Melbourne – Arriving and Exploring…

Arriving

After many hours of driving our arrival at Melbourne city centre, got off to an inauspicious start. We decided to return our car and use public transportation whilst in Melbourne. Thus started the real life nightmare. We’ve had a few instances with this car and frankly, was keen to see the back of it. Also, personally prefer to get about by bus, tram and train in cities. Can’t really understand why everyone doesn’t feel that way but by the amount of traffic in Melbourne, this clearly isn’t everyone’s opinion.

I located the office and car park on Google maps and we drove there. Simple. Unfortunately, we forgot to fill the stupid car up with petrol so I located a petrol station on G maps. Except it wasn’t one. It was a shop selling lots of lovely food. Also, during this time, I’d taken over driving, had a meltdown because of the trams, and was on navigation duties again. The mobile signal and or g maps continued to also have a meltdown so I attempted to evaluate the situation, and turn off the phone. Ho hum.

Another go at finding petrol failed miserably and we realised we would have to drive until we find one. Are you feeling panicked yet? Because I was giving up hope.

Two hours later we still hadn’t found one and the gauge was dropping. Eventually, we stopped outside the city and asked someone. Something my father used to do. Yes, it has been confirmed, google maps seems to go haywire in Melbourne. The man informed hubby of directions and we found a petrol station. Hooray.

The panic had set in and it was like one of those reaccuring nightmares where you can’t quite get to where you want to be. Except it is real life. On the way back to the car park we saw many petrol stations. Of course we did. When we took the car to the drop off rental place, the official asked if we’d filled up, started the car and said we could go. This meant that we didn’t have to visit the car rental office. The relief was profound. Hooray.

Not a great start to the wonders of Melbourne but onwards and upwards…

 

First day exploring – Arcades and Lanes

A good way of becoming accustomed to an area is to do a walk. We decided on Arcades and Lanes Walk to integrate ourselves with Melbourne.

The Tourist Office in Melbourne, similar to others in Australia, appropriates useful information in a friendly way. You can pick up all sorts of useful information including leaflets, walks, transport, maps and tips about the area. Think most of the staff are volunteers and they are incredibly good at what they do.

We set off with our leaflet on this particular walk through cobbled streets, arcades and lanes. It is fascinating to view the old buildings juxtaposed with new.

Degraves Street and along to Centre Place are known to be meccas for café society, juice bars, healthy foods, fresh coffee and the like. Some of the cafes are tiny, chic hotspots with recycled cinema seats and even benches from a former court of law. Very quaint, cool and fun.

Then to the famous Block Arcade which is named after the fashionable Collins Street where people flocked to ‘do The Block’. This area was built between 1891 and 1893 and retains the heritage shopping experience with mosaic-tile flooring and carved stone decorative interior. This is said to be one of the finest examples of a 19th century shopping arcade.

Continuing through the trendy areas of Melbourne and elegant, old shopping arcades we could see why people like Melbourne so much.

Unique expressions of art and music appear throughout the city and make the walking experience exciting. The independent shops, cosy cafes and laneways threading through the city are wonderful to behold.

One of the most distinctive places, for me, on this walk is the Capitol Arcade which opened in 1924. Was this one of the first shopping malls? It is beautiful and designed by Walter Burley Griffin (architect of Canberra) and Marion Mahony Griffin. It is a truly magnificent area with a great book shop to peruse in the basement.

The historical buildings, warehouses are also full of charm. In fact, this walk is charming as you see the shabby chic and quirky places mingling with glamourous, historical architecture. The graceful arches of Cathedral Arcade are extraordinarily exquisite, retaining original features and linking Swanston Street and Flinders Lane in the Central Business District of Melbourne. The arcade is covered with stained glass and lead lights which creates an amazing dome. The shop fronts feature wooden panels and the building is listed on the Victorian heritage Register.

How do you think we ended this walk? Yes, a pub. Well, the walk instructed us to. We had a quick drink in Young and Jackson where beer has flowed for over a hundred years. Drinking our beers, we sat in the bar pondering the nude portrait Cloe which shocked conservative Melbourne and made the hotel famous. The place is devine with photographs of old Melbourne adorning the walls. The public house is beautifully restored and blends a boutique bar and classic pub perfectly. A perfect end to our first day.

 

Notting Hill, London

Notting Hill, London

There is nothing like a day out in London to restore your spirits. Apart from going to the carnival, I’ve never properly encountered the delights of Notting Hill. You know when you think you’ll arrive and recognise the place, well, that was me. However, I’ve never been before and it was a great place to visit.

During the day, I explored the Museum of Brands, Portobello Road Market, Beach Blanket Babylon bar and finally had a meal in the seafood restaurant, Bucket. Plus, I explored the general Notting Hill area, including some great shops and some stupid shops haha. What a fabulous, day.

The Museum of Brands

The Museum of Brands is a place to revisit the world of advertising and branding. The period of marketing begins during the Victorian era and ends up looking at recent advertising. The exhibition covers everything, including packaging, ads, fads, fashion, food, toys and games and how we’ve evolved as a society. It is like going back in time and fascinating to see. There are a lot of flash backs as you venture towards your own childhood advertising decade and the iconic brands. Certainly a trip down memory lane and great fun too. The latest exhibition discusses the future of packaging and changing from plastic to other options. Let us all hope they include the flipping supermarkets in their observations too!

If you want to go and explore the museum, the nearest Tube is Ladbroke Grove and then a minute’s walk.

Portobello Market

After this excellent experience, I went to Portobello Road and became absorbed in the hustle and bustle of the market. This was also an exuberant experience and although busy, very interesting. There are so many people selling and buying a vast array of Antiques, Bric-a-brac, fashion, food plus street performers too. The energy of the place is captivating and next time I shall explore more but by this time (1pm) I was definitely not up for eating the delicious looking street food because a sit down was needed!

After lunch, I looked around the shopping area and explored some fancy shops. Notting Hill is fashionable and has some beautiful property and people to match. It has to be said, I noticed people are somewhat stylishly dressed in this part of London and was fun to look at the quirky fashions. Must admit to being partial to a bit of people watching.

Posh shopping…

Although there are some lovely furniture/lifestyle shops in Notting Hill, I’m afraid I didn’t get the actor’s shop. Just seems an overpriced lot of nonsense to me and a bit daft. The ethical side is all very well but for me the place is an exorbitant ‘I see you coming’ sort of shopping space.

The charity/vintage shopping, on the other hand, is amazing. I just bought a thin cotton and wool jumper, but my companion bought a Calvin Klein dress, Hugo Boss jacket and Banana Republic blouse, all as new. This particular shop is like a posh boutique rather than a charity shop and so it is definitely worth nosing around the shops because you can get a designer bargain! Who can resist a bargain?

Bar – cocktails

Yep. It was late afternoon and I popped in one bar for a glass of wine, then discovered my online researched bar called Beach Blanket Babylon. So glad I did do some research online, because it was glorious. I had a Porn Star Martini and it was wonderful to sit and watch the world go by. This establishment is in a Georgian mansion in the heart of Notting Hill and known for its cocktails. I, of course, shall return for another cocktail or two at some stage.

Bucket Seafood Restaurant

This was the last stop and is a popular fish restaurant and very good. You can have a bucket of seafood, which is sustainably sourced or alternatively a normal meal. I had a yummy fish pie with sweet potato chips. The chocolate ‘soup’ with icecream and sponge was rather good too!

A great day out and highly recommended. Be prepared to wander miles, watch the glamorous people, eat and drink too much and go home very tired indeed. Also, don’t do what I did, and wear flat but slightly uncomfortable shoes. You will walk miles and miles so find some decent footwear before you venture out.

Things mentioned:

http://www.museumofbrands.com/
http://www.beachblanket.co.uk/nottinghill/
https://bucketrestaurant.com/

Cambridge (Part 1)

A weekend, a break away.  Yes, another one. Hubby decided he needed his ancient hifi amp fixed so we ventured forth to Cambridge.  This apparently, is the only place where the experts can fix it…

Being the efficient person I am (ha ha), I booked a studio apartment. We arrived after many hours of moaning about the traffic and phoned the man to let us in said apartment. After much shouting over balconies, we were finally ushered in by a young polish chap who picked hubby’s bag up and left me to trail behind lugging my bag.

The studio apartment was stunning.  Thank goodness. It had everything. Beautiful bed, fully equipped kitchen, a comfortable seating area with the obligatory flat screen which I knew would not be used and green exotic plants so we could pretend we were not in Cambridge, but in some exotic land.

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After unpacking I suggested we go out and get some food because I like cooking and we have a fully equipped kitchen.  Oh yes!

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Off we toddled towards a shopping mall when husband realised he’d forgotten The Map. Back he scampered and then everything was fine.  We had the map and could locate Waitrose, the posh supermarket, and bought steaks for our heart attacks.

Returned home and set about cooking the steaks.  Made homemade chips, chopped tomatoes and mushrooms and grilled the steaks.  My husband asked if I had put on the fan.  I hadn’t bothered because I was trying to cope with the unfamiliar cooker and the fact that it wasn’t, em.. fully equipped.  There was one huge sharp knife and no potato peeler or small knives.  I just chopped up the potatoes, slung some butter and ground pepper on and shoved them in the oven.

The the smoke alarm went off.  Really piercing noise!!  As I opened the front door to let clean air in, a frantic man, with long grey hair, asked me if everything was ok and was I burning the dinner?  Me?  Burn food?  I don’t think so.  I told him through the noise, that I was just cooking my dinner and everything WILL BE FINE.  Eventually, I stopped the alarm by waving the bathroom towel under it.

The dinner was lovely and now you have a top tip on how to stop over zealous smoke alarms!  Needless to say, we frequented the local pub that evening, supped some beer, and laughed about the experience.  My husband cooked the breakfast in the morning and guess what?  Yes, it happened again!

Cheers!  Thank you for reading my blog.