We needed a base to dump our stuff and keep our bikes safe while we explored the city. No better place for that than quirky, homely Lords Lodge in Prahran. Most backpackers here were long termers and the place had a lived-in big family house share kind of feel where laptops were just left unattended and the doors had no locks. The motorbikes were pulled off the pavement, through the garden gate and past the bean bags, then parked under the bushes by the bicycles. Health and safety regulations hadn’t deterred common sense here and the quirky paint jobs and posters made us feel right at home. In fact, if you moved into one of the huts out back, you were encourage to paint it any way you liked.
There were hammocks and chill out benches in the gardens and outside dining area, a common room with tons of books and DVDs, a snooker table and a makeshift table tennis table. A big box in the corner on the top floor was full of old clothes if you needed some for a new job or to leave some if you didn’t want to lug them about anymore. The registration process was more of a chat than a formal deposit for this, deposit for that process. “Oh, and here’s a coffee cup full of laundry detergent, should last you two washes.” In short, it was an unusually relaxed wicked kind of place. Just perfect!
From there we explored the city and found old trams, bubble tea, famous Federation Square, lots of interesting buildings and all kinds of people busy in between. Not as many awesome motorcycles as in Sydney though.
Near our hostel was Chapel Street, a sort of small main street with lots of restaurants, cafes, shops and bars and we found a few to stick our noses in. There is Prahran Market too, where we found some yummy food and excellent Turkish delight, not as good as the stuff from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, but almost. It certainly brought back memories.
We popped by Victoria Markets too and were super tempted by amazing fish, yum looking cuts of meat and tempting European delicatessen. But short of taking out a mortgage, we couldn’t afford any on our travel budget. So we got me a warm hat for Tassie and got out of there.
There are of course the famous lanes, crammed full with restaurants and hip cafes. They used to be the back entrances to the main buildings and now they have lots of little shops in them. Some have had a roof built over them to form eccentric arcades with fancy cake shops and little boutiques. Of course one day we had to soak up the atmosphere, so we stopped to splash out on a small-turned-out-to-be huge mezze plater.
Melbourne has lots and lots of graffiti. One of the first questions from our friends inquiring about our explorations was whether we’d seen the street art. Berlin has nothing on the place. You could wander around for weeks and discover more colourful pieces all the time.
Of course we had to try lots of local pubs and there are many awesome ones. Somewhere along the line Aidan got a new phone as the old one packed in and he set it up over a pint or two. (Yup, we left the land of schooners… in Victoria it’s Pints and Pots – ½ pints.) We played Tavlar and Spite & Malice and most of the time I won 🙂
One evening Aidan’s housemate from way back when in London, Hannah, invited us over for a yummy roast dinner. It was awesome; you don’t get that kinda food on the road! She’d gone all out on cheese, biscuits and dips for starters followed by a huge lamb roast with all roasted vegetables you could imagine. There was so much, she even gave us a pack lunch!
It was really nice to catch up with her, bring up old conversations and new and meet her boyfriend, a really interesting guy. Time flew by and we had such a good time, we totally forgot to take a single picture! The only one I have is of the little turtle Hannah made from the prosecco cork holder, which is now riding along on Lea’s broken windscreen.
Much of our time was spent wandering around Fitzroy, the sort of Camden or Newtown or Kreuzberg of Melbourne. Essentially the alternative, creative, hipster, studenty part of town full of wicked pubs and live music venues, alternative cafes, street art and colourfully eccentrically dressed people with lots of tattoos. The houses are quaint, typically old Australian with little balconies and pretty iron work. Add the barbers that is also a beauty parlor, art gallery and serves beer to customers for example. Or the fairy garden with living plants in someone’s window. Or the flying rainbow hippos in another…
Another friend of ours from London lives in Melbourne: Mark. He’s since got married to Sally, who we met briefly before (and decided she’s awesome) and since then their son Max was born. Of course we had to go see them too. We met them for a relaxed coffee in their neighbourhood of East Malvern and were immediately swallowed up by family life. It just emphasized how unusual our way of life is, traveling here and there, taking it as it comes without any commitments. To us it just feels so normal, we don’t notice anymore.
Worlds apart or not it was great to finally meet Max and to catch up with Mark and Sally. Mark is still Mark as we love and miss him, Max is super cute and hyperactive and Sally is just as awesome as we remember her.
Max has a little green tricycle and is cruising all over the place. Literally. His riding skills are pretty similar to Aidan’s… getting distracted by something and riding into things. Remember this one?
Of course we couldn’t leave it there. So one evening Mark and Sally invited us out for a yummy dinner and more catching up. Afterwards Mark took us on a pub crawl around the live bars of Fitzroy. Much to our disappointment Sally didn’t join. We still had a great time though and before we knew it, the last pubs were closing and it was time to go home. That was all far too quick and it left us wishing we could live in Melbourne for a while, spend some more time with our friends and explore the city some more. If only we didn’t have this damned world trip to go on…
Of course we woke with a massive hang over, me more so than Aidan, so it was his turn to make cheesy chips with gravy. It occurred to Aidan, that we hadn’t actually booked our tickets for the ferry to Tasmania yet. So he went online and had a look while we were curled up under duvets on the sofa in the living room of the hostel watching a movie with the others. We’d checked upon arrival in Melbourne and the tickets for Sunday were cheap. So we’d been hoping that the Monday ones would be cheap last minute too. But they weren’t. So Aidan booked for Sunday 9am saving us a couple of $100. That was the next day!!! We had so many things to do and pack and no time to nurse our hangovers.
The hostel offer free Sangria for all on Saturday nights and the party went on all night. We didn’t get much sleep. But 6am we were up, loading the bikes and boarding the ferry not long after.