After a full day on the Great Ocean Road on very little sleep, Seth, Lyndsay, Jordan and I were all too pleased to sleep in a little bit the following day. We woke up around 11 and set our sights on checking out a local Melbourne music festival for the day. Once we got a little breakfast we headed off to Federation Square where it was being held. On our way there we passed Findlers St Station, a famous Melbourne landmark and meeting spot. We also saw street art around every corner. Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia and is known as the cultural capital of Australia, and also for its diverse range of street art and subcultures. The whole street art movement began in the 1970s and 80s and Melbourne was one of the first major cities outside of the UK to embrace this renegade art form as legitimate, and not try to penalize people for doing it or cover or clean it up. Due to the governments laze faire approach to this art form, the movement has grown to take over just about every empty alley way in the city. The street art in Melbourne includes not just graffiti paintings and stencil art but also sticker art, poster art, wheat pasting, graphs, wood blocking, sculptures, textiles, and street installations. There is a strong sense in community ownership of these art works and much of the art carries with it some sort of political message.
We arrived at the music festival to see that it was much smaller than we had heard it was going to be and the turn out there was disappointing. I have seen larger crowds at ihop at 2 am. So we ditched that idea and just wandered around the city instead. In the picture above you can see the “free” Melbourne tram. Technically it costs money to ride it, but there is one official who checks every tram in the city once a day, so the chances that you will get caught riding it without a ticket are VERY low. When the front desk manager at our hostel was describing this to us he said “Everybody rides and nobody pays- isn’t this country great?”
We rode the “free” tram down to brunswick and spent the day wandering aimlessly through the city looking at street art, shops and popping in and out of any store that grabbed out attention.
Australia in general I have found to be very vegetarian friendly, but Melbourne in particular had a LOT of vegetarian/vegan/kosher/healthy food options. For lunch Lyndsay and I found this burger place that specialized in vegetarian burgers and it was FANTASTIC. Quite possibly one of the best burgers I have ever had. Mine was made of chickpeas with tomato, sweet tomato relish, tomato, beet root, and various other delicious things on it. At $10 it was a steal (yes this is considered affordable in Australia).
With lunch in our bellies we continued to explore. We rode the “free” tram up and down through Melbourne until it was dinner time and we ate in this funky but wonderful restaurant called the Gypsy Cafe. We lingered over dinner and then headed back to our hostel as it was getting dark. While we had been out during the day we had stopped into another Nomads location (its a chain) and talked to the travel desk clerk who was an American guy who had grown up in New York but attended UVA. He gave us some great suggestions on clubs and nightlife locations, including a three level club called Bubbles. He gave us the address for this, so on our way home we tried to look for it. In Melbourne I think they must have named every street and then found that they had run out of street name ideas because for every street there was another street with the name “little” in front of it. There is Collins St and Little Collins St, Bourke St, Little Bourke St, Lonsdale St and Little Lonsdale st and it goes on and on like this. Bubbles was theoretically located on Little Collins st, and we walked the entire length of the street (which, thankfully, was in fact little) and we couldn’t find it. We asked a few different people about it and they all told us the same address we already had. So it became a running joke that this place was just a figment of everyones imagination. My theory was that it had some sort of secret Harry Potter -esque entrance where you had to tap seven different bricks in a certain order for the door to appear. Who knows, we never found it. We went back to the hostel to shower and change and then head back out again in search of nightlife. The front desk manager at our hostel suggested a local club called Eurotrash, but we weren’t completely sold on that idea so we set out with no real destination in mind.
After a few minutes of aimless wandering we ran into two aussie college girls and their male friend and decided to ask them for directions to Bubbles, they told us they had never been to Bubbles, but were headed to Eurotrash and asked if we wanted to come with. Of course we did! We walked with them to Eurotrash, talking the whole way. They asked us lots of questions about where we were from, what we were studying, and the united states, and we in turn asked them about Melbourne. Once we got to the club we were pleasantly surprised to find this little hole in the wall establishment that was busy but not too crowded on the inside playing great dancing music and had plenty of outdoor areas to sit in and chat. We danced and drank the night away with our new Australian friends. I had my first gin and tonic, which was quite tasty.
In a bizarre twist of fate we ran into a bunch of the people we had met the night before at this club. Among them was the guy Lyndsay had met that went to Maryland. He hung out with us for the rest of the night even after his friends left. While we were dancing this tall Australian guy came up to me and started talking to me. Talking to people in dance clubs isn’t talking so much as it is yelling. After a few minutes of half dancing half screaming my way through a conversation I asked him if he wanted to go sit down to talk. He agreed and we ended up chatting for upwards of an hour. As it turns out he was half american as his dad was from Las Vegas. I didn’t know anyone could actually be from Las Vegas, I just always thought of it as someplace like Disney world that people went to have fun but you couldn’t actually be a resident. He asked me lots of questions about America, and about Washington DC under the pretense that he wanted to go there during the upcoming holiday. I feel like this was just an in to talk to me, but either way we had a good conversation.
When we parted ways I went back into the dane dace room to find Seth, Jordan and Lyndsay but they they were nowhere to be found. They had left to go next door and get McDonalds but neglected to tell me this. Luckily I found our new Aussie friends and danced with them while I waited for one of them to return my text message asking where the heck they were. In only a few minutes they came back and insisted I tell them all the juicy details of my encounter with the tall Australian guy. They were quite disappointed to hear that we had just been chatting, and it took me insisting at least eight times that nothing else had gone on for them to believe me, and even then I’m not completely sure they bought it.
We were having such a great time dancing and hanging out with our new friends that we lost all track of time and didn’t end up leaving the club until almost 4 am. Since we had followed our newfound Aussie friends to the club, we didn’t really recognize where we were once we exited. Luckily the Maryland guy was still with us, and he was able to point us in the right direction. Before we parted ways with our Maryland Melbourne friend we went into a 7-11 and each got a maxibon man chew ice cream bar. This is basically a thicker crunch bar without a stick but the commercials they run for them are so outrageous. Watch this and you will understand:
So we all had one and made all sorts of cracks about our jaw muscles getting bigger. Once we had finished our ice cream we parted ways with the Maryland guy who was able to point us in the direction of our hostel. We were all more than happy to crawl into bed, but not before setting an alarm for 9am since we had to be checked out by 10 in order to avoid getting charged for another day. It was a slow day wandering through Melbourne followed by a wild night out.