Sunday, September 07, 2008

Two thumbs up!!

I got home today from my trip to Melbourne. Nine days, no kids, Melbourne, Michael, Steve. A lot of fun.
So much happened during the week. First the credits: thanks to mum and dad for having the kids for me and buying my airline tickets, and thanks to great friends Michael and Steve for their generosity, sharing their time, houses and money with me. :)

The trip was every bit as awesome and fun as I anticipated it to be, in fact exceeding my expectations, which is always a good thing. Melbourne turned on the weather for me, certainly in the second half of the week. I always said loving the environment is a good thing, because it loves me back.
My holiday was really two mini-holidays, as I stayed first with Michael and then with Steve. Made the trip seem twice as long (which is a good thing!).

Michael lives out of the city in sunny Ringwood (or as he calls it 'Melbourne's Munno Para'). He had time off while I was there which was really nice, just to hang out for a bunch of time without a lot of plans. We got to visit not one but TWO giant monuments to surburban consumption in mega-shopping centres Knox City and Eastlands - totally appealing to Ms Anti-consumption here, as you can imagine. Michael coaches a kids basketball team so we went to their game and to training (they will be playing in the grand final this weekend - GO BULLS!). We hung out at home a lot, lounging around (and I mean REAL lounging, laying on world's largest lounge chair in the lounge room and listening to lounge music). I caught up on some popular culture I missed out on (how could I survive this long without having seen Zoolander or 40 Year Old Virgin??), and discovered the world of lounge music gone wrong with Richard Cheese.

Photo: this car was just darn sexy I had to take a photo of it

We went up to Mt Dandenong and watched a storm move in across Melbourne towards us. The view from Mt Dandenong was quite spectacular, even with all the clouds. In the photo you can see the rain storm just to right of centre.

Photo: Michael pondering the wishing tree at Mt Dandenong

We stopped for pancakes in world's steepest carpark where Michael achieved world's crookedest carparking.

The pancake place sold pancakes topped with curry and rice! We didn't try those although we did make the foolish mistake of going for savoury pancakes, leaving no room for the delicious sounding sweet ones, darn it.

Photo: So cosmopolitan. Sippin' chai lattes, walking on bridges, overlooking Wallaby Ave. We had it going on.

Michael took me to all his favourite food places, including world's best garlic naan (and pretty darn good butter chicken), and even cooked dinner for me (pics of that are on his Facebook page).

The first half of my holiday ended too quickly and Michael took me into the city on Wednesday where I called into work to undertake some delicate negotiations with my Victorian counterpart (I failed in my mission sadly, he refused to share some extremely valuable information, but it was a useful visit anyway). But before I went there, we went to Southbank and Greco, home of world's best cake fridge (can you tell yet that Michael is fond of superlatives??). As per usual I scoffed at his declarations of awesomeness, but this place exceeded his promises. There were so many great looking choices that, as promised, I found it extremely difficult to decide on just one cake. Finally I chose the honeycomb cheesecake and was not disappointed. Their 'real' food looked pretty good too, but we didn't actually eat any, concentrating instead on the sugar and fat laden goodies.

Photo: These two windows are only half of the cake fridge at Greco.

So on Wednesday, after I was done at work, I headed into the city and met Steve who gave me his house key and pointed me in the direction of the tram to his house. He lives in Carlton which is very close to the city, so it's only about 10 minutes on the tram. On account of having only just started a new job, Steve didn't have any days off while I was there (has he never heard of the aussie tradition of faking illness?!), so I spent a couple of extremely enjoyable days tootling around by myself. I went to St Kilda one day, chatted to the fishermen, saw a penguin swimming in the water, found some starfish, bought a genuine vintage top, and ate lunch at Lentil As Anything, a restaurant which only asks that you pay what you feel the meal is worth. Neat concept and great food. Nice to see that it is doing well.
I soaked up a bunch of culture too, so much so that everything was referred to generically as a POC or place of culture, as I had difficulty remembering exactly where I saw each cool thing. I went to both sites of the National Gallery of Victoria (what's with a state art gallery closing one day a week?), Melbourne Museum (and what's with a state museum charging an entry fee?), the Centre for the Moving Image, and somewhere else I'm not remembering right now. I also walked the streets of Melbourne, discovering chai latte flavoured icecream (yes, as good as it sounds) and Puffy Cookies (deep fried cookie/eclair type things filled with custard, yes also as good as they sound).

Photo: Royal Exhibition Hall, or more particularly, some cool clouds as the sun set

All these things were so cool, I started formulating next year's family holiday, which involves driving over to Melbourne, imposing on friends generosity for free accommodation and showing the kids all this cool stuff. Melbourne is such a great town to visit and I suspect it would be very liveable too. I know there are those who dislike it (hmm, Michael?) but there are also those who absolutely love it (right Steve?). I was so impressed with the public transport (every time and place we needed a train or a tram, it was there) and the amount of bikes and cycling infrastructure.
Steve lives right between Brunswick and Lygon Streets so there was no shortage of interesting shops to look in and great places to eat. There are also extremely high-rise old housing commission flats mixed in with the trendy renovated little terraces so there are an interesting mix of people.

Photo: Me trying to be arty at one of the commission flats

My week quickly came to an end, with Saturday my last full day in Melbourne and the only full day I had with Steve. After finally getting his car working again, (he joined the RACV on Monday specifically because his car hadn't worked for a couple of weeks and he knew he needed to take me to the airport on Sunday), the ideas man came up with an awesome plan for Saturday - SKIING! Lake Mountain is about two hours from Melbourne, and is apparently Victoria's premier Nordic resort, although we didn't actually see any Nords. Steve can ski very well having lived and worked in Canadian ski resorts, and I, well, I've skied for a total of two whole days. Sounds like fun, right? I soon learned that we hadn't actually gone up the mountain to ski together, but just so Steve could laugh at me while I tried to ski. At this place they have cross country skiing, rather than downhill, so there are no lifts, and plenty of hills you are supposed to ski UP. Ha ha. Still, I like to think I did quite well, I probably only fell over twenty times, and only five or six of those times actually hurt, with only one involving a face-plant. It was actually incredibly good fun and hard work (today I am yet to find a single muscle in my body that does not ache). We estimated we did about 25km including some black trails (the most challenging). I even got a bit of technique happening towards the end, rather than just aimless flailing. On this day I refined next year's family holiday plans to include a couple of days in the snow. Which suddenly moves it from budget holiday up into more expensive realms. But, hey, it's SNOW!

Photo: Sunrise through the mist as we drove to the snow at some incredibly early hour

Photo: Steve coming down the black trail. You will notice I am already at the bottom waiting to take the photo. Meaning I finished first. Not that it was a competition or anything. (actually I took a shortcut)

Photo: Snow bunny. The scary thing is these blingful sunnies belong to Steve. He actually BOUGHT them. To wear himself. Although he did confess he wouldn't really mind if I lost them or broke them when I fell over.

Photo: This possum stalked us the whole way around the trails. Apparently.

Photo: The Panorama Lookout. The sign writer was a bit ambitious about what exactly you could see (might need to click to enlarge).

Photo: Note to self - keep sleeves down even if you get hot, especially if you are prone to falling over. Snow isn't all soft and fluffy like it looks.

After we made it back from the mountain, tired and sore and a little sunburned, we headed out to a Japanese bath-house tucked away in the side streets of Collingwood which was very pleasant and a different experience. Nothing quite as satisfying as getting naked in a public place and then getting into a incredibly warm deep bath. And of course after that, what else for dinner but Japanese? Food, not people.
Sunday my flight was relatively early in the morning (11am) but we managed to fit in breakfast at the awesome Sugardough on Lygon Street, before heading to the airport for final farewells.

My flight out was on Qantas, so there was even some free food and drink served on board, oh the novelty. When I got back to Adelaide I was surprised to see mum and dad waiting for me. I'd intended on catching the bus out to Paul's where my car was, but my great parents just dropped by on their 'way' (yeah right) to grandpas for father's day.
Up to Paul's and many hugs and cuddle for the kids, who by all accounts were wonderfully behaved for mum and dad during the week.
Tonight we went out for dinner for mum's birthday and father's day (sadly both bad daughters neglected to organise cake, although I think I at least have a reasonable excuse, since I was in a different city that morning). Fortunately tomorrow there is no school (since I'm stupidly still up writing this at midnight!), so I get to just hang with the kids and unpack, taking it easy.
Thanks again everyone, I had such a great holiday!!

And greenie addendum: I bought some new stuff while I was away - some gloves, which I really needed for the snow (I lost one of my other ones in Adelaide, and these ones will also be great for on the bike) and some gifts for the children.
I made vegetarian choices for a lot of my meals (cake counts as vegetarian, right?) and also did my best to choose food that was not excessively packaged. I worked on brainwashing ahem educating my friends where necessary too.

And late edit: Why am I still writing this at 1am?! My body clock is totally screwed from too many late nights and sleep-ins this past week. Kiddie alarm-clock in the morning though unfortunately...


Michael Field said...

I really am quite sad that it is all over already. Seeing you is always far too nice for words and to have you here for 5 whole days was like a dream come true. I think you know I had the time of my life with you over the 5 days and was not looking forward to you going at all. Now my house just seems empty without you there, without your crap all over it messing up it’s cleanliness (:P) and without your phone going off every 2 mins. You know you are always welcome back whenever you want. I'd also like to thank your family (Gabe, Nic, Nicole and Raff) for their selfless and kind offer to look after your kids so that you could come here for so long. I very much appreciated your generosity and it really shows the calibre of people you are. As for this write up, let me address a few editorial "inaccuracies".
1) The car was slightly crookedly parked at the Pancake place BUT was within the lines. The picture showing that is mysteriously absent :P

2)I'm sorry that I had to take you to 2 sprawling shopping malls Rachel. My plans of taking over the world and controlling everything are in progress and until they come to fruition I have no say in where the super-markets get put :). I think we were pretty much in-and-out of them as quickly as possible to minimise the pain (I am aware of your anti-consumerism tendencies).

3) As for being "Green" and getting (or needing to be) "educated", I hope you are talking about Steve :) Since your re-introduction to my world I have been trying really hard to change a life times bad habits and be more thoughtful towards the environment. I thought I was making some solid headway. I hope my short comings weren't too off-putting.

4) I know you like Melbourne a lot, it does have it's moments and in all honesty I do like certain "aspects" of Melbourne myself. It’s just that I’ve lived in a lot of places, both in Australia and over seas and there are much better places to live than Melbourne in my opinion (Adelaide and Brisbane jump immediately to mind). Melbourne is probably 1000% better if you live in Carlton and have easy access to all the inner city stuff at the drop of a hat. Sadly, the vast majority of people don’t. I more dislike Melbourne because I am the only one of my family here and I feel more isolated every day when things such as your visiting happen and I just get reminded that I don’t really want to be here and I would be so much happier in Adelaide.

But…you know…whatever.. :P

I also give you two thumbs up. BEST house guest ever.

Rachel said...

Oooh, a rebuttal. How technical. :)
It double-sucks that the rest of your week was so lousy, certainly a harsh contrast to the first part of the week, with all that Rachel awesomeness (and mess) everywhere.

As for your point-by-point...
1) sure, the car was technically WITHIN the lines, but when the front tyre is almost touching one line and the opposite back tyre almost touching the other line, it still rates as pretty crooked in my book. Anyway, I couldn't put in EVERY photo I took now, could I?

2) shopping malls are fine, really. I mean, we had to eat. And ridiculously decadent pancakes are only found in certain places.

3) I actually wasn't really assessing either of you in the greenness stakes, just commenting on my own (only slightly annoying, I'm sure) habit of telling everyone how bad everything is for the environment. It's only those hessian sacks and lentils that really pass muster for me, as you know. :)

4) I know why you're not so fond of Melbourne, and I too would not choose to live for extended periods away from my family. But Melbourne still rocks.

But, ah, enough. I just had to get the last word. Surprisingly. :)

Michael Field said...

Such blatant baiting...such unabashed teasing. So unlike you Rachel.

1) So we agree that the car was not "outside" it's designated parking area? Thus fulfilling all requirements for parking? If I wasn't chuckling audibly about just how shockingly crooked that park was I would continue to argue....but it was easily the worst park ever in the history of parking. We'll call that one a draw.

2) My thoughts exactly. Why are we rebutting each other?? We seem to be agreeing a lot. I think the point we are both trying to make can be made best with these 2 links: and

I think there's something in that for all of us.

3) Oh God, So you KNOW you do it!! That's even worse :)
Just kidding, it's a very amiable trait and i'm sure it makes you just a little happy to know that your CONSTANT nagging on the subject has been heard and incorporated into people's everyday habits. FYI took yoghurt to work in a resealable tub today :)

Plus, you know, Hessian is kinda ... "dressing gown" raunchy in it's own way.

4)Yes, well as long as I am here in Melbourne it's coolness rating is somewhat higher than it probably otherwise would be. But you are somewhat biased due to the planet sized servings of fun you've just had here :P

Look at that here is the last ... word :)

Rachel said...

Well, actually, you're wrong. HERE is the last word.
And in case you forgot, this is MY blog and I will delete any further comments from you. :P

Michael Field said...

Must .... resist .... urges ... to ....test... Rach's ... mettle.

(plus nothing like calling a bluff :P)

Nana Gabe said...

Alright you two. I am going to have to separate the two of you if you continue to bicker like this. You should just call a truce and know that Rachel is always right. It is easier that way. I should know, she is her own person...whatever that means. I will have the last say on that.

Lee said...

Ahhh Melbourne is the best city in the world.. I might move there for awhile when I get home! Wanna join me? :)

Republic Of Steve said...

Rach.. your saw more of melbourne in a week than I've scene the whole time I've been here..
I now feel guilty that I live next door to the melbourne museum but have never visited...

Ah that face plant though.. you don't get to see that in a museum.. that was golden.

Michael Field said...

I bet SHE had the camera too when that happened Steve. Always take a spare, ALWAYS :)