Melbourne, Victoria

For over 10 years, visiting the continent and country of Australia has been on my bucket list and merely a dream.  That dream has come true.  After a long 30 hours of travel from Paris to Melbourne via Shanghai, we arrived in the “land down under”.  What shocked us the most was landing in the Southern Hemisphere where the summer season was in full bloom and the days were long.  To go from a dark winter in Paris to sunlight at 9:30pm, it was quite strange and took some time to get used to.  We stayed in a rental apartment in East Melbourne adjacent to Fitzroy Gardens.  The location was perfect as we were within a 10-15 minute walk of most sites around the city, and we enjoyed strolling through the beautiful parks and taking sunset photos.

Melbourne coffeeOnce we adjusted to the time and got over our jet lag, we visited with one of Mike’s good college friends, Adam.  He moved to Melbourne about three years ago from Los Angeles and since then has started his own Chicago-style improvised comedy school called The Improv Conspiracy.  We met Adam for coffee one afternoon and he introduced us to Melbourne’s obsession with all things coffee.  Between the server & his suggestions, Mike and I each ordered a “flat white,” which is very similar to what we’d call a café latte back in the United States.  They also serve a latte, but it is prepared somewhat differently and is served in a glass instead of a porcelain cup and saucer.  The flat white turned out to be the best coffee we had outside of Europe.  (To read more about Melbourne’s coffee culture, visit the weheart blog article.)  After chatting and catching up with our old friend, we headed out to the Dan O’Connell Hotel to watch his school’s end-of-the-year show starring his best students.  We hadn’t laughed that much in a while! It was great to meet his friends and students and watch his passion come to life.

During our 5-day stay, we wandered around the city by foot and enjoyed several city sites.  We admired the city’s Royal Botanic GardensCarlton Gardens, famous shopping arcades decorated for the holidays and Flinders Street train station.  In addition, we wanted to bring some normalcy to our lives, we sought out a local swimming pool and yoga studio for some exercise.  It was a great way to feel like a local and get back to a healthy lifestyle.

One major discovery we made and continued to experience throughout our time in Australia was the amazing quality and diversification of their food.  Melbourne has a huge Asian immigrant population, so the local Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Asian Fusion, and similar cuisines are both incredible and authentic.  Since we hadn’t much Asian food in our time abroad (around six months at that point), we were in rice & noodle heaven.

Yarra Valley – Victoria’s Wine Country

Mike had a brilliant idea to combine wine tasting with a cycling excursion to offset the delicious food and wine we were going to experience in Victoria’s beautiful Yarra Valley.  We took a 1-hour train ride northeast from Melbourne  and stopped at Yarra Valley Cycles where we rented bikes and created a winery route.  We hopped on our bikes and headed down the tranquil Warburton bike trail.

Yarra Valley Cycles

We stopped by four wineries along the way:

Yarra Valley

We had the opportunity to taste a couple of Australia’s well known sparkling red wines.  We had never heard of sparkling reds, so we were intrigued and ready for a new experience.  We thought they were very tasty, especially on a warm day.  To read more about Australia’s sparkling reds, take a look at this SF Gate article.  As we wobbled along on our bikes, we came across Seville Hill Winery where we decided to have a picnic.  The views of the Yarra Valley were gorgeous and their cherry trees bloomed with sweet fruit.

In the end we felt our time in Victoria was too short, but we were excited for the road ahead: driving north through the nation’s capital city, Canberra, to Sydney, and then on to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.