The City, The Culture

A year has flown by so quickly.  We have left Melbourne and are going back to our lives in the States.

I thought I’d finish out this year by sharing some photos that are very illustrative of Melbourne and our experience there.

We had the best time and absolutely loved the city.


Thank you, Australia.

Thank you, Melbourne.

Until next time.


Thank you all for following this blog and our Australian adventure!!


Footy at the ‘G

The City, The Culture

The Melbourne Cricket Ground was originally built in 1853.  It has obviously had some expansion and remodelling since then, but is still a history piece in Melbourne (it’s on the Victorian Heritage Register!).  The G (as it is colloquially known) has hosted the 1956 summer Olympics, 2006 Commonwealth Games, and countless Australian cricket matches (including the ever-popular Boxing Day Test).  It also houses the National Sports Museum which tells the great history of Australian sport.

The MCG is privately owned by the Melbourne Cricket Club, which was founded in 1838.  Various sections of the stadium (about 20% in total) are reserved for MCC members during any sporting event held there.

Cricket is a summer sport, so during the winter, the MCG turns into the main Australian Rules Football stadium.

Australians are absolutely crazy about footy.  The national organisation is the AFL (Australian Football League) and everyone has a team they go for (usually based on geography).  There is a team for each major city in Australia, but because the AFL was created from the VFL (Victorian Football League) half of the teams are from Melbourne and surrounds.  So in Melbourne, especially, it is important who you barrack for.

The totally capacity of the stadium is 100,024.  At the game we attended, however, it was only 63,537—minuscule, right?

The stadium regularly sells out for the AFL Grand Final.


The classic meal at a footy game is a pie and chips.  Both help keep you warm in the chilly temperatures.

One of my favourite traditions regarding footy are the team songs.  Most of them were written in the 1800’s, so they have a very vintage vibe to them.  Also, most are to the tune of famous songs written around that time, such as “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “The Marine’s Hymn,” “Keep Your Sunny Side Up,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

As each team is running in through their banner, their song plays and, of course, the fans sing along.  And then, which ever team wins, their song is played on repeat after the game throughout the stadium and the guys sing it in a huddle back in the locker room.  After a long losing streak, teams are so excited to finally be able to sing their song again after a win!


There are 18 guys on each team on the field at a time, so we wanted to have a large-scope view of the game (which we don’t get watching it on TV).  So, we elected to get seats on the top-most level of the MCG, but near the front of the railings.

Heading up the escalators to the fourth level in the MCG, the surrounding walls are painted with the manuscript of the original rules of footy, written in 1859.  There were only ten rules; pretty much anything else was allowed, which is still somewhat true.  Footy was one of the first sports to be officially codified (even before soccer or rugby).



The game we attended was Collingwood Magpies vs. Essendon Bombers.  Both are suburbs of Melbourne; Essendon is near the airport, hence ‘Bombers.’  The captain of Collingwood actually lives in our suburb and we’ve seen him shopping at our supermarket (!).  Collingwood has classic black and white vertical striped jerseys and Essendon has black with a red sash.  Football jerseys were originally made from wool, but are now regular sports fabric.  However, they have maintained the integrity of the design.

There is no in-stadium commentary during play.  This silence seems to invite more people to add their own take on the game more vigorously.  Also, as not diehard fans, it was difficult to tell who had the ball or who was kicking the goal.

At halftime, kids in the AusKick program (AFL for kids) get to come out onto the field and play on the MCG!  They are dressed in miniature versions of the teams jumpers and then they get to meet the team they are dressed to represent.  They’re so adorable!

After the game, the lawn outside is covered with families playing kick-to-kick and the train/tram stations are absolutely packed with people trying to get home…

Footy is all in the history, the allegiances, and the athleticism.  We’ve really enjoyed adopting footy as our go-to sport!!

St. Kilda Pier Penguins

The City, The Culture, The Sights

The St. Kilda fairy penguins are like a preview to the Phillip Island fairy penguin population, but St. Kilda is much, much closer and more easily accessible.

After being out in the water all day, the penguins come home at dusk to their nests within the rocks on the St. Kilda Pier breakwater.

In the summer, apparently, there are tons of penguins, but the sunsets can be as late as 9 pm, where complete darkness won’t fall until 10 pm.  We wanted to see the penguins earlier, so we waited until winter.  However, fewer penguins live here/make the daily trek in winter, so it wasn’t the event we thought it might be.

While we were sitting on an (uncomfrotably pointy) rock waiting for the action to begin, I noticed some movement in the rocks behind us.  Lo and behold, it was a penguin!

This one must not have travelled out that day and was cozied up in his little nest underneath rocks.  The fairy penguins are almost blue in tone and have a small yellow patch on the front of their neck.

At first, we were the only people who knew he was there because we were sitting with him.  However, once someone else saw, word got out quickly and the penguin (and us) were instantly surrounded by tons of people and cameras.

Finally, another tiny penguin emerged on the rocks above the water a bit later.

The people in fluorescent yellow jackets were the penguin patrol.  They controlled the crowds, reminded people not to use flash, and created a safe radius around the penguins.  Their job wasn’t too hard this night, but I’m sure it could get frantic in the summer.

Probably most beautiful of all were the amazing views of the sunset; the gradient looked like a rainbow!

Melbourne Real Estate

The City, The Culture

The Melbourne real estate market is absolutely insane!

Right now, the average price for a home is AUD $826,000 while the average price for a unit is AUD $583,000  It blows our minds how the average person here buys a house/unit.

The buying process begins with inspections.  They are not what you think of when you hear ‘inspection.’  An inspection is like an open house, where you can come to the location and ‘inspect’ it and scope it out.

Every thing is much more regimented here because the market is so competitive.  Inspections have to be registered for, so it is not exactly the same as an open house.

Real estate agents only work for the seller, not the buyer.  People have to do their own research, attend inspections on their own, and place bids by themselves.  The real estate agents host the inspections and auctions and handle the legal side of selling.

The weirdest thing about Australian real estate is the fact that they have auctions for all of their properties.

There is usually an inspection a week or two before the auction and then another inspection just before the auction begins.  The real estate agent starts the bidding at/near the seller’s reserve price (what they won’t take below).  Then, depending on the popularity of the house/unit, the bidding either continues fast and furiously or more slowly.

Auctions are usually held out in the street in front of the house/unit and are open to the public to come and watch.  However, to participate in an auction you have to have previously registered and submitted an offer price.

The auction format makes buying a house so competitive.  People basically have to commit to the highest end of their budget first to even have a chance at participating in the auction.

At the house auctions we’ve been to (in an up-and-coming, nice neighborhood of Melbourne), the houses have ended up going for 1.160 and 1.650 million (usually for a 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 garage townhouse).  Unit auctions we’ve seen (again in a nice area) have been around the $500,000-650,000 mark.

It is kind of fun to attend an auction (especially for us Americans) when you don’t have to go through the stress of bidding.  The real estate agent usually has a gavel and smacks it on his folder or rolled up papers–a dramatic conclusion to a thrilling auction.

We think we may have seen the top of the market as real estate prices have been continually falling for the past couple weeks.  However, the sticker prices are still shocking us.

Apparently… Sydney is even worse…


More Aussie Slang

The Culture

hoon=a young man who drives recklessly

*also a verb, hooning—mainly used in hooning around, common hoon behavior is doing burnouts/donuts/excessive speeding, there is even legislation called Anti-Hoon Laws

how are you going?=how are you doing?

*go replaces do in a lot of instances asking about someone (how did you go?)



doona=duvet cover


pumpkin=any kind of winter squash

*pumpkin is here all year round because it’s not actual pumpkin



sango= sandwich


stick fat= show loyalty to

squiz=to have a look at

that’s me done= I’m finished

pokies=poker/slot machine


bottle-o=bottle shop=liquor store


*as in a type of party or the object (a grill)


*i.e. a department in a store would be called manchester

pot= 10 oz beer

schooner= 15 oz beer

pint= 20 oz beer

*even though a pint is 16 oz……

servo=service station=gas station



Chrissie= Christmas

The Great Ocean Road

The Culture, The Sights

The drive from Melbourne down to the Great Ocean Road doesn’t take long, but it has some highlights of its own.

First up is Point Lonsdale.  This is the western point of land that is at the opening of Port Phillip Bay.  This opening is known as The Rip and is one of the world’s most dangerous stretches of water.  The width of The Rip is 3.5 km, but the navigable width is only 1 km.  Many lives have been lost in The Rip both as part of shipwrecks and in recreation.  One of Australia’s Prime Ministers went swimming in The Rip in 1967 and disappeared, presumed to be dead.

We saw waves crashing into each other in the shape of a square, something I had never see before.  It was kind of like a square whirlpool and definitely looked dangerous.  It can be seen in the right hand picture just behind the pier.

Queenscliff is a cute, historic town on the bay side of the opening, so it is a much safer harbour.  It’s a popular beach town for Melburnians to escape to in the summer.

The Barwon Heads Bridge separates Barown Heads from Ocean Grove by crossing the Barwon River.  This bridge is the oldest timber stringer road bridge in Victoria; it was built in 1927.  It is also Victoria’s longest wooden bridge.


Torquay is the surfing capital of Australia.  Not only is it home to some of the world’s most famous surf brands, Rip Curl and Quicksilver, but it is also home to the world-famous Bells Beach.


Bells Beach hosts, arguably, the most important surf competition: the Rip Curl Pro.  It takes place Easter weekend every year and draws huge crowds to watch the best surfers take on the best waves.  The long right-hander is what Bells Beach is most known for.  Surfers were everywhere, trying to catch a piece of the famous waves.

We continued along the coast between Bells Beach and Anglesea as the last stretch of coast before the Great Ocean Road officially starts.  The highlight here was Point Addis, which had stunning views out over the Southern Ocean (this will be a recurring theme in this post!).

Finally… the start of the Great Ocean Road!

The road was built during the 1920’s by returned soldiers and functioned as a permanent memorial to their mates who had died.  The statue of diggers at the arch was unveiled in 2007 at a ceremony to honor the mate ship shown during the construction of the GOR on its 75th anniversary.

The Memorial Arch at Eastern View used to function as a toll gate, but is now just the symbolic start to the journey.

The GOR continues on through Aireys Inlet, Fairhaven, and Moggs Creek until the next stop–Lorne.

Lorne itself is another small, beach town but out of town a bit, and inland a bit, are two places of natural beauty.

The first is Teddy’s Lookout.  Up on a taller-than-expected hill, there are amazing views of the ocean and the GOR.  It is a quintessential aerial shot of the GOR winding just along the coast.

Erskine Falls is next.  This is the highest waterfall in the Otways Region and is located in the middle of a temperate rainforest, which I think looks primordial–where are the dinosaurs?

Continuing on the GOR from Lorne we hit the memorial plaque just outside Lorne and another one at the difficult-to-construct-around Cape Patton as well as the villages of Wye River and Kennet River.

My favorite stop on this stretch was the shipwreck of the W.B. Godfrey, which was sailing from San Francisco to Melbourne in 1891, when it wrecked off the coast.  While no men were killed in the actual wreck, 5 men were killed in trips to salvage supplies from the wreck.  Soldiers building the GOR found their graves when digging up the area and made them a new marble headstone to honor them.  However, the headstone is placed in an arbitrary location.  The beach in front of the shipwreck had this enormous seaweed; I tried ripping a piece and it was like trying to rip rubber.

Our final stop for the day, and our resting place for the night, was Apollo Bay, one of the larger towns on the GOR.  It is known most for its fishing trade and popularity in the summer.

Mait’s Rest is a boardwalk hike through a spectacular temperate rainforest.  It was raining the day we went, which added to the atmosphere.

The Mountain Ash trees along this walk are over 300 years old and 60 metres tall (they can grow up to 100 metres!).  This makes them the tallest flowering plants in the world.  These trees shed their bark to enrich the soil below; these trees deposits 40 tonnes of their bark per hectare per year.

Cape Otway is the second southernmost point on mainland Australia, so a lighthouse is necessary to keep the ships away from its daunting rocks.  The lighthouse, known as the Cape Otway Light station, is the oldest lighthouse on mainland Australia.  The light keeping ships away today comes from a solar-powered LED light out on the tip of the Cape, no longer the lighthouse, but the lighthouse is open to the public.  It has simply incredible views of the Southern Ocean.

Moving on from Cape Otway, we continued along the Shipwreck Coast section of the GOR.  More than 200 ships were lost here between the 1830s and the 1930s.

One of our stops in this stretch was Johanna Beach.  This is the backup beach for the Rip Curl Pro when Bells Beach isn’t cooperating.

Another stop was at Melba’s Gully, another temperate rainforest walk.  It is one of the wettest places in Victoria, which we can attest to.

Now… the Limestone Coast section of the GOR.  The land is scrubby and windswept and the coast is now lined with tall, sheer limestone cliffs.  Here the beaches are the most dangerous.

The limestone creates many shapes as it erodes, but none more famous than the 12 Apostles.  These sea stacks have never actually numbered 12.  They used to be called “Sow and Piglets” for the one large stack and the small ones surrounding it, but someone thought more tourists might come if they were named “12 Apostles.”  It seems to have worked as this was the singular most crowded stop we made along the entire journey.  Since the limestone is constantly changing, one stack collapsed in 2005 dropping the actual number of apostles by one.

The Razorback limestone formation was one of my absolute favourites.  Wind-blown spray is the main creator of this stack and causes the sharp, razor-like edges along the top of the ridge.

Loch Ard Gorge is named after another casualty on the Shipwreck Coast.  In 1878, the Loch Ard wrecked on the coast near this gorge.  All the passengers died expect 2 people; Eva Carmicheal couldn’t swim and clung to a bit of the wreckage which washed her into this gorge, where Tom Pearce (who had swum there) rescued here.  As much as this sounds like the beginning of a love story, it wasn’t; the two went their separate ways and never saw each other again.  Today, the two stacks standing in the middle of the gorge are named Tom and Eva.

Port Campbell is another small, coastal town along the GOR.  It’s tiny bay is one of the only safe-swimming places along the otherwise treacherous ocean of the GOR.


The Arch is another limestone creation. This was one of my favourites because of the way the waves crash through the opening.  It’s so mesmerizing to watch.

London Bridge, or “London Bridge (broken)” as it’s labeled on the maps, used to be a double-arched limestone formation.  The first arch collapsed in January 1990, leaving two tourists stuck out on the island.  Broken or not broken, the arch is still a sight to see.

Warrnambool is the end of the Great Ocean Road and is most popular as a whale watching sight, in-season of course.

Thunder Point is on the tip of Warrnambool.  On one side is Lady Bay, the calm, boat-friendly water and on the other side is the wild Southern Ocean which swirls and crashes magnificently.  All in all, a good summation of the Great Ocean Road.


The Culture, The Sights

Bendigo is the fourth largest city in Victoria and the second largest inland one.  It is located in the Goldfields region just about smack dab in the middle of the state, a bit northwest of Melbourne.

To get there, there is about an hour and a half drive through regional Victoria.  One of the places we went through just before reaching Bendigo was Maryborough.  Their train station was the focal point of the town.  Built in 1890, the station was magnificent before the town had anywhere near its current population of 7,630.  Mark Twain once remarked that Maryborough is “a train station with a town attached.”

The hotel we stayed at was the historic Shamrock Hotel.  This hotel dates from the 19th century (1897) and began as a place where miners could rest their heads for the night.  As more and more gold was found and funneled through Bendigo, the hotel became more and more prosperous.  All of the rooms are named after people who have a Bendigo connection; we stayed in the Lola Montez Suite.  The building, outside and inside, is still opulent with stained glasses, a sweeping marble staircase, and fireplaces in every room.  It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and under the National Trust of Victoria.

Bendigo is full of historic buildings.  Many are now just remaining facades with the interiors completely renovated for modern use, but some still hold onto their historic uses.

The historic General Post Office is now the visitor’s centre, but is still a magnificent building from the outside.

After climbing almost 300 stairs, Poppet Head Lookout had great views of Bendigo from all angles.  The lookout, which is an original poppet head from the Garden Gully United mine, is built directly over the top of the opening to the deepest mine in Victoria.

Camp Hill Primary School, which dates from 1877, is still going strong as a primary school.  The red brick with white accents reminds me a lot of the Rippon Lea facade.

The school and poppet are located in Rosalind Park where there were hundreds, if not thousands, of bats.  In the afternoon they were simply hanging upside down in their trees, but when darkness fell they were flying overhead in droves, especially towards the top of the GPO–bats in the belfry, indeed.

The original Myer department store was founded in Bendigo, even though today the headquarters and flagship store is in Melbourne.

What is the Ulumbarra Theatre today was the old Sandhurst Gaol (Bendigo used to be known as Sandhurst).  The architecture still speaks strongly of its original intent with heavy gates, small courtyards, and high walls.

The Town Hall (1859) is another grand building; columns, arches, stonework, towers…this has it all!

The Sacred Heart Cathedral in Bendigo is the second tallest church in Australia, after St. Patrick’s in Melbourne.  Its building was started in 1895 and was not completed fully (mainly the spire) until 1977 due to various long intervals.  The sandstone it’s constructed from was quarried in the Geelong area.  The huge pipe organ was installed early in the building, in 1905.  While we were inside, the organ player was practicing.  It was really fantastic to hear the music fill up the large, resplendent space.  The church is really a focal point of Bendigo; it sits off of the main road up on a hill and its spire is visible from nearly everywhere in town.