Sunday, 9 July 2017

Four Seasons in one day at the NGV

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder (beer holder?). Same must be said for art.  Some people visit art galleries and spend hours in front of a painting or a piece of art, deep in thought, chin in hand.  I'm not sure what they're contemplating (did I turn off the iron, do these jeans make my bum look big), I'm not one of those people.  I mean, I don't contemplate art, my bum in jeans is another story.

That's not to say I don't like art and I have visited my fair share of galleries around the world.  Some because they are famous and I love the building, others are small local galleries and some because you just need to get out rain/sun.   I've seen some amazing pieces and I've seen plenty of crap that just makes you say WTF?  But someone must like it right, so who am I to judge? Art knowledge, minimal. 

The NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) is one of those must sees and over the years we've visited a few times and seen various exhibitions.  It's certainly worth a few hours, just looking at the permanent exhibits.  Today we went to see Van Gogh (the Dutch pronunciation is ‘fun gokh’ but apparently ‘Vahn Goff’ is okay) and the SeasonsApt, as Melbourne is known to have four seasons in one day.  I can't say I knew too much about the artist other than he was Dutch, painted 'The Starry Night' and yellow sunflowers, cut off his ear and shot himself.    

Today was officially the last day, although it has been extended to the end of the week.  So it was BUSY.  Opened at 8am and although we had pre-purchased our tickets, we had timed entry at 10am.  Note to self, go to these sorts of things early on and preferably during the week. 

So what did I learn? He wasn't crazy or a poor, starving artist and although he spent sometime in an asylum, he admitted himself. He painted 850 painting and 1200 drawings - not bad for a ten year career. Apparently he cut off his left ear after a confrontation with his flatmate at the time, the artist Paul Gauguin. I can see it now, "fuck Vincent, I've told you a 1000 times don't leave your dirty brushes in the bathroom sink, you lazy SOB".  And then it just got out of hand and out came the razor. These artistic types are very temperamental.

A depressed, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver at age 37 and died from his injuries two days later on 29 July 1890.

As for the art, thoroughly enjoyed it - even if it was only a minute or two at each piece.  Surprisingly I recognised a fair few.   Also surprisingly you could take pictures.  Sign of the times when a sign stated that selfie sticks not permitted.  Also interesting that many people seemed to just take a photo and keep walking.  Art through a mobile phone. 

Following our morning of culture, we had a walk along the Art Centre Sunday market and lunch at Emporium.  Sat right next to Charlie & Co. Burgers and DID NOT EAT ONE.  Even though they are on the list.  Was I sick? Nope, had burgers last night (new burger place in Hampton - Top Burger), so thought two in a row might be a bit much.  Noodles I had were good, but should have had the burger. 

An enjoyable winter Sunday.

Monday, 3 July 2017

A day out with Jordan and Jason

Kids these days have heaps of toys, so what to "buy" Jordan and Jason for their 6th birthday? With buy less stuff firmly in mind, we decided to give them a day out.  A day out for them and a day off for their parents - win win. The big question was, would we survive? 

Precision planning was required.  We would collect them at 9.30am.  OK, let's make it 9.25am to have time for a quick coffee with Jing and Jose.  When we arrived, they were already running around (Jordan and Jason, not Jose and Jing) like, well like 2 energetic, normal 6 year olds, with Yoyo (lab) bounding around between them. Just another Sunday morning in the 4 J's household.

Right, quick car swap (no child seats in the ute), strap in and we were off.  LEGOLAND Discovery Centre here we come!  As we pulled away, there was the distinct shout of "yippee we're free" coming from the house.  Must have been the radio.

Lots of singing and shouting in the car - and that was just me.  Hang on a minute, we were going in the wrong direction.  With all the excitement, Emilio was heading towards Southland instead of Chaddie.  Woops, OK, no problem, we had plenty of time.  All good.

Pre-booking was a good idea.  Only 10.15am and the place was already busy.  But with tickets already clutched in our hands, we were through! When I say "we" I mean Jordan, Jason and I.  Emilio had spotted the Samsung shop and decided I should have the honour of going in with them (we only had 1 adult ticket).  BTW, this place has a no child, no entry rule - which I guess is a good idea and stops childless weirdos.  Feel a bit sorry for all the adult Lego weirdos out there - and it must have been and issue, because they have adult Lego nights.  I wander if they serve bubbles?

First stop is a 'space station" where you make Lego men and stuff.  With the kids at the consoles, I took the time to arrange, discarded jackets, scarves, water bottles, bits given to us on entry, leashes, poo bags, no sorry, these were kids, not dogs (although there were some kids there that could have done with being on a leash)  Not used to all this additional baggage.  OK short line up to climb aboard a little car thing where you go along and shoot the baddies (sorry Orks, geez) to save the princess.  This was fun and OK the competitive nature in me came out and although I told them that it was a draw, I whipped their butts at shooting baddies Orcs! 

The model display of Melbourne with lights showing for day and night and lots of moving parts, is pretty amazing.  4D movie time - I love 4D movies, complete with water so yay! Into the main Lego workshop.  You know that nightmare when you get up in the middle of the night to go for a wee and step on a Lego piece in bare feet?  Well multiply that by 1,000.  Prepared for battle, I had worn my trusty Doc Martens, so feet were protected. 

First couple of stations were a couple of ramps where you built "cars" or simply joined wheels and had a race with your fellow Lego heads.  Jordan and Jason got to work.  Kids being kids, they all soon had their little gangs and posse's formed.  New BFF's bonding over Lego.  After 10 minutes, I suggested moving stations.  No movement.  After 20 minutes, I went over and checked out the "workshops". Did they want to join one? Nope all good.  40 minutes, maybe a play on the slides and bouncy things or a go on the Lego Ride? There was no dragging them away.  How on earth was I going to go and get to play on the other stuff? 

The competitors look says it all
This bit goes here

Resigned to my fate at station 1, I watched as contraptions were hurled down the ramp.  I attempted to build a Batmobile. Obviously failed Lego 101 as a kid - my flatmobile lost a wheel on it's first run.  Snotty 4 year old showed me the piece I was supposed to have holding the wheels together.  Hate smart alecs. Threw it back into the piece pile in a huff and went and sat by myself.

At 1.00pm, hunger won out.  Not before the obligatory walk through the shop to exit.  Why do places do that?  Of course we all know why, but to their credit J&J were pretty good.  A last play with the large Lego blocks outside and to the food hall.  If I thought LEGOLAND was busy, the food hall was chaos.  We spotted a free table, we saw 2 little old ladies making a beeline towards it, we sprinted, leapt over 2 occupied tables and beat them to it. Avoided filthy looks from little old ladies - it's a dog eat dog world out there, sometimes the needs of two 6 year olds, wins out over manners. Success we had a table! Lunch and ice cream, Check. BTW, Gammi chicken that we had a few weeks ago, much nicer than Nene chicken.

Off to Target to buy 2 Lego Batman tops with capes.  Bugger, they didn't have any in my size.  Came out with 1 said Lego Batman shirt and 1 Spiderman one, sans cape. OK, so there was a small pressie to remember their day.

By the time we went home, it was freezing outside and too cold to take them fishing, which had been the plan.  Plan B.  Put on cartoons and cuddled up under the blanket with a hot chocolate.

Yes, we survived. No injuries, no visits to the lost kids department, no vomits, no tantrums.  Emi did really well.  As for the kids, good as gold and we all had a fun day which is what it was all about. As for Jose and Jing, well they had a great day too.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Prahran Market Hidden Gems Market Tour - FREE!

We spent nearly 7 years in living in South Yarra/Prahran, including living at the back of Prahran Market, about a 3 minute walk away.  We nibbled our way around on a fair few Saturday's, but pretty much took it for granted.  Since leaving the area (wow it's been nearly 6 years), we've probably only visited a few times. So when I heard 2 of my favourite words "free and tour", I thought, gotta do that - and of course added it to the list!  Speaking of which I have no idea what's happened to my lists - they've gone wonky (too many bubbles maybe, my new addiction).  And as I am absolutely hopeless when it comes to all things technical, might just have to start again. But that's for another day.

So I booked myself into one of the free Prahran Market tours and on this freezing cold, but beautifully sunny winter's day headed off.  Our group of around 10 met our lovely guide Giovanna and after a quick rundown on the history of the market.

First established back in 1864, makes it Melbourne’s oldest Market.  Back then it was smaller and actually in Prahran before moving to its current location on Commercial Road in South Yarra in 1891.  Yep, that's right, Prahran Market is actually not in Prahran!  Over the years it's been extended and renovated and the fruit and veggie section was gutted by fire on Boxing Day in 1950.
The ‘60s migrant explosion meant plenty of new produce being available at the market. Since then it has become a mecca for foodies looking for hard-to-find ingredients and today it remains a community of highly skilled traders and specialty stores. 

Look at that jamon!
Large (free) shopping bags in hand we set off to smell, taste and chat to a few of the stall owners.  Hot gozleme straight off the grill, cheeses, dips, mussels and baklava. On through the seafood and meat hall (plenty of free samples along the way being cooked up on the BBQ's) and a quick tea stop before heading into fruit and veg.  There really is an amazing assortment of things, some that I have never heard of before.

Tea tastings for all - they even do tea ceremonies
Highlight was meeting and chatting to Damian Pike the Mushroom Man (loved his apron, it declared him a "Fun Gi"). Tempted by the Chanterelles, imported from France, but at $150 kg, maybe next time.  Apparently they are delicious cooked with butter, butter, butter, pepper and just a bit more butter.  And we all know that lots of butter makes everything taste pretty delicious.

AKA as Fingered Citron, one of the oldest citrus fruits

With that our tour came to an end (around an hour and fifteen minutes) and it was time to head over to Casa Delicatess that I'd spotted when I went in and tried some of their fabulous chorizo, jamon and queso.  Lots of yummy Spanish and South American goodies, so I did an Emilio and spent $100.   Just made up some hot chocolate with a Mexican chocolate "tablet' and OMG it is good.

All up, fabulous.  Had forgotten how much fun the Prahran Market was and what an amazing  range of produce they have. So as Molly would say, do yourselves a favour and book in to do this tour.

Tickets: FREE Book here.
When: First Saturday of every month, at 12 noon.
Duration: 1 hour'ish
Includes: A guided tour, a Prahran Market Shopping Bag and some exclusive tastings

Very tempted to pop back next Sunday 9 July for their Truffle & Charcuterie Celebration.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Dialogue in the Dark

A different idea for lunchtime today (and not on this years list, so a bonus).  Elizabeth and I headed off to Harbour Town (Docklands) and gave Dialogue in the Dark a go. The concept was developed in Germany back in 1988 and has since grown to being "shown" in 42 countries with Melbourne starting up this month.

So what is it?  Well it's a unique experience that aims to raise awareness for those living with blindness and also creates employment opportunities. Arrived knowing that we would be walking around in the dark, but with no real idea of what to expect.  For a start, it's all indoors and safe - no real danger of running into a door and breaking your nose (unless you were really clumsy, but then that could happen in the light as well).

We were each (there were 4 of us in our group) given a white cane, warned to not wave it around too vigorously (shin whacks to be avoided) and led into the dark where we were introduced to our lovely guide Beth.   And off we went, visiting a "park" and various other Melbourne iconic spots (won't give it away).  At first you just want to hang on to the handrail, and your eyes are straining to see (it really is pitch black) but after a few minutes, it becomes easy enough to let go and feel your way around. 

The surprising thing is that you do start to listen to background noises and quickly work out voices and where people are.  If you're claustrophobic or don't like bumping into strangers (no groping now), then it might not be your thing, but I found it interesting.  By feel we were able to pick out all sorts including fruit and veggies as well as ordinary things found around Melbourne.  No nasty surprises. 

Beth took us back to her "apartment" and I could swear there was the smell of baking, but apparently no it's just the senses playing suggestive tricks on us!  We then just sat and chatted and she was happy to answer our questions about her blindness (she actually has a small amount vision) and what it's like living with vision impairment. 

It's a humbling experience and certainly makes you appreciate sight and that we sometimes take our senses for granted.  Is it worth doing? Absolutely, it helps to break down barriers in a fun and friendly way. 

Oh yes, one thing I wanted to know, should you offer help?  Would it offend a vision impaired person? Beth advised that sure, there is nothing wrong with going up to anyone and asking if they need help.  She did say, please don't grab them by the arm (or any body part for that matter) though, without speaking first! She got a shock when someone grabbed her suddenly as she was boarding a tram to help her off, that she slipped and broke her ankle.   The guy's response, "you wouldn't have slipped if you'd asked for help!"

Sunday, 18 June 2017

A Dog's Purpose - part 2

Never did find out how or why the free tickets to go and see "A Dog's Purpose" arrived a few days after losing my bubba Lucas.  Finally went and saw it today.  Didn't get great reviews, but we really enjoyed it and yes, we balled our eyes out.  OK, so Bailey is a sweet golden retriever, but he still reminded us of Lucas and the special bond that we have with our beloved fur-babies. 

Did Lucas have a purpose?  He sure did.  He brought us joy, happiness, love, laughter and tears.  Dogs remind us to live for today, to live in the moment, to run and play and lick the ones you love.  Because life is short and one day, they're gone. 

As the films flyer says "Every dog happens for a purpose" although our free tickets card had the words "Some pets stay with you forever". Another mystery that can stay that way.

So this afternoon, with the sun shining we decided that the housework could most definitely wait and that taking Lola to the beach to watch the sunset was far more important. 

And it was.

Have burgers had their day in the sun?  Fried chicken has always been around, but seems to be trying to muscle in on the action as the next big thing.  Gami chicken has been around for a while, but one has just opened in Southland and I've been wanting to try it for a while.  Delish, but there will always be room for a good burger!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

The ANZ Gothic Bank

A sunny Friday lunchtime in June.  Nothing much on and fancied a walk so took a look at the list for a bit of inspiration and headed out to visit the ANZ Banking Museum.  Now I've walked past this building on the corner of Queen Street and Collins Street many times and thought to myself it's a beautiful old building, but haven't given it much thought and had never been inside. Time to remedy that.
The ANZ Gothic Bank as it's called (yes really) is made up of two buildings. The former English, Scottish and Australian (ES&A) Bank on the corner and the former Melbourne Stock Exchange.  In 1923 the two buildings were renovated and combined, and became known as the 'Gothic Bank.' Love it. They've since been restored as ANZ World Headquarters. 
So, down the stairs to the slightly tacky ANZ Banking Museum (free).  Old money boxes, a few old adding machines and a bit of money history.  Not that exciting, but the lovely attendant down there (who was looking rather thrilled to have someone visiting) came over for a chat. 
Good thing, because I hadn't thought to actually go into the buildings themselves.
Does your bank branch have ceilings like these
The ground floor is open to the public as it is a functioning branch of the ANZ .  Gorgeous iron columns, wooden benches and beautifully painted ceilings. Really rather special. 

Then into the Cathedral Room in the former Stock Exchange building and wow!  It was originally the main trading room of the Stock Exchange, with six granite columns, carved arched ceilings a  beautiful stained glass window and gorgeous floor tiles.  Not sure if it is used for anything these days as it's empty, but if you've never stuck your
The stunning Cathedral Room
head in for a look - it is well worth it.  
A pleasant way to spend a lunchtime, beats sitting at your desk and a tick off the list!   Happy Days.


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Expat Life

You’ve retired. The kids have all left home and you’re sitting inside on a cold, wet winter’s day. All of a sudden memories of swaying palm trees, sunny days by the pool with a cocktail in hand spring to mind. Let’s face it, who hasn’t been somewhere on holiday and daydreamed about what it would be like to sell up, pack up and live overseas?

Warmer climates, a relaxed lifestyle, a lower cost of living and more bang for your buck are some of the reason retirees are choosing the expat lifestyle and moving overseas. However, the decision should not be taken lightly and no matter how attractive that luxurious beach side villa looks, financial reasons should not be the only deciding factor. 

If you don’t have a real desire to experience another culture, a good sense of humour, the ability to fit in and learn new ways and a lot of patience, your dream life, no matter how “cheap” that bungalow cost, may turn into a nightmare.

So what are the most popular destinations for Australian’s and how do you choose which country is right for you? There would certainly appear to be a bias towards our nearest neighbors, Asia. Memories of previous overseas trips, the relatively close proximity to family and friends, warm weather and a cheaper cost of living are certainly attractive to many wanting to live the permanent holiday dream.

For others it’s a call to return to the “home country.” This home country may not even be your own, but of your ancestors and the attraction is still there.

So where to start? Below is a list of places that you may have on your bucket list to consider and are a good place to start your considerations.

Indonesia – In particular Bali
With an already strong expat community, its relative proximity to Australia, fabulous food and a warm tropical climate – what’s not to love?

Another expat hotspot, Thailand offers a wide range of exotic options from big bustling cities, to relaxed island life or the cooler mountainous north. Plenty of activities available, warm and friendly locals and cheap to live. 

A destination offering everything from its busy capital Kuala Lumpur, to lush tropical islands and even mist enshrouded rainforests. As a former British colony, English is widely spoken and this is another inexpensive place to live.

Cheap prices on everything, amazing food and culture and a warm tropical climate have made Vietnam a fast rising popular choice for Australians looking to retire on a budget. 

With life in the Philippines all about family values and so many Filipinos living in Australia, it’s no surprise that many choose to return to this country, of beautiful beaches, great water activities and lower cost of living.  

New Zealand
Near and yet far enough. Similar, but different. New Zealand is proving to be a popular and easy choice for Australians. Just try watching Lord of the Rings and not be swept away by the stunning landscapes. And they wear jandals – that’s thongs to you and I.

Spain, France and Italy
The plethora of books available on living la vida loca, la dolce vita and la belle vie have long attracted retirees to small villages throughout these Mediterranean countries. With beautiful beaches, good health care, a temperate climate and glorious food, it is easy to see the appeal. Although not as cheap as many of the other options, there are still housing bargains to be had away from the populated coast and large cities and the rural grow your own lifestyle certainly evokes a romantic image of bliss.

Where would you choose? What criteria would be the most important? And most importantly, how many pairs of bathers will you need?