Saturday, June 21, 2008

Visiting NO- ME

Last weekend was another good one. On Friday night, I attended my second footy game and the Bombers won! I just may be their good luck charm, as I've been present at two of their three victories this season. Just waiting for the Footy club to offer me season tickets.We beat the West Coast Eagles from Perth and it was a heavy pro-Essendon crowd. It's always fun to win and I'm starting to understand the game a little better.

Saturday, I travelled to unknown territory. Melbourne is divided by the curving, snake-like Yarra river, a brownish body of water that separates northerners from those of us here on the south. People take pride in their side of the river, and, much like the US Civil War, such territorial pride has been known to pit brother against brother, tearing families apart.

Well, perhaps not. Though the weather in Melbourne is such that it is possible for the North to be blue and the South to be gray at the same time.

I can't say I've never been north of the Yarra before. The CBD is on the north side of the river and I've spent plenty of time downtown. But the so-called suburbs of the north have a personality of their own and until last Saturday, I'd not experienced this.

St. Kilda, the hip neighborhood near me, offers bars and nightclubs with the beach close at hand. The gentrifying neighborhoods are a mix of Frum Jews, smack addicts and too-cool hipsters. The northern suburbs of Fitzroy, on the other hand, are close to the University of Melbourne and have a definite bohemian flair. While St. Kilda back alleys are littered with random syringes and the corners are doted with Methadone clinics and hip clothing stores, in Fitzroy you're more likely to find the ends of joints on the street, with veggie cuisine and incense shops selling environmental bumper stickers lining the footpaths. For lack of a better description, Fitzroy definitely had a more Boulder feel.

In any case, I'd been anxious to visit this boho paradise, since that is a little more my style than the hip and cool trendiness of my 'hood. We arrived in the early afternoon and first wandered around Smith street, where the aforementioned incense stores compete with athletic brand factory outlets vying for attention. After getting Adi some new runners (aka running sneakers), we went for a bite to eat at Soul Food Cafe, a vegetarian hodgepodge where we combined an Asian salad, a Thai style curry and a Greek pastry. I thought it was delicious; Adi wanted some meat.

From there, it was time to head towards Brunswick street, perhaps the most active strip in Melbourne, complete with restaurants, funky shops and bars. We went to a bar called "The Laundry" which offers live Jazz every Saturday arvo. We met up with two of Adi's friends from his previous grad program; they all used to hang out at The Laundry back in their Victorian College of the Arts (VCA, a school at Melbourne Uni) days.

I had never met Martin or Dani (or her husband Josh) and it was nice to meet some new folks. Dani's friend Kate was visiting from Sydney. She and I bonded instantly when we discovered that neither of us liked the Sex and the City movie, so I now have a pal in Sydney! The six of us spent a fun afternoon downing some pots (small glasses of beer- I even had one!) and listening to music as well as laughing quite a bit.

Martin in particular proved to be a formidable challenge in the humour department and we covered a variety of topics, including facebook self-destruction, how zoos acquire elephant semen and the Aussie version of Romper Room. I'm certain most of these jokes were location based, so I'll spare the retelling and saying "guess you had to be there", but suffice it to say, we laughed a lot!

Josh is an actor and had to depart early for a call and Martin had to ride his slightly over-sized bike to a mate's party, so when the music ended, Kate and Dani and Adi and I wandered down Brunswick street. Feeling decadent we decided to whet our appetite for dinner by having dessert first- the joy of being a grown up!

We ducked into the Italian inspired Cafe Nova where the more than generous slices of cake beckoned. Dani chose the banana caramel cake while Adi and I selected the chocolate mousse mountain. Unfortunately, the deliciousness of our selection suffered when Adi extracted a long blond hair from his mouth. They offered another piece so, in spite of being full from the few bites we'd already had, Adi chose the Cherry Ripe cake, named after an Australian candy bar. Its a chocolate, coconut, cherry concoction and we took most of it to go (to those of you paying attention, yes, they let us take it with us!) You can see in the photos that these cakes would have sufficed as a substitute for dinner rather than a precursor.

But Adi and I being who we are, we had to enjoy the culinary offerings of the neighborhood. We said farewell to Kate and Dani and proceeded to a gourmet Italian spot, Casa Farro (technically in Carlton, the next suburb over,, whose whitewashed walls and curved archways reminded me a bit of Di Napoli in Boulder. This restaurant offered the best service I've had since arriving here. This isn't saying much. In a non-tipping culture, the wait staff doesn't generally come back to check on your meal but in this case they did. My gourmet pizza with ricotta, walnut oil and pumpkin was yummy so I had no complaints. We exercised great restraint by resisting the desserts on offer here and called it a day.

It was a good one, we agreed, as we drove back down south.

This specialty Lolly-shop window on Smith street
caught my eye and reminded me of some of the
candy I've been missing. But $5 for a Reese's seemed
like a bit much to pay for a migraine.

Dani, Adi, Martin and Kate

Dani and her banana caramel cake

Adi shows off both of our choices- the Mousse Mountain and the Cherry Ripe. YUM!

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