Week 3 Highlights: Night Market, St Kilda, & Walking, So Much Walking…

Queen Victoria Night Market

Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market is busy and bustling enough as it is, but on Wednesday nights during the Summer it takes on a whole new life. In addition to the hundreds of market stalls where you can probably buy just about anything, there is live music as well as bars and food stalls from around the world which fill the market with delicious smells at every turn. Unfortunately it’s only on until the end of March when the Night Market closes for the Winter, but lucky for me last Wednesday I was given a last minute night off. I came home in the afternoon to find the kids’ mum had finally got out of hospital, was told to take the night off and go party, and given a huge box of sushi. Standard. Sadly after devouring my sushi on the tram ride into the city I wasn’t really up to eating anything else, so I didn’t get to try any of the amazing food on offer, though apparently Taki’s Balls (little doughnut balls smothered in Nutella) were damn good and can also attest to the flavoured iced tea by Those Girls. Definitely something to check out if ever you’re around in the Summer months.

Queen Victoria Night Market

Queen Victoria Night Market
Ending the night with some live music & a dance

I had heard a lot about the penguins at St Kilda Beach, which apparently come back after sunset every night to sleep, but on Friday morning when I mentioned to the family that I was going to try to see them that night they gave me skeptical looks and said they had never heard of such a thing. Undeterred I decided to go anyway, and to just spend the day at the beach and exploring the area beforehand. The walk to St Kilda from where I live is only about 7km, and from there I went back to Albert Park to see how it is without all the Formula 1 stuff going on. I didn’t realise that the race track is normally open to the public, so once I’ve got the car I’ll definitely take it for a drive around there! But for the time being I was content to walk around the lake, which is a really nice 5km walk.

St Kilda Sunset

Back in St Kilda I watched a truly spectacular sunset, which funnily almost coincided with the UK’s solar eclipse. I had been a bit gutted to be missing it, but sitting on a beach in Australia with such an amazing view definitely made up for it!

St Kilda Sunset

As soon as the sun set we headed along the pier to the breakwater, with fingers crossed but not feeling very hopeful about actually seeing any penguins. When we got there I had a chat with one of the penguin experts who are around to give information and to keep the penguins safe from idiotic tourists. She told me that because the penguins were currently molting it was unlikely that we would see very many, as during this time they can’t go in the water or eat; but just as she was speaking we spotted one hiding in the rocks, and just after a small crowd gathered on the other side of the rocks as one emerged from the water. Further along the breakwater I found two hiding under the walkway and was able to get really close up to them.

St Kilda Penguins
Slightly difficult to photograph in the dark and without flash!

On Saturday a couple of friends wanted to do a free walking tour of Melbourne, and even though I’ve already explored a lot of the city myself I decided to join them to maybe learn a bit more about the history and things that I might have missed. It lasted about 3 hours and was actually really good. It was through I’m Free Tours, who do 2 tours every day for however much you want to pay them, and I would highly recommend it. After the tour we visited the Shrine of Remembrance, a war memorial in King’s Domain just South of the CBD, which apart from offering fantastic views back to the city is an amazing homage to everyone who has died fighting in the various wars, and we were even lucky enough to be there for a short memorial service.

Shrine of Remembrance

Sunday was another gloriously hot, sunny day. In the morning I went with the kids to their school fête, which put any of my old school events to shame. While not exactly the coolest Sunday activity it was a nice way to spend the morning. From there I headed into the city to meet some friends and check out the Viva Multicultural Festival in Fed Square, which had some banging tunes and great food from around the world. We then attempted to go to a free rooftop pool party, but with a 2 hour wait to get up we decided to hit the beach instead. Having already visited a few of Melbourne’s beaches we opted to try a different one, Melbourne Beach, which surprisingly turned out to be one of the nicest so far.

While I don’t feel like I’ve really done anything huge this week, I am utterly exhausted! Definitely looking forward to a couple of days of taking it easy, and trying to make some travel plans for the coming weeks.

Formula 1, Brighton Beach & East Melbourne

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Having been made to watch Formula 1 races many, many times over the last few years, I can safely say that it is about level with golf in terms of most boring ‘sports’ (which I’m sorry but neither of those are) to watch. But with the Grand Prix taking place in Melbourne this weekend and the whole city seeming pretty pumped about it I was willing to get at least a little bit involved, and when the offer of a free ticket came my way I figured why not. Which is how I found myself at the Albert Park race track on Thursday for what turned out to be a surprisingly fun day.

Albert Park F1 Racecourse
Pretty scenic for a racecourse

Admittedly I think we all enjoyed it because it didn’t really involved much of watching car races. As it was the first day of the four day event it was just qualifying and practice sessions, with the actual race on Sunday. But that meant it was less busy and we were able to see and do a lot more of the fun stuff like taking part in challenges and exploring behind the scenes. The free tickets came through Newbies International, a group which runs meetups for people who are new to cities, so as well as learning how to ride a Segway and change a race car tyre I also met some really cool people and will hopefully go along to some more of their events.

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Saturday’s weather forecast promised a beautiful 30°c and sunshine filled day, so a few of us au pairs decided to make the most of what could be one of the last days of Summer and went to Brighton Beach. Famous for its multicoloured, artfully decorated beach boxes, Brighton Beach is actually really close to where I’m living (well an hour walk, but close by Melbourne standards) but I had yet to visit. After some initial complications which are inevitable when trying to organise a group of around 20 people, we finally made it and were not disappointed. My only regret is that I only had my phone rather than my real camera so couldn’t get many decent photos, but that just means I’ll have to go back soon! It was even warm enough to swim in the sea, possibly for the last time before Autumn really sets in.

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After a long day at the beach we stopped by a little family run restaurant where I had a truly delicious vegetable pizza – and I’m not even the biggest fan of pizza in the first place. This is one of the things I’m learning to love about Melbourne; everywhere you go, you are surrounded by delicious smells and amazing food, and it’s all from small, independent places. Everywhere I’ve tried so far has had its own unique vibe and I’m yet to be disappointed. Which is great, although slightly bad news for my waistline and my wallet.

On Sunday I headed in to Melbourne to do some exploring by myself. Apparently this is strange and antisocial and I should always be hanging out with my new BFFs (say the kids), but part of me loves getting to know new places on my own sometimes. I started with Fitzroy Gardens and East Melbourne, a gorgeous residential area just to the East of the city centre full of stunning Victorian houses. A lot of these houses were also home to many famous writers, actors and artists, so I spent a good hour or so wandering around soaking up the architecture and the culture of the area.

Victorian Houses
Victorian Houses in East Melbourne, starkly contrasted with cars & modern buildings in the background

From there I headed through China Town back into the city centre for some lunch (delicious of course) and some shopping (natch) before heading North to Carlton and Fitzroy. On my way I passed through Carlton Gardens, home to the Melbourne Museum and Royal Exhibiton Building, two very contrasting but equally stunning buildings. From there I headed up Brunswick Street, which might just be my new favourite place. As I turned the corner onto the main road, the sound of a rocky jazz band filled my ears from inside a pub on the corner with all the doors and windows open onto the street, and that just seemed to set the atmosphere of the whole area. I didn’t even take any photos because I was so engrossed in all the little shops, cafes, bars, street art, markets and everything that was going on. Definitely a place I need to go back to! Eventually I stumbled upon a little Irish Festival going on in Edinburgh Gardens for St Patrick’s Day, which reiterated how multicultural this city is and which is one of the reasons I love it so much.

Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building
Royal Exhibiton Building

First days in Melbourne

Flinders Street Station
Flinders Street Station

It was never exactly going to to be the easiest start, flying halfway around the world and starting a job essentially the moment I got off the plane. On the one hand it was made easier by the fact that the family I’m working for are really, truly lovely, but on the other my first week was inevitably a bit hectic.

So I arrived in Melbourne on Tuesday around midnight, about 30 hours after catching the train to Gatwick airport at 4am on Monday, not something I ever really want to do again. I hadn’t been able to fly from Edinburgh so I’d headed down to London on Friday, which at least broke up the journey a little bit and I had the weekend to chill. My first day in Melbourne I wasn’t actually expected to work which was nice, but the thing with living at your workplace is you end up doing it anyway. So despite jetlag and only a couple hours of sleep I got up to meet the kids, who despite being a bit of a handful at times (as all kids are, especially when there’s 4 of them!), are pretty awesome.

The plan was to kind of slowly ease into things, learn their routines, get to know them, and generally settle in. The first few days were a bit out of the ordinary as it was, even without my arrival and their excitement around that, but then on Friday night the kids’ mum fell ill and she’s been in hospital since. So not the easiest start and it was certainly quite full on from the offset, but it’s meant that I’ve quickly settled in and already feel like I’ve been here much longer than a week!

Outside of work I have tons of free time which so far has mostly been spent exploring Melbourne and the suburb I’m living in. Last weekend was Moomba, a huge festival which takes place over the Labour Day long weekend, so I met up with some other au pairs who have just moved here and we went to that and explored the city a bit. There’s so much to do here I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed and don’t really know where to start, but expect lots more posts including one about my unexpected trip to the Formula 1 Grand Prix!

Melbourne Moomba Festival
Moomba Festival along the banks of the Yarra River