Sunday, June 5, 2011

May (and a bit of June)

The month of May was filled with lots of fun and new experiences.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Yarra Valley Wine Tour
Back in December, a group of 8 of us (the EY newbies) purchased scoopons for a winery tour in the Yarra Valley (just outside Melbourne).  It took us until May to find a weekend that worked for everyone.  Overall the day was a success.  We did start out the day complaining a bit that the itinerary was not what was promised on the scoopon.....but as the wine started flowing the problems were quickly forgotten.

I think everyone's favorite winery of the day was the Yileena Park winery - cute place, funny owner, god wine :)

Val, me, Steph, Rockey, Graham, and Emma at Yering Station
Annie and Belinda Visit!
Annie and Belinda (my Contiki friends) came to visit on the weekend of May 21.  This was my third time seeing Belinda (in Adelaide and Sydney) but this was the first time I had seen Annie since arriving in Australia.  Annie lives in Brisbane and is also one of my travel buddies (our most recent trip was to Africa last summer).

If anyone was on facebook that weekend they would have seen from Belinda's check-ins that we did a lot in two days.

Saturday we started the day by meeting Justin and Kiz at the Espy for lunch.  Most of our conversation revolved around the fact that JUSTIN AND KIZ ARE HAVING A BABY!!!!!  I am so excited for them!!  After lunch Annie, Bel, and I wandered around St. Kilda for a bit - the Pier, Acland St., and of course a stop at Cold Rock!
Beautiful autumn day in St. Kilda

Saturday night we ventured to Chapel St and had dinner at Amigos restaurant (I love Mexican food) before meeting up with the PwC group for some drinks.

I had rented a car for work and decided to keep it for the weekend to be able to pick up the girls from the airport, so we decided to take advantage of having a car to explore parts of Melbourne none of us had been to.  I'd heard lots of good things about Williamstown so we decided to check it out.
With my rental car - the Swift!

Sunday was chilly and rainy so I think we did not get the full Williamstown experience.  Plus a lot of the shops/restaurants were closed on a Sunday.  I'll have to come back on a warm, sunny Saturday sometime.
Bel and Annie in Williamstown (CBD in the background)

The best part of Williamstown though was the hot chocolate!  I got a tiramisu hot chocolate that was absolutely amazing.  The drinks were serviced in mugs with a candle underneath to keep it warm.  And the hot chocolate was so rich it tasted like drinking melted chocolate.  Yum!

After driving around Williamstown trying to find a pizza place that was open, we ended up at a pizza place in Altona (very delicious).

We ended the weekend with a few hours at the DFO.  I think this was my cheapest trip to the DFO ever.  The only things I purchased were two movies and a Lady Antebellum CD (I miss my country music!)

EY Away Day
May 30 and 31 we traveled by bus to Creswick (about two hours from Melbourne) for the EY Assurance Away Day.  Apparently away day's are pretty common in Australia (or at least that's what I have heard) as a form of team building and a way to show appreciation for everyone's hard work. 

The first day we got a short update on what was going on the firm and then split up into our smaller teams for some "get to know you" activities.  Monday night during dinner we had a guest speaker - Michael Milton - an Australia Paralympic gold medalist.  Michael shared the story of losing his left leg when he was 9 years old and how never let his disability stop him from doing anything - including becaming a gold medalist in skiing and cycling (he also holds the record for the fastest Australian skiier...not just for skiier's with disabilities).  Michael's story was truly amazing - I had goosebumps through most of his speech!

After dinner there was a "pink pageant" which raised money for breast cancer awareness.  Three of the partner (2 male, 1 female) dressed up in pink - pink wigs, pink shirts, and pink pajama pants - and competed in a sort of beauty pageant.  I wish I had pictures from this event - it was hilarious.  I love that the partners are so willing to get up in front of 200+ people and make complete fools of themselves (for a good cause of course)! I can't picture any of the partners in my old office getting up to do that!

After dinner entertainment - a DJ with a dance floor full of accountants!

Day 2 of the Away Day was a Survivor competition where we competed in groups of about 10 people.  One of the competitions was putting up a tent while blindfolded.  I really thought my month of putting up/taking down a tent in the dark in Africa would make me an expert at this task.  My team got 2nd in this competition  I have no doubt the tent used had been the same canvas tent that we used in Africa I could have had it up in about 4 minutes flat (or maybe my tent partner, Annie, was really the only reason our tent ever got put up correctly in Africa).

Still Exploring
After living in Melbourne for just over 7 months there is still so much of the city to explore - and mostly so many places to eat/drink!    I finally got back into trying out new places over the last couple of weeks:

  • Brunswick Street - I still haven't properly explored Brunswick St/Smith St. (Fitzroy area) but I know there are lots of great places I need to try.  My new favourite place to dance is on Brunswick St - its also the place that finally played Kesha when Kelly and I requested it!
Out on Brunswick St -Beer served in red keg cups!

  • Tony Starr's Kitten Club - This place was recommended to me by my friend Gemma (another member of my Africa tour group, who lived in Melbourne for a few months last year).  Gemma told me that the Kitten Club does the best cocktails in Melbourne.  Emma, Val, Steph and I sampled a few cocktails last weekend.  Luckily I had read some reviews online beforehand which mentioned that the place had a green door - otherwise I probably would have mised it all together.  I love hidden places like that!  After our cocktails we headed upstairs where there was a live band.  All the dancing I've been doing lately has really helped the pedometer step count for the Global Corporate Challenge.  See - going out really is good for you!

  • Banff - This is a pizza/pasta place in St. Kilda.  My friend Simon recommended this place to me awhile ago and Kelly and I tried to take our MN friends but it was full and we were really hungry.  Kelly, Parita, and I went back a few weeks ago.  I'd recommend this place to anyone looking for a relatively cheap meal (pizza or pastas).  They have some really unique pizza toppings (I tried the saganaki and potato one - delicious!)

  • Santiago Tapas - Yesterday Kelly, Sarah, and I tried out this place in Middle Park.  This was another of my scoopon purchases (yes Betsy - another one!).  $35 for $70 worth of food.  While we were waiting for Sarah to arrive, Kelly and I picked out about 10 diferent tapas on the menu that sounded good.  We were reading off everything to the waiter who finally said, "Maybe you can start with this and then see if you want more."  Apparently we had gotten a little carried away!  The food was good - I think my favorite was the queso de cabra frito con miel (battered goat cheese with honey and almond sugar).
I need to start taking pictures of all these places (and the delicious food!) so that I can remember all of them.
In other news......Kelly and I finally got a new TV!  We now have more than 4 channels!  We also purchased a wireless internet router and an HDMI cable so we can hook up our computer to the TV to watch US shows :)  Yesterday was a very productive afternoon for us!

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