For one and a half week, I was living in the same shirt. For three weeks, my boyfriend and I ate a different one-pan-dish on a new campsite, peed in the bushes and bathed in rivers. Those three weeks we filled our time with playing dice and card games in the light of four citronella candles. We easily got used to the slow pace of the camp life and both me and Thijs were extremely relaxed. Although we loved living in the backside of our car, getting closer and closer to a big city made us excited. That excitement grew when we got to know the city of Melbourne. How can I describe this city in a few words?
We tried to save on accommodation but did want the comfort of a hotel. We rented a short-stay apartment close to the beach in the suburb: st. Kilda. When the sun sets and you head over to the pier you can see the small penguins jumping out of the sea. They wobble on to the dyke to cross the path and find a mate for the night. Every morning when we wake up we walk along the boulevard and we start the day with a coffee on the beach. We kinda have the rule that we can only have breakfast, lunch or dinner at the same place once. In Melbourne, it’s not difficult at all to not break this rule. There are so many cool places to go!
Not only the fact that Melbourne is a city with a beach makes me compare it with Barcelona but also the chilled out vibe. It’s something you almost can’t describe but something you feel everywhere you go. This is the biggest difference with Sydney and actually, we’ve heard it a lot: “Melbourne, yeah it’s just so chill, you know?” Although I love Sydney in its own way, I must agree that Melbourne is indeed so chill, you know?
It’s the same kind of vibe you can also feel when you’re strolling the streets of Barca; the people sipping wine in the fine courtyards, parks filled with youngsters playing music and drinking a beer, sharing some tapas, pizza or a goon. It could be either Barca or Melbourne!
Unfortunately, this vibe was totally gone when we were walking Fitzroy street, the main street of St. Kilda on a Friday or Saturday night. It’s not because people are pugnacious (well sometimes they are, but I will get back to that later), it is because everybody all of a sudden is all dolled up. A pizza in the park is not the way to go on the weekends. Rooftops, cocktails and cheese boards from over 60 dollars are. Needless to say, this kind of behaviour needs to be in style. And so you can expect girls in beautiful (short) dresses, high heels, blow-dried hair and either a stylish bag or bloke on their arm. Who are we to judge? We mingled in the culture and tried to find something nice in our backpack. We ordered a wine tasting accompanied by some fine cheese at Milk the Cow and watched how pretty girls marched by as if they were live on the catwalk. Later I read somewhere that Melbourne is the number one fashion and art city of Australia. This didn’t come as a surprise after gazing at all these eccentric and exuberant people passing by. Love it! For me, Melbourne was the perfect mix between chilled vibes during the week and all-out-extravaganza in the weekend.
Where Sydney can feel almost artificial and fake, Melbourne was very much real. When we went for a coffee in an old industrial warehouse, this was definitely an old warehouse. Whereas in Sydney they would have a nice building where they could make it into an old looking warehouse. But in a too perfect kind of way. In Melbourne, the imperfection made it perfect. The cracks in the wall, the wooden beams supporting the massive concrete walls and the paint marks from back in the days that the warehouse still was in use. This is the same style you see in Berlin. For me, Berlin is still one of my favourite cities because of the chaos. The combination of modern architecture and old buildings, street art vs. pop and seeing history still flow through the Berlin of what it is today. It makes sense. It feels right. Just like the perfect imperfections of Melbourne. But there is one imperfection of Melbourne that can hit you as a bomb.
“ Cold as ice, are you willing to sacrifice…” – Foreigner
Although the Netherlands is known for its liberate rules and free use of weed, the drug use is here way more in your face. In the Netherlands and even in Europe I’ve hardly seen drug addicts topping up their veins with a new dose of heroin. In Melbourne, I saw this more than once. Mind you I was here only for one and a half week. And heroin is not even the biggest problem but Ice (Chrystal meth) is. These drugs are mainly imported from China (and don’t we all know that the words “made in China” hardly ever stand for high-quality products). Like said, st. Kilda is a really nice suburb but if you’re looking for a place to stay, you might want to consider the end of Fitzroy street, on the corner of Ackland street. If you do want to witness from up close how the drug addicts perish their way through the night, this is the place to be. You will hear the cries of desperation and pain. You will hear screams of anger when they can’t find what they need so much. And when they managed to find some new shit to put into their body you will find people walking the streets like paranoid zombies. You will have to step over people lying in your porch as if they just died. We even saw a man shitting in the gutter right in between two cars. I was shocked by how these people didn’t act human anymore. I felt sad that the rest of their life would probably look like this. Day in, day out. This is still the same street as where we enjoyed a cheese platter accompanied with a magnificent wine tasting for 60 dollars. In between all the pretty girls doing their runway show, there were these guys with their ass crack hanging out of their pants, drooling and swivel-eyed on the hunt for anything with value so they could score some new dope as soon as possible. To be very clear, when I am talking about Melbourne being perfect by imperfection, I am talking about the architecture, art, street fashion, cool restaurants and groovy bars.I am definitely not talking about the contrast between poor and rich or on top of the world and down in the gutter on Fitzroy street.
Of course, I need to make this comparison! After cooking one-pan-dishes for three weeks Melbourne felt the same as arriving in Buenos Aires after eating Pollo y Arroz for five months straight travelling through South America. Brekkie, lunch, dinner in a bistro, restaurant or even some kind of shabby Chinese; everything tastes good! Every morning we started with poached eggs in all different kind of ways: eggs benny (Ozzy slang for eggs benedict), with Avo (Ozzy slang for avocado), with grilled halloumi or with spinach and sauteed mushrooms. Men, do the Ozzies know how to create yummy dishes for every time of the day! Around the clock of four, we made sure that we had some room left for small bites and drinks. Oysters with white wine on the beach, cheese platters with a bottle of red or dumplings with a cocktail in China town. Melbourne is foodie heaven! To name a few of my favourites:
- Claypots – Right where the action happens in the busy and vibrant Barkley street you can find a cute and cosy restaurant. On the menu, you will find all kind of amazing fish dishes. I am not the only one who was impressed by their fish food because Claypots is known as the best seafood restaurant from st. Kilda. Like said, this restaurant is small and you need to hold in your tummy if you want to manoeuvre your way towards your table. It doesn’t matter tho because it feels like one big living room where you could become best friends for one evening with your neighbours. After dinner, there is live music most evenings. When we were there the empty plates were left alone and people went into the other room to move to the rhythm of the band. All together Claypots made our night into a night to never forget.
- Milk the Cow – THE place where we had the wine tasting and cheese platter of $60. Is this expensive? I would say, yes. Is it worth it? I would say, yes! I do love my cheese and I can honestly say that this cheese was the best I’ve ever had. Especially the soft truffle cheese was to die for. If you’re on a budget and still want to experience the cheese heaven from Milk the Cow (a must for real cheese lovers), go for the five pieces of cheese with half a glass of five matching wines for $35. One other tip from the menu; they have cocktails with cheese too. I know, this sounds discussion but I’ve tried the warm milk cocktail and it was extraordinary!
- Galleon Cafe – If you go to a cafe and the line for a table consists of only locals than you know you are at the right place for breakfast or lunch. The interior and the menu are all in seventies rock & roll style. Because of that, I was not the only one who washed my breakfast down with a spicy bloody mary. Nice vibe, cool music, fun interior, hippie people and the most important: very tasty and healthy breakfast!
- St Ali’s – I’ve secretly licked my plate clean when nobody was watching. I ordered their signature breakfast: fresh baked bread, avocado smash, halouni cheese, 2 and two poached eggs. It may be simple but it defenitley was good! Other stuff you could try is home made pies, cakes and muffins. To try st Ali’s coffee is a must. Their coffee is sold in many other coffee shops. If you want to taste all the different beans and ways of making your espresso try their coffee tasting platter with five different cups to try. Good morning caffeine rush!
A city where I felt at home from the moment we stepped out of our car. A city that made our week an amazing city trip. In between all the breakfast and dinners, we made some time to meet up with one of Thijs his old friends. He works for one of the top Melbourne advertising agencies and invited us to have some after work drinks on the 11th floor of a building looking out over the skyline of Melbourne and the Yarra River. My advertising hart started beating faster by seeing all the prices the agency had won and from the work they showed me. But most of all I got enthusiast from the vibe you can only have on a Friday afternoon with your colleagues that share a whole week full of projects, passion and accomplishments. We are travelling for five weeks and although I love having a break from the always busy agency life I can’t wait to step back into the game again. And after this week I think I found the city where I want to pick up where I left. Melbourne, we will meet again!