Melbourne - culture, sport and trams 23-28 April

Trip Start Sep 09, 2010
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Trip End May 28, 2011


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Where I stayed

Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday 23rd April

Finally in Melbourne which is in the state of Victoria - this is my first time to the city. Up early to catch the train from Helensvale direct to Brisbane domestic airport it was $28 one way about £20 and it got me there in one and a half hours. Flight was leaving at 10.55 and got me to Melbourne at just gone 1pm. I thought Dad and my Aunty Bron would be waiting for me as the info I was that their flight got them into the airport at 11.30am but they were no where to be seen. I thought they‘d abandoned me. I walked around the airport for a while and then saw on the arrivals screen that their flight had just landed, I’d got the wrong times!

As there was three of us we got a taxi into the city which was $50 for a half hour ride. We are staying at the City Gate hotel in Flinders Street, a very central location right in the heart of town opposite Flinders St railway station. The hotel is ok but the room is a bit small for 3 of us. They were going to give us a room with 2 double beds, but we managed to get it changed to one with 3 singles, although not much room to even swing a cat and the walls are paper thin. We went for an evening stroll around the neighbouring streets and had dinner in a local Italian.

Easter Sunday 24th April

Didn’t have the best sleep, dad’s snoring and an all night party next door,….but managed a few hours! Breakfast is served until 10am we had a fried breakfast, cereals, toast etc. By 11am we were on our way out. We headed to Federation Square which is just opposite the main entrance to Flinders St station, which is a picturesque Victorian railway station, and one of the main areas of Melbourne situated on the Yarra River. We decided to go on the 2 hour River Tours ferry cruise - which cost $25. We travelled downstream to the port area and Docklands (apparently Melbourne is the Southern Hemisphere’s busiest general cargo port) and then we continued up to back to Herring Island passing by the Rod Laver Centre - the national tennis centre and home of the Australian Open and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). So far I’m liking what I see of Melbourne. People have told me I’d like Melbourne I think it has a European feel to it reminds me a bit of London with a mini Manhattan skyline… it has a nice café culture vibe and green spaces along the river side. I have to admit that I mostly prefer cities to the countryside.

Monday 25th April - ANZAC Day

Today is ANZAC Day this is an annual memorial day to remember the ‘Diggers’ - Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought in WWI, WWII and other conflicts. Services start at dawn but we got out and about to see the march around 10am which went right past our hotel. There were big crowds of old and young lining the streets and it was a friendly good humoured atmosphere. Today is also the day that two of the best known Aussie Rules football teams play - Collingwood and Essendon - so there were even more people milling around as the game is held at the MCG which holds 90,000 and it is sure to be a sell-out.

We met up for a coffee with Jo Payne. Jo is the sister of Kath that I visited up in Noosa. I’ve met her a couple of times before. She used to live in Adelaide but moved over to Melbourne with her partner last year. We then got the circle tourist tram line up to the other side to the city to the Old Melbourne Gaol off Russell St. Melbourne has a really good tram service - apparently it’s the largest in the world - and the tourist tram is I think either an original or replica of the early style of trams from the late 19th century - and free. Dad and Bron are members of the National Trust so we all got in free to the Old Gaol so that saved us $60. It was a really good afternoon. We saw and took part in a re-enactment of the infamous Ned Kelly trail of 1880 and visited the police watch-house where prisoners got processed before attending court. The Gaol was built in 1841 and closed in 1924. The remand centre was still used up until the 1990s. Life was harsh in prison in those days and 135 including women and the infamous bushranger Ned Kelly were hanged in the old Gaol.

Tuesday 26th April

Visited the Polly Woodside tall ship which is and one of a few deepwater tall ships remaining in the world. It was built in Belfast in 1885 and sailed 1.5 million km around the globe. It was restored in the 1970s and is situated on the south wharf near the exhibition centre and crown casino complex. We got the tram back up to the South Bank area by the river Yarra as we were meeting Lisa Cowling - distant cousin and her husband Dick. They have lived in Australia for nearly 40 years. They live in Cairns but have been house sitting in Melbourne for the last month. We had a lovely lunch in the restaurant La Camera which overlooked the river and the sun was shining as we sat out on the balcony. We then walked to a famous landmark in the city - the Young and Jackson pub, on the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street - opposite the station and St Paul’s cathedral. The pub is old English in style but is more famous for a painting which is hanging in a bar upstairs. Known as Chloe this is a nude portrait of a young lady which was painted backed in the 19th century and has hung there ever since - it was very shocking for the time. It was a lovely day and nice to see Lisa and Dick - I had met them for the first time just under 2 years ago at Kay their mum and my late nan’s cousin who was celebrating her 100th birthday in Penzance.

Wednesday 27th April

The public transport is excellent in Melbourne. There is a free circle tram line and free shuttle bus designed for tourists which is a great way to get around and see the city. Today we went on the shuttle bus which took us for a tour of the city enabling us to see areas we have not seen before such as Lygon Street in the Carlton area of the city which is where the Italian migrants settled and the street is littered with cafés and boutiques. It is apparently also very popular with celebrities. We stopped off at Harbour Waterfront City. This is where there should be a large ferris wheel similar to the London Eye called the Southern Star. But is had a malfunction a few years back when there was unusually hot temperatures over 45 degrees and it stopped working. It is now being rebuilt. The Harbour area is a outlet shopping centre. We looked around some shops I bought 2 handbags…well they were on sale for $20 so I couldn’t resist. We had a coffee and then we got on the shuttle bus again and then headed for Fitzroy Garden north of the MCG where Cooks’ cottage can be found. This is the actual house where Captain James Cook, who claimed Australia for the British crown in the 1770s lived in northern England. The house, brick by brick was transported and relocated to Melbourne some years ago when the house was up for sale.

Thursday 28th April

Booked a shuttle bus service to get us to the airport. My flight to Bangkok is at 2pm but is suggests getting there 3 hours before departure, dad and Bron are leaving at midday for their flight to Perth and only needed to be there an hour before. The international and domestic airports are pretty close together so we got the same bus. The bus came at 10am and I arrived nice and early at 10.30 waiting for the check-in to open. It looks like I am now flying with Jet Star and not Qantas. Not too happy as this is a budget airline and therefore it means I will have to pay for food and entertainment and the flight is 9 hours…..oh this is going to be great - not! Anyway all in all enjoyed Melbourne and would definitely come back again it’s got culture, theatre, museums, art galleries and sporting venues - Australia Open and the Melbourne Grand Prix - so a pretty cool place to live.

So the Australian leg of my travels has now come to an end. As I have mentioned this is my 6th time in Oz, so not many surprises apart from the cost of everything, it is noticeable how expensive everything is now as the dollar is so strong, and for the first time ever whilst being here I have really had to watch my pennies, $100 could be spent in the flick of an eye. People have asked me if I had ever thought about moving over, well I thought about it a few times, but each time I visit I enjoy my time, but have never had the urge to stay and always look forward to going home. I don't think my heart is or ever will be in Australia - it is not the place that I want to call home. However on a more upbeat note, it has been great to catch up with old friends, and finally get up to Darwin and Kakadu National Park, spend time at one of the world's greatest natural wonders - the Great Barrier Reef and to sample city life in the dynamic hub of Melbourne. There is much to see and do in Australia - it has a varied landscape, beautiful beaches, huge expanses of desert outback, tropical rain forests and extraordinary landmarks - such as Ayers Rock and Sydney Harbour Bridge. So if you have never been then it is well worth a visit, perhaps though when the exchange rate is a little better. For now though it is definitely time to move on and I am really looking forward to my time in South East Asia and Thailand.

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