you still with me? k good. if you thought sydney was fun, just wait until i tell you about melbourne. oh and just so you’re informed, it’s actually pronounced “melbin” -emphasis on the “mel.” in the words of M, “you don’t want to sound like a tourist now, do you?”
our flight to melboune on saturday morning was early. which meant we had to schedule a taxi to the airport even earlier. think the same time we got up for the sunrise early. yeah. turns out neither M or i are that chipper pre-coffee. good to know. after we arrived, checked in and our bags, we headed to the virgin australia lounge where the soy flat whites are free and there’s unlimited newspapers for you to read to get caught up on current events. i chose to read my nook because i was in the middle of me before you and you guys it was so good i could barely put it down the whole trip until i finished it waiting for my return flight and totally cried in the lobby area in front of our gate. anyway, soon it was time to board our flight. when i took a peek at my boarding pass, i learned that we were sitting in business class. i believe this has happened to me only one other time in my 28 years. it was only an hour and ten minute flight but you better believe i milked those business class privileges for all they were worth.
after we landed, we took a taxi to our hotel but it was too early to check-in, so we dropped off our bags and went in search of some coffee. M’s friend had given him a lead for a delicious cup of joe so we followed the directions to postal hall, passing through the gorgeous laneways and eclectic architecture along the way. if i had to compare melbourne to sydney i’d say melbs is like sydney’s more artsy kid-sister. it’s a little more funky and a little more diverse in appearance and vibe. so following caffeination, we set off to explore.
i mentioned “laneways” earlier. melbourne was essentially founded around them. they are narrow alleys that contain a feast for the eyes-graffiti art, sidewalk cafes, tucked away bars. M told me to make sure to look down each one we passed, for you never knew what you may find down each one’s slim corridor. take for instance this gorgeous tagged wall. also, the irony:
after coming up empty-handed on my shopping expedition two days before, i was immediately drawn to the couture-filled windows of the storefronts we passed in our city tour. “wait, can we go in there?” i sporadically inquired of M. “of course.” to be fair, he popped into every camera store we passed so having to endure me trying on clothes at david jones (their version of a neiman marcus) was a fair trade, i suppose. M followed me around as i poo-pooed nearly every brightly colored and matronly frock we passed. my second strikeout? say it wasn’t so! but then i happened upon a section of clothing with a sign that read “country road” which, if you recall from tuesday’s daily outfit post, is australia’s answer to j.crew. NOW we’re talking, i thought. i located the ivory quilted tulip skirt and scampered off to the dressing room to face my fate. somehow i had figured out australian sizing because it didn’t look half bad. and M approved, too. and then the piece de resistance -the fact that it was 50% off the already reduced ticket price. best $25 i’ve spent in a good long while. with a successful shopping experience under my belt, i could feel myself getting stronger. kind of like how popeye gets his strength from a can of spinach.
in keeping with their whole “we’re artsy!” identity, melbourne was featuring an art installation of street pianos aptly titled “play me, i’m yours.” so scattered about the streets were 24 painted and fully-functioning pianos. M and i kind of wanted to locate all of them but that turned up being quite the lofty goal. we made it to four. i posed at the piano for all four photos but spoiler alert, i only actually played two of them. the other ones i just placed my hands on the keys. i know, i’m a fraud. but you try following the asian lady who rattled off a concerto like she was simply tying her shoes. i mean, i can play a shaky fur elise by heart?
at nearly three in the afternoon, hunger was calling. now a few months before my trip i had been in anthropologie (natch) and a sweet australian salesgirl had helped check me out. obviously given her adorable accent, my upcoming trip to her homeland became a topic of conversation. when i mentioned part of my vacation included a trip to melbourne her eyes grew as big as saucers and she eagerly asked if i was a vegetarian. “i mean, i can be,” i replied. she found a piece of scratch paper from the drawer and began scribbling down the name of her favorite vegetarian restaurant in melbs. “vegie bar,” she stated. “my boyfriend is a total carnivore and even he loves this place,” she assured. so when M was planning out the legs of our trip, i put in the request to try said veg eatery. he obliged with some hesitation. i mean, i understood, objectively it seemed questionable. but he was a good sport and ended up loving the dish he ordered. i, on the other hand, didn’t feel too hot afterward. go figure. we popped into little creatures for a pint (cider for me, pale ale for him) to get out of the heat and to wait for my stomach to settle. i’m not certain beer was the best remedy for a feeling of the “meh’s” but you know, i’m into alternative medicine so whatever works. but with the women’s final call time quickly approaching, we hurried back to the hotel for a power nap and an outfit change before the big event.
(inside little creatures)
you know, you imagine how something will look in real life after seeing it on tv for so many years but it’s always different in person. in this case, rod laver arena seemed smaller in stature away from the big lights and production of tv. but that fact made it no less amazing to actually stand in front of its steps and pose for this picture.
as you may know, i’m a big fan of tennis. i’ve played on and off since i was six and both of my parents still play weekly. it’s all but built into our family DNA. with that said, while i don’t have much on my bucket list, one of the things that was added a long time ago was going to all four big tennis majors: the u.s. open, the french open, wimbledon, and, you guessed it, the australian open. to realize that i was getting to proverbially take a pencil and strike-through one quarter of a bucket list item was surreal. honestly. you could not wipe off the goofy grin that was plastered to my face the entire night as we watched dominika cibulkova battle li na (the crowd favorite by a mile) for the title of australian open women’s champion. gah, y’all.
in the excitement of getting to the match, we had forgotten to grab something for dinner. so after we watched li accept her trophy and give one of the most hilarious acceptance speeches i’ve heard in professional sports, i kindly reminded M that perhaps we should get something in our bellies before bedtime. we had been researching authentic mexican food restaurants (an endangered species in australia) earlier in the day so we figured 10 p.m. was a good of time as any to snag some chips and guac and a big margarita. my mouth was watering as we took a taxi approximately twenty-five minutes outside of the city. we pulled down a dark street and pointed out the quaint restaurant on the right-hand side to our driver. we paid the fare and spilled out of the car. as we approached the building, a man emerged onto the restaurant’s stairs. “i’m sorry guys but we’re closed,” he said regretfully. “ah, man!” was all we could reply. bummer city. welp, no use crying over spilt milk. or closed mexican restaurants. M assured me that we’d come up with a fair alternative. i knew as much. there was a whole city full of restaurants waiting for us just another taxi ride away. maybe the old shawna would have freaked out a little bit on account that plan A had fallen through. miss over-planner is not usually known for spontaneity. but i had told myself going into this trip specifically that travel inevitably presents pickles. not the kosher kind, the kind that you get stuck in like in baseball. sometimes things just don’t work out the way you originally planned. that’s just life being life. and above all else, i trusted M completely. he has this way of making plan B even better than plan A ever could have been anyway.
lucky for us we didn’t have to wait too long for another cab to pull up along the highway. we hopped in and M’s quick research had turned up a burger bar called brother burger and the marvelous brew in the heart of fitzroy (the hipster part of town, where vegie bar and little creatures are located and where that hopscotch photo was taken). “done and done,” i said.
i don’t know if it was the fact that i was past the point of hunger or if the veggie burger was really that good but i devoured that baby in record time. and they even had gluten free buns! stuffed but happy and with a bit more life in us, we decided to stop by the black pearl, one of melbourne’s most acclaimed bars, on the way home. it was kind of what you’d expect with a name like the “black pearl.” i all but expected a jack sparrow look-alike to emerge from the shadows. while M got our drinks, i poached a vacant love seat across from the bar. and there we spent the next hour and a half people watching, sharing stories, laughing, and just overall having the best time. if friday’s sunrise over bondi had earned the first place spot for favorite memory of australia, saturday in melbourne was a very very close second.
we awoke on sunday to celebrate australia’s national holiday, aptly named, “australia day.” given the holiday, the restaurants and shops in melbourne were operating under modified trading hours. which is why our first attempt at finding a cool breakfast spot was thwarted, much like the evening before. but remember how i said that M’s plan B’s are usually better than his plan A’s? sunday’s brunch option was no exception. we took a taxi over to a place called st. ali. acclaimed for its signature brewed coffees, one peek inside the interior of the restaurant and i was all in. i mean, how cute and eclectic is this place?
we both ordered coffees and asked our server for her recommendation for our meals. M ordered something called “my mexican cousin” which he shared a bite of and it was of course delicious. and kind of spicy. i opted for a house specialty. some sort of vegan coconut parfait. those white cous cous-looking things were super creamy with a slight hint of coconut flavor layered amongst strips of fresh pineapple and a buckwheat crunch. it was so very futuristic, like breakfast dip’n dots. but it was delicious because i finished every last morsel.
following brunch, we set off for the beach. or at least melbourne’s version of it. melbourne may trump sydney in funkiness but sydney certainly trumps melbs for beach culture. but the quaint beachside community of st. kilda was still beautiful and the perfect place to spend the first-half of our australia day. we walked up and down the pier and through a street fair being held nearby. we even walked through luna park (think coney island-esque). we tried to ride the carousel because how awesome would have those photos been? but you know what the sign said? NO CAMERAS ON THE RIDE. because apparently the st. kilda tourism board hates fun. oh well, we still managed to capture a few playful moments on film. like this one time i wished upon a moon instead of a star. because why not?
after ciders on the porch at the vineyard, we headed back into the city to change and get over to rod laver a little earlier than the night before. no offense to the women, but, let’s be honest, we knew the men’s final would draw a bigger crowd. and we were right. we stopped by the souvenir shop so i could pick up a couple of things before heading over to beer garden where they had various food kiosks and a live band. we grabbed a quick bite before heading inside to locate our seats. there was a greater frenetic energy in the arena than had been present the evening before. given the two opponents, the crowd was prepped and ready to settle in for an exhilarating five-setter. unfortunately, if you followed the events of the men’s final, the evening did not go as anticipated. in the end, there’s no doubt about it, wawrinka earned every ounce of that gold trophy and should be proud to wear his 2014 men’s singles australian open title. he played like the stanimal that he is (get it?!), coming out strong those first two sets. but nadal’s back pain was visceral with every winch and slow-moving serve. once the crowd realized the extent of nadal’s injuries, they began to rally behind him, but it was a lost cause. he played out the match because he’s a fighter but by the fourth set, you could see the writing on the wall. he was so very gracious in his closing statements as he accepted second place honors. wedgie-picking aside, i love me some rafa. he’s an incredible athlete and still finds ways to charm the crowd in the face of defeat.
(rafa in action)
(stan the man accepting his trophy)
after the match let out it was a bit of a zoo. between the finals and australia day the streets of melbourne were packed with men and women of every level of sobriety. i’m not gonna lie, if i hadn’t had a good grip on M, i probably would have ended up being carted off with some drunk twenty-something. but before heading back to the hotel, we weaved in and out of the crazies in desperate search of some aloe vera. someone (me) had completely forgotten to put on sunscreen before leaving for st. kilda for the day and well, even after a week, turns out my skin still wasn’t accustomed to the australian sun. my forehead was the worst offender. which was, as you can imagine, super cute. anyway, after visiting three 7-11’s and coming up empty-handed, we finally located some at a nearby grocery store.
after essentially spraying the entire bottle of aloe over my pink body, we reorganized our suitcases for our early morning departure. our time in “melbin” had been a whirlwind, but an amazing one at that. we were off to dance amongst the marsupials in the morning. next stop, kangaroo island.
to be continued…