March 26, 2016

Day 890 – Melbourne

After visiting Sydney, I was adamant that I wanted to explore Melbourne. Never having previously visited also motivated me and having friends here helped. I researched many wonderful places I wanted to check out, only to be told by my friend, Fiona, that I would need approximately two weeks to get through the list as opposed to the four days that I had. So, I narrowed the list down the best I could.

I arrived Thursday night and was booked on the Great Ocean Road tour for the next day. I had heard and read a great deal about the twelve apostles and was eager to see them myself. I got talking to Beth, a local who had also booked herself on the tour. The tour bus was packed with around twenty if not more people. We saw the twelve apostles first up, the idea was that we would miss the crowds but of course there were plenty of people about. It was truly amazing to see the different formations and to marvel at the beautiful, scenic sites. This was the highlight for me, sure the tour consisted of other stops but this was the one I was looking forward to and I wasn’t disappointed. We had various viewpoints where we stopped and we also had a rainforest walk that made me appreciate the beautiful, tall trees.  Our last stop was a koala site so we were all fixated on these cute koala’s but we only really got to see their backside. It was a full day tour and it was a pretty packed day so I was a little exhausted when we got back to town. It was yet another beautiful drive along the coast, similar to the one from Cairns to Port Douglas, breath taking views and loads of photo opportunities.  Was a great day, a great moment to marvel at something beautiful away from the city.

Next day, I decided to hit the markets. I was advised to check out Rose Street market by one of the girls from the hostel. This is a quirky, hip, colourful market with art work, jewellery, clothes and much more. The market is situated in amongst streets covered in great street art. It is a cross between Camden market and Notting Hill. I loved it. I then wondered into the city, on the tram, and paid Queen Victoria market a visit. I love trams, it’s a shame we don’t have them in London, I remember the first time I got on a tram years ago, in Zurich. I wish we had them in London, it would add something amazing to the busy and bustling city. Queen Victoria market is massive and consists of many stalls and stores selling fresh food and vegetables to clothes and books and souvenirs. It was also swarming with people so I walked back into the city to get lunch. I found a Indian vegetarian restaurant, surprise surprise, selling a buffet lunch for only seven dollars, which is three pounds fifty so a bargain. Pretty chuffed with my lunch, I popped into St Paul’s cathedral which is different from the one in London but amazing all the same. I then met up with my friend, Priya, on a roof top bar on Brunswick Street. I met her in Santiago, Chile and she too is a fellow traveller.

The clocks went back that night and I’m not sure how or why but the time on my phone changed so I was up an hour earlier, charming. So I ended up in the city and found myself attending Sunday mass in St Paul’s cathedral, which was great. The cathedral was packed with locals and travellers a like and it was wonderful to be part of such a beautiful moment.  I’m not religious and I’m certainly not Christian but it felt so right to be there in that moment and just count and appreciate all my blessings. I hit the main shopping street to do a spot of shopping. There is no H&M in Townsville and given the temperatures in Melbourne were cooler than that of Townsville, I managed to justify a mini-shopping spree. I also finally got my hair cut. Hadn’t been to a hairdresser in over two years, not since I got my mohawk in Bangkok. Now, I have to admit, it wasn’t the best idea to go to a Chinese hair saloon where the hair stylists speak very little English. It annoys me how they cut too much off the ends after explaining how all I wanted was a little trim. Hey ho, it’s hair and so it will eventually grow back.  I then jumped on a train and was picked up at Caulfield’s by my friend, Fiona. We went to see the Brighton beach boxes, colourful sheds along the beach, which was packed with people and three brides. My evening ended with dinner at Fiona’s mum’s house where I also met Fiona’s sister. We had a great Easter Sunday dinner and shared travel stories. I was very grateful to have been part of such a lovely evening and having the opportunity to meet Fiona’s family. It made me think of my family and home.

The next day Fiona and I walked around the botanical gardens to begin with and then hit the memorial point. We stopped for tea and scones which I love and yes is very English.  We decided to watch an AFL- Australian Football League match as I had never seen one and Fiona’s team was playing. She supports Hawthorne, also known as the Hawks and they were playing Geelong also known as the cats. Now Australian football like American football is different to football back home. They call our football soccer so their football games are nothing like ours, rather they are like rugby. I was all excited and the atmosphere in the stadium made me more stoked to see the game. It took me a little while to understand the rules but essentially when playing football they can punch the ball. To be fair it is not really a ball, it is the same as a rugby ball but this is one of the disagreements I have with my Australian friends here. The game is two hours long with four breaks and alongside buying beer and hotdogs, jam doughnuts are sold. Whilst, the hawks played great, unfortunately they didn’t win but it was a great game. Our final stop was St Kilda where we went after sunset to watch the penguins. I have a big fascination with penguins’ and was itching to see them. We saw the cutest penguins and this was the highlight for me. It was hard to take photos without a flash so I just enjoyed the moment.

The next day, Fiona was back at work so I explored the city some more. I walked up Southbank and hit the Australian centre for contemporary art. With a few hours remaining, I ventured to the state library and then continued on the free city tram and went round to the dockland’s and Etihad stadium.  And that wrapped up my trip and time in Melbourne. I caught the skybus to the airport, wishing I could stay and explore Melbourne some more. I loved the street art and the little alley ways.  Have to say, I liked Melbourne more than Sydney, both are top cities but Melbourne has that edge and is more open and inviting as a city, with a range of things to offer compared to Sydney. It is definitely a city I will visit again and next time I won’t be rushing around cramming in all the touristic hotspots. I will have time to enjoy and soak up the street art.