Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Melbourne: Luna Park, Gardens, Winter Night Market

Sometimes you have to face the idea that the guidebooks can steer you wrong sometimes, or at least lead you to go somewhere that turns out to be kind of a waste. That was our day to Luna Park. Part of what was upsetting was the waste of money. So Melbourne has one of the world’s largest tram systems. All of the trams in the central city area are free to ride. But outside of that, you are supposed to pay. Being dutiful tourists, we went to the hassle of buying Melbourne miki transport cards ($6 each) and loading them with the fare to go about half an hour south to the suburb of St Kilda ($7.80 each roundtrip). We had been skeptical about how they actually regulate anyone tapping on/off because the tram driver is sealed off behind a door and doesn’t interact with passengers, but figured it might be different once you get outside the city center. Nope. There seems to be no system of enforcement, at least on the line we were on. Several other people got on and off without tapping on/off. (I have since heard that there are periodically armed enforcement guards that go through and check, but it was still frustrating to go through all of that hassle for one short trip, and I don't like having to pay so much for a transport card that you're not going to use again.)

Then we got down there only to realize that since it was winter and during the week, Luna Park was closed. So we walked down this long pier and read about the history of the building, called a kiosk, that had burned down recently and had a fundraising campaign to restore it. It was a beautiful sunny day out. 

Next we walked a bit to visit the Polish bakery whose desserts the guidebook raved about (Monarch Cake Shop) and which has been around since 1934. We walked several blocks down the ‘up and coming’ neighborhood of St Kilda and past a couple other bakeries to arrive at this one. Unfortunately, the woman behind the counter wasn’t very friendly, the pastry slices cost $7.50, and they weren’t anything outstanding. The unique feature for their signature dessert, called chocolate kooglhoupf, seemed to be that chocolate was swirled inside of it, which is probably difficult to achieve. We were hassled by some of the staggering locals as we sat at a table outside and made our way back to the tram to go back to the city.

chocolate kooglhoupf

chocolate kooglhoupf mid-eating

We visited the Shrine of Remembrance (built like the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus) commemorating those lost in battle.
one of the statues around the shrine
We walked through the Queen Victoria Gardens (though not much was in bloom due to the season). There was a field of swamp hens (pukeko here in New Zealand) in the gardens that I enjoyed. Then we went to another neighborhood to try out this gelato place that also receives rave reviews and that we missed the chance to visit while in Brisbane last year: Gelato Messina. It was trying so hard to be hipster and only accepted cash. To be fair, it was good gelato, and the unique flavors we tried ('Just a Pinch' - salted malt gelato smashed with pretzel clusters and 'NYG' - baked cheesecake gelato) were cool, but it was not worth going all of this way on the trams to get there.


swamp hens (pukeko)

the director list appears to be being taken over by bush

Gelato Messina's special flavors

Thankfully, the final event of the day was the Queen Victoria Market: Winter Night Market, and this was a cool experience. There were lots of food stalls and people with music and entertainment. I got a bowl of spaghetti with a four cheese cream sauce that was being scooped out of a giant parmigiano reggiano rind, so it had lots of cheese chunks in it. We also found $40 cash on the ground, so that somewhat made up for the transport deal!

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