A Travellerspoint blog

Sydney - We don't harbour any grudges

by Kt

We thought it had been a while since using a pun in the heading. Granted this isn't a very good one, but we felt it would do.

So - Melbourne to Sydney. We were good little backpackers and took our various forms of transport trams, trains, buses with lots of changes to the Airport in Melbourne which was hot and heavy (we had to carry the bags on our backs for fair chunks). We got to Melbourne airport with about 10 minutes until they closed the check-in desk. Which was good, as on the way we thought we weren't going to make it at all - despite leaving 2 hours travel time. The real fun began when we found our bags were over weight. This was a bit of a shock as we've had the same stuff for the last few months with no additions and had no problems even on the cheap airlines but this was obviously the Ryan Air of the east and they had a low allowance and weren't going to budge and wanted to charge us a fortune. We did however have enough allowance for our carry on, but with the check-in closing in a couple of minutes the transfer of stuff became a bit frantic, especially when we were counted down to 1 minute. But we did it. Really must check those baggage allowances in future.

We arrived at our airbnb stay late afternoon in the outer Sydney suburb of Eastwood and found the apartment pretty easily. Our host was super nice and the apartment is much bigger than I had expected. I had expected the area to be more urban than it is. It's mainly apartment blocks but low rise, well spaced blocks on tree lined streets.
We were so knackered after our long days travel we contemplated just hanging out in the area but though convenient, Eastwood doesn't have a huge amount to offer and we thought it was crazy not to 'see' Sydney on our first day, so we stopped a few stops down on the train and walked about 10 minutes to find a ferry stop, from where we sailed (or rather ferried) into Sydney under the Harbour bridge and right past the Opera House - which was kind of cool. A good entrance at least.


We headed up into the Rocks, the old area just south of the bridge and to my surprise, from the bustling city, found you could easily find yourself walking down quiet streets with interesting old terrace houses. We had a bite to eat in an old pub made of the areas famous sandstone. This is definitely the oldest building I've been in since leaving the UK. We then got a bit lost and cheated on our new, promised backpack travel criteria by getting a cab to the main station to get our train home. I'm pretty sure he ripped us off but we were too tired to care at this point. Central station at night was a bit of a shock - we've definitely been in a bit of a safety bubble for a few months. Have gotten soft in all these 'nice' places. Central is like a london station - with it's of array of drunks, druggies and generally dodgy folk hanging around outside. The shouty lady who Mark is still convinced was a man. The guy pretending to have one arm begging for money and pretending to drop his change and asking you to pick it up for him. Colourful. But after wandering around the station for a while trying to find the right way in, then wandering around some more trying to find where to get our train - we successfully completed our first night in Sydney.

The next day we had tickets to Bob Downe's Retro Gras night in Surry Hills, not far from the centre. We mosied on down to check out the area a little earlier. Surry Hills is a quite trendy area and a short, but hilly walk up from Central station.

We found this odd sculpture which at first glance looked like an old balaclava left on a low wall, then you notice the eyes - creepy!


We found an interesting bar up the road from our venue called Kinsellas - a gay bar located in a building which part of was an old church - had an extraordinarily high ceiling, the para-pit - which I believe they use for the weekend drag nights and with the pews as seating.


The Bob Downe night was great. He just makes me laugh so much. It was more of a club night than had thought - I had thought it would be tables etc but it was in a proper club in the newly refurbished Beresford Hotel. The place was tardis like. The outside is an old fashioned green tiled, small entrance and then you walk into this vegas-esque interior. The music was fantastic and cheesy and they had some cool drag artists from around Sydney there. Unfortunately, as it was standing room only - despite getting lucky on the first couple of turns, later on in the evening it got busier and we were nearer the back of lots of strapping guys who, with no heels on, I stood little chance of seeing past. But it was a good night and we finished off at a quirky pub half way back to Central station, making friends with the Liverpudlian barmaid (11 years living there and accent strong as ever) and a locksmith. I can't remember either of their names. Or much else.


Moving on... next day was set for some proper sight seeing although we were feeling a little worse for wear.
We got it in our heads that we desperately wanted dumplings as we were starving and thought it would be the perfect hangover cure so heading to China town would be the key. Unfortunately, we had to drop off our macbook to yet another company to try to get it fixed which landed us up quite far north in the CBD. I really wanted to get out of the area as it just reminded me of London really but as we needed to come back up to nearby this area we concluded going all the way back down to China town wasn't worth the hassle. Feeling rather gutted about that, we trundled our way through the busy streets, heading east to find somewhere quieter. I noticed when looking up a Westfields sign and remembered reading and article somewhere about the dumplings somewhere in there. Now I hate shopping centres/malls. Absolutely hate them. I find it quite claustrophobic being inside them with no easy way out/escape and find them sterile and impersonal but two things were going on here. Firstly we were hungover and hungry, secondly we were hot and that shopping hell, would be many things but it wouldn't be hot and oh yes, sweet air conditioning beckoned. And to be fair - as shopping malls go - this was a pretty impressive one. Very posh with lovely lighting, stone finishes - different music on each floor to suite the mood (actually that's a bit creepy and big brother trying to manipulate your mind, but still). We located the food court on the 5th floor. Blimey. This isn't like a 'food court' I have ever known anywhere else. There was indeed many different places from where to buy your food and yes you took trays and sat at tables but the choice and quality was mind blowing and it was stylish and clean with proper cutlery and each 'stall' was designed amazingly. I'm not going to become a shopping mall apprecianado but I won't always so readily dismiss. In the end we ditched the dumplings - expensive for only a couple as opposed to the fantastic deals we could have got in China town - but both had Tom Yum noodle soup which was just utterly and quite surprisingly considering where we were, to die for!! And I had won-tans in mine so it was kind of dumplingy.


On our way over we came across someone playing large chess in Hyde Park which became peculiarly addictive to watch.


Next stop was the Botanical Gardens - yes we'd had a bad experience in Auckland traipsing out to the middle of nowhere on the promise of something interesting and again we wouldn't normally go to such places, not having any real interest in green things (except kermit obviously). But firstly this is slap, bang in the middle of Sydney and secondly it has some kind of unwelcome guests that we wanted to see.
Many of the trees in the Botanical Gardens are home to fruit bats/flying foxes. Lots of them. They theoretically hang in the trees during the day to sleep but we found that they actually squawked and fought quite a lot too. Wow - they really make a racket. It's definitely worth a trip to see them though - they're just funny. You've got to love bats right? Maybe not if it was heading right for me, because they are big, but generally they are pretty cool. As they are not meant to be there and this is botanical gardens trying to protect plant species, they are not especially welcome as they tend to wreck the place. But it's probably a catch 22 as they are also a big draw for tourists.
You can also catch (not literally) some more native cockatoos and parrots around the place.


We went up through the gardens to their edge along the harbour and made our way up to the Opera House. Now, although when you first see it, it might seem a little smaller than you expect and not as white as you had thought (it's actually a kind of nice 70s shade of beige), it is utterly stunning. I am so beyond taken with it, it's probably the most gorgeous piece of architecture I've ever seen. It's just perfect in every way and all credit to Sydney that they have kept everything as it should to make the most of it so it can be admired from every angle. They don't have loads of seats and kiosks and tourist crap around it to ruin the aesthetic. The inside is also stunning and simple and I was surprised to see the original exposed concrete. We didn't do the tour to see the stage etc but the areas that you could see, everything was just so.



Even the underground carpark, in which we took refuge from the heat to have a drink when we first got there, has elements of design to make it something more than it it.


And the light really does reflect amazingly off the tiles of the building. There was a quote I saw which I thought was just spot on.


So, yes we both really loved it and I'm surprised how little you see things so perfect and so perfectly looked after. It is definitely a landmark to be proud of!

So what do I think of Sydney so far? Well it's been a big shock to be in such a city-ish city and I loved Melbourne so much that it's an impossible act to follow.
I think that you can probably describe Sydney as Melbourne's more grown up and more sophisticated older sister. Not quite as funky or fun but with some nicer, bigger and better things to show off. I don't love it (yet) but I don't dislike it and am having a nice time.

We went to Bondi which is a great looking beach, but the place left me a little cold, after having gotten extremely hot on 2 hours of trains and buses to get there in the first place!! It was nice enough but touristy, pricey and not really all that. Maybe the $8 chips just made me bitter!



I think the public transport is good but having a car to go to certain places would probably have helped. Am looking forward to getting the van so we can visit more secluded beaches.

Posted by KtandMark 15:40 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Melbourne - in summary

by Kt

It's not a country but I loved Melbourne so much, it gets its own summary.

There is so much going on in Melbourne. High end, low end, creative, outdoorsy, indoorsy. I really has a feel that you can have a go at whatever you fancy. With of the course the added benefit that in between everything you will eat will be utterly fabulous (see Melbourne food blog).

Something that I thought summed up the amusing and creative side of Melbourne businesses.
A simple petshop in a corner street in the depths of the suburbs, with a banksy style window front.


In particular the northern area of Fitzroy and the surrounding areas had so much to offer and so much amazing street art that it blew my mind.

I remember one of my earlier trips abroad when I was a teenager, photographing (on film!!) graffiti in Amsterdam. I think I probably ended up with about 10 photos which I thought was amazing. Here, you don't even need to go looking for it and it varies from old skool graffiti to the murals, simple tags and layers of flyers and stickers all create a bright and colourful landscape against the many old buildings. It just works!


The city centre can be a little bland in parts as they so often are, but you just need to turn a corner, go down an alleyway, hop on a tram for a stop or two to find something interesting. Similarly as you head out into the outer suburbs it takes on a very sensible and same as everywhere else look but then don't all cities in newer countries or that have ever grown.

I think the measure of a place for me is just a simple feeling. Do I feel happy just simply walking down the street? A simple inner satisfaction or contentedness. I feel it in Brighton, I feel it in New York and I have now felt it in Melbourne. I have just adored it and I am gutted that we couldn't stop, get some work and stay here for a couple of months. And I just wish it was so darned for away from home. I do hope it's not my last ever visit though. Hasta La Vista baby!!(Hopefully) I'll be back.

And as an added bonus, we are leaving Melbourne with a few additions to the family. You may know that for this trip Mark had a 'dive and tattoo' budget so he could partake of two of his favourite acitivies while away. Well, we found an amazing tattooists in Fitzroy, 'Dangerzone Tattoos' almost on our doorstep and luckily as we were free in the week, Mark got fitted in by one of their uber talented artists, Dean.

His first baby, was some stick men musicians down his leg - cute aren't they?


And his second baby, was, well, a baby. This is kewpie - an iconic retro image which I have always loved and while we were in Fitroy which had a cool bar/restaurant, 'Deluxe Bimbo' which has a massive kewpie hanging outside, we came up with the idea for the baby with headphones. Dean really came into his own and the tattoo is just gorgeous.


The bonus for me is that I have been lamenting the loss of all my stuff. Just not being able to look at my weird and wonderful things sucks so now at least I get to look at one of my favourite images everyday. It's like Mark has become moving wallpaper. Result!! So now I need to hatch an ingenious plan to get him to have more of my fave things tattooed on him so I have lots to look at :)

Posted by KtandMark 16:06 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

A food and drink heaven

by Kt

Lots of places can be described as foodie and I have been to many of them but Melbourne has to take the top prize. It's amazing with food on every level, from eating out big scale, to small scale to even just doing your basic shopping. You imagine that even the toddlers here have the best, most diverse and exciting food compared to most grown ups elsewhere. And not only is the food good but it's everywhere and served in style. I have never been anywhere with such consistently cool and stylish eateries and bars - not New York even. And you can't get bad wine either - impossible!!


We have been to so many fantastic bars and restaurants along the way - I've captured a few below.
These include a place selling piadinas an italian crispy flat bread which I'd never had or heard of before which was amazing, Babka, a russian bakery, Hooked, an amazing fish and chip place where you can get a normal or tempura batter and get so many kinds of fish as well as huge prawns and calamari.


The best cocktails can be found at Pollys is on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy. The head barman is originally from Yorkshire and he is incredibly skilled not only with his suggestions but putting together something to suit your tastes.
The place is decorated in an art deco style with sumptuous reds and gold and velvet. It's a simply divine place to be. It is also a big figure on my bank statement.


The 29th Apartment in St Kilda, is a bar themed in a kind of trashy New York kind of way and is not only cool but a prime example of bar selling a simple menu but the food being better than what we are generally used to at home as pub grub. My pizza with pumpkin, feta and sunflower seeds was pretty cheap for Australian standards and better than I've had in many a poshed up Italian restaurant.


Low Wow
I LOVE Tiki bars. Simply love them. Whenever I spot one I have to find a way to wheedle my way in. But they are often disappointing.
When, after being in Melbourne for some time, I discovered there was one super close to us, I had to find a way to at least check it out.
And it was definitely worth it. It's one of the most well done Tiki bars I've ever been to and I would have loved to spend an evening there with lots of friends - we unfortunately, were there early evening and could stop only for a couple.



We stumbled across Stop 35 in St Kildas Carlisle Street mainly to find somewhere to cool down. It's named after the tram stop it is on and has a kind of out doors in kind of look to it. Quite simple but a little quirky. We'd popped in for a quick drink but when we got in there we saw the chef putting a huge beef joint on. Despite it being a hot, hot day we deliberated for a while but eventually gave in and had the roast.
We hadn't had one since New Zealand and it was sooo good. Tons of succulent beef with veg that tasted like veg and pumpkin which was a lovely touch and a gravy that had a deep, slightly garlicy flavour. I'm drooling thinking about it again now.


Dirty chicken made clean
One of the things that I thinks rings out Melbourne's foodie status is the dirty chicken shops. You know the ones. Cheeky chicken, Favourite Chicken, Chicken 4 U all serving fried chicken and similar delights. Now I personally won't even touch a KFC but even many of those who do won't go near these places, others, however, simply love them!! And I'm sure many only do go to them as they are the only places open after a late and 'merry' night out.
Well they have them in Melbourne but all the ones I have seen have free range chickens. Now isn't that great. That should be Jamie O's next campaign for Britain - getting dirty chicken shops to use only 'happy chicken'.


One thing that intrigued us for quite some time was the advertising of 'Parma' all over the place. Sometimes described as 'Parma and Pots' and I'd even seen it referred to in a travel guide but not described. I'm not sure if this just a Melbourne thing of if I just hadn't noticed it in Adelaide but it took nearly a week to find out what it was. Nothing exotic involving parma violets unfortunately, but chicken parmigiana. I've seen and heard of chicken parmesan a fair few times in the states and it's pretty much similar to that. Chicken with a tomato sauce, and parmesan and breadcrumbs involved somehow. We thought of tasting it but quite frankly even Mark didn't fancy the idea. Something screams to me - hiding bad chicken with lots of sauce. Which is probably where it originated but maybe we are missing something and maybe we'll summon up the courage one day to give it a go.


So foodwise, Adelaide was good, but Melbourne has been mind blowing - will be interesting to see what Sydney will bring.

Posted by KtandMark 15:16 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Moving on down - St Kilda and the other Brighton Beach

by Kt

So we moved onto our 3rd place to stay in Melbourne. This was a converted outhouse in someone's gardens which was nice and had everything we needed. The area was very different to our last - being much more suburban with big houses on quiet streets.
The main house was a lovely building from around the 30s or 40s as were many on the street/in the area.
We were quite far back from the sea and the main shopping/eating streets but both were reachable in about 15 minutes from the nearby tram stop.

We'd briefly been to St Kilda already and had seen that it was quite funky and vibrant in a similar way to Fitzroy. Not quite as cool, but having the bonus of the beach gave it a different edge.



The old skool Luna Park with the freakish Mr Moon who's face you walk through to get in was quite dead when we went but it was nice to see it had kept it's older rides and wasn't full of commercial hideousness. It was small but quite charming.



And so the OTHER Brighton Beach. Well actually, there are lots of Brighton Beaches - our home in the UK I would classify as no1! Then there is of course the one in Brooklyn and it seems in many New Zealand/Australian cities.
The one I'm talking about here is Melbourne's Brighton Beach, just along the coast from St Kilda.


This is famous for their brightly coloured beach huts. As Mark said - Brighton council take note! Ours are colourful, but of course there are restrictions so they have to be painted the same bland colour from the back and sides and can only show a little personality on the front. I would bet that they are trying to have Hove lawns in keeping with the grand regency seafront properties but seeing as a fair bit of the seafront is ugly modern buildings - in particular the council offices - it doesn't really figure.

Anyhow, back to Melbourne's Brighton Beach. This is a very affluent area. There isn't much along the seafront other than huge (and I mean huge) houses. It's quite pretty with a sandy beach which has lots of broken shells so is a little sharp on the feet. It was sad to see there was so many little bits of plastic in amongst the shell. But I guess this is probably par for the course with this being essentially an urban beach.

One of the things that suprised me, was the black swans - I've never seen swans on the sea before. Seemed an unusual sight to us.
Having lived near the Thames, I'm kind of over white swans - black swans are new and interesting to me.

But the main draw of this beach was the beach huts which were fairly big and cut a colourful curve on the beach which had barely any buildings on it and certainly nothing commercial.


Another nice touch to the beach was a simple little thing that I just thought was quite typical of Melbourne.
Each of the benches as you followed the walkway had a little plaque with a little description, such as the 'big ideas chair', the 'celebration chair' and the 'reflections chair'.



After the beach huts, the beach leads onto an area which has an old deco swimming and restaurant complex and they even have a Brighton pier - but being a pier in Australia, that pretty much just means a walkway where you can fish.

The main shopping/restaurant street, up by one of the train stations where we headed to go back, turned out to be a fair way from the seafront. Mind you, in our last few days of our stay Melbourne was having somewhat of a heat wave and everywhere seems a fair way when you're walking in the mid 30s!!! This is an indicator of the heat we are likely to have as we go further north and I simply know that I really, really have to buy a hat. This may seem a simple task but you see I look quite stupid in most hats and already on this trip I have probably tried on about 20 hats only for Mark to either laugh or just pull a face of horror. The search is on.... (I can tell you're excited!)

Posted by KtandMark 20:13 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Everybody needs good....

by Kt

Yep! We did it! I'm not ashamed. In fact some of you may know my (not so) secret. I love Neighbours. Always have. Since the golden days of Scott and Charlene, through all the years, catching it whenever I was home over a lunchtime or in early enough. Then when the horrific news came up that the BBC was ditching it, I realised quite how much I loved it when sheer panic set in. Thank god for Channel 5, taking it on and even better than that, creating a weekend omnibus. Oh happy days, that has meant I can dip into it more often than before. Granted I don't have time in my life to watch the full 3 or so hours but it does mean I can keep on top of things by having it on in the background or by recording it and skimming through it. Yes I do. It's sad I know, but hey everyone has their own thing - lots of people get addicted to things such as 24, Lost or Sex and the City, West Wing. Not me. I don't want to get caught up in those end of series cliff hangers that gets everyone so obsessed. I prefer to wait only a few days to find out what's going to happen in some teenagers love life now they've found out that their boyfriend is really their brother.
So, when in Melbourne - as if I wouldn't do the Neighbours tour. The kind of thing I'd find sad and distasteful for any other programme - I just couldn't resist.

First came the tour. This involved getting bused out to the channel 10 studios and Ramsey Street by our jaunty, northern Irish tour guide. It was quite a drive out and interesting to find he talked on a handle held microphone all the way there, as he drove! The sets at the studio were incy and instantly recognisable - well to me anyhow. Mark hasn't actually watched neighbours for 20 years but was still super excited as he likes tv and film sets and by the end of the day decided he should be given a part on Neighbours as he would like that as a job. He was hoping to be discovered. Hmm.
Anyhow, it was funny to see how the lassiters lake complex is actually a small pond with a walkway. I was super excited to see Harolds Store - I mean the man is a legend!!





As an aside highlight, they also still have fake windows with bars on windows from the days of Prisoner Cell Block H. Plus one of the side doors to the studio was used as main entrance. I so miss Prisoner - they should so bring it back. Let's start a campaign!!


It was also suprising to learn that they use every inch of the studio grounds to film outside scenes whenever possible. So a scene where people were protesting outside a laboratory gates - filmed at the studios gates. A scene where someone's stuck in roadworks driving to a new job - just filmed on the small road inside the studio grounds. I love both the cheapness and the ingenuity of it!
As the guide pointed out, our imagination fills in the blanks.

After that it was off to Ramsey Street (not real name of course) with a few cheap street name props and lots of enthusiasm. Mark had no idea, but sadly I could fill him in on who 'lived' in each house. In fact by the end of the day I was quite alarmed by the fact that every single time the guide referenced an episode (and that was a lot), I'd seen it. I'm not sure how. I have been going to work for the last 15 years. Worrying.
They now have 24 hour security at the street due to some instances in the last few years with joyriding, drunks and fornicating. The poor home owners - apart from one house that the studio owns, all the homes are owned by normal people.
Mark, of course, wants to buy one.


The next part of our Neighbours experience was the nighttime event held in a St Kilda pub every Monday night. This involves the host (and creator of the tours and night, Safari Pete, hosting an evening with a pub quiz with general knowledge and a little Neighbours trivia thrown in. They also rope in (or rather pay handsomely) a couple of 'stars' from the show, past or present. They then also have music, usually provided by Dr Karl Kennedy (aka Alan Fletcher) and his band The Waiting Room or sometimes Paul Robinson (aka Stefan Dennis of 'Don't it make ya feel good' fame).


We had Irish Connor and Stef Sully (both former cast members) as well as Fletch as he will hence be called in this blog.

I was super excited to see the hero that is Fletch, that I broke my usual rule against photos with famous people. I'd decided during the day that I would break this rule only for Fletch and Nelson Mandela.

Mark, as I mentioned, hasn't watched it for years, but he was aware of Stef Scully as she had been there when Rachel had gone years ago and thought she was most hot. So he was excited and slightly stalkerish.
They had a bizarre Q & A session which was fairly entertaining, if sometimes a little awkward.
Then the 'stars' did the rounds of having there photos taken with everyone. I would have thought the process was rather painful but Fletch worked the room with incredible style - he bizarrely oozes charm and I ended up with a little crush on him. Plus he smelt lovely, and having backpacked for a few months now, it's been a while since I had a hug from someone who smells nice!
We then had the pub quiz. On our table we had a lad and girl from Portsmouth (not a couple, she'd strangely married someone else a few days earlier) and 3 northern girls who, how can I put this kindly - weren't the brightest stars in the sky. Well, despite the girls wonderment at how we could possibly know things like 'what is the capital of Peru' and 'what does IQ stand for', we won. Yey! Of course we won a bunch of Neighbours day tours which were no good to us anyhow but the prestige was enough for me. The fun the descended into the realm of Club 18-30s with singing and dancing competions. Cringey you say? Yes indeed, particularly for me when Mark realised his lady love was to judge the dancing so went up and strutted his stuff. It was seriously quite tragic, but he did come third based on his enthusiasm. Was $100 off a tour from Adelaude to Perth, which again was no good to us so I gave it to the Northern girls. Mark actually had a couple of guys come up to him and pat him on the back afterwards, telling him he was awesome.



Fletchs band, I have to say, were pretty awesome. He was amazingly good and a real crowd-pleaser/live wire on stage. He obviously gets a real buzz from it. I can't imagine that performing for a bunch of drunken backpackers and tourists (all, bar two Aussies, by the way, were from UK or Ireland) would be all that appealing but he really is quite bonkers. And blue. Naughty Dr Karl said some shocking things about Susan!!!


The original bridge from Lassiters sits unloved and abandoned at the back of the sets. Am considering offering to buy it and shipping it home :)


Mark entering the dancing competition and dancing in a way he would normally save for behind closed doors

The annoying American guy on reception at the tour place who kept going on about unlike the Brits who'd watched neighbours all their lives, all the actors were normal people to him so when he's out having coffee with them and people come up to them, he can't believe it. Insert your own descriptive word for him here. He so loved being a gateway to 'the stars'!

In the tour office, they had the original painting Helen Daniels did of Mrs Mangel, back in the day.


Fletch/Dr Karl singing 'Your sex is on fire' - LEGENDARY!!!!!


Posted by KtandMark 02:20 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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