Taking out a prestigious Stella Prize as a first-time novelist is definitely something extraordinary for Melbourne-based Emily Bitto, author of the novel The Strays. To add to her already aspiring achievements, she now owns and runs a bar called Heartattack and Vine on Lygon Street in Carlton. Here, Emily shares with us her places of inspiration and relaxation along with her favorite bars and cafés in Melbourne.
Where in Melbourne do you find most inspiring? Are there certain places you visited for inspiration when you were writing your first book?
My book is set in the 1930s in Melbourne, around the Griffith artist, so I went quite a lot to the Heide Museum of Modern Art, in Bulleen, near the suburb of Heidelberg in Melbourne. There was a group that was commonly referred to as the Heide Circle. The site used to be a dairy farm and was purchased by John and Sunday Reed, who were wealthy patrons and art benefactors, and they gathered all these modernist artists around them — people like Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, and Joy Hester. So they lived out there, and all these crazy things went on around them. The former dairy farm has been turned into a gallery and contemporary art museum. You should go and visit it; they have a lot of art on display there. During my research for the book, I went there very often, so that was really inspiring. I could actually go there and see the actual kind of house they were living in back in the 1940s. They still have it all set up how it was; the library, a fireplace, and all of the books are still there, stuff like that. That was really the inspirational insight for my book.
As a restaurant owner yourself, do you have a favorite restaurant in Melbourne?
Oh, there are many that I really love. There’s a place called Neighborhood Wine that I really like and a place called Bar Idda on Lygon Street, in Brunswick. There are also a few bars that I really love — for example, the Gertrude Street Enoteca on Gertrude Street, Melbourne. That’s my favorite kind of wine bar. Then there is a place called Gerald’s Bar on Rathdowne Street or The Alderman in Brunswick East. That’s a bar that has been there for a really long time; it’s just really simple and laid back. I also recommend Long Play on St Georges Road. They are probably the places I would go to the most, though Neighborhood Wine is probably my favorite place to eat and drink wine.
Do you also go to a café to write?
Sometimes, yes. I like changing locations a lot. When I get stuck with what I’m writing, it really works for me to change to a new location. So I might start off writing at home, and if I get stuck, I’ll go to a café for a while, until I get tired of that, then go to the park or something like that. I like to move around the place.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Which cafés in Melbourne do you find especially relaxing for you to start writing?
I often go to Mixed Business (in Clifton Hill), and I did a lot of writing there; it is probably my favorite. As for Heartattack and Vine, there are four of us who own this place. One of them is my boyfriend, and he has another place called Wide Open Road in Brunswick, which is where they roast our coffee. So I go there a lot as well; it means I can write, and every now and then, hang out with my boyfriend.
If you were to write a story about your restaurant, what would it be about?
I think it will be about hospitality and the life of people working in hospitality. It’s quite an interesting little subgroup in our society. They work really hard; they party really hard. They have a lot of pride, but they are very interesting people, often kind of doing all kinds of other things as well as working in hospitality. It is something I’ve thought a lot about — the kind of people that work in hospitality. That is probably what my book is going to be about.
Find a copy of Emily’s book, The Strays, in one of Melbourne’s many bookshops.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.