Australia: Melbourne Cup

Michael and I traveled to Australia as part of our 2007 career break. The following is an excerpt from our travel blog.

Our final destination in Australia: Melbourne.  And we couldn’t have timed it any better as we arrived in time for spring racing season.  This week long event has the country all a buzz, and it’s not just about the horses – it’s also about fashion, especially hats.

We were fortunate enough to have Emma as our guide.  Emma and I volunteered together in Peru and she was kind enough to put us up in her place in the beachy suburb of St. Kilda.  We toasted our first night in town over a meal at one of the many trendy restaurants.  And joining us on adventures over the next few days was Dan – a young man from the UK who just arrived for eight months of work and travel.

Saturday was the first of four race days during this week long carnival, so we suited up and made our way to Flemington Race Course.  Dressing up is part of the experience, and Michael and I tried our best with the few clothes we had.  And as my only hat was my sun visor, Emma’s roommate Lauren was kind enough to lend me a “fastenator” – an acceptable alternative to a hat.  These hairpieces are generally made up of ribbons, feathers, and meshing and the ladies (and the occasional man) are extremely creative with them.

As we arrived at Flemington, it seemed as if all of Melbourne had turned out for Derby Day.  And this wasn’t even the biggest race day.  That would be the Melbourne Cup, which occurs on the first Tuesday of November.  It features the “Race that stops the nation” and it really does get the attention of all Aussies for that one race.  It’s so big that it is an official holiday for Melbournians!


Everyone was extremely decked out – even in the general admission picnic areas where we would be holding ground with Emma and her mates.  There was no stop to the flow of champagne or the exchange of money for bets throughout this festive day.  And even though we didn’t win big, we did better than breaking even and had a fabulous time to boot.

And if you are into people watching, you can’t get much better than an event like this.  While everyone around us started off looking so sharp, you could see the affects that all-day champagne had on the crowd.  And to see the amount of trash strewn about, you would hope two days was enough time to clean up for the Melbourne Cup!

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