Vagablogging Field Report: Life in Melbourne, Australia

On May 25th, 2016

Welcome to Melbourne -

Melbourne is my second home. After marrying an Aussie who grew up in the suburbs of this special city, we’ve spent under a year living in the CBD and have had countless visits since. The city of sport, cafes and coffee culture thrives in the southeastern portion of Australia. Home to the Australian Open and the Formula One Grand Prix, this city, known for four seasons in a day is a haven for travelers. Between the beautiful beaches and mountains, valleys of chocolate – wine – cheese and its setting along the Yarra River, Melbourne attracts visitors from around the world. Try your hand at lawn bowls, take in a cricket match at the MCG, shop to your heart’s content at the Queen Victoria Market, expand your taste buds in Chinatown, hang with marsupials at Healesville Sanctuary, place your bets at Crown Casino or meander along the banks of the Yarra – no matter where you spend your time in Melbourne – you’re bound to want to return.

Cost/day: $40-$250

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately? One of my visits to watch the street artists at Southbank was met with a group of people jumping on and off of things that I wouldn’t often consider jumpable. It turned out to be a parkour group consisting of young kids, teenagers and adults practicing their talents and skills on the cement pillars beside the Yarra. Up, down, right, left – while keeping all bones in tact, they zigged and zagged till their hearts content.

What are two great day trips? 

For a beach day I like to head to St. Kilda. The #96 tram runs all the way from the CBD to the beach. Grab a MYKI card and jump aboard. On Sundays you’ll find the craft market along the esplanade. Wile away the hours reading, people watching or shell collecting as your feet run through the sand or get your scare on at the seaside Luna Park. Then head up to Acland Street for fun food and eye-catching desserts at the famed cake shops.

For a full day of outdoor fun, take public transport or hop a ferry to Williamstown. Wander the water to enjoy the picturesque scenery amidst the grandeur of water crafts, shop at the boutiques, enjoy an ice cream or other sweets, chat with locals and take in the sights and sounds of this seaport village. There are walks and seaplanes, cannons and towers, markets to shop and sand castles to build. A day spent at this seaside spot is a memorable one.

the cricket - Melbourne, Australia -

Describe a typical day: A typical day in Melbourne for me involves a lot of walking. For many, it begins with a coffee from one of the many baristas in the city. My husband’s favourite hot drink is a long black from Pie Face while I prefer a hot chocolate from Hudson’s or Gloria Jeans. As the city awakes, people flock to the CBD heading towards cafes, offices, parks, yoga classes, gyms, sight-seeing, rowing clubs and shops. Some mornings I head up to the Queen Victoria Market for some fruits, vegetables and possibly a borek from one of the busiest stalls in the deli section. Amidst hours of writing at either my favourite spot on the banks of the Yarra, the city’s central library or in a local coffee shop, I’ve been known to grab a yoga class, walk ‘the tan’ (a walking track at one end of the city) or people watch in Southbank. Lunch may consist of a couple of sushi rolls or some semblance of a salad or wrap while dinner could be a veggie burger, a stop at the 24-hour Greek diner, Stalactites, or one of the many delicious Asian restaurants all over the city. If I’m feeling a craving for dessert, there could be a stop at the Lindt Cafe or Max Brenner’s Chocolate Shop.

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local: While living there, we were lucky to have friends from various places. Rachel helped me find yummy treats in the hidden laneways, learn my way around the CBD and explained the best spots to shop for discounts (DFOs) while Emma taught me baking measurements, took me to all the best chocolate spots and shared information about the Australian education system.


The Shrine of Remembrance -

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

I love Melbourne. Each time we visit, we see something new. The variety of food options never ceases to amaze me, while the ease in life is apparent in everything. The cafe and coffee culture is evident everywhere. If it’s warm, there are people eating outside and when the weather changes (which it’s more or less guaranteed to do), there are still people sitting outside (under activated heaters). Everything in the city center is in walking distance including access to trams and two major train stations (Flinders Street Station and Southern Cross Station). There’s theater and sport, food of all kinds, water and beach access and people enjoying life in their own way. Also, unlike prices on clothing and other things in the US, taxes are built into the total price of a product. If a pair of jeans says $50, that’s the total price of the item.

There’s not much about Melbourne that I dislike except prices. Food and clothing are often far more expensive than in other parts of the world.

favourite chips - Grill'd, Melbourne, Australia -

What are your four favourite quick food stops?

Grill’d: Burgers and chips (My favourite is the Garden Goodness and a regular chips with herbed mayo)

Pie Face: pies and rolls (My favourite is the spinach roll, while the husband’s favourite is a chunky steak pie)

Sushi rolls (anywhere where it looks fresh) … check out Sushi Hub on Swanston Street

Spud Bar: (in the food court at the Emporium) Baked Potatoes plus toppings

Describe a challenge you faced: Having grown up in the United States, switching over to systems of Metric and Celcius was a bit of a learning experience. The first time I wanted to roast vegetables at home, I called a chef friend of my husband’s for assistance, since I knew that 400 degrees was not an acceptable option.

What new lesson did you learn? I learned that I loved living in a small city. Melbourne was the first city in which I ever lived. Although I spent much of life about an hour outside of Manhattan, I never lived in the center of a city. Only blocks away from major train stations and steps away from the trams, within minutes, I could be on my way to a grand adventure. The water creature in me was satisfied with a wander by the Yarra and the knowledge that within a ten minute tram ride on either the #96 or #109, I could plop myself on the sand beside the sea. Nightlife is available, markets are aplenty, everywhere is walkable if you have the time and life was constantly happening all around me. Living in Melbourne taught me that not only COULD I live in a city and in a place other than New York, but that I WANTED to live in a city and that life abroad made me happier than I expected.

Melbourne at night -

Where next? After leaving Melbourne on this trip, we headed to the Red Centre for a five day outback excursion then a few days in Toronto, Canada and a week with family in New York. Next up: a one month road trip across the US back to San Diego.

To learn more about our continuing adventures, check out my blog.