We had three things on our agenda for our first full day in Melbourne:
- Buy groceries
- Figure out the public transit system
- Eat cakes in St. Kilda
We were successful in two out of three — and more — although the logic of the public transit system here admittedly escaped us.
Our home exchange spot is between Seddon and Yarraville on the west side of the city. It was fun to arrive at night and then see what the street looks like in daylight — wooden bungalows with metal roofs and filigree across the top of the porches, lots of trees, interesting mix of hipster coffee shops, high end organic goods, vintage stores, hairdressers, graffiti and empty units, all easily walkable.
We’d decided on breakfast out, since we didn’t yet have groceries in the house, and had researched our preferred destination based on our hosts’ recommendations. We were up too early courtesy of the two-hour time difference, so we got to Seddon Deadly Sins just after it opened at 8am. We splurged on an amazing breakfast, in menus hidden in children’s books. (To give you an idea: a full breakfast out where we live — eggs, bacon, hash browns, tomatoes, toast — might cost $5-12 whereas here it seems to be $18-24). Claire had banana coconut pancakes with butterscotch sauce and ice cream (and her own bottle of maple syrup, courtesy of the place having an owner from Toronto, via our fun waiter). I had beer battered haloumi cheese with spinach, bacon, poached eggs and fig chutney. We sat on their nicely enclosed back patio and loved it.
Groceries were bought at three places en route home – the fruit market, the organic grocery store and a grungy little ‘normal’ grocery store — so we’re stocked up.
We relaxed at home for awhile, intending to leave after lunch to head downtown. We were still too full to eat at lunch time, so we packed a picnic and walked to the local train station.
Tim had spent time researching our best payment options and route into town on public transit. (We do have a rental car in Melbourne, but had been told not to bother driving downtown — we needed it to get here from the airport, as shuttle options were expensive for 5 of us and Uber only takes up to 4 people here apparently). The adventure didn’t start well, as two different stations we were told would be staffed weren’t, so we couldn’t purchase the cards we need — we ended up buying adult swipe cards from a machine and paying more than what we needed to for all 3 kids, just because we couldn’t find a person or location to sell us the correct cards. You need to buy cards, then add money to them. Our hosts had kindly left us a few cards, but even those had a negative balance on them, so we had to pay that off before topping them up. All of this resulted in us missing our train and needing to wait 20 minutes for the next one — not a big deal, but also not a great first impression either. We appreciated the advice from various locals on the platform who coached us on what to do and where to go — and all agreed the system is tough to navigate.
We ended up taking a train to Flinders St and transferring to a tram to take us to St. Kilda. It’s Grand Prix weekend in Melbourne, so the tram routes are different than usual and packed with people. We got close to our intended stop and the driver announced his tram wasn’t going any farther, so we headed off on foot — munching our sandwiches on a bench in a park before enjoying the boardwalk along St. Kilda beach.
We found a spot where a colony of 1000 Little Penguins live. They tend to be out fishing during the day, but we managed to spot a few within the rocks of the breakwater. We could hear the roar of the racing car engines, there were dozens of helicopters flying overhead, lots of skydivers too, and sailors in the bay. The forecast had called for rain, but the sun was out and it was a terrific area to explore.
Tim had read about the cake shops on Acland Drive — 4 of them in a row — so he told each of us to choose a shop and pick one treat to share. The street was packed — lots of good people watching to do and countless bakeries, gelato shops, boutiques and cafes. We ended up choosing a nutella donut, a slice chocolate hazelnut cake, a lemon meringue tart and peach mint gelato. Admittedly none of them was amazing, but it was fun to do.
Getting back to the town centre proved a bit of a challenge, again because of the Grand Prix and the trams. We felt badly for the orange-vested volunteers who knew little more than we did about why trams that were supposed to be running every 5-8 minutes were arriving in batches — we ended up having 4 trams arrive after waiting 30 minutes.
Back downtown, the girls browsed the shops while the boys grabbed a cold drink and learned the rules of Aussie Rules Football. We met up for dinner from the food trucks at a multicultural festival — all of us went for Greek yumminess, near pavilions marked “Turkish Tea and Backgammon” and “Turban Tying Lessons.”
Then it was back to the house for a glass of wine for Tim and euchre for the rest of us. I think we were all in bed by 9pm, weary.