"Time flies when you're having fun." It seems like just yesterday we were packing our bags in New Zealand and flying to Australia. Our Australian adventure began on January 12th and it's passed by in the blink of an eye. It's been quite some time since we updated the blog, but we were having too much fun (as well as a lack of wifi) to get new posts out. We arrived in Bali last week and finally have found some downtime to share stories about our adventures and all the wonderful places we visited during our five weeks in Australia.
If you're looking for large city with lots to do, huge varieties of ethnic food, and a youthful environment then Melbourne is the place to be. We were suffering from the post-New Zealand blues, as we didn't know how any place could follow. Melbourne was a great way to enter Australia, after spending a month in rugged, New Zealand. As we drove into the city from the airport, it was as if it was the first time either of us had seen a city, since even Auckland, NZ's largest city, pales in comparison to the size of Melbourne.
Our time in Melbourne was short-lived and we're unable to tell you about the plethora of things to do that the city has to offer. We arrived later in the night of January 12th, checked into our AirBnb, and went to bed immediately. We stayed in a private room of an AirBnb located on Batman Street, right next to Flagstaff Gardens. We started the next day shopping and found a large shopping mall in the heart of Melbourne called the Emporium. The Emporium is a new mall that has all the designer outlets in it and connects to a Myer's, Australia's equivalent to a Macy's. Hannah found a dress to wear for some of the fancier things we had planned while in Melbourne and Sydney.
The big highlight for Melbourne was catching up with our new friends, Matt and Nicole, that we met in Queenstown, NZ. They had made arrangements to fly down from their home in Brisbane to meet us in Melbourne for a fun weekend out. Matt had planned the day all out already. It began with a 1pm lunch reservation at Iki-Jime. This spot was chosen by Nicole, who is a big fan of Shannon Bennett, who you might know from the popular cooking show, MasterChef. The restaurant is a seafood lover's paradise and is named after a Japanese tradition that promotes a more humane method of killing fish. Not only is it a seafood lover's paradise, but it's a great way to introduce someone to seafood. Hannah typically does not like seafood and steers wide away from even trying dishes of the sea, but she tried AND liked everything on the table. We ordered everything family-style, from roasted yeast and apple-glazed barramundi head, to bonito tartare, to multiple flavors of oysters, to a very non-traditional fish and chips. We had a 5 hour lunch catching up and continuing our time getting to know each other. Matt's old friend Natalie and her boyfriend Arun joined us for the affair. There was plenty of banter and laughs shared. Each recipe was exactly on point and the sommeliers paired the wine perfectly with our dishes. If you're looking for the best seafood in town, go to Iki-Jime!
Wonderful lunch with new friends at Iki-Jime
Our host at Iki-Jime reserved us a table at Lui Bar, Melbourne's "epitome of class and charisma." He also personally escorted us on the 15 min walk from the restaurant to our seats at the bar. The location was on the 55th floor of the Rialto Hotel, offering 360 views of Melbourne. While enjoying your cocktails at the Lui Bar you can witness, first hand, all four seasons of Melbourne in only a couple hours. The wine and spirits menu is immensely vast and if you ask your server they may even show you their impressive top-floor wine-cellar, which only touches on their whole collection where the majority is kept in the lower floors of the hotel. The cocktail list was very innovative. Matt and Nicole had turned us onto espresso martinis, and Lui Bar's were specially made and served. We tried many concoctions and enjoyed more bottles of champagne. Nicole's brother met us half-way through the evening. The 5 of us continued to a late dinner at a Southern American inspired BBQ joint, called Le Bon Ton. It was a great way to end a day full of drinking, with tender, smoky flavored meats and all the comfort food sides such as mac n cheese, slaw, and potato salad. Not only did they have American-style BBQ, but they had a lot of American craft brew favorites of ours include Stone Brewing Co, Kona, and Goose Island to name a few.
Hannah and Nicole and the delicious espresso martinis
Views of Melbourne from the Lui Bar
On day 39, we picked up our new home and method of transportation for the next 30 days, Van Essa. We rented a mini-van converted into a camper from Apollo rentals. We will provide our review of the van in our last post on Australia. From here, it was back to van life. We organized our stuff the best we could and went back to Melbourne CBD, to the Princess Theatre, where we caught the Book of Mormon for our first time. Mostly all of the first world has heard of the cheeky musical, written by Matt Stone, Trey Parker (both Southpark creators), and Robert Lopez. I admit that I was hesitant I'd enjoy myself too much just because it was a musical, but laughed harder than I had at most TV shows or movies. A truly must see musical for those who are not easily offended and like that Southpark-style humor that pokes fun of all our modern day faults and beliefs.
Espresso martinis before the Book of Mormon
We visited St. Kilda on our last day in Melbourne. St. Kilda, located just 6km outside Melbourne CBD is a seaside experience full of quirky bars, acclaimed restaurants, and oceanside fun. We enjoyed a delightful breakfast at Abbey Road, a vibrant hang out full of vintage music posters and instruments and great for people watching. We checked out the beach and the coastline of St. Kilda and heading toward Melbourne CBD.
Having a backlog of work due to New Zealand's lack of reliable wi-fi, we spent a lot of time in Melbourne catching up on work. If you are considering Melbourne, allow yourself at least one week to even skim the surface. If you're a city person that loves that city life, you could easily spend a whole 2 week vacation in Melbourne alone.
Did you know?
Melbourne is the capital of the state of Victoria, and it is known as Australia's culture capital. As of 2013, 38% of the population of Melbourne was actually born overseas. With a population of about 4.8 million "Melburnians," it is the second most populous city in Australia. The city is big on the arts, music, theatre, sports, and much more forms of entertainment contributed by its melting pot of different ethnicity. If you have or ever do visit Melbourne, it's easy to see why it's been ranked the most livable city every year since 2011 by the Economist Intelligent Unit.
Melbourne is said to have four seasons in one day. Though this is more of an urban myth or, at least, a stretch of the truth, the city does experience quickly changing weather through out any one day. For instance, our first day in Melbourne was a great example of this saying. We started off the morning and it was really sunny and hot, with clear skies and no rain clouds in sight. After we got ready, within the same hour we walked out the door and the skies were now dark with rain clouds, prompting us to go inside and grab our raincoats. While we were at the Lui Bar you could see it sunny and hot one hour, rainy the next hour, foggy the next, and then back to sunny. This is because the city has very hot climate inland of it and very cold ocean water and air on the other side, causing the unpredictable weather patterns. If you visit Melbourne, remember to bring different layers of clothes when you go out for the day. If you're from San Francisco, this should come naturally for you.