Pet-sitting has been giving us an idea of what “real life” is like in Melbourne… much more so than the sparsely furnished AirBnBs which are obviously only intended as short-term rentals.
Our first gig was in a southern suburb, taking care of a sweet Australian Heeler named Paddy:
Though it was only a 25 minute train ride south of central Melbourne, it felt much further away. It was a quiet but lovely area full of parks with running & cycling trails, off-leash areas for dogs, public golf courses and tennis clubs. It was definitely dog-friendly – plenty of cafes with outdoor seating, shops with bowls of water on the sidewalk, and the parks all had doggie drinking fountains and free compostable poop bags. While it wasn’t the most exciting part of town to be in, it was a really nice spot for long walks through all the gardens and parks.
Melbourne is very bicycle-friendly. In the parks, there were often separate trails for bikers and pedestrians. And in the city, the bike lane is very safe since the parked cars are on the inside… cyclists don’t need to worry about dodging cars that are entering & exiting parking spots.
With few exceptions, people have been incredibly friendly. Cyclists thank you for giving them room to pass on shared paths, cafe workers are generally cheery and attentive (and tipping is not customary here), grocery store clerks go out of their way to help you find things, and strangers help anyone with a pram or heavy bag on and off the tram.
Eco-consciousness is the standard. Every place recycles and composts, from private homes to public trash cans. It’s strongly encouraged by the city, as you can tell from the adorable decor on some of the cans:
We saw boxes for donating clothing, household goods and eletcronics all over the place – there is clearly a very concerted effort to minimize landfill. That said, both of the homes we stayed in were on the cluttered side… this could be a side effect from all the encouragement to re-use things.
People are very sensistive to power consumption – while most places have clothes driers, everyone typically hangs their laundry outside to dry (when it’s sunny). And all wall outlets have switches so you can avoid unnecessary power drain by turning them off. Our first petsitting house had a huge tank for collecting rain water, which they used to water their massive garden.
It really seems like eco-consciousness is a way of life here. There’s no need for a plastic bag surcharge at stores because everyone is already sesnsible about their consumption. I’m not sure how this has been achieved, but it’s admirable.
Brunch (and other treats)
Brunch is serious business in Melbourne. It’s available every day of the week, and there are countless great spots for coffee and “brekkie”. We’ve been in many places where brunch isn’t a recognized meal, so I have been reveling in the abundance of smashed avocado on toast with poached eggs, breakfast pastries, and excellent lattes.
And while I’m on the subject of food, gelato is also exceedingly popular here. Pidapipo has excellent flavours which change daily, plus they will add hot nutella to your cup or cone (obviously a brilliant idea). And salted caramel is an expertise here – SF ice cream makers would be blown away by the rich flavour that Gelato Messina achieved. I also loved their fantastic flavour combinations: Burnt Caramel & Ginger, Salted Caramel with White Chocolate, etc.
Luckily I’ve found some Zumba classes so I can offset all the gelato.
New Year’s Eve
Like any city, there were a million different options available for New Year’s Eve. I’m typically more interested in doing something quieter with friends for this holiday but since we don’t know anyone in Melbourne, we decided to go out. I saw posters for a party put on by the local “House of Burlesque”. They encouraged everyone to dress in 20’s attire for the 3 course dinner and vaudeville-style show.
I purchased a sparkly dress in Bangkok in anticipation – I knew I would be sad if everyone else was glittery on NYE and I just had my same 6 dresses to choose from. As we made our way across town that evening, I was surprised to see that people on the train were in shorts and t-shirts… I may have found the one place in the world where women don’t dress up in shiny things for New Year’s Eve!
I was happy to see that others at the event made more of an effort – there was still a fair share of casually dressed folks, but also some fringey flappers, feathered fascinators and strands of pearls, and a couple men in top hats or suspenders. SF could definitely teach people here a thing or two about theme parties, though.
We were seated at large communal tables and the people next to us were a lot of fun. When they were looking for male volunteers on stage, our gregarious table-mate named Luke tried his best to get The German up there. This backfired entirely and he found himself obligated to compete in a tassle twirling contest:
Overall, the show was pretty amateur – I think we are spoiled from the caliber of performance that happens regularly in SF. On the awkward side, there was a girl pointlessly posing in a giant bubble, some butterfly dance where it seemed a bit like she was wrestling with her wings, and the backup dancers in the Fosse numbers looked lost at best (and occassionally terrified). Only one girl actually took any kind of clothing off, where she briefly revealed pasties and then quickly put her top back on… “burlesque” must have a different meaning down here.
On the plus side, there was an impressive rendition of Sweet Child O Mine played on a saw, a hilarious performance with a singing skeleton puppet, and the recreation of the Fosse numbers had great costumes and a couple good dancers.
We missed the fireworks because the show was running behind, but it was still a good way to spend NYE – fun people, plenty of bubbles, and I left a trail of glitter in my wake.
We will be cat-sitting in Melbourne until Jan 20th. It’s a cute little row house in a nice neighbourhood, walking distance to cafes, shops and bars. It’s pretty comfortable and I’ve been enjoying our feline housemates:
Beyond that, we have a few weeks that are still unplanned. In February, we are headed to Bali where we will spend some time at a “coworking and coliving space” before meeting up for some fun with our SF pals, Rick & Randy. Then its a brief orangutan expedition in Borneo before making our way to Japan. There’s still a lot of flexibility, though, so if you’re headed to Asia or the South Pacific, let me know!