Tag archive for "melbourne"

Hump day photo: Melbourne Graffiti

Australia, Destinations, Other, Photography

Hump day photo: Melbourne Graffiti

2 Comments 09 May 2012

People usually try to avoid dark alley ways when visiting foreign cities.

Not Melbourne. 

The Australian city is known for its graffiti scene and the best of it can be found down side streets, where artists have free space and a bit a privacy to paint. Once considered vandalism, these days people of the city embrace this funky form of public art.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I spotted these shut-eyed children in Fitzroy. There are several forms of graffiti around these days. This is known as wheatpaste graffiti, because of the glue used to put these pieces up.

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A Gal’s Guide to the Melbourne Cup

Australia, Destinations

A Gal’s Guide to the Melbourne Cup

7 Comments 27 October 2011

Pin a fascinator to your hair, pop open a bottle of champagne and get your cash out ladies, because it’s Melbourne Cup time down under.

This four-day Aussie carnival attracts visitors from all over the world. But you don’t have to be a heavy gambler or horse expert to take part in the event. In fact, the fashion aspect of the Melbourne Cup seems to be equally as important.

So whether you’re going to gamble, going to show off or going to get pissed, here are some tips to making the most out of the races.

When to go

AAMI Victoria Derby Day is opening day featuring some great races to kick off the Cup. Emirates Melbourne Cup Day is the day to see the best races and make the most (or loose the most) money. Emirates Stakes Day closes the carnival with races and live performances.

But Crown Oaks Day

Now that’s ‘Ladies Day’. 

Me to the left with some friends in reserved seating at the Crown Oaks Day in 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, people don’t pay as much attention to the races this day as they do to style. 

This is your day to dress your best, but expect competition. Some women invest a lot of money and time in their ensembles. People all over Australia even go into competition with their looks at Myers Fashions on the Field, which the winner of is announced on Crown Oaks Day.

But it’s all in good fun so just focus on feeling pretty and remember to wear a pink rose, the official flower of Crown Oaks Day.

What to wear

It adds up. Between a stunning dress, great shoes and a mind-blowing fascinator, dressing up for the races can cost quite a bit.

But it doesn’t have to.

My friend Dorcey, to the left, went for a ‘Pretty Woman’ race look. I, to the right, went for a simple black dress from Anthropologie, a vintage-inspired fascinator I found in Brisbane and cowboy boots, which I wear everywhere.

Focus on the fascinator. Race day may be the only day you ever wear one of these things, so make the most of it. The headpieces are made to stand out and they’re the most important part of any girl’s ensemble come race day. So spend the most time, money and effort on this accessory. Nothing is too extreme and the most unusual piece, usually gets the most compliments.

Dress simply. Fascinators are not cheap items. So wearing one may come at the cost of another item. Since these headpieces can be quite detailed, it may be a good idea to dress simple even if cost isn’t a question. You want to stand out, but not have too much going on.

My suggestion-go for a one color cotton dress. I don’t want to say black, because it’s a spring event, full of color. But a simple blue or pink cotton dress from Target won’t break the bank or clash with your headwear. Plus, it will keep you comfortable on what can be a long day.

Ditch the stilettos. These skinny-heeled shoes are always a hassle at the races. Take a shoe that’s already hard to walk in, add a few drinks and force a gal to walk in the grass all day, it won’t end pretty.

You could wear a fantastic pair of sandals, but please backpackers, leave the Havaianas at home. Or you could really make an Aussie statement and wear a pair of Tony Bianco wedges. This popular Australian brand will definitely win you some points with the locals. Plus their wedges are AMAZING this season.

One last tip-bring a shaw or cardigan. It can be a bit chilly in the shade.

Where to sit

Two choices: general admission or reserved seating. But before you pick your ticket based on price, read this.

Where you sit at on Crown Oaks Day will determine what kind of day you have. Either choice presents a new and interesting experience, but be prepared for just how interesting that experience may get.

General admission means lawn seats, which start off quite fun and ideal, ladies looking lovely lounging out on picnic blankets with champagne, but gets messy. It’s kind of a running Aussie joke how ridiculous people get on the lawn come ladies day. Despite the classy get-ups, girls and guys alike seem to be at their trashiest down here. It’s a great time, but be prepared for it. Adult general admission costs $61 on Crown Oaks Day.

The scene at the the lawn after the races had finished at Crown Oaks Day in 2010.

With reserved seating you’re looking to pay at least $30 more. But with that $30 comes shelter from the rain or extremely strong Melbourne sun, you’re guaranteed at least one of them. It means seats, clean toilets and the ability to access food and event zones not included in general admission.

Who to bet on

If you don’t know who to pick or have never even watched a horse race in your life, don’t worry. There are still ways you can bet and maybe even win.

You can go for what most clueless people do and pick out the horse with the cutest or most interesting name or you can get strategic.

After losing a few times I used a trick from one of my old journalism professors and headed to the smokers section. You don’t have to smoke, just carry a lighter. You’d be surprised at the things you can learn when you offer someone a light.

I ended up talking to a group of older men about the races. I told them I’d been losing and they gave me their expert opinions on who to bet on in the next race. I decided to go with it and guess what, they were right. I actually won quite a bit of money thanks to those guys.

I surprisingly won a lot of money at Crown Oaks Day in 2010.

How to get there

All race days throughout the Melbourne Cup are located at Flemington Racecourse. According to the Melbourne Cup website, “Special race trains will depart Flinders Street (Platforms 8 & 9), stopping at Southern Cross station (Platform 14) and North Melbourne (Platform 6), then express to Flemington.”

This is your best bet for getting to and from the racecourse from the city center. The trains are quite full to and from the stadium, but Metlink runs more than usual on race days, so you will get there and back. I suggest buying day passes the day before.

The train ride back to Flinders Street Station at the end of Crown Oaks Day 2010 was packed.

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Realizing good coffee

Australia, Destinations, Favorite Things, New Zealand, Wine and Coffee

Realizing good coffee

5 Comments 16 September 2011

I remember it like it was yesterday. The day I learned I know nothing about coffee.
Fresh off a great two month journey up Australia’s East coast, I arrived in Port Douglas, ready to work. I walked into a busy cafe called rehab with the local paper’s classified section in hand.
Falling in love with the cafe instantly, I thought, “Why not here?” And as luck would have it they posted a “barista wanted” sign in the window. With my one-year-worth of experience as a barista at Starbucks in the States, I walked up to the counter with confidence and asked the dreadlocked manager for a job.
“Do you know how to make coffee?” he asked.
“Why yes sir,” I replied. “I worked at Starbucks.”
“Then you don’t know how to make coffee,” he said with a judgmental look and continued what he was doing.
At first I chucked it up to Aussie arrogance. But the more I traveled and the more I tasted, the more I realized how right he was.
Forgetting all the reasons people hate or love Starbucks, I’m sorry but they’re coffee is not very good. Sorry, it’s true.
I know the company treats their employees well, but giving an 18-year-old an hour-long online coffee course and a few hours of training at an automatic coffee machine, does not make him or her a barista.
I learned this in Australia, but am now trying to learn what does make a person a barista in New Zealand. What I’m finding is that it’s practice and attention.
It’s amazing how much they care about coffee down here and quite refreshing. It’s not just a job, it’s an art.
I was a frequent customer at a tiny cafe called Origins in Port Douglas. The barista there would buy antique or hard to find coffee-making objects. I saw through him what it meant to care about coffee. It payed off, I couldn’t get enough of the place and still long for their cappuccinos.
I worked at a small cafe called Neighbours on Chapel Street in Australia and the baristas there were obsessed with creating a perfect cup of coffee for each customer each time. As a waitress there I saw what that meant when most customers averaged three cups and quite a few visited more than once a day.
I’m not saying that coffee is completely terrible in the states. In fact, I know it’s not. On a recent trip home, I visited a number of places that served coffee with attention. They created a perfect shot, frothed the milk just right and even created designs between the coffee in milk. I just think that places like these are unfortunately overlooked.
So I’m pledging to myself to learn to make coffee like they do down under and I think at home people should embrace small coffee shops that are doing something similar to here.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

The day I learned that I knew nothing about coffee.

Fresh off a great two month journey up Australia’s East coast, I arrived in Port Douglas, ready to work. I walked into a busy cafe called Rehab, now closed, with the local paper’s classified section in hand.

Falling in love with the cafe instantly, I thought, “Why not here?” And as luck would have it they posted a “barista wanted” sign in the window. With my one-year-worth of experience as a barista at Starbucks in the States, I walked up to the counter with confidence and asked the dreadlocked manager for a job.

“Do you know how to make coffee?” he asked.

“Why yes sir,” I replied. “I worked at Starbucks.”

“Then you don’t know how to make coffee,” he said with a judgmental look and continued what he was doing.

At first I chucked it up to Aussie arrogance. But the more I traveled and the more I tasted, the more I realized how right he was.

Forgetting all the reasons people hate or love Starbucks, I’m sorry but their coffee is not very good.

I know the company treats their employees well, but giving an 18-year-old an hour-long online course and a few hours of training at an automatic coffee machine, does not make him or her a barista.

I learned this in Australia, but am now trying to learn what does make a person a barista in New Zealand. What I’m finding is that it’s practice and attention.

It’s amazing how much they care about coffee down here and quite refreshing. It’s not just a job, it’s an art.

I was a frequent customer at a tiny cafe called Origins in Port Douglas. The barista there would buy antique or hard to find coffee-making objects. I saw through him what it meant to care about coffee. It payed off, I couldn’t get enough of the place and still long for their cappuccinos.

I worked at a small cafe called Neighbours on Chapel Street in Melbourne and the baristas there were obsessed with creating a perfect cup of coffee for each customer each time. As a waitress there I saw what that meant when most customers averaged three cups and quite a few visited more than once a day.

I’m not saying that coffee is completely terrible in the states. In fact, I know it’s not. On a recent trip home, I visited a number of places that served coffee with attention. They created a perfect shot, frothed the milk just right and even created designs between the coffee in milk. I just think that places like these are unfortunately overlooked.

So I’m pledging to myself to learn to make coffee like they do down under and I think at home people should embrace small coffee shops that are doing something similar to here.

Banner photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon, taken at Rehab.

Know of a great coffee shop somewhere in Oz, NZ or USA? Post is below so readers know where to go.

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From Melbourne to Malapascua

Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under, Philippines

From Melbourne to Malapascua

4 Comments 20 March 2011

I started my long, arduous journey to the Philippines at Melbourne Airport at around 11:30 a.m., Wednesday. I arrived there with plenty of time to check-in, so much so that I actually had to wait 20 minutes for the check-In desk to open. This gave me time to contemplate what I was about to do and where I was going.

I met my girlfriend in Australia. She had had to leave due to her visa running out, which meant If I was serious about things and wanted to be with her then I would have to chase her to where ever she was going. I was daunted by the upcoming journey as I had only traveled by myself once before. The travel bug had only really taken hold of me about a year ago. Before that I was content to just holiday with friends and family around Europe a couple of weeks a year.

When the check-in desk opened I was excited to be in the queue for a flight that would take me on a whole new adventure, the excitement soon turned to boredom though as I was made to wait one hour and 15 minutes. When I finally reached the check-in desk the check-in attendant asked me to provide my ticket and passport (normal practice at any international check-in desk).

But that wasn’t it.

She followed with asking for my ongoing ticket out of the Philippines. This came as a shock to me as I’d never heard of it before.

It was fine because I already had my ticket out of the Philippines booked, I just hadn’t printed it off yet as I thought that I wouldn’t need it until I was leaving the country. The attendant was adamant that I needed this ticket printed out for my arrival into the country. I was directed by the attendant to run across the road to the Hilton Hotel to print it off. Obviously, I worried that by the time I’d printed off the ticket I wouldn’t have enough time to get back and check-in. However, I managed to get it printed off and checked in with five minutes to spare. What a great start to a journey I was already nervous about.

With the check-in process taking so long I literally just had to wonder up to my gate and wait 15 minutes for the plane. I noticed on my way through the terminal that there was a currency exchange so decided to change the $50 I had spare into Filipino Pisos, just so I had some money on me for when I landed. The exchange rate there was 37 Pisos to AUS$1. I hadn’t, foolishly, checked any exchange rates and as it was probably my last chance to change money before I got there I changed the $50.

The three hour 50 minute-flight from Melbourne to Darwin went without a hitch. I landed In Darwin and was instructed to head straight to the gate for my flight to Manila. Between myself and the gate there was some security, where I was asked to fill out some immigratIon and customs forms necessary to depart Australia.

Exotic Island Dive Resort has a few hammocks on its beach for guests. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Exotic Island Dive Resort has a few hammocks on its beach for guests. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Again, the flight from Darwin to Manila went without a hitch and I was touching down in a brand new country. I was excited all over again but that excitement was then again dampened by the realisation that I would have to spend the next 8 hours waiting around the airport for my onward flight onto Cebu City.

I decided to try my debit card in a cash machine at the airport as my girlfriend had informed me that she had had trouble withdrawing money when she had landed. I, however, had no problem getting money out. Good thing, because I only had the $50 in Pisos in my wallet. Not the cleverest way to travel I know, but I had left Australia on a whim and, to be completely honest, I was no where near as prepared as I’d have liked to be. The exchange rate on the machine was 43 Pisos to AUS$1! That’s a whole 6 Pisos more than I got from Melbourne airport, I was a bit gutted I had got such a bad rate back in Australia but I quickly got over it as I’d only changed $50.

My next task was to find something to eat and then find a spot where I could perhaps sleep for a few hours. After what seemed like forever I was ready to board my flight to Cebu, the check-in queue moved much quicker this time but when I reached the attendant to weigh my bags she informed me that my bag was too heavy. The allowance for Cebu Pacific flights is 15Kgs, whereas the allowance for my flights from Australia was 20Kgs. My bag weighed 17Kgs so I had to quickly offload a couple of items of clothes and a pair of shoes. I just left them there next to the check-in desk…hopefully someone in the airport will have picked them up and found a use for them.

I headed to my gate and was met with another surprise. I had to pay P200 in airport fees, just to get through to my gate to catch a domestic flight.

By this point I was feeling the affects of traveling and I still had a one-hour flight, a four-hour bus ride and a 45 minute boat trip to go before I reached my destination of Malapascua, an island off the coast of Cebu Island.

I arrived at Cebu Airport and picked up my bags. I headed for a taxi ready to do some bartering as I’d heard that you really have to haggle with the drivers to get the prices down. After agreeing a price of P250, I was in a taxi on my way to the Northern Bus Terminal in Cebu City. The timing was perfect, because when I arrived there the bus for Maya (P95), which is the town where you catch the boat to Malapascua, was leaving. So I jumped out the cab and got straight on the bus. Within five minutes I was off on the penultimate stage of my journey which had so far taken me 24 hours.

The bus ride was insane!

I’m not the best passenger at the best of times, even with the safest of drivers, but this journey really took all I had to keep calm and not shout abuse out to the driver. They just don’t care on the roads here.

I was ridiculously tired by now and all I wanted to do was get an hour or two sleep, this was never going to happen as the bus driver seemed to have a perverse love of his horn. If it wasn’t the horn keeping me awake it was the constant jumping off my seat as we’d hit a bump in the road at outrageous speed.

I arrived at Maya in one piece, thankfully. Luckily, I did not have to deal with the usual welcoming there of scammers trying to charge passengers more than P50 (the standard rate) for the bangka ferry to the island.

The boat ride over to the island was such a complete contrast from the bus journey I’d just endured. I was finally able to chill knowing that I’d soon be arriving and that I could give my girlfriend a massive hug and just chill and have a well earned beer.

Malapascua Island in the Philippines offers clear blue waters and sky, worth the arduous journey. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Malapascua Island in the Philippines offers clear blue waters and sky, worth the arduous journey. Photo by Richard John Hackey

I landed on Malapascua at 2 p.m. and made the short walk up to Exotic Island Dive Resort. where I would be staying. I was greeted at reception by some of my girlfriend’s mates. They told me she had just disappeared to fetch something from her room and that she’d be back any second.

So I decided to hide in the store room and wait. Her friends then told her that they needed something from the store room and asked if she would go and get it for them. Little dId she know I was waiting in the wet suits. She walked into the store room and I jumped out and shouted. She reeled back in shock at first then attacked me with a frenzy of hugs and kisses. I couldn’t believe I’d finally made it out to her!

The trip was long and not without It’s hiccups but I’d made it and all there was left to do was order a beer and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

The first glimpse of my new home for the next few weeks, Exotic Island Dive Resort in Malapascua, Philippines. Photo by Richard John Hackey

The first glimpse of my new home for the next few weeks, Exotic Island Dive Resort in Malapascua, Philippines. Photo by Richard John Hackey

From solo to couples travel

Dispatches from Down Under

From solo to couples travel

22 Comments 16 March 2011

“We’re going traveling,” he says to me with a cheesy grin.

It was 6:30 a.m. on our last day in Malapascua, Philippines and our first day traveling together. Though I was feeling a bit rough from my snorkel test the night before, the final stage of any good divemaster course in which candidates funnel a concoction of booze, I couldn’t help but smile also.

Anyone whose followed my blog or even just looked at the about me page knows that solo travel was my thing. I’ve always prided myself on being able to go anywhere in the world alone. But something changed on this trip.

It all started about eight months ago in the tropical village of  Port Douglas, Australia when I started waiting tables at a place called Mango Jam. I was a bit nervous to be doing a job I hadn’t in years, but my friendly co-workers made me welcome and at ease. I liked everyone that worked there, but one chef named Ric in particular stood out a bit more.

That first night we all went to Iron Bar for karaoke. Ric and I spoke a bit, but he seemed a bit shy or uninterested, so I left it at that. I asked another girl there about him and she just said,” He’s parsley!” which was a code word for hot one of her friends came up with when she first saw him.

If he was uninterested when we first spoke, then he would want nothing to do with me by the end of the night as I sang “Jessie’s girl.” I’m probably the worst karaoke singer, but I just love it too much to resist.

We stayed friendly with short conversation as I came in and out of the kitchen to pick up food, but that was it. Then one day he came into work on his day off, slightly pissed, and came out of his shell to me by means of licking my face and picking my nose.

I was in love.

Close

Ric and I picnicing in the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Australia.

He wasn’t uninterested, just shy. Since I was leaving about ten days after that I figured what the hell and went for him. We started a little work romance that we both knew was just a fling since I was going and he was staying. I felt more, but knew it didn’t matter. I was content with bouncing around the town with him and sneaking into his tent.

And I thought he was too.

Then came my last night. He stopped at my hostel to say hang out for a bit and say goodbye. In the middle of it, he got a call from a friend.

“Nah, I can’t make it. I’m doing something,” he said. “I know. I know. I’ll catch the end of it.”

When he hung up I said if he needed to go I would understand.

“Nah, it just the first Liverpool game of the season,” he said. “My mates were wondering where I was.”

That’s when I knew it was true love.

Living in England for six months, I know how important footie is to them. Knowing Ric for just two months, I knew how important Liverpool was to him.

I left Port Douglas for a month and we kept in touch. I came back  and a week later we moved in together. He left before me and we met in Melbourne. We celebrated the holidays together. He met my dad. We were both upset to say goodbye when I had to leave Australia in January for the Philippines.

He stayed in Australia and saved up with plans of making it out in two months.

Two months?

I couldn’t even get through a day without him.

We made it five weeks, then he made the ridiculous journey to meet me in Malapascua.

He was the last thing I expected in the travels and the best thing I found. While we’ve been living together for about four months, technically we still have not traveled together until now.

Our travels together officially started when we left Malapacua in route to Hong Kong. Since this site is about my travels, it only seems logical for him to join it. So as of now, Heels and Wheels is no longer about solo travel, but about traveling as couple.

Together on our last night in Malapascua, Philippines.

Together on our last night in Malapascua, Philippines.

Ric and I both know traveling together will not always be easy. All couples fight and travel can add extra stress. So to prepare for this big change in my travels I went to traveling couples Amy and Kieron of Don’t Ever Look Back, Laura and Roberto of Travel for Love and Mike and Luci of 1000 Fights for tips and advice. Read what they had to say here.

Welcome Ric to Heels and Wheels and the wonderful world of travel blogging. Be kind to him-he’s still writing with the outdated form of English.

Just in time for the month of love

Australia, Destinations, Photography

Just in time for the month of love

1 Comment 24 February 2010

There’s so much to take in at the massive Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Australia, that it’s hard to believe I found this sweet little message amongst it all. Ideal for Valentine’s Day, those three words we all crave were simply written on a large thorny plant in the park. I’m not sure who the message was for, but whoever wrote it put a smile on this little lady’s face that day.

2/8/10-A sweet inscription on a thorny plant in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

2/8/10-A sweet inscription on a thorny plant in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Hostel review: YHA Flinders Street Melbourne

Australia, Destinations

Hostel review: YHA Flinders Street Melbourne

No Comments 22 February 2010

Located on Flinders Street, YHA Hostel is an ideal location for those that want to reach popular tourist attractions in Melbourne, Australia. It offers the cleanliness and concierge of a hotel, but also the companionship. The massive hostel requires guest use a designated card key to enter not only their room, but also their floor. Each floor has its own common area, kitchen and bathrooms. The separation and size of the hostel can be difficult for those looking to make friends, but comforting to people just looking for clean and secure accommodation.

Staff: The hostel has a lot of people working at once, which makes it easier to check in and receive help with any other needs. Hostel staff is friendly and extremely professional. Unlike a lot of other hostels I’ve stayed at where the staff acted like long term guests doing a bit of work, YHA staff act like hotel concierge in everyday clothing.

Location: It’s perfect for those that want easy access to the docks, free tram (#35), Southern Cross Station (located two blocks away), attractions on the Yarra River and heaps of other popular sights.

Cleanliness: Spotless. I never saw a dirty dish in the sink. Staff would go through the fridge and toss old food. The common area was in perfect order. The bathrooms were unbelievably clean. The rooms were always well-vacuumed and bed sheets looked and smelled brand new.

Feeling: It felt more like a hotel than a hostel. The hostel does try to help guest have fun and interact by providing free movies and hosting themed nights, but the hallways were always eerily quiet and the common room was often empty.

Price: I stayed in a four-bedroom, female dorm for $31.50 with my YHA international card. The only room cheaper is a six bedroom dorm, but one staff member said guests must book far in advance for those rooms. Still, my room was pretty cheap considering the hostel location. Internet, breakfast and any themed parties cost extra, but Bertha Brown, the restaurant downstairs, sells coffees for $2 and gourmet pizzas for $5 to hostel guests.

It’s a great hostel for people that want a somewhat private, clean and quiet accommodation at a cheap price, but don’t expect to meet any travel partners there.

Photo courtesy of hotfrog.com.au.

Hostel Review: The Nunnery

Australia, Destinations

Hostel Review: The Nunnery

1 Comment 08 February 2010

My first impression of The Nunnery on Nicholson Street in Melbourne, Australia was not very good. Arriving at 9:30 a.m. directly from a 12-hour over night bus ride from Sydney, all I wanted to do was lay down. Unfortunately, I could not check in until 11 a.m., which is understandable. So I put my bags in storage and headed straight to the kitchen for coffee. When I asked the crowded kitchen, “Where are the mugs?” Someone replied, “Good luck finding one.”

The kitchen was filthy and sink filled with messy dishes.

The kitchen at The Nunnery was always messy. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The kitchen at The Nunnery was always messy. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Not wanting to spend another minute in the place, I left immediately to walk around the city. When I came home, I found out it was movie night, which was a perfect way to spend my lazy day. Movie night warmed me up to the hostel. The guests were friendly and easy to interact with. The common area is very nice and has surround sound.

This first day experience pretty much sums up my entire stay at The Nunnery. In some aspects it fails terribly, in others it’s fantastic. I think with a bit of lysol and a few changes in staff it could be great.

Staff: They were very helpful, interactive and kind. They were constantly cleaning things up around the hostel, even closed the kitchen three times a day for cleaning.

Location: Two blocks from Brunswick Street, it’s ideal for someone who wants the artsy Melbourne experience. The Fitzroy area is beautiful and the actual building The Nunnery resides in adds to that experience. Designed by Lloyd Tayler in 1888 for a wealthy doctor, the building has high ceilings, hardwood floors, labyrinth-like hallways, beautiful wood and tile detailing and more. In 1944 a French order of nuns called the “Daughters of Charity” took over to house young women.

The Melbourne Museum is located across the street and guests can catch the 96 tram, which goes to Southern Cross Railway Station, right in front of the hostel. The downtown area is only a short walk away.

Cleanliness: I wouldn’t say any part of the hostel was actually clean. Some areas were just worse than others. The kitchen was by far the worst. It always smelled, the dishes were always greasy if not piled up in the sink and the oven did not work. It’s unfortunate, because the hostel staff and even some of the long term guests worked hard to keep the place in shape. They placed signs up all over the place, saying wash up, but some people did not follow the rules.

The common area was livable. The rooms were okay. Surprisingly the bathrooms were the cleanest of all.

Feeling: It was very relaxed. Guests are always hanging out in the common area, outdoor patio and even in the hallways. The hostel made it really easy to meet people by hosting things like movie, barbecue and ice cream night. People would drink and chat outside at night, but it never got rowdy.

The common area is a great place to meet people. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The common area is a great place to meet people. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Rooms: The rooms were descent. I slept in a six-person mixed dorm. The bunk beds were a little unstable. My room had its own bathroom, which was very clean and spacious. My only complaint was the absence of central air. I visited in February, so Melbourne was extremely hot and humid. The only cooling option in my room was a fan,  which was not enough on some nights.

Safety: Guests receive a hostel card, which permits them into the building and their room. The rooms have lockers. The hostel also has cameras posted throughout it.

Price:
A six-person mixed room is $32. Breakfast is free and includes cereal, rolls, butter, peanut butter and jelly. Internet is not included and very expensive. If you walk a few blocks up Moor Street off Nicholson Road, you can get it for free at the Fitzroy Library. The hostel has free ice cream, barbecue, popcorn and pancakes on select nights.

The interior of the hostel matches the Fitzroy experience. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The interior of the hostel matches the Fitzroy experience. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Overall: It needs improvement, but it has character. If you’re a neat freak then avoid it by all means. If you can get pass that, then you’ll find a home-like environment where you can meet great people.

Not the first Hitchon in Oz

Australia, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under

Not the first Hitchon in Oz

6 Comments 04 February 2010

I visited the Immigration Museum yesterday. I try to only hit museums that are special to a specific city or country when traveling so I don’t waste money on things I could do at home. Since Australia is almost completely made up of immigrants, it made sense to visit this museum.

It was fantastic, well organized and very interesting. I know Australia has it’s own story and I shouldn’t compare such a unique place to America, but I couldn’t help it. Because of both countries’ large immigrant populations, the histories parallel. Both countries have British beginnings, native people that were pretty much massacred and a melting pot of nationalities and cultures.

Australia’s melting pot is highly present in Melbourne. There are so many different foods and neighborhoods dedicated to specific cultures. Queen Victoria Market is literally a melting pot. There you can find Turkish, Asian, Caribbean, Spanish cuisine and much more.

2/3/09-Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne offers a large variety of food from around the world as well as Australia. The Australian food stand grills aligator, kangaroo burgers and more. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

2/3/09-Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne offers a large variety of food from around the world as well as Australia. The Australian food stand grills aligator, kangaroo burgers and more. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

After looking through the museum I visited its records center to see if anything showed up under Hitchon (my last name). Quite a few things popped up, which I figured would since my last name is popular in England. One person I found was Robert Hitchon, which is also my father’s name. I am not positive what year the Australian Robert Hitchon was born, but I think he may be a bit older than my dad since his father, William James Hitchon, was born on 2 April 1909 in Lancaster, England.

It’s weird, but learning the similarities between Australian and American history then finding that a person in Australia has the same name as my father kind of made me feel at home.

Australia is an unusual place in that sense. There are so many things here that are similar to home: the language, 711, TV and food. But so many things that are completely opposite. I’ve had many moments in the past week when I thought to myself, “Why did I not know about this?” I like to consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the world, but I know next to nothing about Australia.

I actually feel as though the American education system failed me when it comes to Australia. When I backpacked Europe three years ago, without any research, I had a list of over 100 things I knew about and had to see. Before researching this country, I could probably only name ten things in Australia that I wanted to see or do. Have you seen how big Australia is?

2/3/10-Even American food is represented at Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne by doughnuts. Naturally. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

2/3/10-Even American food is represented at Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne by donuts. Naturally. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I don’t want to blame others, but honestly I think I studied the American Revolution and Roman Empire at length every year at school. The most I learned about Australia was that there were aboriginal people that my teachers/professors always compared to Native Americans and it was founded by British convicts.

I wish someone had told me that there were bats the size of dogs here, about all the refugees that immigrated to Australia after WWII as well as other world crisis, about how the 60s spirit is still alive and well in Melbourne.

I’ve always known how massive Australia is, but its size never quite hit me until I arrived. I traveled 12 hours by bus from Sydney to Melbourne and if you look on a map, that is less than a quarter of length on the East coast. There is so much in this country to see and do that I never even knew about.

Sydney and Melbourne may only be 881 km away from each other in distance, but they feel worlds away from each other in culture. It’s hard to explain Melbourne. The architecture is both funky and traditional, people are hip and sophisticated and the food is fast and foreign. During the tram ride from Southern Cross Railway Station to my hostel I thought at first it reminded me of Eastern Europe, then New Orleans, then San Francisco. Every street, store and person has a different personality, but all are fantastic.

2/3/10-One of the best things to do in Melbourne is walk through its alley ways. You never know what you'll find, like this sailboat made of wood and tape, which I found in an alley way off Victoria Street. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

2/3/10-One of the best things to do in Melbourne is walk through its alley ways. You never know what you'll find, like this sailboat made of wood and tape, which I found in an alley way off Victoria Street. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Yesterday was my official one week anniversary in Australia, my plans are getting bigger and bigger. This time next week I will be cruising on Great Ocean Road and this time the following week I should be working on a vineyard.

Getting back into hostel life was not as easy as I thought it would be. This trip is making me realize how much I have matured since my last big trip. I don’t know why it popped into my head, but the other day I realized that I was only 20 years old when I first backpacked through Europe. I couldn’t even drink in the US. So much has happened in the last three years and it’s made me realize how precious my time is, which reminded me to make the absolute most of this trip.

Even though I am an old lady compared to my last trip, I think I have finally adjusted to hostels again. I’ve met so many wonderful people in just the past week and to think I would have never known they existed if I stayed in NJ.

While there are a lot of similarities between Australia and America in regards to immigration, one big difference is the work holiday visa. America is very protective of its jobs. So I’m very thankful to the Australian government for allowing me this experience. I may not be the first Hitchon in Oz, but I doubt there are many other Bobbi Lees in this country so I hope to leave a good impression. Because this country has already made one on me.


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