Traveling gives you the opportunity to meet and form relationships with incredible people from all walks of life. My time as a tour guide for Peak Adventure Travel (now called American Adventures) allowed me to meet a wide range of individuals and cast my friendship net all over the world. Fortunately for me, as an expat living in Australia, most of these fishies come from the land down under. I recently visited my friends, Polina and Vania, in Melbourne-Australia and I couldn’t have hoped for better hosts. They are the dancing playboy twins emoji come to life. Polina is a Russian born, sassy pole dancing, crochet kween and Vania is a Portuguese dime piece who could represent Australia in the brunching olympics. Needless to say, I had the best time and who better to talk about Melbourne then two true Melbournians. This is a new segment I am going to be introducing called “10 Questions with a Local” and why not start it off with not one but TWO local experts!!! Introducing two true Melbournians, Polina & Vania. 👯
“ I’m a 27 year old with way too many hobbies. Crocheting and Knitting are my favourite’s at the moment because they let me binge watch tv shows with little to no guilt, because at the end of a season I’ve made a doily. I also take pole dancing classes and I love food, which makes the perfect Melbournian.”
- What is your favorite place you have traveled to so far? My favourite place is probably Hoi An, Vietnam. Vietnam in general is such a beautiful country and the people are adorable! Who am I kidding, I went there so I’d have an excuse to eat Vietnamese food all day erryday.
- How long have you lived in Melbourne? I’ve lived in Melbourne for 24 years, moved here as a toddler with my parents from Moscow.
- Describe Melbourne in 3 words. Unpredictable (weather), Tasty (food) and Creative
- What makes Melbourne so special? I think our multi-culturalism is what makes us special. The people that live here all have such different backgrounds and families, which means we have all these different communities, tribes even, that you can pass through and enjoy.
- What is your favorite activity in Melbourne? EATING!!!!
- What is your favorite place to eat and why? My favourite place to eat would be Victoria St in Richmond, because it’s like our little Vietnam. (Although I think there’s another Little Vietnam in Footscray and Box Hill, but I grew up in the Inner South, so I will swear that Victoria Street is the best). I have memories as a kid, of going to our favorite place, Thanh Phong, and feasting on all of the delicious Vietnamese food. If you’re a local to Melbourne, you know that Victoria St, has pretty questionable service, but the food comes out fast and tastes brilliant. A good trick is if you’re walking down the street trying to choose between the 20 odd Vietnamese restaurants, pick the place with the most vietnamese people eating there. They really know there stuff…obviously.
- What is a must do activity for anyone traveling to Melbourne? I guess that depends on what floats your boat. If you love food and you’re here in the summer, then the Queen Vic Night Market is brilliant. Shopping in Melbourne is also easy, a little bit too easy as I tend to spend all my dollars shopping myself. If you’re into vintage/local designer shopping then you should head to Chapel St in Prahran or Brunswick St in Fitzroy. There are loads of Outlets in Melbourne, so the DFO in South Wharf is massive. The CBD is also actually great to shop in because you can start at the Bourke St Mall, and wander through the Emporium and through to Melbourne Central, and not get rained on! Which happens a lot in Melbourne. If you’re into Art then you should visit the NGV (both buildings on St Kilda Rd and at Fed Square). If you’re into sport and the outdoors, then definitely catch a football (AFL) game at the MCG. Or you could head down to St Kilda to try out kite surfing or volleyball on the beach. If you have a car, drive down the coast to Mornington Peninsula or up to the Dandenong’s to have some Devonshire Tea (that’s tea and scones for any peasants reading this) in Olinda or Sassafras.
- What is the worst thing about Melbourne? The unpredictable weather. You can’t trust the weatherman here. You can get sunburnt and wade through street floods all in the same day. Don’t get me started on the wind during spring… it’s our windiest season, and the city becomes a series of wind tunnels. So make sure you have a water bottle, sunscreen, sunglasses, an extra cardigan/jacket and an umbrella whenever you head outside.
- What is an inside tip only the locals know about? How to navigate the Tram network. Melbourne Trams are an awesome way to get around. They have lovely windows to look out, so you get to see more of the city and they’re on a track, so they will never surprise you by turning down a street you weren’t expecting. An extra bonus is that tram drivers will often give you some commentary about the sights you’re passing over the speakers. However, a real secret that not many people know of, is that there are fairy penguins at the end of the St Kilda Pier!!! So if you can’t get a car to make a trip to Phillip Island, then you can go see some adorable penguins just hanging out on the rocks. Best to go at night, after dark, it’ll be cold and windy but that’s usually when they’re most active.
- If you could hope one thing would never change about Melbourne what would it be and why? I would hope that we never lose our creative edge. We take being a hipster here in Melbourne quite seriously, and that means we see small businesses constantly innovate and come up with amazing food, bars, cafes and stores.
Bonus: Tell us a story of your best night out in Melbourne. The night in question, Vania and I were dancing up a storm at our favourite club, Long Room. We decided we were hungry and then made our way to the supermarket to buy a very tasty sausage roll. However when we arrived we were so very sad to find it closed. In our sadness/rage we decided we would have to relieve the Town Hall of their many pot plant displays. We stole a pot plant each, and were running down the streets with our faces covered by our hair, because i was convinced the street cameras would catch us and track us down. I can happily report that I planted those pot plants in my garden, and they are so very pretty!
Vania Sofia Abreu
” I am a 28 year old, only child – so don’t try steal my parents attention… I’ll get very jealous. I was born in Braga, Portugal and moved to Australia when I was 3 and I go back to visit my family every 2-3 years. To put it simply, my mum is 1 of 15 kids, all who are married with kids, who are my cousins who are now married with their own kids. Frankly, I don’t remember all their names, but it’s a great excuse to travel. I love to dance and will take any opportunity to shake my booty. I danced professionally for 16 years and performed at the Children’s Performing Academy of Musical Theatre for 2 yrs and later on was a Body Jam instructor for 3 years. Nowadays, I like to show of my skills on the dance floor with my best friend Polly Pocket at our local fav, Long Room. Finally, the last thing you need to know about me is I LOVE MY FOOD. I’m like a judge from MasterChef when I go out. If it sounds weird, I want it. If it looks pretty, I photograph it. If it has sweet ingredients, it ends up in my belly. This makes Melbourne the perfect home for me. There are never a shortage of good cafes and restaurants, and my food curiosity is constantly being fed.
- What is your favorite place you have traveled to so far? Such a hard one!! If I must pick, I’d have to say San Fran! Why you ask? The food! The restaurants! The art! Quirky, hipster, inviting and beautiful.
- How long have you lived in Melbourne? 26 years
- Describe Melbourne in 3 words. Hipster, colourful and fun!
- What makes Melbourne so special? Did I mention the food? I think I may have, but I’ll say it again, the food! Endless choice driven by our huge multiculturalism. Like we literally have suburbs dedicated to a single nationality. Vietnamese, oh we have a street for that! Italian, no worries, off to Lygon. Greek you ask… don’t you stress, we have the second highest population of Greeks – the first being in Greece! Also, our coffee – yes I’m claiming it, best in the WORLD. We’re also known as the fashion capital of the world. We have so many international designers settle on our shores – I’m convinced it’s cos they want me to go broke, but hell, I fall for it every time.
- What is your favorite activity in Melbourne?: Is brunch an activity? Like, I’m pretty sure it is. It’s a total institution in Melbourne, including a 40 minute wait on a Sat morning for your fav place. Brunch and then I’d say the penguins down St Kilda pier. You can literally walk down a popular pier in Melbourne, 5 kms from the city on any given night, and there they are. Tiny little bundles of cuteness, penguins roaming free. No, you can’t take one home
- Favourite place to eat and why? Is this some kind of a joke question? Surely you’d understand this is impossible to answer. Why you hurt my feelings like this? OMG – I’m going to keep this generic and say Brunch. SO MANY AMAZING CAFES. Breakfast in Melbourne even has its own Instagram page. Some fav’s include Top Paddock, Hash (try the hot chocolate and mango waffles) and Hardware Society.
- What is a must do activity: Hmmmmmm so much choice. Okay, get up and go to brunch. (Am I sounding like a broken record yet?). Then go on a free walking tour of Melbourne. It runs every day outside of the state library. Head out for a burger – we also have a Melbourne burger instragram page. Now it’s time for a refreshing beverage at a beer garden. Seriously, there’s so much to do, rock climbing in the city, Eureka Sky Deck to see the views, the docklands wheel for view of a different kind, sky diving over St Kilda Beach and whilst you’re in the area, kite surfing. There are also plenty of gardens to walk around and picnic at. Lastly, the bar life here is on steroids. Just go down a random lane way (no I’m not trying to put your life in danger). The best things in Melbourne occur in alley ways. You never know what you’ll find but it’s guaranteed to be good! Random underground bar, street art or secret restaurants galore exist in the laneways.
- What is the worst thing about Melbourne? You can’t drink on the streets! Why is this a problem? Because I once visited Savannah, Georgia on a tour and we went on a slow ride. (which is this massive group bicycle car with a built in bar counter so you can ride around, do a pub crawl, whilst still drinking as you go) and I so badly want to replicate it here and I can’t! Why oh why?
- What is an inside tips only locals know about? Not all restaurants take booking, always carry an umbrella, and hook turns are a thing! Watch out for the signs.
- If you could hope one thing would never change about Melbourne what would it be and why? Our coolness. Melbournians are just so nice and easy going. We respect differing ideas and quirky designs. We’re artistic and creative. And I love that. We literally have yarn bombing on trees randomly. (For those who are going, what are you on about right now… it’s clothes knitted for trees!). Men flaunt beards and we ride push bikes with baskets. So I must say, embrace your individuality and bring it to Melbourne!
Bonus: Tell us a story of your best night out in Melbourne. Well since Melbourne is so cool and hipster and a lot of bars are underground, it also means they are dark. For a chick, this has many benefits. Such as, you can dance until sweat melts your make up off, and really no one can tell the difference. Or you can get a hole in your stocking and it just blends in with the shadows. What it also means is that sometimes, just sometimes the alcoholic cabinets are easily accessible. And maybe, just maybe, your friends egg you on to take a bottle of shining & unattended rum. And quite possibly, you just do that, and you hide it in your bag. (Kids, I do not condone stealing! Stay in school). Anyhoo, for extremely unexperienced Rum drinkers (us classy ladies stick to the vodka water), it’s fair to say Polly Pocket and I were in all sorts that night. That includes going into a local Chinese restaurant in China town, and ordering simply coke, and then doing an absolutely shambles of a job trying to hide the fact that we were pouring our rum into our cans. Literally getting it all over the table, and laughing too loud – although we thought we were using inside voices. Maybe even pouring them into cups down a lane way, and taking a perfectly timed photo of polly pocket over our spilt rum making it look like she was doing a standing pee. Attractive 😜. Or falling over on our way to the next bar, and waking up with sore heads and sore knees. I’m pretty sure this isn’t funny to everyone else… like you kinda had to be there. But it was an epic night for us. And when I look back on photos, I realise my eyebrows were way too thin, so I’m glad you beautiful people didn’t meet me back then.
Thanks again to P & V for sharing your Melbourne with me and for those gypsy souls out there reading this blog. I clearly had an amazing time!