As I’m writing this I’m sitting on the edge of my seat. Not because I’m overly excited but because I’ve successfully burnt both arse cheeks, if I sit all the way back it’s comparative to sitting on hot coals, it’ll be a few days until I’m ready for that. We have finally got some colour on our pale limbs, some brown, some pink, but colour nonetheless.
We headed to the Mussel Market in South Melbourne, en route we walked through Albert Park which was already being set up for the Grand Prix so we got the pleasure of walking on the track and through the behind the scenes set up that was taking place ready for day one. The food market was very busy and smelled insanely good with all of the flavours. We witnessed the cutest old couple get up and start dancing to the blues music played by a live band. They danced until the music stopped – an impressive feat considering the temperature. Some paella and a corona later and we’d had our fill and set off towards the Moomba festival for the men’s and women’s slalom qualifiers. Having sat with goosebumps the previous day we thought we’d been smart and worn jeans, but were consequently baking. Melbourne’s weather shows all 4 seasons in one day so it’s nearly impossible to get your clothing options on point. We got the tram out of the centre towards the beach just in time for sunset – we were not disappointed. The sun was strong and bright and perfect for some postcard photographs. We popped down to the end of the pier to see how the penguins were fairing with the crowds today. We found the large crowd once again and were pleased to see the tide was in so the penguins were at an advantage with the humans kept off the beach. There was one penguin that was taking the heat of the cameras – almost like they were taking it in turns to be the one out of the water – popping out one at a time. Adam’s hawk eye noticed the baby penguin that was hiding under the rock that my foot was resting on, he was very close to the pathway but in such a small dark hole that no-one had yet noticed him. We said nothing and just enjoyed his calmness in such chaos, no sooner had we walked away had the penguin warden found the little guy and was now alerting the hoards towards his whereabouts, harsh torch shining down on him. Her role to protect the penguins became questionable at this point.
We spent a lazy morning catching up on sleep and getting our things organised, we headed to the beach. After an hour or two of laying on the sand, and a nap or two each we decided to go for a walk….and walk we did. We went down to the St.Kilda marina and on further to Elwood beach and back again. We should have stopped there. We decided to walk up a little further, past the St.Kilda beach, up towards Albert Park. Then further towards South Melbourne beach, up further towards the piers before realising our surroundings and the sheer lack of public transport. We knew we were far from home and could see the high risers of the city centre, so began our trek into the centre towards the tram home. We realised we’d timed our walk to finish right around dinner time and just in time for the finalé of the water sports at Moomba. Some german beers and a bratwurst later and we’re back on the river bank watching the fireworks light up the River Yarra. In total we walked 18.5km, (11.55 miles)…and our feet knew about it.
This week has been more laid back than our first, we intentionally made time for beach days to maximise the 26 degrees sun. We blame our sunburn on the 25mph wind we experienced on the sand. If it wasn’t for the cool breeze we’d have been able to tell that we were turning a deep shade of pink, which by 8pm and post cold shower was now …maroon. 2 inches of aftersun later and we felt a bit better. We’re staying in a very modern and clean high rise building. Perfect for non-clumsy, OCD clean me. Adam on the other hand, has been struggling somewhat. In the blurb of the apartment it was clear that the cream carpet was to be kept cream at all times, Adam missed the memo and clonked his big toe straight into my tea sending the entire mug and its contents across the floor. There was a very long 5 second pause before either of us moved into action. The realisation of what just happened, and the panic on both of our faces was both entertaining and frightening. It may seem like an over-reaction however the fear of us even taking our tea into the bedroom in the first place showed that our hosts knew Adam very well already. A lot of dabbing and with an important purchase of some $5 stain remover meant the 2 day old stain has now gone (hoping they won’t somehow read this!) PHEW!
We layered on the sunscreen and kept the ‘pink bits’ hidden from the sun all day. At St. Kilda Beach there was a group of Melbourne parents and toddlers enjoying the sun and sand, which was cute to watch for a while, the youngest of the children quickly had enough of the heat and lay down for a rest – face down in the sand. His witty mother was very quick to remark how her two year old son was now one of the ‘English Backpackers’ asleep facedown on the beach. True enough when you scan your eyes across the beach scattered every 10m are small huddles of hungover twenty somethings – asleep face down on the sand.
After a couple of hours we moved to the grassy area for some shelter on the mounds. Our plan worked, and we had some live entertainment in the form of flair cocktail training by bartenders. Still feeling a little too pink to be lying in the sun we picked up our stuff and headed to Acland Street where there are local shops, musicians and graffiti dotted around. It very much has a Burlington, VT feel to it. There’s hemp shops on every corner and incense sticks fuelling the street, but the locals are desperate to keep St.Kilda in its original form without the intrusion of high street brands – the introduction of the tram is a large negative as there just isn’t enough room on the road for everything. There’s trinket shops hidden above bakeries, only identified by the sound of soul music beating loud, there’s life in areas that you wouldn’t expect.
We made ourselves look human and headed to an arcade bar, Bartronica, which only opened last week. Adam picked up a flyer for it on our trip through the lanes with Nat and Will last week. Downstairs we found the bar surrounded by arcade games and game stations, it worked well but we couldn’t help dissect the place and discuss what we would do better if we owned it. Adam’s skill for picking up flyers and coupons is coming into it’s own and our luggage weight is ever increasing due to the collection of paper – handy when you need 20% discount! We also popped across the road to Va Piano where we sat on the balcony and we sat there feeling toasty under the heaters overlooking the street below.
7:34am. Vrrrrrrm VRRRRM VRRRRRRRRM! The formula 1 cars are practising. …7:34am! It is novel, it is exciting and we can see the track from the bedroom window so it was a new way to be woken up! After an early wake up (Any time before 8am is early for us unemployed travellers) we had a productive morning planning and preparing for Sydney next week. We’ve sorted flights and accommodation for the next 2 weeks. Adam’s question “What’s that theatre place everyone goes to see?” will not be forgotten …The Sydney Opera house? A mere lapse of concentration perhaps! We got up and ready and headed for the Melbourne Aquarium, where we found a child orientated entrance and reception and decided not to spend the £38 -20% on tickets and to instead spend our money more wisely – shopping! Harbour Town shopping mall was quite large, not by American standards, but larger than what we’ve seen yet. Outlet stores galore, but as usual the outlets only sell the things that nobody wants. So a successful trip round concluded with having only bought smoothies and also a blue top for $2.95. There’s a store here called SUPER GLUE where once you’ve stepped inside it’s difficult to leave. On arrival you get a free cold beer, you notice a DJ on the decks and the hoards of people milling around not knowing what to do first. If you purchase a pair of jeans you can have a free haircut at the pop-up barbershop near the entrance, alternatively you can get your clothes tailored by the in-store tailor, or in the women’s department there’s free nail treatments. It’s difficult to know where to start but we hung around long enough to finish the beer and thank the bouncer at the door.
7:28am and the V8 cars on the track were doing their best to wake us up. They were triumphant. I rolled over and popped my new earbuds in, given to us by our kind hosts to try and appease the noise. The noise still got through a little but were a big help. The hindrance came when I woke up and Adam let me know that the combination of earbuds, blocked nose and sore throat had resulted in my sleeping face being comparable to Donatella Versace on a bad day.
We successfully navigated our way to Brighton beach, with no thanks to the Melbourne tourist guide. Having taken two trams, we expected to arrive on the seafront, camera at the ready, but there was no sea, no sand, just sun (bonus)! We appeared to be on a busy main road with little to no pedestrians. We walked towards some life and stumbled upon a small moroccan boutique selling imports, we walked in for directions – expecting, for obvious reasons, someone moroccan – but instead were met by a very strong Scouse accent. The English really are everywhere here. He directed us to a bus, the alternative was a 45 minute walk, after 10 minutes we could finally see the sea and the sand! We walked along the seafront and found the famous bathing boxes where we of course asked the most trustworthy looking strangers to take our photo for us. Walking back up the beach we noticed a kite surfer who was making the most of the empty beach and coastal wind. He approached us for the time, but sure enough, he had an English accent too! Strolling on further we found the town centre and consumed $16 worth of ‘Waikiki Peach’ fro-yo and toppings. Brighton is an expensive end of Melbourne but definitely a safer, more up market place.
We headed back to the City on the train, as advised by our new Scouse friend, only 20 minutes and we’d arrived into the hustle and bustle of 5pm pedestrian rush hour on a Friday Afternoon. Dodging the suits and students left right and centre we found ourselves a sunny spot of grass outside the State Library of Victoria and began people watching until our dinner with Tia (Adam’s friend from studying at University) at 6:15pm. We noticed there was a strange lady dressed wearing all beige and a neckerchief, another lady wearing safari gear and a large red hat and another one spinning a large red umbrella – today there was no sign of rain so definitely no need for the umbrella. There were many more peculiarly characters (some probably regular Mebournians) that definitely weren’t being ‘normal’. After a while we saw that when people sat next to Neckerchief, she would politely ask them to move. They obliged and moved away. Only when someone approached Red Hat and were directed to Neckerchief were they allowed to stay seated. They had a short conversation from the inside of her fake newspaper before moving on. Adam tested this theory by going and sitting next to Neckerchief. Before she could ask him to move he let her know that he knew she was going to ask him to move, but would like to know why or what for. She acted coy and became tightlipped, mentioned a secret performing arts group that were stationed all over the park and to please move on. We didn’t have time to see the performance, but after nearly an hour of build up I hope it wasn’t building to an anti-climax.
The journey home saw 3 homeless guys gather around us and compliment Adam’s mohawk and my brown eyes. We were getting drunk on their fumes, this was a good example of the locals in this part of town, there are a lot of homeless people in St.Kilda, by day or by night.
On our walk through Albert Park we went to the ticket office of the Grand Prix to enquire about general admission – where we gained access/how much it cost for race day – and were met by a Brighton local. He was kind enough to sell us student tickets saving us $30 each so it was a no brainer and we bought the tickets there and then! in 2 days we get closer to the action, closer to the cars and much closer to the noise – earplugs at the ready.