lørdag, desember 17, 2011

Mooching through Melbourne

When I got the chance to leave Oslo in November and December, I took it. Not because I haven't had a good time there this fall, I have. But it's hard for me to find the balance; to uphold my everyday life, and spend sufficient time in my imaginary world, the fictional universe that is my novel. I booked a ticket to Australia. I traveled this far because of my friend D, who has opened her home to me here on the Gold Coast. D shares her bathroom with me, despite the fact that she thinks flossing is impossible without spreading today's menu all over. She also shares her bed, her bike, her kitchen, not to mention her mangoes - which goes to show how hospitabel she is, because the mangoes here are so good you really don't want to share them with anyone. If she was right about the flossing I would consider devouring the mangoes a second time.

After trying many variations I've found that writing for a month at a time works for me. So when I arrived in Australian springtime, with almost seven weeks to go before I had to head back to the Norwegian winter, I decided to spend my time well; load on with new experiences, new thoughts, and new faces. I was hoping to see lots of "crazy places off the highway", but my writing itinerary, nor my wallet, nor my lacking drivers licence agreed, so I ended up following the tourist trail, and so it was: Melbourne - Sydney - Byron Bay. During my stay on the Gold Coast I´ve also had time to visit Brisbane for a couple of days. More about that later, this is about mooching through Melbourne.

Upon arrival I knew very little about the city. Though I know how much more I get out of a trip when I've done research I hadn't found the time before I left Oslo. Luckily, I was able to sneak in through the backdoor, but had it not been for T, who sent me plentiful tips on where to go, who were correct that my taste is much like his, and directed me to St.Kilda, Abbotsford and Fitzroy, the Immigration Museum and the National Gallery of Ian Potter Centre, and a long list of other places; had it not been for LaMaga, who opened her home for me, a crazy, turquoise house filled with openminded people (and an openminded dog), took me to a CS-picnic in Darling Gardens where I met other friendly Melburnians (and wannabe-Melburnians) who showed us where to eat proper vegan food in Fitzroy and took us to the wonderful Village Festival in Edinburgh Gardens; had it not been for B, who came with me to an exhibition and shared his views on the many Aboriginal paintings, played backgammon with me on the sunny riverbank, and showed me the inside of a casino (a venue I would have never thought up to visit on my own!); had it not been for these people, it would have been a lot harder for me to enjoy all the wonderful bits Melbourne has to offer. Without them I would not have felt so at home that I am tempted to say I lived there for five days. In fact, Melbourne was so homely and I was so well taken care of, I felt like I only started traveling when I got on the night train to Sydney.

I found Melbourne to be an extremely liveable city; cultured and friendly, bikeable, fun, passionate, dedicated, relaxed, and creative. Had it not been located so far away from Oslo I could have seen myself living there for a while. It also has some excellent food options for a vegan like myself. Traveling I´ve never thought it easy to find great places for food just like that, but even finding a place just to have a bite can be hard when you're vegan, and therefore ample research is needed. Which won't help much if nobody writes about the good food they eat, so I thought I'd share. For anyone who desperately is typing vegan food Melbourne good? into their phones tiny search field like I´ve done a number of times, hunger driven and a bit crazed, this is for you. I was happy to find that many restaurants in Melbourne are vegan friendly. However, only a selected few achieved the sought after recommendation of Le Palais de Hanna.

Young Green Food
421 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Though you've had all the ingredients before, you might not have tried these combinations. My salad was creatively mixed, and, though when I flicked through photos from YGF online I see that I might be wrong about that, I remember it being served in a beautiful wooden bowl. I was very hungry by the time we got there... Some might deem my judgement clouded by extreme hunger hallusinasions, but my fellow diners agreed that the food here really is something, and with friendly staff and good atmosphere, this place is many times better than it looks at first glance. (Make sure you don't pass it, as the restaurant storefront doesn't really scream for attention.)

380 Brunzwick Street, Fitzroy
Though you've probably had all the ingredients before, you might not have been able to make them taste this tasty. At VegieBar they're also served by someone who knows how to make food look like a work of art. The place is very stylish and the atmosphere nice, relaxed even during the hectic lunch hours, the staff are friendly, and the prices decent. It's also one of the biggest vegetarian restaurants in Melbourne so there's (I would guess) always free tables.

Anything as Lentils
(multiple locations, I went to St.Kilda & Abbotsford)
You had me at "fundalentalist"! The sticker I saw in the hallway of Anything as Lentils in Abbotsford made me grin. The smile stayed plastered though the line was long. And when a line leads to a buffet as extensive as theirs, and it is by donation only, one should wear a smile - the staff hand them out for free anyway! I'm sure the many smiling guests would agree that the food tastes great. And don't forget to try the chai soy-latte!
(While you're in the vicinity check out Yara Bend Park in Abbotsford. It's a beautiful park, so go for a walk there if you have time.)

Even more than the city gave me a feeling of homeliness, it felt familiar; like I'd already walked those streets, in San Francisco, Berlin, maybe even Bergen (the weather sure is similar). As SF's cuter, younger sister (less drugged down mental patients regarded as a definitive plus), a city I spent a month in just half a year back, it would be a surprise if Melbourne managed to surprise me greatly, especially when I was just staying for five days. Apart from the amazing vegan food, I didn't come across anything that I haven't seen the likes of before - though the people I met in Melbourne were both new, and extraordinary; amazing people who would make any city better. As earlier noted, without them I would not have found many of the specific places and areas I ended up going to.

They also helped shape the way I saw the city, as they walked the streets with me and my curiosity; passing small houses and large parks, the city business district and the river, as I felt the colours and lost myself in thought for a second, looked at the bikes and the people, absorbed the atmosphere, and asked a bunch of questions - which they answered to the best of their knowledge. I was impressed by, and attracted to, how proud its inhabitants seemed to be of Melbourne. Along with everything that is hard to put a finger on right away, all of the above may ensure that Melbourne will puzzle me for a long time; like a book that does not give the answers one might seek and hope to come across easily, but instead helps us look at the patterns and details in the seemingly abstract, and feel our way to sewn or split seams, paints pictures with words, tickle our curiosity, and hence create a foundation for further thinking that allow us to discover the complexity in that which we think we've already seen.