Seven months and 3 weeks later, I'm forcing myself to update the world on my (eternally wandering) state of mind. And by the world I mean you few (greatly appreciated!) followers of the Urbon Vivant.
I'll be honest- the reason behind the forcing is not that I'm simply ready to share all the highs and lows of my trip, but more so that there's so much to say I feel like just spilling it all out at once. And today was just a superb example of living life outside your home country- but we'll get to that in a bit.
Eventually, I'll catch up on the rest of the Southeast Asia trip- the ridiculous Thai Islands, the overly tuk-tuked country of Cambodia, all of Vietnam (south, north, and the strange Russian inhabited middle), the bizarrely alluring country that is Laos, the Aussie dominated island of Bali, and Myanmar (the gem in the rough).
I flew straight to Melbourne on a red eye flight from Bali on Friday the 13th of March. 13 is my favorite number, and while Fridays with it are usually cause of havoc for the superstitious, I took it as a good omen. After 3 months of traveling with my best gals, I was finally heading off into the unknown down under by myself.
But not really. I was meeting a friend who had spent the last year living and working in Melbs- Alex, an angel of a dude I met while studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain back in uni. First off, let me note that while I had already filed for a working holiday visa, I had no intentions of staying long in Aus. I figured 1-3 months to rid myself of the travel bug that is constantly biting me in the bum, making me feel like I have to run from one place to the next as if there's no time in the future to ever do so. And I could work in Aus to pay off the credit card debt I had accrued on ridiculous, mostly unnecessary, expenditures while in Southeast Asia.
So to start, I was crashing on Alex's couch in St. Kilda, the beachy, hipster, backpacker-esque side of town. I know I tend to exaggerate but for the next few paragraphs just bear with me- I really was this enthusiastic.
Upon arriving I was OBSESSED. I've never lived in a cool trendy place like I don't know, ALL of California, and I definitely never lived walking distance to a beach. The Long Island Sound doesn't count either.
Here was a place where it wasn't even that warm but no one was wearing shoes, every girl had a nose ring or blue hair, and everyone, male or female was doused in tattoos. While you're on the thought- YES I've always wanted my nose pierced and YES I've always wanted to die my hair blue. But I've had allergic reactions to every ear piercing I've ever endured and my hair is jet black, so no it doesn't absorb dye very well, especially blue dye. So I choose to live vicariously through the badass bitches of St. Kilda and Fitzroy, Melbourne.
Which leads me to the area of Fitzroy. If St. Kilda was like a super tiny version of San Francisco- with trams running by the beach but not nearly as steep, and cool people with beards pursuing their life dreams and biking to work- then Fitzroy would be Brooklyn. Flat out, Brooklyn. It used to be a s**thole and then, as hipsters usually do, they started to populate the northern skirt of the city because of cheap rent and then bam that shit got popular. Now you can go and eat delicious vegetarian fare (like ridiculously scrumptious sweet potato fries) at Veggie Bar on Brunswick St, the most insane gelato I've ever had (been caught buying .6 liters of the crack-like substance), and celebrate the 4th of July at New Orleans style bars (that run out of PBR at 7pm- OI WTF MATE).
Speaking of PBR, yes PBR, I've the most painful craving for the sweet substance for months now. Then, one night while walking home from work, thinking about how I used to pay $2 TWO MEASLY LITTLE DOLL HAIRS for tall boys of it, BAM I see it in a bottle-o window. The sweet nectar of the Milwaukee gods had blessed me with their presence. To this day I have no idea what I paid for it (possibly $9AUD) but I savoured every last sip. So people back home, in the name of the PBR gods, do not take it for granted. Beer, all beer, even the piss made down the street, is at least $12 a pint here. Twelve hard earned plastic-y, colorful Aussie dollars. Ferfuxsake. Bloody fuckinel.
I’m sure you’re thinking, why does she want a cheap Milwaukee-made beer so badly? Isn’t there good beer in Aus? What about Fosters?
My response: because everything is so DAMN expensive I just needed a reminder of home and how wonderfully inexpensive things can be. Never mind I was paying 3 times the normal price for the sense of low cost (I think they call this irony). Yes, there is good beer in Australia, but the wine is even better. And just an FYI no one in Aus drinks Fosters- or says “shrimp on the Barbie” just while we’re on the subject HA Crikey the misconceptions! No one says crikey either hahaha
In Australia, everything is casual. People avoid confrontation (much to the opposite of a lot of Northeastern Americans), have wine in the office on Fridays (or out at lunch everyday as I learned while working at a “businessman” restaurant), and curse every other sentence. Even the words alone are casual- most are shortened and made into an –y, meaning sunglasses are sunnies, breakfast is brekkie, sandwiches are toasties, the other day I heard someone call The Bachelor Bachy. HA.
Which gets me onto the subject of The Bachelor: Australia. When I first got to Melbourne, I had 3 waitressing jobs. The first was in a fancy restaurant in the CBD (Central Business District- picture downtown DC), one in an Italian restaurant run by crazy passionate Italians, and the last a laidback hipster café in a predominately Jewish neighborhood (picture Brooklyn).
One night in April I walked into the café knowing I would be catering a function that night. We were setting up his number 35 balloons when I was told the birthday boy was the new Bachelor (with his season about to premiere in a few months). I immediately pictured Juan Pablo and burst out laughing. If he was anything like the American bachelors, this night was going to be entertaining. It was- he was super self-absorbed, looked at himself in every reflection he passed and his “friends” were even worse. There was a point in the night where a girl half breaking her back for attention stopped me as I passed, asking “Um….seriously what other champagnes do you have?” To which I replied, “We only carry SINGLE bottles of bubbles. SOLO boxes of one type. You could say we're kind of like The BACHELOR."
Bachy also ended up making every one of his guests pay for their drinks (even though he had previously said he would be paying for the venue and the beverages). So then we had the pleasure of dealing with 50+ champagne divas paying at one till at once. Moral of the story, don’t believe what you see on TV. They’ve made him out to look like a gem, or at least the insane women on the show make him look like a gem next to them.
Now, back to the good stuff.
The food in Melbourne is ALL on point. When friends ask me what Australian food is I usually say Brekkie. Brekkie in Aus is served all day, erry day. It includes: poached eggs on everything, “smashed avo” a delicious combination of exactly what it sounds like- avocado smashed onto toast (and usually topped with a poached egg), smoked salmon, beetroot in everything (for whatever reason they call it beetroot, not beets. Which makes me think we should also be saying carrotroots and potatoroots, but I digress), and coffee, lots of coffee.
The city of Melbourne itself seems to be a food capital, and it DEFINITELY has the best coffee in the world. The hipsters will be happy I acknowledged their belief. But just as most gorgeous men usually know they’re gorgeous, the baristas know their coffee is delicious. And so with this sense of awareness, comes an air of pretentiousness (except sometimes it can be more like a blustery wind of pretentiousness).
The other day I went to a coffee shop on my Melbourne Bucket list (of course I have one). It was hands down the best coffee I’ve ever, ever had. But when I read the menu out loud I practically peed my pants laughing. It was a ridiculous combination of adjectives and hoity-toity vocabulary assembled by what I pictured to be a mustached man who drank coffee like wine, naming off subtle ingredients he identified like “hints of orange peel and cardamom dustings”. Just to emphasize that I am actually in no way exaggerating, I will prove it with examples pulled from the menu:
“Pickled celery, compressed apple, quinoa, fennel, celery leaves, watercress, candied walnuts, kale, pomegranate & smoked dried goats cheese”
“Crispy potato hash with braised wild & cultivated mushroom, poached eggs, shaved Gruyere & chlorophyll & truffle vinaigrette”
Chlorophyll vinaigrettes are my favorite.
And since I know you’re DYING to know what I ate that day:
“Smoked salmon on rye with grilled cucumber, radish, cottage cheese, beetroot, horseradish, preserved lemon & sea herbs” L.O.L
Surprisingly enough the grilled cucumber was super tasty, while the rye bread was a weird cracker that I would’ve rather called “essence of rye”.
But hands down my favorite:
“Raw cashew, matcha & avocado cheesecake on caramelized buckini & organic coconut oil crunch base with chia seed pudding & pear & lime caviar salad”
^^ What are you even talking about?
Regardless, I have to admit the food was delicious- I won’t deny the flavors of the overly pompous descriptions and heir of importance throughout the venue. But honestly- compressed apple?
While I could talk about the food in this city for ages, I feel like I owe it a bit of conversation. Food, after all, is the reason I’m still in Australia. It’s how I got the third job waitressing, and ultimately, what placed me in front of a table of 5 celebrating a birthday dinner. It eventually led to the exchange of a business card that now has me listing “Event Coordinator” underneath my name in emails. What I mean is that through my (mild) obsession with food, I got a job waitressing at a sexy little Italian restaurant in a random corner of Melbourne. Through the waitressing job, I served a table that happened to be the owners of another restaurant. Through the business card given to me more so for a hospitality role, I stumbled upon an Events & Travel Company known as Encore Journeys. And through my emailing of said company, I eventually landed a position at my dream job. So to put it simply, my obsession with food led me to my dream job (give or take a few details).
In my book, food really does make everything better. So I’ll end this post with pictures of what I’ve eaten in this lovely city. I’ll dish it to you. Not to be too cheesy. Toastally.
Cheers mates ;)