Flashing my winnings (a grand total of $15)

The Race That Stops A Nation.

That is what they call it over here: The Melbourne Cup. It’s like Ascot and the Grand National for Australians. It’s big. In Victoria it’s a National Holiday while the rest of the country takes a long weekend (bank holiday to us English-folk). So what did we do? We donned our spring festival dresses, clipped on some fancy headwear and went to gamble our limited backpacker funds away. Who said travellers can’t be classy too?

From Flinders Street Station to Flemington Race Course we travelled amongst the prim and the proper, admiring the dresses and gawping at the fascinators (not all good may I add *see feathery Mohawk.)

I am not ashamed to say that my day involved more socialising than photography, so I have scoured the internet for a few of the beauties we saw. Needless to say they were far superior clothing-wise, but I'm ready to bet that we had far more fun.

So here we go: Meet my New Hostel Babes. #theonlywayismelbs

(I just realised that, after an entire day at the races, I didn't get one picture of a horse.)

Gangsters looking Dapper

A few babes from the 1940's of course

Excuse my wonky surround photos - I'm only little!

Some of the more...extravagant headwear...

I didn't win. 

What am I wearing? Well there is a little known Brand call Zara...oh no wait. Everything I wear is from there. Including the shoes, dress and bag from the pictures. Original no?


Brave New World #1

(Please forgive my failure to publish this when I wrote it - no wifi and too much fun simply got in my way!)

Thursday afternoon. I arrived only on Tuesday morning. This city - full of graffiti stained alleyways and smiling locals - has been pulling out all the stops to charm and woo me since my plane first set down. I have fallen in Love.
First things first – the pilot from Singapore Airport announces that arriving in Melbourne we will find, not bright sunshine and beaches galore, but rain. And lot’s of it. Queue collective groan from the passengers on board. As we dipped beneath the clouds I discovered he was right – Australia bears very little difference to our own countryside on a rainy day. It could quite easily be mistaken for the South Downs as you fly into Gatwick on a February morning. Depressing no? I DID NOT COME HERE FOR RAIN.
After a gruelling 24 hour flight in which I was perched next to an overweight Chinese man I found myself helping an Indian couple fill out their landing declarations and find bilingual customs officials. Despite Australia’s reputation as possessing the harshest immigrations laws in the world, passing through customs was a breeze. Within an hour of landing I was sitting on my SkyBus and weaving through the early morning rush hour in search of my new home, Home@The Mansion Hostel.
That morning involved running around the city, organising my new life down under, visiting banks, Medicare offices, phone companies and visitor centres. Something that struck me even on that first morning was that Melbourne is wonderfully efficient. Queues are no longer a hassle. Waiting is a comfort. Bank managers, sales people, even street sellers trying to sign you up to a charity – they are all perfectly delightful. I have yet to meet anyone having difficulty with any Australian official – Come on England, learn from the aussies, don’t let us down!
Before you choose Australia you hear a lot about the laid-back characters, the focus on a real work-life balance. Now I haven’t got a job yet, so I won’t claim to know much about that. But I haven’t seen a single person look stressed yet. Not one. Everyone walks around smiling, chatting or in their own little world plugged into phones and ipods. A welcome change from the 5pm tubes of London where grumpiness is a necessary accessory to survival.
So what have I learnt? A few tips for the aspiring adventurer can’t hurt anyone so here we go:

Bank accounts:
You can set them up when you get here but I found it much easier to do it from home – my cards were waiting for me at the branch that very first morning and there has been no need to hide a massive amount of cash from the prying hands of a 12 bed dorm room. I went with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia – Jobs4Travellers.com have a deal where, for £35 you get your bank an TFN set up before you land, access to a jobs board, free international transfers and a tax refund service upon departure in a year or so.  Yes, I know you can do the majority for free but I found that paying that extra for the service has saved me many many headaches. Also - when doing it this way CommBank waive the monthly $12 fee to keep the account open! And there are so many cashpoints around for this bank (if you use other bank points you get charged the cheeky buggers)!

Note: try to organise your international money transfer before you leave the UK – I have met people who are on the phone to banks in the UK every night trying to get access to their money and are still stuck over a week later! If you get it sorted before it leaves more time to chill and drink goon (oh the goon) when you arrive!

I did a little research before I came down, and asked around once I had got here, looking for the best phone deal to include texts, calls and plenty of data for my twitter/instagram addictions.  One that kept popping up with mixed reviews was an all inclusive bundle from Aldi Mobile. So I thought, why not. Lets do it. I wandered the city in search of the Aldi, collecting blisters upon blisters along the way, only to find setting up the sim is a real pain in the ass. They don’t do it in store for you, so you need access to the internet or patience to call and set up everything over the phone. And they need s*** loads of identification. A few hours in, a lessening phone battery later, I wandered into my second choice shop: Optus. I’d heard a lot about Optus – they had good signal, they were decently priced, reliable. I asked a sales girl what my best option was and within minutes she had picked out a  plan perfect for me. Unlimited free social media, 500mb of data, 250mins calls to international mobiles and unlimited calls to other Optus customers. For $30 a month. Pretty awesome I think. Since then everyone I have spoken to seems to be with Optus. Free calls and texts to all my new Australian friends? Don’t mind if I do.

One of the bonuses about Australia is that it has some sort of reciprocal health agreement with the UK and a load of other countries so that you are entitled to free basic health care down under. Not to say don’t get insurance – it can get very very expensive down here. A guy was carried to hospital by friends the other night because, had they called the ambulance, he would have faced a $2000 bill the next morning. (I think he was fine.) Setting up Medicare takes no time at all – I simply wandered into an office with my passport and visa, filled in a form and within the next 10 days or so a card shall have arrived at my hostel and I’m ready to go!

So there it is – a 48-hour introduction to my new favourite city. And I haven’t even been out on the town yet. Or found a job. Or made any real solid friends. And yet I don’t really care – everyone I have met has been kind, hilarious and welcoming. This, my friends, shall be a very, very good year.


Its a Jumbalaya kinda time

Quite easily my favourite meal at the moment, Jumbalaya satisfies my carb, veg and spice cravings in each and every bite, as well as being immensely fun to say. 

Not as complicated as you may think, this dish reminds me of a bolognese: throw in what you have because as long as the core ingredients are there, it will be fantastic. 

Also - one of those great dishes where you can cook up a giant bowl and heat up/eat cold whenever fancy takes you. 

Essential ingredients: 

Chicken breast, diced (400g or whatever the packet says)
Spanish Chorizo (100g)
Chillies (3-4)
Garlic (4-6 cloves)
Tomato Passante (750ml for 3-4 people)
Brown/White/Wild Rice (around 150g for 3-4 people)

blah blah blah - you get the idea. 

For funs sake, I'm going to throw it all in. I'm hungry, of course. 

Chop up the veg whichever way you like. Personally I like my Garlic crushed, my peppers chunky, my onions diced and everything else sliced. 

Throw your diced chicken into the pan with olive oil and chorizo, adding the chillies, garlic and onions as and when you like until browned and healthily cooked. By cooking together the chicken seems to absorb the flavours, almost like a fake marinade. 

I like spicy so I throw 3-4 chillies in for a non-mindblowing-but-still-has-a-kick flavour. 

Add your fancier veg or whatever you are putting in. season with your Chilli Powder, Oregano and paprika to taste. 

Once all is cooked together pour in the tomato passante and bring it to a boil.

Next throw in the uncooked rice, put a lid over the pan and leave for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent any burning. The rice will cook in the passante and all of the flavours will explode in the grains - tasty. 

This is not an exact recipe - as often I do, the amounts depend on your own preference and tastes. Play around with it - this is really an ultimate meal.

We were hungry so I forgot to take actual meal photos - here are the leftovers! 


If you go down to the woods today...

Top (Topshop); Skirt (HM Trend); Necklace (Topshop); Shoes (Converse); Scarf (Vintage Market); Nail Varnish (Roccoco); Rings (Collection of Vintage)