The Travel Blog That Wasn’t – Australia part 6 (April 2011)

Being an accountant, April is my busy time (I still have clients in Canada, plus a lot of my other non-accountant-y work also peaks in April).  But I still found time somehow.

I finished off March by finally making it to a Canadian Australian Club event — the CAC was started decades ago by a number of Canadians who organised a Canada Day event and realised the potential of a longer-standing organisation.  We went to a play at the Darlinghurst Theatre (where, earlier in the year, I saw a musical about the real estate industry which was hilarious), and it was rather nice meeting some other Canadians and learning of their experiences with moving to Australia. Most of them were much more permanent than I, but it was great to get some insight from them.

I then (the next day) headed to Melbourne.  You’re probably thinking – why wait until you’ve been to the rest of Australia to finally go to Melbourne?  When I visited Australia two years earlier, Melbourne had been one of my stops, so I didn’t feel the same sense of urgency to get to it — I knew I would eventually go, but since it’s close to Sydney and I’d been before, I knew I could handle waiting a while to go.  I arrived in town in the evening and had a quick wander around the CBD and an early night — I was booked on a tour of the Great Ocean Road the next day.  I’m glad I did a tour rather than driving it myself, and I’m glad I only did a one-day tour. The Great Ocean Road is a must for all visitors to Victoria, and it’s beautiful, but one day is enough.  Unfortunately, most of the highlights are towards the end of the day’s journey and by then you’re usually fairly tired and losing daylight!  Nevertheless it was a great day, with various stops to see tropical birds, koalas, and ultimately the 12 Apostles rock formation.

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When I arrived in Melbourne the first night I stumbled across a Bike Share dock which was beyond exciting to me.  After tweeting about it, I got a response from @BIXItoronto that it was the same system as BIXI runs (it turns out they have licensed the technology to a number of cities).  I figured it was a great chance to try it out, so the day after the Great Ocean Road tour I signed up for a day pass.  I’ve blogged more about the Bike Share experience here so I won’t go on too long.  I’ll just add that one of the coolest souvenirs I’ve gotten anywhere, ever, was the Melbourne Bike Share helmet that I got there — and still have today (and will start to use again as soon as I buy a bike).

Anyway, once I bought a helmet I hopped on a bike down to Eureka Tower.  In a moment that couldn’t have been better scripted, as I rode into the area where I was going to dock the bike, an energy drink company was handing out free samples, which I successfully grabbed while riding without falling.  I believe there was a brief moment of applause.  It was kind of hilarious and awesome at the same time… sadly, this particular energy drink was dairy-based and I couldn’t drink it in the end (I’m lactose intolerant), but it was an awesome moment anyway.

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I spent a bit of time at Eureka Tower (one of my favourite activities in any city is an observation deck), and the tour I’d been on the day before had given us coupons for free access to The Edge, where a box comes out of the side of the building, goes transparent, and you get to look straight down. It’s incredibly cheesy, but it was fun, and free.  (The photo above is not me – but that’s The Edge).

From there I headed back into the city on bike again, having numerous awkward encounters with vanishing bike lanes along the way, and ended up at the Immigration Museum.  I wasn’t expecting much of it, to be honest, but it did have some really interesting exhibits on Australia’s immigration history with some political focus (including some interesting exhibits on the White Australia policy).  The rest of the museum was random collections of scenes from times in immigrant Australia’s history which was less exciting, but it was a good way to spend some time.

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From there I hopped on the free City Circle tram up to the North end of the CBD and wandered the Queen Victoria Market (eventually having lunch there — it was a Saturday so it was packed!)  From here it was a short wander to the Melbourne Museum where I spent some time exploring, though by this point I had seen virtually everything an Australian museum could offer.  I did enjoy the old trams they had on display, and the Forest Gallery was a unique sort of exhibit where they had created forest environments in what was essentially an aviary (there were birds inside too).

Having done a bunch of the obligatory tourist things, I was quickly realising that I much preferred wandering the city’s streets and exploring over seeing the actual destinations.  So I took a slow wander through Fitzroy Gardens to see Captain Cook Cottage, which had closed by the time I arrived, and continued wandering.  I also kept taking zillions of photos of trams — I love trams!  Having gotten a taste for urban bike riding again, I was keen to take advantage of my one-day pass on the Bike Share, so I picked up a bike near the cricket grounds and took a ride back over the bridge to Southbank and around some of the sport stadiums there, with my hotel in the city as the ultimate destination.  I had intended to ride past Government House to take a look, but quickly learned that bikes are totally off-limits in the Royal Botanic Gardens, which made a visit with the bike impossible (and there was nowhere nearby to dock it and walk).  In my effort to get back into town I followed the road I was on which seemed to be heading North – and at some point almost ended up on a highway.  I bailed out at the last minute and walked the bike for a bit til I found a trail and eventually made my way back to the hotel.

That night I finally meet up with Mark who I met on Twitter (I think! We never did figure it out!) a while ago — we’d been chatting for ages and it was great to finally meet!  We were both running behind and ended up cancelling dinner plans – so I went hunting for a quick takeaway and found Lord of the Fries.  I was at first skeptical about it having any vegetarian options, until I looked closer and realised it was ALL vegetarian!  And for the first since getting to Australia, I finally got a mock-beef veggie burger.  (Most veggie burgers in Australia are vegetable patties, chick-pea-based (think: big falafel), or some sort of grilled tofu).  As a bonus, I got fries with “French Canadian” sauce, aka vegan poutine.  I went back whenever I could!  Anyways, Mark and I eventually met up and went bar-hopping in Prahran and had a great night, it was fun to get out in a different city again!

The next day I took advantage of the cheap Sunday Saver transit card and went hopping around to some of the inner suburbs.  I spent the morning in Brunswick on a trip I made especially to go to Savers, which is the American / Australian name for Value Village.  For some strange reason, the chain is in Australia, but only in the state of Victoria (and I believe there’s now one in South Australia too), and I’d been missing it!  Bonus: being in a hipster neighbourhood, they actually had clothes that fit me!

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From there I (eventually) made my way down to St. Kilda by tram where I wandered the beach and the neighbourhood, explored Luna Park for a bit, and eventually had a delicious Mexican meal at a restaurant recommended by another Twitter friend.  Having a few hours of daylight left, I hopped on a couple more trams to explore Prahran by daylight and then caught a train back into the city.  Mark and I got together again to go to the outdoor fire show thingie at the casino before I called it a night.

I had planned to spend the next day exploring Federation Square and some of its museums, which I sort of did, but the trip was stunted by at least one of them being closed on Mondays.  I had, at this point, already decided to return to Melbourne at some point later in the year so I just added it to the mental list of things to do when I return.  Instead, I spent the rest of the day wandering the CBD and exploring some of the laneways which was just as fun!

I got back to Sydney and hit the ground running as work ramped up rapidly.  I had a good solid two weeks of crazy busy work where I was working 14 hours a day and 7 days a week. Thankfully, the weather was getting progressively colder and rainier, so it didn’t really feel that bad.  Still, I found time to get to Bingay (a fundraiser for the AIDS Council of New South Wales which is basically just Australian bingo run by a drag queen) with Josh, and to discover the tequila selection at my favourite Mexican restaurant (Tomatillo – also the only Mexican restaurant in Sydney that even resembles Mexican food) with Marni.  I also went with Damien to the Sydney Tram Museum which was so much nerdy fun!

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Add to that following the Canadian federal election (and voting, which was a process in and of itself) and an evening at the Opera House for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (a royal wedding-themed show, which was totally wacky), and that rounded out the month.

April was also when people started leaving.  Dean, who I mentioned had returned to Sydney earlier in the year from Toronto headed back to Canada (though we fortunately got to hang out a few more times before he left), and Marni had started a plan to leave about a month later.  The next month, Steven (who I never ended up getting together with again after that night at the Imperial) headed back to the US.  Sydney is a somewhat transient place, and people come and go all the time.  Which is great, but it was once again changing my perspective on whether or not a longer stay might be warranted.  The handful of people I had befriended were leaving en masse – and I often met people (Australian or otherwise) who were feeling like they were done with Sydney too.  Strangely, at a time when Sydney was getting some of its best improvements, it was becoming decreasingly attractive to people, myself included.  I’ve never regretted going there, but I was becoming frustrated with the difficulty of meeting new people who were actually going to stay in the country… not to mention the fact that I was, like them, leaving soon too.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. That has to be the fattest koala I’ve ever seen! I too prefer to wander the streets in a new place rather than heading for the tourist destinations. Great blog 🙂

    Reply

  2. […] The Travel Blog That Wasn’t – Australia part 6 (April 2011) […]

    Reply

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