Melbourne Moments. It’s no secret that I LOVE staying in – awesome – Airbnbs, but I just want to reemphasise it, hehe. We wake up in Melbourne feeling that we LIVE here. Briefly, but truly. I wouldn’t change one detail about the minimalist yet cosy interior design of our flat. Clear, pale morning light is streaming in through the skylight. I jump out of bed and go for a light jog along quaint Clauscen Street, speeding up as I reach the lush Merri Creek Reserve. Meeting just a few other runners and cyclists on the paths along the chuckling creek, I enjoy the blissful quiet. Back home, we do a bit of yoga together and get ready to go. Walk down to Park St, checking out fashionable Melbournians waiting for the tram and taxis along the road. Notice a pile of books thrown on the pavement, identify an Australian short story collection between old copies of Pride and Prejudice and cookbooks and put it in my bag. From the cover: ‘Through such diverse characters, Paddy O’Reilly takes us into the fringes of human nature – our hidden thoughts, our darker impulses and our unspoken tragedies. By turns elegiac and acerbic, but always acutely observed, Peripheral Vision confirms O’Reilly as one of our most inventive and insightful writers.’ I love how reading a good book that’s set in the country/culture/city/area I’m in contributes to making an atmospheric mental image of the experience. Like songs or smells… At the cafe, which is such a lovely spot for everything from satisfying your hunger and thirst to chilling with friends and family to getting work done, we take a seat in a window among early bird business meetings and birthday celebrations. It’s a place you wanna go for Sunday brunch with kids, newspapers and plenty of time – or for a glass of wine on a first or hundredth date with a friend of partner. Casual, smart, cosy. I order a turmeric tofu scramble with a side of coconut flake drizzled broccolini on sourdough bread and this trip’s first flat white… heavenly. We kiss goodbye after brekkie – he’s got a bunch of meetings downtown. I work from here, in the peace and quiet of a booth in the back of the big, elegant space. 4-5 hours later, I walk down past quaint wooden villas, fragrant gardens and alluring coffee shops to meet S for lunch (beetroot falafel and rocket on sourdough) at Heartattack and Vine. Sitting outside in leafy, happening Lygon Street. Hearing about his exciting business meetings. Working from the cafe all afternoon. In the golden hour, he picks me up and we stroll down through the city. Bright, balmy night. Cross over the railway bridge and enter the vibrant Australian Open village – so conveniently located at the centre of town! We buy a glass of wine and some sushi and take a seat in the Margaret Court Arena to watch Caroline play well and win. We’re both completely spellbound by her calm, focussed style. It’s the first tennis match I’ve ever watched, and it really surprises me how mesmerised I am by the art, grace, swiftness and strength displayed. After the match, as Caroline leaves the court right by our seats, I say ‘well played’ in Danish, at which she turns around, smiles directly and sweetly at me and replies, tak. If I weren’t before – I am a fan now, haha. It’s funny how patriotic you turn sometimes: I don’t even recall the name of the Rumanian girl she beat. Leaving the arena, we walk back towards the impressive Melbourne skyline, up along Exhibition Road and the park, over to a hidden bar on Gertrude St, Everleigh, which S wanted to show me. After a delicious cocktail, we move on to an old school pub for a beer (him) and a glass of shiraz (me), both feeling high after a wonderful day. The following morning, we run together along the Merri Creek Trail, listening to the world waking up, cheered on by chirping birds. Pick up coffees from Growers Espresso. Sit down in the sun in front of Toast & Espresso Bar for brekkie. There are a million cafes, galleries and streets I’d love to revisit and check out respectively, but I tell myself that it’s just lovely to know that these places exist. Be in the moment. Work. Focus. Energised by the impressions around us. We work from home in the morning hours. Drive down to have lunch at Chin Chin. Afterwards, I work from the leafy courtyard of the Garden State Hotel in hip and happening Flinders Lane, just around the corner from S’s office, where he’s got a lot of internal meetings all afternoon. When we meet again, we head up to Sydney.
Sydney Mornings. waking naturally at 6am to the most stunning view across Bondi from our flat on the edge of the Sculpture Park next to Icebergs. Morning yoga. Coastal walk to Bronte with the rest of the strolling, wandering, power walking, jogging, sprinting morning crowd. As Will Smith so aptly points out in this video, ‘I feel so at peace here. There’s something that’s just so absolutely right about this place.’ The fresh sea breeze, the view of the rocks and waves, the feeling of being surrounded by happy, healthy people exuding vitality and energy. When you walk here, it’s easy to feel that there’s no place you’d rather be. Right until you get hungry, that is, haha. We climb the steep, quiet roads off Bronte Beach, pass the stunning houses overlooking the sea and follow our senses of smell to the artisan bakery, Iggy’s Bread. Love the freshly baked sourdough bread here – and the trees, dogs and kids contributing to the welcoming ambiance outside its glass facade. Smoothie bowls at Bare Naked Bowls. Coffee to go from Huxton’s. Uber into town. ⭐️ Waking naturally with the sunrise at 5:45am. Walk across Bondi Beach. Stop in the middle of it. Let the waves wash over our feet. Do a series of stretchy exercises. Run out into the strong current for a fresh, salty morning shower. Walk up through charming residential North Bondi for brekkie at Shuk, lovely Israeli place. Share a freshly baked shakshuka and a green smoothie with cinnamon. Window seat. Splendid view of the locals waiting for the bus just outside – all immaculately dressed in suits and summer dresses. Walk back through the centre of Bondi. Pick up a coffee from one of the many good cafes. Watch Icebergs for a bit; the pool is closed because the waves engulfing it are so big. ⭐️ 5:45am rise again. I do a bunch of laps in Icebergs’ pools, which have been reopened, while S buys me a coffee from the club’s cafe. Walk across the beach for brekkie at Rocker, with one of my favourite people in the world and her fiancé – they moved here just before Christmas.
Sydney Days. Work from my office in Redfern – and from the clean, airy and light-filled Library in Surry Hills, where I sit in the window amongst students writing job applications, tourists writing emails home and hip freelancers working on various creative projects. Facing the pavement and the park across the street, I have a great view of Sydney street life over the edge of my laptop. Pedestrians of all ages licking gelato from next door Messina. Cradling puppies in their arms. Talking on their phones. It’s the perfect mix – the quiet, concentrated ambiance at the library stimulates productivity, and at the same time, I get to really feel I’m in Sydney. One of the days, I walk up the sloping leafy avenues of Surry Hills to meet an old friend and colleague for coffee at Paramount Coffee Project. She’s here to spend time with a bunch of Australian friends from London, who have all been deported or moved back voluntarily – an interesting mix. It’s good to see her – as much as I love meeting new people, it’s also nice to see sweet familiar faces. It’s fun to hear dramatic diving anecdotes from her trip to the Great Barrier Reef, from which she just returned earlier in the day, and to hear about her love life and career over the past few years. We never were super close, but we care about each other; we shared a flat in Shoreditch for about 6 months, around 5 years ago; we have close mutual friends. We haven’t caught up in a while, and it’ll probably be a long time until we will again, but as coffee breaks go, this is a pretty nice one – in a beautiful place too.
Sydney Evenings. Meeting my friend who just moved here for a cup of coffee in her new flat in Surry Hills, followed by (her first!) class at Barre Body (which she enjoys😊) around the corner from the flat, followed by a glass of wine at a bar around the corner from the studio, followed by a delicious Thai dinner at next door Muum Maam with our boyfriends. If most evenings are pretty wonderful, this just has an extra layer of sweetness. It’s great to be able to introduce my favourite people to each other – and feel that they like each other. It’s great to see my friends in a new setting, their new home, and feel that they’re thriving here. Ahh. The next evening, she and I meet on Bondi Beach for a quick dip in the strong current followed by a coastal walk to Bronte. We have a glass of wine at Three Blue Ducks and then walk over to Sefa Kitchen to meet a sweet friend of a friend (my previous flatmate in Singapore used to live in Sydney; live with this girl, actually; and when she was visiting Singapore a few months ago, the three of us went for breakfast together) as well as S for dinner in the sunset. Scrumptious meze and cocktails infused with rose and cardamom. Very harmonious, exciting, balanced, warm conversation among the four of us. Not necessarily trying to matchmake the two girls, I’m pleased to see that they seem to get along and hope that they will meet up again 🙂
BYRON BAY WEEKEND.
Old & New. Land in Ballina on Friday night and hire a car to take us through the hinterland to our home for the weekend, a little wooden cabin on the outskirts of Byron Bay. One of the most tranquil places I’ve ever experienced. A large plot of off-the-grid land owned by a couple of middle-aged yogis/farmers, who bought it three years ago and decorated it with a herd of rescue cows, a few ponies, an alpaca and three eco-friendly cabins, one of which they live in while renting the two others out to people seeking peace and quiet at a 5km distance from the beach/central Byron. Having dropped off our bags in the clean, simple cabin, we drive into town for a jackfruit burger at our usual joint, Main Street Burger, a night cap at The Bolt Hole, an off-the-beaten-track bar, which S has been wanting to show me (he knows one of the bartenders from when they both stayed at the same Airbnb in the area a few years back) and a piece of vegan cake from Spar, also a tradition. Ah, I love the young hippie crowd in Byron. Locals may think it’s too busy and touristy here; I just really like the happy vibe. When we return home, I sit up late to edit my friend’s guidebook to Bali, and once I’ve sent her the document, I decide to have an internet-free weekend. I’ve never really thought I ‘needed’ an internet break, but I long for the thrill and excitement of really being in the present and sensing everything around me. Being at one with myself, the love of my life and the gorgeous nature and culture around us in this special part of the world. I’m rarely bored anyway – I will use my phone for notes, taking photograph and looking at the map. But not for looking up things, communication or checking any kind of media. Airplane mode. And off to bed. Ahh. Wake up with a splendid view of meadows and grassing cows through the big window right in front of our bed. There’s a hammock on the deck; there are bikes for us to use; there’s a campfire site and an outdoor kitchen between the cabins; we walk barefoot in the morning dew covered grass to get to the spot behind the cows where the alpaca is hanging out. Chat with him for a bit. Do some yoga on the bank of a lake with a few kayaks in it. Get ready to go exploring…
Bangalow, Lennox Head & Byron. Start out by heading to The Farm for breakfast; one of the first places to which S introduced me and such a special, especially energising spot. Discover new bliss in Bangalow, a town that we merely drove right through the last time around – a buzzing farmers’ market, wonderful silk and linen clothing, antiques and whole foods boutiques and modern art galleries in beautiful pastel-coloured wooden buildings, lots of lush greenery and happy vibes in the streets and the coolest cafe I’ve seen in a while, Woods. A happy place we just want to stay in. At least for the time it takes so slowly sip a flat white and a turmeric latte – then we itch to experience more. We drive south to hike across green meadows and rainforest and above bright red, yellow and black cliff sides of the spectacular Broken Head – jump in the waves and splash around like kids when we reach the bottom of the hill. Head back up to Lennox Head for a stroll along the wide, pristine Seven Mile Beach, followed by lunch at Shelter, followed by a blissful sunning/reading/meditation session back down on the practically deserted beach. Last stop, just before dusk, is the Farm, where we take glass of wine along for a stroll among the sunflower patches, meadows, chickens and ducks while enjoying the sunset. Ahh. In town, we enjoy a yummy Lebanese spread at Orgasmic, sitting next to one of S’s business partners and his wife, locals, who encourage us to check out Whites Beach in the morning. When we get home, we fall asleep right away – completely physically exhausted in the best possible way.
Farmers’ Market, Folk, Whites Beach & Beach Byron Bay. On Sunday, we rise with the gold-tinted clouds, do some yoga, take turns at skipping with my skipping rope. I then go for a beautiful, fresh, quiet, energising run through the forest into town, trot down across the beach and jump in the cool, shallow sea. Ahh. Meet S for brekkie at Bayleaf. Classic. Walk over to the large Sunday market, where we end up buying a genius wooden meditation perch for S and a beautiful naturally dyed organic silk dress for me. Walk out of town to get to Woods’ sister, Folk, probably my favourite cafe in the world (as of today). Hang out on the deck, sipping coffee and leafing through Peppermint, Breathe and Frankie for a while (thinking that offline Australian media contributes healthily to being in the moment, hehe), reading out pieces to each other now and then. Head back into town to get the car and drive to Whites Beach, the kind of paradoxical place you want everyone to experience while its appeal lies in its secret, untouched, uninhabited nature. It’s the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. The fact that we have to drive ever so slowly along a bumpy, dusty dirt track for 10 minutes, then make our way through dense rainforest and finally climb down a couple of hundred steep rock steps to get to the pristine pocket of white sand says it all… We see no other tourists, and the few locals spread across the beach haven’t carried a lot of stuff with them down the steps. It feels very natural, unspoilt, romantic. We go swimming, climb up the vertical rock sides looming over the beach, relax in the sand with our magazines, thoughts, talk, no thoughts, no talk. Bliss. When it grows dark, we head back up to town for dinner on the deck of Beach Byron Bay overlooking, yes, the beach in Byron Bay. My most favourite place. Someone recommended it last year in April, when we spent the night at a servo because the highways were flooded. After three visits, one in autumn, one in spring and now in high summer, I find it to be very special. It’s lovely at sunrise, at sunset, when it’s slightly chilly or scorchingly hot, for healthy, wholesome, seasonal breakfasts, freshly shucked oysters, freshly caught fish, good Australian wine, great espresso martinis. Sitting on that deck and enjoying the joyful restaurant ambiance as well as the view across the heather, beach and ocean in front. It fills me with a want to draw, sketch, paint. Maybe I wouldn’t actually start swinging pencils or brushes (provided I had any), and it’s less important whether I do it or not; the essence is that feeling, that sensation of wanting to do it… of pure inspiration, creativity, happiness… of feeling energised and clear in body and mind. On our evening walk through town later, we stop and listen to a singer-songwriter performing on the broad pavement outside Spar. Last year, we listened to Garrett Kato in the same spot and fell in love with his music. This time, it’s a young girl who, between her soulful ballads, tells tales of living on a farm in Argentina with her boyfriend – owning nothing and feeling richer, happier and more alive than ever. We clap, leave some coins in her guitar case just in case she does appreciate a bit of cash and head home to get some rest before I’m leaving from Gold Coast. Such a good weekend – full of lovely familiar and new elements. We find comfort in and cherish revisiting favourites, but every time we come here, we add new bricks and nuances to the total experience of being here, to our story, our journey, our lives.