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Posts Tagged ‘Melbourne’

Two times a week I venture to a market to replenish our produce.  Melbourne markets vary in shapes, sizes, frequency, prices, and offerings so while we do have our favorite, we like to spice things up a bit and check out different markets from time to time.  Last week we ventured to the Dandenong Market.

We were met with a river of pedestrians and cranky drivers before we even entered the parking lot.  Before we got out of the car Ryan turned to me and said, “Just so you know, I already know I’m not going to like this place.”  “Thanks for the warning,” I replied.  Fair enough, I thought.

This was our bounty from the Dandenong Market.  You’re looking at the results of a typical trip, minus the salmon that we immediately refrigerated.  We’ve been loving silverbeet and lil mandarins…but not at the same time.  We also can’t get enough of the mangoes when they’re in season.  I’m already salivating over the chicken, avo, and mango salad I plan to make with the first in-season mango.  But, I digress…

Bottom line on the Dandenong Market:

+Good prices and quality produce, meats, and seafood, although we didn’t see a ton of organic, sustainable or free-range options.

-Too many stalls and vendors to choose from and too many people to shuffle through.  Let’s face it, sometimes you’re in the mood for a stroll, a leisurely walk around the market to peruse the produce and people watch.  Most times, I am not.

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This weekend we enjoyed a night out with friends watching the Melbourne Storm — currently first on the ladder — take on the 2nd place Brisbane Broncos.  It was our first live rugby match and we loved every minute of it.  The experience can be summed up as follows:

Learning the rules of the game

One small scuffle that was squashed before it could become an all-out brawl.

Very few hoaky mid-game marketing stunts…although there were cheerleaders and a mascot.

Ended after two seemingly short 45-minute halves.  The clock doesn’t stop except in rare occasions unlike NFL (Gridiron, as they call it here) where it seems there is a TV timeout after nearly every play.

Really solid, large-necked, big-legged, strong-armed men running at each other with ungodly amounts of force and speed.

Un-adulterated brutality.  Imagine NFL without the pads.  So Brutal. 

Great seats at a really cool venue, AAMI park, pronounced “Amy“.

Bundled up in our warm, hooded, winter jackets we felt like we were at a football game at home.

Yes, VICTORY for the Storm!

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These newly married days we wonder if we’ve lost our cool.  True, we never had much of it…but now on any given night we prefer to make dinner, cuddle up, and watch TV or read (that is, when we’re not traveling).  I know what you’re thinking, ‘WHOA – how much excitement can one couple handle?’  But those who know us from the ragged race that was our life in the US know how far we’ve come to reach this sort of balance, peace, this place of un-coolness.

So every once in awhile we like to live dangerously, step outside our comfort zone, and hit up a cool cafe.  You know…the ones with the cool factor, that make you feel cool by just being there.  Three Bags Full in Abbotsford (near Richmond) in Melbourne is one of those places. Their website describes their cafe as “Fresh house made produce and specialty coffee”.  Cool, right?!  🙂

There’s nothing special about the interior.  It’s a converted warehouse so the walls are brick and pretty bare.  Truly it’s mainly the waitstaff — who are waaaay cooler than I could ever hope to be — and the light fixtures that give the place its personality.  Can someone PLEASE tell me where I can get those teacup lights for over our as-of-yet-non-existent kitchen breakfast bar?

And before you ask, no I wasn’t paid for this post.  This is out of sheer love or maybe they slipped something into their heavenly ricotta pancakes (below), ricotta hot cakes with baked fruit and orange infused ricotta, to be exact.  Yes, most importantly, the food is to-die-for so you can enjoy a fabulous brekkie while you bask in all your coolness.


Three Bags Full on Urbanspoon

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If you’ve been following our blog you’ll know that our outings are dictated by our ever-growing stack of Scoopon and Living Social deals.  The latest, of which, brought us to Robarta on Fitzroy Street in Saint Kilda.  Ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 stars — depending on your restaurant review site of choice — I had high expectations.  Thankfully this trendy tapas bar lived up to its reputation.

We had an early booking on a Sunday evening so had our choice of tables.  We sat at a high top that looked out onto Fitzroy (gotta’ love Melbourne’s open-air dining).

Once seated we were immediately greeted by a pleasant gent who was a lovely balance of attentive-but-not-intrusive the whole meal.  With our Scoopon deal we started with a bowl of Miso soup each.  It was yummy and just a tad on the salty side, which Ryan loved.  We were off to a great start.

We ordered four tapas, mainly staying with an Asian theme.  The Garlic Chicken with sweet and sour sauce came out first with the chicken and pork spring rolls, along with the complementary fried rice.  These dishes were quickly followed by the Shanghai dumplings and spiced chicken wings.

Each dish was surprising, in a good way.  The chicken wings had a dipping sauce that I likened to an upscale version of A1 steak sauce and Ryan nearly licked the little bowl clean.  At first bite, the fried rice is pretty ordinary but the more you have, the more you taste special something.  It’s not earth-shattering gourmet cuisine but it’s good, bordering on very good.

We were happy with the tapas and comfortably full.  But we would not have missed the dessert, which was, by far the highlight of the meal.  It’s not odd that I would say that about a dessert because I believe that ending dinner on a sweet note is imperative but my dear hubs is not a slave to his sweet tooth like I am and even he agreed that the desserts were the best part.  Included with our deal was two desserts of choice.  We went with a lovely White Chocolate Panna Cotta which is described on the menu as “light, silky smooth cream and white chocolate custard with seasonal fruits and a drizzle of sticky red wine syrup”.  We also chose the Apple Mango Coconut Crumble which can only be described as “yuummmmmmm”. 

Ryan also enjoyed dessert with a latte which we — as emerging coffee snobs — can say was very well done.  The Scoopon deal made this little spot very affordable but even without it, we’ll be back to Robarta.
Robarta on Urbanspoon

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We recently spent an afternoon at the Royal Melbourne Zoo as part of another Scoopon deal.  Neither of us are regular zoo-goers, subscribing to the philosophy ‘a zoo is a zoo’, but I’ve always enjoyed Omaha’s great Henry Dorley Zoo and have experienced the San Diego zoo a couple of times so I was anxious do a comparison.

The Melbourne zoo didn’t disappoint.  It’s full of shaded walking paths, informative placards of animal info, and, of course, animals from many different countries and landscapes.  Unique highlights included the Butterfly house, the baby orangutan and the  little penguins.

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We enjoyed our experience and are glad we visited the zoo at least once but our non-zoo-lover adage gained even more cred.  A zoo is a zoo.  I guess that’s true no matter what side of the world you’re on.

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Best.Valentine’s.Day.Ever.  I won’t go bragging on and on about the amazingly romantic Valentine’s day we had.  I could.  But I won’t.  Instead I’ll share one of the highlights of the day as it relates to Melbourne.

Picnics and beaches are quintessential Melbourne experiences.  Packing up a blanket and filling an “esky” — short for Eskimo, a popular brand of coolers – is  a common activity for Melbournians.  And with the wonderful weather and great bay beaches, a beach-day is a regular Melbourne past-time.   Admittedly, we’ve neglected our “pseudo –Melbournian” duties by not enjoying either of these activities enough.

On Valentine’s Day Ryan surprised me with a dinner picnic to the beach to watch the sunset. We drove to Brighton Beach arriving around 7PM with the sun brilliant over the bay.  We set up our beach chairs and enjoyed a fabulous dinner, packed courtesy of my hubs and complete with sparkling wine.

We dipped our toes in the warm water as we strolled along the shore.  Here’s a shot of my gorgeous husband, ooh la la.

And, of course we watched the sunset together.

While we won’t be able to recreate the romance of this Vday regularly (nor would we want to) we agreed that we MUST make beach visits more frequently in the future.  Now onto getting a beach bod…

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There is so much to do and see in Melbourne I’m starting to think that we won’t get it all done before we head for home.  Maybe that’s okay but it’s an unsettling feeling for two planners like ourselves.  Daily deal sites like Scoopon, Living Social, Spreets, etc, have been great ways for us to explore Melbourne as they’re constantly offering deals to restaurants and attractions across the city.

One of the latest deals we picked up was for 3 hot attractions at a very discounted rate.  First on the list was the Melbourne Aquarium.  I should mention that I’m not much of an aquarium go-er.  My trip to the Shedd Aquarium several years ago in Chicago with a dear friend was a blast but was my first and last fish-fest that I can remember.

At the Melbourne aquarium there we were with hundreds of families and little kiddoes running amuck among the displays (it should be mentioned that I love kids…when they’re quiet…or when they’re still babies) but I could understand their excitement.  The first display was a bunch of Gentoo Penguins.  You could watch them on the ice and in the water.  “Cheeky and feisty” so said the sign but truly adorable.

If you’ve read or heard much about Australia, you’ll know that it’s lands and waters are home to some of the deadliest creatures (spiders, snakes, crabs)  known to man, like the box jellyfish.  Think of the worst unimaginable pain, multiply it times 100 and by the time you’ve done that, you’d be dead, or wishing you were.

The aquarium had some great tanks with a ton of different underwater species.  The displays were interactive and educational.  You could feed and touch fish in certain sections. The aforementioned kiddoes were loving it.  (Have I mentioned before how kid-friendly Melbourne is?)  The most interesting display (for me) was the Seahorses.  I just find them so funny and cute and majestic at the same time.

And The Weird award goes to the Axolotl which comes from Mexico where it’s known as the Mexican Walking Fish.  According to the oh-so-informative display, axolotls aren’t fish but amphibians.  What makes them an oddity–besides the obvious creepy appearance–they can regenerate their gills, heart, tail, liver, kidneys, parts of their nervous system, and their arms and legs.  These little guys are critically endangered worldwide.  SAVE THE AXOLOTL!

Ryan is the same way I am about aquariums so I’m not sure we would’ve felt that the steep admission fee at the aquarium was worth it if we didn’t have the killer discount but for those with kids I reckon it’s a great outing, especially with the family discount…an alternative to the “Ryan-and-Laura-are-frugal-aka-cheap”  rate.

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As Christmas didn’t quite feel like Christmas to us we wanted to do something unique and memorable, something that we could say was perfect for our Australian Christmas.  If you ask Australians if there is something as a traditional Aussie Christmas you may hear of two different options; one, a day at the beach or two, Vision Australia’s Carols by Candlelight at Sidney Myer Music Bowl.  We opted for the latter.

In its 74th year, Carols by Candelight is put on in Melbourne by non-profit organization Vision Australia, who, according to their website, ‘are passionate that people who are blind or have low vision will have access to and fully participate in every part of life they choose’.  A Chrismas concert on steroids, this mega-event gets over 10,000 attendees and is broadcast all over Australia starting at 8PM Christmas eve.  As we found, the event is not only about the great music, for many it’s about the whole-day experience and we did it up in a-once-in-a-lifetime way.

We opted for the more cost-effective general admission tickets which gave us access to the big lawn on which to watch the concert.  Without assigned seats, however, we were told that people started queuing quite early to ensure good spots on the lawn.  Doors to the music bowl didn’t even open until 4:30PM but there was space for the queue at King’s Domain in the Royal Botanic Gardens.  This being our first time at the event, we arrived at King’s Domain to queue around 10:30 AM and surprisingly, we were not the first ones there.  Several people spent the night in tents to claim their spots as first in queue.  The queueing process as a mess and so disorganized and I hate to admit the bah-humbug came out in both of us when we remarked at how it would never be this disorganized in the US.  (But keep reading for our take on how what the Aussies do much better than us…)

Equipped with festival chairs, a blanket, two picnics (lunch and dinner), ipods, books, decks of cards, sunscreen, and plenty of water we set up camp waiting for the doors to open at 4:30PM.  We did enjoy a somewhat restful day reading and listening to music in the sun.

We were advised by some regulars that when the doors opened, one person should carry the bags and one person should run with the blanket to secure a good spot.  I was the runner, Ryan was the “pack-mule” as he likes to say.  Running, pushing and shoving aside, I managed to get a primo location right behind the assigned (read: expensive) seats.

The event began promptly at 8:00 with performances by the Australian Boys and Girls choir and the Carols by Candelight Choir.

We were serenaded all night with classic and contemporary Christmas songs sung by famous Australian artists including; Ricki-Lee Coulter, Marina Prior, John Foreman, James Morrison, Anthony Callea, Sylvie Palladino and many more.

As dusk settled upon Melbourne, people started to light their candles.

This was really something to see the darker it got.

The highlights for me were the Hallelujah Chorus and O Holy Night.

And both of our favorite part of the night was the last song, the Our Father.  A song like that would never be allowed to be the closer at a national event of this scale, at least not without a series of other politically correct songs accompanying it.  We were delighted and, quite frankly, admired the Aussies for ending the night with such a religious undertone and reminding us all what the night was about.  As Ameri-stralians, we were honored to have experienced Christmas in this Australian way.

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Now you know that I don’t often write long, drawn-out blog posts, as I much prefer to share our stories with you via pictures. They’re always so much better at communicating than I am. But this story is one that has to be told so I hope you’ll bear with me.

As hard as it might be to believe, this little innocent gal is a law-breaker. It happened one bright, sunny, afternoon in the Melbourne CBD (Central Business District, for this reading this from Home).

Lil’ ol’ me – as I’ll refer to myself this entire post – went to volunteer at an organization that offers many helpful services like family counseling, refugee services, foster-care and adoption assistance, and on and on. I parked in a one-hour parking bay, fed the ticket machine, and went on my way to do good in this world.

When I emerged (with a couple of minutes to spare, mind you) my heart sank when I saw the obnoxious white paper fluttering in the breeze on my windshield. My disappointment quickly turned to outrage when I realized I still had a few minutes remaining on the ticket bay and when I saw that the city was GOUGING me for $61! It was an atrocity. I wanted to shout at the nearest passerby that it never pays to do good, but I didn’t…at least I won’t admit to.

I collected my ticket and marched over to the ticket bay. Indeed, I was right, bay 7 still had several minutes remaining. Knowing that this wrong had to be “right-ed”, I summoned my inner Sherlock Holmes, Mary Tyler Moore (who always does the right thing), and Olivia from Law & Order:SVU, I collected important evidence, aka: took mobile pics of the ticket bay screen, and then proceeded to dial the number located on the ticket.

I spoke to a lovely gal from the city of Melbourne. I explained to her that ‘lil ol’ me was volunteering and when I came out I had this unjust ticket. She informed me that many of the meters were having issues so that I should go online to contest my ticket. “Yes, I will right away,” I declared, positively certain that I had been wronged by a faulty meter or incompetent policeman.

So I went home and speedily submitted the form. I was reviewing the pics I had taken and my ticket number and it was then that I cracked the case. Prepare yourself for the twist in the story. I realized that I had paid Bay 7 of the wrong ticket meter. I went to the one behind my car when, in all likelihood, the correct ticket meter was in front of me! DOH!

I could no longer blame a faulty meter or incompetent policeman and, in fact, I felt all the more terrible that I had done so. I still proceeded to contest the ticket but the tone of the case changed from, “Lil’ ol’ me was just volunteering when your big bad policeman/meter incorrectly issued me a ticket,” to “Lil’ ol’ me is new to Melbourne from out of the country, and was volunteering, and I really really thought I was doing right by paying the meter and returning before it had expired…” I wrote my mea-culpa to the City of Melbourne, maybe this time to atone for the curses muttered in my head instead of the actual offense.

Not more than a few weeks later, I received this “beaut” in the mail.

Sorry for the poor quality pic. If you can’t read it, it says, “A check of the parking machine in question was conducted and the results indicate that it may not have been in full working order on the day of the infringement. Therefore the infringement has withdrawn.” {INSERT SQUEALS OF DELIGHT!}

It goes on to say, “The parking machine at which your vehicle incurred the infringement is a multi-bay meter[…]When you park at one of these machines in the future, please read the instructions displayed on the machine to ensure you have paid for the correct bar.”

Touche, City of Melbourne, touche. Good on ya’.

Part of me is embarrassed to admit that I went to all of this trouble to get out of a $61 ticket but it was the principal of it all really; that I tried to do something good, made an honest mistake, and got charged for it. This isn’t my “woe is me” post. Thanks to the City of Melbourne, I learned my lesson, to check the meters more carefully. I think Mary Tyler Moore would be proud. Case closed.

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It’s the word that comes to mind when visiting Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance,  so much more than a war memorial.

Peace…in the quiet and beauty that surrounds the commanding building.

Peace…while approaching the Shrine, the way your mind settles and reflects on what’s been lost.

Peace…in such contrast to the battles of which the mighty balustrades are meant to represent.

Peace…in honor and gratitude that knows no international borders.  It’s humanity.  (Text at the bottom of the picture reads: “We will remember them.”)

Peace…in simple and profound phrases.  (Reads “Lest we forget.”)

Peace…in respect and remembrance…Courage, decency, self-worth 

Peace…a hope for the future

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