Australia Fun

Neighbours studio tour

Just a quick post about the best Wednesday of my life so far – the day we went on a Neighbours studio tour!

Filming on the street
Filming on the street!

We hopped on the official tour bus on Flinders Street like last time, but this time when we got to the street they were actually filming! We saw a car reverse several times, and amongst all the crew members we could literally see Terese and Brad Willis, Lauren Turner and Paige. And at one point Mark Brennan (Scott McGregor in real life – here shown talking to the car) even jogged up to us to say hello!

Then we hopped back on the bus to go to the studio. Like last time, Alan Fletcher was there to greet everyone, have photos taken and sign autographs. But unlike last time he then escorted us off for our studio tour…!

Without further ado we walked straight into the studio and saw a real life scene being filmed. (I can’t divulge too much about it because we signed a confidentiality agreement thing, but it’s probably ok to say that none other than Lou and Sheila were in it!)

When Fletch walked in all the crew members started shouting ‘Alan, Alan, Alan!’ (like the hilarious talking meerkat) and it was lovely to see that Neighbours is clearly a fun place to work where everyone really does get along. But when they’re filming it’s all pretty intense – everything out of shot is silent and dark, while the scene itself is brightly lit and the actors and crew are 100% in the zone!

Toadie and Sonya's place!
Toadie and Sonya’s place!

After that scene Fletch showed us round some of the other sets, and even took a photo of us sitting on Toadie and Sonya’s couch! Then it was time for lunch in the cafeteria, where we saw Lou again, and Scott Major (who played Lucas Fitzgerald but is now a director). We then saw, and even spoke to/shook hands with, Susan Kennedy, Paul Robinson and Toadie! I also spotted Matt Turner coming out of a dressing room, Terese again (back from the street now), and Alex reckons he saw Daniel Robinson twice!

Last but not least we got to check out Sonya’s Nursery and the whole Lassiters/Harold’s Store/Waterhole/Lake complex, and we also peered over a fence into the back yard of number 26!

Fletch and Alex outside The Waterhole
Fletch and Alex outside The Waterhole

The whole morning was a dream come true and I loved every minute of it!

Australia Fun Travel/holiday

Sydney vs Melbourne

Melbourne coffee snobWe finally did it – we departed our beloved Melbourne for a few days in Sydney to see what Australia’s most iconic city has to offer. And it turns out the answer is HEAPS!

We were staying in a funky studio in Surry Hills, courtesy of Airbnb, and the location was perfection. There was a fantastic independent coffee shop just up the road (very important for a Melbourne coffee snob like Alex!) and everything we needed for the weekend was right on our doorstep.

On our first afternoon we had lunch at said coffee shop, then walked to and through the Botanical Gardens, and before we knew it we were on the steps of the magnificent Opera House. After taking plenty of photos we decided to celebrate our 9th anniversary in style – with a lovely glass of sparkling wine overlooking the Harbour Bridge at sunset!

Harbour Bridge at sunset
Harbour Bridge at sunset

Later that evening we stopped for a cocktail at Hinky Dinks – highly recommended for the 1950s decor, attentive service and tasty concoctions. So far we were loving Sydney (sorry Melbourne!) – everything was just so picturesque and iconic and interesting and breathtaking.

The next day we hopped on a bus to Coogee and did the coastal walk up to Bondi. Although we were fully prepared for an off-road hike, clothed as we were in walking shoes and outdoorsy attire, the walk was actually paved and pretty flat, so we felt pretty daft. We stopped for lunch at Bronte, another lovely little beachside suburb (but with BIG waves that day!), and then carried on to Bondi. The beach was practically deserted (as you’d expect on a chilly winter’s day), but we did see the lifeguard station from Bondi Rescue, which reassured us that this was in fact the same beach that is famously packed all summer long!

That evening we found ourselves in need of another cocktail, so we dressed up a bit and headed to Eau-de-Vie – in their words ‘an intimate, dimly lit, jazz infused speakeasy’. The cocktails were delish and it was indeed dimly lit and very atmospheric. One of the hosts/waiters was a bit pretentious, so it was a good job that he wasn’t around when we tried to pay and our card was declined! (Fear not, we quickly used our trusty banking app to transfer some money from our savings account – what are savings for if not to be spent on delectable cocktails?!). We found a great little sushi place for dinner (not unlike Melbourne’s Ichi Ichi Ku), and then rounded off the night with a handmade choc-top (as seen on MasterChef Australia) and sundae from Gelato Messina – pure ice creamy heavenliness.

Gelato Messina choc top
Gelato Messina – sundae and choc-top

After waking from our food coma the next morning, we decided to hop on a ferry to Watson’s Bay for another coastal walk. I completely fell in love with Watson’s Bay – it’s absolutely beautiful, with amazing views over to Sydney Proper and some lovely beaches (plus signs of scuba diving and some interesting history to boot!). This time we wore normal shoes and clothes, but it turned out the walk was actually much longer, more off-road, and hillier than yesterday’s – ooops! When we finally got to our destination (Bondi again), our first stop was Matt Moran’s North Bondi Fish for a beer and some seriously good fish and chips. But we couldn’t indulge too much because dinner was already booked…

Billy Kwong
Billy Kwong

Just before 8pm we left our Surry Hills pad for the wonderfully short walk to Billy Kwong, Kylie Kwong’s super famous restaurant. The restaurant doesn’t look much from the outside – you might not give the place a second glance if you didn’t know what was inside. And in fact the interior is very simply decorated and understated too. But the food is spectacular! We loved every mouthful, from the pork belly special and stir-fried organic warrigal greens, to Billy Kwong’s signature crispy duck dish, which has been on the menu for a whopping 14 years.

The next morning it was already time to leave, even though we had barely scraped the surface of what’s on offer; we didn’t manage to check out The Rocks or any of the museums, there wasn’t time for a trip to Manly or the Blue Mountains, and it was too chilly to attempt surfing at Bondi. But we’re already planning our next trip, so there will be another chance to tick those things off our list, and more!

We’ve since come to the conclusion that Sydney is one of the best cities in the world to visit, and it’s impossible not to love it and constantly marvel at the sights. But we’ll never regret choosing to live in Melbourne – not just because of the better coffee, but because we arrived as strangers 9 months ago and yet somehow felt at home right away 🙂

Australia Fun Travel/holiday

72 hours in Brisbane

If you spend any time in Melbourne in the winter you’ll get pretty chilly and rained on, so I would heartily recommend a weekend away to warm and sunny Brisbane.

Our weekend started on a high note when we found ourselves sitting in row A of the aeroplane! Amazing. (From this vantage point you actually get to see the cabin crew ‘arm all doors and cross-check’!) Then before we knew it we were in Brisbane – a good few degrees warmer than Melbourne even at 10pm. We were staying with our lovely Melbourne house-mate, SJ (temporarily in Brissie for some research), and her apartment block was awesome – part hotel, part flats, very art deco – and slap bang in the heart of the city.

Glad rags

The weekend was a hoot from start to finish, especially our hilarious dinner at the United Service Club on Friday. We were SJ’s guests and attempted to dress snappily for the occasion, but upon entering the dining room it turned out Alex was not quite smart enough! The waiter/maître d’ almost let him off because we were the only people in the dining room, but then some other people turned up so Alex was sent off to find a jacket and tie from behind reception. It was just like Pretty Woman.

Alex returned some time later wearing a black blazer jacket thing and a grey striped tie, and then we tucked into a delicious meal incorporating a crisp white wine and some tasty lobster. It was only when we came to leave and Alex was doffing his borrowed clothes in order to return them that we realised he’d actually picked a ladies’ jacket!

On Saturday we headed upriver to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and it was fab! Apart from a plethora of koalas, including adorable little ones, we also saw kangaroos, emus, Tasmanian devils, crocodiles, goannas, wombats, kookaburras, platypus, snakes, frogs and dingoes! As far as I understand it, the only Aussie animals we didn’t see there were echidnas and sharks.

That evening it did in fact rain – as in a truly torrential downpour – but luckily we were in a restaurant at the time and it had stopped by the time we finished our meal, so we didn’t get in the least bit chilly or damp. In your face Melbourne!

The next day was beautifully sunny as we hopped on the city’s free bikes for a cycle along the impressive Brisbane River. Our first stop was brunch in James Street (with some spectacular views of Story Bridge on the way), then we scooted along under the Kangaroo Point cliffs, before finishing up at QAGOMA (the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art).

Story Bridge
Story Bridge

After checking out Richard Godfrey Rivers’s iconic Under the Jacaranda painting and seeing some beautiful Aboriginal art, we returned to SJ’s for a sit down and some cheese, and then hopped on the plane back to Melbourne. We managed to pack quite a bit into our 72 hours in Brisbane and left feeling enriched, inspired and most of all, warm!