We drove into Melbourne with the intention of visiting some of the Sunday markets but initially wanted to get our bearings around the CBD so when we happened upon an empty parking space we grabbed it and as it was a Sunday it was free – big tip to avoid paying some of the expensive multi-storey fees, visit the big cities on a Sunday when you don’t have to pay
. It was a gorgeous day and we quickly got lost in amongst the beautiful architecture, incredible number of city centre churches and wide boulevards. We started our exploration on Collins Street which had some beautiful and imposing old buildings and stumbled upon China town with its rows and rows of Peking duck filled windows which we stood in front of salivating. We also visited Treasury and Fitzroy gardens which are home to Captain Cook’s parents cottage which was shipped from Yorkshire over to Australia in barrels and rebuilt in Melbourne. In the same gardens is a strange miniature Tudor village and alongside it an even stranger Fairy tree with carvings of animals and fairies in it. We also had a look in the stunning conservatory filled with tropical plants and flowers (Andrew Edit – Obviously a little eccentric and perhaps camp!! I loved this the place was stunning of some of the brightest and most colourful flowers backed by fairly loud classical music it just lifted me away and I think at this point I had really started to fall in love with Melbourne). A little oasis in the city sprawl.
Starving we tried our first Hungry Jacks value meal (we think it is the Aussie version of Burger King but much cheaper) we got a drink, double cheeseburger, chips and chocolate ice cream sundae for 3 pounds (Andrew Edit – for once it was more about the wifi than the food)
! Having to move the car each hour we drove down to the Royal Botanical Gardens and visited the Melbourne War Memorial which is the most amazing building and has superb views of the city from the top. From here we went to the National Gallery of Melbourne, the highlights for me where the contemporary art exhibition including Mark Rothko (one of my favourite artists) and a fantastic illuminated ladder which really was stunning (Andrew Edit, it was put between a mirror on the ceiling and a mirror on the floor so when you looked down or up it went on forever... wicked). I was even more delighted to find a chair exhibition on the top floor, which as a bit of a chair fanatic, was a great discovery. On the way down we both admired the stunning glass ceiling in the Main Hall and the afternoon teas that the restaurant was serving – cake stands full of very enticing sandwiches and cakes – this really was my kind of place. Alas, I managed to leave without sampling any of the wonderful fare on offer.
We walked back through the Botanical Gardens, full of fountains, sculptures and thousands of joggers and hatched a plan to head out of the city this evening instead of tomorrow as we were running out of time in Australia and still had so much that we wanted to do – um, where did the last month go? We had such a great day, the weather was that kind of clear warm but crisp day you may get in late spring in the UK, but despite our best efforts to stay, we knew time issues meant we should set off for the great ocean road and find a free camp site before dark. Seventy kilometres out of the city we pulled on to the BP petrol station that was to be our camp for the night and got out the table and chairs in a truck bay and started to cook tonight’s wonderful meal: Veal Linguini Alberto (the veal was a bit pale when I got it out of the esky as it had been sat in a pool of freezing cold water but it smelled OK so it went in the pan). It was either that or barbecue sauce on bread, we were on eat up.
As soon as we had eaten we climbed in to the van and flaked out, I think it was 7pm and we had the best night’s sleep in ages. Another really memorable day and I think we both fell to sleep with smiles on our faces, while the suburbs have superbly eccentric people the city centre is also a fantastic place and somewhere we both agree would be a viable alternative to not so sunny Salford.
For once we enjoyed a leisurely morning and made the most of our power hook up by charging up all our gadgets (well we had to get a little bit of our moneys' worth) before we left the campsite. Check out was at 10am at which time the boom gate code which we had been given would expire so at five to we finished packing up jumped in the van and headed off. We had only driven a few metres when I asked Andrew "Are we going to just leave the laptop then or what?" the laptop was still plugged in to the charging point on top of our camping stool. “Might as well take it shouldn’t we” came the reply. It had meant that there was maybe an extra few minutes of charge in there which is so precious under the circumstances but this had been the nearest we had come to losing the thing and all our photographs. Knowing that Rorie and Emer had lost two I-Pod Touches within 11 months we are just waiting for something to happen. Doh.