Saturday, February 11, 2012

A week in Melbourne

League of Honest Coffee
Degraves Espresso
I spent some time in Melbourne attending a conference last week and had a fairly jolly time, trying out various beers and coffee and catching up with some far flung colleagues. The conference was pretty interesting with some really provocative presentations. Though I wonder whether the concept of conferences as a source of new ideas is on the decline, given the nature of the interwebs. See people in the flesh though is great and cannot be overestimated.

Naked Espresso
On my agenda was to try out some of the better espresso places in the CBD and my research revealed a number of gems that aren't immediately obvious to the casual wanderer. The most impressive of which have got themselves a photograph.

My favourites included the league of honest coffee and naked espresso. As an aside, I found it pretty cool the way the busier places had a couple of people out front of the counter, co-ordinating orders and directing the traffic and having chats.

I also spent a bit of time researching beers and had a couple of not yet tasted before examples at various establishments. I was in a hoppy frame of mind and found myself gavitating to the beers with the biggest hop flavours I could find. One notable was True South's Clocktower IPA which has to be one of the best examples of the style being brewed in Australia at the moment. Couple of other beery highlights came from Sierra Nevada in the form of their wet hop IPA and Epic's Armageddon IPA .
Movida Next Door

One of my other objectives was dinner at Movida Next Door. It was typically awesome. So many flavours and textures. I was also impressed by the way the team of people worked together. It was not immediately obvious who was in charge, yet everyone was busy and appeared to be having fun. I'm thinking that as well as the great Movida cook books, they could do something on teamwork and management as we.

My cycling objectives for this year is to ride 6000km, which means getting about 500kms each month. January went pretty well but the week in Melbourne was going to set me back a bit. That is until I saw the share bikes.

Share Bike dock
There was a sharebike rack just around the corner from my hotel, so I soon located a subsidized helmet at a 7 Eleven ($5) and took out a weeks subscription ($8). I downloaded the spotcycle app which mapped the bike stations and gave real time updates of number of bikes available and number of free docks.

Trips under 30 minutes are free, but seemed to get pretty expensive the longer you ride (up to $10/hr), but the idea is you cycle from one bay to the next and keep your rides under 30 minutes. Casual users need to have a credit card.

Heavy, but serviceable
The bikes themselves are heavy, but that is the nature of bikes left outside that can be used by anyone. They're equipped with Shimano drum brakes front and rear, nexus 3 speed hub gears, fenders, bell, bulky saddle and front rack with strap. Despite their bulk, they get along Ok and I didn't see any damaged or broken ones lying about. My cyclemeter reckoned that I managed 50kph at one point (which I don't really believe) but pedaling along at 20kph was no problem.

There's a nice network of shared paths along the Yarra River and various marked lanes around town. Riding in the traffic wasn't too bad, especially as there are so many other people cycling around in the city and most drivers seemed conditioned to it. Perhaps not Taxis, but are they ever.

During the week I clocked up just over 60kms on the blue beasts and thoroughly enjoyed the freedom they offered. The program is apparently on a 5 year trial, and while use is growing, there's been a lower than expected uptake. A lot of that has to be related to the helmet issue, and that the bike racks are not more widely dispersed than the CBD and immediately adjoining area.

That aside, I found them really useful and got to see parts of the city that I wouldn't usually have managed to see by tram.

Mileage in Kilometers = 667