The Sydney – Melbourne rivalry equates to that of the North – South divide in the UK. Both sides convinced that theirs is the best.
On the North – South spectrum I would classify myself as a genuine neutral (which does not mean that the midlands are my favourite part of the UK!) but having been born in Derbyshire, growing up in Oxford, going to university in Manchester and then living in London, I can certainly see the merits of each.
To crudely summarise the Sydney – Melbourne split.
‘Sydneysiders’ will argue that:
- Sydney has fantastic beaches;
- Sydney has better weather;
- Sydney has iconic landmarks (Opera House, Harbour Bridge).
Whilst ‘Melburnians’ will counter with:
- Melbourne is the sporting capital of Australia;
- Melbourne is a foodie’s wet-dream;
- Melbourne is more “cultured” and has a European feel about it.
When Hannah and I arrived in Melbourne late on Friday night, after a slightly hairy incident at Sydney airport where my flight showed as ‘closed’ on the departures board, we made our way down to the South Yarra suburb where we were staying with Hannah’s friend Chris.
Walking along the main street I was instantly struck with the number of cool little food spots and bars, but most of all…by the BIKE LANES! For everyone who says that cycling in London is dangerous, try Sydney. The roads are narrow and busy, with very few bike lanes and no bike boxes at the traffic lights. The vans and busses actively hate you even if you do your best to stay out of their way. My view has always been that a city that is set-up for cyclists is a good city (i.e. Oxford), so it was definitely 1-0 Melbourne there.
We met up with Chris (and two other Chris’, which made names nice and easy) for a drink and then popped into a 24 hour restaurant for a quick snack on our way back to Chris’ place. I was expecting that we’d be crashing on a sofa but we had our own room, with little towels folder on our pillows – dream host! It was also the dream flat, with stunning views down to the Yarra river and over the city.
The motivation behind our little jaunt to Melbourne was to watch the Australian Open. We had ground passes for the Saturday day and court tickets for the evening. Saturday started with a lazy brunch at a great spot called Top Paddock. One of the Chris’ from drinks came along with his girlfriend and her office dog who they were looking after for the weekend!
I find the concept of an office dog entirely wonderful. It reminds me of the days back at primary school where you had a class pet who would take turns at each child’s house at the weekends. Although my dad did break his ribs trying to catch the class rabbit with a fishing net when it was at ours…so we won’t dwell on that for too long.
The puppy (not even dog…puppy!) was called Obe and was a Beaglier – a Beagle crossed with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He was adorable!! He also meant that we had to sit outside, and get one of the best tables in the restaurant out in the sunshine. Thanks Obe!
Chris, Hannah and I then strolled up the Yarra river to the tennis and settled in for the day. At the Open only 2 courts are for ticket holders only, unlike Wimbledon where quite a few of the courts are ticketed. This meant that we were able to see some great games during the day at the HiSense arena court. The only problem was that the system rewards those who get there early, rather than those who have leisurely brunches with puppies until 1pm, meaning that we had to queue for over an hour before we could actually get into the court in the first place. There was an extremely frustrating moment where we were right at the front of the queue and next in line but had to wait for a few long games to be over and for enough people to leave for us to get in.
Once we were in it was fantastic though, we watched Milos Raonic beat Benjamin Becker to reach the quarter finals, and Kei Nishikori beat Steve Johnson. When Nishikori came on to play an army of Japanese fans suddenly materialised in the stands, waving intricately designed “Special K” banners.
Our evening tickets were for the Margaret Court area where we watched some brilliant tennis in the game between David Ferrer and Gilles Simon. In the end most of the crowd were routing for Simon as the underdog, he played so well but couldn’t quite hold on!
The final match of the day was the mens doubles, where we watched Bryan-Bryan take on Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer from Argentina. I found the Bryan brothers a little creepy. For those who aren’t familiar with them they’re identical twins from the US who have been seeded no. 1 in men’s doubles for years. They do little chest bumps whenever they win a point.
They actually looked like they were struggling a bit in the match that we watched, and it ended up going to 3-sets, so it was about 1am by the time we got out. The Argentinian pair were great, and had basically just brought along all their mates to the players box, who were having a marvellous time and singing away in Spanish.
On the Sunday we rose early and headed into town to meet the rest of our group for our little adventure away that evening. We had hired a car and were planning to drive along the famed ‘Great Ocean Road’ to see the 12 apostles (rock formations not religious icons).
There were 6 of us in our little family car: myself, Hannah, Trine (who Hannah met after moving here), Mel (our designated driver – friends with Trine), Kristin (used to work with Trine and just moved to Sydney from London the day after me), and Megan (who knew Kristin through friends in Singapore).
It took us a little longer than we’d anticipated to find said Apostles, but we were very happy stocking up on car snacks and taking in the wonderful views. I’d requested that we take a photo with “the great ocean road sign” once we got to it – meaning this semi-iconic wooden sign built across the road at the ‘official start’. Mel (very thoughtfully!) did a semi-emergency stop at the first ‘Great Ocean Road’ sign that we saw and I had to gently point out that I wasn’t sure this was the sign.
When we got to the sign, Hannah risked her life sitting in the road. I also attempted to get a good photo but was forced to leap us as I heard the cars bearing down on me!
We continued driving for another couple of hours, getting stuck behind a little car doing about 30mph, which lengthened our journey significantly. When we finally arrived at the apostles, it was a really stunning setting: out on a headland you could see the rock stacks where the sea had worn away at the rocks, forming arches, which eventually collapsed leaving the stacks in the sea. Sadly a fair few apostles are no longer with us, there are maybe 7 or so remaining that you can see today.
The wind was almost gale-force out on the headland, meaning we only actually spent about 15 minutes admiring the apostles before heading back to the car. It was worth the drive though (which in itself was beautiful). We were staying in a town called Ocean Grove that evening which was en route back to Melbourne, so we had a fun drive home blasting some 90s tunes and stocking up on supplies for a BBQ that evening.
Monday was Australia Day – this is a slightly deceptive name since it symbolises the day that British ships first arrived at Port Jackson in 1788, and the raising of the British Flag there. However, no-one except me seems too concerned about this and everyone is just happy to have a bank-holiday and an excuse to have a BBQ and a party.
Mel had come equipped with some Australia day transfer tattoos. The working women amongst the group were hesitant to apply the tattoos in ‘visible’ areas (i.e. face, hands) in case they wouldn’t come off by Tuesday. Kristin and I had no such hesitations and quickly ‘tatted’ ourselves up. Megan and Kristin caused controversy by switching the ‘AUS’ letters around to get ‘USA’ to honour their American heritage. We knew that something was up when the bathroom door was locked and all we could hear was whispers and giggling.
This reminded me of a story that my older sister Claire will never let me forget. I was about 5 years old and my sister Iona would have been 7, and Claire would have been 15 and looking after us. Iona’s friend Kate Stanley was over to play and Iona, Kate and I were upstairs in the bedroom.
Claire said that she knew something was wrong when everything when quiet, and when she came into the room we all erupted in giggles. Iona announced “we’ve been doing tattoos”. Iona showed her the little stars she had tattooed on her arm. Kate then displayed the bracelet we’d tattooed onto her. Then the both turned to me who was slightly hidden at the back of the room…”show her yours C’s (C’s and I’s being our nicknames), show her” at which point I proudly lifted my top to reveal a small heart tattooed on each nipple.
Poor Claire. Poor me!!
* No photos available here 😉
But back to Melbourne, and Ocean Grove…all tattooed up to varying degrees we had a wonderful BBQ and watched some more tennis before crashing out on the sofas (Wild. Don’t forget we had had a strenuous day of sitting in the car!)
The next morning we drove back to the city early and met Chris in town for some tourist exploring. We went to the famous Hosier Lane which is a little lane covered in bright graffiti. My favourite were the Monsters Inc characters of Sulley and Mike, which unfortunately were also the favourites of the Japanese tourists, so we had a little queue in order to take a snap with them.
We went for lunch at Chin Chin, a wonderful Thai restaurant where we basically ordered everything that our neighbours were having and more.
This was followed by a stroll along the river. I definitely think that Yarra is another point in Melbourne’s favour. I know it’s no Bondi beach, but there’s something about having a river through the middle of city that just makes it psychologically so much more manageable. I felt right at home since they even have a ‘South Bank’ with the same men dressed as flowerpots etc that you’d encounter by the London Eye.
There was a big screen up on the south bank and we settled down to catch some more tennis (you’d have thought that we’d have had our fill of tennis by now!) before heading to a great bar under one of the bridges on a place called Ponyfish Island.
I flew back to Sydney that evening, whilst Hannah stayed for a week of “working from Melbourne” (tennis).
I am still undecided on the Sydney – Melbourne divide. There were definitely times over the weekend where I questioned whether I should have opted for Melbourne over Sydney. But I also acknowledge that we were very lucky with a weekend of blistering sun and excellent sporting activity!
Since getting back to Sydney I’ve been having a lovely and relaxed time. The first few days when I got back from Melbourne it absolutely poured with rain…throwing the balance further in Melbourne’s favour. But the sun is back, and I’ve definitely been making the most of having the beach on my doorstep.
Purchasing a bike has significantly improved my quality of life and since buying it two weeks ago I haven’t been on the bus or train once. I’ve joined the Nike+ run group which goes for group runs every Monday evening (I am starting to notice the impact that travelling for 2 months had on my fitness!) and I’ve also been doing some training with the Coogee Triathlon club.
I’ve signed up to do the cycling leg of the ‘Husky’ triathlon down in Jervis bay next weekend. I can’t say the name without picturing lots of little Husky puppies greeting me at the finish line. I am aware that this is unlikely, and would be cruel in the heat.
….Speaking of which! Uber were doing a promotion around Sydney the other day where they would deliver kittens to your office for you to play with for 15 minutes. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I imagine it must be rather stressful for the kittens. It must also be stressful emotionally for the people in the office who build a short-lived bond with these little balls of fluff only to have them cruelly driven away (in a Mercedes, with bottled water and mints) after 15 minutes. I mean I struggled to part with Obe.
The Husky cycle leg is 83km, which I didn’t really think about when I signed up, but is actually a fair distance. So this may be the last of my blogs if I don’t make it!
Other Sydney highlights in the last couple of weeks include:
- Watching ‘The Imitation Game’ at the outdoor cinema at Mrs Macquarie’s chair (a place, I didn’t just steal someone’s chair) with amazing views over the harbour;
- Lazing on Bondi beach on weekdays with Kristin and Hermione (a blind-friend date through London friends) before both of them ditch me for the world of employment on Monday. A least I can still do temporary tattoos on a week night…silver lining;
- Housemate Toots doing a taco night and Liam bringing a little bulldog he was babysitting called Rebel over (although she lived up to her name and was sick on the carpet…);
- Going to the driving range at Moore Park with Megan and Hannah, both of whom are FAR more proficient than me with a golf club;
- Brunching with a Peter who I went to school with and haven’t seen since a ski trip 2 years ago;
- Meeting up with Linn and Ashild at Bondi, the two Norwegian lovelies who I met at Semuk Champey in Guatemala;
- Enlisting Toots to join me on the ‘Kayla Itsines’ 12 week bikini body guide programme. I am 4 weeks in and yet to see my “transformation”;
- Eating. Lots. Perhaps this is why transformation is not apparent yet….
Over and out for now, I’ll let you know how I get on at Husky!