When planning our travels, we originally wanted to spend one month exploring Australia. It’s a big country with “heaps” to do and we were excited to see all of it. That plan changed when Nate accepted a job just before we left California that will now relocate us to Australia after our trip.
Come again?…Yes, we are moving to Wollongong, Australia which is just over an hours drive South of Sydney. A professional football league, called the National Gridiron League is starting up and Nate will be the head coach of the Wollongong Devils (pronounced Wool-on-gong). We get to live in a beautiful beach town from July – Jan and I’ll be playing the role of an Australian Tammy Taylor. Cheers to that y’all!
With the new knowledge that we would be living in Australia, we condensed our time down under with the expectation of exploring more when we relocate. We chose to spend the first 5 nights of our time in Melbourne, arriving late in the evening. Lucky for us and the kind generosity of Aussies, our friend Chris picked us up from the airport.
Side bar: Chris and Nate met about five years ago in Spain. They were both on a bus to Pamplona to “Run with the Bulls”. Neither (geniuses) booked accommodations so they spent from sun down to sun rise bonding over warm sangria and fear of their impending run.
Flash forward four years, Chris and his girlfriend Elise came to the states and stopped in New York City. Through the power of Facebook, we were able to meet up and have a few drinks together. Now a year and a half later, we found ourselves in the Melbourne airport at midnight (with the help of rare free airport wifi) looking for Chris and his car.
He kindly dropped us at our air bnb stay with plans to hang out the next evening. We tip toed up to our room via the note our host left us since she was on vacation in Tasmania and crashed in our comfy bedroom. When we woke up, the sunlight exposed how beautiful this two story, three bedroom home was. You can take the mental image of the Christchurch Airbnb and imagine the exact opposite, that was Georgia and James home.
We walked downstairs to the bright kitchen and were greeted by the other house guests, Carl and Matilda. They are renting a room with Georgia long term. They have temporarily relocated from Sweden for Matilda’s architecture program. I don’t think we have ever liked another couple more instantly! We became friends as if the four of us had been so in a previous life. Our five night stay was in one of Melbourne’s inner suburbs called Richmond.
After having spent our time there, we agreed that Melbourne had a north side of Chicago feel with a touch of New York trendiness, but better weather than both.
Nate had a noon football meeting up the road so the morning was comprised of a walk to the grocery store, so we could make breakfast each morning. After his meeting we stopped at a restaurant in Richmond called TwoOne3One. It passed our usually vetting process (2:30 pm/ packed). The menu was satiating but we both acknowledged the guilt that would follow. Ignoring our guilt, we split the spiked Oreo milkshake which paired elegantly with the Mac n’ Cheese burger.
The four of us started the night at Thornsbury which is best described as an indoor/outdoor bar with food trucks. The atmosphere is a refined version of a casual night out. Since the season is turning from Summer to “Autumn” the evenings are cool, but the joint had you covered by putting heaters everywhere. Aussies are like Floridians, they think it’s too cold out when it gets to 15 (60 degree to us Americans). To no surprise at all, we were still full from our indulgent lunch, so we split nachos…Meh.
After the food truck spot, we drove back to Richmond to leave the car before heading into the CBD (central business district). Public transportation is widely used but most people also have their own cars… So again Chicago. We ubered into the city for drinks along the Yarra river only about 10 minutes from Richmond.
The Arbory Bar was the perfect late night atmosphere for the four of us to catch up with a great view. We walked over the bridge to the Crown Casino as well and people watched all the late night gamblers before finally calling an uber home around 2:30 am.
Feeling good the next morning, we made a healthy breakfast with our groceries (yes it included avocado, don’t judge our lack of variety) and walked to the nearby park for a workout.
It was Sunday so Chris (aka Saint of Melbourne from this point forward) offered to drive us around and take us to St. Kilda. He first drove us down Chapel Street locally known for the shopping and restaurants but less tasteful in the evening hours with its 24 hour clubs. And bonus local knowledge… If you have a nice car and drive down this thoroughfare it is affectionately referred to as doing “chap laps”.
Fifteen minutes later, we arrived in St. Kilda, which is the closest beach to Melbourne. The area has a Santa Cruz vibe with beachgoers and tourists visiting the cafes, restaurants, bakeries, arcades or riding the wooden rollercoaster.
All in all it’s a completely adequate beach but we were informed that the great ones are about an hour from Melbourne. By the time we got home we were due for a power nap. We had made plans to have a “barbie” with Carl and Matilda to take advantage of the gorgeous day and large outdoor space at the house. When we woke up from our naps to head to the grocery store, Matilda had already taken care of everything.
They had a salad, potatoes, steaks, and beer for everyone.
They invited two of their Swedish friends as well and after the delicious alfresco dinner, we migrated into the charming dining room for ice cream with fresh fruit and hot tea. Everything was so perfect from the food to the weather to the company that Nancy Meyer should have filmed it for another blockbuster.
Before falling asleep, we decided that Melbourne was quickly rising on our rankings of world’s greatest city. The next two days only contributed to that notion!