Jay Adra
Filmmaker, Web Developer, Writer.

Melbourne Trip

Posted on April 29, 2018

Got it in two.

So I went to Melbourne for a few days with R, J & T to see the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra perform with Joe Hasiashi, the music of Studio Ghibli films. Here’s what happened.

Thursday

Started the trip with a delayed flight, causing our arrival in Melbourne to be around 8:30pm. We caught a bus into the city and walked the rest of the way to our apartment, where we met up with T who had already checked in.

A quick rest to settle in, before heading downstairs to grab some pizzas for dinner at Roza’s (tandoori chicken was legit).

Friday

Friday night was the concert, so we had the day to explore and have fun. We had a good sleep, and took our time in the morning. We had decided to see a movie that day, so booked the tickets online at the cinema in the Crown, and left around midday.

We saw the new Avenger’s Infinity War movie, and opted to see it in a Vmax theatre. Spacious, comfortable seating, huge screen, Dolby Atmos sound system – definitely should be the standard for cinema experiences. The movie itself was good, albeit a bit confusing because I’ve missed a lot of the previous Marvel movies. I don’t even want to know what the budget for that movie was…

After the movie, we walked around through the city, seeing the different shops and restaurants around, before deciding to stop to eat at Betty’s Burgers. They make a pretty delicious burger. And they have some crazy cool desserts too.

A bit more of a wander, before heading back to the apartment to get ready for the concert. Once we were suitably fancied-up, we walked to the venue and eagerly took our seats. Then this happened for two hours.

It was a very special night. Joe Hasiashi seems like such a sweet old man. Hearing the music of the films played live with a big orchestra (not as big as shown in the video mind you) was such a treat. Made me want to watch all those films again.

But the night was not over yet! From the venue, we walked to the Crown and went into the casino. I got to watch R&J lose some money, despite my best button-pressing efforts. T had to head back early, so I opted to go too while R&J stayed a bit longer to meet up with J (okay this started as laziness, but now it’s just confusing… too late to go back now).

If you haven’t noticed by this point, while I did bring my camera to Melbourne with me, I hadn’t taken it out yet as I don’t have my camera bag and would have to carry it everywhere with me. But luckily, we had our whole Saturday with no plans, so I decided to make up for lost photos then. Speaking of which…

Saturday

Another late start this morning, as we had had a late night, and were in no rush to get anywhere. We had some breakfast at the apartment (the classic Nutella on toast), before heading out with some loose ideas of what we wanted to see. Camera in hand, we ventured across the river and started by ducking into a church for a quick look.

Then we crossed the street to go into one of the free galleries they had running, which was all about technology, past and present. They had exhibits related to film, animation, sound, the internet, video games, television and the like, a lot of it interactive. The games area was pretty dope.

After exploring the exhibition, and watching a bit of the experimental film they had running next-door, we headed off down Swanston Street, in search of the Overwatch mural. It was several blocks down before we found it, but we got there in the end. It was pretty cool.

From there, we walked in search of a few of the famous street art lanes, specifically Hosier and Union. Union wasn’t far, so we walked there and had a look, while stopping for J&T to get some lunch. R&J also bought Mario Kart for the Switch so we could have a tournament later. I decided not to eat lunch, so I could save room for what was coming later on…

We made it to Union lane and walked through. It’s cool, but quite a dank, dirty lane.

At this point, R&J decided to head back to the apartment to rest before our dinner venture. I walked with T to the next lane, Hosier, which I expected to be similar to Union. I was wrong.

Hosier was much bigger, more popular and just generally more interesting. There was a LOT more art to try to take in, with so many layers upon layers from different artists painting on top of each other. We spent a while there just looking around and taking photos, spotting new things when looking from different angles. I took a lot of photos…

It was definitely a highlight of the trip. After we left there, we came across the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria), which we had been looking for earlier, and so we stopped in to check out the free exhibits. They had three floors of Australian art, old and new. Paintings, sculptures, and everything in between. I didn’t take many photos inside, but boy was there some cool stuff.

And a couple more from upstairs:

Once finished there, we walked back to the apartment, feet sore, stomach empty. A bit of a rest (some photo-processing time for me), and it was out to dinner. We had booked to eat at Gami Chicken and Beer, on A’s fervent recommendation. He had been hyping this chicken for months (Korean fried), so we were eager to try it.

We found the sneaky restaurant and ordered bulk chicken, with the four different sauces, so we could try them all. Now, I will say, it wasn’t life changing as A had made it out to be. I’m not a different person now having tasted this chicken. But, it was pretty damn good chicken. We struggled to eat it all, ending up with some leftovers to take home, though we put in a solid effort. I ate waaay too much, but no regrets.

Somehow we managed to walk back home, and prepare ourselves for the Mario Kart tournament. J came over too so we could catch up and have some not-so-friendly, competitive games. Not that you asked, but yes I did win most rounds.

After many games, laughs and screams, we concluded our final night in Melbourne, took one last polaroid photo, and called it a night (except me, I’m writing this).

Tomorrow we have to wake early, get ready, pack up and clean the room before checking out by 10am. Then we’ll have a couple hours to roam around and get some lunch, before heading to the airport to catch our flight at 2:30pm.

Though we were only here a few days, we managed to do a lot which I’m happy about. Melbourne is a really interesting city and a lot of fun to explore. I’m looking forward to returning some day, hopefully sometime soon!

Signing off now. I need sleep.

Day 14 – Beirut

Posted on April 6, 2018

And we will come back home, home again.

Our final day in Lebanon started fairly slow, with a bit of a sleep-in, then breakfast at the hotel. We heard that Fadi’s family had decided to drive to Beirut to see us one more time before we left which was a nice surprise.

We booked a nearby restaurant for a late lunch (on the hotel’s recommendation), and got ready and rested for their arrival. It was around 4pm when they arrived, and after some greetings, we all walked down to the restaurant, which was a seafood place down on the water (crossing busy streets with over 20 people is fun!).

It was good to have one final meal with everyone, though the restaurant wasn’t great. Probably the worst meal we had on our trip, so that was a nice way to end things! Afterwards we walked back and hung out in the hotel lobby, while chatting and ordering some sweets for dessert.

Once it reached 9pm, our taxi arrived to take us to the airport, so we had another extended goodbye, followed by the dreaded beginning to our long journey home.

Our first flight, from Beirut to Doha (4hrs) was at 1:30am, and I somehow managed to sleep through most of it (rare for me). Then we had a few hours wait until our Doha to Sydney flight (14hrs), which again I managed surprisingly well (slept for maybe 6 or 7 hours of it). I think it’s because on both flights there was an empty seat next to me, so there was a lot more space.

Lastly, we had a couple hours until our Sydney to Sunshine Coast flight (supposed to be a little over 1hr, but delays made it 2-3hrs). It’s good to finally be home though!

Overall, not a bad holiday. In fact, I would go as far as to say it was a good holiday.

Day 13 – Beirut

Posted on April 4, 2018

5 minutes.

As predicted, a day of sleep, relaxation, and catching up on photos. Not much else to report really.

I went downstairs for a quick breakfast, before heading back up to process yesterdays photos and write the blog. The others meanwhile went out to do some shopping.

In the afternoon we went down for a drink and a snack, before the others had a quick nap. Then in the evening, the few of us that were awake enough walked down to Zaitunay Bay for dinner.

I have a feeling tomorrow will be similar, as it’s our last day. Our flight isn’t until 1:30am the following day though, so we have a full day to do what we want here.

Day 12 – Baalbek

Posted on April 3, 2018

How do you take a photo?

Today was one of our biggest days yet. We left our hotel bright and early around 7:30am, and met up with some of our Sydney family who are also visiting at the moment. We packed ourselves into a big van, and drove out of Beirut, towards our cousin Fadi’s house, who was going to be taking us around for the day.

We drove away from the city, through the scenic fields and mountains once more, before arriving at the house which he had built entirely himself, from the ground up over the past few years.

We got to meet his family and see his house, located in what seems like open farmland, with the mountains surrounding on all sides, where just over the mountain top is the Syrian border.

They bought a whole lot of munoosh, and laid out a range of cheeses, labneh, olives etc. for our breakfast – all locally sourced. We ate, and talked, and relaxed, before piling up in two cars and driving to our main destination for the day, Baalbek.

First in Baalbek, we were taken to┬áThe Sayyida Khawla Shrine, where locals come to pray and pay their respects. It is a beautifully built shrine and has a quiet peace to it. Apparently it is where the prophet’s granddaughter died so they built this shrine here, around her grave and tree she was buried under.

From there, we walked the short distance to the Baalbek Roman Ruins. They are some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Lebanon, including a huge temple at its center.

We had a tour guide of sorts, showing us around and explaining the history of various things, but since I couldn’t understand what he was saying, I wandered off to explore myself and take photos.

Fadi’s son came with me and became my new bestie. I mostly followed him around as he climbed over the ruins and rocks, and took a few photos when I could.

After exploring the main area, we went down to the main temple to have a look there and take more photos. It’s pretty incredible how many of the ruins are preserved.

It was incredibly hot and sunny though, so we headed off to the final underground area which was a sort of museum with different artifacts and information.

By the time we left Baalbek, it was late afternoon, soon to be sunset. We drove further up the mountain, climbing up towards the peak for a while, before arriving at the cliff-side restaurant where we were going to eat dinner. The owner had built this himself too, and although there’s not much to see at the entrance (which is a pretty hidden door next to a petrol station), once you walk in to the main restaurant, it opens up and you have an amazing view looking down over Lebanon, with snowcapped mountains all around.

A big selection of mezze was soon brought out, followed by the usual meats. It was a great way to end the day, and what felt like, to end the trip. This would be the last we would see our Lebanon family on this trip, so we all enjoyed eating, talking and taking in the view as day turned to night.

When we had finally finished eating, and drinking various teas and such, the owner of the restaurant took us down to his collection/museum he had set up under the restaurant. He had built these tunnels and filled them with items he had either bought/collected, or made himself. There was a lot of stuff, from a lot of different periods of time, so he just gave us a quick walk-through.

At last, it came time to say goodbye and head our separate ways. It was sad to be leaving so soon, and my new bestie was very sweet as we left. After our extended goodbyes, we drove off back down the mountain, towards the glowing lights of the city far below. It was a pretty long drive, so we all tried to sleep until we made it to the hotel.

Once there, we said goodbye to the driver and his family, before turning in for the night. It was maybe 11pm or 12am at this point, so I just downloaded the photos from my camera and went straight to bed. Doing the sorting, processing and uploaded in the morning, hence the late post.

We have two more days in Lebanon before we leave, and it seems like we won’t be doing a whole lot, as we need today to recover from yesterday, and then tomorrow we need to be ready for our flights (oh god…).

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