A Magical Mystery Tour?

My ex-boyfriend was interviewed in the paper yesterday – one of those Sunday magazine specials on ‘how I like to spend my Sunday’. He mentioned a lot of typical Melbourne weekend activities, and they conveniently left out the fact that he actually lives interstate.

The most interesting bit was that he likes to go on ‘Weekend Mystery Tours’, where he gets to a train station and just jumps on a random train to explore new places. It was very reminiscent of a Sunday Saver excursion, right down to eating fish and chips on the beach or exploring record shops for some hidden vinyl gems. What do you think the chances are of bumping into him on a Sunday morning on the Hurstbridge line?

Williamstown – August 23rd, 2009

Given that the weather forecast for Sunday was 20 degrees, we thought that a good way to resume Sunday Saving adventures was to head to Williamstown. I met Cara at Melbourne Central at about noon, and we headed off on the Werribee line.

 

Most of the trains on the weekend seem to go all the way to Werribee, so to get to Williamstown you need to change at Newport. At least there isn’t a long wait when you arrive at the station, because there’s a dedicated train that just runs between Newport and Williamstown ferrying people back and forth.

 

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Our initial confusion of where to go when we got off the train was compounded by the fact that, given the shape of the peninsula, you can’t just head for the water. We decided that heading for shops was a good idea, as it was approaching lunch time, and walked down Thompson Street.

 

We found the Hobsons Bay Visitor Information Centre and stopped in to pick up a map (I love a good map). The friendly staff were full of suggestions of what to do and see – but possibly a little too enthusiastic, as we found ourselves struggling to remember all the places they had pointed out once we had left the building. They also seemed to find it very amusing when, after asking the obligatory, “So, where are you from?” I told them I lived in Carlton. They couldn’t quite understand how I’d never been to Williamstown before and, while their town is quite lovely, I didn’t know how to explain that I had simply had no need to go there before, and that travel for travel’s sake is a lot harder when you don’t have a car.

 

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When we left the Visitor Centre, we stopped to take in the view of Hobsons Bay from Commonwealth Reserve, before almost getting blown down the road to our next destination. Although the sun was out, I don’t think the weather quite had the chance to reach 20 degrees, with the winds gusting in from the bay.

 

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We walked down Nelson Place, admiring the renovated seaside houses, towards the Hobsons Bay Yacht Club, trying to remember the points of interest circled on our map. Amongst the shops, we found something that wasn’t on the map: the most intriguing ‘energy clock’ I’ve ever seen. With papier mache-like planets circling the top, it was like something out of a high school Science Fair. Sadly, however, it didn’t actually tell the time.

 

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Back amongst the smaller ‘boutique’ shops fronting the bay, we found Ye Olde Suckers and stopped in to get some old-fashioned lollies. They also have pretty much every soft lolly you’ve ever seen (snakes, bananas, licorice allsorts etc) dipped in chocolate. We decided that lollies for lunch wasn’t exactly the healthiest option, and headed for The Town Fryer for fish ‘n’ chips instead. Because, of course, golden deep-fried goodness is so much better for you than a whole lot of sugar!

 

I managed to combine two past Sunday Saver adventures in one by having a South Melbourne market dim sim (see: Sth Melbourne, 25/5/08) and fish and chips (see: Sandringham, 13/7/08). We ate in the courtyard at the back of the shop, lest we be blown away by the wind out in the park.

 

After lunch, we headed out towards Point Gellibrand Coastal Heritage Park, passing the Titanic theatre restaurant on the way. Outside, I had to stop for a photo with the pretend Statue of Liberty – which, apparently, is pulled past the window to give the ‘passengers’ inside the illusion of being in a ship sailing through New York. Genius! I am definitely going back there to dress up in 1912 period costume and eat at the Captain’s Table.

 

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At the entrance to the coastal park, we found the Timeball Tower, where a large ball was lowered at 1pm each day so the ships could set their chronometers (surely just a fancy name for a clock) and make sure their instruments were accurate. Surprisingly, the icecream van that was parked by the water was doing a roaring trade, considering it is winter and it wasn’t exactly beach weather. We were suckered in too, I got a soft serve with chocolate dip and sprinkles, which the wind proceeded to blow all over my jacket and face before I could eat it. I also got a fair amount in my hair – you would think by now I would have learnt to feed myself. The station was just a short walk from the park, and the gale force winds were starting to rattle my brain so we headed back to shelter. Another change at Newport on the way back, and we were headed for Southern Cross station.

 

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We decided to shelter from the wind a bit longer by stopping off at the DFO (any excuse to go shopping) and left as they were closing the doors at 6pm. A quick train back to Melbourne Central, and I headed home on the tram. I think that Williamstown is definitely deserving of another weekend trip, maybe when summer comes – and definitely when it’s not so windy!

Roll on, lazy Sunday

So, after a hiatus of more than a year, I vote that it is time for the Sunday Savers to return! And as I have the deciding vote in such matters (basically, it’s just me so my vote is the only one) return they will.

Since August 2008, Sunday Savers have suffered from the inevitable ticket price hike, and will now set you back $3.10. You can get a 5 x Weekend Daily ticket though, so it works out a $3.00 per day, and you can use it on Saturdays too. Good for those who want to save money – not so good for those who forget they have such things in their pockets when they put their clothes in the wash.

I haven’t yet decided where to go this weekend, but maybe I will resort to the old method of stabbing blindly at the map and seeing what comes up. I’m not fussed really, it’s all part of the adventure.

Merri Creek – August 3rd, 2008

Even though I had never originally intended to have a travelling companion on all of my Sunday adventures, I was somewhat hesitant to set out last week when I realised that I would travelling by myself. It had always been the plan to jump on a train or a tram and see what exciting things I could discover, but I found myself becoming dependent on my travel buddy/buddies, to the point where I was almost too unmotivated to actually leave the house.

 

The morning began as many Sundays do – in a hungover haze, followed by a breakfast bratwurst at the Queen Victoria Market. I wasn’t served by the usual bratwurst girl, which was probably a good thing, considering I think she almost remembers my order by now (spicy bratwurst on wholemeal, with German mustard, tomato sauce and sauerkraut) and that would surely be a sign of too many bratwursts for breakfast.

 

 

As I ate my breakfast, perched on a bench out of the rain, I tried to decide where I was going to go. I could just jump on a train and see where I ended up, but I promised that I would go to the Empress to see Heeney’s gig at 4pm. Considering it was after 1pm by the time I even got the market (as usually happens with hungover Sundays), I didn’t have too much time for a grand adventure. I thought of heading north, so at least I would be in the general vicinity of the pub when the time came for music. The sky was starting to clear, so I thought I would head towards Merri Creek, then there would be time for a leisurely stroll to lead me down to North Fitzroy.

 

Unsure of where to catch the train to in order to start my leisurely stroll, I found myself wishing I had a pocket-sized street directory to help me out. I considered going to a bookshop and leafing through one until I had a brainwave – I could just go to the library and look at theirs. The State Library of Victoria is, after all, conveniently situated across the road from Melbourne Central station anyway.

 

 

I decided, with the help of the 2008 Melway, that the best route (to combine a decent river walk with a bit of a train trip) was to catch the Upfield line to Moreland station, walk down Moreland Road and then end up at the Merri Creek path. If I was lucky, I could even jump on a tram for a little way down Moreland Road.

 

 

As it turned out, I wasn’t lucky. I narrowly missed not one but two trams, but by then I was enjoying walking in the sunshine so much that I didn’t care. I unpeeled my layers as I walked along – not to the point that I resembled the joggers that I passed, I wasn’t working up that much of a sweat – enjoying the peacefulness of being down by the water. Every now and then, the serenity was shattered by a bike whizzing along at what seemed like 100kms an hour, I only hoped that they had time to appreciate the view as they sped past.

 

 

When I was at university, I remember doing fieldwork along the banks of the Merri Creek. We looked at the types of rubbish strewn along the banks, the mountains of prickly pears taking over the grass, and ended up at Dights Falls, looking at the way the river carved out a geological timeline in the rocks. I wasn’t walking that far though, and so I stopped to admire other things: the brightly painted shed at the velodrome, the golden mosque, the graffiti under the bridges, the family of ducks that followed each other along the creek, stopping to perch on debris that stuck in low lying tree branches.

 

 

By the time I reached St Georges Road, I was already a little bit late for the gig. But I was calm and a little bit sleepy – and feeling better for having gone somewhere that was away from the main roads. I remember thinking, as my horizons expanded and I realised how close some things were to the inner city, how nice it was to have somewhere like the creek to go and walk along, and think. When I lived in North Melbourne, I used to go and walk out to the railway line – look out to the city and think how strange it was that such a wasteland existed so close to the hustle and bustle of the CBD. Nowadays, that land is starting to be converted into housing. I’m just glad that parts of the creek are still relatively untouched – a bit of wilderness to break up the suburbia that lines its edges.

 

 

I won’t be going on any Sunday adventures for a while, I have some things that I have to do at home (as you can tell by the fact that I’m writing this a week after it occurred). In the meantime though, I hope that people begin some of their own Sunday travels and discover some of the suburban delights that are out there. Actually, while I’m writing this, I’m sitting on the Frankston line train, as my $2.90 carries me back to the city. I watch the familiar stations drift by, and wonder if one day I will actually get out of the train to see what’s there. Hmmm, how about Ormond? I’ll keep that in mind for a day to come.

 

Sandringham – July 13th, 2008

The last time we tried to go to Sandringham, we never made it because the train took us to Springvale instead. Yesterday, we were paying particular attention to where the train took us – to make sure that it didn’t happen again! As planned, the train diverted after it left South Yarra station, down the path less travelled for me, as I’ve never really had call to go that way along the coast before. The only time I’ve ever really headed in that direction was to go to Brighton Beach, in summer time when we were looking for somewhere to swim and that anywhere with Beach’ in the name sounded promising.

We were Douglas once again, having spent the day before in his company, and already full to the brim of pun juice (we went to look at a 26-bedroom mansion called ‘Cumnock’, that we have grand plans of turning into a backpackers’ hostel called ‘Cumnock-ing’). We didn’t leave Melbourne Central until after 2pm because we were hesitant to venture out into the cold. By the time we got to Sandringham though, the sun was out and it had warmed up considerably.

To make the most of the sun, we headed straight down to the beach. We stopped briefly to take in the view from the rotunda, but almost blew away! As I wandered down to the water’s edge, I realised that I had made a poor choice of shoes for this particular adventure. The sand was getting in at the sides, and I was wearing tights so I couldn’t really go paddling in the water. I walked along the high tide line for a while, sinking in the sand and collecting frosted glass.

After we had walked along the main part of the beach in Sandringham, we decided to explore some of the local shops. Unfortunately, most of them were closed (that’s the problem with Sunday adventures), but we did find the one thing that we couldn’t go without on a visit to the beach: fish and chips.

Sandy Fish ‘n’ Chips shop seemed like appropriate place to sample local food, and we shared a lunch pack along with an extra piece of flake. They even threw in an extra potato cake – that’s the sign of a proper fish ‘n’ chip shop. We had an audience of seagulls throughout the meal, keenly watching in case there were any spare chips. We obeyed the signs though, and didn’t give any food to the birds – they definitely don’t need any more encouragement. We have now sworn of fried foods for a month, there are only so many times you can eat a meal that’s entirely golden brown without regretting it later . . .

After lunch (well, late lunch, it was getting close to 4pm) we decided to walk off some of the deep-fried goodness. We headed south, along the coast, down towards Black Rock. Along the way, I collected more frosted glass (I have a whole bagful now), and we saw some amazing jellyfish washed up on the beach – huge ones with all of the innards showing through the bulbous outer layer. I did some beach-combing too, finding the top of a watering can, a comb, and an unpeeled (still good!) mandarin.

Further towards Black Rock, the cliffs are unstable, so it’s hard to cut around on the coastline. There is a good walking path up on the hill though, and a bike path that runs along the road. Some of the rocks looked like they came straight out of the desert: orange crags that contrasted well with the blue sky above.

By the time we got to Black Rock, the sun was about to set. There were quite a few people fishing from the pier, and the seagulls were perched out on the shipwreck. We decided to head back to the station before the sun got so low we couldn’t find our way back.

We ran to catch the train that was waiting at the platform and made it to Prahran by two minutes past six where we went to Arteveneta to have freshly made flat bread and fine Spanish jamon with Joe and Nina. Then we caught the bus and the tram home – the public transport trifecta! I can’t think of a better way to end a Sunday adventure.

Springvale – June 29th, 2008

Our trip to Springvale got off to an unusual start, considering we were on the 2.03pm Sandringham train when we left Melbourne Central. I vaguely heard an announcement at Flinders Street that the next train to depart Platform 8 would be a Cranbourne train, but I didn’t think much of it until we got to Carnegie. That’s the thing with an adventure to a place you’ve never been before – you don’t know that you’re going in the wrong direction until you see something vaguely familiar. I have mistakenly caught a Cranbourne line train before, when I thought I was going to Frankston. Carnegie was what tipped me off that time too. Anyway, we couldn’t understand how the train swapped lines while we were on it, but we hoped that the other passengers were as tolerant as we were (and as ready for adventure), otherwise Connex would be in a lot of trouble.

We decided to go to Springvale, a place that I have been before but not for many years. Sunday lunches in Springvale were very much a thing of my childhood, going to yum cha with a carload of cousins, and being spoilt with peanut candy by my grandfather. When we got off the train we headed into the Kan Yang supermarket to find something for Doug’s strange foods’ shelf. He settled on ‘Kickapoo joy juice’, because I can’t think of anything that could bring more joy than kicking a poo. We decided against the hair soup, in case it had odd side effects – I think I’d look strange with a beard.

Doug was back in his usual form, and we had spent the waiting time on the platform playing ‘guess the station’. Things like, “Bird of prey on fire,” (Hawksburn) and, “The place that the chipmunk who’s not Chip never wants to go,” (Huntingdale) and, “What that chipmunk can wear if he ever does go there,” (Armadale). Oh, the hilarity . . . We had plenty of gags at the expense of the strange foodstuffs we found, including ‘vegetarian meat floss’ and a meat tenderiser that (somewhat aptly) shared the name of a well-known Nazi leader.

Given that we didn’t leave the city until quite late, we missed all of the lunchtime sittings for yum cha. We did find a restaurant that wasn’t closed for the usual lunch to dinner break (3-5.30pm) situated across the road from the cryptically named Papaya Pog Pog. We decided to order a few dishes and share them, and ended up with a three-course meal for about $15 each. The salt and pepper tofu was a highlight, but by far the most amusing part of the meal was the rather phallic banana fritters that we ordered for dessert. I don’t know it the cook decided to play up to our innuendo (and bad jokes), or if it was just a happy coincidence, but when the fritters arrived we couldn’t even eat them to start off with because we were laughing too much. Especially because Cara’s was an example of when length isn’t important, but girth is.

By the time that we finished ‘lunch’ it was nearly 5pm and time to head home. We stopped off at Springvale Central to stock up on fruit and vegies for the week, to find that everything was half the price it had been earlier because it was the end of the day. Doug bought a couple of kilos of custard apples, but we wisely steered clear of the durian. We narrowly missed a train back to the city, and had to wait 20 minutes for the next one. We filled the time eating some of the treats that we got from the supermarket, like Doug’s Super Lemon candy. They were like warheads, sour enough to make you gag, but sweet enough in the middle to make you want to keep going.

Considering our only aim for the day was to go to the beach, we ended up with a completely different experience. It was easy to forget where we were when we were in the shopping centre, it was like we had gone travelling and were discovering new places. When we saw a couple of blonde girls they seemed almost out of place, like they were fellow travellers. Heading back into the city as darkness fell, we started thinking of where to go next – maybe Sandringham, we’ll get there one day . . .

One more thing that we found at the station on the way home – a poster for escalator safety. It’s like ‘spot the difference’, one is good and one is bad, but I have no idea what the difference is between them.

Upper Ferntree Gully – June 22nd, 2008

After a brief visit to the Vic Market this morning (for a breakfast bratwurst, some five foot tall plastic Elvises, and a kids’ soccer uniform), Cara and I headed to Melbourne Central to meet Heeney. As we waited for her train to get in, I decided to kill some time at the shops which, along with our trip to the market, resulted in me carrying a whole lot of unnecessary shopping all the way to Upper Ferntree Gully.

We chose our destination through a combination of random pointing at the train lines and ‘proximity to green stuff’ on the Google map. We thought that it might be nice to get out of the city for a while, and head head for the greenery, and made sure to take umbrellas and cardigans. I was also tempted to take a thermos of tea with us, but I don’t think I could have fitted it in with all of my shopping.

As we waited for the 2.18pm Belgrave train, I hoped that we would have some daylight left when we arrived. At almost an hour, it was the longest train trip we’ve had on our Sunday Savings so far. Without Doug (we were Douglas again), we had to try and keep up the witty banter by ourselves – Cara won the prize for best/worst pun, when we reached Laburnum station she said, “Laburnum Shirley.” We watched the leafy eastern suburbs fly past the window, getting further and further away from places that we knew. Looking at the train map told us that Upper Ferntree Gully was a ‘premium’ station – no standard stations for us, it’s safety zones and toilets all the way . . .

The first thing we saw when we left the station was a Tourist Information Centre – just the thing for city kids who have decided to go on an adventure without really having any idea where they’re going to end up. A little further down, in the station car park, was the Upper Gully Market where you could buy, among other things, ferns. We stopped at the Life for all Creatures caravan for some homemade lemon slice and coconut ice (80c a piece, that’s gotta be the best value snack around). We also bought some giant field mushrooms (some were almost as big as my head) from the fruit and vegie stall, which I think will be great stuffed with ricotta and thyme. We had a little explore of the shops (Heeney bought a pie at the A1 Bakery, I had a bite, it was indeed A1), and resisted the urge to go into the Royal Hotel for a drink, although we did admire its art deco facade.

At the Information Centre, we picked up a map of the walking trails in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. The very helpful man who worked there asked if there was anywhere in particular we wanted to go. I think I confused him somewhat by asking, “Are there any walking tracks that we can walk to?” until I explained that we arrived on the train. Given the topography of the park, I don’t think many people take public transport there – unless the weather is better, and they’re super-fit, and they intend to climb to the top of the mountain.

We decided not to wander too far off the beaten track in case it got dark – and we weren’t really dressed for bushwalking, especially carrying large quantities of shopping with us. We crossed the railway line and headed up the School Track and around to the car park on the Mt Dandenong Tourist Road. The Kokoda Memorial Track is closed for repairs for a few months, which was unfortunate (but also a relief because its other name is the 1000 steps trail, and there are only so many steps that inappropriate footwear and 1/2 a kilo of field mushrooms can ascend).

We didn’t venture too far into the bush, just across the bridge and into the upper part of the picnic area. I hugged a tree, studied the teeny tiny toadstools on the ground, and found several sticks that could have been substituted for the telescopic walking poles that the real bushwalkers were brandishing (and there were several of them about). We sat in the picnic area for a while to escape the drizzle, and decided to break out the plastic Elvises for a look.

It may seem like a strange thing to buy, but we’ve been having trouble with the possums eating the vegetables we’re trying to grow, and I thought that a plastic scare-Elvis might do the trick, even in the dark. It seemed a bit out of place, Elvis in the middle of the Australian bush, but at least we had something to shelter under if it rained again.

We headed back to the station before it got too late, and by the time we changed trains at Ringwood at 5.33pm, it was well and truly dark. The pun juice was running dry compared to other weeks, but it was replaced by songs (there’s nothing like singing ‘Country Roads’ to find your way back to the train station) instead. Upper Ferntree Gully certainly lived up to its name – much more so than Box Forest College, which was certainly a College but had no boxes, or forest, in sight.