Mellowing out in Melbourne
Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
84Trip End Mar 24, 2011
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It took the better part of a day to drive from Canberra to Melbourne – at least 7 hours of straight driving with only minimal stretch breaks. The scenery ranged from mountain ranges off in the distance to pastoral hills and fields. We even got to see some local wildlife, although unfortunately, the kangaroo, wombat and I think even koala bear were flattened on the road. These animals are nocturnal and tend to cross the roads at night, leading to many unfortunate accidents.
I was so incredibly lucky to have met a couple from Melbourne, Rod and Mary, on my trip to Ireland in the Fall
The Yarra Valley is about 45 minutes outside Melbourne and it is a lovely green area of hills and valleys with dozens of amazing wineries to visit. We stopped by several on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and had free tastings of their red, white and rose offerings. The winery sites were beautiful and all so very different. Some are very traditional with older barns and buildings that are updated and elegant while others have ultra-modern designs and properties. Many have very chic and expensive restaurants for dining out on special occasions. We had a late lunch in the sweet town of Healesville at the Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander restaurant and winery and thoroughly enjoyed the gourmet pizzas, artisanal breads, olive oil and salt. My pizza was very rich with pumpkin, walnut and feta toppings while Mary's was my favourite with sardines, capers, a tangy tomato sauce and dill. Fabulous. http://www.giant-steps.com.au/menus.php
We finished off that day of touring with a stop by the St
The day spent touring with Rod and Mary along the Great Ocean Road was so fun and filled with eye-popping scenery and excellent food and company. The day dawned a little drizzly and gray but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We drove from Melbourne through Geelong and down to Torquay which is a surfing area and also the start of the Great Ocean Road drive. This scenic drive is recognized as one of the best in the world due to its winding roads, hills, ocean views and iconic rock formations such as the Twelve Apostles. We enjoyed driving from Torquay through the town of Lorne and nearing Apollo Bay. We hugged the coastline along twisty roads and enjoyed the ocean views and high cliffs
We caught a ferry, which comes every hour on the hour and it took about 40 minutes to cross over to Sorrento. We continued munching on our picnic lunch as we cruised along and it took no time before we were heading off the ferry and driving along very exclusive areas with beautiful homes and estates along the coastline to Melbourne.
That evening, Jonathan and I caught a local performance of the musical Xanadu held in the Docklands area of the city, which is an up and coming harbourfront district of Melbourne
A couple of days were spent sightseeing in the city and Melbourne makes it easy for tourists with a free tourist shuttle bus that visits many attractions throughout the city as well as a free tourist tram. One of the highlights was heading up the Eureka Tower, the tallest building in Melbourne which overlooks the city and outlying areas. Once up on the top of the building, you can purchase a ticket to do 'The Edge’ which is a ride in which you and a small group enter a cube with glass walls and a glass floor and ceiling and the cube then moves out 3 metres from the building so that you are suspended in the air looking down on the street and around at the surrounding buildings and parks
The Southgate area of the city runs along the Yarra River and is a nice area with restaurants and some shops and businesses as well as several pedestrian bridges across the river and public squares. Benches line the river and this is great place to people watch, especially at lunchtime when the locals dash across the bridges to eat lunch or relax along the river banks.
Some of the other sightseeing highlights included the Immigration Museum, Old Melbourne Gaol, the Anzac War Memorial Shrine and the Botanic Gardens. I spent an hour or so at the Immigration Museum and it had interesting exhibits telling the stories of individuals who immigrated to Australia from countries all over the world and how they adapted to their new environments and enriched the multi-cultural identity of this country. The Anzac War Memorial Shrine is an immense and respectful commemoration of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers that have fought in the great world wars. There is a huge shrine building that almost looks like the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and then there is an eternal flame and several very moving and realistically sculpted variations of soldiers that help you to more personally connect with the war experience
By far my favourite museum was the Old Melbourne Gaol. This is the facility where most local criminals were incarcerated and often hung up until the 1920’s I believe. This museum is so very well done – it is gruesome good fun to spend a few hours exploring this building. The many small cells are open to be explored and in most of them on all three floors of the main jail, there are stories of the criminals who were tried, convicted and hung for their crimes, both men and women. It was pretty eery to see the death masks displayed in many cells made after the criminals had died and showing their facial features and expressions. By far the most famous and notorious criminal who is associated with this jail is Ned Kelly. Kelly was a cattle rustler, horse thief and bank robber. He had plenty of dust-ups with lawmen and one of the most fascinating characteristics of this guy was his penchant for wearing a metal suit of armour complete with a helmet with a slit cut out for his eyes. Wacky! Anyway, he was finally captured and hauled off to this jail, where he was first reunited with his mother who was also in jail at the same time (charming family) and then he was hung and buried here on these grounds
After a gruesome couple of hours at the jail, I headed downtown for a final walkabout and as it was lunchtime, I explored some options in the downtown core. The fast food joints weren't grabbing me so I wandered around a bit and lucked into finding Centre Place, one of the many food alleys that Melbourne is known for. What a neat spot - this was a tiny and narrow alley that you would miss if you blinked and at the end of it was an arcade building. There were sandwich shops, coffee shops and small cafes and bistros all along both sides of this street. If you stood in the middle of the lane, you could practically touch the buildings on both sides of the street! The cafes and shops were open to the street and people were sitting on little chairs and tables along the alley - it was very cool. I grabbed a seat inside one of the bistros and had a pasta lunch while watching the fascinating people zipping about outside on the street.
For my last night and morning in Melbourne, I stayed with my friends Rod and Mary at their home just outside the main city centre. Wow - was I ever spoiled! These kind and generous friends prepared a cozy spare room and then treated me to great conversation and stories while serving wine and drinks and the best food I've had so far on my trip
I'm off to the Red Centre of Australia - Alice Springs and Ayers Rock!