So, more travels with your Aunt. We booked two nights at The Windsor Hotel, beautiful Victorian old girl in her original garb but impeccably maintained.
We were reminded of the Shining and Redrum and it did have that mahogany spookiness to it but it was gorgeous, the staff lovely and didn't give a shit that we were dressed in jeans and T shirts within its five star walls.
Clare was a little disappointed on first viewing because I think she prefers the more modern dark brown and cream minimalist look that's so prevalent in hotels these days but it was just as I'd remembered when I stayed there 17 years ago before seeing Phantom of the Opera - right down to the Footman at the door who obligingly looked after our now cumbersome wheelie bags.
We had booked in for High Tea . A quaint English tradition that's enjoying a huge resurgence here in both tea shops and hotels. Clare kindly redeemed her Christmas gift voucher and paid for the event. We were escorted into the Ballroom nonetheless and genteelly sat at a table for two ("Tea for two and two for tea . . cha, cha, cha . .") poured a glass of sparkling rose and it was explained to us just how things worked. First a tier of scones with the thickest of King Island Triple Cream and jam, then a tier of savoury pastries and muffins, finger sandwiches and pastries then our pick of the dessert smorgasbord. All accompanied of course . .with tea!
We could have done with a crowd frankly because we were pogged after 20 minutes and simply couldn't even do the chocolate fountain justice!
We checked into our tiny but beautifully Victorian room . . .
(hey it was cheap).
We managed to sneak in a quick look around Crown Casino and coffee with the Benchwarmer who was also visiting Melbourne before sprucing up to meet my niece for dinner at Madam Brussels where she's the Event Manager . . .I've never seen anything like this. Hidden in a dingy off-road hallway in Bourke Street, and three floors up, it's a wrought iron furnished, floral decorated bar with a brick pathway and astro-turf indoors, where the waiters look like 1920's tennis players or boat punters! Very cute, very small and unless you're in the know would have no idea it was there.
This is common in Melbourne. You find the good spots by word of mouth - keeps the tourists out! A after an Espresso Vodka Cocktail . .yum for those who don't like their cocktails too sweet, we moved on to a restaurant called Panama Dining Room. This was our first introduction to Melbourne's love of shabby chic and industrial architecture. Even the entry door was actually a fire escape door graffiti'd with the restaurant name. Inside a huge warehouse space transitioned from left to right with no dividers from bar and pool tables to lounges to restaurant.
The menu was fantalicious except for the introduction of rabbit which I just can't grasp as gourmet food, largely because they are so destructive in my garden. But we selected a rare Wagyu steak with something potatoey and some sort of jus and almondine broccoli and charred pumpkin. Gorgeous . . all blended with a delightful local chardonnay at a mere $45 per bottle and a couple of freebies on the house because my niece knew the proprietor. Pogged and happy after a night of conversation and giggles, we left Bec to party hard . . these 'hospitality' types keep late hours!
On Monday, we had arranged to shop . . Melbourne is renown for it but shopping is higgeldy piggeldy. There are the same chain stores that we have in Sydney then alleyways of designer shops, recycled clothing shops and rather exclusive boutiques and of course cafes.
We ran into the Benchwarmer again in this alley and after a coffee we said our goodbye's and Clare and I hit the stores. Our purchases were few and far between. Clare bought a nice knitted dress, I settled for a more sedate business shirt.
We'd arranged to meet some friends with whom she'd travelled in South America and a fellow blogger so settled happily at the Transport Bar in Federation square since it was central, close to Flinders Street Station and the tram stops and began imbibing yet again.
It was wonderful for Clare to catch up with her 'wharfie' friend met during South American travels and another girl for whom she's designing a website then as dark fell, Kath from Blurb from the Burbs rang to ask where we were, as she was free for a couple of hours and would make her way over.
Now if you haven't checked out her blog, please have a look. I rarely promote other's blogs because it's a matter of taste but hers is well worth a look. She is a published author - Work Life Balance for Dummies - a mother, a wife, a freelance writer and gets paid to eat and photograph chocolate for a living and it doesn't get better than that! Where do these women get jobs like this! English Mum also gets paid to test recipes and review children's DVD's . . .anyway, I digress . . .she appeared as a little vision in dark blue jeans and salmon pink denim jacket with a neat black shoulder bag with it's thin strap swagged across her chest, arms outstretched and a smile as big as the outback. We liked each other instantly. She's exactly as I imagined only more petite so don't believe her when she goes on about her big bum! And she said I looked younger and slimmer than in my photos, so there! ('Tis true I take an awful photo). We sipped and chatted, discussed who we'd met from the blogosphere, talked about life, family, dogs, blogging and new opportunities and in all too short a time, she had to return to entertain family who were visiting from South Australia to celebrate her daughter's birthday but not before issueing us a generous dinner invitation next time we're in Melbourne, one we'll certainly accept. A sweet, natural, chatty Aussie blogger and I really enjoyed our time together.
Now this my friends, is what it's all about for me. It was wonderful to meet her and although I knew what she looked like, I now can hear her voice when (pretty Aussie at that). I know how she sounds when she laughs and the expressions on her face. It was indeed a 'moment' and I'm so grateful that she took the time out to meet us. Thanks Kath, you're a champ.
So, after all this chatting and hugging and catching up - Kath moved on and we ordered dinner from the bar - very excellent pub grub and yes, I know you shouldn't post a double superlative. No sooner had we finished (four young things 24-29 and me well over the hill) were approached by a couple of sleeze bags and despite our attempts to ignore their advances and claims of closing "a trillion dollar deal . . " yeah right! Had to rely on the bouncers to release us from their vice like attention. They were locals apparently and well-known to the establishment. Although I have to say, I did enjoy a little guilty pleasure in being chatted up by someone 15 years my junior!
Another night's sleep in the spooky hotel before our last day. I was determined to order Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine for breakfast and we enjoyed one of each immensely before boarding the South Brunswick Tram for some 'alternative' shopping.
Trams are interesting. From what I gather, it all goes on an honesty system, you buy a ticket from a machine, validate it once on the tram then use the tram for the nominated time . . .but nobody checks . .we could have caught it for free . . next time . . nah . .I couldn't do it. Too honest and it was only six bucks then we realised that we were travelling a distance of about 1km and could have easily walked!
Fitzroy is definitely that. A few factory outlets, many very expensive boutiques and heaps of 'Vintage Clothing' outlets. Street side cafes and restaurants and one called Little Creatures which was basically a huge space and bar that resembled a soup kitchen where we just had coffee but had we wanted to, we could have borrowed a bike, eaten from enamel bowls and/or plates and tasted over 150 beers.Borrowed pic but the cheeky smile on the right served us the best coffee in the street!
Frankly after trudging up and down Brunswick Street, we were beginning to feel footsore and weary so headed back to the hotel for final checkout and to retrieve our wheelies. But not before discovering the beautiful Victorian Exhibition Centre and another pretty park.
Walked the full length of Bourke street during peak hour to meet the airport shuttle (I was being tough but it was killing me). Then into the airport for arguably the worst cheese and ham toasted sandwich on the planet before boarding a nice big 767 for home. What is it about airports? I mean Macdonalds is the only decent food there and I use that term loosely!
So, aren't you glad we didn't do a world trip! This is the next best thing to the "Hey, come over to our place and take a look at the slides of our holiday . . ." Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! Sleep tight, make sure the bed bugs don't bite!
Too short but too much fun! And I'm sure we only scratched the surface. Look out Melbourne because I have a feeling that's not going to be the end of the Bainbridge onslaught.
Normal and less introspective service will resume tomorrow . . so many fuckwits, which one will make it this Friday? Who knows?