Here I was thinking that we would be the only two from Brisbane heading down to Melbourne to support the Socceroos and the bloody plane was full of supporters! So much so that the Virgin steward wished them luck in the voiceover at the end of the flight. The plane left at 7am which meant we left the house at 5.30am for the obligatory 30 minute book in. We timed it so well that we had a leisurely breakfast at the airport and walked straight on to the plane. Unfortunately I was incredibly grumpy and abused Pauline for sitting in the Aromas seating area because we hadn’t bought our coffee from there. She was being considerate because she thought I might like the view but instead I was like a bear awoken from hibernation.
Once in Melbourne we took the Skybus from the airport to Spencer St Station – which is now called Southern Cross Station thanks to it’s spiffy new upgrade. Unfortunately they are still finishing some of the work, so while we were waiting to transfer to the smaller hotel dropoff van we got to listen to some horrific drilling and hammering. The bus station is open but undercover so it was a brisk introduction to the cold Melbourne weather. We had to wait about 15 minutes for the van but eagerly jumped on to escape the sounds of drills. We were the last to be dropped off so we got a tour of some of the hotels of Melbourne. The most expensive hotel looked like the Hotel Windsor.
Our hotel was called Knightsbridge and is located in East Melbourne just near the Fitzroy Gardens. I picked it because it was within walking distance of the MCG (our destination that night) and it was in an older part of Melbourne. They kindly allowed us to our room ahead of check in time even though the housekeeper was still cleaning our room. We waited outside while she apologised. We told her there was no need to apologise but if she forgot anything we would complain about the housekeeping here. She laughed and gave us more biscuits. I think that is typically Australian when someone puts you out but you are the one that apologises.
The room we stayed in had a kitchenette, a half bath/shower and really big windows. For $115 a night I thought it was great value although it was a little cold but I think that was because we didn’t turn the heater on. The windows weren’t double glazed so in the morning we heard the garbage truck under the window which isn’t the hotel’s fault. The guy at reception was really helpful and it seemed pretty obvious that the staff liked working there. The almond biscuits were shit though.
After refreshing ourselves we headed out back to the city. We walked through Fitzroy Gardens and took a $4 trip through Captain Cook’s Cottage which had been shipped out from England. The house was probably as big as two rooms in my house but it seemed pretty cozy. I loved the statue of Captain Cook. After wandering around his garden we avoided the Fairies Tree, flitted past the Conservatory and ended up in Bourke St. I managed to find some blank index cards in WC Penfold then we searched for what this day was about. Sweets.
First stop on our tour was Koko Black – a store recommended to me by Vanessa and Cameron. Supposedly they have the best hot chocolate in Australia so we headed to the cafe upstairs to test it out. Big leather armchairs, views of the Royal Arcade and two cups of hot chocolate please. After the first sip Pauline and I agreed that it wasn’t as good as the one we had at Ghiradellis in San Francisco but as far as Australia is concerned I’d say they are right up there. I will certainly have another one the next time I’m in Melbourne. I bought some chocolate downstairs for Helen and I, then we walked to it’s sister shop Suga which incidentally was introduced to me by my sister Kelly. They make boiled sweets the old way by heating it and manipulation it in to the shapes they want. They were making some lollies for a bride and groom so I finally got to see how they put the words in the sweets. I of course bought two jars of the stuff and made Pauline lug the bag around.
Next up we headed to Swanston Street to catch a tram to Prahran Markets. Although I’d been to Chapel Street twice before I had never rounded the corner to the markets. While Pauline was falling asleep (thanks to the fact that she got up at 3.30am) I kept a look out for where we had to get off. A lot of the newer trams tell you what the next stop would be but it didn’t do it once we hit commercial road. Thankfully there was a huge sign to indicate where the markets were so we managed to get off at the right stop. For lunch we had pizza at Mojito but were disappointed. We thought it was the source of an incredible smell we were hit with when we got off the tram but instead discovered that salami, olives, ham and cheese don’t go well with anchovies. Never again will I have fish on a pizza.
Our walk around the markets had us wishing there was something as good and permanent as this in Brisbane. The closest that comes to it is probably the farmers markets which are only on every second saturday at The Powerhouse. The fresh fruit, the meat, the chocolate but most importantly the cupcakes were the reason we were there. I had read an article about cupcakes in Melbourne on the net so I wanted to try out Crabapple Bakeries attempt to compare it against my cousin Fiona’s cupcakes. They had a good selection so I picked the vanilla daisy, the cappucino and the chocolate orange versions. Thanks to lunch I didn’t want to eat them just yet so into the bag Pauline was still lugging they went. Later when we ate them I decided that the base wasn’t as good as Fiona’s but their icing was pretty damn good. Not to say their base was bad it’s just that Fiona’s is more moist.
We walked to Chapel Street to catch a tram to Richmond. Of course we just missed the one we needed but only had to wait about 10 minutes for the next one. Once on board I kept an eye out for the Melbourne Scooter shop but was unable to find it. Meanwhile Pauline was sleeping again. At Richmond we got off at Bridge Road which is kind of like the outlet shopping version of Chapel Street. We hung about only as long as to wait for another tram that would take us to the street next to our hotel. We arrived back at the room around 3pm with the idea that we would leave for the game around 5. This would give Pauline time enough to sleep again and have a shower. We actually ended up leaving for the game around 4.15pm.
The Green and Gold Army were gathering at 4.15pm at Richmond football ground with free Krispy Kreme donuts and a sausage sizzle. They had been the ones who I had bought the tickets early through so I figured it would be nice to see what they were all like. I also wanted to buy the cool half Greece half Australia scarf that they were selling. Apparently it is all the rage in Europe now to have commemorative scarfs like that. It had the date of the game on it and everything. They were also selling the Guus Hiddink and Johnny Warren shirts. Pauline and I didn’t stay long because I wanted to go see the Matildas play.
Walking to the MCG is impressive because you have the view of the city in the background. Once at the stadium we were handed all this free stuff which was great! Telstra gave us some pully things that said “Go Socceroos” when you pulled it out, NAB gave us blow up hand pointers and Powerade gave us bandanas to wear for a chance to win a trip to the world cup. I’ve never been to a sporting event where we got free schwag. I also bought Danielle a gift for forgiving me for being such a forgetful shit.
Once inside the stadium we arrived to an empty field, a virtually empty stadium and a sign on the board that said Australia 0 – Mexico 1. An announcement came over to alert us that it was half time and the Matildas were losing. Well we can’t have that so while Pauline went and explored the food and drink options I quietly went about wishing the Matildas luck while taking photos of the MCG. Thankfully the girls came back to score twice and won while the Socceroos and Guus Hiddink were on the sidelines checking out the game and the field. After a while the rest of the Green and Gold Army turned up and the next thing we knew we were bombarded with singing, flags and beer flinging – and this was before the game had even started!
The Qantas choir came out so we all joined in to sing “I still call Australia Home” which was incredible. We also had a band come playing right in front of us singing about Australia in a stadium or something – I have heard the song before but I can’t remember who they are. I didn’t really get to see them thanks to the drunken boys jumping up and down in front of us singing along. The next thing I know is there is this huge piece of cloth being pulled up over us which smelt pretty bad and had a nike logo on it. I can only presume it was a shirt that would have looked fantastic if you were seated in the middle of the ground. It didn’t look that great from my seat but it was pretty cool to be a part of it. Not long after the guys came running on to the field to the sound of 95,000 people cheering (about the time I rang Kelly).
One unpleasant side effect of buying tickets with the GG Army was that I didn’t realise we would end up standing the whole game just to see. A lot of the match was spent ducking from side to side to follow the ball through the drunken men’s heads in front of me. One of them even ended up smacking me in the face while trying to punch the green balloons floating about. Pauline and I kept gazing longly towards the areas either side of us where everyone else was sitting. It didn’t matter in the end though because I had a perfect view of Josip Skoko’s incredible strike at our end of the field. It was like it was in slow motion, I can still see it sit up perfectly for his side volley, Viduka putting his arms up in celebration knowing it was going to go in, then the bulge of the net as the ball went over the line. Perfection.
The game overall was enjoyable even if it didn’t have a lot of goals. I got to see Viduka’s skils up close and personal in front of goals even if he didn’t get lots of the ball thanks to the tight Greek defending of him. They obviously know he is a threat but it’s good when they concentrate on him because it leaves the other guys behind him free to take shots on goals. Mile Sterjovski looked threatening but a lot of his chances were ruined at the final point. Jason Culina has been a revelation to me in the last few matches I’ve seen and he was particularly impressive that night. Pauline now knows who Bresciano is thanks to all the guys singing his name – especially when it was time for a free kick. He came pretty close to scoring when one of his free kicks went just past the side bar. All the Greece fans could cheer about was the flares that they set off. The orange light looks impressive but whoever has it gets fined $4000 for setting it off. Running on the pitch is a $6000 fine.
At the games successful conclusion Pauline and I bolted in an effort to beat the crowds. A wasted effort as we got stuck walking around the outside of the stadium because our gate was completely on the wrong side to where we had to go. It also has these stupid areas that get smaller and larger so people end up at a standstill. Thank god Suncorp Stadium isn’t like that however I’ve never seen a 95,000 person crowd turn up for a Queensland Roar game there. Eventually we made it to the park and then to our hotel. On the way I again got to see the weird Victorian driving which allows them to make u-turns at any point on a main street. Crazy.
I’m glad I got to see the best Australian football team ever play their last match in Australia before they head to the World Cup – even if they were missing some of their most influential players. I’m also glad I got to eat a lot of chocolate and cupcakes. 🙂
You can check out more photos in the photo gallery.