Sunday, May 27, 2018

Last walks

[A] Our flight home didn’t leave until 6:00pm, so we got a chance to see a bit more of Melbourne.

I got up early for an ‘Arcades and Lanes’ walk, following a route described in a brochure we’d picked from the Visitor Centre.  Similar sort of idea to the walking tour we’d done in Sydney a couple of years ago.  Transpires that early Sunday morning probably wasn’t an ideal time to do this walk – several of the arcades were locked, so I had to detour around them.

And the bustling, vibrant laneways were all-but empty.

Anyway, all good, it was still an enjoyable walk.

After checking out of the hotel, we headed for Fitzroy Gardens, somewhere we’d never managed to get to in all our previous visits to Melbourne.  Reminiscent of an old-style London park, with plenty of trees, lawns and pathways.  All covered with autumn leaves!

We spent a bit of time at James Cook’s Cottage, the oldest building in Australia, although to be fair it was shipped from England in 1934 and then reconstructed here!

It was very pleasant wandering through the gardens, coming across plenty of leaves blowing in the wind, a Conservatory…

… a model Tudor village, sculptures, fountains, and a fairy tree.

We enjoyed our brief sojourn back in Melbourne, although we both felt as though we could have done with a few more days there – it felt as though we were packing quite a bit into every day.  Always more things to do and places to go!

[S] We often forget to write the final post of our holidays – we get back in to the hurly-burly after a long flight and the holiday memories fade quite quickly, sadly.

The last day was very pleasant out in the fresh air – we had a lovely Devonshire tea looking out at the beautiful grounds of the Fitzroy Gardens.  A bit of a change to land at Wellington Airport with a temp of 4 degrees and 100 km winds – welcome home to Wellington!

It was a lovely break though, and Melbourne is still one of my favourite cities in the world after Wellington.  We really know it well so it sort-of feels like home, but we always find new things to do – the perfect mix really. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Woolly Geelong

[S] We’ve had a lovely day out at Geelong. The train trip was just one hour through mostly flat sheep country – the sky was blue although the air was pretty crisp.

Mum and I had passed through Geelong on our Great Ocean Road bus trip, but that gave no hint of what we saw today. I hadn’t even realised that it was on the coast, but the waterfront has been developed beautifully.

[A] Walked past the wonky Police Station wall on the way from the railway station.

[S] Our first stop was a Wool Museum which told the story of the early sheep farmers and the process of getting the wool off the sheep and into fabric, yarn, carpet and socks. The history was told interactively with hands-on displays and stories told by those who lived it – that’s the way I like my history.

[A] Also had a cool woolly spider-web art display.

[S] There was an enormous carpet loom that was over 100 years old and still in working order – we saw it in action and it was very impressive. Quite amazing that a machine that technologically complex could be designed that long ago. I gather that carpets are only made on looms in India and Portugal now.

After that we wandered down to the waterfront and a café Allan had seen online. It was very pleasant eating nice food whilst watching the world go by.

Then we hit the promenade.  Geelong is famous for its bollards – clusters of poles painted to a theme – quite funky! There was an indoor Carousel, creative parks and dead calm blue sea. Not a bad way to spend our last full day in Melbourne.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Free trams

[S] Allan's been at his conference from 7am until 8pm today, so what’s a girl to do?  Say no more.

I think I mentioned that the trams are now free - this means that…
  1. Everyone takes them, even if they are only going a block or two
  2. They are packed to the gunnels and consequently you are up very close and personal with complete strangers
  3. We haven't been on a train on this trip where we would normally interchange trams and trains but they’ve offset the free trams by increasing the price of all other travel so why would you?
They are putting a new train line under Swanston St – they have ripped up the park just along from Federation Square and they have dug down and concreted the ground and walls.

At street level, they’ve painted a picture of a train with window you can look through to see the project. Quite cool. I imagine that they will reinstate the park once they have finished.

It is such a pretty city and the sun has finally come out. Shame this is such a short trip!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A beautiful day

[S] Just back from the show, Beautiful, about the life of Carole King.  It was fantastic – great music and fantastic staging.  All the cast were great and we just loved the show. Unfortunately, the last tram had already departed on our route so it was a loooong walk back and a bit much for my dodgy hip.

It’s been a good day all round really.  Nipped into the Queen Victoria Markets since they were so close and whiled away a couple of hours.  Had to yield to the temptation of the famed Donut Truck.

Then we trammed out to St Kilda to the famed cake shop and the famed book shop.  It was another greyish day so we didn’t see the beach at its best, but it wasn’t windy or cold, so all good.

[A] I jumped off the tram on the way back from St Kilda to visit the Shrine of Remembrance (war memorial).  Looks a bit parthenony...

At 11am on 11 November each year (Armistice Day marking the end of World War I), a hole in the roof allows the sun to shine through and illuminate the word 'LOVE' on the marble Stone of Remembrance.  I waited for the brief ceremony using a prerecorded message and artificial lighting that plays regularly during the rest of the year.  Well worth the visit.

[S] Last stop before the show was the famed Hardware Lane for dinner.  We always love going there for the entertainment value of the hosts doing all they can to entice the punters in to their restaurants.  No-one should ever pay full price here!  For us tonight it was a free glass of wine each and entrée or dessert for $7.  Lots of fun and the food was good too.

I love the vibe of Melbourne – the old architecture is beautiful, but so are the modern buildings.  It is so easy to get around and the people are really friendly.  Can’t ask for much more really!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

We’re back!

[S] It has been four years since we were last in Melbourne and it still feels like one of my favourite places.

It was a very early alarm that woke us at 3.15 am this morning for our 6 am flight.  We were pleased to see that the violent winds and thunder and lightening of the night before had passed, although there were still plenty of ‘lumps and bumps’ as the pilot described it, to keep us alert.

We landed at 8.15 am local time - we’ve taken to lingering at the airport until the peak traffic abates, so we grabbed a coffee and some tourist brochures and sorted out local transport cards and data and roaming for our phones before a leisurely trip into the city.

We are staying in a different location from usual - we’re outside the ‘square’ by about a block, near the QV markets and the beautiful Flagstaff Gardens.  The free trams are just a five minute walk away, the accommodation is really nice, and we even have a pool and a gym.  I might be persuaded to do some lengths in the morning!

First job of the day was to try to get tickets to the show ‘Beautiful’ which is based on the life and music of Carole King.  We were pretty keen to see it so it was good to get tickets, since we had tried and failed online before we came.  Then we saw that ‘The Wizard of Oz’ had just opened so we tried to get tickets for that too.  There was a matinee on today with what seemed like thousands of college groups attending and the box office was so preoccupied with getting them in and having the show start on time that they wouldn’t sell us tickets, so will have to go back when they are less busy if we are going to squeeze it in.

I was amazed that I could remember where the theatres were after all this time – Melbourne is so easy to navigate.

[A] Found The Book Grocer on Bourke Street - $20 for three books was too good to pass up.  I'm pretty sure they weren't there last time we were here - there are obviously quite a number of them around now, and we certainly haven't noticed any before. 

[S] We’ve decided to take a day trip on the train and visit Geelong – the weather looks good on Saturday so we’ll aim for that.  Allan’s conference is on Friday so that’s shopping day!

Ate too many chippies with our pre-dinner drink (and kept falling asleep!) so just popped down to Nandos for a quick dinner.

St Kilda day tomorrow!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Cheesecake accident

[S] Sadly, our final day in Hawaii.  Our bus driver on the tour to Pearl Harbour taught us that the ‘w’ in Hawaii should be pronounced as a ‘v’ – who knew?

It was our hottest day yet and not a lot of shade out there.  We watched a very sobering movie with live footage of the devastation at Pearl Harbour that took place on 7 December 1941.  We had clear instructions that we were not allowed to have our cellphones out, and there was to be absolutely no talking during the movie so it was a bit eerie, even without the content of the movie.  Then we were off on a navy vessel to the Arizona Memorial – again quite poignant.  When Mum and I were here in 1988, we sailed past the Memorial but did not go on to it, so I was pleased that we could do so today.

[A] Plenty of US armed services toys to view...

[S] Our last experience at Pearl Harbour was a virtual tour of the decks of the Arizona and of the bombing timeline.  We wore virtual reality goggles and we must have looked a bit dorky moving our heads around to direct the view we saw, but it was a different and interesting experience for us.

I headed off for another swim, but Allan could not be persuaded so just watched from the shore.  To be fair, after his goosebump experience yesterday he came down with a raging [A: mildly elevated] temperature so I guess that explains why he was so cold when he was in the water.  He is better today although still coughing a bit.

We accidentally went back to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner tonight – same excellent quality of food, but we did moderate ourselves by sharing a single slice of cheesecake this time.  [A: The moderation was an especially good idea since we had had a late lunch that included a most delicious slice of Ted's Chocolate Haupia Pie - introduced to us by Cousin Isaac on our Monday tour around the island]

We had heard that the Hilton Hawaiian Village let off fireworks every Friday night and that they would be visible from anywhere along the beach so we thought that would be a good way to end the holiday.  Alas and alack, they were obscured by a tall building so we could hear them and see the glow from them but that was it.  A bit of an anti-climax, but never mind.

[A] Saw a tree though!

[S] We have a 4.30am wake up tomorrow for a 5.30 shuttle so it might be a long day!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Warm as a bath

[S] The sun and blue sky turned up today – yay!  After nearly a week it was great to see what we expected to see from Day 1.  We made it to the beach this morning.  To be fair, it was a tiny bit chilly on the hot skin to get in, but once I was in, it was ‘like a bath’ as I always tell Allan.  He is not a water baby as most of you will know, but I think that he is probably the first person ever on Waikiki to have had goose bumps for the whole duration of his swim, when the air temp was 28 degrees!  To be fair, he has developed a bit of a cold/cough so maybe that contributed a bit.

[A] A conversation:
S: If the water turns out to be as warm as a bath, will you admit it?
A: Yes; if the water turns out not be as warm as a bath, will you admit it?
S: Yes

Apart from the water being cold, wet, salty, and full of floaties, the swim was perfect.  The company certainly was!

[S] We took the rest of the day quite easy, just enjoying the balmy weather and a little bit more shopping.

We ate from a food truck across the road from our hotel and then for a sunset stroll down at the beach.  Lots of people out and some live entertainment so a lovely way to finish the day.