Pegasus Apart’hotel Melbourne – where we stayed

During our recent trip to Melbourne, the unhusband and I booked into the Pegasus Apart’hotel on A’Beckett Street.

Being new to this blogging thing, I completely forgot/neglected to take any photos of our accommodation. Bad, bad blogger! Needless to say, the photos on the website are an accurate representation of the rooms.

Because the unhusband was working at a trade show for the weekend, the bill for this one was picked up by his employer, but it came in at just under $160 per night. I felt that this represented value for money. We received an upgrade at check-in, from the queen studio that we booked to a two bedroom apartment suite. Score! One bedroom contained a queen bed, with bedside tables and a small rack to hang clothes. The bedsides had a drawer that was large enough to hold my packing cube of clothes. The second bedroom was made up with two single beds and a desk/workspace, with a built-in wardrobe containing the hairdryer, ironing board and iron and a safe. There was a separate lounge area with sofa, flat-screen tv, coffee table, dining space and a kitchenette with a full-size fridge/freezer.

The bathroom was shower-only, with limited shelf or vanity space to put personal belongings. My toiletry bags had to be kept on the floor underneath the sink. Pegasus supplied amenities including shower cap, shampoo and conditioner, soap and body wash. Interestingly they also supplied slippers, for use in-room – a nice touch, I felt.

We used the kitchenette to prepare one meal – just a simple pasta with salad and tuna concoction. I used the fridge to stash some breakfast supplies. Having access to a kitchen while travelling can be a good money-saver and I was happy to take advantage of that.

Overall, we felt the room was clean, functional and spacious… Ideal for business travellers, family groups or even a girls’ weekend away. It’s not necessarily high on the romance factor though.

The best feature of this hotel was definitely LOCATION. We were so handy to Victoria Markets, and within walking distance of eateries within the inner city. It was a good base to explore Melbourne from, with easy access to tram services out to the suburbs.

Worst feature? The beds were ridiculously soft. We sleep on a futon at home, so we may have a skewed perspective on this one, but the squidgy mattresses and high-lofted pillows left us restless and achey the next morning.

We were happy to receive complimetary WiFi while at the Pegasus. The hotel is so new that that parts of it are not yet complete, so management is compensating for this by offering in-room WiFi for free. And yes, there is construction happening next door, but we were not disturbed by noise at any time – I even had a nap during the afternoon at one point, with no issues.

Overall, I’d say the Pegasus is a smartly-presented new hotel that delivers all the basics and a good bang-for-buck factor. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for a romantic couples getaway but in all other ways it was a good pick for a comfortable long weekend away (apart, of course, from those beds. Ouch).

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Eating and drinking in Melbourne

Melbourne is a city that makes me wish I could clone myself six times over. I can put a lot away, for a skinny girl, but really there is just not enough room in my insides for all the delicious food on offer in Melbourne that I wish to eat.

This time in Melbourne, I didn’t look at any art, and I didn’t go to any live shows. I adore the live music/pub scene in Melbourne, and did actually have plans to go and see rockabilly trio ‘The ReChords’ play a gig in Fitzroy, but those fell through at the last minute. But if you get the chance to see them play then you definitely ought to – because they are excellent and lots of fun.

Yep. This trip to Melbourne was all about the food and coffee. And one of the best things about the Melbourne food scene is that you don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy some truly amazing meals.

 

Dead Man Espresso 35 Market Street, South Melbourne

Full disclosure – I used to work at Dead Man. I was an employee for 5 or 6 months back in 2010, and rate it as one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It’s a beautifully fitted out cafe, uses coffee from Melbourne specialty stalwarts Seven Seeds, Market Lane, and Small Batch, and uses locally and sustainably sourced produce to make amazing food. I truly don’t give a shit that I’m probably biased, because I’ve sent many friends there over the years and not one has ever been disappointed. I ordered green pancakes with smoked salmon, edamame salad and a poached egg ($18). I was full before I’d eaten half but just had to eat the whole damn lot because it tasted so damned good! My old boss plied me with coffee, and if you’re a black coffee drinker then you really can’t go past the batch brew, served in custom-made Ingrid Tuft ceramic mugs.

The espresso bar at Dead Man, complete with La Marzocco Strada

The espresso bar at Dead Man, complete with La Marzocco Strada

My first breakfast in Melbourne - green pancakes with smoked salmon, edamame salad and a poached egg.

My first breakfast in Melbourne – green pancakes with smoked salmon, edamame salad and a poached egg.

 

Queen Victoria Markets cnr Victoria and Elizabeth St, Melbourne CBD

No foodie’s trip to Melbourne is complete without a visit to the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. The produce is super-fresh and priced amazingly. We were lucky (canny?) enough to be staying in a hotel located just a five minute walk from Queen Vic, and I loaded up on breakfast supplies on my first day there – fig jam and light rye sourdough bread and a big chunk of manchego cheese. We also went in on Saturday morning to drink pourover coffee from Market Lane, and eat $3 boreks (we bought spicy potato, lamb, and cheese and spinach). Whether you decide to shop or not, the atmosphere alone makes it well worth a gander.

The permanent foodhall at Queen Vic Markets - where to go to get smallgoods and cheeses, oh the sweet baby cheeses!

The permanent foodhall at Queen Vic Markets – where to go to get smallgoods and cheeses, oh the sweet baby cheeses!

Market Lane pourovers and $3 boreks. Best value breakfast in town.

Market Lane pourovers and $3 boreks. Best value breakfast in town.

 

Auction Rooms 103-107 Errol Street, North Melbourne

Auction Rooms is another perennial favourite of mine. They’re essentially the showcase cafe for Small Batch coffee roasters, and those guys are tearing it up on the coffee scene at the moment. Additionally, with industry lynchpin Kris Wood overseeing the coffee machine it’s next to impossible to get a bad cup there. A bonus? They’re licensed. Consequently I ordered an espresso AND a glass of prosecco to start my lunch with. ALCOHOLIDAYS WOOOO! Pro-tip – when dining alone in Melbourne, you can pretty much instantly make friends with all of the waitstaff by ordering a black coffee and a bevvo straight off the bat. But then the food. I ordered some unpronouncable Mexican-inspired dish that was essentially a big pile of tortilla chips with black beans, shredded pork shoulder, cheese curd and a fried egg. Seriously to die for.

Pork and cheese curd and a bit of booze. Doing holiday eating right.

Pork and cheese curd and a bit of booze. Doing holiday eating right.

 

Camy Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant 23 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

This place is not fine dining, but for a quick and inexpensive weeknight feed you can’t go past it for value. The floor tiles need a good bleaching, the tables and chairs are made of plastic, and you have to help yourself to bowls and cutlery and tea from a side-table near the door. We had the pumpkin fried cakes (more like a dessert than anything else), steamed vegetable dumplings, and pork dumplings in a Sichuan soup. Each serve of dumplings came with 15 pieces, and are ‘street-food’ style with a thick dough wrap. We bought a six-pack of Tsingtao beer from a nearby bottle shop, and even with the $2pp corkage charge, the entire meal (for two people!) still only came to $23.50. If you love dumplings and don’t mind roughing it a little, you’ll enjoy yourself here.

shanghai

 

Wonderbao Shop 4, 19-37 A’Beckett St, Melbourne

Wonderbao was a place I hadn’t known anything about before arriving in Melbourne. But as I was eating my way around, I was doing a bit of Instagramming (because if you eat out and don’t Instagram it to make other people jealous, did you even really enjoy your food at all?), some food blogger liked one of my pics and I hopped over to her account to check it out. And she had taken about a hundred photos of the food at Wonderbao, and it was less than a ten-minute walk from my hotel. And it was cheap. I do love a food option that caters to two of my less awesome character traits – tightness and laziness. So I ordered the ‘classics’ mixed pack for $9.50, and received four fist-sized bao. My favourites were the char siu pork and the egg custard. I wish I could have gone back.

Gigantic bao.

Gigantic bao.

 

Wide Open Road 274 Barkly Street, Brunswick

Wide Open Road is another specialty coffee roaster, in the ‘so-hipster-it-hurts’ suburb of Brunswick (I say that with all affection – I am guilty of being a bit of a middle-class-hippy-asshole myself, but Brunswick is honestly *this* close to being a complete parody of itself). Mysteriously, Wide Open Road almost NEVER gets mentioned in terms of ‘awesome cafes to visit in Melbourne’ which is wrong because the place truly is awesome. I had a ‘magic’ on their ‘Bathysphere’ house blend, and an espresso of their origin which was served with a little info card. And because they are (YES!) licensed, I also had a Bloody Mary.

"Thank-you, just bring me one of everything..."

“Thank-you, just bring me one of everything…”

I ordered the thick-cut bacon (more like a ham steak, really) with a potato and gruyere cake, chipotle mayo, beetroot relish and poached eggs ($18.90). The potato cake was crispy on the outside and perfectly oozy in the middle. Recommended.

Wide Open Road, fulfilling all of your bacon needs.

Wide Open Road, fulfilling all of your bacon needs.

 

Honourable Mentions

I can’t detail every place I ate, or had a coffee in Melbourne, because that would get boring. But I will quickly note a few other places that are worth checking out

Babka – the classic bakery on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. I picked up a slice of the honey pecan pie ($6), and sat in front of the State Library back in the CBD and ate it, before I went and picked up my bags to return the airport.

Atticus Finch – winebar in Brunswick. I met up with a friend here for an early evening drink. Cosy, relaxed atmosphere, local wines and beers, and clever bar food.

Huxtaburger – I didn’t make a special trip to these guys, but they happened to be catering a peripheral event for the International Coffee Expo. I got invited down by a group of industry mates, and the Huxtaburger crew were out the front with two giant barbeque grills, serving burgers and hot chips. I got the ‘Denise’ ($10) which came with jalapenos and chipotle mayo.

Pie from Babka.

Pie from Babka.

 

Packing list – 4 days in Melbourne

On travel day, I’ll be wearing…

– dark grey skinny jeans, a t-shirt, navy blue Uniqlo cashmere jersey, a scarf/wrap, denim jacket, and dark brown Frye boots.

The bag I’m taking is my Lipault 18-inch weekender satchel. In honesty, it’s a little roomy for this trip, but there’s a likelihood I’ll do some shopping in H&M and Uniqlo. I also like the look of Lipault’s 15-inch weekender, which would most likely suit my needs better for short getaways where I don’t need to do a lot of walking with my bag.

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In a medium-sized Kathmandu packing cube, I’ll be carrying all of my clothes.

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– light grey skinny jeans, a dark grey merino top, a black waterfall-front merino cardigan, a pair of sleep shorts, a pair of black leggings to layer under jeans if it gets REALLY chilly, a Uniqlo Heattech tank-top, and three changes each of knickers, socks and t-shirts.

In an extra-small sized Kathmandu packing cube, I’ve grouped my miscellaneous items.

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– diary (black Moleskine notebook), Kobo ereader, USB converter plug, glasses in case, and a small zip-up purse to hold cables and a pair of earbuds.

I have three bags for my toiletries and make-up. The first is a clear plastic bag for liquids.

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In here I have a small bottle of contact lens solution, deodorant, a bottle of jojoba oil (that I use as a face cleanser, moisturiser, and hair de-frizz serum), some travel-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner, a travel tube of toothpaste, and some individual plastic vials of eye drops.

The second is a small bag of non-liquid toiletries.

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This contains a razor, contact lens case, a strip of aspirin, birth control pills, nail clippers, a small toothbrush, blister tape, a couple of hair ties, ear-plugs, and a small tub of aromatic ‘de-stress’ balm.

Then there’s my make-up bag.

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In here I have some Clinique City Block sunscreen, mineral foundation and applicator brush, a small tube of roll-on cheek tint, mascara, eyeliner pencil, red lipstick with matching lipliner and a retractable lip brush, and a Bobbi Brown eyeshadow pencil. I have a small make-up purse in my handbag that contains a solid wax perfume (a gift from the Unhusband, which you can purchase here), a tube of lipbalm, and a Burt’s Bees liptint.

I’ll also be carrying a small cross-body handbag, which will contain my wallet, the aforementioned small make-up purse, phone, pen and passport.

This packing list isn’t perfect, by a long-shot. I’d like to get rid of that heavy bottle of liquid roll-on deodorant, and replace it with a stick deodorant instead. Also, my make-up bag is way too big for what is not a huge amount of product, and the mineral foundation is bulky and tends to spill when it gets shaken around during travel. When I use it up I’ll try to replace it with a stick foundation like this one from Benefit. I also usually like to travel with a small bottle of Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap too, but left it out this time… It comes in handy for a LOT, that stuff (face wash, body wash, bath aroma, shampoo in a pinch, and to wash out clothes in a hotel sink). If need be I can used soap provided by the hotel for all the same purposes, just without the lavendery goodness I get from my Dr Bronner’s. All the same, for an urban trip where I’ll be staying in a decent hotel, and the weather will be cool and I won’t be doing huge amounts of walking or sight-seeing, this seems about right.

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All packed! Yes, I am only taking the pair of shoes I’ll be wearing to travel in.

No, I haven’t taken anything especially ‘dressy’ for a dinner or special event, but I feel that the clothes I’m taking with me will be appropriate in a ‘smart casual’ way for any eventuality. There’s nowhere in Melbourne that is so fancy that I’ll be refused entry for being in jeans, and I’m not planning on doing any clubbing.

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Everything fits easily, and is nicely organised if I should need to reach something while in transit. The bag fits easily under a seat on the plane.

Impulse shopping

Next year’s trip to Europe (tentatively scheduled for next May) just seems so very far away. So very, very far…

At the weekend I was tooling around with travel widgets on sites like Skyscanner and Kayak that show where you can fly for what price. And I thought – “hey, Singapore looks cheap! Also, I’ve never been to Singapore!”

Forty-eight hours later, I had a 5-day leave request approved and a purchased return airfare, booked for October, in my hot little hand.

I never did the whole backpacking in my 20’s thing that many of my friends and other seasoned travellers did, so I’ve never stayed in hostels or really experienced budget travel. However, with some savings goals that I have to hit for our Europe trip, doing Singapore on a budget will be a necessity for me. Technically I can ‘afford’ to fly with a full-service airline, and stay at a four-star hotel for my entire trip, but I want to keep costs down.

I’ll be flying with Scoot, the low-cost offshoot of Singapore Airlines. A ‘seat only’ return airfare from Sydney came in at just under $500 – there’s a good chance I’ll tack on a couple of extras such as a meal and seat selection in the quiet zone of their plane. I’m going to travel carry-on only, so no need to pay for extra bags. As for in-flight entertainment… My return flight is a red-eye, so I will attempt to just sleep on that leg, and as for the flight over? I once survived a 14-hour long haul from Sydney to LA with a busted in-flight-entertainment system, so I figure I can make it through the 7 or 8 hour flight to Singapore without too much drama. I make a habit of loading up my ereader with terrible trashy romance novels for travel reading anyway.

"When I was boy, television was called books."

“When I was boy, television was called books.”

As for accommodation… I’ve booked two separate hotels for this trip. I’ll spend two nights at The Pod Singapore, which is basically an upmarket hostel with sleeping pods and privacy blinds and posh bathrooms. I looked at a few budget options, but eventually went with The Pod after reading a positive review from Nicole at Bitten By The Travel Bug.

For my third and final night in Singapore, I’ve booked into BIG Hotel. I like the compact and minimalist design – their basic rooms remind me of a cabin on a luxury yacht. And at $160 for the night with breakfast included, it was a good deal for notoriously pricey Singapore.

So there you have it. Return flights and three nights in Singapore for $760. It will be a new experience for me, and one I’m very much looking forward to.

A new travel bag…

Almost every travel blog includes a good in-depth discussion of their chosen travel gear, and right at the top is THE BACKPACK. Obviously choosing the right bag can be key to a delightful travel experience or a miserable one.

For years, I travelled with a little, no-name brand purple wheelie suitcase given to me by a friend. It’s about the size of a standard carry-on, has a mesh insert in the top, a couple of outside pockets, and an expander zip.

Little Purple Suitcase (LPS, I shall call her), accompanied me on my first serious overseas trip – three and a half weeks in the USA. I didn’t pay a hell of a lot of attention or do much packing research before I went on this holiday, but basically LPS was my main bag, and I took a large tote-style handbag as my carryon item. For a beginner, I think I did alright…

Fully packed for three and a half weeks in the USA

Fully packed for three and a half weeks in the USA

I used the upper mesh pocket to store a cross-body day bag, a couple of belts, charger cables (in the little toile zip purse) and charger plugs. In the suitcase I was able to fit two dresses (one casual cotton, and one for church), two pairs of jeans (one denim and a lightweight cotton drill pair), one pair of shorts, about eight tops (t-shirts, tank tops, and one dressier evening top), a pair of printed leggings, two bras, two pairs of shoes, associated socks and knickers, a denim jacket, and various toiletries, make-up items and the accursed bottles of hypoallergenic contact lens fluid.

Anyway, LPS was fine for the type of trip I was taking. I only visited three locations, and was staying in private homes or a nice hotel for my entire journey. Checking my bag didn’t especially bother me (I don’t love having to look after a bag when I’m moving through an airport and want to browse duty-free and do the ‘last chance poop’ before getting on a long-haul flight), although I would probably have been able to get away with it for carry-on in a size sense. Weight was another matter… Those wheeled suitcases can weigh a LOT (at least LPS does, not being an expensive high-end ultra-lightweight bag), and I made no effort to pack light – just small. Picking the bag up was unwieldy, it was a pain the arse when I arrived in New York and had to cart it up stairs in the subway, and the pull-out handle on it took up valuable packing room inside the bag.

I’ve been on the look-out for a new travel bag for a few months now – one of those sleek convertible packs with a zip-away harness that you can carry on your back and that looks smart enough for a good hotel.

MY DREAM BAG is pretty much made flesh by this beauty from Minaal

The Minaal - photo taken from their website. I love this bag. But it's $US300. LOLsob.

The Minaal – photo taken from their website. I love this bag. But it’s $US300. LOLsob.

I love it’s minimal look, it’s full-opening front-loading panel, the zip-away harness, the glorious slate-grey colour of it, the discreet branding. Oh, the places I would go with a bag like this!

But I can’t justify the price. It’s $300, and I can pay for two nights in a private houseboat on the River Seine with that money. And I always, always put experiences over things when it comes to spending money.

I had ALMOST decided on the popular but fairly bog-standard Osprey Porter 46L when I happened to pass a Kathmandu store during sale time. I ducked in, and pretty much impulse-bought the Litehaul 38L.

The Kathmandu Litehaul V2 38L. Yes, it's purple. Again.

The Kathmandu Litehaul V2 38L. Yes, it’s purple. Again.

It’s not as sleek and pretty as the Minaal, but it fits the general specs I had in mind. It’s carry-on size, has a zip-away backpack harness with a good, padded hipbelt, a padded laptop compartment with external access, sturdy handles, a front-loading panel and side compression straps that don’t get in the way of any of the outer compartments. On sale it was also less than half the price of the Minaal, at $125. It comes in a black option, but I went for the purple, again. One of the things I love about LPS is how well it stands out on a baggage carousel amongst all the tasteful and discreet little BLACK suitcases. Yay! Score!

Anyway, I’ll be keen to give this bag its first road-test when we head to Europe next year. In the meantime, it’s a little tangible promise of future adventures sitting in my cupboard.