This past weekend was my first real weekend in Melbourne. Not to say that the weekend before to the sanctuary wasn’t incredible (it truly was something I will never forget), but this was my first weekend where I went out and about in the city and my suburb.
Friday night some colleagues at work invited me to come along for dinner and drinks in the Central Business District of Melbourne (I guess technically I’m not sure if they’d be colleagues since they are all staff and a bit older, but that’s what they called me and I’m going with it). So after work (school?) Friday we went straight from the Uni to the train station in Footscray. They had told me I was welcome to tag along on their journey in, or I could just meet them at the restaurant. Having absolutely no idea how to get around, I obviously opted for the former option. Everything was new and overwhelming. They walked through the town with ease, whilst I tried to keep up and turn the right way.
The trip was actually fairly easy from the train station as most of the lines take you right into the city center. I was able to snap one nighttime shot of the semi-well known Flinders Street Station, but other than that I just enjoyed being in the moment and kept my phone pocketed. My companions seemed to thoroughly enjoy my excitement and lead me on the more scenic tour of the CBD.
I’ve never experienced anything like Melbourne. In the states restaurants are mostly self-contained entities that each provide their own atmosphere upon entering, but in Melbourne (much like some European countries) most of the restaurants had an outdoor component as well (seating, entertainment, etc). This changed the entire feel of the city as each unique dining experience was contributing to the overall buzz of the street life. As we wound through the alleys, I was just in awe of the sheer variety of shops, sweets and restaurants. You’d be walking down a fairly average unexciting alleyway only to turn right into a walkthrough indoor mall strip beautifully adorned with artwork on the walls and mosaic tiles on the floor. Needless to say I am already planning a return expedition into the city in order to truly get lost with my camera.
I was with a smaller group of four, but there were plans for a rendezvous with the larger group for birthday drinks at Myers Place bar. Since we had some time to kill we started the evening at this little outdoor diner for some drinks. Everyone had their favorite drink in mind almost instantly but I had to peruse the menu for a few minutes, not knowing ANY of the drinks listed. I found a word I recognized (lager) and ordered an O’Brien light lager as my first Aussie beer. I’m sure there will be many more to come, but this was a great, light pre-dinner drink. It was light on the alcoholic content and very refreshing.
Luckily I had read enough to be prepared, but for those who don’t know, drinks here (and restaurants in general) are quite expensive. A beer will set you back (outside of some specials you can sometimes find) about $8-10 , wine can be a little less, but for the most part about the same and cocktails seemed to start around $13-15. The other odd aspect of dining out is that the restaurants do not split tabs. It’s just not something that is done. So when you go out, you always bring cash to cover whatever your portion of the meal is. Most places also have a $10minimum charge if you want to use a credit card as well, which also encourages the use of cash (though, you won’t find too much for less than $10 anyway).
One of the women picked up the tab at the first restaurant and refused to be paid back and throughout the night it seemed to me that they kind of work on the principle of I’ll get this one, you get next time, and sometimes they just genuinely want to buy you a drink. We had a quick meal at a little Mexican restaurant (can’t remember the name), and then we were off to the main event. It’s a good thing I rode with them as I don’t know how I’d ever have found the restaurant off some random alleyway.
It was a small but homey venue, and the birthday girl had packed out the place with people from the Uni. I mostly stuck with my group but met a few PhD students (finishing up their dissertation) from Vic Uni. I had some of the delicious Shiraz wine and just enjoyed chatting with the melting pot of friends I had made (one from Adelaide, one form the Netherlands, another native Aussie and a New Zealander. Between the lot of us we had great conversation.
I had my first “oh no” experience with a word that night (thankfully I was around the friends who, after correcting me and having a good laugh, shared their own “oopsie” moments with language). So I won’t go into the details of the reason why the conversation was had, as it would take too long and I can’t remember all the details, but somehow I used the word fanny (meaning it as a person’s backside). The Aussie immediately turned a shade of red and asked me to repeat what I had said and then laughed. He then explained that fanny here meant, um, hmm, a woman’s front side…and it’s apparently quite a dirty slang for it. OOPS. I immediately explained what I had meant and we all had a good laugh. Note to self—never discuss fanny packs.
On the whole the night was an amazing first venture into Melbourne. One of the women drove me home, so there was no stress of which train where and when.
Saturday morning I had made plans with a girl I’ll be doing research with through the hospital here to do a timed 5k along the river by my house. I woke up bright and early, but after a late night of drinking and socializing, I had to drag myself out of the house to make it to the start line on time. I shared hellos with the girl before the race, but then quickly expressed in the most sincere way that she NOT wait for me or try to pace with me during the race. I have not run since October, and even this little 5k kicked my tail. All that being said, the scenery was breathtaking. We ran along the river and saw many other joggers, dog walkers, families, rowers and stand up paddle-boarders along the path.
I underestimated the sun’s strength even at 8 in the morning so by the end I was a bit overheated. Luckily Catherine (my new friend) and her husband took me out to a brunch to chat and recover. The lunch conversation deserves its own blog post entirely as it was my first real chance to compare life, politics, and economics in the US to Australia. Needless the say the conversation was enlightening for all and a true, honest exchange of culture.
I finished off the weekend with Jason and Sandee and kids at a festival in their neighborhood (it seems there are always festivals here!). I don’t know what I was expecting, but this festival was more akin to a city fair at home. There was live entertainment, free smoothies, face painting, kids activities, rides, food, etc.
It was an incredibly hot day (high 90s—or mid 30s in C), so we had to head home for a break and dinner midday. It was good timing as a small storm popped out of nowhere (as they all seem to do here). Thunderstorms tend to freak me out a bit, and this one was no exception, but as we were outrunning the storm I couldn’t help but look back at the beauty of it all. I’ve never seen rain that looked like that
We returned to the festival for the fireworks show (which was INCREDIBLE). Seriously guys, the Australian sky is MADE for fireworks. They filled up the entire sky
This weekend was an important one for me as it really helped me feel a bit more settled in my new home. I’ve got a lot to learn still about the transportation, language (whoops), and culture, but for now I have to say I am really loving every bit of this crazy adventure down under.
P.S. I hit a new personal record in steps saturday and accordingly haven’t moved at all today