Thursday, February 27, 2014

Melbourne's White Night

Last weekend I got the chance to attend Melbourne's White Night.  This year was the second night for the event - last year they estimated about 300,000 people attended.  But this year they anticipated a lot more - they estimate that 500,000+ attended this year.

Waiting for the sun to set

White Night is a night festival held in Melbourne's CBD.  Areas were sectioned off to traffic (and thank goodness, because not even all the people could fit!).  The event had small districts divided into themes, all with the element of light.  There were huge projectors set up on each street that cast a facade onto each building wall.  It make the buildings appear as if they had been completely redecorated - and in the brightest colors!  Lots of them were dynamic with moving images.

The National Gallery became the "Tattooed City" with images of tattoos both zoomed in and on various people.  They showed the most intricate and colorful tattoos - it was by far my favorite exhibit.

Across the street in the park there were small screens set up with short films playing on them.  They were all super weird contemporary art films - I guess I just don't get art, but it was still interesting to see.  Overlooking the river you could see people walking around the decorated buildings.  Lots of people wore light-up glasses and necklaces, glow-in-the-dark jewelry and makeup and I can't even begin to count the number of sequined outfits I saw.  It was very colorful and stimulating - lots of energy in the middle of the crowd.

Finders Street Station

At about 11, the crow really swelled in front of Flinders Street.  I had a few moments where I was actually concerned.  It was shoulder to shoulder people, the crowd was constantly pushing from behind and sometimes there was no option to move forward.  I enjoyed looking at the lights, but I was glad to be done with the crowd at the end of the night.

More awesome photos of White Night can be found here:

All in all, a great Melbourne experience and a fun evening!!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Great Australian Beer Festival

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to attend the Great Australian Beer Festival (Yeah, I'm falling behind on posting stories, sorry about that).  Discount tickets were offered through work, so it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.  Peter, a fellow PhD student at AAHL and I both showed up at the gate as soon as it opened and enjoyed the afternoon tasting beer and cider.

First beers of the day!

The event was set up in different sections, with small booths for every brewing company set up throughout.  There were three music stages set up within the festival grounds and food vendors were planted in the middle.

Lots of people attended, but the crowds weren't too bad

One of the entertainment spots was a circus-type tent set up where they did various "acts".  The acts weren't all that great, but it was a shaded area in the grass to relax.  The morning started off comfortable, but by noon the sun was out in full force, so a break in the shade was a treat.  Some of the acts that we watched included a lady playing the accordion and telling terrible corny jokes, a hula-hoop act, and a really sad version of Evel Knievel.

Hula-hoop craziness

Roving entertainers

Samples were sold via tokens, and each sample was about 100 ml each.  When I had my first sample, I was a little disappointed at how much we got.  It was only a small taste of the beer.  But 30 samples later, I decided that the serving size was appropriate - it allowed you to fully sample the beer but still be able to taste others without passing out in an hour.  Regular Australian beer is about 5.0%, so you can't just drink it endlessly all day...

Beers/ciders that I got to taste included Napoleone's Pear Cider, 3 Ravens' White Ale, Murrays' Whale Ale, Hawthorne's Golden Ale, Mountain Goat's Steam Ale, Cavalier's Summer Ale, Mildura Brewery's Honey Wheat, Feral Brewing Company's Sly Fox, Killer Sproket's Amber Ale, Kooinda Brewery's English Red Ale, Little Creatures' Bright Ale,  and my favorite of the day: Prockley Moses' Blueberry Hefewizen.  I'm sure I missed a few, but those were the ones that I wrote down on my program :P


The day was a great success, and we both managed to avoid sunburn.  I was glad to be able to enjoy Australia's beers as well as Australia(s)Wine!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Australia Day

January 26th is Australia Day, or as many Aussies call it: 'Straya Day.  I found it to be a very interesting holiday, particularly because of the history behind it.  Australia Day is celebrated much like the 4th of July in the US.  Everyone has a big BBQ with friends and family, people go to the beach and enjoy being outside.  There's lots of red, white and blue and clothing with the flag on it.  Though people don't set off fireworks in their driveway here in Australia, they still had a fireworks display down by the bay.

I celebrated Australia Day in the most Australian way I knew how - being outside!  It's especially important for me to get outside on the evenings and weekends since I work in a lab with no windows.  Down on the waterfront was the Festival of Sails.  They had a crafty marketplace, food court area, a kids activity spot as well as a stage with live entertainment all day.

These ladies sang "Waltzing Matilda" - very patriotic

There were also sailboats doing different races throughout the weekend, but unless you were directly involved, it was a bit hard to watch the boats out on the bay (too far away to see anything).  Something about a Regatta - I know nothing about boats/sailing so I didn't really get what was going on, some sort of race thingy.

Pirate-like ship spotted at the Festival of Sails.  I think this was the same ship I saw at the Portarlington Mussel Festival
Very patriotic, though I didn't recognize all the flags
I found it very funny, in the marketplace area, they had a booth for the Cancer Council.  It was manned with ladies actively squirting people with sunscreen.  The sun is no joke here.  Back in the US we have a bit of an ozone layer, so if you lay out too long you'll get crispy.  But here, the UV is VERY intense.  You'll have third-degree burns if you spend a day outside without sunscreen.

Down with Melanomas
Of course, all of this fun was interspersed with LOTS of Australian flags.  Evidently it's a "thing" down here to wear the flag as a cape...  I also saw lots of Australian flag temporary tattoos on people's faces.

Lots of Australia paraphernalia for sale

You're not Australian if you're not wearing a flag

Seen on one of the Australia Day booths - quite Australian, haha

Amidst the crafts and food, they also had rides for the kids and other entertainment.  Down by the beach a 2v2 volleyball tournament was going on, and someone brought a bunch of camels for people to ride.  I must admit, the camels were odd, but entertaining.

Other Australia-Day-isms... Havaianas thong floaties.  (They call them thongs here, not flip-flops).  Every year on Australia Day at one of the Torquay beaches, a fundraiser is held to see how many people they can get out in the water with these giant blow-up thong floaties.  The money goes towards a cancer fund, and I'm told they get something like 12,000 people out there at one time.  After spending the early part of the afternoon down by the waterfront in Geelong, I decided to enjoy the rest of the day at the beach in Torquay to see all the floaties.

I couldn't get a good photo with all the floaties visible, but this is a taste of what the entire beach looked like.

Bright orange blow-up thongs everywhere!
There were plenty of Australian-isms present at the beach as well.  Everyone making sandcastles, playing cricket on the beach, BBQ-ing in the nearby park.  Everyone was having a great time.

Cricket kits were all over the place!

I did my best to join in on the patriotism with a $10 Australian-flag bikini that I got from Kmart.  I had a fantastic afternoon on the beach soaking up  some sun and people-watching.  Of course, I wore plenty of sunscreen and didn't get burned at all (awesome!).

I finished off the day by picking up fish and chips on my way home from the beach.  All-in-all a great first Australia Day!!