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A tiny rant about water

Melbourne has great water!

Drink Tap Water!

Drink Tap Water!

That’s just a fact. It’s clean and it tastes great.

Water is an ideal drink, when your out and about it’s the most convenient beverage to take with you.

And I don’t begrudge anyone who gets caught short and buys a bottle of water when they are out because they forgot to bring water.

But travellers and by that I mean anyone travelling between A and B for any reason. Invest in a light portable water container. There are a multitude out there. And drink tap water when it’s clean and available.

I was inspired to write this rant by this water bottle I saw this weekend.

More about the Choose Tap initiative 


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About getting around in Melbourne

Catch a tram in Melbourne

Tram stop in St Kilda Road Melbourne

When I’m writing about places to go and things to do in and around Melbourne, I will make some basic assumptions. Number one readers are visitors to the city. Probably staying in the city centre or nearby.

So my directions will focus on getting to places from the city.

I also assume that visitors will not be hiring cars. Why, cause I don’t like cars 😉

I do like public transportation and Melbourne has pretty good public transportation. Not the best in the world. But plenty good.

And it’s easy to get around the city and most close surrounding suburbs on public transportation.

Often it will be quicker and more direct to take the train, but here’s another bias of mine. I prefer trams. I like to see the areas I’m travelling though it’s half the fun. And a good way to spot a new cafe or a strip shopping centre to explore on my next trip.

So, I recommend visitors go to their favourite purveyor of fine mobile apps (iTunes or GooglePlayStore) upon arrival and download the free TramTracker App. Or lock this URL in your browser’s (phone or tablet) memory bank for reference: http://yarratrams.com.au/tramtracker

Of course you can’t travel (legally at least) without a Myki card.  And if you’ve been using public transportation in Melbourne for a while you will have a view on whether Myki is the best or worst thing to happen to public transport in this city.

No matter your opinion on the merits of Myki, you need a card and you need to have funds loaded on the card to travel legally.

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Everything in one place

Travelling on planes has become a nightmare with limits on liquids you can take on the plane with you.nailpolish

It’s no wonder the market segment for travel sized products and containers has grown to monster proportions.

To make your transit as easy as possible, I recommend not carrying any liquids in your carry on luggage.  I’ve found that a large zip lock bag keeps everything safe in my checked luggage.  What I put in my large zip lock bag is one of these Household Essentials Hanging Cosmetic and Grooming Travel Bags So I don’t have to keep lugging an arm full of tiny bottles from the bedroom to the bathroom, or appropriate the entire counter in the bathroom for my magic potions.

Even the most obsessive traveller can pack his or her potions, creams, elixirs and such in the bag so the bathroom counter isn’t taken over.

Budget travellers will find it even more handy when staying in a bed and breakfast with shared facilities.

A friend who travels regularly keeps hers packed and ready to go at all times. If you aren’t as lucky as she is, you can get double duty out of the bag by using it for trips to the gym or when you ride your bike to work and need to freshen up before taking your desk.

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Shrine of Remembrance and Royal Botanic Gardens

A half day mini-adventure

I’ve provided directions on the assumption that you’re a visitor starting your day from your city centre hotel or a local come to the city for the day.

Before you set out on the day’s activity visit QV Centre. Downstairs is a huge Woolworth supermarket where you can grab one of the fabric shopping bags (a dollar or two) and fill it with picnic fixings. The city is rampant with convenience shops, Seven Elevens and such. But for variety and economy, go to the supermarket or the Queen Victoria Market (the subject of a future blog, as it’s a destination all on its own).

Now exit QV east toward Swanston Street and take any tram going south, out of the city EXCEPT a Number 1.  Swanston street will turn into St Kilda one of the great Southern Hemisphere’s great boulevards. You’ll pass Flinders Station on your right and Federation Square on the left. After your cross over the Yarra River take note of the gardens to the left (you will walk back to the city through these). On the right there is Southbank, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Arts Centre (all worthy destinations, but not for you today).

Today you’re going to the Shrine one of the most prominent landmarks in Melbourne. It’s only a few minutes out of the city centre. Get off on Dorcas Street and back track to the trail into the Shrine or go one stop further to Domain Interchange and walk back to the Shrine from there.

The Shrine of Remembrance

The Shrine is sacred ground, was built in remembrance of those who served and those who died in the Great War of 1914-1918 and armed conflicts and peacekeeping duties since. To pay your respects and view the monuments and allegorical architecture are enough to warrant a visit.

Be sure to view the North and South porticos for their Doric columns topped by breathtaking sculptures (‘The Call to Arms’ and ‘The Homecoming’) and the East and West walls for their moving inscriptions.

Laying a poppy, a symbol of sacrifice, courage and remembrance, at one of the memorial locations within the Shrine and surround Shrine reserve is one traditional way to pay your respects (poppies are available for a gold coin donation).

The external elevated promenades provide views of Melbourne unlike any other.

If you’re looking for more structured activities, there are exhibitions, events, remembrance ceremonies (monthly not just for Anzac Day and Remembrance Day) and talks which are open to the public. There is a calendar of upcoming events on the front page of the Shrine’s web page.  http://www.shrine.org.au/home

The Shrine is open from 10 am to 5 pm 7 Days a week. Note: During 2013 and 2014 the Shrine is undergoing major redevelopment to include permanent exhibition spaces. However the Shrine remains open to the public, although wheelchair access to some areas has been affected. The Crypt is closed during the course of construction.

After visiting the Shrine take your time walking back to the city through the Shrine Reserve and then east and north through the Botanic Gardens.

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

A visit to the gardens is a “choose your own adventure” style of exploring. There’s something different to see depending on the time of the year and your interests. There are specialised garden areas for different types of plants and environments.

Lush apricot rose

Lush apricot rose

Some of my favourites are the Arid Garden (inspiring in these water wise times) the living fossils of the Cycad Garden, the lush Fern Gully, and the tranquillity of the Australia Forest Walk. But that’s just a sample of what’s on show. You can download a map of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne to guide you. Or just wander where you’re eyes take you.

No matter where you wander in the gardens you’re never far from a quite spot in the shade or sun to stop and have that picnic you packed. The only place you’re not allowed to stop and picnic are areas marked private, within the actual garden beds and areas blocked off as reserved for private functions. Put your trash in a bin of course and please don’t feed the birds.  Although barbeques are not permitted within the gardens, free public barbeques line the Yarra River along Alexandra Avenue.

The gardens are open from 7:30 am to sunset every day of the year. Wheelchair hire is available from the Observatory Centre and at the Terrace Café for a $50 refundable deposit).

More information about the Royal Botanic Gardens

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The Household Guide to Dying: A Novel About Life

The Household Guide to Dying: A Novel About Life by Debra Adelaide

Delia Bennett, the narrator of the Household Guide to Dying has written a number of household guides and she’s dying (of cancer).  So turning to what she knows best, she decides to write her last guide, to dying. Yes a guide to dying. Odd? A bit.  As well collecting her helpful (and sometimes odd) tips for the dying, Delia has some unfinished business from her past.

Delia tells us her story in two streams, with the past catching up with the present in the final chapters.  Clever ‘clips’ from Delia’s previous guides and correspondence with readers of her column add a light touch to Delia’s forthright approach to imminent demise. She also gives us a feel for what life might have been like in country Queensland towns in what I estimate is meant to be the late 90’s.

I had my doubts, about the subject matter, but the cover drew me in. The edition I read featured a charming hand-crafted embroidered heart. And as someone who’s adapted a household hint book from the US for the Australian market, I thought I might have something in common with Delia.

On the other hand, like most adults in in 2013 I know many people, too many people, who are battling cancer. And like Delia, not all of them will win that fight. So might the story cut too close to the bone. With the cover of the edition I read featuring a charming hand crafted embroidered heart I decided it couldn’t be to maudlin.  I took the plunge and I’m glad I did. I think you will too.

The Household Guide to Dying: A Novel About Life is a thoroughly appealing read, a strong story by a real storyteller.

You will laugh while reading this book, and you’ll probably cry too.  But it’s not a pity party or a faux misery memoir. It’s uplifting, amusing and heart-warming. Great for reading on a plane, train, tram or while curled up on your own sofa with a glass of wine and a cat to keep you company.

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: a must read for anyone interested in modern India

In Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity Katherine Boo has given voice to real people that most people won’t ever get a chance to hear. She takes you to Annawadi, a place you may not have heard of, and brings Abdul, Asha, Manju and a host of other residents to life. And once you have made their acquaintance, you will want to know what happens to them.

It’s a gripping, fascinating read, as engaging as any novel, maybe more so. But unlike a novel, you won’t find everything tied up with a pretty bow at the end. It’s real life Boo writes about. The poor people don’t unite to rise up and find justice. And you’ll know a bit more about why this doesn’t happen in modern India.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity is a must read for anyone interested in modern India.

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Two tips for food and footy fun in Melbourne

The 2013 Writers Festival has just wrapped up and while it’s sad to see it end for another year, there is always another festival to enjoy around the corner.

Food lovers (aren’t we all) should check out the The Asian Food Festival which runs from 1 September to 15 October, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy this multicultural celebration of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. Activities will centre around Melbourne’s colourful Chinatown district, so you can work off your indulgences with a stroll.

Whether you’re a local or just passing through Melbourne you are sure to find something to tempt you during the Asian Food Festival

Most participating restaurants in the area will offer a special Asian Food Festival Banquet Menu. So this may be the prefect opportunity to try one of Melbourne’s Asian icons.

More adventurous visitors might try one of the Floating Yum Cha, a cruise down the Yarra River through the bustling port to historic Williamstown and Hobsons Bay while enjoying a yum cha buffet.

From March to September Melbourne a trip to Melbourne isn’t complete without a footy match. It’s not always easy to get tickets, especially when the finals are on. But it would be a shame if you’re here in September to not try. Find out more about our great game at the Official AFL site. Tickets are sold through Ticketek.

An important tip, for visitors, if you can’t get tickets, or can’t squeeze a match into your first* visit to Melbourne, at least download the Official AFL app and watch the games live on your iPhone, iPad (via iTunes) or Android phone or tablet (via Google Play Store).  Having a sneaky peek at the footy on your phone or tables while you’re waiting for a meal or waiting for a tram, will have you looking like a local in no time.

I say first trip to Melbourne, because, well once you’ve been here, you will want to come back, whether you’re visiting from Western Australia or West Virginia.