Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm back...

Did you notice I was gone? I’ve been out of town for two weeks. The first of December I flew down to Melbourne—in addition to being the first day of summer, it was also the first day of mandatory checked luggage screening, so flights were a bit slow all day—for a conference. After a week there, I flew to Auckland in Aotearoa New Zealand for an anthropology conference. There is no way I’ll try to squeeze all two weeks into one post, because I saw and did (and ate) a whole lot in the past fortnight.

I arrived, as I said, on Monday. I checked into my room, which was a teeny single in an old nunnery-turned backpackers hostel.

After wandering around Fitzroy a bit (the hip, near-city suburb where I was staying), Kristy from Kblog picked me up and we went to the famous (at least in vegan blog land) East Brunswick Club. We were joined there by Caroline and Tim, Miss T, Cindy and Michael, Lidia and eventually Toby. I didn’t take photos because I was in a bit of shock (but check out Miss T's post or Cindy and Michael's post for photos and commentary). A regular pub with lots of vegan offerings? There were about five specials on the menu, all $10 and all vegan. Plus 5 or so vegan desserts.

Kristy and I got two meals and shared—Chicken Parma and a Bacon Cheeseburger. Both were really great, but I think I preferred the burger. For dessert, we joined the crowd and indulged in Cherry Ripe Cheese Cake. It was probably the best vegan cheese cake I’ve ever had. In addition to fantastic food, the company was great. I was given lots of advice about where I should eat while in Melbourne, and I think I got to most of the suggestions.

A possum at the uni...

The conference didn’t start until after lunch on Tuesday, so I spent the morning wandering around Fitzroy again. There’s a lot to see in that suburb. I popped in to Friends of the Earth, a radical book shop/café/grocery store. They use their window space to facilitate house sharing, and to speak out for causes.

From there I made my way past Vegan Wares, which was closed (which didn’t worry me, since I can’t afford another pair of their shoes for a while yet).

Just up from Vegan Wares was the almost mythical Las Vegan Bakery.

I filled up on home made, bottomless chai tea and a ‘Chilli Non Carne Calzone’. It was so warm and hearty and perfectly spiced, and it was the perfect way to warm up (Melbourne was freezing for a tropical vegan!).

After a postgrad day and some free conference drinks, I headed in to China Town with my supervisor and some others from the conference. Luckily, we had with us a Mandarin-speaking vegetarian who was able to negotiate the menu and order the two of us some definitely-vegan meals. We had salt and pepper tofu, Chinese broccoli with garlic, and vegetables with spring onion sauce. Again, I didn’t take any photos… I always feel a bit weird in restaurants, especially when I’m not with other bloggers. Anyways, the food was really great.

The conference catering was very considerate of those who had made ‘special dietary requests’. Vegan, gluten-free cakes were available for morning tea, fruit for afternoon tea, and filling pasta and rice dishes for lunch. The problem was, everyone else helped themselves to the vegan food! One day I nearly didn’t get any lunch. The final day of the conference, servers were guarding the special diets section and quizzing people on their needs before they let them get into the food. I appreciated that.

Some of Melbourne's street art.

Wednesday night, the conference had organised women’s drinks. After presenting my paper that morning, I thought I had earned some champagne. The only vegan hors d’ouevres were spring rolls, and the servers made a point to find me when they passed that tray around. Although I ate a fair few spring rolls, I didn’t feel satisfied so I went to Trippy Taco before calling it a night. This was one of the many suggestions offered to me at the EBC on Monday. The taquitos were the most highly suggested, but after eating so many deep-fried spring rolls I decided on a black bean burrito. It was huge, and considering it was only about $8 it was great value. Beans, salad, soy cheese, and some other stuff made a really tasty and filling dinner.

Thursday night was the conference dinner, which I didn’t go to. I heard from people who did, though, that the entire meal was vegan—special dietary requests or not. Instead of the dinner, I went out with some people for drinks at bars which were far too trendy for me, like this one with no sign but a bicycle on the wall.

We went back into China Town for dinner, this time to a place called the Post-Mao Café. I was with the same Mandarin-speaking vegetarian, and another vegetarian, so we filled up on Tofu with black bean sauce, Ma Po Tofu, and some kind of veggies.

Friday was the last day of the conference, and I was glad to see the end of it. It’s an exhausting exercise—especially if you don’t know anyone there and constantly have to be extroverted and meet new people. To celebrate the end of the conference, I went out for drinks and dinner with some other people I met through the conference. Another bar which was too trendy for me (called Polly Cocktail Bar) and then the ridiculously popular Vegie Bar. I ate a Tempeh Burger with peanut sauce and chips, and was relatively unsatisfied. It was good, but not great, and there just wasn’t enough of it.

I’ll save the last—and most exciting—day of the Melbourne section of my travels for another blog post. Stay tuned to see a beach, the city, more vegan food and lots of farm animals…

16 comments:

VeggieGirl said...

Of COURSE I noticed that you were gone!! Glad you have you back; and with such lovely photos from your travels so far!!

That possum is too cute :-)

Cindy said...

Hey Theresa! It was great to meet you too while you were in town - you managed to pack a lot of Melbourne's vegan food into your brief stay.

I know what you mean about conferences - it's tiring and nerve-wracking trying to meet new people and spin intelligent conversations all day! And I hate getting aggressive or selfish at lunch time, but sometimes you've just got to defend what little food you can eat. :-)

the little one said...

Sounds like a great adventure!

Lovliebutterfly said...

Great photos! That possum is so cute!

ŀĀŘ¡ŝ∫Á said...

glad ur back! the trip sounds amazing, I loved the bycicle on the wall, and its great that u found vegan food in there!:)

sweetpotato said...

The possum is so cute!!!

Liz² said...

I noticed! I was just wonderin' this morning where the tropical girl went! Looks like you had a busy trip, and hey, I love that you just ate regular chinese food at the mao cafe. Sometimes that's what happens! blog photos or no. :p

Gina said...

Um...that possum is adorable!! I don't think I've ever "seen" one close up before, he is too cute!

Looks like you had some great food, yumm :)

just me said...

yeah, i knew you were gone! we've missed you!

ohh...possum...i love aussie possums!

lisa said...

SO sorry to have missed you in Melbourne! I had something come up on the night of the EBC dinner. So glad you liked our food!

Vegetation said...

Yes! You were missed! I love the possum, so adorable and way jealous of all the fantastic eats, yum! (Glad the conference was so accommodating for you :))

Can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip.

DJ said...

Wow - there's a more exciting day to come??? Las Vegan Bakery - I LOVE it!!!

Vegan_Noodle said...

So glad you're back from your travels Theresa! Melbourne sounds like a really veg friendly city! And i know what you mean about having to constantly try and make conversation with people you don't really know, it's exhausting! At least you had good food to keep you going!

Cookiemouse said...

Great photos. Love the possum!

Bianca said...

I wanna go to Melbourne! I need new vegan shoes, and I need that calzone. And I love the possum pic. I've never seen one head-on. They have cute, beady little eyes!

Stacey said...

Looks like so much fun! I'll have to add Melbourne to my travel wish list. :)