Day 5: So, I’m clearly late to the game with this since most of the other bloggers have covered their experiences with the Melbourne Cup, but to echo their sentiments: Yes, it’s a really big deal here, even up in Sydney, and just about everyone uses it as an excuse to get dressed up and wear a silly hat (called “fascinators”).
We woke up at like 7am and tv presenter Kerri-Anne was wearing the most ginormous hat I’ve ever seen, plus she seemed to be drunk. Was there ever a circumstance where Katie Couric was allowed to be drunk on The Today Show? None come to mind. So that sort of set the tone for us. Since the day was looking to be a wicked scorcha (that’s Boston for “extremely hot”), we decided to get in some quality morning beach time. The day before I’d been able to secure a Melbourne Cup luncheon rezzie at a bar near us called Durty Nelly’s. It was, like, the seventh place that I called (everywhere else was booked out), and perhaps that should’ve been a sign, but I was desperate to give my visitor a taste of Aussie culture. When I called the manager was like, “We have space for you but you’re going to have to sit out on the balcony. I’m really, really sorry, I hope that’s ok.” He then sent a confirmation email and again was like, “*NOTE! SEATING IS ON THE BALCONY*” This amused us, since we both actually like sitting outside, though of course it ended up being 100 degrees, but under normal circumstances it probs would’ve been fine.
The luncheon began at 1:15, giving us about two hours at the beach. I wanted to head to Bronte, since I’d driven there before and figured it would be a lot quieter than Bondi. Unfortunately, I’m yet to find parking near Bronte that lasts for more than an hour. WTF, who goes to the beach for an hour or less?! Granted, Beege and I are both so pale more than an hour probs would have been a bad idea, but I continue to be outraged by the principle of the thing!
On the bright side, Bronte was quiet and uncrowded. Check it:
I’d planned to go swimming, but the water was fa-fa-freezing. It did feel nice to cool off by dipping my toes in, though, and I convinced Beege to do the same just so she could say she’d been in both sides of the Pacific. She is a master “selfie” photo taker, and I think this one might be the best from the whole trip:
LOVE how pretty the water is here on a sunny day. So we were totally enjoying the warm weather on the beach, but we knew we had to get back and shower in time to make our luncheon. Plus, those dudes from the photo above started throwing random objects around and kept almost hitting us. They all had mullets and indecipherable accents; not a good scene.
By the time we got home and engaged in a madcap primping session, the thermometer had climbed up to about 100 degrees. Or, as they would say here, a steamy 38! It didn’t help that we basically had to hike up the hill in stiletto slingbacks, rendering us somewhat sweaty and overheated by the time we got up to the luncheon. But no matter. We enjoyed the brief respite of air conditioning when the manager led us through the dining room, where the tables were filled with ladies in cute dresses and feathered hats mingling with dudes in jeans and polo shirts. Beege and I were both disappointed that they apparently don’t rock seersucker and bowties on race day here. There was a huge projector set up in one corner with all the undercard races, and each placesetting included a complimentary trifecta bet from TAB; I’ve never seen anything quite like it in the U.S. Sadly, we soon understood why the balcony was such a letdown.
For one, we were the ONLY people out there. For two, not only was the general temperature warm, but the afternoon sun was shining DIRECTLY on our table. So basically we were baking. To make matters worse, we probably sat there for about half an hour before someone brought us any food (essentially negating the prompt champagne service), even though there was a set menu. Three different servers came out and said, “Your server will be right with you!” and we couldn’t help but wonder why none of them could bother to serve us.
Though we enjoyed the views of Oxford Street, we did feel like second class citizens listening to the MC inside lead the other guests through Melbourne Cup trivia. Naturally we were clueless about the horse-racing questions, but then he’d ask other random stuff like “Is Parcheesi a game, a kind of cheese, or a place in Pakistan?” and “Is Sydney’s Mardi Gras celebrated at the same time as the one in New Orleans?” Eventually the manager came out and told us there were two free seats at a table with a “regular” who was rolling solo style. We figured any awkward social interaction was worth getting out of the heat and having an actual view of the race, and happily moved inside.
We sat down with a gentleman who was in his 60s or 70s, and he immediately started telling us his betting strategy, and how much he stood to win if his pick worked out. That was just about the only thing he said to us. Clearly this guy was not messing around. Within about ten minutes the race had started – it was 3pm, and we still hadn’t received our main course, btw – and it was quite exciting, although the telecast gave little indication as to which horse was actually in the lead. Pretty much 100% of the time, Australian TV production quality makes me feel like I’ve teleported back to 1992 or something. By race’s end, however, my top pick, Shocking, had crossed the finish line in first place. Beege and the hubs had both picked a horse named AlcoPop, but he finished in like seventh or something. Sadly, online betting had been suspended and the city’s makeshift betting stations were overflowing with with people at 6:30am, so I didn’t get to place a straight-up bet, but I was happy for Shocking nonetheless.
When all was said and done, citizens in Victoria and New South Wales alone had placed A$95.6 million worth of bets on the race– a new record. I’ve said it before– this place is mad for gambling. Meanwhile, our lunch finally came at 3:15, meaning we didn’t get out of there until almot 4pm. All in all, I wouldn’t say it was worth $80/person, though the overall experience was fun. A friend who lived here previously said she’d recommend actually flying down to Melbourne to see the race in person– I think that’s ideally what we’ll do next year.
The sun was brutally hot when we tottered home down the hill, both more than a little unstable thanks to the bottle of champagne we’d split. I barely remember making it into our apartment, I just know that we both passed out in the living room until the hubs got home around 7:30. It was still hot after dark – a rarity here – and for the first time I truly appreciated having central air conditioning in our apartment. Hungover but hungry, we decided to eat dinner at Una’s, a popular German restaurant on Victoria Street. Unforch after ordering we realized that they don’t have AC and the fans were minimally effective, but oh well, at least Beege got to try their famous chicken schnitzel. That night I think we were all asleep by 11pm.
Day 6: Don’t worry, this is a short one. Worn out from days of walking, drinking, and baking in the hot sun, we were almost grateful for the cold, drizzly weather that descended upon the city on Wednesday. This had been our designated shopping day anyway, so we browsed the many small boutiques along Oxford Street in Paddington. Beege was duly impressed by the seemingly endless array of of shops purveying cute little sundresses – they certainly do that well here – and also picked up a few things at Sportsgirl, a chain that I spose is something like the Australian H&M.
I’d been talking up meat pies, so we grabbed some from Pie Face for lunch. I know it’s essentially a fast food chain, but they’re tasty and cheap! If anyone can recommend a more legit place for pies, feel free to do so in the comments. After a low-key afternoon watching multiple episodes of the hilarious Project Runway Australia (what’s up, KELLYANNE?!), we met the hubs for dinner at Phamish, a small Vietnamese restaurant that seems to have a bit of a cult following. Though a lot of locals say that it’s gone downhill since moving to a new location (still small, and still no reservations taken), it’s still always crowded and I’ve loved everything I’ve had there. Highlights for us included fresh coconut fried rice, mouthwatering duck pancakes, beef lok lak, and fresh summer rolls with just the perfect amount of mint.
It was another early evening for us, as Beege and I had to rise at the ungodly hour of 6am on Thursday to prepare for our daylong wine tour to the Hunter Valley. A full review and recap coming tomorrow (or maybe Thursday)!