28 09 2008

I have not slept well for the past few nights. I think I had delayed-onset jetlag. I get really sleepy mid afternoon and usually wake very early. It also doesn’t help that the hostel is having an extension built right outside our window. Thankfully today (sunday AM) they are not working, and we have had a nice lie-in. The working pattern here in Melbourne is strange, people here have managed to extend the weekend by an extra day without altering the working week. They party on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. Mondays in turn feel like Sundays do in the UK. All the shops and restaurants open extended hours on Sundays, and then have very short days on Mondays. Quite a good system so that everyone can have effectively another saturday, but on a sunday if you see what I mean. This weekend has been very busy with it being the finals of the AFL (australian football league). It was Hawthorn Hawks vs Geelong Cats. Hawks won. I don’t understand Aussie rules football, so am afraid I can’t offer any more information other than that.

We’ve done a fair bit in the past few days. We visited Melbourne Zoo, which is pretty big. Saw Bears, Giraffes, Elephants, Emus, Ostrich, Koalas, Kangaroos, Wallabies, and all manner of other marsupials, spiders, insects and reptiles. The Zoo had lots of information about its co-operative breeding programmes with other zoos and abouts its efforts in water and habitat conservation which is important as Victoria is in the middle of a drought, with reservoirs at 30% of their normal capacity. The Zoo wasn’t as nice as other Zoos I have seen, it was dirty, and litter was everywhere.  I also felt sorry for the bears and big cats as their enclosures were small, and they appeared visibly bored and restless.

I took lots of pictures, but I have yet to find an internet cafe that can handle uploading pictures onto Flickr. I am also getting tired of paying $2 everytime I want to check my email, and now we have agreed to move into a house share, buying a computer seems like a much more feasible option, as there is plenty of free wireless internet to be had. A few so called ‘netbooks’ have caught my eye for their low price and good spec. The Acer AspireOne is pretty good, costs around $550 which is 275 pounds and is positively tiny. It also runs Windows XP which is good. The Asus EEEpc 901 is also pretty good, but am not keen on having another Linux machine just yet.

Today we are going to a Market in St.Kilda, where all the products have to be manufactured/grown/produced exclusively from materials sourced in Australia. I am not sure what to expect (pet rocks, animals skins and boomerangs?)  but I hope it is as interesting as it sounds. After that, the hostel is having a barbecue at 5pm, which should also be interesting, first barbecue of our Australian summer…… 🙂


Quick note

25 09 2008

Quick one for now, only 6 mins left on the timer.  Had more news from our prospective landlord. We have now secured a cheaper room. Only 220 dollars per week, including all bills, which is more affordable than before.

Had a beautiful day today, took advantage and visited the war memorial in the heart of Melbourne, and strolled around the botanical gardens, lovely landscaping and range of vegetationl. Also lots of lovely wildlife,  and information about conservation efforts in the area. Also an interesting site about heliographic astronomical observation conducted in the area when the colony was established.

Also met another couple of travellers who arrived in our hostel today, they were from no other than BATH. I couldn’t believe it. They are very nice, similar age, and have been enjoying their company tonight.

I have also been on the hunt for jobs, attempting to register with job agencies and ads in shop windows and the local paper. Can’t wait to find something interesting and different from what I have done workwise in the past.

Anyway, machine is hassling me to insert more money, so on that note….. goodnight.

A home perhaps?

23 09 2008

It is 9:02 pm. I have just eaten a magnum. They sell them here too you know. The girl behind the counter gave me a funny look as I handed her the money for it, as its still “winter” here. So it goes.

After a few days of posting messages on internet messageboards, phoning people regarding houseshares, and generally expressing disgust at the cost of city rent rates, we may actually have found a place that meets our standards. Our initial experiences were not favourable, but the share house we have found seems reasonable. It is owned by the same lady that owns our current hostel. The tenants at the share house seem nice, it is clean, bedrooms big and airy, and rent reasonable. Short leases acceptable, and bills included, and a cleaner is in every week. That pretty much sealed the deal.  A huge sigh of relief was collectively sighed. We can now concentrate our efforts on finding suitable employment and getting to know the area without having to worry where we will be sleeping each night.

We visited St.Kilda today, a neighbourhood by the beach just south of our current location. When we arrived the weather was sunny and warm, but nearer the beach, the wind picked up and it clouded over. It was so cold, it could in fact have been any seaside resort in the UK. It in fact reminded me of Blackpool (minus the grot, well not as much grot anyway). St.Kilda’s history is interesting, it has gone from being a Polish immigrant settlement, to a highly fashionable resort, to a run down area, to a new up and coming mix of backpackers, trendy folk and  yuppies from the city. Like any seaside resort, it had a funfair with a rickety wooden roller coaster and all the other bells and whistles. St.Kilda also has a collection of art deco buildings which are an interesting contrast with the ultra-modern town hall and victorian townhouses that surround the area. Again, pictures will follow.

The internet here (as far as I have found) is not as good as it was back in the UK. It seems to be very slow, even the quoted superfast connections at the internet cafes. Maybe I am just too impatient.  Just an observation anyway.

I have also been subjected to 3 or 4 different attempts to be scammed by would be internet scammers. 3 different African missionaries have tried  to offer me accomodation, as long as I send them a cheque or money transfer for 1 months rent in advance. One has offered to buy my car back in the UK, and another my CDJ cd player. All using the western-union money transfer/dhl courier scam. Bizarre. Needless to say I have declined all their generous offers, I manage to lose/spend money well enough on my own as it is 🙂

Anyway, enough rambling,


More of Melbourne

21 09 2008

Well, today has been an interesting day. We got up fairly early and searched online for house and flat shares in and around the city, trying to solve our housing situation. A few leads got knocked back, but a few others yielded results. We managed to arrange a viewing in one of the northern suburbs of Melbourne. After getting a train, a tram (the wrong one it turns out) and yet another tram, we arrived at the street where we were meant to be meeting the bloke arranging the viewing. A guy called peter greeted us after giving us many a wrong direction to get to said house. Said house was large, but the interior looked like the cast-off furniture and soft fittings from the brady bunch set. And it smelled of sweat. We made a swift getaway, thanking peter for his time, and made our way back to the city.

On the way back we stopped at the Victoria Market, a huge market selling all kinds of goods and wares. Lots of fresh exotic seafood, amazing looking meat and vegetables, pastries, cheeses, breads, dips, and ready made tapenades and pestoes, a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. The market also featured all kinds of genuine and fake clothes,  glittering gadgets and trinkets. It was towards the end of the trading day, so the bustle had died down, but it was a nice stroll in the sunshine, althought the wind packed a crisp chill to it.

Our foray out into the ‘burbs today impressed me, the public transport was genuinely excellent. Trains are clean and quiet and on time, and the trams are equally so. A flat-rate fee gets you access onto all forms of transport on a 2 hourly or daily basis, or in a permit form for the more frequent commuter. This system puts some of the bigger european cities to shame, I can’t help but think what a nightmare London will be like with the 2012 Olympics.

Anyway, more flat hunting for us now.

Househunting, sightseeing and extreme weather

19 09 2008

Today was a busy day. We began with trying to sort out our accomodation situation, as it directly affects our chances of employment. The neighbourhood we live in now, a place called Praharn seems to have lots of different jobs available, from shop work, cleaning work, catering/food etc, all in a vibrant high street scenario. Minimum wages are also good, 15 AUSD per hour which seems pretty decent.

Hostel living is not all its cracked up to be, our fellow residents are boring, and dont seem to be very outgoing, so not much keepking us here. We have been looking into short-term rents, particularly furnished 1 bedroom apartments. As the public transport system is quite good, we have a good scope of locations to look in. There is however a big demand for housing as there are quite a few universities in the locality. Rent prices range wildy, starting from 110 AUSD to 700 AUSD a week, with our price range being around 220 AUSD  week, roughly 55 quid a week, so same prices as newcastle. We found a few leads, sent a few emails and phoned a few places. Waiting to hear back now.

We ventured into the CBD today, walked around federation square, watched a rubbish clown climb 6 buckets and juggle machetes, then walked around to the Eureka tower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. The 88th floor offered us some fantastic views of Melbourne and Phillip Bay. Pics to follow soon.

On the way home, we were treated to thunder and lightning, torrential rain and hailstones, and blazing sunshine, all in the space of about 15 minutes….. I guess yesterday’s cliche proved right!

New arrivals

18 09 2008

Well, we have arrived in Melbourne. After the 25 hour flight, it was a welcome change of scenery. The flight itself was nice, despite economy being like a sardine in a can, the on-demand entertainment system, food, and free alcohol was great. I also slept like a baby after necking quite a few sleeping tablets.

Melbourne itself seems like a city of great variety. Our hostel is located in a suburb called Windsor to the southeast of the CBD, it seems like a very trendy place with a high street called Chapel street. A street of great contrast. Multi-cultural eateries sit alongside thrift shops and bazaars, and every few yards a high end boutique selling extortionately priced goods. All the buildings are of different design, with fake facades…. some would call a urban planning disaster, but I think it gives it a quirky charm.  People here are still walking round with scarves and coats, as 20 degrees centigrade is considered cold.

Also managed to open a bank account with no hassle, and get a sim card for my battered, by handily unlocked UK nokia phone.  Have not been called a “bloody pom” yet, but I wait with baited breath. Talking about cliches, I did hear the “Four seasons in one day” saying about Melbourne (which is true as it started to rain this afternoon) . Another notch in the notch stick.

Initial impressions on food is good, slightly cheaper than the UK, but not much. Restaurant variety and choice is also better, have seen greek, italian, turk, vietnamese, chinese, japanese, spanish and malaysian but have yet to sample many places…. better get saving/working soon! 

Our hostel is a pretty basic affair. Its basically two terraced houses that have been split and converted into dorms and double rooms. Our room has a double bed with a bunk on top and a large window and blacony overlooking green street. Opposite us sits a brand spanking newglass-fronted building decorated with futuristic looking electric blue support beams, very impressive, turns out its the local circus school!  The bathrooms and toilets are clean,  and the residents (mainly australians oddly enough) are quiet but friendly. The receptionist gave us a quick tour of the hostel and gave us a good intro to the city and the sights. Lots to do and see in the next few days.

Anyway… more news later on.

DIY proton smashing?

10 09 2008

I like today’s new Google logo to commemorate the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider, however, if you click throught you are confronted with the search page and sponsored links…. the first one of which is from B&Q, which I thought was quite funny;