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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

Sydney was pretty cool and I didn’t really care for Cairns. I had a great time in New Zealand and wasn’t in a rush to get back to Oz, but thought it would be neat to spend my birthday in Tasmania. I ended up deciding to do a 3 day 4 night layover in Melbourne between Queenstown and Launceston. People had said great things about Melbourne and I decided to give it a go despite not being blown away with what I’d seen in Australia. I’m very glad I did.

There is no shortage of CouchSurfing hosts in Melbourne and I ended up with a great one. Erika took great care of me, showed me around, and let me get a glimpse of her day-to-day life. She took me for a walk around the CBD, showing me some of her favorite little alleyways and cafes, and even braved the cold to bring me to see penguins. I saw 7!

I happened to be in town on the first Saturday of the month, which is when they host a great farmers’ market near where I was staying in St. Kilda. There was beef, chicken, pork, duck, turkey, venison, goat, artisan bread, loads of great cheese, and a variety of seasonal produce. I couldn’t help myself and bought way too much for my short stay. I used my market goodies to make dinner for Erika and a friend of hers that evening. We had braised ox cheek over celeraic fennel puree with roasted brussels sprouts. It came out pretty good.

While on my very touristy tour of the Daintree, I met some students from Laos that have been studying in Melbourne for the last 3 years. They invited me to pay them a visit when I would be in town and I took them up on the offer. For a very special treat, they cooked me a homemade, authentic Laotian dinner. We had bamboo shoot soup, papaya salad, and beef/tripe larb. It was beyond good. They also took me out for pizza at DOC the next night. It’s a very popular pizza joint just off of Lygon St that had a 30 minute wait on a Monday night. The pizza didn’t live up to the hype – or the price – but the company was superb.

I met a great Melbourner in Mondulkiri last year, but, unfortunately she left for Bali the day before I arrived. In addition to providing me with a multitude of dining suggestions, Tracy also left me a box of goodies on her front porch. She supplies some local restaurants with organic, vegan desserts and left me a sampler. I’m far from being vegan and don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but thoroughly enjoyed Tracy’s creations. If you’d like to try for yourself, she stocks Little Deer Tracks, a vegetarian Italian place in Coburg.

In the end, my time in Melbourne flew by and I didn’t get to do much touristy stuff at all. The one thing I wanted to do was visit Victoria Market, but I planned to go on Monday and they were closed. Despite not making it to the market and hardly scratching the surface of Melbourne’s main visitor attractions, I had a great time in the city. While I wasn’t there for long enough to get a real feel for the place, I truly enjoyed what I did see and do. This post won’t be too useful for those of you visiting Melbourne other than to let you know it’s a place filled with wonderful people that love to show visitors their beautiful city. Go see for yourself!

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