I don’t even get a chance to rest, it seems. Already the e-mails arrive with ‘trip report please‘ in the subject header. You know Melbourne well enough by now so it’s a truncated update service only:
A is for Asian Tourists in Australia: Didn’t seem to be as many as on previous visits. Maybe they were in Sydney but the vast majority of tourists were either interstate, from NZ or the UK.
B is for Bridge Road Report: Better than last time but not great. Fashion outlets for females who are on the wrong side of 30 and nothing much for the guys of any age. The ratio of womenswear to menswear seems to be about 8:2 nowadays. Tip: the girls can wander around Bridge Road for an hour or so while the guys and tour the MCG (see ‘G’ below). Everyone should be happy.
C is for Chapel Street Report: All the boutiques are really pushing their Summer 2009 lineups very hard. But you get the feeling that things are deteriorating slightly, maybe even just on the brink – perhaps this is early days and the credit crunch hasn’t taken hold just yet, but one gets that feeling……….The good stuff is still on the right hand side of the Street (as you head from the South Yarra / Toorak / Como end to Prahran).
D is for David Jones: Great window display for the Spring Racing Carnival – but not colour or style dominates this year, it sees. Construction work out the back of the main building have commenced and the Grand Plan appears to be taking shape – the final product will be awaited with interest.
E is for Electronic Passport Control: I don’t have a new passport with the chip in it but I gather that if you are over 18 and hold a compliant Australian or New Zealand passport, you can clear immigration at both sides of the border using SmartGate. The info is in the chip and the kiosk uses face-recognition technology to verify who you are. It is, however, not necessarily quicker, at least at the moment. But doubtless it will be improved in the near future. And then we’ll all have to get a new passport !
F is for Financial Crisis: Starting to bite but not as much as we have seen in NZ. Everyone is looking nervously at China. Jokes are being made about communists saving capitalists. It still might happen !
G is for The ‘G’: Did the tour of the MCG and enjoyed it immensely. Very different to how it was even four years ago or so. Yes, the ground can hold 100,000 people and did so for the AFL Grand Final a few weeks ago. The tour leaves from Gate 3, costs AUD 15, takes about an hour and is worth every cent if you are a sports fanatic.
H is for Hotel: Stayed at the Pensione Boutique Hotel in Spencer Street. Quite happy with it even though the rooms was quite small. Good tiled shower, small but comfortable bed, 32′ LCD TV (with a distinct Channel 9 bias) and it was clean. If on a budget, it’s worth looking at and I’d stay there again if I needed to.
I is for Inflight Entertainment (IFE): Or rather, the lack of it. Again. Yes, you guessed it, the Qantas IFE failed again. And if you are paying for Business Class, don’t fly on the 747-300s as they haven’t got the Skybed or the modern features.
J is for Jack Russell Terrier: Special mention must be made of Leo, who put his own life on the line to save a litter of kittens from a house fire . Leo has to be resuscitated as he had been overcome by smoke but we are pleased to report he is now doing very well.
K is for King & Godfree and Kama Sutra Chocolate: K&G are selling this product which is eye-catching to say the least. Unfortunately, as there ambiguity as to whether import of same into New Zealand constitutes an objectionable item (check your customs form for this), I regret that I am unable to provide further information. You will have to go there and try it yourself.
L is for Lygon Street: We got supper and a show on this trip. Unfortunately, while the pizza at Café Correto was fine and the house red very good, the show was a real life drama involving a plastered father who tried to get his young sons to have a good time by shouting at them, drinking more beer and elbowing them in the ribs. The wife had obviously seen this all before. Decorum was quickly reestablished on their eventual departure and an element of sanity restored after a coffee and dessert at Brunetti’s.
M is for Melbourne Cup tips: Sorry, I got nothing at the moment. The Irish horses were favoured at this early stage but Septimus looks dodgy. The talk seems to turning to Efficient (now scratched), Zipping and C’est La Guerre. Profound Beauty was doing good times at the track, according to my sources and her odds have plunged earlier in the week.
N is for Next Trip: Japan from 29 November to 7 December. Yes, a full trip report will be filed in due course.
O is for Outside of the CBD: It is easy to forget that Melbourne is not simply what exists in the CBD, there are other areas worth having a look around, most of which I do not know very well at all. I have tried to get to at least one new area of place on each trip and this trip allowed some brief exploration of Richmond (in particular the IKEA store) and Kew. It reminds you of how big Melbourne really is.
P is for Press Club: Full on a Monday, again. Did the 5-course ‘Kerasma’ again (highlights: chicken meatball with deconstructed tzatziki, scallops in the half shell with ouzo-cured salmon and the lamb shoulder marinated for four days and spit-roasted) . Couldn’t finish the mains platter and the dessert courses, again. Got the inquisitive looks from the next table, again. Will definitely be back on the next visit (again) !
Q is for Queen Vic Market: The difference in the level of activity between the merchandising and the fruit / veg / meat / fish market is chalk and cheese. While the traders sit and get bored (except for the guy selling a great penguin game), the stall holders were very busy.
R is for Rollercoaster: Not the one at Luna Park, I mean the exchange rate. The rates I believe I was obtaining when there were about AUD0.900 to NZD 1.00 but they are starting to fall back again now. And the plunge last Saturday was heart-in-mouth stuff. Let’s all hope for a bit more calm in the weeks and months ahead !
S is for Smith Street report: Crowded on the Saturday I was there. Lots of ‘shopping tours’ and not just foreigners either, groups of about 20 or so locals. The adidas Factory Shop seem to be more in vogue than Nike one (or any other brand judging from the level of activity).
T is for Trains: While I still hold the view the Melbourne’s public transport is far better than Sydney and the rest, the amount of trackwork and incidents on the train lines was a little disconcerting. Trying to take a Sandringham-line train to Prahran also became quite a challenge when it went past Hawksburn, Armadale and Toorak instead. South Yarra became Junction Central which would have been fine if only this had been made clear.
U is for Umbrella: Wished I’d packed one as it was raining on the Monday. At least I now have a spare one for travel !
V is the Roman Numeral for 5: Too early for ‘five gold rings’ etc., just five random pieces of information.
i) Sunday Saver Metcard is great value at $2.90 and it covers Zones 1 and 2. Get one.
ii) Can someone persuade Honda NZ to bring in the funky new Civic ? Please ? Saw one in Chapel Street in a very hot red !
iii) Try the apricots stuffed with mascarpone at ‘Macro’ in Bridge Road. So much better than anything with wheatgrass / wheat germ / whatever in it.
iv) Best view of the CBD is from the bar areas at the MCG.
v) Memo to self: must obtain the French-made Aplico breakfast cups and saucers from Paris just like they have at Laurent Café. They must be the black ones with the gold trim.
W is for Water Restrictions: We should be grateful in NZ that we still have a reasonable amount of water. This is what is permitted in Melbourne right now (Stage 3a restrictions):
–Gardens can be watered on specified watering days only in the morning:
–a hand-held hose fitted with trigger nozzle, a watering can, bucket and manual dripper system can be used to water from 6am to 8am / an automatic dripper system can be used to water from midnight to 2am.
–even-numbered houses can water on Saturday and Tuesday and odd-numbered houses can water on Sunday and Wednesday and households with at least one resident aged 70 years or over, may water their gardens manually on specified watering days between 6am to 8am, or 8am to 10am.
–one in four sports grounds can still be watered and efficient commercial car washes can still be used.
I couldn’t think of anything for X, Y and Z. Until I was told that you can generate X-rays when peeling sticky tape, the letter ‘Y’ is called the “Greek ‘i’ “ in Spanish, French, Romanian and Polish, and the letter ‘Z’ was actually removed in 300BC and replaced with ‘G’ by the Roman censor of the time Appius Claudius Caecus (but then reintroduced about a hundred or so years later).
Safe travels wherever you are headed !