wembolina’s melbourne list

Bucket list. I don’t really like that term. It makes me feel a bit sad. One of my all-time, absolute favourite magazines has a section in the front, where they interview chefs and foodie-type peeps and they ask them what they’d want their last meal to be. People salivate over this stuff (literally!), but it always kinda makes me feel a little bummed out. I don’t wanna think about my last meal. Or ‘things to do before I die’. I just wanna eat and have adventures and be happy and when my time’s up, I hope it’s quick and that there isn’t a giant pavlova I have to get through before I give life the ol’ heave-ho.

That’s not the most appealing opening paragraph, is it? No… But since ‘that’ movie came out a few years ago, bucket lists seem to be popping up all over the place. Time Out recently had a ‘101 Things To Do Before You Die’ feature in their magazine, which made me think “Hmm… Having adventured about the world over the past few months, there are so many fun things to do in this fair city…. Maybe I should make my OWN ‘Things to do’ list (without the morbidity factor) that might inspire activity and adventure for Wembolina readers?”.

So here goes. This is a list of things I’m super keen to do, and things I’ve done that I would whole-heartedly recommend to ANYONE – visitors and locals alike!:

Kayaking at Studley Park Boathouse

Hire a kayak for one – or make a date of it with yo beau – and paddle up the river towards Fairfield. Once you get past the ‘Sunday Driver’ row-boaters, you’ll find yourself virtually alone in the bush (which is weird, given you’re about 5 kms out of the city) – just trees and birds and the occasional ‘pro’ kayaker. On hot days you might see (gulp) a snake slithering across the surface of the water. YUCK! I don’t think they can leap into your boat though, so you should be safe (should be). If you go far enough, you’ll find yoself surrounded by sleeping fruitbats, which is eerie and creepy and kinda like something out of a horror flick… And it stinks a bit too. But it’s totally worth it.

You can also kayak through Docklands at twilight, which I’ve never done, but am SUPER keen to!

Horseback Winery Tour in Red Hill

I did this a few years ago with a bunch of peeps I didn’t really know, and now we’re all totally besties, so I HIGHLY recommend this. You head to the stables in the morning, get paired with your horse, don some tres fetching Drizabone jackets and a helmet, and then you’re off! Most of the trail is along dirt roads through farmland, but you do a few canters and the like through vineyards and paddocks, which is pretty spesh. We hit up three wineries, got a little sozzled, and finished the day with lunch at the Red Hill Brewery. Woot!

Peninsula Hot Springs

We went to the Hot Springs after our horse-riding booze-fest, and it was pretty nice, but VERY busy. There were a few moments where I felt like I was in a bowl of Human Soup, rather than having a ‘relaxing unwind’ in a thermal pool. No matter. If you went on a weeknight or in winter, I reckon it’d be quite a bit more sublime. Would deffo recommend cooking yourself in the sauna and then jumping into the icy plunge-pool – totes invigorating!!

Warburton Rail Trail

O snap, this is ANOTHER adventure I had with my new gang of besties (we are actually a real gang – I’ll tell you about it some other time!) and a fun weekend away if you are sans car. Ride your bike to Flinders Street Station (or some other station), get on a train to Lilydale (a charming ‘burb that has neither lilies nor dales), and cycle your way along 38kms of old railway line to Warburton. There are a few cafes and pitstops to make along the way, and it’s a relatively easy ride (until you hit the mofo hill on the way back – but if I can do it, anyone can!!). We spent the night at a house in Warburton and moseyed back to Melbourne the next day, but not before filling up on scones and coffee at The Patchwork Teahouse.

Having a little rest on our way to Warburton

Penguin Parade, Phillip Island

Do you know that I have lived in Melbourne my whole entire life and I’ve never even been to Phillip Island, let alone seen the penguins strut their stuff along the sand in front of 8000 snap-happy tourists? This must happen. Because penguins are in my top 5 favourite animals of all time.

(Thanks to Chris Cohen for his genius penguin translation; please note that these guys are NOT fairy penguins, you won’t see them doing this on Phillip Island)

Women of Letters

Why have I never been to this? I love sassy ladies, I love writing, and I love letters! Held once a month at the luvverly Thornbury Theatre, WoL celebrates the lost art of letter writing with some of Melbourne’s finest creative lady-folk – writers, musos, politicians, et al. I’M PUTTING THE NEXT ONE IN MY DIARY!!! I’M DEFFO GONNA GO!!! Plus, at the end of the afternoon, you get to drink wine and pen a letter of your own.

No Lights No Lycra

A good friend of mine went to her first No Lights No Lycra thinking it was a yoga class, and wondered why every one was dancing up a storm to bangin’ 80s tracks when she walked in. Warm ups? Not very zen. Not very relaxing. But once she got into the swing of it – following the ‘dance like no one’s watching’ mantra, because NO ONE IS because THE LIGHTS ARE OUT – she cut loose, Kevin Bacon-style, and has been going to the weekly classes ever since. I love dancing, and I love 80s n 90s tunes, so this is definitely an evening I could embrace!

Volunteering at the Collingwood Children’s Farm

In my quest to brush up – nay, perfect – my gardening skillz, this is a great way to learn about dirt and compost and what to plant and when. AND! You’re surrounded by behbeh cows and goats and guinea pigs, so it’s a pretty sweet venture. The last time I was at the Children’s Farm, I saw a cat with no ears bite a small child. But that kid was pulling its tail, so I think it’s warranted.

Learn to crochet

Well helloooo, I just did this TODAY!!! Learning the art of the granny square has been on my list of things to do for about 4 years. Fingers crossed I’ll be well on my way to completing a ye olde woollen rug in no time! There are a ton of places you can wield a needle around town, but I did it at Thread Den. Morris and Sons also looks like a pretty great place to partake in a few lessons, and they have wool and needles to die for. 

Look at what I did!!!

Be an extra on Offspring (or be discovered and offered a leading role – I’m not fussed)

Since my all-time favourite Melbourne-filmed TV show RUSH was sadly AXED last year, I have had to focus my Australian drama sights on another show. Offspring. Which is quite a bit better than Rush, really. Less guns and car chases and loud music, but not enough Sgt Joshua *swoony sadface*… Offspring is filmed in my neck of the woods and I always seem to be stumbling across shoots (I promise not in a stalky way – it’s just that I walk my dog a lot, and your two main shooting locations are across the road from my work – HONEST!!!), so it makes sense that one day I should be asked to ‘sit at the bar with a friend, laughing into your white wine spritzers’ or ‘stroll with conviction down Smith Street, with your eco-friendly shopping bag tucked tightly under your arm’ or ‘cycle gaily down George Street, but MAKE SURE YOU’RE WEARING A HELMET!!!’. But seriously, this is a great show. Well done, writers. Well done, cast and crew.

Picnic lunch at Heide Museum

Make some salad and sammies, jump in the car, and head to the Heide Museum in Bulleen. On a nice day, you can sit on the grass amongst the sculptures, soaking up the serenity (and art) as you munch on yo lunch. On not-so-nice days, book a table at Cafe Vue, have a little tipple, then stroll through the museum admiring the luvverly artworks… A nice activity to do with your folks, if you’re after something parent-friendly.

Sign up for a Broga class

My ace pal Jennie started up Broga a few months ago, following a trip to Thailand where she got her Yoga license – yay! Geared towards the fellas – but ladies are most welcome (phewf, so I can sign up!) – Jennie works with small groups, and posts handy tutorials on her blog. I’ve done a bit of yoga and pilates over the years, but always feel like a bit of a brittle ol’ stick when I’m surrounded by elasticky pretzel ladies. The small class size – and Jennie’s hilar sense of humour – are mega appealing to me.

Foodie things

What would a Wembolina post be without some food references? As the world’s biggest lover of a good meal (not proven), here are a coupla places I’m DESPERATE, on-the-edge-of-my-seat to eat at, plus some others that are a bit special, or just a bit great:

Loam, Drysdale – they FORAGE for food, then they cook it!!
Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld – all I know about this place is that the food is flipping incredible. And they often post photos of echidnas on Twitter. Food + Australian wildlife = perfeck (as long as the wildlife ain’t on the plate. Which I’m sure it is on occasion, but I don’t need to partake to that extent).
The Estelle, Northcote – order the degustation (WITH dessert), get your friendly waiter to match wines, and sit back and relax. The food here is ridonkulous – in a deliciously splendid way – but it’s the presentation that’ll knock your socks off.
The Everleigh, Fitzroy – go here and order a martini. Just do it. If you wanted to dress up like a flapper, it would not be frowned upon. This would be a nice place to have a drink with Morgan Freeman.
Afternoon tea at The Windsor, Melbourne – When I finally get around to doing this, I’m going to dress up like Elizabeth Bennet and tut at Mister Darcy’s lateness. While I eat sandwiches and little cakes.

Dirty martinis....

And so ends my ‘Things to Do’ in Melbourne post. Are you a Melbourne-ite? What are YOUR top things to do in our leafy town? Or what are you bursting at the seams to do? Tell me, tell me, so I can add it to my list!

piebird

When I visited Toronto two years ago, I got a little over the city life, and sought out a weekend away in the Canadian wilderness. A quick google search turned up this place: Piebird, a vegan farm in Nipissing, a tiny town in northern Ontario.

When Rich and I started planning the Adventures, I put my hand up, edge-of-my-seat, primary-school-style, for a return to Piebird.

 After a non-delicious breakfast and dishwatery coffee at an egg-themed cafe opposite the bus station (it had a hilariously punny name, like Great Eggspectations or Eggsactly What You Want, or something. Canada loves a good pun-incorporated into their business names, like Curl Up and Dye [hairdressers] and I Feel Like Crepe [crepes and martinis]. Anyway, breakfast at this place was anything but Eggscellent) we loaded up on snacks, boarded the bus, and settled in for a 5 hour trip north.

Sherry – half of Piebird – met us at the Powassan bus stop, where we picked up some supplies (like a loaf of cheese and jalapeno bread -??!!) and we were soon on the road to Nipissing, home of Piebird.

It’s such a beautiful, amazing, superlative-inducing place. A huge green lawn precedes the house, fringed with a row of tall pines. A herb tea garden grows in the middle of the lawn – if you’re feeling like you have a tummy ache, or are low in iron, or are having trouble sleeping, you can stroll out to the lawn with a cup of boiling water and pick some herbs (usually prescribed by Sherry, but you can freestyle too) and pretty soon you’re enjoying a hot tea and your ailment is on the decline.

In the next field, there’s a farm FULL of vegetables – beans and sorrel and tomatoes and sunflowers and carrots and beetroot. This is where nearly all the Piebird meals come from. There’s something really special about picking your dinner and then eating it straight away. Tis delicious, and sticklers like me don’t even flinch at an insect-munched piece of lettuce or a split tomato.

Monster carrots (delicious though!)

There’s a pen next to the vegies, and that’s where Ginger, Billy, Sadie, Sunshine and Pepe live. These guys are the most spoilt goats I have ever met in my whole entire life. They all know their names (and come running when you call them). They get cuddled to sleep at bedtime. They enjoy face massages and tummy rubs. They are so tame and friendly I was pretty sure they’d break into song or ask a question about how many Roald Dahl books I’d read.

Billy and Sadie, enjoying the serenity

Two cats roam the farm – Chapeau and Pinky. Chapeau is a tabby (and is enormous – he’s like a panther) and he does this creepy thing where he lies on your chest and sucks on the shoulder of your jumper (if it’s woolly). He gets this delirious look on his face and dribbles all over your clothes and it’s kind of disgusting but pretty endearing as well. I’m a cat person, so I had no qualms with this.

The river behind the house is dark and slow and is home to muskrats and otters and beavers and the occasional splashing crashing moose and bear… On our second day at Piebird, Rich and I went for a canoe adventure up the river to the dock (mebbe about 40 minutes away). Getting into the canoe was a struggle. Keeping balanced in the canoe was a struggle. Getting out of the canoe was a struggle. But it was a fun paddle. A little bit ‘Deliverance’ – the river is edged with thick woods, that are so quiet they give off a creepy, who’s watching-kinda vibe… We were passed by a few speedboats filled with fishermen who kindly turned off their engines when they spotted us – there was one youth-filled boat who sped by who did not slow down; they leered at us menacingly when they passed us, which added to the ‘Squeal like a pig, boy’ atmosphere. Eek! We made it safely back to the Piebird banks without tipping out of the boat. Until, of course, when I actually tried getting out of the canoe. That was when I misjudged the depth of the water, and my gumboot sunk deep into the submerged mud and I lost my balance and fell face-first onto the muddy banks… Oops. Splash.

Rich, of course, emerged unscathed, white shoes (not even gumboots – how hardcore is he??) untouched.

After spending the last few weeks in bizzy ol’ Toronto, it was SO ace to just laze around and do nothing. Sleep in; read books; wander about the farm; cuddle goats. Four days of this was what we both needed (Rich didn’t really explore the goat cuddling to the same extent as me).

Getting the bus back to Toronto on Sunday afternoon was a little bit like leaving school camp. For the first hour we chatted about stuff we’d done, and the people we’d met, and the food we’d eaten, and how great it would be to just up-sticks and move to the country and start up a B&B farm and learn how to successfully get in and out of a canoe. Then we had an hour of quiet reflection; staring out the window, thinking ‘Really? Could I really actually do something like that?’. And the remaining three hours (yes, THREE HOURS) were spent rolling our eyes at the two Beavis & Butthead, food-throwing, squeaky-voiced teens at the back of the bus. Urgh.

a weekend in the country

On Friday morning, Rich and I bid adieu to Thomas, Christopher and Napoleon (I may have shed a tear or two) and our East London abode and trudged off along Commercial Road, with our cases in tow, towards Aldgate East tube. At times I struggle with my new wheely suitcase. My shoe fell off not once, but three times between the flat and the tube.

After a pleasant (read: pretty dull) trip on the tube, we arrived at Goldhawk Road (kukaw, kukaw!), met Sarah, had a quick squiz at her flat, then jumped into the Ford Fiesta she and Ben had hired for the weekend and headed off to… CAMP BESTIVAL. In Dorset. Which is on the Jurassic Coast. Because of its location, I obviously envisaged there would be loads of dinosaurs STILL IN EXISTENCE, or a ton of fossils at the very least. There are plenty of fossils around (none of the dinosaur variety – none that I saw, anyway), but alas, no dinos, monsters, or creatures of the deep…

We arrived at our hotel in Wareham about 5 hours after we left London. It felt closer to 17 million hours, due to all the flipping traffic, but fortunately we had plenty of toffee popcorn and ol’ timey music to keep our spirits up.

Naturally, the first thing we did when we got to our hotel was head straight to the bar for some ales and some jukebox programming. Elvis, Buddy Holly and a bit of “Once…. Twice…. Three tiiii-iiimes a lady” – which we inadvertently heard twice. Jukeboxes are cool – especially Wurlitzers in gran-filled country guesthouses.

Following our musical interlude and brown ales, we set off for Camp Bestival. Camp Bestival is an all-ages camping show, geared towards parents with young-ish kids. It’s at a castle. Everyone dresses up. There is a Pimms double-decker bus bar. And more food than you can poke a stick at. I was more interested in food than music; my highlights were the chorizo paella and the mutton burger. And definitely the lemon and sugar crepe.

Everyone at CP hauls around carts with them – WITH PILLOWS AND TOYS AND DOONAS IN THEM!!! Some of the carts had rooves and lights!!! Amazing… When the behbehs get tired their parents just tuck them up in their trolleys, keep watching music or drinking Pimms until they get tired, then wheel them back to their tents. How good??!

Another amazing thing I saw at CP was a FIELD FULL OF BEDS!!!! Four poster beds, lined with bunting, each bed full of behbehs and kidlets… Too cute…

It’s funny being at a festival where the least common demographic is the 18-30 bracket.

On Saturday we walked part of the Jurassic coastline from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door (durdle means ‘piercing a hole’), then strolled back along the pebbly beach to the car. Again, I got a little misty-eyed being at the seaside… sigh….

Sunday was a day for epic adventure. After taking a few wrong turns and getting lost on our way to have breakfast Weymouth (which we gave up on and had a fairly revolteh sandwich in Dorchester instead), it was back to Lulworth Cove for ADVENTURE SEA KAYAKING!!! Woot!

Donned in wetsuits (yes), lifejackets, helmets and rubber shoes (very attractive look – unfortunately there are no pictures…), we made our way past hordes of tourists to the pebbly beach where we had a quick lesson in steering and safety. And then, into the kayaks we got. I was paired with Sarah, and what a team were we.

We managed to get out of the cove fairly well, but once we were in the open seas we panicked a little and found ourselves being hurtled towards a rocky cliff. OK, we weren’t quite hurtling along, but it was fast and seemed wrought with danger. Rather than paddle (first mistake) we both thought that if we let the boat drift, the tide would take us back out to sea (second mistake). We found ourselves wedged on a rock, which is the best way to get yourselves tipped out of the boat. Our instructor sat on the sidelines yelling ‘IF YOU DO NOTHING, NOTHING WILL HAPPEN!!!’ which sounded fine by me; ‘if we do nothing, nothing BAD will happen’ was how I interpreted it, but he of course meant that if we do nothing, we will stay wedged on a rock until barnacles make homes on our wetsuits and/or get tipped from our boat.

‘PADDLEPADDLEPADDLEPADDLE’ our instructor shouted at us, and paddle we did. Not well, but well enough to get us away from the rocks and without tumbling from the boat into the icy sea. The rest of the group (several of which were children) was waiting for us a few hundred metres away, and it was clear when we returned that we had been labelled the Group Nuffies.

Story of my life!!

Following on, we actually did a pretty good job of staying afloat/on track. We kayaked through Durdle Door, had a picnic of cordial and home-brand Kit Kats on the beach, slid down a pebbly bank in our boats, kayaked through a cave, and espied an ancient fossil forest on the cliffs…

Clearly, things were going too well, especially for the Nuffies, so our instructors decided to spice up the journey.

“Everyone steer your kayaks towards the beach and paddle alongside the shore; the closer you get to the beach, the funner it is!!” they cried from the distant safety of their boats. Sarah and I had really been doing a great job, and we felt fired up to prove to the group that we were actually brilliant sportswomen.

Nearing the beach, the waves were a little choppy but it WAS fun! We were doing so well! We were laughing and paddling and showing the group that we were brilliant! Until… We hit the beach. As the waves came in, so did the boat. Sarah got out to drag us back into the water, while I stayed in the back, ready to paddle furiously (ish). The sight of Sarah attempting to get back into the boat once she was knee-deep had me in hysterics; the bobbing kayak, freezing cold water, and lapping waves made it pretty tricky to keep your balance AND get into a floating vessel.

Just as Sarah got back into the boat, I somehow tipped out. I don’t know how it happened. Sarah didn’t notice it had happened either and started paddling away, as I rolled around in the water, unable to balance, and laughing so hard “I could have drowned-ed” (hats off to you, GIlbert Grape).

A man in flippers and snorkel came to our rescue (as our instructors shouted “No no, they can do it, don’t help them!!!” – nasty!!!) and pushed us back out to sea. We were grateful he’d helped, and thanked him when we were on our way, to which he replied (quite hoighty-toighty-ly) “Stay away from the shore – the closer you get to the beach, the more likely you are to fall out!!!”.

Duped by our guides!!!! Oooh, I’d shake my fist if it wasn’t so sore from all the upper body exercise!!!

Three hours later, back on dry land, we peeled our wetsuits from our aching bodies, removed the hideous footwear we’d been forced to wear, and re-dressed in our civvies. God bless loose clothing!!!

Back in the car, back towards London, back towards an exciting new adventure – Iceland!