, they asked me what I like to do in the evenings. Netflix and chill I answered. Their response – that is exactly what we like to do. Instant bonding moment, pick me, pick me (I said to myself). Followed, by a literal facebook message saying please pick me, please pick me.

They did!! So that glass slipper fit and for at least the next 2.5 months I have a place to call home and some of best housemates I could ask for 🙂