Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Grace's Great Voyage Down Under, Week 2: coffee, cancellations, bubbles and Broadchurch.

In case you missed my first post in this little series, I'll reiterate the key point made in it: I am not a travel blogger. 

However, I really want to share some things about my recent travels. 
I’ve decided to write posts in the future about my trips to various Other Places – but not necessarily the way a seasoned traveller and blogger might. I’m just going to write about specific things, moments, and some will exist in a big compilation post while others may stand alone. For instance, if I had an especially magical dinner date, or discovered a secret spot nobody had told me about, or even just had a conversation with a native (of which I have already had many, in Australia!), then that might exist in its own post.

Right, now we're all caught up, let's look back at my second week...in my second home. 


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Walking around Lake Wendouree from morning into afternoon, stopping to look out over the deep blue water, clear and unspoiled but thick with green leaves in places. Thinking ‘I have so far left to go…’, looking ahead and sighing. Then turning to see the path behind me, and how far I’ve come, which gives me more than enough incentive to continue. 

(I got an urge to flop down on the grass, beside Lake Wendouree. I followed it.)

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I've never been particularly enamoured with champagne. I like it as a celebratory drink, I understand that's its main identity - there's always a distinct reason for it. But I just never feel a yearning for bubbles. However, tonight I'm very happily refilling my glass and sipping copiously with a new friend of mine and an old friend of my mum's, who's put me up for three nights now. We're taking it in turns to put on our favourite viral talent show audition videos; she loves the classic SuBo, while I opt for X Factor 2011 underdogs. I am very happy, full of bubbles. 

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Looking up at the departures board in Melbourne airport, having just got through security and settled on a bar with charge points - to see the word CANCELLED alongside my flight number. Jumping up and immediately rushing to the gate for more information - and then standing in a queue of angry holidaymakers, old couples with wheelie suitcases and youngsters hoping to celebrate the end of school on the beach, and just...laughing to myself. Because, of course. 

It's only when I throw my bag onto the bed in my hotel room that my angelic auntie booked for me while I dithered at the airport, debating paying an extra $330 for a flight 'home' to the family rather than waiting for my automatic re-booked flight the next day at no extra cost, just because I wanted to go back so badly, and when I try to film a video in Facebook chat explaining to my family what's happened, that I burst into tears. 


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Ordering my super green salad for lunch at Tall Timber, and as I order the sweet young man holding the notebook with a pen behind his ear cocks his head sideways slightly, as if he's heard a distinctly high-pitched whistle - one only he can hear. 
   'Sorry, are you...from the UK?'
Then after we swap home town names and I order my food, he comes and sits with me to chat as he polishes the cafe's cutlery. I feel my awkward accent I've been so conscious of recently practically singing with joy and getting louder, more confident, as we talk about our homes, our travels and hopes for the future. 


Kale, quinoa, edamame beans, almonds, currants, avo, balsamic, with seeded Rye bread and a poached egg...magic.
(Photo: Tall Timber, Prahran.)


I stumbled upon a cute little bookshop in Pran Central shopping centre, tucked in amongst the trinkets stores and under the thick stink of Indian food stuffed with garlic. I saw big red lettering in the window yelling ALL BOOKS $6! and my heart squeaked almost audibly. Books are $24 on average, this side of the world. And $6 is around £4?! Insanity. 
I then spent 40 minutes or so peering at every book on every shelf in that shop; taking photos of friends' novels and admiring the handmade signage on each bookcase. 'If I lived here, I'd have to work here,' I thought to myself. Eventually I settled on a non-fiction read I'd never seen before, and helped myself to a cute $2.50 tote at the counter. I got a free adult colouring book with my purchases - one I'd had my eye on back in the book store at home! I honestly left the place buzzing and tousled, like I'd just had a wild, passionate tryst...

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Sitting comfortably in my hotel room, hearing the highway buzz just beyond my window, sirens and horns blaring - assembling a picnic on my bed, featuring some Coles pumpkin deli salad and semi-dried tomatoes plus salt and vinegar Vege Chips and reduced pea and roast veg balls, putting on 'Broadchurch' and finally getting what all the fuss has been about as I binge on it until 1:35am. 


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In a city where a pretty basic drink can set you back $21, let me tell you, a $4 (basic spirits, beer and wine only) Happy Hour is a blessed event. No wonder the place is rammed with twenty-somethings, all of them rolling cigs and taking group selfies now and again as they swap stories about their travels and side hustles. I am still tipsy from the 2 glasses of white I had this afternoon, in a Middle Brighton bar with a friend from London, but of course I get on the gin. I make every one of my friend's friends tell me their stories - where are they from? What do they do? Why are they here, in this city, at this moment? 

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'You Don't Meet Nice Girls in Coffee Shops.'


Walking around Lake Wendouree for the second time in three days, this time without stopping - promising myself coffee when I get back to where I started - listening to podcasts and then a whole 'Oh Wonder' album. Stopping briefly to sip from my water bottle, wipe away some sweat...and suddenly becoming encircled by teeny, tiny dragonflies. So small, they could be multi-coloured needles floating in the air, buzzing very gently. As I watch, one attaches itself to another. They fly together. Then it happens again - one little creature intersects with the other and seemingly effortlessly, they become intertwined. I look closer at the others twirling through the air around me, only to realise they're almost all connected with another. Only a couple stay solo, and they fly closest to me. 


Everyone said I'd love 'Melbourne coffee'. And let me tell you now, I absolutely do.
(Photo: Market Lane Cafe, Prahran Market.)


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You can catch up on my first week out here, Down Under, right here. And I recently shared some thoughts about how I'll be treating this holiday - it's not a project.

(And yes, you can expect a Melbourne coffee tour post very soon...)

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