I had a fantastic birthday this year. My friend Tash was in Melbourne for work so we booked a flight down from Sydney to spend a day seeing the city.

We were staying in a flat in Richmond (another airbnb find) which was the perfect area to start the day with good coffee and breakfast. The weather was pretty grey and windy – apparently Melbourne’s worst day of the winter! – but despite that we must have walk miles through the parks and city centre.

That evening Tash had booked us a table at The Crimean, an Eastern European restaurant. The five of us went for the “bring us everything” approach with the owner serving us plate after plate of delicious Russian piroshki, Pelmeni, Hungarian pork, pickled beetroot and cured salmon.

Dinner with wine makers, marketers and sellers was never going to be a sober affair. For Stef and I it was a lesson from the professionals as we sniffed and slurped our way through bottles of Croation and Bulgarian whites, reds and desert wine; finished with shorts of Hungarian Pilinka and rounded off with a few Budvars to “cleanse the palette”.

I’ve missed catching up with my friends so it was really lovely to be sharing stories and getting some tips for our few weeks here from locals David and Hoops.

Of course we were the last to leave the restaurant – five hours after we started – and went for a few cocktails at a recommended bar the other side of town.

With foggy heads the next morning we had a budget flight up to Cairns in search of sunshine!