Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Australia Day

A bit late but 26th January was Australia Day. Unlike Canada Day/Independence Day this isn't a celebration of when Australia became a country, rather it is to celebrate the arrival of the First Fleet (the British) in Australia in 1788. This causes some controversy as the Indigenous Australians were in Australia long before this time, and some see this as celebrating the invasion of their land by the British. I guess that's understandable.

On a less political note, we celebrated by going to The Local Taphouse in Balaclava, having Australian flags tattooed on our faces and hanging out with a blow up kangaroo. As you do.

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Sad faces as those beers were $13 each!

Friday, 25 January 2013

The Australian Open vs. Wimbledon

For the past 2 weeks Melbourne has been host to the Australian Open and we have gone tennis crazy. I've never watched so much tennis in my life (although this is possibly due to the fact that up until yesterday I didn't have to work). Last night we watched Andy Murray beat Roger Federer in a 4 hour, 5 set match at a pub with mr and mrssweatybetty, so now he will go on to face Djokovic in the final on Sunday. Murray recently defeated Djokovic to win his first grand slam title at the US Open, and won gold at the London Olympics last summer, so Scotland's favourite son seems to have broke out of his habit of choking during really big matches.

However, this is not really meant to be a sports related post (it is me writing after all, not mrwandymcnoble). Last weekend we had a grounds pass to the Australian Open with mr and mrssweatybetty, and as all of us had been to Wimbledon and thoroughly enjoyed it, we were really looking forward to a day of watching tennis. However, we fast came to this conclusion: The Australian Open is no Wimbledon.

Here are our reasons for this:

1. If you only have a grounds pass at Wimbledon you can happily watch all the big matches on Henman Hill (more recently Murray Mound) on a huge screen with a picnic. At the Australian Open (AO) there is a lawn with chairs and tables and a teeny tiny screen that you can only really see properly if you are near the front.

In our tennis whites!

2. No strawberries and cream and at the AO.

3. You cannot bring any alcohol into the AO. At Wimbledon you are allowed one bottle per person. This is especially annoying when the cost of a small glass of wine or a pint at the AO is around $8-10.

4. There seemed to be no atmosphere at the AO. Australians have this perception that Wimbledon is really snobby and stuck-up, but that could not be further from the truth. Everyone is really friendly and there to have a good time.

5. A grounds pass is free at Wimbledon, but $35 at the AO. (However you have to queue at like 5am on premium days for a grounds pass to Wimbledon, so actually I'd probably rather pay the $35 and go at a regular time. Although mrssweatybetty assures me that the 5am queue is all part of the Wimbledon atmosphere. Not sure I believe her)
ETA: a grounds pass at Wimbledon is NOT free. Sorry, I was misinformed on this point. It's £8-20. So I guess the AO wins on this point!

6. Unbelievable queues for drinks and food at the AO. Although this probably saved us money in the end as we couldn't be bothered to wait for more drinks. To give credit to the AO, there are plenty of water fountains where you can fill your water bottle with (lukewarm) water for free.

The boys spent A LOT of time watching Sharapova practice


7. And finally, it is just TOO HOT for tennis here in the summer! It's crazy. There is almost no shade anywhere on the grounds so you just have to hope your sunscreen is doing its job, and drink your drinks fast so they are still cold. And we are not even the ones playing tennis! I feel very sorry for the players that have got stuck playing on the 40 degree plus days here.

All in all, we had a good day, but agreed we'd have rather saved our $35 and gone somewhere else to watch the tennis on a screen, and that in the case of putting on tennis tournaments, England > Australia.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Brunch

Yesterday we went for our first brunch in Melbourne. Melbournians love their brunch and going out for brunch is a very popular thing to do here. After the meal we had I can understand why!

We went to Birdman Eating in Fitzroy after at 15km run with mr and mrssweatybetty around the Yarra River and Albert Park. We were feeling pretty smug about having done so much exercise before 9am, and were able to fully indulge guilt-free. We sat outside in the sun in our lycra and barefoot running shoes, looking slightly out of place compared to all the Fitzroy hipsters.
 Running around Albert Park Lake
Andy loving the run

First up: the drinks. mrwandymcnoble and I went for relatively boring/safe choices; a soy flat white for me and a latte for him. mrssweatybetty had a chai tea latte and mrsweatybetty had an iced coffee, which was served with a scoop of real vanilla ice cream. It was like a coffee milkshake! I definitely had coffee envy.
Chai latte, regular latte and iced coffee
Birdman Eating has 2 different baked egg specials everyday, which apparently mrssweatybetty was dreaming about even before we went on our run. She had the ratatouille baked eggs and the boys had the chilli con carne baked eggs. I went for the other special which was a poached egg with pumpkin and sage hollandaise sauce on sourdough bread. It was the best brunch I have ever had!
Chilli con carne baked eggs
Poached egg with pumpkin and sage hollandaise
I can't wait to go out for brunch in Melbourne again. I know we need to try somewhere new, but it will be hard to not just return to Birdman Eating!


Friday, 18 January 2013

We're here!

Well, this is the start of our 4th day here in Melbourne, and I've promised myself I will be better at writing blog posts now that we are actually in Australia and (hopefully) have exciting things to blog about.
We arrived on Wednesday after our 24 hours of travel from London. It was not nearly as bad as I expected. We got to Heathrow on Monday night with the help of mrwandymcoble's dad and our massive bike bags got on to the plane with no problem.

We flew the first half of our flight with BA - 12 hours to Hong Kong. I LOVE BA. First of all you get to fly out of Terminal 5 at Heathrow, which is so much nicer and calmer than the older terminals. Also our plane was brand new, the food was pretty good, unlimited drinks - what's not to love? We both managed to sleep for the majority of the flight as well, which has definitely helped with the jet lag.
We had a 3 hour wait in Hong Kong (where we ate at Pizza Express - yum!) and then hoped on our second flight with Qantas, 9 hours to Melbourne. This was another overnight flight and we didn't manage to sleep nearly as much as on the last flight so it seemed very long.

Arriving into Melbourne I was nervous going through Passport Control, as we were validating our visas. The Australian's don't put a label in your passport for your visa anymore, it's all done electronically, so there is this little nagging doubt in your head that somehow something could have been messed up. But it was surprisingly easy, the border agent didn't say one word to us! Just stamped our passports and we were through!

We then had to pick up our luggage and our 2 massive bike bags. Poor mrwandymcnoble was stuck with both bags (I had all our luggage on a trolley), dragging them through an extremely crowded baggage area, getting lots of weird stares and whispers of "I wonder what's in those bags?!" from other passengers. Getting out of the baggage area took ages but went smoothly and we didn't have our bags searched. The Australian Government is very picky about what you can and can't bring into the country, and one thing they don't want is soil from other countries coming in. So anything that could have touched soil (shoes and our bikes namely) had to be cleaned prior to our flights. They seemed to take our word that we had cleaned the bikes and then we were out of the airport, greeted by our friend mrsweatybetty (of team Olympic Dreams) who helped us with our bikes and bags.
We're here! In Melbourne Airport

We are staying in a part of Melbourne called South Yarra, which is about 5km north of the beach but south of the river Yarra, which sort of splits the city into a North/South divide in the same way the Thames does. We are basically renting a room from a woman called April, who we found on the website airbnb.com. We have booked to stay here until the beginning of February while we sort out long term accommodation. April's flat is lovely and she is so helpful and friendly - I think we really lucked out staying here!

mrsweatybetty spent our first day with us walking around South Yarra and St Kilda and we had our first beers by the beach at The Vineyard, which mrwandymcnoble fondly remembers from his backpacking days. Later on we picked up mrssweatybetty from work and went for dinner together - Olympic Dreams reuinited!
BBQ in Albert Park
Our second day here was extremely hot - over 40 degrees. We woke early due to jet lag and went for a run around the Botanical Gardens before it got too hot. It was absolutely beautiful around there - it beat running around Tooting Bec Common, that's for sure! We had a productive day opening bank accounts, getting mobile phone numbers and starting our flat hunting, and then finished our day with a BBQ with Betty and Jon in Albert Park, where we tried Kangaroo for the first time. I'm not a fan, but perhaps its a mind over matter type of thing!
Albert Park lake
9pm and it's still almost 40 degrees!