Days 91 to 98 in Melbourne

Trip Start Jun 16, 2012
Trip End Oct 14, 2012

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Where I stayed
Chateau Bradley, Melbourne, Victoria

Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Friday, September 21, 2012

We have had a week mainly chilling and relaxing, done some exploring in Melbourne & have thoroughly enjoyed it, staying with Bronwyn & Colin. They have a delightful two bedroom ground floor flat in a small block in a quiet suburb called Prahran. It's in the inner city but about 15 minutes from the city centre by car.

Melbourne is a lovely city, with a great feel and is very much like a mini-London, the suburbs, the buildings, the lay-out, high streets, huge parks, the weather, the price of everything and the people.

Since we left home we have both been in summer clothes, Deb in sleeveless blouses & sandals, and Al has been in shorts every day and night with the exception of the day of the wedding. We have now had to shake the cobwebs out of our one sweater and pair of jeans each and borrow warm clothes from Bron & Col. After being in 27 to 38 deg for three months, the 15 to 18 deg here, with rain on and off, has been a shock to the system. Al even had to buy socks.

Friday last week we stayed in all day. Bron & Colsy had taken the day off and gave us breakfast & then went off to collect a lounge suite. We got organised, did our washing and got up to date with our emails etc.

On Saturday Bron and Col went to work until 2pm and when they got back we walked to High Street in Prahran, bought Mykie tickets & caught the tram into the city. We walked along the South Bank past dozens of theatres in the Arts District and the cafes and restaurants overlooking the Yarra river, and even a pub in the middle of river built around one of the columns holding up one of the many bridges. South Bank is on the opposite side of the river to the city centre, and a big entertainment area. About a kilometre from St Kilda Road, where we hopped off the tram, to the Convention Centre where we got onto an old tram that Bronnie had booked for the four of us. It took us on a 3 hour tour of the city while we were served a three course meal. What a delightful evening. After the tram we had to walk back up to St Kilda road to catch a tram back to Prahran, where the kids live, but had to pass the Crown entertainment centre. Col led us astray and took us into the Crown casino where we played Texas Hold-em poker and Blackjack, only getting home at 1 on the morning a fair bit poorer.

On Sunday Jason came around and Deb cooked us a lamb stew – wow!! Best meal since we've been away! Just perfect for the cold rainy weather and to accompany the copious bottles of Australian wine that Bron had stocked up on. At the end of the evening, another very late night, we had killed the Bradleys wine stocks and the boys had solved the problems of Australia, South Africa and Scotland.

Monday Bron took us to explore more of Melbourne, in spite of Al’s headache, while Col went off to work. We caught the tram into the city, an unhurried 30 minute ride, & popped into the tourist advice offices at Federation Square. This is a really impressive open air area with ultra-mod buildings with restaurants and art galleries on 2 and a half sides, the Yarra river on another side, Melbourne’s own St Paul’s Cathedral on the 4th side and the Melbourne station on the last side, and is a popular meeting place in the city. The city area is pretty small, about 2 sq km, in a rectangle about 5 blocks wide and 10 blocks long, but really pretty with new sky-scrapers alongside magnificent classical 150 year old buildings. Melbourne has free trams that travel around the edge of the city in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions, as well as a free bus that does a hop-on-hop-off service through the city and into some of the suburbs. We caught the tram to see some of the sights and hopped off at Docklands, a new precinct that the local government is developing to extend the city around a marina up-river. It is beautifully done and there is a fortune in development but the entire development hasn’t taken off and there must be thousands of empty apartments, and dozens of failed restaurants and empty shops. They also have a "London Eye" type ferris wheel at docklands, but it when it was due to open two years ago it had a problem and has had to be rebuilt which has added to the slow start to the development. If we had a spare AU$1m we would have bought one or two of the fancy apartments with magnificent views, because when this area takes off it will be magnificent and must be a great investment. The shops are all now factory outlet stores with 50-70% discounts and we managed to buy a couple of nice warm sweatshirts & jerseys. There is an impressive new 55 000 seater sports stadium here as well called the Ethiad stadium.

On Tuesday we went back into the city to carry on our touring and visited a couple of ski shops to hire ski gear for our ski trip over the weekend. We wandered the full length of Bourke street and Little Bourke street, and then crossed the river to the South Bank for lunch and then visited DFO, another shopping centre with lots of upmarket factory shops and got some long-johns for skiing.

Wednesday Colsy took the day off to take us to explore Chapel St. This is about three tram stops from their flat and is a trendy street that runs for about 4km with lots of pubs, cafes, restaurants and boutiques. We had steak & bacon pies with chips and gravy for lunch and walked further for a good part of the road. Bron came to fetch us after work and before we went home we had hot chocolate at the Lindt chocolate store – fat, fat, fat.

Jason arrived at the flat shortly after we got back, armed with his scissors, razor and all his hairdressing equipment to trim Al’s wild mop. We had to hold him down while Jason gave him a haircut but the result was well worth it. Bron & Col also both had a trim.

Thursday we did the Tommy Tourist thing again and caught the tram to Bridge St and went to see the MCG – Melbourne Cricket Club. Melbourne has a sports precinct in a couple of huge parks within walking distance from the city centre with the gigantic MCG, the Rod Laver tennis arena, where the Australian Open is played, a second sports stadium and many practice grounds. The big sport in Melbourne, & the whole of Oz for that matter, is footy (Aussie rules football) and not rugby as we had thought and the cricket stadium seems to be the home of footy. Footy is described as throwing a slap chip into the air on the beach and all the seagulls fighting over it.

We had lunch at the stadium and then hopped onto the free red bus and did the tour around the city which was done very well with a taped commentary but the driver was a real character adding in all kinds of stories and interesting tit-bits. We caught the tram to meet Bron and check out Ikea. It would be wonderful to have these stores at home with their modular furniture. We bought a bedside lamp so that Al can read in bed and not have the hardship of having to get up and turn off the light.

After our shopping spree we collected Col at home and went off to meet some of their friends at St Kilda beach for dinner. Reta, a Finnish girl, is lending us some ski gear for our skiing mini-holiday. Parking is seriously expensive, even in the suburbs. In an open parking lot three hours cost over R100.

We had a domestic morning this morning and while Col & Bron were at work we changed the linen, did the washing and did some housework. An old friend of Al’s, Michael Harvey, and his wife Fiona collected us for lunch and we were treated to a magnificent meal back at St Kilda Beach and then went for a walk along the beachfront. They dropped us off as Bron & Col got home from work and we then headed off with Bronnie to stock up for our trip to the mountains at Woolworths & the Woollies Bottle Shop (bottle store). As we got back the kids went to collect Gail (Colin’s mom) from the airport. She’s here from New Zealand for the weekend, on her way to Manila in the Philippines, to keep an eye on Colin while the three of us go skiing. She even brought Bron & Col’s ski gear for our trip, so we’re now fully kitted out for our trip.
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