A slow start to the day meant that Kylie, Danielle and I had to play catch up with the group as they sped off to Brunswick Street. Brunswick Street is the boho offbeat shopping street of Melbourne – i.e. what Chapel Street is to yuppies Brunswick Street is to clubbers. It’s the kind of place where the local pub has Bogan Bingo every Thursday night. It was in walking distance from where we were staying but it seemed like the three of us were walking for ages to meet up with the rest of the group at the Red Tongue Cafe. On the way we checked out the cool Dragster bicycle store and the large scale Matryoshka dolls in a kids park – both of which gave us hints of what was to come further down the street.
The others were just chilling out at the back of the cafe reading magazines when we found them so it was easy just to take a seat and sip on a much needed coffee before setting our credit cards loose on the street. We hadn’t gone far when we wandered in to a gift shop, but not those sad homeware and glass clown place – more like a fun and cool trinket store. The lady was a bit shocked as it seemed like a coach load of people had arrived, she even exclaimed that she’d never seen this many people so early in the morning before. Vanessa ended up buying some photo coat hanger things but it was the action figures that kept Mel and I amused. The favourite was the Albert Einstein action figure – he wields the power of E=MC2! Yeah! He inspired one of those jokes where you bring it up over and over again throughout the week – an in joke to last the trip. We were suddenly members of the Albert Einstein Posse. Kicking it with AE.
Further down the street we found clothes stores like Dangerfield (cool shirts) and lots of nice little restaurants. Nothing else sort of stuck out until we reached the end and saw a mannequin dressed in some lovely black leather underwear and chained up with arms above his head. I guess it was a bit early for bondage as the store wasn’t open. On the way back down the other side of the street we stopped in at a swimwear store where Mel found some lovely old lady swimmers to poke fun at and later some psychedelic clothing to wear to a gay drag nightclub. Bood found a bike chained up that wasn’t quite one of the cool dragsters we’d seen earlier but it was a brightly coloured trike – something I suspect was street art. Speaking of street art there were great examples of graffiti stencils all along Brunswick street, no wonder Melbourne is renowned for it’s graffiti.
Back near where we started we decided to have the hot chocolate we’d promised ourselves when we saw the San Churro chocolate fountains in the window at the beginning of our walk. Everyone crowded in to the store and ordered hot aztec chocolates, chocolate milkshakes, chocolate brownies and churros. I had an aztec hot chocolate which is a normal hot chocolate spiced with chilli and cinnamon. Nice, but not something I need to have over and over again – I guess it’s not moorish. The churros are though! I think it’s referred to as the spanish donut and it comes with dipping chocolate. Decadent! The chocolate milkshake was great too. I walked out with a handful of chocolates, the absynthe one being of the most interest for me to taste.
The chocolate finished our round of shopping in Brunswick Street so we headed a few streets over to Smith Street to cross outlet shopping off our list. Converse, Nike, Kathmandu, Bonds and Jeans stores kept us busy all morning but I still managed to escape without purchasing one item of clothing. Smith street is a great outlet store street After everyone had had a quick bite of sushi and or pies we took the tram in to the Bourke Street Mall to make our chocolate tour in the Block Arcade.
The Chocolate tour of Melbourne started outside Haighs Chocolates in the Block Arcade. Haighs is an Adelaide family who has extended their company beyond the boundaries of South Australia to other states. On quite a few of my travels the people I’ve been with have been under strict orders to bring back Haighs chocolates but I’ve never been enamoured. To me they are a little bit Darrell Lea, nice but nothing special. I kept being a chocolate snob and saying that once they taste Koko Black they’ll never go back.
There were about 25 of us gathered near the ticking man and after all of us checked in the lady started the tour. She gave us a bit of a history lesson about the Block Arcade and also Haighs before she started handing out the tastings. We tried things like freckles and chocolate covered malt balls. They were kind of like cadbury chocolates but tasted a little less mass produced (not by much though). I felt cold throughout the whole tasting of the Haighs – I just wasn’t converted. It wasn’t for the lack of trying – they weren’t afraid to dish out the chocolates but it just tasted common (how much of a snob am i?).
After tasting Haighs we followed the lady and her waving wand to our next location, a tea shop across the road. They had about 5 different teas that were designed to compliment chocolate but none of them worked for me. Maybe they were a bit too watery or something but they actually tasted foul. We were also handed out some cadbury chocolates here like mini picnics and time outs. As soon as we’d finished there we crossed over to the shop next door which was a gift store that sold chocolates decorated with patterns. We got a bit of a lecture about them along with a sales pitch about their candles and stuff. It was pretty obvious that the husband and wife doing the presentation owned the store and thought the sales pitch would be successful, but to me it seemed really contrived and didn’t make me want to buy anything from their store. I did like their political chess board though.
We killed time out the front by borrowing the want that the tour guide used to direct us around and getting Vanessa to pose with it. Vanessa has long been known as “Princess Vanessa” since the days when we all played soccer at Mt Gravatt. She was even given a sash to complete the story so a wand wasn’t anything new to her. 🙂
When everyone had finished at the store we headed back across the road in to the Royal Arcade. The rest of the tour was really a distraction from my real focus which was Koko Black. It’s a good idea she saves it till last because it would ruin all the others. We got a great talk from one of the girls who works there. She took us through the whole process of making the chocolate, from the filling creation first thing in the morning to the mould polishing at the end of the day. It was obvious that everyone who worked there was proud of what they did and even the guy who owns the stores and is chief chocolatier was hanging around listening to our talk on his day off. I’ve visited Koko Black before so I was ready to buy immediately. 4 Packets of their darkest blocks of chocolate and some of the truffles that they keep behind the counter. Their blocks of chocolates are polished to perfection and are so smooth to taste. Utterly the best chocolate I’ve tasted in Australia and it’s little wonder that they’ve expanded to three stores in the year that I’ve been away from Melbourne.
Koko Black signaled the last of the chocolate stores but we still had Laurent the cafe to complete the tour. Half the group were so tired from their day that they decided to leave then while the rest of us continued to the cafe. We got to choose a dessert and a hot drink then went upstairs to wait for it. Laurent evokes an image to me of up-market patisseries in France – the kind that you see on posters. It has a long swooping stairway that makes the place ooze romance, but it was the dessert that made me fall in love. I went for the colourful Van Gough cake that was this amazing thin piece of sponge that is wrapped around a smooth creamy filling topped with an amazing rasbperry flavoured glace. It was actually the best thing I’d tasted on the whole tour and it wasn’t even chocolate!
At the end of the tour Kylie and Julie left Danielle, Vanessa and I to go get some more tea, so the three of us slowly walked back to the hotel. We did a little bra/pajama shopping moving on to some sneaker browsing in the Bourke Street Mall. Then it was pretty much just a pass out time for everyone to recover. For some reason though I didn’t need any chill out time so I just watched some tv. Tonight was the first night where people had different plans so our groups got a bit smaller. Mel, Vanessa and Faye went to the AFL at Telstra Stadium, Kat and Bood went to meet their friend at the Casino and then off find gay bars on Commercial Road so it was left to Kylie, Julie, Danielle and I to make our own fun.
I’d bought a cheap eats 2006 book off ebay a few weeks earlier so we decided to use it’s suggestion and go to a Vietnamese restaurant a few streets down from where we staying for dinner. On first glance it was all plastic chairs and no style so we decided to walk more around chinatown to find something more suitable. In the end we decided to go back to the restaurant as it was cheap and recommended. As far as meals go it wasn’t much but it was ok value for under $8. Danielle was a bit depressed because she had expected more from her dinner so I had to work hard to convince her and the others to take the walk down the road to a cosy bar I’d read about on the net. I liked it cause it was called Robot Bar and sold supposedly the best selection of Sake in Melbourne. It was also in one of those cool laneways that Melbourne is renowned for so walking towards it made me think Bladerunner. I’ll admit I stretched the truth a little and said it wasn’t far and I also admit that I wasn’t exactly sure we were in the right place and like always I admit it to the group a minute before we get to the final location.
Inside it was all cosy without the 15 and 80 year olds that only seem to frequent the Brisbane pubs (is it just the ones I go to?). There was an upstairs, downstairs and outside, all in the space of maybe two rooms in my house. There were two girls and a guy minding the bar and I went up and admitted we were newbies. The girls basically threw the menu in our direction and that was pretty much all the help we got. Julie and I were the only ones who decided to get the sake, so we spent 10 minutes deciding then went up and ordered. We both ordered our drinks and then waited while they were heating (you can choose cold or hot). Meanwhile we were asked how many cups we wanted which is when we tweaked that there would be more than enough for one person to have. In the end we had four cups and two huge jugs of sake of different flavours. Kylie and Danielle had a try but they weren’t really in to the flavours and to tell the truth I found it a bit hard going too. They ended up buying japanese beer that was on tap while Julie and I tried to make a dent in our drinks. I didn’t really feel it in my head, more in my gut.
As the night went on our conversations got more humerous and risque and our discussions turned to our travel mates. I’ll probably get in trouble here for relaying the story but it was a good conversation and came up again the next day. Kylie informed Danielle and I that Mel has pretty big breasts and that if she didn’t wear t-shirts and showed them off more she’d have ones as noticible as Vanessa’s. We collectively called this breast confidence and on the scale of the three AFL girls we rated Vanessa as having the highest, Faye as second and Mel came last. We decided that if we put them all in the same bra and shirt it would be easier to judge, so we thought there should be a boob off. We also talked about the fact that you can have breast confidence at home, but not really exhibit it outside. Absolutely great conversation and it managed to get Danielle out of the depressive dinner mood she’d been in.
After finishing our drinks, which seemed really easy for Julie but utterly tough for me, we decided to head back to the room. Walking down the lane and hitting the first big street somehow it was pointed out that there was a peep show across the road for $2 and we should go. The three of us were in but Julie was the decider and when she said yes we headed over and downstairs. Inside there was a cinema and four booths with doors and curtains. Each of us took our two dollars and went in to the individual rooms, taking care not to touch anything with bare skin. I mean this place was dingy as you would imagine a peep show to be and it’s when I learnt that what you see in the movies is really real.
So I go in to the booth alone, put my two dollars in and nothing happens. I’m like “ripped off!” thinking that it had taken my money, but finally realised that the two dollars was sticking at that point where it won’t come out and won’t go in. I’m struggling in the dark to force it while at the same time trying to use my jacket to do it cause there is no way I want my hand near a place where men had probably put their cum. Meanwhile I hear a noise outside and realise the girls are coming out, so I pull open the door and look at their stunned faces while simultaneously pulling out a card to poke the money in. At the same time as the money goes in the girls start laughing like they were in shock and my window opens to reveal everything. Inside was a girl showing everything and using a vibrator at the same time and I just looked back stunned. I realised that it was kind of rude to have all my friends laughing in the background so I close the door because I was afraid they were laughing at her which wasn’t the case. Suddenly I’m getting eye contact and I’m freaking out because I totally wasn’t expecting that and it was a relief when the window glazed over. The four of us left feeling exhilerated, freaked out and shocked – but I can honestly say I wasn’t turned on.
We laughed as we walked along the street deconstructing the experience and freaking out about the eye contact. We then decided that no matter what the others had done, we had had the best night out of everyone. On the way back we found another sex shop so headed in to see what else was on offer. We were informed that sadly there were no peep shows this evening so instead we oogled the large fist dildos and Debbie does Dallas dvds. Further down the road we saw another sex shop so we said third time lucky and went in one more time. This time the booths were a lot dirtier and one even had urine all in it and the girl was only dancing around a pole wearing a bra and undies. Since we were now seasoned peep show visitors we were thoroughly underwhelmed by this experience and figured if this had been our first we would have been unimpressed. I have to say the sex shop nearest the river near the robot bar was the best out of all the ones we visited.
Continuing the walk we went to the toilet at McDonalds, picked up another beer at a pub that was serving last drinks then walked back to the room. We went to check on the others and found Mel, Vanessa and Faye lounging on the couch rather drunk and laughing about the conversations they’d had on their excursion. We said theirs couldn’t be as good as theirs and after telling them about the peep shows we played the I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours. Theirs involved threesomes and who they would do it with in the team. That turned in to a really wanting to know but not really wanting to know the answer. We told them about breast confidence which was really funny because Mel got all competitive and wanted to win the breast confidence game. It was like “give me a chance, I know I can do better!”. Very, very funny. Eventually we all decided it was time for bed and headed back to the room to sleep. What had started out as a let down night with dinner turned in to a story to dine out on for years to come.
For more photos, check out the Day 3 Photo Gallery. And no, you won’t see any peep show pictures.