Living a life from which I never need a holiday. That’s what I always imagined when I was a child that my grownup life would be: I’d live in a beautiful light house by the sea and spend every day writing, sketching, photographing and walking along the beach. I wouldn’t long for anything else – well, maybe a week in the mountains a year, but skiing is work too;) I’m turning 30 this year, so I’ve definitely reached a stage which I as a child would classify as grownup. And I’m living the dream of a life from which I never need a break. It hasn’t been like that consistently in my grownup years; it’s taken time to free myself of stress and guilt and other uncomfortable feelings. It probably won’t always be like that. I’m trying to live every day with a healthy level of productivity, stimulants and rest so that I don’t burn out or long for change.
Beach Run. Dawn is covered in a thick downpour on Monday, making my morning run feel magical and isolated – no one else is out; except for one lady, driving down the main road and stopping to ask if I want a ride. I don’t – I want to feel the cool drops on my skin and in my hair. I jog through town and down through the sand dunes onto the wide, white expanse of hard-packed beach, happy to see it and the rolling waves for one last time for now. There are a few people running out into the pale grey spray of water in their swimsuits and wetsuits, but otherwise I have the smooth, foggy world to myself. Ahh… stop for a minute to take it all in before sprinting back to the house to get some work done before we’re off.
The Farm. We have breakfast at the beautifully landscaped and designed farm on the outskirts of town, strolling down among the meadows to look at the black camper pigs and their chubby piglets while waiting for our brekkie bowls, v60 pour over coffee and golden summer chai almond lattes to be served in the hip-rustic outdoor restaurant. And what brekkie bowls to wait for! A beautiful, wholesome concoction of ripe avocado, baked pumpkin, eggplant hummus, fresh coriander, mint and cumin, served with freshly baked organic sourdough bread. Heavenly!
Pottsville Beach. Thus fuelled, we drive towards Gold Coast, stopping at a pretty little beach that S wants to show me on the way, hunting for spectacular black and stripy shells in the wet sand.
Heritage Hideaway Cafe. Next stop is at this idyllic small roadside cafe, where S has a business meeting at one table, while I pull up my laptop to work for a few hours at another table. Next stop after that is the Virgin airport lounge, where we also have a few hours to work before boarding our plane to Melbourne.
Coming Home. Arriving somewhere in the dark is always exciting – how is this new territory gonna look, feel, smell, sound in broad daylight tomorrow? Our artistically decorated, clean and in all ways super neat AirBnb flat is located right between hip and happening Fitzroy and Collingwood, in a small leafy street full of warehouses converted into cool loft apartments and plastered with sophisticated street art. The hosts are there to meet and greet us, and once they’ve left, we smile at the sight of small thoughtful notes left for us in all of the rooms, organic bathroom products, T2 tea bags in the kitchen and the newest issue of Danish Elle on the coffee table! Sweet.
Melbourne Mornings. Tuesday: yoga, shower, brekkie on terrace, coconut yoghurt, homemade muesli, Australian berries, T2 peppermint, Danish Elle, crisp and sunny walk down to Allpress (my favourite coffee place in London; so full of memories of mornings with my best friends there, two of whom are moving to Sydney later this year; it is from New Zealand, but seeing their huge roastery here feels like coming home), and on to the CBD, where we have a second coffee at The League of Honest Coffee, before parting to go to the office (S) and the library (me) respectively. Wednesday: yoga, hot shower, breakfast at Proud Mary’s, wandering up through Gertrude in the sunshine, coffee from Archie’s All Day, admiring the street art, the other coffee shops, the facades, the general vibe, further on to Market Lane Coffee for a third cup before work at the library. Thursday: wake up early, moment of panic as I look on the city map and realise how much there is to explore and how little time. S says it’s just a question of utilising that time optimally. He’s right. I put on my running shoes for a sightseeing morning run. It takes me an hour to run 5k, because I have to stop so many times and take gorgeous pictures. It’s a bit cold, which I enjoy; the air is crisp and there’s dew in the grass and on the windows, blue skies, hazy air, through pretty Collingwood’s residential streets, beautiful mix of cute little terraced houses with ornamental details, and restored warehouses and factories, and then a few modern, minimalist funky designed houses, bushes, flowers, trees, palms, bicycles. Down to the river, so beautiful, run along it, pass the children’s farm, meadows with horses, sheep, goats, looping back home to S. Walk together to Lygon Street, where he has a breakfast meeting. We kiss goodbye on the corner of the street; he walks left; I walk right, straight into the wonderful little bookshop, Readings Carlton (buy two Australian books, The Turning by Tim Winton and The Strays by Emily Bitto), and Heartattack and Vine, for a cup of coffee for my continued walk up through the longest and most beautiful residential stretch, Carlton, charming terraced houses, featuring the elaborate ornamentation of the late-Victorian era ‘Boom Style’, broad promenade, palm trees. My passion – experiencing a new city, the harmonious mix of manmade and natural wonder, spurs creativity. Friday: straight over to Streat at 6:30 for brekkie and work.
Public Workspaces with Wifi (a rare commodity in Melbourne). State Library of Victoria, monumental, ornamental, reminds me of NYC and Boston public libraries, with a beautiful park in front, full of greenery and life, huge reading rooms full of academic concentration. Walk along the Yarra and through a corner of Alexandra Gardens to get to the National Gallery Victoria, where, behind the impressive liquid entrance wall, I find wifi in the leafy cafe. Although I can’t see the exhibitions, the artistic ambiance still lends a great energy to my work. The walk through Carlton on Thursday takes me to Green Park, a wonderful spot, combined cafe and wine bar, venue for family brunches, business meetings and friends gathering. I have poached eggs on sourdough with pea and avocado mash, coffee, juice, and work undisturbed all day. An afternoon at the hippest of hip cafes, Everyday Coffee. Friday morning at green, idyllic Streat. Someone is having their review at the next table, an agency set up by two women who sit across the table from the woman who is being reviewed. All are pretty, well-dressed and seem passionate, determined and aspirational in their communication. It’s a pretty good motivator for me. Rather than distracting me, I find that working in all of these places, with their hippie happy vibes, is like a productivity injection. Finish off at Allpress on Friday afternoon – they don’t have wifi, but I manage to draft a lot of emails while I sip my favourite coffee in the sun.
Barre Body. After a day at the library, I walk down to Flinders Lane in the warm sunlight, enjoying the vibe exuding from the happy young people hanging out on the lawn in front of the library, the shoppers and trams in Swanston Street, the crisp smells and warm colours of late autumn, to the largest, most luxurious boutique barre studio imaginable, for a very balletic barre class. What a dream!
Melbourne Drinks & Dinners. After checking in on Monday evening, S leads me down through Fitzroy Gardens to Flinders Lane, where we have dinner at his favourite Asian fusion restaurant, Chin Chin, after getting a cocktail in the downstairs bar, GoGo. As we walk back home later, I know that I’ve instantly fallen in love with this city and I can’t wait to wake up on Tuesday and stroll through its quaint streets, drink its hyped coffee and watch its hip people. On Tuesday night, in the dark after my barre class, I walk up Russell Street and find S and his friend, a Cambridge guy who moved here a few years ago, and the guy’s cheerful and pretty Aussie girlfriend for tapas and red wine at dark and romantic Embla. Such a fun evening, which ends with a work call taken from home, lasting from midnight to 2am – just bearable when I think of all of the advantages of my work. On Wednesday, S picks me up in by the water fountains in front of the gallery, and takes me down to the river promenade, from where we cross a bridge halfway and stop for an after work drink on, Ponyfish Island, a bar in the middle of the river, attached to one of the bridge pontons – so clever! Cheers in craft beer and local pinot noir as we watch the red light from the sunset play in the water and enjoy the happy voices and smiles around us. As it grows dark, we walk up to Cumulus Inc in Flinders Lane (that street!), another charming tapas place, where we sit at the kitchen counter and share a plate of hot padron peppers and a bottle of wine while we wait for our tuna tartar, trout and seasonal leaves. On Thursday, our last night in town, we meet for drinks at the speakeasy, Eau de Vie, just off Flinders Lane, and move back up to the hot street itself for dinner at Tonka, modern Indian in a very hip, light and bright Western setting. Stumble home, tired, full and satisfied, to watch an episode of LOVE on Netflix. I fall asleep a few minutes in, after finishing my dessert of coconut yoghurt with blackberries on top. What a row of nights! Pure indulgence!
Possum! After one of the dinners, walking home through Fitzroy Gardens, we meet so many possums, who are shuffling and sniffing around on the lawns and jumping from branch to branch in the trees. So cute! The first native Australian animal I’ve ever seen.
Coming to Mornington Peninsula. On Friday afternoon, we’re picked up by one of S’s business partners and friends, who takes us to his home on the peninsula south of Melbourne. We’re staying in the simple but well-maintained granny flat in his beautiful garden, which also houses a pool, a hot tub, a tennis court, a neat outdoor kitchen and well-manicured flower beds. The whole weekend is the epitome of wholesome, natural bliss. We have a beautiful model family taking care of us – lovely mum, lovely dad, three polite and happy boys aged 8, 14 and 17, a cute poodle. We’re surrounded by wineries, the peaceful bay and the wild ocean. We play with the dog, do yoga, eat healthily and well at beautiful hip-rustic venues, hang out with the family or venture off alone, getting tipsy in the vineyards and yacht club… just pure idyll. First outing on Friday is Mornington Pier, where we stroll out along the boardwalk to watch a row of men catching squid, climb the rocks for a splendid view of the whole bay at sunset, have a drink at the yacht club bar, The Rocks. Return home to delicious snacks and wine to be consumed while standing around the kitchen counter and chatting as the mum prepares a yummy three-course vegetarian dinner. A couple in their late 40s join the party – they’re the best friends of our hosts and moving to Singapore in a month with their three kids. We all get along so well – such a successful dinner party.
Peninsula Saturday. Hungover drive up to Red Hill with S and the whole happy family. Hothut Yoga with the mum in the most beautiful studio I’ve ever seen – one of the wineries’ old converted sheds, complete with a burning fire, antler chandelier, scented soy candles and a stunning panorama view of vineyards and hydrangea bushes – while the boys are getting coffee and donuts. The perfect hangover cure. After class, we all meet for brunch at Epicurean, and then the tour of the wineries begins – Polperro (wine-tasting, lying in the grass by the lake and staring up into the blue skies, running down between rows of vine), Port Phillip (the concrete building is the most impressive piece of architecture I’ve seen in a while) and Montalto (beautiful steel sculptures in the garden). Lunch stop at Epicurean, where we share a juicy pizza. Late afternoon return to the house – driving in the rain, spotting so many rainbows beyond the meadows on either side of the road. Home to celebrate the mum’s birthday (it’s my brother’s birthday too) with so much good Australian wine, a salad made of quinoa, parsley, coriander, red onion, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh cranberry and currants and a vegan cake for dessert.
Peninsula Sunday. S and I are alone all day – yoga at the Hothut (I spend the whole day in yoga pants), breakfast at Main Ridge Harvest, checking out Gordon Studio Glassblowers (it’s such a fascinating art!), taste beer at quaint Red Hill Brewery, have lunch and wine and listen to live country music at T’Gallant, where we also take a long, tipsy walk around the vineyard. Go back to Mornington Pier for a drink at the yacht club – they play old Jack Johnson songs, it’s raining, and the wind is blowing 30m/second. Home for a hot shower, sports on tv, home-cooked dinner and early bedtime.