Goodbye Melbourne, Hello Again… London

These Two Eyes are on the move again, just a few weeks shy of leaving behind Australia to relocate back to my favourite city in the world, London!

But now this part feels too short; the waiting part. All of the songs I hear sound like home, like Melbourne. The familiarity of my apartment, my commute on my cherry-apple bike, the banter between me and my roommate, the smells and tastes of my favourite restaurants on Bridge Road – they are all reaching out to me saying, don’t go! The red wine and fun times keep flowing though, we stumble a bit but just go with it. Then I smile and remember that this is just another step on an amazing journey.

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Australia is a special place I know I’d like to come back to, even long term again one day. I recognize now the things I’ve taken for granted; the best beaches on the planet, world class food and wine, proximity to remote islands, a refreshing outlook on life, and lifelong friendships.

I’ve learned so much in my close to 4.5 years here and want to always keep these lessons front of mind:

  • Slow down, have fun and stop worrying about getting to the top.
  • The world is both small and accessible, keep traveling, always.
  • Do what you love and don’t settle for anything, or anyone, less. Life is what you make of it and there is no formula to follow.

Making a move is never easy but the outcome is also never regretted. I think it’s because there is so much you can’t anticipate.  When I’m content I associate it with the place I love at the moment, the fun factor. But then the next minute I have a conversation about a 15-year old dying of cancer, and it hits me that life is so short. Do what you want and be happy, yet that is also difficult when family and friends are so far away and traveling to you for a visit isn’t an option. So is happiness Europe on a whim or a swim in Bondi over the weekend? They both win for different reasons.

I’ve always been one to follow through when I say I’m going to accomplish something and this is no different. Australia has given me the opportunity to pursue my dreams time-and-time again and now is just another chance to stay true to what I’ve always said; I want to live in London again one day.

In fact, when I first moved over to Australia I created a bucket list of sorts – check it out, and stay tuned because I will also do the same for this move too. I’m proud to say I’ve ticked off each one and so much more. I’ve snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef 3 times. I’ve visited nearly every major wine region across Australia and New Zealand. I’ve seen and tasted wallaby, kangaroo, crocodile, and a few other interesting creatures. I’ve visited every state in Australia and lived in 2. I’ve watched and learned to play AFL, NRL, croquet and lawn bowls. Visited the outback and red center, various coasts and hinterlands and conquered crazy fears like skydiving and shark diving. And I’m lucky to be a permanent resident and not just a backpacker restricted by timeframes; I got to do it all!

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Australia has also turned me into a food snob. I have a lot of very expensive average dinners. Or maybe that’s just how pretentious my palette has become. I’ve had to learn to fight the urge to eat before I fly, whilst in the lounge, on the plane and after to maintain a tinge of self-control (and moderate weight). And that’s partly because I fly so regularly my obsession and loyalty to the national airline Qantas is not sane.  I’m like that movie Up in the Air – always reaching out for that higher frequent flyer status.

And sometimes I sit on the tram and look at Flinders Station and think how beautiful it is. Melbourne is beautiful, especially at night. I watch the meter tick by as it gets more and more expensive, but it’s not London. It’s not supposed to be. There are trams instead of tubes, different arts, music and entertainment, secret bars and graffiti-clad laneways and then there’s the food and wine, of course. There’s nothing like it.

Flinders station

Flinders Station and passing tram

After seeing old friends in Brisbane this past weekend, I questioned to myself – why am I leaving all the people and things I love? My response was to also be with those I’ve loved first.

I popped back in London in July just to double check. At times it seemed a bit primal. A true melting pot changing neighbourhood by neighbourhood offering something to meet everyone’s wants. I went to sleep that last night thankful for Tommy and Paul and Jake and Dave and the people already in my life. I’m also thankful to show up in a city and call it my own. I have too many of these situations in too many cities: Brisbane, Philadelphia, Melbourne, New York, London. I love getting off the plane in each of these cities knowing I’ve already mastered the place. I know where to go for a beer, a bite and to kill time shopping or exploring.

Last year after returning from London I was nervous of the influence Australia was having on me. It’s almost as if life is too good. It’s a bit of a utopia of sorts. I realized as I tried to explain my dilemma how disillusioned it sounds. In comparison to the US my income is high, it’s safe, there’s minimal crime, you get free stuff on planes and people accept regular travel as a normal part of life. Oh, and they shorten everything they say which fits in perfect with the vocabulary I acquired as a teenager. So, what’s the prob? Right, I actually feel like I’m losing my street smarts. I’ll become unnecessarily cautious in some situations and too aloof or trustworthy in others that require alertness. I assume affluence is standard and have overlooked aspects of my fortune. This has caused me to recognize how removed from the society I grew up with I actually am.

So do I really just love London because it was my first? It was my first time abroad, my first time living overseas, and my first time traveling alone to new countries. But that’s what happens when you fall in love with a city at 13 years-old.  It will always be ‘my’ city. People respond in shock when I tell them it’s my favourite city in the world. I’ve lived there at 19 and 22. What will it be like 10 years later? American accents are everywhere – I won’t be unique anymore. I won’t have people asking every day where I’m from or how long I’m staying. That is my life on repeat, always asking ‘what’s next’ and despite a bitter sweet goodbye to Australia, I’m more excited than ever to begin life again in London.

I can’t wait to visit old haunts and make new ones. To sit in a dodgy pub with friends I’ve yet to meet and those I know will help me transition. To travel like a big kid all of Europe on weekends and evolve my palette even further on French and Italian wines. To fall in love with boys with funny accents, achieve success in my new international job and to live somewhere where friends and family can and will come visit. There is still so much unknown to get excited about.

Recently, standing in an old warehouse converted into a music venue in a trendy Melbourne neighbourhood watching the Brisbane band The Jungle Giants, I drunkenly smiled a bit and said, “I want the whole time to be awesome, not just the last 20 years.” And so here I go, it continues…

Lisa Vecchio, Tower Bridge, London

Lisa Vecchio, Tower Bridge, London

3-Day Pressed Juice Cleanse

The evening before I started my pressed juice cleanse I had nightmares. I dreamt about being tempted by chocolate, steak, waffles and cold beer which made me fail at the task of staying ‘clean’. I agonized about the unattainable. Not only because I was on a strict no-solids, no-alcohol, no-caffeine regiment, but also because those delicacies I fantasized about also weren’t available to be purchased or consumed from my office, where I unfortunately was in my dream. Plus, I don’t even like waffles.

My decision to cleanse was fast and without waver. Coming back from a long New Year’s celebratory weekend in Sydney my body felt overworked and screamed for a rest, both mentally and physically. I even contemplated running off to a wellness retreat for a few days, and a few thousands of dollars of debt. Luckily once I discovered I didn’t have the transport means to get there I came to my senses and started brainstorming on something much more sensible albeit my first time ever going 3 full days without a solid meal. Others may not deem that as sensible.

I chose Pressed Juices simply because they are a Melbourne based company and they made the whole experience easy for me. After a bit of research, I felt confident that I would get the right balance of nutrients to sustain off solids for 3 days at the same time do my body some well deserved recovery and rejuvination. The process was simple:

  1. Choose your cleanse: Basic, Advanced, Master
  2. Choose for 3, 4, or 5 days
  3. Choose 6 of 8 juices to consume daily. The options online were presented from a drop down list in a calculated way so that from whichever option I chose I had the right balance of fruit, veg, nuts and nutrients in the next.
Pressed Juice: Almond Mylk

Pressed Juice: Almond Mylk

Juice 1: Black Lemonade – pre-selected (Alkaline Water, Lemon, Activated Coconut Charcoal, Cayenne) Juice 2: Green 6 (Spinach, Cucumber, Silverbeet, Cos Lettuce, Pineapple, Lime, Mint) Juice 3: Earth 3 (Beetroot, Apple, Lemon, Ginger) Juice 4: Green 2 (Spinach, Cucumber, Lettuce, Celery, Kale, Parsley, Apple, Lemon) Juice 5: Earth 5 (Carrot, Orange, Pineapple, Celery, Lemon, Turmeric) Juice 6: Zest 3 (Grapefruit, Mint) Juice 7: Save the Date Almond Mylk (Filtered Water, Almonds, Vanilla Bean, Sea Salt) Juice 8: Slippery Elm – pre-selected (Alkaline Water, Licorice Root, Marshmallow Root, Chia Seeds, Slippery Elm Bark Powder, Cinnamon)

  1. Pick up (with 8 stores to choose from in the Melbourne area and apparently a pop up coming to Richmond soon!) or Ship for an additional charge. The shipments were made to my office in two installments containing a day and half’s worth of juice per delivery. Because they have no added preservatives and are unpasteurized, the daily delivery meant that I knew that what I was drinking was fresh.
  2. Start juicing!
Pressed Juice: Delivery

Pressed Juice: Delivery

Day 1: I woke up hungry from a light dinner the night before in which I’m still unsure was a good thing, or set me up for success. I was excited and eager to try each juice, anticipating one before the next in the hopes that it would be equally as tasty as the last, or in the cases where it wasn’t my favorite, at least better. As the 6 primary juices are meant to be consumed over 12 hours, I found myself constantly checking the clock every two hours in anticipation of my next juice. In fact, I’d even argue that it made me more productive at work as I rewarded myself in between small tasks and projects.

Around mid-day I was relieved to know the Earth juices tend to have more fruit than veg and the sugar intake was most definitely welcome. Coming down from Earth 3 I started to feel a slight light headedness. By Earth 5 I was starving. I managed to maintain my composure and stand by my cause at dinner time while my roommate cooked the most enchanting smelling pasta.

I found Zest 3 absolutely refreshing and the almond mylk interesting to say the least. By the last juice it was nearly 10 pm and I was spent. I must have started too late in the morning as I felt like I had been consuming all day and a bit bloated with water weight. I went to bed hoping to feel lighter in the morning.

Day 2: I approached the second day with the same amount of enthusiasm as the first and was really ready to do this thing. I didn’t feel in the slightest that I would break. Two juices in however my tummy gave a rumble.

Throughout the afternoon I truly got to understand what the meaning of ‘cleanse’ was all about. By late afternoon I felt back to ‘normal’ in juicing terms and looked forward to one juice to the next. Simple mentions of solid food items and the normal task of walking by a restaurant made me talk in detail about the ‘could be’ but I knew it was all in my head. Things became a bit awkward that evening when I went to a friend’s house and BYO’d my juice to his dinner gathering, strong and proud.

Day 3: Despite not being able to finish my Slippery Elm the night before, I woke up hungry again. However, overall for the last day I felt great! While my intention wasn’t to use this as mechanism for dieting, overall I felt lighter and tighter and I anticipate over the next few days as I transition back to solid food the water bloating will reduce.

As the afternoon wore on I noticed that my intervals between juices were getting shorter. The hunger pains were definitely increasing, but I also wonder if it was my subconscious knowing I was getting closer and closer to ‘real’ food.

During  my first two days I felt the need to keep my juicing a secret in the office but by day 3 I had a few converts convinced. On the last day I joined my friend to Hawthorn’s Pressed Juices store as he wanted to try it out on a one day trial. Shopkeeper Morgan did an awesome job explaining the various cleanses and juice combinations and for a second I was tempted to even go for day 4.

However, going to bed knowing that I completed this awesome, healthy challenge made me feel empowered and gave me the want to continue to think more healthily about how I approach my eating and drinking habits – even if it is just for a short time before I get distracted again.  Baby steps are best but I will definitely take Morgan’s recommendation of trying a 3 day cleanse seasonally.

Favorite Juices: Earth 3, Zest 3 and Black Lemonade
Least Favorite Juice: Slippery Elm, Green 2
Pressed Juices: Thanks for such an awesome experience. One tip, your bottles are so hard to open butI look forward to seeing you move from plastic to glass in the near future, and in Richmond soon!

Lisa Vecchio with Pressed Juice

Lisa Vecchio with Pressed Juice

Brisbane’s become cooler than me

Everyone always digs on Brisbane. Even when I first moved to Australia it was all “it’s too small; everything closes early; there’s nowhere good to eat.” Compare it to likes of Sydney or Melbourne, and yeah, I get it. But guess what haters, at some point since moving away a year and a half ago, Brisbane’s upped its ante.

I always said if I could have the culture of Melbourne coupled with the weather of Brisbane I would be set for life. Now, I’m not going to go as far and say it’s been accomplished but seriously Brisbane, you’re picking up your weight.

On my most recent visit I was blown away at the duck liver parfait served at James Street’s trendy Gerard’s Bar. In fact, I added it on my “best thing ever” list and that was even after devouring truffle salami and mackerel tartare. Could the Brisbane dining scene be creeping in Melbourne’s wake?

And as for Fortitude Valley, the once seedy and still may be but only if you don’t know where to go now that Brisbane is cool, nightlife neighborhood, I didn’t go out ‘in’ the Valley but rather ‘under’ the Valley. Greaser, an American themed bar is housed in the cellar of a 130-year-old heritage building offering craft beers, American imports and a stellar whiskey list on the side of classic hot dogs.

Sure, I was still living in town when the hippest thing was old Queensland cottages being converted into uber-chic bars like Alfred & Constance, Kettle & Tin and Sixes & Sevens – as they all have uber-cool names too, but I hear even ‘hippie-haven’ West End has transformed itself upmarket with some new additions in its pocket.

I think it goes without saying another area where Brisbane hasn’t failed us is the craft beer front. From my old hang The Scratch to Tenerife’s Tippler’s Tap and their recent Southbank prodigy Tomohawk Bar and let’s not forget the micro-brewers Green Beacon and classic Bacchus Brewing, Brisbane is where its at.

What’s still not cool is having to leave an establishment to go find a bathroom somewhere down the street rather then in the bar/restaurant/café, but over time you may just get that right too, Brisbane.

In the meantime, I recognize there’s all the extra stuff that even made Brisbane cool back when I was living there. An awesome music scene, a laid back life style and pristine beaches in an arm’s reach, so yeah Brisbane, maybe you were cool all along.

Read more about my adventures in Brisbane here.

Put It On The List was recently featured in Bucket List Publications. An exciting day for me, but as I got to thinking I wanted to return the favor and give BLP a proper shout out. You see, Leslie Carter turned what was once her travel blog into a publication that features other people dreams coming true, or what one would refer to as a their “Bucket List”.  Aside from taking submissions for articles, she also accepts submissions of bucket list requests, and works with donations to help conquer other people’s dreams.

Humph, a bucket list, ey. Now, my immediate thought was what kind of cool thing can I write about and ideally get for free. But then I realized, I’m not adventurous. I do not have sky diving, great white shark swimming, bungee jumping, river rafting, mountain climbing dreams on my horizon. I have respect for those who do, however let’s be realistic, I’m a huge wuss.

The thing is, lately I’ve been fairly content with my accomplishments. That’s not to say I don’t want more. I think the most difficult thing about traveling is knowing there is so much more you can do, so many more people you can meet, food to try, landscapes to see. I am not ungrateful for what I have already done mind you.

Once the travel bug bites it does not go away. Reading articles on Bucket List Publications makes me feel envious of those who write about safaris in Africa and treks through the Amazon. But I am too aware that others can say the same for my travels. That’s the hardest part. When you surround yourself with other travelers it’s all so every day. It’s easy to be less mindful that you are sharing experiences in a unique subset of society.

This past weekend I had casual conversations with a handful of people about Vietnam’s best travel spots. Vietnam did you say? I sure did. I could count on two hands people I’ve encountered in my life who swear up and down that Vietnam is a beautiful country, with rich history, culture, fabulous food and a price tag that would make you go, saaayyyy what? Cheap.

Telling your parents your spending thousands of dollars when you own not one item of value to your name to travel to Vietnam is like your child telling you in 20 years that they are vacationing in Iraq. See what I’m getting at?

So before I arrived on the continent of Australia you could say I had a “Bucket List” of things to accomplish. I’ve reached deep into my nightstand drawer to dust off my uhum journal from when I first arrived. I’ll tell you what it says, shhh.

  • New Zealand: Check
  • Uluru:
  • Melbourne: Check
  • Asia: Check
  • Quit Smoking: Check
  • Lose Weight: Check/Uncheck/Check/Uncheck
  • Byron Bay: Check
  • Western Australia:
  • Outback:
  • Friends: Check
  • Wineries: Check
  • Indonesia/Bali:

Looks like I’ve still got some work to do. But would I call these my official bucket list? Would I look back and have regrets for not booking the first flight to the middle of the country to climb a sacred red rock? Maybe a small amount.

So here I am again, ponder ponder, what do I truly desire, if I could go anywhere, try anything. And I think and I think and I come to the realization that, well, I want to live abroad; but I currently am. I want to live in London; I’ve done that twice. I want to travel the world; this year I will have reached 30 countries if I make it to South Africa in October. I want dear friends; I have plenty. I want a loving family; they love me too much.

So Leslie Carter, I guess as long as you keep publishing my blog posts while I’m lucky enough to actively live my bucket list I will be reading to see who’s dreams you’ve made come true and supporting it 100 percent with gratitude to you and envy of them.


Living the dream. Stradbroke Island, Australia.

The great Pinot Grigio debacle of 2003

I had thought the great Pinot Grigio debacle of 2003 had left me scarred of white wine for life. Thank goodness that phase has worn itself out. You see, as a 19 year-old college student living abroad for the first time, the sweet fruity yum yum in my tum tum of Pinot Grigio at a point in my life where my buds haven’t quite developed the appreciation for a dark roasted stout left me jumping into the wine world head first. There was so much Pinot Grigio consumed during that four month stint in London, late night benders of cheap two pound bottle after bottle, and long-afternoon sleep-ins that my body reached a point of saying, “white wine! Yuck!” But like I said, I’m so glad all of that is over.

Luckily for me, the proximity and availability of deliciousness gracing itself in my presence in the form of Sauvignon Blanc’s and Semillon’s and combo situations from South Australia and New South Wales and New Zealand keep surprising me quite regularly. Pinot Noir’s & Malbec’s – you’ll never out wear your welcome but while the sun is shining (although not as warmly as Id like, still!), you’ll have to move over and share my buds with your lighter variety friend.

My weekend evenings are spent drinking schooners (the larger size option, but not even a US pint size really) of craft beer in places with live music in West End and vintage-torn nooks and crannies of the Valley.  A young guy who reminded me a bit of Jesse Eisenberg asked me about Brisbane’s style – am I noticing any trends – I replied that in the types of places I’ve spent time the past few weekends – it looks like the same bunch of hipsters you’d find in the east village or Brooklyn. He thought that was cool apparently.

If someone were to ask you to drink your drink very fast, in comparison to a “chug”, that would be called “sculling.” For example, “hurry up; scull your beer so we can go.” Another point of observation, if you were the bar staff and it was your job to go around and pick up everyone’s empty glasses you’d perform the job of “glassying”, and be labelled a “glassy” to guests and other members of the staff.

I don’t drink tea, because I don’t drink caffeine really, at least on purpose, but tea is a form of life here as it is in the UK. Tea means tea, like what you would drink, but tea also means food. I have two tea breaks a day at work, morning tea and afternoon tea, and that usually consists of me eating the free cookies. So far, the cookies are winning the tug-of-war over my will power. These tea breaks are also conveniently, or perhaps inconveniently, timed in accordance to my old smoke breaks so conceivably the cookies have become a substitution. Let’s hope I’m not fat next time we meet. If I am, you’ll know why.

Monday evenings I play Bingo at the boutique beer cafe Archive in West End. I’ve gone twice and have not won yet. I also found out that the really really really really cute bartender is married so now I want to try something different. Bingo just became so lame. Thursday I go (well, I went once but plan to make it a regular thing) to a boot camp type workout class organized by Wiley that takes place out on the lawn next to the building. It’s fun, because it reminds me of my old boot camp type workout class on the lawn next to the  building in Hoboken. Only different.

I was tasked with obtaining an Australian hobby as a means to meet people but I don’t think I’ve accomplished that yet. Prior to my arrival we’ve determined the following limitations: no surfing because I’m scared of being eaten by a shark, no rugby because rugby players aren’t datable – and I’m a wuss, no scuba diving because I’m afraid of being eaten by a shark. I guess I’m left with learning how to play the didgeridoo. I’m still open to suggestions at this point.

Lollies are candy. And candy is chocolate. Make sense? Basically, lollies are hard candy and gummies. And they all are a bit not as awesome. I went to go see Harry Potter in 3D the other night, obviously, and was a bit perplexed by my candy options. Where are all the Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, and Hot Tamales damn it!  It was a literally a tossup between Fairy Floss and popcorn. BTW – do you know I was asked, “Is it true in America you can put melted butter on your popcorn?” Sure is! What the heck do you call that unsalted, unflavoured bag of corn seeds? It’s also worth mentioning that for this particular movie theatre, when we purchased our tickets online, we also selected our seats in advance as you would on an airplane. Not too shabby for $21 thank you very much Australia.

My roomie Kate refers to herself as a Cadbury. There is a glass and half of milk that goes into a Cadbury bar of chocolate apparently. And therefore, she is a light drinker. The French Festival was on last weekend in Southbank. I’d never been to Southbank properly yet. Now I know where those weekend markets are, and where the lagoon is so I can tan hopefully very very soon (still unlikely). When we drove back in toward the city she said, “ahh, I love the Brisbane skyline, it feels like home.” Mind you, we were still in Brisbane, just crossing the river, but when she asked what in the States reminds me of home I could think of three distinct things, the Ben Franklin Bridge, the feeling you get when you first arrive down the shore, and the view of Manhattan from Hoboken.

I’ve been eating out a lot recently. I love to eat out. I think I’ve finally adjusted to the inflation on food. I don’t flinch as hard when my main costs anywhere from $20-35 and it’s just an easy night out. An entree is an appetizer and main is an entree. Make sense? I really craved a Mamouns falafel the other day, straight from the west village. I also eat a log of sushi. Often, you just get handed the whole roll over the counter, not cut up or anything, and just take a big bite from it like that, maybe dribble a little soy, but it’s kind of an on the go situation, unless you’re at a sushi train or something.

And I think that’s all I wanted to share with you for now.