The Melbourne General Cemetery

Melbourne General Cemetery

Last week I popped into the Melbourne General Cemetery. It was a nice day and my partner was meeting with a client in nearby Carlton so I thought I’d take the opportunity, however brief, to have a look around. Cemeteries have a special beauty to them and are always interesting to explore.

The Melbourne General Cemetery was established in 1852 and replaced the Old Melbourne Cemetery, which on the site of what is now the Queen Victoria Market. There are about 9,000 people buried under the sheds and car park of the Queen Victoria Market. The Melbourne General Cemetery is the resting home of some of Australia’s explorers, prime ministers, service personnel, and other notable figures. It’s a big mix of old and new and there are various religions and ethnic groups represented. It’s pretty and rather large.

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NGV, the National Gallery of Victoria

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Melbourne is full of wonderful museums. I was in the city recently and decided to pop into the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).

The NGV has two locations. One is the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square, which is a home for Australian art, presenting Indigenous and non-Indigenous art from the colonial period to the present day. It’s excellent and I highly recommend it. The other location is NGV International on St Kilda Road. NGV International houses collections from Europe, Asia, America, and Oceania. I had not been here before. It was an impromptu visit so I was armed only with my iPhone.

I had heard there is an excellent William Blake exhibit at NGV and it did not disappoint. What I didn’t know is there are also some fine antiquities, which I love.

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A portion from The Canterbury Tales, William Blake. That’s the Wife of Bath prominently depicted. Bragging rights: I’ve read this in the original Middle English.

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Forest Glade Gardens

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This weekend, my partner Theo and I visited Forest Glade Gardens in Mount Macedon with some fellow photographer friends.

It was not one of those brilliantly sunny days, but the beautiful autumn colours of the resplendent gardens more than made up for the chilly, grey day. Forest Glade is a private garden and popular with tourists so expect to see quite  lot of people, but it’s large and easy to find quiet nooks and crannies.

The Gardens boast four themes: an English section, a Japanese section, a woodland area, and a fern gully. It’s an easy and relatively level park to walk through so prams, small children, and older folks can travel easily.

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10 Tips for Your Visa Process

I’m not an expert and I’m not a lawyer or migrant agent, but I’ve spent a year working on putting my visa application together. With the benefit of hindsight, I offer you some tips to make your process smoother.

I applied onshore (that is, from within Australia, as opposed to offshore) for a de facto partner visa subclass 820, which is a temporary visa. If granted, if the relationship is still intact after two years, I will be granted a permanent visa, subclass 801. If you’re applying for a different kind of visa, your mileage may vary.

1. Save your pennies. The application fee for the de facto partner 820-801 visa is currently $4575 plus you have to pay for the medical assessment, the background checks, etc. If you use a migrant agent, add another $2k-4k to that. All up, plan to spend about $8k.

2. Find a good migrant agent. You can pull it all together yourself, but I strongly recommend a migrant agent. I know it can be costly, but it is worth it. A good migrant agent will be on your side. S/he will guide you through the process, answer all your questions, advocate for you, make sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed,and catch things you might not.

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The London Tavern, Historic Beechworth

Victoria

The historical London Tavern as seen from the street.

Last weekend, Theo and I had the pleasure of spending a few days at the London Tavern in the historic gold-mining town of Beechworth.

Beechworth is a picturesque historical town located north-east Victoria. It’s famous for its gold rush boom during the mid-1850s. It’s also famous for its links to outlaw Ned Kelly. Built in stages between 1859 and 1864, the London Tavern was the first brick hotel in Beechworth and was notable for its verandas, French windows, and open courtyard centred by a unique bath house, which is today the only remaining self-standing bath house in all of Australia.

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York Butter Factory, a Coworking Space

York Butter Factory

In December, I discovered my first coworking space in Melbourne, Inspire9. Recently, my WordChicks Meetup group met at another coworking space called the York Butter Factory.

A coworking space is a shared working environment designed for work-at-home professionals, freelancers, independent contractors, and other types of workers who end up working alone. A coworking space gives you a place to go when you’re looking to escape the cabin fever of working from home and when you want community and collaboration.

York Butter Factory is inside a beautiful 1850s heritage-listed bluestone building in the CBD. There are two floors with an open space plan, meeting rooms, a kitchen, and room for up to 60 entrepreneurs, mostly tech startup types. It offers permanent, part-time, and after hours and weekend desks at varying rates.

I like the physical space at Inspire9 more, but York Butter Factory seems more quiet and, even though it was after hours when I was there and few people were about, it has a more intense feel about it. I definitely got the sense that big ideas are percolating here.

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A Weekend Away at Mornington Peninsula Beaches

Mornington Peninsula

Cape Schanck

Last weekend, Theo and I went away with our local photography club. With just my iPhone and Canon point-and-shoot, I’m not much of a photographer, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to the beach and explore a new area. We went to Rye along the Mornington Peninsula.

We stayed at the holiday home of one of the club’s members and Friday night was all about settling in and yummy barbecue. On Saturday, we got up while it was still dark and made our way to Cape Schanck, the southernmost tip of the Mornington Peninsula, to catch the sunrise.

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The Melbourne Star Encore

Melbourne

The Melbourne Star at night.

Last month, my partner Theo and I went on the Melbourne Star. This week, we went again.

For our birthdays (mine is in November and Theo’s in December), his sister and brother-in-law gave us encore tickets on the Melbourne Star. That means you can go twice within 30 days. The first time, we went around sunset. This time, we decided we wanted to see the night lights.

As it turns out, it’s not that impressive. It should be because Melbourne is a beautiful city and the Melbourne Star is interesting and fun. But the location of the Star doesn’t offer beautiful views of the city. With its impressive historical buildings, funky laneways, and quirky street art, Melbourne is awesome on the ground, but from up high, it’s not much to look at from Waterfront City. That’s why Sydney, with its lovely and iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House, gets all the skyline attention. Miami, by the way, is kind of the opposite. It has a beautiful skyline, but up close, it’s dirty and smells funny.

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The Tourists are Missing Out

February is officially over and so is the Expat Blog Challenge, but since I missed a few days of it, I thought I’d keep going into March and complete it.

On Saturday, February 15th, the prompt was, “What the tourists never see in my town that they are really missing out on.”

I had to think about which town is “my town” and decided that both Miami and Melbourne are my towns. Let’s talk about Miami first.

Tourism is an extremely important industry in Miami. Every year, 38 million visitors from across the country and around the world visit the Magic City and spend $17 billion. They descend upon South Beach’s Art Deco District for the nightclubs, the beaches, the shopping, the tropical weather, and come for events such as Art Basel, the Winter Music Conference, the Sony Ericsson Open, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the Urban Beach Week hip-hop festival, and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. They come for the glitz and the glamour and also because it’s a little seedy. It’s Scarface, Miami Vice, it’s The Birdcage, it’s 2 Fast 2 Furious.

Despite the facade, Miami is the third poorest city in the United States. It is a city of hard-working immigrants. In Miami Beach, they’re just waiters and hotel maids, but they help make Miami what it really is, a diverse metropolis with delicious food, people dancing on their balconies, and the sounds of salsa and African drums playing into the night. Here’s what tourists don’t see.

Cuban

“Caja china” literary means Chinese box. It is a pork roasting box.

Tourists pay far too much money for delicious Latin food at trendy restaurants. Everyone knows the best Latin food is somewhere else and there’s no beating a roast pork at a Cuban Christmas.

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Undiscovered

Melbourne CBD

Today’s prompt in the Expat Blog Challenge is, “Something I still haven’t seen in my expat country.” This one is easy.

I haven’t seen a wombat. This one comes up a lot because my partner Theo loves wombats. He says they are the best to cuddle (better than his dog Sam and better than me, I guess). I got close to seeing one at Healesville Sanctuary, but they weren’t around that day. I saw a dead one recently on the side of a road, but that one doesn’t really count.

I haven’t spent much time outside of Melbourne so there is still a lot to see in Victoria. I want to take a wine tour in the Yarra Valley, take a treetop walk in the Great Otway, and see the Grampians. And there’s a world waiting for me beyond Victoria. I want to go to Kangaroo Island and see the Kimberley and watch the sunset at Uluru. I want to ride a camel on a beach in Broome and swim in the crystalline waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

When I first arrived in Australia, Theo and I went out and explored all the time. He was excited to show off his beautiful country. We’re still active. Hardly a weekend goes by that we don’t have plans, but it’s different. Now that I’m more settled, many of our plans revolve not around exploration and discovery, but around the things that make up our lives – classes, club meetings, gatherings with friends and family. It’s no less fun; it’s just different. And, of course, traveling beyond Melbourne is more time consuming and expensive. It’s the stuff of vacations. Nevertheless, it’s all on my radar, on my bucket list, and I look forward to seeing more of Australia.

What haven’t you seen in your adopted country that you really want to?

Top 5 Attractions Under $50 in Melbourne

I received the following infographic from the PARKROYAL Melbourne Airport hotel and I thought I would share it. It’s a great little guide to some terrific local attractions. I’ve never mentioned Degraves Street, one of Melbourne’s awesome laneways. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Top 5 Attractions in Melbourne

Thanks to PARKROYAL Melbourne Airport Hotel for the creation of this attractions in Melbourne graphic. View Larger Image.
Do you know of any other budget-friendly things to do and see in Melbourne?

Inspire9, a Coworking Space

A few weeks ago I attended a Girl Geek workshop about WordPress at Inspire9 and I just had to blog about this terrific concept and amazing place.

Inspire9 is a coworking space. That is, a shared working environment. Unlike a typical working environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same employer. They are work-at-home professionals, freelancers, independent contractors, and other types of workers who end up working alone. There are many advantages to being this type of worker, but among the significant disadvantages are isolation, the lack of collaboration, and the lack of community. That’s where coworking spaces come in.

A coworking space gives you a place to go when you’re looking to escape the cabin fever of working from home. It can also provide you with tools you may not have such as a conference room or photo studio. But the best part may be joining a community and the collaboration and new ideas that could emerge from it.

I spend a lot of time at my computer at home. Occasionally, I go to the library and although that gives me a change of scenery, it’s not a creative, collaborative space. I’d been meaning to check out Inspire9 and I finally got the chance recently.

Inspire9 is a giant space in a converted warehouse in Richmond. It’s buzzing with energy, hatching great new ideas no doubt, with lots of people at work, and a few at play over the ping pong or pool table. There are meetings rooms and a kitchen as well. There are big desks that drop-ins share and permanent stations with desktop computers for members. There’s a lot of natural sunlight and a good feel overall.

I spoke a little bit with Community Manager Kathryn McGrath who told me the people at Inspire9 are mostly techies, freelancers, startups, and other geeky types. She did warn me it can get loud; there’s a train line running by it and that ping pong table is very popular. Also, it’s the kind of place where people like to bounce ideas off each other and collaborate. Inspire9 may not be a good choice for workers who like a quiet space with few interruptions.

Here are a few snapshots of Inspire9 that I took with my iPhone after my workshop was over. It was about 8:30pm so it was pretty quiet by then.

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Inspire9 is inside the old Australian Knitting Mill, established in 1910.

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Lots of work stations.

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Unfortunately, there are no bike racks outside, but Inspire9 provides a space for them.

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More work stations and a few comfy couches to chill out on.

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Permanent workstations for members.

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Take a break with ping pong, Foosball, or pool.

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The kitchen.

You can use Inspire9 for free once a fortnight, which gives you a chance to get to know the space and its people. Beyond that, there are a couple of different pricing plans depending on how often you want to use the space. Inspire9 is located at 41 Stewart Street in Richmond.

What has your experience been with coworking spaces? Have you every used one? Would you?