Au Revoir St Kilda

A while back I posted a blog about St Kilda and linked it to a song. I promised a second song with a reference to this beautiful suburb of Melbourne. From St Kilda to Kings Cross is it. I chose this as this is the last day we spend in St Kilda before moving on from Melbourne to other Australian cities, including Sydney. Where Kings Cross is.

We did our last shift at Lentil as Anything today. I am very sad to leave there.

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The staff and customers are so lovely. Today we were exceptionally busy as the holidays are in full swing. Customers today included a backpacker down to his last dollar, until the banks open in the UK. He is eating there for free, but promises to help as a volunteer and pay as he can, when he can. Then we had a family, dad Aussie, mom Japanese with two delightful, bi lingual children. They put $60 into the magic box. This illustrated to me perfectly the philosophy behind Lentil.

I’ll miss them.

After along shift we headed off to see Luna Park then off to the Espy

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For a pot. And these views.

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Goodbye St Kilda. I’ll miss you. But Adelaide, Sidney and Perth are waiting for me.

We’ll say a proper goodbye to Melbourne on New Years Eve, when the city turns to gold.

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Christmas Down Under

Gallery

This gallery contains 9 photos.

A few days ago I blogged about plans to ‘skip’ Christmas. It’s our first Christmas away from home, and without the children. We’d agree not to buy presents for each other. But fate intervened. I blame Skippy! Fate started to … Continue reading

’twas the night before Christmas in Melbourne

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It is quite strange to be spending Christmas in Australia. It’s hot and sunny, so spending the afternoon listening to live music with a cold beer seemed a good way to spend Christmas Eve.

Phil and I were at Abbotsford Convent to visit the Christmas Eve Slow Food Market.

I was also keen to see Lentil as Anything at Abbotsford, as Phil and I have been volunteering at the one in St Kilda. This one is qute different as the food is buffet style, and as one of the cooks is Sri Lankan, the food slightly different and equally delicious. All vegetarian and we enjoyed dhal, beetroot korma, rice and steamed dumplings.

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The setting is beautiful yet it is just off a busy and culturally diverse high street. Enjoying the sunshine with us were families and couples, old and young, people from the UK, France, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, and South East Asia. Conversations taking place over lunch in half a dozen different languages. There were Muslims and Sikhs, Christians and those with no religious beliefs gathering as a community in the grounds of a former convent. I wonder what the nuns would have made of that?

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This is the poetry tree in Lentil as Anything.

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And this is where you make a wish and pay as you feel, there are no prices on the menu. The idea is that those who can afford to pay more do, so that everyone can afford to eat, whatever their circumstances.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Day time at the museum

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Museums are stuffy places, right? Dusty relics behind glass cases, boring, dull, unless you are a science geek.

Not Melbourne Museum

The building is controversial, a very modern contrast to the Royal Exhibition Building next door. As a lover of Victorian architecture, I can see why one is more pleasing to the eye, just a stroll around it in its beautiful setting, surrounded by parkland and fountains is uplifting. What a great place to escape to from the office at lunch time, with a picnic.

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However if you have a few hours to spare, preferably a day, a visit to the Melbourne Museum is a great way to spend a rainy day, or even a blistering hot one when you need to find somewhere cool. And this place is cool, in so many ways.

We joined a free guided tour, once more led by a volunteer, that lasted an hour. This is more of an orientation tour, that points out the highlights. I would highly recommend you join one if you can, as this museum is huge and has so much to see and do.

As has been the case so often in Melbourne, we were part of a small select group of four. I can only presume that the demand rises during the holiday period. Early December, you pretty much get personal tours. Fine by me.

So what’s to see and do? The short version.

There’s Phar Lap, a famous racehorse, a very popular exhibit. Lots of bugs and spiders, real ones, including tarantulas seized by customs and excise.

I was moved to tears to hear and read about the removal of Aboriginal children from their families in order to ‘civilise’ them. I guess this is acknowledged here as is their cultural heritage. Bunjilaka Koori Voices

And the technology would entertain the most determinedly bored child who hates museums. Interactive screens like giant iPads that enable you to discover more about the exhibits, the 3D experience and the lifelike dinosaurs that react to human movement amused us for hours!

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And there are models of dinosaurs. Yes, those are antlers. Well it is nearly Christmas.

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So if you are in Melbourne, this is a must see! Well worth the ten dollars. If you are a local, buy an annual pass, you won’t regret it. If you spend a day, bring a picnic as there is an outdoor terrace, and frankly the food in the cafe wasn’t very enticing in my opinion. Or have an early lunch in Carlton Gardens, join a tour, then spend the rest of the day exploring the museum. It’s not pretty from the outside. With the Imax theatre tacked on, at an angle, it is all very modern and a little bit ugly. However, put aside all this and cross the threshold. This is a building designed to showcase what’s inside. And it does it very well indeed. Oh, and you can follow them on twitter @melbournemuseum

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Skipping Christmas

Skipping Christmas

Image via Wikipedia

Some of you may have watched the film Christmas with the Kranks, which is what the suits in Hollywood decided to call the film based on the book, by John Grisham Skipping Christmas

Because Phil and I will be in Melbourne for Christmas we are to some extent also skipping Christmas. We are not buying each other presents. We plan to go to the beach with the dogs on Christmas day and have lunch at the cafe in St Kilda we have been volunteering for, Lentil as Anything but in the evening we will have a special dinner with produce from the Slow Food market at Abbotsford Convent with sparking Shiraz, which apparently is the Aussie wine of choice at Christmas. I will also serve it slightly chilled!

Both our kids will be spending Christmas with the parents of their significant others. This has been the toughest thing for me. It will be the day I will miss them most, but I know that they will be looked after and have a great time. Next year guys, it’s back to our house, ok?

However, I haven’t gone completely Bah Humbug. Melbourne is all dressed up, and this is what I saw today from Chloe’s tapas bar. Who is Chloe? Scroll down to see!

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Even the trams are festive.

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Each evening there are projections on the State Library featuring scenes from The Nutcracker

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Meet Chloe.

So, we are not really Skipping Christmas, just doing it differently, spending less money and still having fun!

Books are the plane, and the train, and the journey.

Today I visited the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne. It is stunning. We joined the guided tour of the dome. Again, like so many of the free things to do in this beautiful city it was just us and the guide.

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In recent years, Victoria invested a substantial sum of money to refurbish the beautiful building. Money well spent.

The quote is one of the many on the walls of the La Trobe reading room which is beautifully furnished, and is one of the quiet reading rooms.

Not that any of them are noisy as such, just full of people and life and free wifi and a chess room! And Ned Kellys’s armour.

Its archives include comic books

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Cartoons

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It holds over 1.5 million books too.

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I’m glad it was part of my journey.

Melbourne for free

As part of our round the world trip, we are house and dog sitting in Melbourne. After being on the road for a month and a bit, having a comfortable bed, our own shower room and a kitchen is fantastic. Beats a camper van, hands down.

We are very lucky to have essentially free accommodation for six weeks, which is a bonus. Another bonus is we get to live like Melburnians not tourists. Well mostly!

Other bits of this trip are going to take serious chunks out of our travel budget, so we are more than happy to look after a house and the dogs and be able to explore this great city, which is consistently voted one of the best place to live in the world.

What I hadn’t reckoned on was how big the place is. And that it’s divided up into mini towns, all so very different. And the traffic and mad drivers. So we are mostly using the public transport system.

To get our bearings we took the FREE city tram, which runs around the CBD. This is a hop on, hop off ride, with a recorded guide to what you can do and see at each stop.

A couple of weeks later we hopped on the FREE city bus, that does a bigger tour of Melbourne.

20111210-180138.jpg There is also a recorded commentary, but our driver also added snippets of his own which was brilliant, such as this is where my grandad got married. Random, but fun.

We have yet to join a FREE guided walk, courtesy of one of the information centres volunteers. Melbourne certainly knows how to utilise volunteers in the culture and tourism industry. They have volunteer guides around the city with maps and other information, volunteers at the Royal Botanic Gardens and you can join a volunteer guide at the NGV to learn more about the art collections on show. Also FREE.

And when we are all cultured out and need to escape the heat we can get the FREE shuttle bus to Chadstone Shopping Centre we haven’t been yet, I suspect it is like Merry Hill or the Bull Ring, but bigger.

As National Trust members we also get FREE entrance to the Polly Woodside and The Old Melbourne Gaol The Polly Woodside was good fun, especially as there was only us two on the FREE guided tour. Phil got above himself, as second mate! When we visit the gaol I will ensure he is punished!

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There are a few other places we will be using our National Trust membership to visit. And while we pay for membership, these visits are not technically free. However, my view is that my membership is a charitable donation and visiting the properties is a privilege.

Free transport, free accommodation, free guided tours, free entrance to attractions, so all we need now is to eat for free……..