When a foodie goes to Melbourne: By night

I spent two and a half weeks in Melbourne (the one in Australia not Florida – just to be clear) over the Christmas-New Year period visiting family and catching up with a few friends. It was hot – much hotter than I’m used to even in the warmer parts of Europe – but that did not stop me from doing loads and eating even more.

Last time I tap-tap-tapped away about the high points of our daytime eating adventures and promised to follow up with the same for our culinary exploits after dark. So here it is, post number two.

Fat Bob’s Bar & Grill – Moorabbin

For at least three years, my loved ones have been Facebook posting about Fat Bob’s and when I arrived for a visit two years ago, I was sadly informed that Fat Bob’s was closed until the day after I was due to fly back to the UK. This time Lil Chicky was on the case – Fat Bob’s would be closed from Christmas Eve so nine hours after I got off the plane on December 23rd, we were scoffing amazing burgers, more-ish fries and some super scrumptious fried apple dumplings.

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Tucked away in an industrial estate in Moorabbin, once you walk through the gate there are vintage signs everywhere you look.

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There’s a good range of craft brews and ciders to pair with your burger. My White Rabbit Dark Ale was smooth and easy (too easy?) to drink and my Victa burger – a crumbed chicken fillet with Asian slaw, Japanese mayo and BBQ sauce – was completely scoff-worthy

It’s a fabulously unpretentious place and was definitely worth the wait. The food was served in plastic baskets with the burgers wrapped in foil (helps to stop the drips as you hoe in) and cutlery was kind of optional frowned upon. If you love a dirty burger and a retro approach to decorating, get yourself to Fat Bob’s…and leave your tiara at home.

Mexico City – Bentleigh

The original Mexico City restaurant opened in 2011 around the corner from where I used to live in Elsternwick but I’ve been away since 2004 so when Lil Chicky told me that there was a new one in Bentleigh, it seemed the perfect place to stop for a pre-cinema dinner. It’s quite a small place and as we were only two people and didn’t have a booking, we had a choice of sitting at the bar or at the window. We chose the latter and ordered a couple of Moscow Mules to sip with our complimentary corn chips and salsa before our meals arrived. I loved my vegetarian burrito and Lil Chicky enjoyed her Mexican trio. But be warned – the portions are huge so if you want to have more than one course, I’d suggest sharing.

Favorite Noodle & Dumpling Restaurant – Moorabbin

This is a family-run business right across the highway from Moorabbin train station. It’s a large restaurant with an extensive menu of dumplings and Chinese stir fries. Mum, Licensed-To-Grill and Lil Chicky all raved about the dumplings so that was what I chose. They were soft and melt-in-the-mouth delicious – definitely the best I’ve had. I’d been eating elsewhere in the day so couldn’t fit anything else in but again I was gobsmacked by how big everyone else’s portions were.

It got really busy while we were there and the service, while still friendly, did suffer a bit as a result. There was also a little lost in translation moment when pea-hater Lil Chicky asked whether there were peas in the fried rice. (We were absolutely assured there were no peas, just beans, only for Lil Chicky to be faced with picking out all the peas when it did arrive.)  But it’s cheap and cheerful and if I lived there, I’d probably be doing a dumpling run at least once a week.

Bad Frankie – Fitzroy

I was reading one of the daily newspapers at Lil Chicky’s in turns marvelling at how clueless I am about Australian celebrities nowadays and checking out all of the things-to-do recommendations. It was the word ‘jaffles’ that caught my eye – these were the mainstay of many a Sunday night dinner growing up and were crammed full of things like baked beans, ham, tuna, tomato and savoury mince but always with loads of gooey melted cheese. I managed to convince some friends to have a jaffle-themed catch-up…and what a catch-up it was!

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Top row: Look out for the sign when you turn off Smith Street into Greeve Street; Quirky decor  Bottom row: Retro cocktail glassware; the traditional ham and cheese jaffle with a side of tomato chutney; the infamous lamington jaffle – there are no words – you’ve got to experience it for yourself!

Bad Frankie specialises in Australian spirits and the drinks list is pages and pages long (who knew we Aussies were so prolific outside wine and a bit of boutique beer) so we went with cocktails served in the types of glassware you might find at the back of your Mum’s kitchen cupboard. We chose a range of savoury jaffles to begin with – which were yum – then tackled the lamington jaffle. Chocolate sponge filled with jam and rolled in coconut was served warm from the jaffle maker with cream on the side – it was scrumptious and VERY rich, making us all glad we had decided to share. The others also tried the ANZAC Bikkie jaffle (brioche toasted with rolled oats and golden syrup) which they reported tasted faithfully of its namesake.

To my mind Bad Frankie was an absolute find. The decor is quirky and cosy and everything is very laid-back. We’d been in the City in the afternoon and the promise of jaffles and boozing did take us out of our way but it was a chilled and convivial evening with an easy tram ride at either end. Just go!

Okami – Hampton Street

Okami is a chain of five Japanese restaurants across Melbourne and on my last night, we decided to tackle the All-You-Can-Eat offer at the Hampton Street branch. You get a two-hour sitting, a menu and then you just keep ordering dishes until you can’t eat any more. We shared many great dishes but stand outs for me were the Chicken Karaage and the Teriyaki Chicken Skewer. We also tried the Octopus Ball – which turned out to be balls of octopus meat versus something akin to a Bush Tucker Trial – better served with soy sauce than the mayonnaise they came with I thought.

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Domo arigato for a job well done! 

We managed to find a small space at the end for some cold vanilla ice-cream (it was 38C that day – that’s really hot!) and pretty much rolled out the door. And all of this for less than $30 (approx. £18) each.

And that peeps ends the culinary tour. The next day I boarded a plane for the long trek home with an underweight suitcase (believe me, it took careful packing to manage this with the amount of shopping I did). However I cannot say the same for yours truly and I must admit to my comfy travelling trousers feeling slightly snugger than when I arrived two and half weeks earlier. But what are holidays for, I ask you?

I hope this has whet the appetite of those of you  living in or travelling to Melbourne…if you are a glutton for punishment and want more or missed the partner post on daytime eating in my hometown, you’ll find it here so in the words of my childhood dinners…

Two four six eight

Dig in. Don’t wait!

 

When a foodie goes to Melbourne: By day

I spent two and a half weeks over Christmas and New Year in Melbourne. It is my hometown – not the place I was born but rather the place that I endured the pangs of teenage angst, the excitement of leaving home and the hopeful anticipation of beginning my career – in essence my transition to adulthood (although some my argue that this happened much later). In any case, it’s a city that holds a huge piece of my expat heart hostage and as Mum and Lil Chicky still live there, it has become something of a habit to make a bi-annual pilgrimage Down Under.

We shopped and hung out and laughed and did a whole lot of stuff while I was there – more of which I’ll post about soon – but mostly we ate. As with most holiday ‘diets’, calories became a distant memory and it was not uncommon for us to be tucking in to some meal somewhere and be talking about where we should have the next one!

As a result I’ve clocked up quite a few great recommendations if you happen to be in Melbourne around the City or down towards the bayside suburbs of Brighton, Mentone, Hampton and Parkdale. There are too many for one post so they will come to you in two parts – by day and by night.

Here’s where I suggest you spend your days.

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Breakfast/Brunch – for a cracking start to your day, I really liked these three:

Urchin Bar – Hampton

Ostensibly this is a Turkish restaurant and bar but serves a great breakfast and we lingered here for a couple of hours catching up over fresh juice, delicious food and great coffee. The service was friendly and laid back and whilst they were attentive, at no stage did we feel rushed by the staff. Don’t let the average website put you off and if you go, make sure you walk through the bar and snag a table in the covered courtyard out the back.

The Groove Train – Brighton

This is one of my regulars when I visit and is a particular fave for breakfast. It’s located in upmarket Church Street and when we were there, the glass doors were concertina-ed aside, opening the whole place out onto the street. I have never had a bad coffee here and my breakfast burrito wrap was chock full of scrumptious stuff. Lil Chicky’s smashed avocado concoction looked pretty amazing as well.

Parkdale Beach Cafe & Kiosk – Parkdale

If you want food with a view, then this place is for you. Perched on the cliff top overlooking Port Phillip Bay, this cafe serves great coffee and a small but excellent selection of food to both tables inside and at loungers outside under the shade of the umbrellas. Mum and I happened to coincide our visit with a Greek Orthodox New Year celebration which moved from the boardwalk that runs along the beach up to the BBQ area next to the cafe. So we decided to enjoy our warm banana bread with fresh berries and mascarpone cream from a inside table with an excellent position by the window…

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Window seats –  the view from our table

This place gets busy but there’s something so unbelievably magnificent about the location that for me, the hustle to get a seat/table is worth it.

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Lunch/Coffee and a little something – as the day goes on, you’ll need to keep your strength up so try these three:

Larsen & Co – Hampton

This calm Scandi oasis is tucked into the lane that leads from Hampton Street through to the station car park and features clean Scandinavian decor inside and 3-4 shaded wooden tables outside. The menu is not extensive but the quality was excellent – I had an amazing superfood salad while Lil Chicky enjoyed her fried calamari with orange, baby fennel, feta and mint. The portions were big – so great value for money – and the service was friendly and efficient (after all we had a train to catch). It’s worth mentioning the excellent toilet facilities here too.

Brunetti – City Square

The original Brunetti opened in Carlton in 1985 and has since expanded to include this outdoor cafe that commandeers the south end of Melbourne’s City Square on Swanston Street. The biggest problem you’ll have is choosing which of the myriad cakes and slices to have. To complicate matters even further, you can also get yourself a little tub of fresh gelati…

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Left: My delicious hazelnut and coffee slice  Right: Ice-cream anyone?

There’s plenty of seating – although not all of it is under cover – and the bird life can get a bit cheeky with any leftovers but if you clean your plate (as well you should), watching the hierarchy of sparrows, pigeons and a seagull or two oust each other for the crumbs can be quite entertaining. Of course Brunetti’s Italian heritage means the coffee is outstanding.

Hopetoun Tea Rooms  – Block Arcade, City Centre

Melbourne’s arcades are something of an institution and the elegant Block Arcade, running between Collins and Little Collins Street, is no exception. Built in the 1890s, it features some of Melbourne’s most delightful retailers and none more delightful than the Hopetoun Tea Rooms. I was told that the line to get a table is usually out the door, down the arcade and around the corner into the street but we found ourselves here at 10am on a Tuesday morning with only a 10 minute wait ahead of us – so plenty of time to window shop…

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Clockwise from top left: Window shopping of the best kind; the mirror dating from 1892; red velvet cake; chocolate and pecan tart

This place is decorated tastefully ‘of the period’ featuring a mirror from 1892, flocked wallpaper and a display of crystal wares in one of the cabinets. It can seem a little cramped when you come through the door (one-in one-out is the best way to manage the traffic flow here) but once seated there was ample elbow room for us to tuck into our sweet treats. My chocolate and pecan tart was so delicious and I have it on good authority that the red velvet cake and the crepes with fresh berries and cream were every bit as good. This is not a place to linger and chat so go for the experience and the cakes rather than the conversation.

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And then there’s the best-laid plans and all that…

The Local on Como – Parkdale

I am a huge Audrey Hepburn fan and when Mum and Lil Chicky discovered this place, they couldn’t wait to tell me and put it on the ‘visit list’. Unfortunately it was closed for the entire time I was in Melbourne so I had to be satisfied with peering in the window…

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Awesome Audrey mural at The Local on Como (there was also a purple coffee machine!)

…so I cannot tell you anything about the coffee, the ambiance or any of the vittles on offer. But it must be pretty good – Lil Chicky does not do bad coffee. And the mural was worth the walk on a mighty warm Summer day.

That completes my haunts by day. You may like to pause (as we did often) and ready yourself for the next installment – my favourite culinary haunts after the sun went down. They’re coming soon…

Bean Reminiscing…

I was travelling to Pilsen with a colleague this week and having only met before very briefly, we took the opportunity to chat en route…in the taxi, on the Heathrow Express, in the airport lounge. You get the picture…lots of finding ways to make the time go faster while getting to where we had to be. 

Anyway, we were chatting about my living in the UK and the invariable questions came up: Why did you leave? Will you go back? and What do you miss most?  Nothing unusual.

But this time the last question really made me think. What do I miss most?

It goes without saying family, family, family. And usually at this time of year, I would have answered something about really feeling the lack of sunshine and daylight hours during London’s winter months. But we’ve had a mild winter which in the last few weeks, has merged into a lovely Spring – beautiful blue skies, double digit (celsius) high temperatures and patches of colour everywhere as London’s parks, gardens and suburban streets are transformed by a riot of daffodils, crocuses and cherry blossoms.

And I’ve just come back from my Vitamin-D top up in Abu Dhabi so I’m missing the sunshine much less than usual.

So the question gave me pause. What do I really miss?

And then I thought back to my last trip Down Under and I knew…the coffee. Great, great coffee. Creamy lattes, foaming cappuccinos and pungent espressos with velvet-y golden crema.

I have not enjoyed coffee anywhere nearly as much as I have in Melbourne. Not even in Italy, the self-proclaimed mecca of coffee.

And it would seem that the voters on website booking.com agree, with 301 of them nominating Melbourne as having the best coffee in the world (followed by Vienna – 187 and Rome – 116).

It’s not the first time I’ve waxed lyrical about coffee here at Gidday from the UK and I have found a treasured favourite or two serving sensational shots here in London but there’s no hunting for these rare gems in Melbourne – great coffee is everywhere.


So I’ll be booking myself a Christmas Down Under this year to get me a fix!

Oh and Sydney? Sydney got 20 votes in the survey. Not that I’m competitive or anything.

There’s No Place Like Home…

I’ve been back from my holiday for a week now. Colleagues have enquired about my Christmas, commented on my relaxed face/glowing tan and shared their own festive family stories. I am starting to sleep through more than 3 hours at a time and feel hungry when I should so am hoping I’m through the worst of the jetlag. And I’m settling back into my cosy routine at Gidday HQ.

After a long week at work, I curled up on the comfy couch on Friday night to watch an old movie favourite, Love Actually. I love the opening scene: the Arrivals Hall at Heathrow crammed with expectant faces and open arms, a testament the narrator says, to the fact love really is all around. And it took me back to my own Arrivals Hall moment just two weeks earlier, walking through the doors to my own sea of expectant faces and finally into the open arms of my loved ones.

As a frequent traveller, I see a lot of Arrivals Halls but there is nothing like searching out the faces that I love in the throng, that moment when I first catch sight of them, when my heart leaps, my step quickens and my travel-weary face beams. And this search was made all the more poignant by an unexpected voice to my right as I headed towards Mum’s smiling face, a soft ‘hello chicky’ which made me swing around with delight and in just two steps, enfold my Lil Chicky in my arms. And yes, there were tears of joy and love and relief that the long wait to see each other was over.

The 12 days in Melbourne flew by. Joined by my itinerant old man and stepmum, there were family days out – like a visit to see the Sand Sculpting and a day trip to Williamstown – and chilling out time with Mum and Lil Chicky – massages, shopping, mani-pedis and many a soy latte. I even managed to squeeze in a couple of old friends (old in the sense that it had been 25 years since we’d been at school together) where conversation flowed between like and open minds as the years between the words simply disappeared. I remember thinking how funny it was that people don’t change. Not really anyway.

So I drank in the magic and nostalgia of Marvellous Melbourne: the people, the food, the weather, the relaxed and cosmopolitan vibe of the city I used to call home. And on a glorious sunny Sunday morning, whilst sipping yet another soy latte, feeling the warmth on my shoulders and the colourful energy of the crowds at Southgate, my heart was assailed by the most overwhelming wave of homesickness. For London. Its damp grittiness, its eclectic colour, its commuting-friendly infrastructure, its mix of cultures. And for my very own Gidday HQ with its cosy warmth, comfy couch and familiar bed. And I felt my divided heart tear – just like last time I visited. And the time before that, and the time before that.

I’m back in Fab Finchley now with my first working week back behind me. All of the washing has been done, the fridge is full and there’s a vase of fresh flowers – purple and white tulips – sitting prettily on the table in the kitchen. Workday routines and weekend rituals are settling in again. And here I am, curled up on the comfy couch on a chilly Sunday night tap-tap-tapping away. The memories are wonderful and will help to sustain me between hugs and lattes.

But there is indeed no place like home.

Of Hearts And Minds…

As long term readers of Gidday from the UK will know, about 16 months ago I crossed to ‘the dark side’ and got a Kindle. Audrey quickly became an integral part of my daily commute and bedtime ritual and it wasn’t long before I wondered what I had ever done without her.

In short, I fell in love.

But even the best and most faithful of companions needs a little TLC so I am pleased to report that my stalwart commuting friend has a gorgeous new red frock.

Audrey’s new duds – given it was a Christmas gift from Mum, it seems rather appropriate that ‘melbourne’ appears front and centre.

Doesn’t she look fab?

This amazing cover is actually designed by artist Sharyn Sowell, a relentless traveller and blogger who is fascinated by the juxtaposition of the very old and the very new.

Just like me.

So it would appear that this meeting of hearts and minds continues…

…mine and Audrey’s that is.

Everything Old Is New Again…

Being in Melbourne over these last couple of weeks has given me the opportunity to revisit some of my favourite haunts and one of these is Southgate. This cosmopolitan stretch of shops, restaurants and cafes line the Yarra River between Princess Bridge and the Crown Casino complex and offers wonderful views of the City Centre across the tree-lined river.

This view takes in the ‘expensive end’ of the City – where Victorian Parliament, designer shops and many of the banks’ head offices are located – as well as the spires of Melbourne’s own St Paul’s Cathedral in the foreground.
A great juxtaposition of the elegant clock tower of Flinders Street Station (built in 1910 to replace the previous station built in 1854) against the more modern buildings behind.

The day we were there it was a gloriously sunny Sunday morning and this riverside precinct was buzzing with activity.

Street entertainers attract a fair crowd…
…while quirky sculpture adds local colour.
Crown Towers Hotel offers premier accommodation for both high rollers as well as those wishing to spend just a few dollars.

But being away means that each time I come back, there’s something new in the landscape. Six years ago, Melbourne’s newest tallest building, Eureka Tower, sliced into the skyline.

Eureka Tower is Melbourne’s tallest building…but only since 2006.

This time it was The Docklands that captured my imagination. When I left in 2004, this area of Melbourne was early in its development so I was curious to see how things had turned out.

View of Melbourne from The Docklands with Etihad Stadium (venue for football matches, concerts and the like) in the centre.

The thing that struck me most were the stark and modern shapes…

New ‘rooms with a view’.
This ‘car park in progress’ generated discussion about its interesting facade.
I love the use of adventurous shapes and textures which really typifies iconic Australian architecture for me.


And there’s even a nod to old London Town with Melbourne’s very own ‘Eye’…

Melbourne’s Southern Star awaiting the installation of its viewing pods. Again lots of opinions amongst Family Hamer about its false start (cracks found in the infrastructure apparently) and its location overlooking Melbourne’s Western suburbs.

So whilst my Melbourne meanderings evoked many wonderful memories, I found much to admire about the clever blend of nostalgia and innovation into a spectacular cityscape…

…and it just makes me wonder what I’ll find next time.

The Eye Of The (Sand)Storm…

Well here we are in 2013 and with it comes resolutions that for me, are just begging to be broken. But I have gathered the very best of all my intentions to fulfil a promise I made a couple of posts ago to give you all an overview of my visit to Sand Sculpting Australia’s Under The Sea.

Custody changes during my Melbourne stay (of me from Mum to Lil Chicky and back again, the latter of these taking place in a car park) meant that uploading of photos for this post did not go as seamlessly as planned. But with perseverence – and a return to Gidday HQ’s wifi realm – I have prevailed. So take your marks, get your thongs flip flops on and let’s get this Armchair Tour underway.

This hard working fella can be found in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea….
…as the ‘in’ crowd – complete with piercings and an assortment of headgear – gathers at The Sign Of The Seahorse to catch up with the latest snail(mail).
The sirens’ song and come hither looks of Mermaids tempt you to venture further…
…whilst this giant of the sea keeps a beady eye on visitors and carries the weight of a former civilisation – the Lost City of Atlantis – on his back.
Maintenance is an important part of the Sand Sculpting world so it’s best to invest in regular check ups
…before things get out of hand.
This creature of the sea casts a lascivious eye over passersby…
…as it would appear that, like Poseidon, wild horses can’t keep them away.
And just when a couple of cuties might convince you that it’s safe to go back into the water…
…you might find yourself caught out by the bare (faced) cheek of the natives.

It’s a fascinating exhibit with lots of intricate detail and cheeky fun throughout – it’s worthwhile going back and revisiting each to discover new elements you didn’t see the first time around – as well as a speedy 10 minute demonstration of sand sculpting by one of the team on site.


If you want to read a little bit more, you can pop over to Mum’s write up on Weekend Notes. Or if you are actually in the Melbourne area before the 28th April, get yourself down to the Frankston Waterfront and find your very own fishy favourites.

Phew! At last, that’s post 1 (and resolution 1) for 2013 done.

Boats And Bridges…

Being part of a somewhat caring and supportive family, Lil Chicky and I decided that it was time that we do a little window shopping to find the next lucky man in my life. Fortunately, the family had decided to take a ferry ride over to Williamstown yesterday so at 12.30 the family Hamer (including those with a myriad of other names) gathered at Southbank, boarded our ship of dreams and set sail.
 
The one hour cruise took us along the Yarra River and out through The Docklands which has developed significantly since I last lived Down Under – there are lots of interesting buildings to ooh and aah at on the way but for now, let’s maintain some focus on the purpose of this post and leave architectural meanderings for another time.

The title promises bridges and we headed under many of them – here are my top three:

The Bolte Bridge, named for Henry Bolte who remains the longest serving Victorian State Premier (17 years from 1955). The bridge was opened in August 1999) and also forms an integral part of the entrance into Melbourne by car from the airport. The view of the City from here always feels like a big ‘welcome back’ to me. 
This bridge is a new one since my departure – it was difficult to capture the whole bridge but I loved this side, looking like one of those hooped underskirts from yesteryear.
The clean lines of this bridge and the Australian flag fluttering in the breeze typifies the clean, stark lines of the Australian landscape for me – no idea what this bridge is called either but I loved it all the same.
The weather was gorgeous – a pleasant mid 25C – and a gentle breeze cooled our sun-kissed noses and cheeks as we motored along. There were many boats out of all shapes and sizes, some puttering along at a more sedate pace…

Before we knew it, we had arrived at Williamstown Pier so it was off the boat for a stretch of the legs, something to eat and a hearty discussion about our plan of attack (which mainly revolved around ice-cream).
 
Docking at Williamtown foreshore…yes, that bright shiny object is the sun…
One of the great things about Williamtown (apart from the ice cream) is the fantastic view of the City of Melbourne so here’s the shot, complete with the millionaire shopping arcade boats in the foreground… 

After a pleasant few hours we decided to head back but finding a millionaire/boat had not gone so successfully so we decided to keep our eyes peeled on the way back. A single girl’s work is never done, you know…

As with some of my past experiences with you critters from Mars, this one seemed to over promise (Global Dream? Really?) and under deliver. I know it’s a working boat and all but a lick of paint wouldn’t have gone astray. There’s always something to be said for making an effort.
Now this is more my style: Sleek and white and celebratory even in name. Unfortunately a small child appeared as we chugged past which is just going a bit overboard (pardon the pun) with the accessories I feel….
This one has a spot in the boot for one’s jet ski. Very handy!
Suddenly the Bolte Bridge loomed above us again, signalling that our sea adventure (well the combined waterways of the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay in any case) would soon be over…
The Bolte Bridge with the bright shiny sun-thing again…
So that was the Day of the Family Hamer, seven intrepid wanderers out to see the world of Williamstown and conquer it with ice cream.
 
Which brings me (not so neatly) to the end of this post, my last for 2012. And all that remains is to wish you a Happy New Year wherever you are and however you choose to celebrate it.
 
There’s one ‘sleep’ left peeps – let’s show 2013 we mean business!

Sheepish…

I am perturbed people. Seriously perturbed.

With Christmas fast approaching and a trip Down Under on the agenda, it goes without saying (but I shall say it anyway) that I am looking forward to embracing all things festive with loved ones in Oz this year.

You know, the Christmas Day feast, either a BBQ or a seafood selection depending on whether we are at Mum’s or Lil Chicky’s.

The annual Stocking Sprint – or who can open all the small, ridiculously over-wrapped presents in their stocking first, thereby spoiling the ‘surprise’ element of each piece of tat gift for everyone else.

Or the Festive Forage otherwise known as where will Husband of Lil Chicky hide random pieces of Christmas wrapping at Mum’s place and how long will it be before she finds them.

Yes I am confident that these traditions will resist our continued path through adulthood the test of time as well as Mum’s desire to have a clean house/stop staying up til all hours wrapping teeny tiny presents.

But there is one tradition unique to Melbourne that really brings out the big kid in me, the 5-year-old who presses her nose against the window in wonder (okay maybe my nose doesn’t exactly touch the window any more but you get my drift.)

The Myer Christmas Windows.

Every year, the windows of the Myer Store in Bourke Street Mall pay tribute to the festive season with an animated display of fairytale movement and magic. The crowds, young and old alike, line up and file past the windows, ooh-ing and aah-ing at Cinderella, The Nutcracker, The Night Before Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and many other well-known storybook worlds.

But this year, things have gone awry in a big way.

This year’s windows, unveiled last week, pay glittery homage to…

Russell the Sheepwho has apparently saved Christmas.



Who is this interloper?

What on earth happened to Rudolph and his shiny nose?

Only 33 sleeps to go til I can investigate for myself. 

Stay tuned peeps, I’m on the case…

The Race That Stops A Nation…

It’s a horse race deemed the richest ‘two mile’ handicap in the world for two dozen 3-year-old thoroughbreds over 3.2km. A race that literally stops a nation.  The Melbourne Cup.


The Melbourne Cup Carnival runs over a week in November each year and comprises 4 race days – Derby Day (Sat), Melbourne Cup Day (Tue), Oaks Day (Thu) and Stakes Day (Sat) – at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. It forms the centrepiece of the Spring Racing Carnival, filling the state of Victoria with prime equine specimens and department stores with hats and headpieces as far as the eye can see.

The first Tuesday in November (this year falling on November 6th) holds a special place in Aussie hearts. Melburnians get a day off and the entire nation – well the majority who are not at the course itself – manages its day around being in front of a telly at 3pm. There are BBQs, office ‘sweeps’ and much discussion around water coolers, coffee machines or over the bar about the chances of the 24 runners – yes, everyone’s a tipster on Melbourne Cup Day. And there are a myriad of opportunities to ‘put your money where your mouth is’.

Being at the race itself is an extraordinary experience (I’ve been 3 times, twice in the posh corporate bit). Melbourne Cup Day often begins with a champagne breakfast in your Cup Day finery in the Racecourse Car Park. For some it’s an opportunity to dust off your headwear, don your gladrags and totter down to the mounting yard. For others, it’s an opportunity to dress down and enjoy the atmosphere. Picnics abound and the bookies are kept busy particularly leading up to the big race.

Melbourne Cup punters – celebrating a win perhaps?

As the horses and their riders make their way around the mounting yard, down the track and into the starting gate, the excitement is palpable and experts and amateur punters alike jockey for position along the final straight and at the finish line. And as the starter’s orders sound out across the course and the gates snap open, the thundering hooves of 24 of the world’s best are overshadowed by the roar of the crowd.

Just over 3 minutes later, the winner crosses the finish line in front of more than 100,000 screaming punters.

It is, quite simply, electric.

This year’s field, confirmed after today’s Victoria Derby, features both the home-grown and the foreign and with a purse of $6.2million up for grabs, only time will tell whether current favourites and past winners Americain (2010) or Dunaden (2011) can join the exalted ranks of multiple winners. Winners like the prolific Makybe Diva, whose dominance in 2003, 2004 and 2005 remains unmatched, and Archer who won the inaugural race in 1861 then followed it up with another win the following year.

3 time winner Makybe Diva

And who’s my money on? Well that’d be telling and to be honest, I haven’t really checked out the runners. Suffice to say I’m off to read the form guide. After all, you can take the girl out of Melbourne but you can’t take Melbourne out of the girl.

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This post also forms part of the November edition of Post Of The Month Club.