Day three in Melbourne, and my first day to sleep in. Left the hotel around 11am to discover it's $5 cheaper to buy a daily Met transit pass after 9am. This just proves that getting up early does me no favours.
Had breakfast at a cafe downtown: fried eggs, side of bacon, multigrain toast and a cappuccino. Wanted to see the Queen Victoria Market today since it was supposed to be closed on Monday. I walked all the way there to learn it is also apparently closed on Wednesdays. Grr. No bargains for me. I did find an Apple store to buy an iPod charger, and the clerk was a fellow Vancouverite, from Dunbar no less. Small world.
Decided to catch a tram to the south side of Melbourne and visit the seaside area of St. Kilda. I got off the tram too early, and had to walk 5-6 blocks to the shore. It was a pretty spot, with an old-timey Victorian resort feel. The wind was blowing hard and chilly despite the sunny skies. I was impressed there were actually a few sunbathers out on the beach. I got too cold to stay for long, so I headed partway back to the downtown area in order to find the Royal Botanic Gardens.
After another tram ride and another few blocks walk, I located the gardens and made my way into them. Free admission here -- Van Dusen and Buchart should take note. The gardens were huge, lush and very pretty. I settled in by Long Lake to enjoy the sunshine and my book. A few curious water birds wandered close to me, but mainly played around on the lake with the swan. Swans are black in Australia, with a red bill/beak.
I got hungry around 5pm and decided to visit the shops and cafes on Brunswick Street, to the east of the city. Located the tram and actually got off at the right spot this time. Since the shops were closing by 6pm, I browsed for a bit first. Designer clothes, mixed with rocker shops and vintage stores. A very eclectic vibe. Dinner consisted of Coriander Thai Fish Cakes on a crisp bed of rocket with tangy lime aioli, and a glass of riesling then some Tasmanian pinot noir.
Got back to Box Hill around 9pm and met Kev at a Korean restaurant to watch him eat dinner. We fly to Sydney tomorrow afternoon, so I'm starting to plan my itinerary for that. I'll work on a way to post photos as well.
Woke up at 5:20am on Tuesday to make it into the city for my 7:30am pick up. The mini bus from Bunyip Tours showed up and this older dude with a crazy long white beard and long white hair was driving. I correctly assumed our guide was going to be quite the character.
We drove west out of Melbourne for an hour or so, through towns like Geelong, until we reached Torquay. (birthplace of surf lines like Quicksilver and Rip Curl). Had morning tea at Bells Beach, stopped at Split Point Lighthouse at Airey's Inlet and then began our Great Ocean Road drive. Picture a combo of the Oregon Coast and the road to Hana, then superimpose the colours and plants of Australia over it. Winding twisty roads, waves crashing against eroding cliffs, quaint seaside towns, blue blue ocean as far as the eye can see, and a cool wind that must have started in Antarctica.
Highlights of the day included a rainforest walk in the Otway mountains, with myrtle beeches & eucalyptus; spotting several koalas, including two within arm's length on some low slung tree branches; and the gorgeous rock monoliths called the Twelve Apostles.
We saw wildlife throughout the region, kangaroos, koalas, magpies, echidnas. A King parrot even landed on my head (they were attracted to all the dark haired people in the group). I was a bit nervous, despite liking birds in general: a tiny finch-like bird shit on me in the morning as I exited the train station in Melbourne. I didn't want a repeat performance from the much larger parrot.
The drive took the entire day, and we got back to the city around 9pm. Just in time to meet up with Kevin and the Melburnian coworker for a couple drinks and dessert on Lygon Street.
First day in Melbourne was Monday. Got up at 7am, had breakfast in the hotel with Kev, then wandered to the train station in Box Hill. Caught the train to Flinders Street Station downtown, which was a pretty Victorian building. Was planning to do a self-guided walking tour, but turned west instead of east accidentally, and headed off in the wrong direction, making it a little bit difficult to find my starting point at Federation Square. It started to pour rain, and I was not dressed for that at all, so I stopped into a cafe for a short black (coffee) to wait it out.
The rain was persistent, so I abandoned the walking tour idea and took a tram to the city centre where there were some under-cover sights. Window shopped at the Block Arcade and the other arcades between Flinders and Bourke streets. These were built in the 1800s and were beautifully decorated with mosaic tiles and wrought iron scroll work. The shops seemed fairly high end, and all the displays were geared towards the fashionistas attending the Melbourne Cup this upcoming weekend. Picture tea length dresses and fancy confections of hats.
The rain was still lingering (though had tapered off considerably) so I headed to the National Gallery of Victoria: International to wander amongst some art works. The admission was free, bonus! There were paintings and sculptures by Titian, Cezanne, Picasso, Rodin, Rothko, Rembrandt, Van Eyck etc etc. Most of the art was donated by a wealthy Melburnian in the 1930s, over $1B worth. The museum was massive.
By this point I needed some lunch, so I walked back to the sidewalk cafes I'd passed by in the morning, but being around 1:30pm, they were packed. Couldn't find a seat, so I shopped a bit and walked some more city streets, then tried again. No luck. Decided to take a tram to another city area, Lygon Street (the Italian district), but when several trams went by and mine was nowhere to be seen, I gave up on that idea and hit an outdoor cafe in Fed Square. Warm beef salad and a glass of NZ pinot noir. There was a visitors centre nearby, so I booked a day trip to the Great Ocean Road for Tuesday.
The sun was shining finally, so I walked to the park known as Birramara (sp?), and got views of the Yarra River, the Arts Centre, and the cricket stadium. I was walked out at this point so I trained back to Box Hill.
I'll update with photos and more days once I have laptop access again.... unlikely soon.
Arrived in Sydney early this morning, after the 15 hour flight. (Turbulence, wheee!) We had a spare seat beside us on the plane, so we could nap somewhat laying down. Always a bonus. There were 7 planes landing at the Sydney airport when we arrived, so customs and quarantine (a necessary Australian quirk) were a madhouse.
Were met by a business contact of Kev's, and got a super quick driving tour of Sydney's southern suburbs and a quick lunch at a beachside resort area (Coogee). After relearning how to order a coffee in Aussie speak, we whipped back to the airport to catch our flight to Melbourne.
Another 90 minutes airborne, and another baggage claim line ride. And another business dude kindly met us and drove us to our hotel. He did a roundabout route to point out the main streets of Melbourne's city centre before heading out the the eastern suburb of Box Hill. Yep, it's in the middle of nowhere, but highly convenient to Kev's work place. It's also like a tiny version of Richmond, complete with bubble tea, karaoke, family owned markets and oodles of Asian restaurants (we had Korean for dinner).
We're both feeling a little loopy from the travel/jet lag. It's like we're on a slightly rocking ship deck. Bedtime very very soon. It's 8:30pm on Sunday night as I write this.
No photos yet, but here's a flurry of impressions I've had thus far: -massive leafy trees with peeling bark filled with the chirping of dozens of bright green & red lorikeets -windstorm kicking up dust/pollen in Melbourne making me feel allergic (I'm not though) -very cute Beagles roaming the airport, very seriously sniffing each piece of baggage for undeclared quarantine items -likelihood of getting hit by car while crossing road extremely high because I can't remember to look the right way for cars -Lift lemon soda is as refreshing and tasty as I remembered it
There's a real estate slowdown in Vancouver. We've been aware of it, but haven't really thought too hard about what it means to us in particular. Then T&D mentioned their recent MLS search that turned up 4 properties on the West Side under $800K.
This usually isn't news. But it turns out these are actually houses and not condos or leasehold properties.
Things are looking up for us to actually OWN OUR OWN HOUSE in Vancouver, without having to win the 649 first.