"I hate blogs, they're completely pointless"
26th March - Day 5 - Queen Vic night market, Korean BBQ
Feeling a little tired from our trip to the Great Ocean Road coupled with feeling a little overwhelmed by how much we had to organise before we left the flat, my mum and dad headed for a stroll around Albert Park Lake and along the beach while Kirstie and I did a bit of sorting/packing. For lunch Kirstie headed in to the city to meet some people for lunch, while my Mum, Dad and I enjoyed a BBQd Sausage sandwich for lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out in the flat and then headed into the city to meet Kirstie for dinner. We wanted to show my mum and dad the Korean BBQ restaurant (yes two BBQs in one day!). We arrived at Woo Ga and took our place. Having been very satisfied with our last meal, we ordered the exact same thing. For a measly £45 between the four of us we got a huge selection of steak cuts (including Kobe beef) to BBQ on the grill in the middle of our table, a huge boiling pot of soup which was slowly cooking pork and vegetables. It was absolutely delicious again and needless to say we are all stuffed!! After dinner we walked/waddled to the Queen Victoria Night Market for a mooch around to take in the atmosphere.
The Queen Victoria Market which takes place every Wednesday evening is a hodge podge of market stalls, food trucks, live music, bars and entertainment. It all takes place in the one of the hangars which holds the day time market. It is a really cool buzzing atmosphere of just-out-of-work revellers. We stopped and watched a one man band dude putting on a good show, a gypsy jazz band, and generally had a nose at the stalls. After a while we decided to head home.
25th March - Day 4 - Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay, Kennett River, Erskine Falls, Lorne, Mill Market, Sunset by the beach

Today we woke up in the mighty fine Motel Marengo. As normal there were a line of cockatoos on the garden fence eating the seeds the Manager put out for them. We ate our breakfast and hit the road. The first stop was Kennett River where we spotted a few more Koalas in the trees. We then headed to Erskine Falls near Lorne to check out the Waterfall. It did involve a less than leisurely walk down and then up, but it was worth a look. After the falls we headed into Lorne for some fish and chips. As time was drawing on we skipped out Torquay and headed straight for Geelong. We wanted to show my mum and dad the Geelong Mill Market before it closed. The mill market is a huge warehouse full of all sorts of stuff and really cheap prices. There are antiques, furniture, records, clothes - anything you could possibly imagine. Despite being the least interested in the shopping side, I was the only one to make a purchase of a pair of vans shoes - $5! A steal - despite being clearly fake - although very good fakes! As we left Geelong we all felt rather tired and headed home. We arrived to St Kilda just as the sun was setting so we parked up by the beach and had an ice cream and stroll along the pier.

24th March - Day 3 - Great Ocean Road, Lunch by a lake, 12 Apostles, KKK (Koalas, Kangaroos, Kookaburras)

Despite our good intentions of getting up and out early, we left at 11am. We spent the morning getting a packed lunch prepared, getting my Dad and I insured as drivers on the car, and packing for the overnight.

As the weather was a looking a bit dodgy, we decided to do the Great Ocean Road trip in reverse, so we headed past Geelong and inland to Lake Colac where we had our lunch overlooking the lake. We continued our drive to the end of the Great Ocean Road through the rolling hills and valleys which made for nice scenery, and then ended up at the 12 Apostles.

The 12 Apostles are rock stacks that have broken away from the cliffs and they are pretty damn nice to look at. Before we headed to the actual 12 Apostles view point we stopped off at Loch Ard Gorge for a few nice photo opportunities and a quick dip in the water. My mum and Kirstie in their infinite wisdom had a slightly more substantial dip than they had planned for and got caught by a wave. Nothing too drastic, just wet trousers. Needless to say my Dad and I found it rather hilarious! We got back in the car and headed to the 12 Apostles.

We headed along the tracks and looked out across the coast. The weather had brightened up and the views were rather stunning. On the way back to the car my Dad spotted a snake in the grass having a good old chomp on something, but we weren’t really sure what!

After the 12 Apostles, we headed to Cape Otway National Park which is famous for it’s Koalas. We drove the entire length of the park without seeing anything (except for a brief sighting of one in a tree), but on the return journey we saw absolutely loads. It was amazing. Most of them were asleep, but there was one pretty active one having a good old meal on the Eucalyptus! Just as I was saying it would be nice to see some Kangaroos, I looked out across a field and saw about 10! They were quite distant, but it was still amazing to see them in the wild! We got back in the car feeling pretty satisfied, saw a Kookaburra in the trees, and then had to stop as we got stared down by a monster of a Kangaroo on the side of the road. It hopped off into the field, and we then spotted another family of kangaroos right in front of us. It was amazing to be so close to them!

Feeling pretty happy that we had seen quite so many, we headed off to our accommodation for the evening in Apollo Bay. We dumped our stuff and then headed into the village for a spot of dinner in a Thai restaurant that had been recommended to us. It was absolutely amazing and we all had a really nice meal. After the meal we intended to pop to the shop to grab some supplies and realised that the entire town closes down by 9pm, and so we just headed back to the room for a game of pictionary. Boys vs Girls. All the misogynists amongst you will be pleased to know the boys won. By a mile.

23rd March - Day 2 - St. Kilda, Brunch, Melbourne CBD, Hosier Lane, Afternoon Tea, Crown Casino…

After a pretty substantial (and much needed) Sunday lie in, we headed to St. Kilda beach for brunch. We made it just in time to catch the last of the breakfast service. The place was rather nice and right on the seafront, however it was a bit cold and windy to sit outside. We polished off our breakfasts, and the parents a couple of cups of coffee, and headed into St. Kilda. We had a little mooch around Luna Park and Acland Street and then jumped on the tram into the city centre.

We got off the tram in the bustling shopping bit of the city centre (Bourke Street), and then strolled down to Hosier Lane to have a look at the street art. It was looking pretty awesome! We then headed past Federation Square and Flinders Street station and strolled along the river towards the Crown where we had our afternoon tea. Afternoon tea is a bit of a Melbourne institution and is a very popular way to socialise. This time we went to the Crown afternoon tea and it was probably the best one we had been to. It was a buffet and the selection was spectacular. There were sandwiches, chinese dumplings, mini hot pies and then the dessert table did not disappoint. There were four chocolate fountains running concurrently (Milk, white, dark and orange chocolate). There were delicate cakes, ice cream, fruit, marshmallows and a big cheese board. My particular favourite was the Lemon Meringue tart. Delicious!!

Once we had finished at the afternoon tea we headed through the casino and then on home. My Dad crashed out, and we headed to the supermarket for some supplies. We all got a reasonably early night as we were getting up the next day to start our trip down the Great Ocean Road!!

22nd March - Day 1 - Parents arrive (Panic Clean), AFL match, general sleepiness…

Saturday 22nd March, the day that has felt so far in the future was now upon us. It was the beginning of the end of our travels. Today was the day the parents arrive to start our three week Australia Holiday before we head off to Hong Kong and Beijing.

My mum and dad were due to arrive at 2.30pm, and so in the hours prior to their arrival we squeezed in a quick clean and tidy, collected the hire car, popped to the shops, and had brunch meet up/farewell with Alan and Elisa.

We headed to the airport and arrived just in time to see them arrive at the domestic gate. They looked pretty well considering they had been travelling for over 24 hours… good work!

We grabbed the bags and headed out. My mother, desperate for a cigarette, stealthily evaded the authorities and sparked up on the way to the smoking area. Nice work. We got in the car and drove back home. The drive from the airport is pretty nice as you can see some of the weird architecture that Melbourne is famous for, the whole of the city, and docklands. When we were nearly home we ducked into Albert park to drive around the Grand Prix track which is still being disassembled. It was difficult for them to get their heads around the track as much of it had gone, and we were going the wrong way round it.

We got home and got the tea on the go, they freshened up and we popped out for some dinner. After dinner we headed in to the city to watch an AFL game. It was St Kilda (our local suburb) versus Melbourne at the Etihad stadium. It was much busier than the last time we went and we saw how passionate people are about the game. My mum and dad were trying to get into it, but were so tired they kept nodding off!! ha ha!

After the match we all headed home for some much needed sleep!

17th - 20th March - Tas-tas-Tasmania!
With a sneaky week to spare before the parents come we thought we would pop off somewhere for a couple of days for a cheap trip. We considered either Adelaide or Tasmania, but opted for Tasmania as there was much more to do there. We would fly into Launceston and out of Hobart to get as much out of the three days as possible.
We landed in Launceston, jumped on the shuttle bus and headed to the hostel we were staying in. It was Launceston Backpackers. We dropped our stuff off and then headed into the town centre to see what delights awaited. We strolled around what was quite a sleepy and laid back town, it was nice to get out of the hustle and bustle of Melbourne. We walked to the river, popped to a bakery for lunch, booked cinema tickets for the evening, and then headed to Cataract Gorge which is what Launceston is probably famous for in terms of tourism. We had to walk a hefty uphill route to reach the gorge which is pretty picturesque. There were peacocks wandering around, a nice lake, a lido, and then the chairlift. We jumped on the chairlift to reach the other side of the gorge for some awesome views. Kirstie started to get a bit nervous about the chairlift itself and it’s reliability, which led me to overthink our safety and so we both started to get a bit freaked out. Ridiculous really considering roller coasters, bungee jumps, sky dives and flying does not bother me at all. I was more freaked out about a pleasant chairlift ride over a pretty gorge (which was being used by children and the elderly) then all of these things put together. We were very pleased to get off! ha ha!
When we did get off we saw a couple of wild kangaroos just hanging out at the top. Tame as anything!
We did the walk back through the gorge, along the river and into the town centre again. We saw a sign for a chocolate factory and shop so thought it would be rude not to take a quick look. We popped in to see the staff making easter eggs, and sampled (and purchased) some of their chocolates. An unexpected but pleasant surprise!
Once we got back into town we headed to Chinese restaurant for an early dinner. Dining options were limited as most places close for the afternoon and then reopen for food service at 6.30pm. We were bothered in the slightest as the meal was absolutely delightful! After dinner we went to the rather old school cinema to watch 12 years a slave. A pretty cool, if not brutal, movie.
After the movie we went back to the backpackers and got in our room to find there was no bedding, and that you had to pay extra for it. Plus you had to pay a call out fee if you disturb the staff after 8.30pm. They offered us extra bedding on check in, but we did not realise that extra bedding meant duvet. With the thought of paying for bedding, a call out fee, and ignoring a sign that says that ‘Staff deserve to not be disturbed in the evening’ I decided on principle that I wouldn’t fricking bother. I put my jumper on, curled up in the fetal position and thought about my scathing trip advisor review I would give. Wow, what a 21st century way of dealing with a grievance!!!
We awoke, showered and got out of there. We grabbed some breakfast from a little cafe and got on the bus to Hobart. Fortunately for us our next Hostel was about 100 metres from where the bus drops you off. We were staying at a Hostel frog called the Pickled Frog. It was a bright green building and by all accounts a pretty cool place. We rocked up dumped our bags in the room and headed into the town centre to try and figure out how to spend our time. We decided to head to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). We had been told time and time again to go as it was a great way to spend half a day. With me not being a fan of Museums or indeed art, a trip to an art museum was not something I was particularly fussed about, but sometimes you just have to listen to recommendations. I am pleased I did. It was amazing. It is basically a millionaire gambler’s art collection presented in a really cool and weird museum underground.
To get to the Museum you had to take the museum boat, which is adorned with graffiti, weird furniture, life size plastic sheep, and an astroturf deck. Weird, but certainly wonderful. Once we arrived, we were greeted with what looked like a ropey rusty building, but as soon as you get into it and downstairs you realise how bloody cool it is. Instead of having captions to read for each piece of art, you are given an I-phone which has been programmed to track your location and pop up with facts and information about the artwork. You can get a summary, or you can click on the ‘art wank’ button (symbolised by a cartoon drawing of a penis) for more detailed information about it and it’s meaning. Amazing. The actual artwork itself were very odd but very cool. There were projections, Videos, sculptures, paintings all presented in a cool way. We spent a good couple of hours wondering around and really enjoyed it. I spent 30 mins in the TATE modern, so to last 2 hours goes to show how good the gallery is for idiots like me!
After MONA, we got the boat back to Hobart and then headed to a pub for a pub quiz. It was amazing how quickly we were made to feel welcome by staff, the quiz master, and the fellow quiz goers. It was a bit like we were celebrities! We didn’t do too badly either! After the quiz we headed back to the hostel and got a good nights sleep. In a bed. With bedding!
In the morning we got up and thought we would take advantage of the free trip up to the peak of Mount Wellington which overlooks Hobart. Expecting the trip to just take you up for a scenic lookout and back, we didn’t really think there would be an option to walk down to the bottom (which everyone else on the bus had planned to do). Although we were completely unprepared (in terms of footwear and supplies) we thought we would give it a go. It was downhill, how hard could it be to walk a 2 hour hike? What we didn’t realise is that the ‘track’ was pretty heavy going, pretty steep and involved clambering using hands and feet from boulder to boulder. With us not being particularly agile climbers, it was pretty tough - especially when we saw everyone else in hiking boots and we were in vans and converse. We felt every stone! We did make it without incident, however we spent the following three days nursing seriously aching calf muscles!!
Once we got to the bottom we headed to the famous Salamanca square for a spot of lunch and a drink - we bloody well needed a rest!
After mooching along the waterfront and around town we headed back to the hostel to grab our things and get to Hobart airport for our return to Melbourne.
Tasmania was amazing in so many ways, and I suppose it would have been nice to have spent more time there outside of the two main towns and explored a bit more. It had a really nice laid back feel about it - if anyone plans to go to Australia I would certainly recommend it!
After enjoying a decent lie in on Friday morning we got up and spent much of the day tidying and cleaning in preparation for the parents to arrive. They would be staying with us for a week and so we had to get the place in good shape!
11th - 16th March - Sunset bike ride, photo tour, Grand Prix
This week was another week of mainly enjoying my time off. I didn’t do an awful lot except for chilling. On one of the evenings Kirstie and I hired out one of the melbourne bikes and had a cycle along the seafront. It was quite nice to take in the views at sunset. On the Thursday I popped in to the city centre, went to the Cinema to watch Monuments Men which despite crap reviews I quite enjoyed. I then met Kirstie for lunch (taking advantage of a voucher for a free Burrito), and sat in the sunshine. For the afternoon I attempted to go shopping for some more clothes but promptly lost patience and headed home.
On the Friday it was Kirstie’s last day of work in Australia so I met her after work and we headed to Docklands for a reasonably posh meal. We decided to not give a crap about the price and ordered what we wanted. We had three courses, cocktails and all. It was a nice way to round off the working part of our working holidays. After dinner we strolled (very slowly) to the Casino where we had a few games of Roulette. Luck was not on our side and so we gave in. Kirstie left the casino still ‘up’ so there was not much complaining!
The weekend was set to be pretty busy. We enjoyed a long and lazy lie in on Saturday morning, but in the afternoon we headed into the City Centre for a photo tour. It was basically meeting up with a professional photographer who would teach us how to use our cameras properly. He took us to different parts of Melbourne to demonstrate different functions of the camera. We were in and out of well lit and dimly lit buildings, we took landscape pictures, pictures of buildings, people, and moving objects. It was really interesting and very useful.
We rounded the tour off with a trip to a dumpling house (I LOVE DUMPLINGS), and then we headed home.
Since Thursday the Grand Prix circuit was all set up and we could hear the cars, helicopters coming and going, jet planes screeching overhead. We overlooked Albert Park and so we were really close to the action. We couldn’t see anything from our house as we were at the other end of the park, but bloody hell it was loud. Despite not really being big GP fans, we thought that considering we could hear it and that we were so close, and it was a pretty cool experience, we got tickets to go. It only cost us £40 for the race day, which by all accounts is dirt cheap compared to the UK. We walked across the park and into the grounds of the race. It was really weird seeing Albert Park Lake (something I have ran around quite a few times), surrounded by track, grandstands and swarming with people. There was a whole programme of events both on and off the track (Formula 4 races, Porsche races, stunt bikes, live music etc). The event (other than the GP) that I was most excited about was seeing Tony Hawk and friends doing an exhibition skate on a half pipe they had set up. It seemed an odd setting for skaters, but it was pretty popular and there were a lot of people there. Tony Hawk was skating, as were fellow professionals, and then also a contingent of the top young Australian skaters as young as 8! Tony Hawk was on another level to all of them (as you would imagine), but they were all pretty good. The rain that kept coming and going made the event stop and start and eventually it was called off, but of what we did see it was pretty awesome.
We made our way over to some of the mini stands to try to get a decent viewpoint of the race. There are concrete blocks lining the track so we needed to be elevated to see anything. Fortunately around the back of the track there was a free stand so we camped out there for an hour. Kirstie nipped home to grab a couple of cushions, a blanket and some supplies. Just before the race there was a drivers parade where they were all being driven around the track slowly in open top cars and waving at the crowd. As Jensen Button drove past I gave him a cheer, which he heard and gave me a wave - aren’t I the coolest?
We waited for a bit longer and then the race began. The tannoy speaker nearest to us was not really working that well, so we couldn’t really get to grip with what was going on, all we could see was the cars zooming by. Kirstie was being given race updates by our friend back in the UK, and that is the only way we could get a sense of which car was which and who was who. We were surrounded by quite passionate fans who were all very excited, but we were a bit detached from the race as we had no idea what was going on!! ha ha. It was still an awesome event, amazing to see the cars so close. This was one of many events that prove that Melbourne really know how to put on a show!

3rd - 10th March - First week off, a weekend of wine and food, and the bird man rally!

My first week of no work! WOO YEAH!

I spent much of the week doing boring stuff like tidying the house, doing grocery shopping, applying for our Chinese visas, looking at job opportunities back home, and applying for a CELTA course for when I return. Pretty productive! On one of the evenings we met up with an old Swinburne colleague and his wife for dumplings at the famous Hutong dumpling house. They were spectacular. YUM.

On Friday night, as per mine and Kirstie’s new tradition of doing stuff every Friday night to make the weekend feel longer, we headed to the cinema to watch ‘Tracks’ which was an Aussie movie about a woman who walked through the desert in Western Australia with a small group of camels. A pretty good film!

On Saturday we had booked to go on a Winery tour. Seemed a bit odd considering neither of us really like wine, but being on the doorstep of some pretty famous vineyards in the Yarra family, we felt it had to be done before we went home. We were collected from the city centre and joined a group of only about 10 people, and toured around the different vineyards sampling their different wines. It was quite an education, learning the differences between the wines and confirming I am not really a fan of any, really! I did get a bit tipsy throughout the day, and so it ended at just the right time! We had a pretty decent lunch at one of the vineyard restaurants and had a glass of their wine with it! Delicious!

When the tour had finished, we headed to Alan and Elisa’s place for a pizza night. Elisa, being the awesome cook she is, made all of the pizza bases and toppings from scratch and made me a selection of non-cheese ones which were delightful! A day of wine and pizza turned out to be pretty decent!

On Sunday we got up relatively early and headed into the city for the Birdman rally as part of the Moomba festival. The event is basically people raising money for charity, getting dressed up, and ‘flying’ over/into the river. There were hundreds/thousands of people there but the event itself was pretty slow, the sun was absolutely roasting us, and we didn’t last particularly long so we headed for a stroll along the river and then headed home for a much needed afternoon nap (Saturday was full of alcohol, full of food, and a late night!). It was a pretty nice weekend overall!

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One of the Vineyards…

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A wine connoisseur. Clearly. 

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Some of the many wines!!

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Grape picking!

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People lining the river for the bird man rally!

24th February - 2nd March - Last week of work, being in ‘The Project’ studio audience, Gambling addiction, St. Kilda coast walk…

That’s it. I am officially back on holiday, unemployed and slowly dwindling down the last of my savings. The next time I go to work, I shall be walking into a new workplace. How very strange, and also very cool. The last 11 weeks of work have been very stressful, very busy, VERY LONG HOURS, but all in all actually quite fun.

On Friday evening we went to the Channel 10 studios to watch the The Project get filmed. The Project is similar to the One Show, but actually quite funny. Their guest panelist was Richie Sambora from Bon Jovi (which we weren’t actually that bothered by), and a lot of people were quite excited by it. Afterwards we headed along Chapel Street and had some dinner in a quirky little Caribbean bar.

On Saturday we headed into town to return to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and had a little walk around. I had a little go on Mario on the NES. It was quite weird seeing something I remember being really modern, in a museum display. Made me feel a bit old!

Afterwards we headed to the Casino. Kirstie is getting a little addicted, but it is ok if you’re making money. She put in $20 and got out $70. I put in $20 and got out $15. Not bad really. For Kirstie she has now made about $100 profit from the casino. I am not quite sure how she does it. Thankfully it hasn’t reached the point where she is gambling with her life savings. Yet.

On Sunday we spent much of the morning booking various bits and pieces for my mum and dad’s trip. They arrive in a couple of weeks, and so we have just about pieced together a plan for their 10 days in Melbourne! In the afternoon we walked into St. Kilda and sort of carried on going along the coast and walked past St. Kilda Marina to Point Ormond. It was a really nice day and a stretch of beach we had not yet ventured to - silly really, as it was far less busy and much cleaner than the main St. Kilda beach!

After stopping for a drink, we headed back into St. Kilda and headed to a bar we often visit for lunch, and arrived just as a reggae band was setting up. They were awesome and really made for a nice chilled out afternoon eating a ridiculously large meal. Once we had finished up we waddled home and hung out for the rest of the evening.

Tomorrow is the first day of not having to get up for work, and so I am looking forward to having the freedom to do whatever the hell I want! Although, rather boringly, I think I first need to attend to the housework!

imageChannel 10 studios… where The Project is filmed.

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A museum artefact.

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Me riding a bronze rhino. Of course.

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Kirstie’s winnings in the casino. The disapproving look on the ladies face says it all.

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St. Kilda Marina…rather nice.

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I have no idea what this sign means. Ministry of silly walks?

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The view from Point Ormond. The city in all it’s splendour.

22nd-23rd February - White Night, Mebourne

…White night. One night when the whole city centre is closed down between 7pm - 7am and art and culture comes out on show. Live music stages in the middle of normally bustling streets. Art installations, light shows, street performances all down the hidden laneways and passages. Short films being projected onto walls and random screens. The main square turned into a party. The famous buildings and bridges  being morphed into something completely different through light projections. Chaos, craziness and crowds… One of the best nights in Melbourne…

White Night sign on Prince’s bridge. Graffiti artists were spray painting it throughout the course of the evening.

Live music stage on La Trobe street

'Purple Rain' - In the Melbourne Gaol courtyard, water spray illuminated with purple light, while the chords of 'Purple Rain' were being played. Everyone was given an umbrella for the occasion.

A burlesque style street performer…

Flinders Street illuminations…

Live music stage on Bourke Street

Inflatable light cones next to Hosier Lane.

Flinders Lane spotlights.

Part of St. Paul’s Cathedral

Flinders Street Train Station disguised as Luna Park…

The Yarra River…

'Crepuscular Beam' - With the moon joining the party.

A magenta Prince’s Bridge…