Monday, 15 June 2015

Melbourne, part II: A meander through old and new

Melbourne, Australia 
On our second day in Melbourne, we took a stroll along the Yarra river again. This time, we went further upstream from the central city promenade and stuck to our adopted suburb of Abbotsford where the Yarra twists and turns. Even in winter, it is a pleasant walk (or cycle). 
A map of the area shows a "children's farm", which is not (as one might rightfully expect) a farm in which children are grown. Instead, a large petting zoo stands next to the Abbotsford convent. The nuns have vacated the convent and it now holds eateries such as the Convent Bakery and Lentil As Anything. The bakery was more than adequate, with tasty treats on offer, but we did not get to try Lentil As Anything which was recommended to us. This vegetarian restaurant serves meals which you can pay what you think is right for; an intriguing concept that I would have liked to see in action. 
Back in the city centre, we met up with a friend of mine from high school: Matt. He has lived in Melbourne for five years and although stating that he doesn't like the city, at the end of the day showing us around he admitted it was actually pretty cool. This majestic building is the Exhibition Building, which sits right next to the museum in Carlton Gardens. 
What Matt called a train station and so much more, Melbourne Central holds an underground line as well as a shopping mall and the old lead pipe and shot (amunition) factory. A building within a building, it was saved from demolition as it is on the Victorian Heritage register. The glass cone was built above it for protection, and it remains an integral part of Melbourne Central. 
I found it strange to see how popular New Zealand Natural ice cream is in Australia! We don't even eat it at home, yet there are many stores selling it across the Tasman. We had to try one called Hobbit Crunch, which was like a more chocolatey and caramelly cookies and cream. 
Walking through Chinatown, we spotted Optimus Prime doing a dance in the street. Enough said. 
Matt also took us to Minotaur, a shop selling all manner of pop culture goodies. I was especially excited as my character in the last Dungeons and Dragons campaign I played was a 7'4" minotaur. At one point he drank a potion which turned him to gold. 
With everything from Firefly to Assasins Creed to D&D to Game of Thrones to Doctor Who to Hello Kitty, this was my kind of place and it took all my willpower to resist buying anything. If I were at the end of my trip when money and backpack space didn't matter, I would have been leaving Minotaur with as much as I could carry. 
That evening, we explored the Greek Precinct. As you can see, it is marked by a street sign simply displaying a meander. 
Dinner was had at Stalactites, a Greek restaurant with a ceiling that is made to look like the top of a cave. It wasn't at all realistic, but a novelty nonetheless. Taking our cue from the Apollo in Sydney, we ordered saganaki, as well as stuffed vine leaves, hummus and pita bread, a lamb gyro and retsina to drink (a type of Greek wine). It was all fresh and tasty, just like eating at a true Greek taverna. It was around this time that I wished I had a lot more stomach space, as there were so many Melbourne eateries I wanted to try.