Interesting city of old and modern buildings

Trip Start May 01, 2010
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46
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Trip End Oct 03, 2010


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Where I stayed
Ashely Gardens Big4 Holiday Park

Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Saturday, September 4, 2010

MELBOURNE

Sunday morning arrived and after checking the weather by looking out the window, we saw that the rain had disappeared and the sun was attempting to break through the clouds. After a quick breakfast we got into the car and headed for the city as we figured that the traffic would be light and we wouldn’t run into too much trouble if we jumped lanes to find our way around. We made it into the CBD without any major incident but found that although it was Sunday all the on street parking was taken so we found a parking garage attached to a hotel, paid our flat rate $10 and with some trepidation left our car in the hands of the attendant to park for us.

Then down an alleyway where we came out in the middle of China Town which added to our apprehension….would the car still be there when we returned to pick it up? Anyway we hit the streets and soon found ourselves outside a really impressive church which turned out to be Presbyterian.

The Scots’ Church was the first Presbyterian Church in Victoria founded in 1838 and boasts 30 beautiful stained glass windows and a huge ten year old Austrian organ with 5000 pipes that produces earthly music that would match the music of heaven. As it happens we stood outside looking up at this magnificent church at 10.55am and Margaret noticed that their morning service commenced at 1100. So in we went, found ourselves a pew and sat and listened to the organist playing while we waited for the service to take place. Soon the choir entered followed by the elders of the church who took their places in front of the assembly. What a wonderful service it turned out to be, with the choir leading off with an anthem, then scripture readings from both Old and New Testaments, Prayers and some familiar old Hymns. The sermon was uplifting, clear and to the point; many a church could learn from this church, with a full programme including communion they managed to complete their worship in one hour and ten minutes.
We had intended to visit the Swiss Club of Victoria’s restaurant for lunch but to our dismay found that it closed despite their website saying it was open seven days a week. Next door we found a restaurant that was open and we both ordered a pizza to curb our appetites; one a seafood and the other a delicious mushroom pizza.

Then off down the street to the well known Flinders Street railway station which is opposite Federation Square and close to Melbourne’s Yarra River. The place was busy with the usual buskers doing their best to entertain the crowds. Not really being that interested in their antics, we wandered down Swanson Street checking out the shops and sites before deciding that we had seen enough for one day and would return tomorrow for a closer look at all the impressive old and new buildings.

On Monday the sun was shining again and we set out at 9 o’clock walking to the bus stop just across the road from the caravan park. With senior cards in hand we purchased a $3.40 daily unlimited ride concession ticket from the driver of bus 220 which would drop us at the centre of town close to the Flinders Street station on Queens Street.

From there the walk began, first along the banks of the Yarra to the Birrarung Marr a creative addition to Melbourne’s parks and gardens which houses the Federation Bells, a cluster of upside down bells that play a variety of music all computer controlled. In the background stand the MCG, Rod Laver Arena and various other sporting complexes.

We found the Fitzroy gardens close by and visited the conservatory with an amazing display of flowers. In the gardens stands Cooks Cottage, former Yorkshire home of the famous navigators parents, taken apart stone by stone, shipped out to Melbourne in 1934 and rebuilt here in the gardens. A miniature Tudor village is close by amongst the beautiful flower beds and nearby stands the fairy tree.

Unfortunately, being early spring, we missed out on the full splendour of the park and another month would have seen them in better shape. Getting close to lunch time with only a short distance to the Swiss Club, and as we had missed out yesterday, we decided we would make another attempt to taste some real Swiss cuisine.
   
We entered the building, took the old lift up to the first floor and found to our delight that it was open for business. Mike ordered Cordon Bleu, a large chicken thigh fillet lined with ham and cheese, as this was accompanied with his favourite food, chips with a fair amount of green stuff to keep him healthy. Margaret on the other hand put in her order of ‘Geschnetzeltes mit Spatzli’ a veal dish covered by a creamy mushroom sauce together with what I think is tiny pieces of dough cooked in boiling water like dumplings but I could be corrected. Perhaps a real Swiss person could tell me exactly what it is, are you listening Margrit? This came with a very generous serving of a good variety of vegetables. Full and contented we left, took the free City circle tram which as the name suggest circles the CBD passing heaps of places of interest with a running commentary explaining what they are. This tram returned us to the Flinders street station with seconds to spare as we wanted to take the opportunity of a cruise on the river while the sun shone. Unfortunately it started to rain just as we left the dock but the hour and a half trip up river was still pleasant albeit a bit boring. We had hoped to go down river, past Melbourne CBD with the magnificent buildings and the Docklands to Swanson Dock. Instead, because of the low tide, we were only able to go up river through the area where we had walked earlier in the day, under a couple of bridges to the bush island where we turned to return back to the jetty.

Another walk down Swanston Street was in order to look at some of the interesting building like the Town Hall, State Library and just opposite Federation Square the ornate and imposing St Paul’s Cathedral that was built in 1880. Tired, it was time to go home, but we now had to find the bus stop from where the 220 would pick us up. In our little minds we thought that we would find it on Elizabeth Street and after walking the eight blocks up to Melbourne Central railway station without success, we decided to enquire where on earth we would have to go. The very helpful ticket seller told us that we would find the nearest stop just two blocks away on Queen Street so off we went. How anyone would mix up Queen Street with Elizabeth Street I don’t know, maybe we had Queen Elizabeth messing with our brains. Bus 220 took us directly back to our home, cooking was not needed due to the large lunch we had consumed so we settled in for the night, checking our emails and writing up our travel pod for our last stop.
Tuesday came and would you believe that the sun was shining again - must be a record! We had arranged to visit our friends Victor and Esther at Box Hill, whom we had not seen for three years since they left Perth to live closer to their son and daughter here in Victoria. So….off to the bus again for the 45 minute trip into the city, jump on the train at Flinders Street for another 30 minutes or so to Box Hill. Leaving the train we took the escalator and found ourselves in this huge shopping complex that housed shops and restaurants of every description. A quick phone call telling them that we had arrived brought them quickly to meet us.
  
Victor and Esther were looking very well and are still the talkative, likeable people we knew in Perth. We soon caught up with all their news and they with ours. It was decided that Dim Sums would make an ideal lunch and we all headed for a local restaurant, that was obviously well known by Victor and Esther who chose dishes that were very well presented and tasty. After our good lunch, Esther and Victor showed us around the very impressive shopping centre with many of the business names written in Chinese. The fresh fruit and vegetable section covered an enormous area, very well set out and with many varieties we had never seen before. We also noticed the meat counter where even fillet steak is much cheaper than in Perth. Four hours passed so quickly and before we knew it we had to catch the train back. It was with some sadness that we said goodbye to our friends but pleased to see that they were well settled here despite not yet finding a house to buy that suited their requirements. An hour and a half later we walked into the caravan park, again not needing to cook dinner as we had been thoroughly spoilt at lunch time.

We woke to sunny weather and mid morning we headed into the Dandenong with the Miss Marple’s address at Sassafras in the GPS. We found the delightful tea room/restaurant on the main street of this quaint village nestled in the idyllic Dandenong region.

Just as well we went in for lunch early as soon after we were seated and had made our order, there was a steady stream of people coming in to enjoy the hospitality and the décor of this interesting venue. The chicken cottage pie covered in crispy cheese accompanied by a big pot of special tea was delicious. After the good meal, Margaret browsed around a specialist tea shop with hundreds of varieties and flavours of tea and an equal amount of different tea pots while Mike chatted to a man who also was not interested in following his wife into the tea shop! A short drive further on we stopped at the charming village of Olinda, which is the highest
village in the Dandenongs, to browse through the antique shops.

Close by we stopped at the SkyHigh Mount Dandenong to admire the panoramic views over the entire area and greater Melbourne with the city itself in the distance.
   
We walked through the English Gardens which were still asleep like the other parks and gardens we have visited as spring time has not yet arrived. Our last stop was at the Olinda falls where we had our exercise for the day by first taking the short walk to the top viewing platform and then descending the valley even though the sign indicated it would be steep but we thought we would get a better view. After a bit of puffing we were back at the car having of course to climb back up the steep path. To continue our circuit back to Braybrook, we went through beautiful scenery via Lilydale and the Yarra Valley.

With rain forecast for Thursday, we were surprised to see the sun streaming into the caravan again when we woke. Got to ‘make hay while the sun shines’, so off we went on the bus to the city again. Each time on the bus, this the fifth time, we were entertained in the middle of Footscray when the bus we were in pulled up behind a white car; our driver picked up all his ‘katunda’ had a chat with the guy from the white car and then zoomed off in the car, while the other driver climbed into our bus, took off his jacket, placed his bag in his driver cubicle and eventually drove off again. Footscray businesses have many with Vietnamese names and the people we saw walking the pavements are from many nations. The next area we passed through are the docks and we were amazed at the thousands of containers stacked in huge piles all around the area. As we approached town, we were interested to see all the parking garages advertise their rates at a flat rate of anything from $5 to $15 closer to the CBD.
We left the bus near the Flinders Station and headed into the Information Centre at the Federation Square to see if we could get a good booklet on our coming coastal trip from Melbourne to Adelaide as we had from Sydney to Melbourne. It seems there isn’t one, but we were given plenty of pamphlets on the Victorian section of the Great Coastal Drive and will have to get the South Australian section once we get there. A short walk from there we stopped at the ‘Krispy Kreme’ doughnut shop as Lesley told us we couldn’t possibly leave the eastern states without having some. While we watched the world go by as we sat on a bench having our doughnuts and coffee, we noticed the Arthur Daley basement shop. We went down and couldn’t believe how much stuff was down there all advertised at low prices. The books are all on sale at $5 each or 3 for $5! At that price we couldn’t buy just one book, but didn’t want to carry three around all day!
On Elizabeth Street we caught the Circular Tram and were interested to hear the commentary again of the places we were passing around Melbourne, such as the Treasury Gardens, Parliament House, Carlton Gardens, Flagstaff Gardens and Docklands where we left the tram. The tram we were on was built in 1936 and the Melbourne tram network is one of the largest in the world. The Melbourne Tram is very much an icon of this city.

Docklands encompasses a new area around Victoria Harbour and the mouth of the Yarra River, with much still under construction. To put it in a nutshell, it is described well in the pamphlet: ‘Escape to Melbourne Docklands and discover a different side of city life. Only minutes from the city centre, Docklands offers quality restaurants set along picturesque promenades and marinas. Shop….at three major retail destinations and keep entertained with a wide array of activities.’ With limited time, we wandered through Harbour Town and then onto the Waterfront City Promenade. Here we looked at a few of the statues of well known identities and then admired the fancy yachts at the marina and the architecture of the new skyscrapers in the area. Between them is the new Etihad Stadium which has a retractable roof and moveable seats that allow the playing field to change to suit different sports. As we walked passed a sleek private cruiser, we noticed someone with Dockers colours. Not only were they from Perth here to watch the Dockers game this evening, but they also live south of the river in Perth as ourselves, and they also own a Pajero! We chatted for so long by the Marina, and so as it was lunch time, we went together to the ‘Berth Mediterranean Restaurant’ on the New Quay Promenade to continue talking caravanning etc. The spaghetti Marinara was about the best ever, very light with a lot of sea food.
Returning to the tram we headed down towards St Kilda passed the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Kings Domain, Government House and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Further on after going through some up market residential areas, we passed the Albert Park which is transformed into a racing car track for the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix held every March.

We left the tram at St Kilda close to the esplanade and beach while the sun was shining and we were surprised how warm it was even though we were at the coast. This was definitely our warmest day at Melbourne without the cold wind blowing and not only was a scarf not necessary but even in the sunshine it was warm enough not to wear a jacket.
Friday was forecast rain and we also had so much to do after our busy week in Melbourne, so we opted to stay around the caravan today to do housework and grocery shopping at the shopping centre next door. First, it meant a sleep in and leisurely start to the day. A couple of interesting things about this caravan park to enjoy on this last day; the amenities block floor is heated making it so warm to go in at night or early in the morning. Secondly, this is the second caravan park we have been to where there is a bathroom, ie a big room with a huge bath. It was so relaxing to have a soak after only being able to have showers since we left Alice Springs over three months ago. The laundry complete and after a BBQ lunch, we were only back home from grocery shopping a very short time when the sky darkened and the rain came down. The most rain since we are in Melbourne but being cosy back in our caravan doing our travel pod, it was no problem.


By evening we were all set to leave this interesting Greater Melbourne area and head along the Great Ocean Road to arrive in Adelaide by next weekend.



 

 

 
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