My long time followers, if there are any, may remember my rather self-indulgent post about my friend and her family emigrating to Australia. My brother and sister-in-law also emigrated a few years earlier (you see a pattern emerging here?!) so it's been a mission for us to save up enough money for us to visit them all, before the girls left home. As Miss Ony took her GCSEs this year, we thought this summer would be a good time to go; luckily, Mr O's boss was agreeable to him taking an extended holiday.
As we're tied to school holidays, flight prices were never going to be cheap. By initially using flight price-checking websites and then comparing fares for individual airlines, I eventually found suitable, affordable flights with Cathay Pacific - the cheapest were with Malaysian Airlines! Cathay Pacific were great to fly with and had pretty comfortable seats, but it's a long flight no matter how far the seats recline and we were all very happy to finally land in Australia after 27 hours.
So far, we've spent 2 weeks in Melbourne. Despite the chilly winter weather (yes it's winter here - which seemed to come as a shock to some of my friends!!), we've had a great time seeing my friend and her family, plus of course, the sights of Melbourne. We've also eaten some great food...see, this is a kind of a foodie post after all!
Luckily, the exchange rates were in our favour! Restaurants in the city varied widely from cafes, budget restaurants (mainly East Asian) and pubs, to expensive steak and hotel/casino restaurants. There were plenty of vegetarian and vegan options available, including several exclusively vegetarian places, but basically, the more expensive the restaurant, the less veggie food was on the menu! We mainly stuck to the budget end of the market and ate some delicious food, including a yummy eggplant parma at the famous Mrs Parmas, but we did splash out one night and ate some beautifully presented, and very tasty Greek-inspired food at Gazi (one of Aussie Masterchef presenter George Calombaris' restaurants).
We've done plenty of the usual touristy things, including visiting the brilliant Melbourne Museum, the beautiful Botanic Gardens, seeing some amazing art by indigenous artists at the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia), a Yarra Valley wine tour and of course we've seen some of the unique, native Australian wildlife including koalas, wombats and kangaroos.
After a week in the city, we moved out to the seaside resort of St Kilda at the Quest St. Kilda Bayside Apartments, again, we chose these apartments for their price and location (5 minutes walk from the beach and central St Kilda). Unfortunately, their free WiFi, was limited to 250mb per day, which basically equated to a few minutes checking social media - the girls were not impressed, so we ended up purchasing unlimited WiFi.
In the summer, St Kilda must be bustling with tourists and back packers, but in winter it was pretty quiet, although almost all of the restaurants, bars and shops were open. None-the-less, we enjoyed visiting the traditional European cake and chocolate shops, Luna Park, going on beach-side walks and seeing the wild colony of fairy penguins at the end of the pier. Our favourite eating place in St Kilda was the tiny 40 Thieves & Co Middle-Eastern restaurant - great food and friendly service.
I'm not sure if it's on in the UK yet, but we've been watching Restaurant Revolution (one of the few Australian programmes on free-to-air TV). Some of the contestants have been running a pop-up restaurant in St Kilda, and we've enjoyed watching the queues build each day!
I can't believe how fast our first two weeks have gone. We're now packing for our next adventure in Sydney...