Melbourne for Free Part 2

We found Australia a very expensive country to visit. I posted while we were in Melbourne on our quest to find things that were free in Melbourne, here. We were house and dog sitting in Melbourne so our accommodation was free which saved us lots of money. Food and the cost of transport using Myki (think Oyster but complicated and expensive) really took a chunk out of our budget. We wanted to make the most of our time there, yet we needed to find free things to do and see. Fortunately my old uni friend, whose house and dogs we ‘sat’ for a month in Melbourne advised us to bring our National Trust card with us as we could use it in Australia.

And this is where we visited.

The Old Melbourne Gaol

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This would have normally cost $25 per adult if not for our trusty National Trust Card.

To visit the Gaol you need to book a timed tour. This is no ordinary tour as there is a lot of role play. We were taken into the police station, assigned names and had our charges read out to us. The police officer then accompanies you to the cells and divided up the men and women and then locked us up in separate cells. Even though you knew it was  all part of the ‘experience’ and fully participated in this, it was still very unnerving. I was glad to hear the key turning in the lock to set us free.

The most famous prisoner here was Ned Kelly who was hanged there in 1880. After the tour you are able to explore the rest of the gaol, and learn more about some of the prisoners held there. There are some very sad stories. While highly recommended, a visit to the Gaol comes with a health warning; you will probably leave with low spirits. I recommend that you line something up afterwards that is outside and cheers you up such as …

Polly Woodside

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As you enter the visitor centre you are assigned a role and then treated accordingly on the guided tour. We were the only ones on our tour, the upside was we got the guide to ourselves, the downside was that some of the role play was impossible with only two of us. This wasn’t the only time when visiting attractions that we had a guide to ourselves visiting Melbourne attractions. The Polly Woodside was built in Belfast and was sold to the National Trust for one cent in 1968. Great for families, children, big kids and history buffs alike. A good place to visit after the Gaol as it is in the open air and fun, and you can purchase a combined ticket with the Gaol for $30.

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Once more this is by guided tour only and according tp the web site:-

Como is not open to walk up visitors in the short term however, the site will continue to be available for bookings covering group tours of 10 or more people (a minimum of 20 people on weekends), as well as events and private functions.

We were lucky as we turned up on spec and joined the a small guided tour of just four. The house and gardens are beautiful, a real insight to how the privileged lifestyles of the rich. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, it is a shame that they have limited opening now.

Rippon Lea House and Garden

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Our tour guide informed us that the family that built this house had made its fortune in Manchester. As there were only two of us on the tour (do you see a pattern emerging here?) I gently pointed out that most, if not all Brits, would think she was talking about the city in England. The guide was surprised to learn that it is only in Australia and New Zealand that bed linen and towels are referred to as ‘manchester’.

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Once we had cleared that little misunderstanding up, she went on to tell us that this house, amongst others mentioned in this post, had recently been used as a film set for Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Labassa

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Labassa was closed when we visited. It was within walking distance of where we were staying, and is surrounded by residential properties.We did manage to get a few photos of the interiors. Stunning house and disappointed that we were unable to go inside.

Use them or lose them Melbourne folks

What struck me was how few visitors most of these really interesting places were getting. By far the most popular was Melbourne Old Gaol. At most of the other places we were often the only ones there. Why is this? Was it the time of year, mid December, just before the school holidays? Do visitors to the area not know or are not interested in this part of Australian history? In the UK most National Trust properties are full of visitors. There has to be timed entrances due to the volume of visitors. Yet these beautiful properties are struggling to remain open due to lack of visits.

The guides at Como and Rippon Lea were baffled, as to why people from England were interested in these houses, when we had much older and grander properties to visit in the UK. We explained that we knew very little about the history of Australia, I frankly had no idea that we would find properties to visit like this. My limited knowledge of Australia was that it was hot, had kangaroos, spiders that would kill me and sharks that would kill me. And what I had seen in Neighbours and Home and Away. I thought everyone would have swimming pools and that most people living there were descendents of criminals or £10 Poms. OK I may be over exaggerating just a bit, yet Australia was full of surprises for me, (rain, cold, bad tv, heritage properties) despite reading Down Under by Bill Bryson who writes:

‘It was as if I had privately discovered life on another planet, or a parallel universe where life was at once recognizably similar but entirely different. I can’t tell you how exciting it was. Insofar as I had accumulated my expectations of Australia at all in the intervening years, I had thought of it as a kind of alternative southern California, a place of constant sunshine and the cheerful vapidity of a beach lifestyle, but with a slightly British bent – a sort of Baywatch with cricket . . . ‘

Yes, he loves Australia as much as I do. The rich culture, the amazing food, the skyscrapers in the CBD and these beautiful properties to visit, all knocked me for six. I cannot wait to get back there and spend some more time in this beautiful country.

Have you been to or live in Melbourne? What would you recommend to a visitor?

And if you live in or are visiting Victoria, go visit these properties, while you can.

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Melbourne Memories -St Kilda

The far sickness has kicked in big time today. I think it is because I have committed myself to a paid job, which means that the travelling plans are truly on the back burner. But that’s another post for another day….

Time to revisit some memories of a very happy time in Melbourne. IMG_4658

We loved St Kilda. We were there every week as we were volunteering at Lentil as Anything.

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After our shift we usually had a wander around. There was always something to see.IMG_4673

We loved this community garden.

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And the cakes.IMG_4657

And the record shop.IMG_4662

And of course Lunar Park.IMG_5967IMG_4738

Hope to see you soon St Kilda.IMG_4787

Hostels: the good, the bad and the downright ugly

Reading a post on OIK Strategy with tips about hostels by @About London Laura reminded me of the way standards in hostels (in Australia at least) can vary.

Until my RTW trip with my husband I hadn’t stayed in a hostel for nearly 40 years. Yet we were going on a RTW backpacking trip and hostels were part of the deal if we were to manage see more of this wonderful country.

The Good

This is possibly the best hostel in the world ever. Sydney Harbour YHA. It nestles in-between five star hotels and this was the view from our bedroom window.

IMG_7291The is our private double room.
IMG_7244The ensuite.
IMG_7243 On the terrace.IMG_7252 IMG_7255 Just at the front of the hostel and we can see the Sydney Harbour Bridge.IMG_7261 Barbeque night at Sydney Harbour YHAIMG_7293 I cannot see why anyone would check into an hotel in Sydney when you could stay here. There were all ages, families, backpackers and flashpackers. It most definitely not a party hostel. Except at New Years Eve of course. Can you imagine the views on NYE?

The kitchens were well equipped, a team of hardworking cleaners ensured that everywhere was spot less.

After previous hostels this was a good one. Previously we had stayed, as part of a tour group, in some absolutely dire ones. And also had to experience the dreaded dorm.

The not so good (yet compared to the next one it was not bad).

After a comfortable house sit in Melbourne we headed off along The Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. We were quite a big group and the guide called Pete admitted at the end that he had concerns about the dynamics. As it was we all really got on. Never a cross moment. Mixed ages, fitness levels and nationalities. 3 days on the road.

Our first hostel was Warrnambool Beach Backpackers. Tour guide Pete had advised us not to head into town where there was a carnival as it would be full of Bogans. Fortunately the town has one redeeming feature. Kermonds. The burgers here are amazing.

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Bellies full we checked in to a packed hostel and scrambled to find beds. I tried to get in a small dorm but a group of younger girls nabbed it declaring it to be a female only dorm, (they obviously had more experience in grabbing the best rooms)  so we were left with with another couple in a mixed dorm, 8 beds, which at first didn’t seem to be too bad. We had lockers  with keys and were only here one night. There was a group of scouts in another dorm. However it seemed we were the entrance room to a  much larger dorm of all young men who were going to join the bogans at the carnival. Result, no sleep. At all.

Pete the tour guide put me in charge of breakfast, he recognised my inner Monica of course, so I was up early and got a shower in before the hordes formed a queue in the corridor. It was clean, it was ok for a hostel, but large mixed dorms with smelly farty young men isn’t for me.

The next hostel was Neds Beds at Halls Gap.

Possibly the worst hostel ever.

The owner had an all night orgy in his jacuzzi.

I got bitten by bed bugs.

The only good thing was that I was in an all girls dorm.

The kangeroos were a bonus as was the ice cream parlour.

If a tour company lists this hostel on an itinery, don’t use the tour company. No really, don’t.

What hostels have you stayed in and would you recommend them?

Round the world with my kagool

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The one item of clothing I lugged around the world that I do not regret taking was my trusty kagool or kag in a bag. It was well used in New Zealand when we went on a wine tasting tour … Continue reading

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.

Christmas Down Under

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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

Talking St Kilda Blues

I have tried, not always successfully to link the names of my posts with music references. Mainly because I am travelling with a man who reads album covers for a hobby. And as vinyl is now apparently fashionable in a retro kind of way, even you young people should know what I’m talking about.

Anyway I managed to find songs about St Kilda which was a bit of a surprise. This was not the only one. The next one I’m saving for another post, when we get to Sydney. You will see why when I post!

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We went to St Kilda today, and one of our first ports of call was a music shop that has a bar! Enough said.

Pure Pop

That was after ogling at the cake shops.

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Then there were shoe shops. Lots of lovely shops everywhere.

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And a barber, that also provides a beer while you have your locks trimmed.

Even the fishmonger has flair.

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I loved St Kilda, it has a fabulous community garden, a theme park, a beach a pier and a cafe Lentils As Everything where there are no prices, you pay what you think it’s worth or what you can afford. I’m not sure how it sustains itself on this business model. But as I’ve just volunteered there, I may find out.

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