I arrived in Melbourne in class... this time, my friend Alex (who I met traveling through the Kimberly to Broome) picked me up from the airport, ordered some food as we drove towards his place, and we got home and ate with Sandy, his roommate within an hour of having landed. I instantly felt at home here - not only do they have unlimited bandwidth internet, they have a modded X-box, and Sandy even put on an episode of Family Guy that parodies Star Wars. The apartment was in a great location, about 15 minutes walk north of St. Kilda in a place called Middle Park. I would be in Melbourne for a week to take in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday and Alex and Sandy's collective 30th birthdays on Saturday. Today, incidentally, is Sunday, and I'm doing a whole lot of nothing this evening after Family Guy; just enjoying being in such a homey place.
I met up with Catherine the next morning for waffles at the Tropicana. Although it was a bit of a trick to get there - there happened to be a parade marching through the city and it took a bit before I noticed my tram wasn't going where I thought it would be as a result. And then streets were closed for pedestrians, etc, etc. Luckily, she had the same problems, so we were both fashionably late to meet under the clocks at Flinders. After our delicious waffles, which turned out to be a lunch instead of breakfast, we walked through Hardware Lane, over to an art exhibit of her friend's (which wasn't on until next week), and finally had some drinks at the Transport Bar. I parted company with her and met up with Andrew in St Kilda for some pizza and more beer and, as we were walking down the street, there was Paris, another coworked from Stalactites, in the cab queue... and as a cabbie! Since Staalactites was renovating for a couple months, everybody had to find other jobs, and this was his. It was cool to just run into him randomly like that.
The next morning was Melbourne Cup. Alex didn't approve of my attire, and thankfully intervened with a different shirt and tie. Now I looked classy, especially with my new hat that I had just bought with Catherine at Myer the day before. I met up with Jackie, my Canadian friend from Surfers, and Andrew at the train station, we got tickets to Flemington, and were off to the races! We all looked pretty sophisticated for backpackers, I must say. Well, Andrew's not, but he's from NSW, so he's a traveller of sorts. It was a great day of champagne, winnings, losings, and sitting in the sun enjoying the weather. We even got interviewed on TV here, I guess we looked like we were having fun. And we were. After the main race was done, I was about even for the day (minus drinks and admission) and we left for an evening of fun, stopping for dinner, eventually, at HJs for dinner (the Melbourne Cup race is a public holiday here, so everything is closed), Max Brenner's for dessert, and then off to the casino, where we played some of the games at the huge fun centre there. Definitely cheaper than the tables and we had a lot of fun, even if we were a might overdressed.
The rest of the week went by pretty quickly. Wednesday I met up with Andrew and Bianca for lunch at an Asian restaurant in QV and met Ferg at 5:30 outside the Aquarium. He took me by his new place where we waited for Carol over a Corona and listened to some of his new album. The three of us went for dinner and a second beer at London Pub, just down the street from their new home, and it was great to catch up with them again - they're both such nice people. Thursday, I went for a cycle with Norm for dinner, and then I met up with Jackie again for her last night in Australia and went out with her and some other backpackers. I spent most of Friday trying to recover my deleted photos with limited success before I finally hit on some luck by using my backup hard drive as well as my laptop one.
Saturday was the main event, Alex and Sandy's 30th. I helped them clean up and load up for the party that night, and load up we did. We filled the bath with ice and alcohol, not to mention some garbage cans, moved stuff around, and so on. They were expecting a lot of people for this little apartment, and we had to make room. The party went really well, they have some very nice friends and family, and I quite enjoyed myself. I was definitely glad I'd stayed for it. The next day I met up with Melinda for a walk through the botanical gardens. We met first at the QV markets to get supplies, I picked up a new pair of aviators (this was where I got my last pair for $15), and by the time we got to the park and found a spot it was getting late. But we had a great little picnic, I finally saw the botanical gardens, and in all it was a great way to spend a Sunday. Monday I met with Norm again, where we biked to Williamstown for crepes and cider and then back again, after which I met up with Bianca on Lygon St for some Italian cuisine.
Monday came very quickly, my final day in Melbourne, and I ran a bunch of errands and got my laptop sorted some more. I took Alex and Sandy out for dinner that night to Santiago, a tapas Spanish restaurant, and thanked them as best I could for their hospitality. I would be sad to leave, but I know I have one more time in Melbourne before I say goodbye forever. I'm definitely looking forward to it, but now, if you haven't guessed, I've spent far too much money and it's time to get to Perth, to work, and to reality (sort of) once again.