74. Explore the Dandenong Ranges using only public transport

27 06 2012

I can’t remember why they decided to wave like the Queen.

Ever since Uni finished, Lucy and I have been living like tourists. As such, we had been looking at getting out of the city for a day to explore some of the greater Victoria region. We’d hoped to head down the Mornington Peninsula, but it was looking as though we’d need to get the train to Frankston and then a lengthy bus journey to get anywhere near Mornington.

A much easier option, it seemed, was to go an explore the Dandenong Ranges.

Now, when we told people of our plans, we were met with questioning eyebrows – even the lady in Tourist Information thought we were a bit foolish to want to go there without a car, particularly at ‘this time of year’.

You know what? It was the easiest day trip ever. And it was beautiful.

Catching the 9.16am train from Flinders Street to Upper Ferntree Gully (Belgrave Line, Platform 3 in case you’re looking to recreate this trip) we headed out of the city eating Salted Caramel cupcakes that I’d picked up from Little Cupcakes en route.

Once at the station, a women stole 5 cents off Lara which we thought may be a bad omen for the day. This fear continued when we got a bit lost trying to find the correct bus stop and missing our intended bus.

Fortunately we then found the 688 bus stop directly opposite the exit of the station next to the Tourist Information building. Buses are at least two an hour on weekdays so it wasn’t too much of a wait before we got on the bus and headed to our first stop for the day: Sassafras.

Chocolate Tart, Apple and Pear Batter Cake and Lemon Cheesecake. YUM.

We still don’t know how to pronounce Sassafras, but we do know that they love Devonshire Teas. We stopped off for morning cake and had a wander around the small town – finding an amazing produce shop with vast quantities of tasters which we enjoyed before Lucy bought some expensive, but delicious, Goats Cheese.

You see how it could be a little bit creepy?

Next we caught the bus to Olinda. Olinda, as Lara declared, is a great place to bury a body. It’s quiet and creepy-looking forests are in an abundance. We did a circuit of the town (it seems quite a few shops there close on Tuesdays) then headed off to the National Rhododendron Gardens which were a short walk away. Entry to the gardens was free and on a clear winter’s day they were beautiful (even if rather lacking in rhododendrons). There was a lovely lake that provided ample photo opportunities and Lucy declared Olinda to be a very romantic place.

I’m not sure how one place can be both ‘romantic’ and ‘a great place to bury a body’, but seemingly Olinda justifies both those qualities.

Pretty lake, National Rhododendron Gardens.

Look at that blue sky – perfect Melburnian winter day!

After lunch (be warned that everything is much more expensive out there) we got back on the bus and headed up to SkyHigh Mount Dandenong. By this point we were very cold, so after pointing out the city on the horizon (unfortunately it was pretty misty) we went down to the bistro and got three hot chocolates to drink by the fireplace.

We wanted to check out the maze but it was closed and the English Garden had little to explore bar the Wishing Tree which offered some humorous photo opportunities.

We caught a bus back towards Upper Ferntree Gully direct from SkyHigh, but you could’ve equally got back on the 688 heading towards Croydon and continued to see what the other side of the mountain offered.

Lucy and Lara at SkyHigh Mount Dandenong.

So was it worth the effort? Most definitely. And using a concession Myki it cost less than $5 for the whole day’s transport. Perfect for an exchange student’s day out (with a local student joining us for the tourist fun too!)

Unfortunately I’m leaving Melbourne on Saturday, but if anyone has any other daytrip suggestions feel free to suggest away…


37. Visit the Neighbours back lot

21 06 2012

Ok, so I haven’t exactly done this. But it’s close enough.

You get to visit the Neighbours Back Lot on weekend tours but owing to the fact that Lucy works weekends, it made much more sense for us to do the standard weekday tour.

We arrived at the Bunyip Tours shop on Flinders Street and waited for our Irish guide Gerry to drive us to the Eastern suburbs where Neighbours is filmed. En route (in the second most embarrassing vehicle I’ve ever traveled in – I’m looking at you, London Duck Tours) Gerry told us lots of fun facts and trivia about Neighbours which I may have already known most of. I do definitely agree that a non G rated Neighbours would be very entertaining to watch. Imagine a whole half hour of this…

Unlike my first Neighbours tour four years ago (where I was jokingly offered a job if I could get a minibus license), this time we headed to the Nunawading Studios first and took daggy photos outside Back Lot 2. Here’s me chillin’ at Fitzgerald Motors…

Read my t-shirt. I said… READ MY T-SHIRT.

At this point Chris Milligan who plays Kyle Canning drove passed us in his car with his personalised number plate (apparently both characters in Neighbours – a la Andrew Robinson – and the real life actors enjoy a good initialed number plate). Alas we didn’t actually see him in the car though. Apparently he was wearing a black hoodie. Insightful, eh?

We then loitered for a bit to see if we could meet the ‘star’ we were supposed to be meeting but filming was overrunning (apparently this is common) so we headed off to Pin Oak Court (the real street!). We did, however, do a loop around the studio to turn around and got to see the back of the main Back Lot set where the Lassiters complex is. Neighbours seem to be very much of the ‘let’s maximise the usage of everything’ as we past a gate that had been used as a gate to the prison, that animal testing place where Zeke got arrested and as the entrance to Eden Hills Grammar School.

Once in the street we continued to take dorky Facebook profile pictures such as this…

Apparently the guy who really lives there once beat up a drunk backpacker. I am not sure if this is 100% true.

Yes real people live there. Apart from Number 26 which is currently being rented to the studio and being used to store props, all the other houses are lived in by real non-fictional people.

Having taken enough photos we then got back in the Neighbours-mobile and headed back to Flinders Street watching a BBC Documentary about our beloved (entirely realistic) soap.

Once back at Bunyip Headquarters Gerry had called in Alan Fletcher (Dr Karl Kennedy) to come and meet us all. This was actually the third time I’d met him (if you’re my Facebook friend you may remember this video four years ago where I went to his gig and then he filmed me looking like a nutter singing all the words to his original-penned song.)

And sometimes I question why my Neighbours love is weird…

Anyway, it was a great few hours and for $50 you get lots of laughs and enough Facebook profile pictures to last a lifetime (or until you do another Neighbours tour in four years).

17iii. See Missy Higgins play live (again again)

18 06 2012

June 17 2012.I managed to get tickets to last night’s final Melbourne show and the final date on the tour!

After searching “missyhiggins tickets” on Twitter and refreshing Gumtree all afternoon, I saw a tweet from clearly the most lovely human in the world who could no longer make the show and was giving away her two tickets. For free. For this I cannot thank her enough!

With tickets on my phone, a last minute phonecall to get Jude to come with me and having put a Twitter request in for Sugarcane, I jumped on a tram to the city and went to three different Internet Cafes before finding one which actually let me download and print documents!

Just before Butterfly’s set started I saw Missy had tweeted me in response to my request which caused quite a bit of excitement! Butterfly’s set was great and I now feel I must immediately download the entirety of her new album as I’ve now seen her play four times since moving here so shall be opening up my iTunes in a second to complete my album collection.

Missy’s set started with Secret and The River but quickly things were shaken up with Tricks making an early appearance. Also of note was Set Me On Fire, which was, tonight, introduced with a whole verse of the rap that it was originally written as. Let’s just say Missy’s stage persona didn’t quite match the rap so well.

When the band left the stage for Missy’s solo set I got excited. Nightminds was up first, before Butterfly and Judith Hammond (who’d been a multi-instrumental genius at all shows on the tour) returned to join Missy to perform Sweet Arms of a Tune. I hadn’t previously seen this song performed live so was eager to see it and the three women’s instruments and voices blended together beautifully making me oh-so-happy to be at the show.

The band returned and, after a little bit of stage banter, I heard those familiar piano notes and then… “Baby ballerinas hiding somewhere in the corner…”

YES. I have now heard Sugarcane played live and it made the seven year wait, the trip interstate and the move across the world on the off-chance to see her play live totally worth it. (Ok, for clarification there were a lot of other reasons for the move with education clearly being the top one *Cough*)

I didn’t write a proper set list and this was not meant to be a review. I just had to write something down to show my excitement and gratitude at how yesterday worked out. Because of Twitter, I had a free lunch, got free tickets to Missy Higgins’ gig and then got my favourite song ever worked into the set list. And people say Twitter is just for oversharing what you ate for breakfast…

The amazing full band: Judith Hammond, Peter Groenwald, Will Sayles, Missy Higgins, Butterfly Boucher and Tyler Burkum.

See also: 17i. See Missy Higgins play live and 17ii. See Missy Higgins play live (again). If you’re really interested, hit the ‘Missy Higgins’ tag to see what other non-stalkerish things I’ve been up to.

17ii. See Missy Higgins play live (again)

17 06 2012
Missy Higgins live June 16 2012

Sorry for the poor photo, again.

Missy Higgins (Supported by Butterfly Boucher)
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne
Saturday 16 June 2012.

Read 17i. See Missy Higgins play live.

Wearing her ‘reserved for special occasions’ yellow pants (read the English translation: trousers) that she’d worn at last Friday’s Sydney show, Butterfly Boucher took to the grand stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre like a pro. Her set was similar to last Friday’s however there was the welcome addition of Not Fooling Around which kept me happy. And Missy’s appearance on None The Wiser wearing a large wintery coat surprised the unsuspecting audience (bar the diehards who’d already been to other shows!)

After Butterfly’s run to sign CDs and sprint back onto stage (after a Vodka and Tonic) Missy took to the stage in the more venue-appropriate outfit of a sequined dress. The set began as it had done last week, Secret was soft, The River was beautifully sad and by the time the hand-painted banners were lowered onto the stage in Hello Hello, I think it’s safe to say most of the audience were completely consumed by the music. Continuing with Set Me On Fire (“It’s a love song to music, I guess”) and the number heavy combo of 100 Round The Bends then Ten Days, I briefly wondered if I’d be hearing anything I hadn’t heard live in Sydney. Whilst I still wouldn’t have been gutted if it had been identical, the arrival of special guest Dave Higgins (Yes, he’s Missy’s brother) on Cooling of the Embers served to make the tribute to their late Grandmother Judy all the more poignant and the evening began to take a different turn. With Dave on piano, Missy was left instrument-less which seemed unusual but she coped just fine.

When Dave was asked to stay on to provide animal noises in Watering Hole he looked a little bit awkward wandering around the stage trying to fit in, but the craziness added to the madness that was unfolding throughout the theatre. In fact, so successful were the animal noises from the audience tonight that they continued throughout the set with Missy clarifying one audience contribution later in the evening was most definitely a “Moo” and not a “Boo”. Yes, it seems there were some quality cow impersonators on Exhibition Street tonight.

For her solo piano set Missy returned to her debut to play They Weren’t There and Any Day Now. Whilst the latter was faultless the former saw Missy stumble mid-song, followed by an expletive burst and then, of course, an apology at the end of the song. In fact, this was one of two slip ups in the evening which highlighted Missy’s great character – earlier on she’d started singing the wrong second line in Peachy before quickly correcting herself and apologising.

Going North was included as a request from her mum who was in the audience before Everyone’s Waiting was introduced as a song about the anxiety of writing new music which Missy admits was mostly brought on by herself.

Concluding the set with each of the biggest singles from her albums, Missy certainly deserved the standing ovation from the huge venue.

Comparisons with the Sydney show? Sydney was a better venue, Melbourne was a better show.

My one gripe: Still no Sugarcane. I guess this just means this definitely can’t be the last time I see Missy play live. One day I’ll see it live. One day.

If anyone knows of a spare ticket to tomorrow night’s (Sunday) Melbourne show, please let me know ASAP.


  • Secret
  • The River
  • If I’m Honest
  • Hello Hello
  • Set Me On Fire
  • 100 Round The Bends
  • Ten Days
  • Peachy
  • Where I Stood
  • Cooling of the Embers
  • Watering Hole
  • They Weren’t There (Solo)
  • Any Day Now (Solo)
  • Going North
  • Everyone’s Waiting
  • The Special Two
  • Warm Whispers
  • Unashamed Desire
  • Scar
  • Steer

15. Take artsy photos on Brighton Beach

16 06 2012

Ok, so they may not be ‘artsy’, but I did take photos on Brighton Beach.

Yesterday it was a very mild, clear winter’s day and Lara was celebrating the end of her exams so we headed down to Brighton Beach and wandered along the beach past all the huts then into North Brighton in typical tourist fashion. Considering we had no idea where we were heading we were quite impressed with ourselves for not getting lost and, after a pretty decent work out, we made it onto the main street for lunch.

Here’s a few photos…


36. Celebrate my 20th Birthday in a memorable way

18 05 2012

The best people to share an Australian birthday with…


I had the most lovely day yesterday…

I woke up at 6:30, washed my hair, then positioned myself leaning diagonally on my lounge floor in order to dry my hair next to our heater (so high tech). At this point I heard my first tuneful rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ from my aunt and Lily.

Next up was brunch with Lucy, Katrina, Lara and Anshita at Di Bella Roasting Warehouse on Leveson Street, North Melbourne. Turns out, Lara can make it to places on time. In fact, she was 20 minutes early and was all too keen to make everyone aware of this.

I enjoyed the homemade crumpets with mascarpone and honey as well as a cute little hot chocolate.

Then it was time for two tutorials where I kept my birthday status on the DL before spending an hour in the library munching on the Tiny Teddies that Katrina had kindly bought me (another blog post will follow…)

To finish my Australian University birthday experience I had my final lecture with my incredible Language and Identity lecturer who left Lucy and I unsure whether to laugh or cry as he dramatically imparted his wisdom onto us in a touching farewell. What a babe.

A rushed trip back home allowed me to call home and speak to the fam before heading back into town to venture to Chingon in Richmond for tacos.

They were darn good tacos.

And we consumed many of them.

The whole Melbourne gang came out to celebrate with me and they’d bought me some lovely gifts including the most incredible handmade Neighbours card from Lucy which I shall treasure forever along with a lovely book about Melbourne signed by everyone! The Uni girls also bought me vast quantities of (beautifully wrapped) Lindt which I am working my way through consuming in one day today.

I challenge you to find a greater homemade Neighbours themed card…

After tacos we headed up to the rooftop of the venue to eat the chocolate crownie (cakey-brownie) that Lucy had been talking down. The girl was wasting her time because it was delicious and we continued to devour the entire thing over the course of the night.

Hello annual cocktail…

Next up was cocktails at 1806 where Georgia very kindly bought me a Mitch Martini (seemingly named after the hurricane that I believe I was once nearly hit by) which came with three different taste sensations… First the apple juice hit me (yum), then the alcohol (not yum) and then the peach to finish (yum again). Two elements out of three isn’t bad and so I’m ranking it as my second favourite cocktail I’ve ordered ever after the Mango and Strawberry drink in Asia de Cuba.

We ended the night with a tram ride up Lygon and then I caught a taxi home before skyping half of England (and seemingly a few Caymanians) who had all gathered in my kitchen for various reasons but I enjoyed the manicness of the catch up!

So was my 20th memorable? You bet it was.

I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’ve made some amazing friends over here who made the day what it was and I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the last Australian birthday I have…

52. Go to South Melbourne Market

14 05 2012

Tell me you’ve never seen a more stylish potato shop…

On Saturday morning the sun was shining (which came as quite a surprise) so Lara and I thought there was no better way to spend the morning than to pick a market and go there.

Knowing it was on my list, I took the opportunity to suggest South Melbourne market so we jumped on the 112 and headed south of the Yarra.

South Melbourne market isn’t as big as Queen Vic but it still houses the expected mix of toot and quality produce. There were some cute homeware stores but they were a bit out of my budget so I quickly found myself at home towards the Food Hall.

Having seen the Fritz Gelato buzz around the net I treated myself to a kids cone of Chocolate Indulgence ($3) whilst Lara had the Blood Orange sorbet which she certainly seemed to enjoy.

Did I tell you about that time my family banned me from eating chocolate ice cream?

I also bought myself a beautiful baton of chocolate brioche ($3.50) from a bakery with an incredible array of macarons towards the fresh pasta stool.

Despite the fact I’d already consumed an ice cream, several bread samples and a third of a loaf of chocolate brioche it felt only appropriate that we further explored the suburb with a stop in a local cafe for drinks.

Well, we’d intended just to stop for juice, but when I saw Fruit Toast with Honey Ricottta on the menu at Gas I changed my mind.

Sat in the window of Gas with the sun shining through and one annoying fly trying to eat my ricotta, I decided that I rather like South Melbourne. It’s a very cute suburb and definitely worth crossing the river for.