Thursday, February 14, 2013

St. Kilda, Australia

We were sad to leave New Zealand, but excited to go somewhere completely new: Australia.  We landed in Melbourne, and after a short shuttle ride arrived in St. Kilda where we’d be staying for our time in the Melbourne area. St. Kilda is a pretty, ocean-side community just to the south of the city.  We decided to rent an apartment for a few days so we could spread out, and  control our calories and our costs.
Our apartment didn’t have a view of any sort, but it was just across the road from the view above, taken from the boardwalk, where we took several morning runs. In fact, part of our reason for staying in St. Kilda was the proximity to a nice running path on the ocean, which was our favorite type of run for the entire Australian leg of our trip. All the cities we stayed in were on the water, and they all had some great harbor/ocean/river walks that made it easy for us to each run at our own pace, but meet up at the end for a cool down as we wandered back to our accommodations.
It was also a short walk away from a large grocery store, several excellent gelaterias (it’s all about the gelato) and a tram station, offering quick access to Melbourne CBD.  We took advantage of all three.  We enjoyed some nice lunches at restaurants in both St. Kilda and Melbourne, but made all of our breakfasts and dinners in the apartment, which was fun, healthy, and much cheaper. 
We were shocked by how expensive Australia was, even though we knew it would be our most expensive country to date. The optional breakfast cost at hotels was about $20—per person.  Dinner out was $30 – $45 per person, compared to $6 - $8 for dinners we prepared.  A bottle of beer was $9.  A travel book that would cost $20ish in the US was $45 in Australia.  We made most of our own meals, and never ate breakfast out. On top of that, the dollar is weak against the Australian dollar, so for every AUD $100 we spent, it cost us $103 US (and creeping).  That may sound trivial, but over a month of expensive food, excursions, transportation, and housing, it adds up.

But we decided to do the best we could, all the while seeing what we wanted to see, doing what we wanted to do, and evaluating the costs on a case by case basis. Example: we did a Great Barrier Reef snorkeling/sailing cruise that was over $200 each.  Easy decision. We took a drive that had a ferry crossing over a river for $23 round trip. We’d seen plenty of pretty, and didn’t feel that the other side of the river would be worth $23 (it might have been, we’ll never know). We saw plenty of pretty for free.  We’d rather pay to see the things that are important to us than regret having come all this way and not done what we wanted to do, if it was feasible.

Honesty time—one of the most stressful parts of this trip for me (Lana) is the money. It’s finite, and watching the money drain out of our bank account is hard (more of a stream than a trickle in Australia). Yes, we’re getting the value of incredible experiences for our money. But it isn’t always easy to decide what’s “worth” it, and sometimes that changes.  But however much sticker shock we had when we got to Oz, we were also shocked at how diverse and beautiful a country it is. We’re getting ahead of ourselves though. We haven’t even showed you Melbourne yet!  Despite being expensive, we would learn that Melbourne is actually one of the more reasonable places to visit. Even though we were smack dab in the middle of the summer holidays, and just before the start of the Australian Open, we got a good deal on a one bedroom apartment, and had a good start to our exploration of Melbourne from our base in St. Kilda. 20130109_153219_7D_IMG_15470