Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Round the world: Melbourne, Australia

Where I am

First port of call down under and, my, am I disoriented! I can't tell if it's the 18 hour flight, the first real instance of jetlag or, as my lovely friend Helen put it, that I'm 'upside down now', but I keep having to double check the day, the date, where I am, whether I remembered to wash the conditioner out of my hair...

Still, I couldn't ask for a lovelier city to be confused in.  I had almost no expectations about Australia.  As Bill Bryson puts it, it's a long way away and never does anything nasty and explosive to draw attention to itself, so hadn't considered it overmuch.  Whatever expectations may have lingered for a nineties childhood watching Neighbours, Melbourne expelled and surpassed them all.  What a great place! Compact, Continental (in attitude and style) and extraordinarily pretty about the architecture.  That old Mebourne Sydney rivalry is nonsense far as I'm concerned. Melbourne has it, hands down. 

Where I stayed

The Nunnery in Fitzroy, the trendy part of town, 'natch.  It was great to be in an old building again after the newness of North America.  It was high-ceilinged, quite creaky and it had a huge fireplace in the sitting room, so obviously I loved it.  A lot of the other boarders were long-term residents, which gave it a more settled and homely air than the transience usually associated with hostels.  Plus they knew where all the nice bars were for the hostel pub crawl...

What I read

Ben Goldacre's (swoon) new one, 'Bad Pharma'. However bad you suspect the pharmaceutical industry to be, rest assured it's a lot, lot worse.  A lot worse.  Go, read, get angry and follow his instructions.  I wish all blood pressure raising treatises came with 'what you can do now' sections.

What I listened to

Alanis' 'new', as in I haven't listened to it yet, rather than it just came out, one - Havoc and Bright Lights.  It's good, but I still liked her better when she was angry.

Modest Mouse - 'Good News For People Who Love Bad News'.  It's extremely gratifying to listen to listen to 'World At Large' without desperately wanting to run away, because I already have.

What I imbibed

Excellent, strong and dark coffee at 19 Squares followed by their speciality one pot breakfast of 2 eggs, roast veg and chorizo in a ceramic dish.  Reasonable prices, good wifi and the friendliest staff, usurprising it got 'Best coffeeshop in St Kilda's' in the local paper that week.

Feverfew tea to try and cure my headache in a tiny creperie in the Degraves laneways. It's disgusting, but it works.

The best lemon meringue pie I have ever, ever eaten at a non-descript bar by St Kilda's pier.  If you're in the area, it was orange and had umbrellas outside and did not look like it would contain such great pie.  That's the best I can do for a description.

A slightly over budget dinner at the uber cool ChinChin, an Asian diner decked out in monochrome with bunny rabbits of pink neon and retro posters.  Lucky for me, one of the chefs left a caterpillar in my tom yum soup (from the coriander) so I got it free. No longer over budget. Yay.

What I did

Lazed around sketching in the weak sunshine at Federal Square Park.

Got cold and felt vindicated for buying some extra layers in San Francisco.

Was impressed by the size and eclectic scope of the Melbourne Museum.  I was particularly taken by the indoor bush replica (at least until they informed me there were Huntsman spiders in there and I fled shrieking) and the visiting photography exhibition of several generations of one family building a traditional canoe.

Found I wasn't quite 'museumed out' at the Immigration Museum, where I was rendered repeatedly teary eyed by all the stories of old lives left and new lives built.

Went for a long run through the ropey/cool Collingwood area.
Got a thai massage as I pulled a muscle in my shoulder picking my bag up after the long flight.  Once again struggled to explain my freakish ticklishness to someone without a strong grasp of English.

Saw 'Ruby Sparks'.

Supped more great coffee in the bohemian dream of the Degraves street lanes, a series of shoebox sized boutiques and coffeeshops and delicatessens all open fronted, piling patrons into the streets and surrounded by bills and grafitti-clad walls. 

Shivered at the end of St Kilda's Pier with a lovely American girl for company for two hours waiting for the Fairy penguins to decide it was bedtime. Yes, you read that right. Fairy. Penguins. Or, quite possibly the cutest things on earth.  We spotted some bedding down between the rocks, but thankfully a couple came out to flap their tiny fins. We all melted from adorableness and puddled into the sea...

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