Melbourne is all about it’s sport, everyone’s pretty active.
It’s the sporting capital of the country, which was part of the reason I was so excited to move here, and the Melbourne Cup is no exception.
Rather like Ascot (I think…I’ve never been to Ascot, but it’s what I think Ascot would be like in my head), the races run over the course of the week, with the Cup Day being a public holiday in Victoria.
I love seeing the city from a different perspective, part of the reason I love traveling by train is sitting watching the world go by as you speed along.
We got the train to Flemington.
Unfortunately so did the rest of Melbourne.
There were hoards of fascinators, hats, suits, heels and thick clouds of perfume and aftershave showing us the way. With extra trains put on, direct to the races, it was still standing room only, and given my continuing battle with gravity and my choice of shoe (those beautiful red wedges), I spent the entire journey in silence, clinging on for dear life, praying I wouldn’t face plant.
Walking into the races was magical.
Everyone was dressed up and I felt incredibly fierce, strutting around in my shoes and mullet dress as the skirt billowed out behind me.
(I may have spent several minutes in the morning running up and down the stairs to my skirt would fly along behind me)
I my mind, all eyes were on me as I floated along, in reality, all eyes were on the betting screens.
I realised I had no idea how to bet and no idea who to bet on.
Dad had given me a ‘hot tip’ for Red Cadeux, so I put an each ways bet down on him, plus a few other horses who had interesting jerseys and/or names.
It seemed like the most sensible option.
Betting done, we stopped off to get a Flemington Fling (a Pimms like cocktail) and headed into the track.
Inside it was a sea of colourful characters.
The size of the heels, and the hats!
I’d not managed to find a fascinator that I liked in time for the big day, so I’d just put some flowers in my hair and I was beginning to feel a little under dressed. I made a mental note to ‘do it properly’ next year and carried on strutting along, trying to to fall into the huge rose bushes scattered by the entrance, clocking a sign that said ‘Frozen Cocktails’.
By far, my favourite people I saw today were ‘The Sunflower Men’: as it turns out, they were staying in Quest (our apartments). All dressed in matching suits, covered in sunflowers, they were cheekily placing stickers on unsuspecting passers by saying: “I’ve been pollinated by the sunflower men”
Lydia found one of those stickers soon after we had our photo taken!
We found ourselves a nice spot by one of the final gates, where we could get a good view of the horses as they charged past.
The weather was glorious. It was one of the first hot days we’d had where we couldn’t just duck back into the flat, or inside somewhere when we were getting too warm, so the day felt like a constant struggle trying to get the balance between water, suncream and alcohol.
There were a few smaller races before the main event, so we warmed ourselves up placing $1 and $2 dollar bets.
After losing about $10 on horses with ‘the best name’ I was starting to feel a bit disheartened, but I had a good feeling about the Cup race, so decided to distract myself with food and cocktails.
I discovered two things about Australia today that I love.
Grill’d and frozen cocktails. I never want to have a cocktail again, unless it’s in frozen form. They were incredibly refreshing, dangerously delicious and far too easy to drink.
Most of the day was spent sunning ourselves and catching up with the rest of the Sport Lived crew.
There’s something of a divide between the guys in the hostel and us in the apartments that has nothing to do with personality and everything to do with proximity. We’ve got a pretty sweet deal on Chapel and we don’t really venture into the city unless we’re being touristy, so we never get to see the others – and being the only swimmer out here at the moment, our paths don’t cross at work, either.
Finally it was time for the main event.
A day at the races still hadn’t taught me what was going on, so I cheered blindly as the horses and their jockeys thundered past, not entirely sure who was winning, or who I’d bet on.
It was all over pretty quickly and I stood, rather dazed, not entirely sure if I’d won anything or not.
Finally I managed to distinguish ‘Red Cadeux’ in amongst the noise.
Glancing at the board, he’d placed second, meaning I’d won $25.
Happy with the days events, I decided to head home before the blind crush to leave, fuelled by the prospect of having to endure another packed train.
Leaving the rest of the Sport Lived team drinking and contemplating the casino, Lydia and I got to the train just as the heavens opened.
We shared a wry smile.
A lot of my Australian friends dislike the Melbourne Cup, they said it was too busy, and while there were a lot of people, I had a great time.
With a few bottles of wine, a gourmet picnic and the right company it’s a cracking day out.
I’ll definitely be going back next year – after all, who doesn’t love an excuse to get all dressed up?