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First Summer in Melbs

Although we're now officially in fall, the past couple months we've been enjoying our first summer in Melbourne. Summer here is certainly a mixed bag when it comes to weather - 100F one day, 65F the next. Plus it's not unusual for it to be in the low 50's in the early morning. Let's just say, Greg is LOVING it!  Especially since it’s relatively low humidity most of the time.

After the excitement of the Pokémon tournament, Greg has joined the discord for the "who's who" of Pokémon Go players down under and has enjoyed getting to know the people better and following their various activities elsewhere. He's already been able to play in one more local tournament, albeit quite a bit smaller than the regional one in Feburary, but he’s keeping an eye out for more events so hopefully more to come soon.

One Saturday we took a day trip to Ballart, a gold-mining turned college-town about an hour and a half NW of Melbourne. We started at an aviation museum which had a

surprisingly large inventory of aircraft parts, including an engine from Greg's former company, Pratt & Whitney, which was pretty cool to see. We then ventured into town for a quick lunch before arriving at the main event of our day: Sovereign Hill. For those familiar, it's similar to Old Sturbridge Village in Mass in that they recreate a town from a certain time period, this one being from the gold mining days in the late 1800's. The Victoria goldfield is the site of the largest gold nugget ever found globally, although it was unfortunately broken down into pieces at the time so it no longer exists in its full form. We were able to go on an underground mine tour and, the coolest part of our day, was watching a real gold bar melted down and reformed. The color is absolutely incredible at that high of a heat - literally glowing! We then ended our day in Ballart with a drink at a cool little alley brewery downtown before heading home.

The next weekend Al met up with some friends at the St. Kilda music festival and had

flashbacks to when she attended the same festival with roommates back in 2011 while on her working holiday visa. The festival of course involves a few stages with various music artists performing all day (none that Al had heard of), but also some rides and lots of food and shopping stalls. All in all, a nice little festival!

A couple weeks later, Greg signed us up for an Indigenous tour at the nearby Royal Botanical Gardens. We'd been to the gardens before, but this tour provided deeper insights on the landscape’s history and traditional plant use by the local First Nations people.  We even got to taste a few things straight out of the ground!  Including a reed-like plant that tasted just like snow peas.  It was a memorable and unique way to learn more about all the history in this land.

March saw the return of our(/Al’s) couchsurfing activities.  Al has been involved in the community since the late 2000’s, but hasn’t hosted or surfed in years.  Now that we’re living in a city again (and also we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic or living at a hotel) she decided to get back into it!  We welcomed our first surfer, a woman from Malaysia, who stayed with us for 4 days in our second bedroom.  She and Al went to the local couchsurfing meet-up and Al remembered how fun it was to chat with like-minded friendly travelers!  Hopefully, she can make that a regular thing and perhaps convince Greg to come along too.

The same week the couchsurfer was staying, Al also volunteered at the local Moomba

Festival.  It’s essentially a large carnival with lots of games, rides, food, and entertainment.  Unfortunately for Al, and more so for the runners of the event, Melbourne weather decided to be hot hot hot all weekend of the festival.  We’re talking three straight days at 95-100F which is not optimal carnival weather to say the least.  So, perhaps not the most regular festival volunteering experience, but Al was happy to chat with other volunteers and participate in the “dance hub” doing kid’s yoga, hula-hooping, and African dancing.  Luckily, she also had a shift in the info booth which had air con, although you could only really feel it from one spot in the booth so turns had to be taken.  All in all a good time!

Ok, now what you’ve all been waiting for: an update on Greg’s basketball situation. Happy to say that they found him a spot!  Hooray!  He now plays with a group of guys every Thursday night.  They had a bit of a rough start to the season, losing their first couple games, but they’ve started to get their footing and absolutely demolished the other team last week (like, embarrassingly so.. even Greg felt bad, and that’s saying something!).  He’s enjoying getting back to the game and getting some exercise in as well so that’s been good. Greg's also been busy watching March Madness and even though he misses many of the morning games due to the time difference, he's able to still get a full day of watching in. Not that his bracket - regular or death (where he selects the winner based on who's mascot would win in a fight to the death) - has any chance at this point. (Greg edit... at the time of writing, UConn is still in it so I DO have a shot!)

The latest and greatest this week is one of Greg’s close friends from Bristol, the one and only Tim Wang, was here down under!  He came with a couple other guys from Bristol to do

a road trip around the Great Ocean Road, but we got the chance to hang out with him on the weekends while they were in Melbourne. Their first full day here we grabbed brunch then wandered the Queen Vic Market before they had to hit the road. When they were back the next weekend we headed down to the St. Kilda beach area for lunch and drinks then Greg took the guys out for a night on the town down in Southbank. For Easter we took a fun private boat tour on the Yarra River before watching the sunset over the Docklands at Marvel Stadium. The next day we cooked up a large breakfast before showing them around the CBD and visiting the Shrine of Remembrance. Unfortunately, it started pouring rain when we got to the Royal Botanical Gardens, but turns out it was closing early anyways so we headed out for an early dinner on Hardware Lane for their last night. So glad they came!

That’s all for now!

Greg panning for gold

Exploring Sovereign Hill

Freshly poured gold bar

Old school bowling lanes

Fun alley covering in Ballarat

Little alleyway pub in Ballarat

Al with a boomerang!

Greg with a boomerang!

Moomba volunteers group pic

Water jet show at the Moomba fest
Grabbing beers at the iconic Esplanade Hotel, aka The Espy, in St. Kilda

Tim forgot sunglasses

Another great group shot

View from the Shrine of Remembrance

Loving the street art welcome sign

Trivia night

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