Monday, December 8, 2008

The Race That Stops the Nation!

I got back from the States on a Tuesday and on Saturday; I headed out to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup. For those of you that don’t know, every spring in Melbourne, they have the Spring Carnival - essentially a week of horse races. It started in the 60’s when the race track wanted to find a way to get more women to attend the races. So they instituted a week of fashion shows and competitions. Each day at the race (there are four race days during the week) have a different theme and you want to dress differently for each one. On top of that, two states in Australia get the day of the Melbourne Cup off of work and it just so happens, I’m living in one of those states.

My friend Michelle and I got to Melbourne on Saturday and immediately get changed and head into the CBD for dinner and drinks (our flight was over an hour late and we flew Tiger Air – like Southwest but not as nice). We got into downtown just as the trains for Derby (pronounced Darby) Day were arriving. Everyone was dressed up with hats or fascinators and the men were in suits with bright ties and shirts. So fascinators – I got a couple of questions on this. Essentially, they’re lazy hats. They attach to your hair with combs or a headband. They’re typically made of flowers or feathers. They’re cheaper than hats and you don’t end up with hat head. We had dinner on the South Bank of the Yarra River and got to people watch. Then we went out and had a few drinks. We met a nice Australian that lives in the UK but was in town for work (the American accent – so easy to make friends)!

Sunday and Monday were full on shopping days. Neither Michelle or I had a fascinator so it was a mad dash to find one. On top of that Melbourne has GREAT shopping – a lot of stuff that you can’t find in Canberra or Sydney. Fascinators and hats are really expensive so we were trying to find ones that we liked but didn’t have to spend a ton of money on. Either way, I had a great time shopping.

Tuesday is Melbourne Cup day. “It’s the Race that stops a Nation.” There were over 100k people at this horse race. Michelle and I were smart enough though to buy tickets to a reserved section of the course so there were less people and we didn’t have to stand in line all day long to buy drinks or place bets. I bet on four races and won on two, but I won enough to cover the costs of the four bets. I can’t complain about that. We only ventured out of our reserved area a few times – most specifically for the actual Melbourne cup race. We found some elevated seats and watched the race. The horse favored to win was an American horse, so of course I bet on it. Unfortunately though, it came in near last. Quite a disappointment for everyone that bet on it. I got some pretty good shots of the horses.

Needless to say, after glasses and glasses of champers (aka champagne for my American friends), I was in a mood to go out afterwards. And the town gets crazy after the Melbourne Cup. There were people out everywhere. The atmosphere was amazing. Unfortunately though, Michelle and I had to catch a 7am flight so there wasn’t too much partying that night.

The Melbourne Cup is definitely one of my favorite Aussie experiences yet and if I’m here next November, I’m going again.

Oh – and it rained in Melbourne…I think you’ll see a pattern.

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