Trip Start Nov 12, 2004
Trip End Aug 28, 2005

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Flag of Australia  ,
Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The first chapter in our Australian adventure has closed and with a lump in our throat we said goodbye to Sydney and flew south to Melbourne.

So, Sydney absolutely flew by and we then found ourselves in Melbourne
all of a sudden. We decided to fly to Melbourne because firstly the
flights were dirt cheap and secondly, neither of us fancied an
overnight bus journey! Sometimes I wonder if we're really "embracing"
this whole backpacking concept....

Anyhoo, we could see how much smaller Melbourne is compared to Sydney
as we flew in. The city centre itself is a fraction of the size and
has a fraction of the skyscrapers. We later realised that Melbourne
is a great place for shopping, eating and chilling out because it has
a far smaller, friendlier and slightly European atmosphere but
unfortunately our backpacker budget (which by now is disappearing like
water down a plughole) didn't allow us to sample this quite as much as
I'd have liked to!

However, before we actually got into Melbourne city centre itself, we
stopped off in the south eastern suburbs to pay a visit to some
relatives of mine (Vicky - if you haven't already guessed!). My Great
Auntie Lil moved out to Melbourne 20 years ago to be with her daughter
Pat (my Dad's cousin) who moved out here 40 years ago. Auntie Lil
actually turned 100 on 30th April so it was quite a big event for all
of us. My Dad phoned Pat before we left the UK in April to let her
know that I was coming out and to make arrangements for me to meet up
with them. They haven't had any contact since he was 18 so it must
have been a bit of a shock for her!

She actually told me some amusing stories about how her and her best friend would take my Dad and his other cousin Richard out for walks in their prams when they were babies, and that she would always bags my dad because he was the cute
one with blond curly hair and big blue eyes! This has got to be one
of the funniest things I've ever heard - I can't imagine my dad being
a baby in a pram, let alone a cute one!!
(Dad - hope you enjoying this world wide web humiliation - I'll be
expecting the repurcussions when I get home!!)

Anyway, we all had a lovely time catching up on family gossip. Pat
and Laurie, her husband, took good care of us and we had many laughs
(particularly over the above revelation - I'm still chuckling away as
I type! Oh, and Bruno their dog who's half poodle and half corgi.
His tricks and antics were hilarious - an adorable dog!). I found out
all about my extended family that I've never met and lots of stuff
about the family who are all still in London. And seeing Auntie Lil
again was lovely. She looks nowhere near 100, she's still got all her
faculties and her memory is amazing. She remembered me as a short,
chubby seven year old! At least 2 out of the 3 have changed!

After a sad goodbye 2 days later, we headed back into Melbourne. We
checked into the hostel we'd arranged beforehand and promptly checked
back out again when we realised our room was an oven-like prison cell
with no windows. We found ourselves another place (called Toad Hall!)
which was much nicer and settled ourselves in. One of the great
things about Melbourne is it's tram system. Getting around the city
is so easy and it even has a free city circle tram that costs nothing
(hence why it's free) and takes you in a loop around the city (hence
why it's the "city circle" line). We did this on our first afternoon
to get our bearings.

The rest of the 5 days was a mish mash of mooching about the city,
exploring the little alleyways and coffeeshops, drooling over the
lovely clothes/shoes/accessories that leapt out at me from every shop
window and generally just taking in the atmosphere of the city.

On one evening we took a night tour around the Old Melbourne Gaol,
where the infamous Ned Kelly was imprisoned and eventually hung. It
was a combination of a theatrical performance and a fact based tour,
all conducted by candlelight in Australia's most haunted building - it
was quite creepy. Especially seeing the "death masks" of all the most
infamous inmates. Plaster casts were taken from the heads of the
bodies so that scientists could determine what it was that made them
criminals by the lines and shapes of their skull. Very very eerie.
After that, we went into Chinatown where we treated ourselves to a
chinese and a few beers.

On the Saturday we took ourselves to St Kilda, the beach town of
Melbourne. We had a cooked breakfast in a cafe by the seafront and
then took a walk up the pier before taking the ferry across to the
other side of the bay to a place called Williamstown. We hung around
here for a bit, looking in the shops and watching the goings on in the
harbour. A couple were there having their wedding photos taken so we
had a nose at that for a while. We then took the ferry back to St
Kilda where we had a go on a rollercoaster in the Luna Park, a 1950's
themed fairground (which actually broke down with people on it 2 days
ago - I'm amazed it didn't happen to me) and then had an enormous ice
cream (well, you can't spend the day at the seaside and a fairground
without having an ice cream can you??)

On our last day, we did the tackiest, most touristy thing imaginable
and went on an official tour of Ramsay Street!! Mark was mortally
humiliated when the bus pulled up only to have this very fact
plastered all over the side of it in bright, big letters, and even
more so when every time we stopped at traffic lights or got stuck in a
traffic jam, the residents of Melbourne would stare, point and laugh
at us!!

All this would have been ok if the tour had been any good, but it was
actually a bit of a rip off. We got to drive past Erinsborough High
(no filming, no stars about) and we got to drive past the studios (not
go in them, just drive past them) before actually arriving in Ramsay
Street (which is actually called Pin Oak Court) which is tiny. We
spent about 20 minutes there (didn't get to go in any of the houses)
before heading back into the city on the humiliationmobile. Still, we
got a couple of good photos outside the Ramsays and the Robinsons
house, and Mrs Mangles!!

So, that was Melbourne - we were now all set for our first Campervan

Watch this space.....!
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