Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Star Attraction in Melbourne: Flinders Street Station

St. Paul's cathedral Lanes and alleyways: Melbourne art culture - Tram rides - Queen Victoria Market Eureka sky deck / The Edge - Captain Cook's Cottage - MELBOURNE MEMORY # 7: FLINDERS STREET STATION - Yarra River - MCG - Federation Square - Cuisine - Extras.


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You just can’t miss out on some places. Not even if you want to. Not because they are famous, or that you have heard so much about them, or had people recommend them to you. But, simply because you discover them right out of your hotel!

Flinders street station from Citigate, Melbourne Australia
My first sight of the Flinders Street Station: Through the window of my hotel, Citigate.

I couldn't have been luckier.
Flinders Street Station, one of the star attractions of Melbourne
and one in my list of places to seestood exactly opposite to my hotel, Citigate!

Standing bang in the middle of the city, at the corner of Flinders street and Swanston Street, Melbourne’s first railway station and the oldest of Australia, the Flinders Street railway station resonated with a certain vibe, a certain charisma, leaving me overwhelmed in the first impression itself.

Flinders street station clock tower, Melbourne Australia
The clock tower of the Flinders Street Station

The busiest railway station in the southern hemisphere, Flinders street station gave me that feeling:

Hey you, you are standing in the shadows of a special place right now!

View of Flinders street station, Melbourne Australia
Flinders Street Station: An important city landmark.

.. Leaving me wondering, where was this aura coming from? Perhaps it was a lingering effect: the buzz left behind by billions of people who were running across its streets every minute of the day, a billion echoes resonating as conversations that had ensued during their 'meeting under the clocks' or the mysticism hidden in the chapters of history?

People watch at the Flinders street station, Melbourne Australia
A swarm of people crosses the Flinders streets

I don’t really know what exactly made this busiest railway appear star-like to me. All I could gather was that it left me awe struck for all the time I was there. This brilliant piece of concrete, this historic yellow colored building with a distinctive green dome was attractive to me and never for once failed in commanding my attention – no matter how the weather, which part of the day, what direction of the road.

Flinders street station in night lights, Melbourne Australia
The same place, from where has originated the popular catchphrase of the Melburnians,
'Meet me under the clocks'

Flinders street station at night, Melbourne Australia
Flinders Station: All bright in the dark of the night.

Even when I had no trains to catch or no one to 'meet me under the clocks', I made sure to pause, almost every time I passed by it, if only to discover the varied sights, smells and activity of a railway station... not an ordinary one but one that had metamorphosed over a century of years to become a prominent city landmark, establishing an identity as someone who believed in not just standing there but also adding a lot of richness and character to its beloved home city.

Oh and yes. Besides my star station gazing, there was one more reason why I stood there, in front of the Flinders street station in admiration; I had one major request to fulfill.


"Get me a picture of Flinders with a tram passing in front of it, will you?"

Flinders street station postcard, Melbourne Australia
A picture postcard of the Flinders Station from Melbourne...  With love.

... Here it is, my dear brother, this one’s for you ...


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Tips for travelers:

1. Do step inside the station and take a train ride if possible; with the Myki card in your pocket already, this should be free. (More on that in a later post!)

2. Look out for free Wi-Fi available on the station courtyard and from every platform (select Metro Wi-Fi).

Getting there:

At the corner of Flinders street and Swanston Street, overlooking the Federation square, St. Paul’s cathedral and Yarra river with the Eureka Sky Deck in the background.

Location:

207-361 Flinders Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Phone: 9610 7476

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Previous stories from Melbourne:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Things to do in Melbourne, Australia: Fitzroy Gardens, Captain Cook's Cottage, etc.

St. Paul's cathedral Lanes and alleyways: Melbourne art culture - Tram rides - Queen Victoria Market Eureka sky deck / The Edge - MELBOURNE MEMORY # 6 CAPTAIN COOK'S COTTAGE - Flinder's street station - Yarra River - MCG - Federation Square - Cuisine - Extras.

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My entry to one of the oldest gardens of Melbourne -The Fitzroy’s Gardens couldn't have been lovelier – after a steady whiplash of chilly showers and intimidating grey skies in the morning, the afternoon sun finally gave a glance, peeping out from behind a skyscraper.

Entry point of the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
Entrance to the Fitzroy gardens: A sanctuary of peace.

The hustle bustle of a city as chaotic as Melbourne soon faded away as I briskly crossed the briefly sun tanned skyscraper, to step out of the city traffic and into the wide open spaces of the Fitzroy gardens: long meandering avenues lined with files and files of beautiful majestic pines, deodars and English elms on either sides.

Meandering avenues of the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
The lush green carpet of the Fitzroy Gardens

Set in classic Victorian-era design and covering an area of 64 acres since 1860, the Fitzroy gardens along with the other gardens like Royal Botanical gardens occupy a healthy part of the Melbourne city and reflects its thoughtful belief in cultivating a culture of green in a place as concrete as itself. Hidden beneath and beyond these veils of quiet foliage, however, are significant attractions of the city, cherished by the people and the tourists alike, thus ensuring something for everyone stepping on its land.

Pathways of the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
Meandering pathways, all for you to discover.

Green as it was; my first glimpse of the garden was inviting, and the enveloping quietude only helped the impression. As I started walking along the perfectly manicured corridors, a sense of déjà vu gripped me and left me smiling silently, reminding me of Hibiya Park in Japan: a carpet of green, a floral paradise, away from the maddening crowd... I felt familiar to the gardens, I felt like I had known them after all.

Dense tree canopy in the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
Dense shaded canopies: The only window to the outside world.

With a gloomy weather in full bloom, the dense umbrella of the trees weaved a dense shadow obliterating the place in a mystical aura, also blocking out all the noise and chaos that Melbourne is famed for.

. . . . .

Let’s take a walk down here, and see what’s in store.
(A Photo  Essay on the Fitzroy Gardens):

Captain Cooks Cottage:

First attraction in sight was Captain Cooks' Cottage, a pretty small house believed to have been owned by Captain James Cook's parents and subsequently brought by a wealthy Australian businessman from it's original location Yorkshire to it's current location Melbourne to commemorate Victoria's centenary in 1934. 

Captain cooks cottage, Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne Australia
Captain cooks cottage, Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
Captain Cook's Cottage: A major attraction of Melbourne.

Take a peek from the outside, you can see a life size statue of Captain Cook standing in the garden, and a cardboard face-cut placard for souvenir photo takeaways. Inside, three small rooms and a gift/souvenir shop, promises to take you through to a tour on his voyage of life and death.

Statue at the Captain cooks cottage, Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
Captain Cook: The 'discoverer' of the east coast of Australia.

Postbox near the Captain cooks cottage, Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
A postbox near the cottage entrance.

Though I love history, one of the reasons I had put this place in my Melbourne itinerary, but with the help of suggestions given by Melburnian blogger friends and from my own first hand idea, I dropped the idea of taking a complete tour and instead just appreciated the cottage from the outside.

After discovering the cottage, take a turn where you may like, and if you were to follow in my trail, 

Streets of the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia

Step on this wooden bridge to crossover flowery beds and other rock outcroppings making themselves known...

Bridge at the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia

... And stride along a stream housing a boy resting on a turtle.

A boy on a turtle at the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
Boy on the turtle

Conservatory: Then take a few moments out to admire the statue of Diana and the hounds and step into this Spanish Mission-style Conservatory, dating from 1930 and housing changing exhibitions of magnificent floral displays.

Diana and the hounds at the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
The figurine of Diana and the Hounds at the entrance to the conservatory.

Conservatory at the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
Backside-view of the conservatory.

Fitzroy Gardens conservatory, Melbourne Australia
Pink Floral display at the Fitzroy Gardens conservatory, Melbourne Australia
White Floral display at the Fitzroy Gardens conservatory, Melbourne Australia
Floral delight inside the conservatory.

Follow your heart or take the help of signboards or better still interact with the locals, help them guide you towards the most beautiful and eye catching key points in the gardens. In any case, trust the paths that you take, there are gifts with each step that you take, once unwrapped, revel in their charisma.

Bunch of flowers at the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
Green carpet of the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia

And if you feel you have walked enough, have a seat, and let the arms of the canopy of trees embrace you in a deep calm slumber. Here, try listening to the sounds of the outdoors, and spend some quiet moments with yourself… 

Bench and tree at the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
Would you like to have a seat?

Here, try expanding your sights and broadening your vistas, maybe there are new friends to be made?

. . . . .

Having walked for a good thirty to forty five minutes on my clock, I stood there near the noisy fountain, savoring the marvel of being completely alone in it. The tree cover was now silhouetted by a sheath of concrete buildings and glass windows in the backdrop. I was searching for the exit.

View of the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
Somewhere near the exit area

Suddenly, a group of birds singing somewhere distracted my vision and this little family of ducks caught my eye, perhaps they were hungry and were searching for food (?). They made beautiful sounds, preening and chattering among themselves, following the eldest in the group in a pattern as disciplined and rhythmic that could easily put my school assembly obedience to shame.

Little family of chicks at the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia
Say hello!

I left the garden through the nearest exit, now in the company of gigantic skyscrapers towering upon me, looking for a tram to the main city; with memories of the small lake busy with the army of ducklings marching their way towards the garden, still making noises under the canopy of the pine trees.

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Tips and tricks for travellers:

- Captain Cook's cottage is a pretty small house which looks quite beautiful from the outside; if you are travelling on a budget (like me) and not really intent on exploring the history, consider giving the interiors a miss and spending that much more time in the garden instead, it's a nature sanctuary.

- If you love nature, and flowers, then the conservatory is something not to be missed. What's more, it's free!

Besides the cottage and the conservatory, also look out for: several fountains and sculptures, a band pavilion and rotunda, a miniature Tudor Village and the Fairies Tree carved by Ola Cohn. These are some of the other things I missed due to paucity of time.

- The gardens are a short distance from the MCG cricket grounds; try clubbing the two together in your itinerary.

Getting there:

Fitzroy gardens is very close to the city center, the CBD. To get there, you can either catch a city circle tram and get down at the nearest stop St. Vincent Plaza. Or if you have no qualms walking, you could walk all the way down the Yarra river course from the Federation square and reach the gardens via the MCG cricket grounds.

Location, Contact, opening and closing hours and entry fee:

Address: East Melbourne VIC 3002, Australia.

Entry fee for Cook's cottage is $ 5; rest of the gardens is Free.

Phone: +61 3 9658 9658

Visiting Hours: Mon to Sun; 09:00 AM to 05:00 PM; closed on Christmas day.

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Previous stories from Melbourne:


Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Story of a Girl ...

A couple of weeks back, British Airways launched their new advert on you tube touching the pulse of newly weds in a traditional Indian family setup:


The tagline did resonate in me, at a slightly different level may be, but yes, it did.

So when a similar question was put up by IndiBlogger: How far would you go to get closer to someone you love? as part of their contest in collaboration with British Airways, it got me thinking...

So how far could I go for someone I loved and who would that be?

.. Mom, dad, family, or friends… or… ?

Aha, check this video for the answers, my very first, and yes. Please don’t forget to tell me your feedback about it.

Here I go, I hope you will like it.



Going further beyond, getting closer within.

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For all those who can't view the video on this page, please try this direct You Tube link: http://youtu.be/wG0jU21X-ik

If you liked watching this video and if you are an IndiBlogger, please vote for it here or else simply send in your good wishes for me. Thank you. :)

Checklist for choosing good hotel accommodations in India.

For a couple of days now, I am busy zeroing in on a travel destination for the upcoming summer vacations in India. What about you? Are you planning on one too? If yes, then the next thing, immediately after selecting a destination, that would be on our minds is to search for a hotel that is best for us.

After all, a hotel is the place that becomes a travelers temporary home away from home and with the wide range of available accommodation in India, the situation can get a bit daunting if ‘booking a hotel’ is something that does not feature on his/her travel planning list.

Accommodations / Places to stay: A travelers home away from home.

Let me try to help and make this task a bit easier for you. Here’s a list of 5 questions that I believe, you should always ask yourself before pressing the ‘book my hotel’ button no matter where you are travelling to - I always do! Here they go:

1. Am I within my budget?

First things first. Draw a line and define your budget. There is no dearth of good hotels today in any range that you choose. Scan your options well, pick what looks good for you and shortlist the best from among them. The last thing you want is to end up splurging in this area such that it leaves you with a smaller pocket for other expenses like shopping, right? All you need to do is do your homework well. And then, follow it up with a bit of research through Google.

2. Am I travelling off season?

If yes, then there is some good news for you. Most of the hotels offer steep discounts for travelers travelling in the off season. And sometimes these can be as steep as saving you almost 50 percent of the original price. Do not shy away from bargaining. Remember that old adage, the customer is the king, the possibilities are endless and the market very competitive. Know the logistics well and speak confidently, you never know, sometimes that is all it takes to strike a good deal in your favor.

3. Does the hotel have pick up/drop facility?

Checking this box is important if you are not going to have any private transport pick you up from your point of arrival. Because of the competitive nature and the growing notoriety of touts, especially in touristy locations like Jaipur, many hotels offer for a pick and drop facility. Most of the time, the hotel itself will inform you about it but there are times when they don’t make it specific. Hence, the best thing is to never take things on face value and ASK. You might just get lucky.

4. Have I checked on the hotel amenities that are important to me?

Are you travelling in the winters? Did you check with the hotel if they provide for a heater? And what about a geyser? However small or trivial these questions may sound, unavailability of any of these items can be a real dampener once you reach there. I personally believe money is just one aspect; but the real finesse lies in the value and services. Make sure the hotel ticks all the right boxes worth your money especially those that are important to you.

5. How is the connectivity of the hotel with respect to the places I am looking forward to travel to?

needn't tell you how important choosing a hotel in a good location is; there is already tons of material written on it worldwide. Hotels seem to be everywhere these days, in all the directions of the city, in varied corners of the world. In such a scenario, it’s not difficult to get confused with all the available choices.

The answer to this dilemma lies with you. If you are planning to primarily explore the city and are dependent on public transport for getting around, then look out for a good centrally located hotel. On the other hand, if your stay is merely a stopover while reaching your ultimate destination, then you might as well deviate and select that location that is most convenient to pick your travelling from the next day (ex. Nearer to airport, railway station, etc.).

In short, the goodness of the connectivity of a hotel is directly related to your itinerary. Make sure you equate them properly and choose a hotel accordingly.

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This was my checklist I recommend you keep in mind before booking your hotel the next time around, now it’s time to share yours! Did I miss out on any point? Do you have anything to add? Please do so in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Eureka Sky Deck and The Edge: Things to do in Melbourne

St. Paul's cathedral Lanes and alleyways: Melbourne art culture - Tram rides - Queen Victoria Market - MELBOURNE MEMORY #5: EUREKA SKY DECK / The EDGE - Captain cook's cottage - Flinder's street station - Yarra River - MCG - Federation Square - Cuisine - Extras.

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"Don't lose hope. When the sun goes down, the stars come up.
If there is one thing in life that you can never lose beside yourself, it is the hope for a better day,
because there will always be one."


It had been 2 days now, ever since I had landed here, that I had been waking up to an unkind weather.

No use going there today, all you will see is fog and clouds, you will be wasting your money!

Eureka Sky Deck in foggy weather conditions: As seen from the Yarra River Bridge.

… is what the kind staff at Citigate hotel told me. Sometimes, I wondered if I would be able to fulfill this cherished dream of mine. Nevertheless, I waited for it. It was not until the evening of the third day of my trip that I got my reward.

Yeah, yeah. You can go today, its good, they said, flashing a smile as bright as the weather itself, and giving me their thumbs up as a sign of approval. And, I found my heart leaping in joy!

A short walk from Flinders street down the course of the Yarra river saw me at one of the most-sought-after and not-to-be-missed attractions of Melbourne. One of my dream memories too: The Eureka Sky deck!

Eureka Sky deck tower, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Eureka Sky Deck: Something that just can't be missed while you are in Melbourne!

Standing with a certain bit of pride, dignified and imperial, draped in profound blue, the Eureka sky deck was magnificent, almost artistic with bees hovering on its structure, beautifully complimented by the clear blue sky. Its 24 carat gold plated 10 storey cap shone in the evening freckled sun.

Artistic Bees at the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
The artistic bee box on the The Eureka Sky Deck: The highest vantage point in the southern hemisphere.

I had to crane my neck to an almost 180 degrees to see it right through. Melburnian pride of sheer architectural brilliance, I thought.

Watch your ears, the staff warned me as I was led to the lift which, I was told, at speeds of 9 metres per second, was apparently also the fastest in the southern hemisphere. I was transported to the 88th floor in a jiffy! 

It was around 6 PM when I reached the deck and there was still some time for the sun to settle down. A few people strolled around but things were still quiet. I anticipated a significant increase closer to the sunset.

Inside of the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
The 88th floor on the deck

LED strips on the ground doubled up as guides pointing to the binoculars fixated at regular intervals. Through them, I saw the Flinders, the Yarra, the Great Ocean road and more such must see attractions of the city.

Blue tinged windows of the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
What of Melbourne would you like to see?

Eureka Sky Deck during the day:

But most of Melbourne, I saw naked – uninhibited and unbridled, through the glass windows, in lights of different hues. It was a point where Melbourne ceased to be a city. Instead, she became a metaphor of timeless beauty, a thing of joy forever, an art, a poetry. It was a point where tall skyscrapers suddenly dwarfed, the noisy chaos of the city collapsed and the hurried pace of the people halted to a standstill.

Touched slightly by the lights of bright golden yellow, Melbourne looked spectacular from any window that I saw.

Eureka Sky deck Melbourne views, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Melbourne from 300 mtrs. above, indeed a unique experience!

Sometimes colored in a bluish tinge, sometimes in a reflective mood and at other times clear like water,


Golden reflections at the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
In reflections.

... Melbourne looked beautiful. More importantly, Melbourne seemed so much quieter and subdued… cut off from the usual chaos and noise that is very much an integral part of the city that I had known by now. I had silently grown in love with Melbourne all through the past days but today, I loved her more.

Eureka Sky deck sunset, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Look out through these 'Viewfinders': there are about 30 of them.

Eureka Sky Deck during dusk / sunset:

It was almost 7 now. The deck had turned a lot noisier than before. But did it matter? I guess, no. I was anxious and excited; it was my much awaited appointment with her, albeit in a different avatar. The setting was perfect. The lights of the sun which had till then illuminated the sky with a healthy dash of yellow now mixed orange and purple in it. Soon, dusk set in coloring all the scrapers and the river below.


Sun setting at the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Dusk: A time to pause and reflect.

I sat down in a carefully chosen corner. I reserved those few moments for myself. Listening to the silence outside, immersed in the magic of nature... Perhaps it was a call to the sun’s playtime. Where the sun with its troupe of clouds and lights had been called back to the House by the angels above? I saw it rushing. And along with it, went its lightening troupe.

Sun set time at the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Calling it a day, but they will be back tomorrow.

It was a time to thank the angels of the universe for all that the day had been and make a silent wish for a better tomorrow…

Eureka Sky Deck at night:

Twilight fell... on a cold freezing night of spring, there she came… like a bride, all decked up, with her evening ensemble, sparkling in her evening attire, with little stars studded in her evening gown. Resplendent in her glowing evening jacket and cuddled in the dark of the blanket, she revealed enough to take my heart and breath away. Melbourne now looked even more gorgeous than before.

Night views from the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Melbourne at night: Isn't she gorgeous?

'The Edge' experience:

Time flew by as I kept staring at her beauty. My rendezvous broke by a vibrating beep that came out of a mobile-like device handed to me by the staff of 'The Edge' a few minutes ago. It was time for 'The Edge', a thrilling adventure exclusive to only the Eureka and the brave. Touted as one among the most stunning glass adventures in the world, the edge is a glass cube which projects 3 metres out of the building as soon as you step onto it. The experience began with 6 of us, all tourists closed inside the cube and the glass cube enveloping itself in a fog. It continued with some shaking and eerie noises which were meant to scare us out. Okay, it did freak me a bit. But not for long. The best part came in, soon after. Now, all the dramatics faded away. I stood in a dimension where I felt suspended, not exactly on glass but in time. There were fewer hindrances here, the views more crisp and clear.

Edge experience at the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Step onto 'The Edge': Only, if you dare!

By now, it was 9 of the night and this is when I decided to head back to my hotel. But not before doing that one last thing that was still left to do: Gazing through the open wire mesh on the terrace. A gust of chilly wind kept me shivering as I gazed several metres down and infinite lengths afar; I could see lights all around, twinkling, interlocked and latticed. Lights which reflected a world dipped in challenges and excitement, uncertainty and hopes, difficulty and simplicity...

Night views, Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
From the open wire mesh on the terrace while shivering in the chilly winds: A different face of Melbourne

As I walked across the Yarra River bridge back to my hotel, I saw the Eureka Sky Deck resonating in stillness just as the Yarra. Silently, I said, thank you before hurriedly walking away, for it had helped me meet Melbourne that day, not this one which I was walking in, the real one.

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Tips for travelers:

1. For best views: consult the locals for the views are subject to weather conditions and wind speeds and the locals know it best.

2. Time your timing and save some money: If you plan to experience skydeck views in daylight as well as night, the best and cheapest way to go about it would be to purchase the ticket for 'General Admission' (not 'sun and stars') and reach the deck sometime before sunset. This way you can enjoy day views, sit for the sunset and further enjoy night views as well, all for a ticket that was, well technically, meant only for the day. It will not only save you a few dollars but also give you an experience to remember.

3. Photography in The Edge is not allowed and tickets for it are available on the deck itself.

Fast facts:

- Skydeck 88 is the highest vantage point in the southern hemisphere.
- Eureka is 984.3 ft / 300 meters in height.
- The lifts travel at more than 9 meters per second making them the fastest in the Southern Hemisphere.
- The glass on Eureka's top 10 levels is 24 carat gold plated.

How to get there:

Located on the southbank of Melbourne's Yarra river, a short walk from the CBD, Federation Square or the Crown Casino along the course and  across the bridge by the Yarra river takes you to the deck. If at all you get confused, all you got to do is follow the building, it will guide you towards itself!

There are also numerous trams and bus routes which drop near to the Southbank area.

Location, Contact and opening and closing hours:

7 Riverside Quay,
Southbank VIC 3006, Australia.

10 AM to 10 PM (last entry at 9.30 PM).

(03) 9693 8888;
http://eurekaskydeck.com.au/

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GIVEAWAY: 'My Most Memorable Memento Contest' is currently underway (till 16th March) where you can blog and win Rs. 8000 shopping voucher ($120 Amazon voucher). Do participate, I am  looking forward to seeing you there! Here is the link again : http://www.myyatradiary.com/2014/02/my-most-memorable-memento-contest.html

Previous stories from Melbourne:

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