Guilty pleasure in Ubud

When backpacking through South East Asia, you really want to meet local and avoid the tourist trap or, as they call it, the banana pancake trail. But I couldn’t pass Ubud. Specially after reading Eat, Pray, Love. Guilty as charged, I loved that book!

So, after a night in Denpasar and a day spent in crazy touristic Kuta, I surprised my boyfriend and rented a couple of nights at the Suarsena House Bungalows, breakfast served on our balcony. His face when he saw the luxurious room and the view from our balcony got me very satisfied of my choice.

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One thing I didn’t expect in Bali was the amount of coffee shops.
We found Senimam Coffee and went in the Cold Brew Bar on our first night. As two former Melbournians and coffee lovers, Joe and I were delighted.
I’ve never seen coffee pairing. They paired our siphon made cold brew with a watermelon.
At this point we asked if they were looking for staff. We love coffee! What can I say!

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The rest of your stay in Ubud, we ate, walked in the paddy fields, ate, treated ourselves in a spa and ate some more.

Sadly, I cannot say that I was thrilled by the massage. Balinese methods are really soft and relaxing and I prefer therapeutic swedish type massage. But eh, for 15$, you can’t really complain.

Ubud

Thankfully, our foodie bellies were more than happy! Thumbs up to indonesian food! Yummy!
From the roast suckling pig at Warung Rai Pasti to the satays and martinis at Naughty Nuri’s, we didn’t expect to eat so well.

Babi Guling with view

Babi Guling with view at Rai Pasti

Martini and satay at Naughty Nuri's

Martini and satay at Naughty Nuri’s

A little sad to leave our bubble of luxury, after 3 days, we packed all our stuff and arranged a pick up at the hotel to catch a speed boat to the Gili’s.

Little piece of advise, you can bargain with anyone. Indonesian’s people are really charming, welcoming and helpful but it doesn’t mean you have to take their first offer. Make your research and then you can discuss.

After bargaining a fare from a little shop on the street and refusing to book with the bungalow owners, we faced the fact that, when you rent a place, you are expected to make all your business with them. It is insulting if you don’t. And we got told.

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New Zeland; the stupidly magnificent South Island

My first stop on the south island was Picton for a night. The Sequoia Lodge Backpacker is a charming small house whiteout any locks on the doors, a cinema room with couches and a big kitchen. I felt like I was joining friends for a week-end in a cabin. Ultimate treat is the owner makes chocolate pudding for the guests every night. Oh, and there is a spa!

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This is also where I met the couple that told me about Helpx.net.
Which led me to an unforgettable adventure in Cambodia.
But I’ll get back to this later.

So I left in the morning to head toward Christchurch. I really had no clue what was waiting for me. I knew about the earthquake in 2011 and that most of the city was still to be rebuilt yet I was really excited to witness it.

And I wasn’t disappointed at all. The Intercity bus left me in the Hagley Park and I followed the Avon river to get to my hostel. I couldn’t believe how, even surrounded by ruins, buildings sites and shipping containers, I could see how beautiful, alive and positive the city is.

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My favourite part was the shipping containers builded Re:START Mall. It’s a project that came after the earthquake to attract people in the CBD without having to wait for the buildings to be rebuilt. It is so colourful and happy, I didn’t want to leave!
I eventually went for a wander around the city but the streets were so empty that I started to feel a bit uncomfortable.
I was so relieved to found a little pocket of human celebrating life, drinking and eating on the heated terrace, at Strange & Co on Lichfield street. I could feel how alive the city is and how people are working together to bring it back! (Can you tell I developed a massive crush on Christchurch?) Anyway, I had to get back to the hostel to get ready for the next day.

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In the early morning, it was finally time for my last bus ride, and probably the longest, to Queenstown. That is where a very good friend would be meeting me. I was ready for the journey, iPod, laptop, book and some snacks. QT, get ready!

But I never really got to read my book of watch anything.
The thing is, in New Zeland, the car or bus rides are even better than the destination.

Everything you see, every corner you turn, every new mountain, every new lake, you are getting more and more mesmerize.
I’m telling you! I’m looking at my pictures now, more than a year later, I still cannot believe I saw that much beauty!

Stop on the way to Queenstown

I met up with some friends in Queenstown and they brought me out in a few bars. It was good to go out and enjoy myself after 8 days alone on the road. It was even a bit overwhelming to be honest. Specially in Queenstown where all the venue that you visit is packed with backpackers, adrenaline junkies and party animals. I’ve never been to Whistler (I know, I know, and I’m from Canada) but I picture it like what I saw in Queenstown that night. We visited the Cowboys QT rodeo bar and after that, I have to admit that I lost track of the others. Well, after more than quiet nights in Picton and Christchurch, least you can say is that I got serve.

Next morning was the highlight of the trip!
Crazy beautiful, amazing, immense Milford Sounds.
“It’s the journey, not the destination” they kept on saying at the tourist office. Yep! It may sound cheesy, but damn, it’s true!

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After all this beauty (and some tears, I’m not ashamed of it), I went back to meet a friend for a cheap beer at the 1876 bar before I went to bed. Next morning, I had enough time to walk around, buy a stuff sheep for my baby niece and get a bite at the famous Fergburger before I catch my flight.

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Oh New Zeland! I miss you already you ridiculously awesome country!
Next time, I’ll be back with more time, more money and a kawak partner.

New Zealand; The North Island and its cool cities

August in Melbourne means the end of winter. The parks are filling up with young family and hipsters picnicking and playing hula-hoop and the fashion week is raging in the CBD. Unfortunately, for me, it was almost time to leave. But since I wasn’t  ready to kiss my friends farewell I decided that a visa-run was a much better option.

So there I was, standing at the Jet Star counter in Tullamarine at midnight on a cold august night. I was in fact really sad to leave and had no interest at all in my destination at that moment. I just wanted to be cuddled in bed, with Joe, discussing where we should brunch the next morning.

Thankfully, the landscapes of New Zealand come close to a fairy tale (that is not even an overstatement, the place is crazy beautiful) and I immediately found myself completely transported by the immensity of everything!

The journey started in Auckland, capital of the North Island. I had a couple of nice strolls in different parks of the city, visited the Auckland Art Gallery and met up with some friends for a quiz night in an Irish Pub. I also visited the Inter City office in the port to prepare my itinerary for the rest of the trip and got myself a intensive 10 days road trip planned.

New Zeland, here I come!

So the next day, I spent it in Matamata running around Hobbiton!
Ok, I have to admit, it was more for my dad than anything, really! But I still ended up having a blast. I took some silly pictures of the village and drank a hobbit pint at The Shire local pub. Even the gift shop got me all excited.

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Next stop was the very cold and very smelly Rotorua.

I still haven’t made my mind about this place. The first night, I really didn’t enjoy the rotten egg odor that is floating in the air and the fact that the city drops dead around 7 at night. But after a day at Whakarewarewa, the local maori thermal village, learning about the culture and a mud massage at the Polynesian mineral spa… well… I was kind of charmed!

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After that relaxing day, I was more than ready for Wellington. I had heard so much about it and had so many places I wanted to visit. Sadly, my night bus ride was cancelled because of a snow storm so I had to catch the next day ride. I managed to get there in time to catch a pint of famous local brewer Garage Project at The Little Beer Quarter and spent the next morning running around the port and the Te Papa museum, trying to see as much as I could before I catch the ferry for the South Island.

Wellington, I’ll be back! You are simply gorgeous!

 

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Liens externes utiles
http://www.aucklandartgallery.com/http://www.hobbitontours.com
http://www.whakarewarewa.com/
http://littlebeerquarter.co.nz
http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/

Breathtaking Freezing Tassie

Finally! A long weekend away! Hello romantic getaway!

We arrived in the Hobart at 9 AM. The air is crisp and refreshing.
Just enough to wake us up.

We rented a car and headed straight to Bruny Island. As my first experience driving on the left side of the road, I think I managed alright. Ok, I activated the wiper instead of the flashers 50% of the time and yelled in every curves… Still pretty proud of myself!

We embarked on the ferry for 35$ (pricy no?) and drove around the gourmet trail to get somethings to nibble on.
Unfortunately, monday being the last day of the long weekend, few places were closed.

We started with Bruny Island Cheese Company. We were a bit rushed since the girls were packing up but we managed to get a takeaway plateau of their 5 cheeses with Quince jam and croutons. Thumbs up to the 1792 and the Saint. Delicious!
Then, Get Shuked was a success! 5$ for a dozen, unshuked, of course, because we don’t want to ruin the fun. After buying an amazing 42 Degrees South, we drove back to The Neck, that long skinny piece of land that connects the north island to the south island. We sat on the beach and enjoyed our feast while watching the sun go down on the Great Bay.

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That night, after checking in at the Tassie Backpacker on Liverpool street and realizing that we will be sleeping in an igloo, we went on a quest to find a warm and cosy pub. Salamanca Place was the only corner of the city with a decent sign of life and Jack Green was a life saver. 16 Beers on tap and an extensive menu. I was happily impressed by the food considering the fact that we were in a pub, at 10 PM, on a monday. We had a trio of sliders  with fat chips and paprika dipping sauce.

Tuesday was the perfect weather for some nature viewing so we decided to drive up the Mount Wellington after a quick trip to North Hobart. We wanted to see if the rumours were true about that Providence Cafe being the best café in town. Unfortunately, the menu didn’t impress our melbournian appetite and we decided to get some pastries at Sweet Envy. Oh god! Paradise of any sweet tooth! The Sticky Pecan bun was amazing and we lost ourselves in the selection of sweets. The St-Honoron and cardamon-infused pumpkin and chocolate Peter Peter are a must!

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We then headed to the Mount Wellington to drive up the 10 km that lead to the top. The drive by itself is worth it! Tasmania is such a grand green island. It was good to feel so far from the city.

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Tasman Headquarters

After some walking and pictures on the Hobart roof, we drove back to the city to get a drink somewhere. Best discovery of the trip was hidden on Elizabeth street. The Tasman Quartermaster is a small wine shop/burger joint/craft beer bar owned by Stuart Addison. That guy made our night, if not our trip to Hobart. He was so passionate and enthusiat to share all his products with us. We had a go at 2 different tasmanian pinot noir (a young and an old one) and a spices-packed craft beer that smelled like pizza(!). We were simply enchanted by the chilli fries with home made cheese and cider sauce and leather-wood salsa. We receive also a free sample of the wallaby with a pepperberries sauce.
Seriously, this place is so friendly, all the tables were chatting with us while I was playing fetch with Kora the dog. We met Marij and Alan Irish from the Blue Penguin vineyard and tried their wine. The Cabernet Sauvignon was a delish. Another couple chatted with us about traveling and where to get some good oysters. We left with an amazing bottle of 2008 Storm Bay Pinot Noir and some good tips about Hobart food scene.

 

We kept the best for our last day and drove to West Hobart to brunch at the Pigeon Hole. We realize why they named the restaurant that way when you work you way in the back of this cosy and charming cafe. Ambiance-wise, everything here is simply perfect! From the cutlery to the old toilet sink. We couldn’t make our mind on what to eat so we decided to share the Spelt porridge with apple, walnuts, chai steeped fruits and the Heidi Farm raclette and onion jam panini. Both dishes were so tasty and the coffee was delicious. Additional points for the fact that they write the handpicked and locally sourced products in a different color on the board menu.

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We ordered another coffee to go and left for Berriedale to visit David Walsh’s art collection.

The first thing that strikes about MONA is not the art itself, it’s the whole premises. Everything about it is impressive. The owner personal parking space that is marked GOD, the different pavillons, the dramatic staircase you need take to descend the the gallery, the interactive iPod guiding device provided to each visitors called the O. Via the guide, you can read descriptions, listen to interviews and rate the art. I’ve heard that the owner apparently will take out a piece that collect too many likes so he can bring something more shocking instead. Another great feature of the O is that you can subscribe your email address and go back to your tour later on to review the pieces you liked. We spent the whole day browsing around the collection and reading Walsh’s scatting comments under the tab Art Wank on the O. We took a break in the afternoon to enjoy some tasman Moo brew and single malt at the Void Bar.

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Finally, it is exhausted that we headed to the airport after a pretty cold but amazing gourmet weekend in Tasmania.

 

Week-end glacial à profiter des produits tasmans.

Première escapade en Australie depuis mon arrivée à Melbourne! Enfin!

3 jours de congé et deux billets pour Tasmanie à 89$ plus tard, nous atterissons à Hobart à 9:00. L’air est frais et vivifiant. Nous louons une voiture pour le week-end et nous filons vers Bruny Island pour bien débuter notre week-end gourmand.

Le traversier coûte 35$. Un peu cher à mon goût, mais bon, ça vaudra la peine. L’ile est divisée en deux îles reliées par un maigre morceau de sable appelé The Neck. Nous débutons par la fromagerie Bruny Island Cheese Company. Le fromagerie fermait les portes à midi (!) mais nous avons tout de même eu le temps d’acheter un plateau de 5 fromages et de la gelée de quince à emporter. Le 1792 et The Saint sont vraiment délicieux!

Prochain arrêt; Get Shucked! 5$ pour une douzaine d’huîtres! Nous ajoutons au panier quelques sauces et du pain frais et nous nous dirigeons vers Premium Wines Bar pour gouter des bons vins tasmaniens. Quand je visite une région, j’essais toujours de goûter le plus de produit locaux possible, c’est ma mission. Alors Joe a été très patient qu’on se tape 45 minutes de route pour du vin trop cher et peu gouteux. Heureusement on a fait un tour sur l’île du Sud qui était de toute beauté. Retour sur nos pas pour arrêter dans un bottle shop sur le bord de la route pour une bouteille de Chardonnay 42 Degrees South et nous somme prêts pour notre pique-nique sur la plage avec vue sur le soleil couchant sur la Great Bay et le canal d’Entrecastaux. Bonheur!

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Finalement de retour à Hobart, nous dirigeons vers le Tassie Backpacker sur Liverpool street pour faire notre check-in. Après avoir réalisé que nous allions passer nos nuits à dormir dans un véritable igloo, nous nous dépêchons de trouver un pub avec feu de foyer et bouffe réconfortante. Salamanca Place étant le seul endroit à présenter quelquconque signe de vie, nous jettons notre dévolu sur  Jack Green. 16 Bières en fut puis un menu assez diversifié nous sauvera la vie ce soir là.

Mardi, parfaite température pour un petit tour en nature. Nous décidons de monter le Mont Wellington (en voiture, tout de même) après avoir payé une petite visite au quartier de North Hobart. J’avais beaucoup lu à propos du Providence Cafe et nous tenions à nous faire notre propre idée. Malheureusement, le menu n’a pas impressioné nos appétit bien entrainés et nous nous dirigeons vers Sweet Envy. Oh là là! Nous nous perdons dans le choix abondant de macarons, pâtisseries et cupcakes. Le St-Honoron et le Peter Peter sont absolument délicieux!

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Le bedon plein, nous entamons la montée de 10km qui mène au sommet du Mont Wellington. Difficile de se concentrer sur la route avec la vue sur Hobart et les environs qui ne cesse de nous impressioner! La Tasmanie est vraiment d’une beauté grandiose!  À un tel point que nous oublions que le température a chuté de 10 degrés avec l’ascension. Brrrr!

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Tasman Headquarters

Après plusieurs photos et un immense bol d’air sur le toit de la ville, nous revenons au centre-ville pour faire une superbe découverte sur la rue Elizabeth. Le Tasman Quartermaster  est un petit resto/bar/magasin dirigé par Stuart Addison. Sérieusement, cette rencontre fera notre journée si ce n’est pas notre séjour complet à Hobart. L’enthousiaste propriétaire à une énergie communicative et nous fait goûter deux délicieux Pinot Noir et une bière qui embaume la pizza (!) sans même que nous commandions quoi que ce soit. Le  fromage, la sauce au cidre et la salsa qui viennent avec les chilli fries sont tous faits maison et Stuart nous envoie aussi une assiette de wallaby simplement parce que nous l’avons questionné sur la sauce. L’endroit est si confortable et convivial que nous passons la soirée à discuter avec les autres clients dont Marij et Alan Irish, deux vignerons qui passent par ici pour faire goûter leurs vins. Nous quittons finalement le coeur gros avec une bouteille de Pinot Noir Storm Bay 2008.

 

Déjà notre dernier jour à Hobart! Direction West Hobart pour un brunch au Pigeon Hole, un adorable et minuscule café spécialisé en produit locaux. Le menu est tellement inspirant que ça nous prendra un bon 20 minutes avant de décider de partager le gruau aux fruits infusés dans le chai et un panini au fromage et confiture d’oignon. Tout est impeccable du mobilier au délicieux café. Un must si vous passez par le coin!

 

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Un deuxième café à emporter et nous somme prêts pour la collection d’art de David Walsh!

Ce qui m’a le plus impressionée avec MONA ce n’est pas l’art en soit mais bien l’ensemble du domaine. Tout y est tellement lèche. La signalisation, la place de stationnement privée de M. Walsh marquée GOD, la cage d’escalier sinistre qu’il faut descendre pour accéder au musée, le iPod/guide interactif fourni à chaque individu pour la visite. Le guide, nommé O, permet de lire sur les pièces, écouter des entrevues et même donner son point de vue. J’ai entendu dire que le propriétaire enlève une pièce de ses expositions pour la remplacer par quelque chose de plus choquant sir celle-ci reçoit trop de votes positifs. Le guide permet aussi de sauvegarder sa visite et retourner sur le site web pour revisiter les oeuvres. Nous passons donc l’après-midi à lire les commentaires cinglants de Walsh sous la rubrique Art Want. Une pause au Void bar pour déguster de la Moo Brew, bière Tasman,  et nous sommes prêts à visiter la pièce maîtresse; une machine à déféquer…. Intéressant.

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Finalement, c’est exténués que nous nous dirigeons vers l’aéroport après un week-end glacial mais gourmand à Hobart.

 

White Night Melbourne

On February 22nd, I was lucky enough to attend the second edition of White Night Melbourne. Well, I kind of had no choice but to walk trough the CBD since all the trams were suspended. Damn I miss Montreal’s subway!

The walk across the city was, how can I say, an entertaining challenge. Since I finished work around 11:00 that night, I was lucky enough to be dead sober and be able to dodge the thousands of drunk teenagers, family with strollers, kids and dogs that where paving my way.

When I finally made it to Russel street to meet my friends, I was ready to go home. I haven’t seen any projections, performances or food trucks (Eh! Food is always important!) and I was freezing.But thankfully, the minute we walked on Federation Square, I understood why my roomate didn’t let me. The projections were so pretty and magical. Pretty much like standing in the middle of a gingerbread village. We stood there for a while and headed for the side of the river to see the Midden in Birrarung Marr. That was… interesting. I still did not quite understood the creative process between the pile of dirt and the projection but still, with the loud bass, it was moving. We dodge back around William Barak pedestrian bridge and enjoyed the Federation Bells before we headed back into the city.

When I watch the recap of the night on Youtube, I really feel like I missed a lot. I think the evening was a good share of hit and miss. Maybe the organizers didn’t expect that amount of visitor. I would of enjoy  more entertainment in the streets and maps or signs would of been useful to find the activities. You can also read some live coverage on this website for more insight about the night.

But I think that at this point, half of the troops where too cold and hungry to enjoy anything. Luckily, another good side of this evening was that some restaurants were open late! We were able to finished the night (around 2:30) enjoying amazing Chin Chin kingfish sashimi and caramelised sticky pork. And let’s be honest! Any night that finishes at Chin Chin is a happy night!

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Being broke in Melbourne

Being a backpacker in a big city… can’t say that I went trough the experience without a lot of frustrations. You have to be prepared to spend most of your time working (if you are lucky enough to find a job that gives you the hours). I’ve been pretty unlucky in my job search and had 2 differents jobs below minimum wage for more than 6 months. Therefor, I had to find ways to save money to be able to enjoy myself.

#1 : Food and Booze

First of all, working in hospitality, specially in a Café, can be really exhausting. Having to get up at 5.30 every morning, running around all day, dealing with obnoxious clueless restaurant owners and demanding well-trained foodie Melbournians! It has to offer some consolations! Thankfully, working in a Café or a restaurant often comes with free food. And, yes, this has to be considered. To leave at the end of the week with a bag full of sandwiches, spanakopita, salads, muffins can help you, either to save on dinners or to make a lot of friends at the hostel. And this has been proven to work.

The Booze
Every backpacker here already swear by the Goon, I know! Yes, the disgusting wine in a box that taste like alcoholic kool-aid. Well,  there is an alternative!
Head to Dan Murphy; the paradise of any human being. You can find good french wine and imported beer that aren’t too expansive, from Brooklyn Brewery to Chimay. You can also buy a case of 12 ciders for 20$. But the big breaktrough for me was Clean Skins!

Really, I know, it looks pretty bad and embarrassing. The bottle is ugly and it shouts broke ass backpacker. Can’t be worst than a carton of Goon though no?

Clean Skins wines come from  Australian winemakers, small and large. It’s batches of wine that they needed to clear. All they do is take off the label. It’s pretty much like gambling, which adds excitement to the process (Alright, I’m getting carried away). But still, you can find a wide variety of decent wine for a ridiculous price. It’s way better than paying the same price for guarantied bad quality. I have often bought a 15$ bottle and  immediately regret not having chosen the 4$ Clean Skin instead. It’s worth a try, trust me.

Groceries
For the food, Woolwsorth and Coles are the cheapest.
Good too mention also that Coles offer a reduction on the fresh products everyday starting at 10 PM.

There is also Lentil as Anything. I haven’t tried it yet but a lot of backpackers live of this place every night. You basically show up and pay the amount you want to get feed on vegetarian delights and they have 3 different addresses in Melbourne.

Bimbos Deluxe offers 4$ pizza all-through the week.

The Dumpling House

Chinatown and his cheap-bites is always a safe bet.
The Shangai Dumpling House on Hardware lane is a institution.
It is near the corner of Swanston street and Bourke street.
4$ for vegetarians dumplings! Love it!

 

Happy Hours and Bottle Shop
A new trend in Melbourne is the type bottle-shop bars that allow you to buy from the bottle shop and bring the wine bottle in the bar to enjoy for a friendly price. A good thing is also that they close pretty late.
Exford Hotel, in the city, closes at 3 AM every night. A good tip that you might need on a crazy night when everyone is too broke to head to the pub.

My heart still goes to The Evelyn Hotel.

The Evelyn Hotel, Fitzroy The Evelyn Hotel, FitzroyThe Evelyn Hotel, Fitzroy

 

 

 

 

 

 

They have cheap gigs every nights and I spent an awful amount of night sipping on spanich tempranillo, sitting outside, watching the Fitzroy hipster crowd wandering around Brunswick street. Great spot for people watching!

As for the Happy Hours, they’re everywhere. You can always found a list on the Time out website. A safe spot on the monday night is the The Workers Club on Gertrude street. 6$ a jug in Melbourne is not to be neglected. Beer tastes like water… I know, but you won’t realize it after the third jug.

Thursday night is also a good night in Fitzroy.
The Evelyn hotel does 2.50$ for a pot of beer and LuWow on Johnston street does 4$ for any rum + mixer.

#2 – Free Wifi

You can always head to the usual Starbucks, Macdonalds, Hungry Jack (Burger King for the rest of the world) but I prefer my little spots.
Click here for a list of my favourite cafés in Melbourne that offer ambiance, food, good coffee AND Wifi. Props!

Also, the all libraries of the city offer free membership and wifi.

#3 – Clothes and other stuff

At first I couldn’t find anything cheap and of quality. Cotton On is really the worst shop for quality and it’s not even that cheap.

IMG_5849

Fortunately, Salvos is always a life saver and H&M finally made it to Australia!
Also to mention, its the biggest store in the world and everything is pretty affordable. Sweden, I love you!