The lost art of getting your Moomba on!

Any other Melbourne children of the 90’s out there who loved Moomba as kids? Any of you left who still love it, even a little bit, as an adult? Anyone who even knows what the hell I’m talking about?!

For the uninitiated, Moomba is an annual festival held in Melbourne, basically for the love of the city and the enjoyment of the people. The big events every year include the Moomba Masters, the Birdman Rally, the parade, and the announcement of the years’ monarchs – this year it’s Melbourne Cup stars Michelle & Stevie Payne.

There is also music, food, carnival-style games and rides, and fireworks – that was always my favourite as a kid  : )

It’s sadly been a few years since my last Moomba visit, but I made my way back this year; judging from the reactions of the people who asked what I was getting up to for the long weekend when I said “Moomba!” I feel like it’s not getting the love and attention it used to back in the day. Despite the ever increasing cost of living and having fun in Melbourne, it’s still good, I promise! So if you didn’t bother this year, hopefully this will encourage you to mark it on next year’s calendar and get into the fun Melbourne spirit!

 

How to get your Moomba on

Step 1: Leave the car, nice clothes and fancy shoes at home, pack the sunnies, umbrella and sunscreen.

Because you’d be an absolute idiot to drive into the city and pay premium car parking rates when you can catch a train into Flinders Street Station, cross the road, and be at Moomba. Also, because Labour Day falls on the tail end of summer, expect freshly cut grass and a bit of dirt dragged up by it. If you’re planning to wander around and sit down on the grass at some stage to chill out and enjoy the day, you’re probably going to want to be in comfy shoes and clothes that won’t suffer from dirt or grass stains.

There are also some undercover areas, but no where near enough to cater for the crowds, so best to pack some sunscreen and sunglasses, as well as an umbrella. Because, Melbourne.

 

Step 2: Check out the program for music acts, so you can time your day around the tunes you want to hear.

After missing out on their Mardi Gras performance, I was stoked to see Horns of Leroy, an unreal New Orleans style brass band, on Monday’s program! Over the years, the husband and I have discovered some amazing music at Moomba, like long time favourites Lowrider, who we heard play back in 2009. Still love this album

 

Step 3: Time your arrival on the day and time the parade is on.

Because there won’t be anywhere near as many crowds around, so you can get something to eat or enjoy a few rides without the lines if you’re that way inclined. And if you want to watch the parade, you can enjoy it on the big screen by the river without all the people shoving you around!

 

Step 4: Arrive on an empty stomach, because there’s more than just crappy hot dogs available.

This year’s line up included food truck stars like…
– White Guy Cooks Thai
– Hoy Pinoy Filipino BBQ
– Burn City Smokers (see above for their brisket burger. WOW.)
– Nici Nunu Dumplings
– Everybody Loves Ramen
– That Arancini Guy

There were also the good old dirty hot dogs and fairy floss still available…

 

Step 5: Get yourself a spot on the sloped banks of the Yarra for prime viewing position for the water skiing.

Even if you’re not into water skiing, it’s fun to watch the trick jumps and what not on Moomba weekend, and it’s a pretty relaxing way to end the day when you’ve had enough of pushing through the crowds, but are too tired to start heading home.

 

 

It may be a bit expensive (seriously, AUD$10.00 for a ride and AUD$8.00 for a donut?!), it may get really busy, it may seem like an indulgence of the past that’s no longer relevant, but Moomba still has its place. I think it’s a brilliant way to celebrate Melbourne and appreciate the music, food, culture and fun the city has to offer. It’s a festival that puts smiles on the faces of both parents enjoying the nostalgia and memories of their childhood experiences, and their kids enjoying it for their first time. It brings together people of so many nationalities that all now call Melbourne home. It’s an opportunity to just relax and have fun and take a break from the mundane routines we find ourselves in. Save the date for next year  : )

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Ladies who glamp – a night at St Jerome’s – The Hotel, Melbourne

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St Jerome’s – The Hotel
http://www.stjeromesthehotel.com.au/

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I am beyond lucky to have this woman in my life. My best friend and soul sister, one of the only people who truly gets me and accepts me completely as I am. Someone I have never felt the need to censor myself around (there are only, like, 2 or 3 of those humans in my life). We’ve worked together and travelled together, laughed together and cried together. Any time I’ve needed her, she’s been there without fail and without even needing to be asked. She’s without a doubt the most generous person I know, with her time and money and talents. I’ve never seen her hesitate to help anyone needing it. She’s stronger than you’d think, takes no shit, and somehow manages to keep her smile and optimism in tact even in the face of the most stressful, hurtful, heart breaking situations.

And this beautiful lady treated me to the most spectacular birthday present ever – a night at St Jerome’s roof top hotel in Melbourne   : )

The level 3 rooftop at Melbourne Central was converted into one of the most stunning camping ground in the world, where glamping is taken to the next level. The tents (with heating, air conditioning, electric blanket and electricity) are cozy little cocoons in which to spend the night with a favourite person. You have a perfect view of the old Daimaru cone, the old Myer building, and the stars… You also get all of the following:


* 24-hour reception and the ability to text the crew at any time if you need a hand with anything at all. And they are without a doubt the most friendly, helpful, lovely bunch of people you could hope to meet!

* Nice big bathrooms with all of your toiletries from shampoo to make up remover.

* Complimentary stocked esky with local craft beer, cider and water in your tent.

* Gourmet house-made breakfast box, delivered to your tent.
–– Butter croissants
–– Yarra Valley preserves
–– Fruit and nut granola
–– Banana and chocolate chip banana bread
–– Fresh seasonal fruit salad
–– Juices by Noah’s
–– Fresh milk
–– Coffee bags by Robert Timms
–– Fully biodegradable cutlery and crockery
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* On-the-house coffee for early campers from 7.30am to 9am.

* Sweet treats from Cupcake Central from 3pm to 5pm.

* Complimentary cocktail during Cocktail Hour from 5pm to 7pm.

* Complimentary Grill’d sliders (x 2) and chips, per tent (8:30pm or 9:30pm).

* Voucher for complimentary pizza at Slice Girls.
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* Complimentary bowling at Strike Bowling.

* Complimentary meditation classes in the mornings on weekends.

* Custom-made dessert from Gelato Messina delivered to your tent (1 per tent) – we got a Messina S’Mores kit, complete with blow torch! That was FUN!!
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* The General Store, where you can enjoy beer, wine, cocktails and an incredible platter of antipasti.
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We enjoyed a cocktail at The General Store and our Slice Girls pizza around the corner at Thousand Pound Bend. Then we made our way back to our tent and sat out the front in our fluffy white robes, eating our sliders and making s’mores and watching the stars. We woke up with a fantastic meditation class, had a tent picnic with a pile of pillows and our delicious breakfast box, then opened up our tent to the sunshine and snuggled under a blanket like kids. I left feeling like a new person.

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I am so thankful for having had the chance to relax and re-set and re-calibrate.
I’m thankful for the fact that I’m still here.
I’m thankful for the life I’ve managed to create for myself, the life that I didn’t even bother dreaming about because I never thought I’d have it.
I’m thankful for my stubborn streak that’s never allowed me to give up or give in.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the angels in my life who love me oh so much and share such incredible experiences with me  : )

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Drink here: Golden Gai district, Tokyo, Japan

Ohh Friday… so nice to have you around again! I’m hoping to have a quiet one this weekend, because quite honestly, I’m exhausted, but let’s have a bit of weekend party inspiration anyway for everyone else who’s still full of beans after the week we’ve just had! Shinjuku’s Golden Gai district was recommended to us by some lovely American ladies we met on our Kagurazaka walking tour, and those ladies were spot on.

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A few minutes walk from Shinjuku station and you’re transported to a completely different world; in stark contrast to the big shiny buildings and modern shopping malls, Golden Gai is comprised of 6 teeny tiny alleyways full of even tinier bars (most only a few feet wide) that remain as a testament to the good old days.

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Tokyo’s been hit by hard times – war, earthquakes, fires, and almost worst of all, re-development. The new friend we made at the bar we decided on, coincidentally a city planner, told us that the Golden Gai was pretty much the only area left in Tokyo that’s still as it was back in the 1960’s.

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Turns out it was also a pretty big area for artists and eccentrics not so long ago, with many painters, musicians and actors calling the area home. Now, this dicey looking area still attracts the artsy scene, as well as businessmen and celebrities and a few adventurous tourists and just every day folk just wanting a drink.

Most places have a cover charge in place, a few have English menus, and some even serve food. The one thing they all have in common is that they are tiny – the one we stopped in at seated maybe 10 people, and we were all but sitting on each others’ laps by the end of the night!

But our bar tender was such a great guy, we made some new friends who couldn’t have been friendlier or tried harder to speak English with us, and we had a fantastic night! When you visit Tokyo, make it a priority to spend a night in the Golden Gai!

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Warburton

A few months ago, I took a little timeout weekend away for myself in Warburton. I absolutely love it there – it is SO peaceful and quiet, it’s beautiful and just so easy to wind down and feel calm. I went back a few weeks later with husband, because a day trip seemed a good idea to pass a weekend, and I really wanted to show him the incredible Californian Redwood forest. But it rained. A lot. We both really wanted to go back to this beautiful teeny tiny town, and finally an opportunity presented itself – Melbourne, being the sport mad city it is, decided only a few weeks ago to call a public holiday the day before AFL Grand Final Day. If you’re not an Aussie, taking the day off work before a footy game probably won’t make a whole lot of sense to you, but this state also takes a public holiday in honour of a 3 minute horse race, so, you know…

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Anyway, this year that public holiday Friday happened to fall on our 5 year wedding anniversary. We decided to take advantage of the time off together, and after I finished work on Thursday, we drove up to Warburton for a  night away 🙂 We both desperately needed it, and it was so nice to spend a bit of down time together away from our normal lives, particularly before I head off to Japan next week (NEXT WEEK?! ARGH!! I NEED TO PACK!!). I enjoyed putting together the part 1 and part 2 Beechworth mini-guides, so I thought I’d put together another one for this beautiful little pocket of Victoria that doesn’t get nearly enough visitors – here’s how to spend a weekend in Warburton!

 

Distance from Melbourne CBD:
Just under an hour and a half in the car from Melbourne’s CBD will have you in Warburton – easy!

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Stay here:
Alpine Retreat Hotel
3340 Warburton Hwy, Warburton
http://www.alpineretreat.com.au/accommodation.htm

This is going to depend how princessy you’re feeling, but for an absolute maximum of AUD$105 per night, you can’t really go past the Alpine Retreat Hotel, AKA the pub! Rooms start from $80 per night, and if you ask for a room with a view, you’re going to be away from the noise of the pub at night and have the most gorgeous view over the river in the morning. Added bonus – should you feel like a drink, the pub is just downstairs! 

Eat here:

Little Joe
3416 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
https://www.facebook.com/warburtonlittlejoe
IMG_2107Visit for: Some of the best wood fire pizza going around. And those marinated olives…

Little Joe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

RiverView Cafe & Wine Bar
3373 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://www.theriverview.com.au/
IMG_2120Visit for: Friendly service, a gorgeous view of the river from the back terrace, simple but delicious food, breakfast in particular – for something simple, the muesli with fruit compote, yoghurt and milk is delicious, and if you wanna treat yourself a little more, the bacon and eggs are some of the best you’ll ever have!

RiverView Cafe & Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

The Patchwork Tea House
3305 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://thepatchworkteahouse.com/

Visit for: the most heavenly scones, blackberry jam and the rhubarb cream tea. Wow..

The Patchwork Tea House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

The Warburton Bakery
3415 Warburton Hwy, Warburton
http://www.warburtonbakery.com.au/
IMG_2135Visit for: The absolute best sausage rolls in Australia. Dead set.

The Warburton Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Shop here:

The Old Tea Shop
3393 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://www.theoldteashop.com.au/
IMG_9691Visit for: Quite possibly the most impressive range of tea I’ve ever seen. Highly recommend the Macadamia tea, the Caramel Rooibos, and the Sticky Toffee… so much deliciousness! Also a great idea to tuck into some baked-to-order gluten free gem scones. Because they’re magical, caeliac or not.

The Old Tea Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

What-Nots
3395 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
IMG_2132Visit for: The most perfect array of vintage what-nots. Not junk, genuine, collectors items and the most gorgeous little bits and pieces you’ll want to take home with you.

 

What to see and do:

Californian Redwoods
Cement Creek Rd, Warburton, Victoria
IMG_2154I’ve written about the Redwoods before from a previous visit this year, but the stunningly silent forest is full of almost 1500 giant Californian Redwoods. It’s one of the truly most beautiful and peaceful places I’ve ever had the honour of spending time in, and it’s somewhere I know I’m going to visit over and over again now for the rest of my life 🙂

Mount Donna Buang
Address
http://parkweb.vic.gov.au
IMG_2093At 1250m above sea level, this beautiful location turns into a gorgeous snowfield in winter. Outside of snow season, you can (and should) climb the 21m tall summit tower for the most incredible views out over the Yarra Valley, the Dandenong and Cathedral Ranges, Mount Baw Baw and The Alps.

Enjoy the Warburton River Walk
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Pass by the suspension bridges and just enjoy a bit of time down by the river. Highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat from the bakery and taking your brown paper bag of sausage roll and pie down to one of the benches. Enjoy lunch and walk it off with the most beautiful views!

Eat here: Cheshire, Melbourne (brunch/cafe)

Cheshire
583 Gilbert Rd, Preston
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cheshire/279630092053515

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Wednesday morning! You know what that means? If you make it to lunch time, you’ve made it half way to another weekend! Congrats in advance! It’s about this time of the week that I’m starting to think about said upcoming weekend, which generally means I’m thinking about a nice relaxing weekend brunch. If you’re thinking about that, too, allow me to introduce you to, and recommend, Cheshire.

Located in a relatively quiet pocket of Preston, Cheshire is filling a desperately needed gap of good brunch spots in the suburbs. They’re a fairly small space (the outdoor seating out front/around the corner helps a little) with tightly packed tables and bench space inside, so expect a bit of a wait on weekends; we visited on a Saturday afternoon around 12pm and were politely warned to expect about a 20 minute wait for food, which was fine -as long as you’re told in advance, it’s not so bad.

Husband went with the avo on toast with goats fetta, tomato, fresh herbs, to which he added a poached egg and side of chevap sausages. His verdict: perfectly poached egg, the avo was delicious with the fetta and plenty of it, great chevaps, brilliant breaky.

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I went with the baked eggs and chorizo, in a tomato sauce, with pecorino cheese and fennel crust, rocket, and toast. Possibly one of the best breakies I’ve had out in recent memory. Usually with these things, you get just a little bit of chorizo; they used what seemed to be an entire chorizo sausage in this dish. I couldn’t finish it all, so a happy husband got quite a few pieces, which had been fried up to golden. The tomato sauce it was baked in was phenomenal, I absolutely loved it… SO tasty, and the pecorino and fennel crust was magnificent! Was very grateful for the toast to mop it all up with! Nicely cooked egg with oozy yolk to top it all off for the win.

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We had no where to rush off to so we decided to stay for a little longer and ordered a St Ali coffee for husband, a pot of tea for me, and some cutie pie cakes, both gluten free (read: thick and moist). The brownie was pretty good, I loved the pile of chocolate chips on top, but the mandarin cake was the real winner. Dense with an incredibly sweet mandarin taste, it was a perfect end to the meal. It’s hard to get a citrus cake with that much flavour that doesn’t have that bitter aftertaste – they nailed it here. Extra points for the frosting.

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It was so great to find this little gem so close to home – massive thanks to a friend of husband’s who recommended it! All that food (two breakfasts, a coffee, a tea and two cakes) cost us around AUD$50.00, which was actually really great value for money – we were stuffed by the end of it and didn’t eat dinner until around 7.30pm! If you live it the area, put it on the “must visit” list. If you feel like escaping your local area this weekend and trying something new, consider Cheshire, too. Amazing food, friendly service, happy weekend! Only 3 days to go…

 

Cheshire on Urbanspoon

S2, Ep2: Eat. Travel. Blog. It’s been a big weekend :)

Eat. Travel. Blog.

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That’s where I’m at right now – cooking and eating good food, travelling the world, and writing about it all. That’s what makes me happy. Also, books and tea and yoga and Marley. But that was a bit too wordy.

It’s been a challenging few weeks for me. I’ve been struggling with some big questions lately, really trying to work out what I’m doing with my life. Same as a lot of other people my age, I guess – it gets to a point that you start to notice what other people are doing with their lives, and you inevitably compare their decisions to yours, and you wonder if the decisions you’ve made are better/worse/smarter/less responsible/selfish/whatever than everyone else’s. Which is completely demented, because there’s no manual for how to live your life. I’ve never had a “plan” before and it’s been working out ok so far, so why bother now?! Instead, I’m trying to go with the theory of if it makes me happy, do more of it, and if it makes me miserable, stop it. With that in mind, I did my best to make this weekend full of stuff that makes me happy:
– I got tattooed with my best friend
– I had a very lovely lunch with the ladies, complete with wine and gossip
– I got busy in the kitchen – cookies, croissants, omlettes, gumbo!
I submitted and had my first ThoughtCatalog article published
– Meat, drinks and more meat with the best group of friends a girl could ask for. And then ice cream. Because what’s a good night without ice cream?!
– Breakfast date. Best kind of date there is.
– Gave the blog a facelift for it’s first birthday, because why not?!

When you’re close to hitting the bottom, the only way to go is up  : )

Through my eyes: Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market

Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok
www.chatuchak.org

I really love visiting markets when I’m travelling. It’s the ultimate way to experience life in the city you’ve visiting; you get to see what the locals buy, what they eat, how they communicate with each other, how they live. Any time I travel, one of the first things I do in the planning phase is check out what markets are in the area so I can line up visits when they’re actually open. My first trip to Bangkok a few years ago saw my develop a fascination with the Chatuchak Weekend Market long before I actually arrived in the city. Online research taught me that the JJ Market is one of the largest in the world, spanning over 27 acres of anything and everything you could ever dream of; if they don’t sell it there, it doesn’t exist.

I love this market because it’s so real. The atmosphere is absolutely electric, it’s packed full of both tourists and locals alike, and it’s just an experience that’s completely insane and utterly necessary! If you’re ever in Bangkok, please make time to visit this place. But really visit this place – when you get there, talk to people, talk to the people selling the clothes, the hand made trinkets, and especially the people making the food! And try the food! Even if (ESPECIALLY if) you don’t know what it is! Learn and experience, don’t just be another tourist wondering aimlessly! It’s incredible, truly!

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