Melbourne – The Highlights

Ok, so my plans to keep you up with Melbourne failed miserably – we’ve now left and are on our way up the coast, so to try and get you back to (close to) real time, I’m going to do one highlights of Melbourne post. If I get the time I’ll go back and fill in with some more detailed posts.

Life in Melbourne started with Mo’s family in in Seaford – a couple of days after we arrived, Gill arranged a family BBQ which was a great way to meet some distant relatives on Mo’s.

Mo's extended family

Starting from the right is Christian (Gill’s 2nd cousin), Donna (Christian’s fiancé), Elaine (Gill’s auntie), and Pat (Gill’s mum), then on the stairs, Gill at the back left, Jenni (Gill’s sister), back right, and Ali (Gill’s daughter) sitting next to Mo. Oh, and Nelson the dog at the front. And taking the photo was other Pat (Gill’s partner). They all looked after us very well, and Jenni also had us round to her’s for tea where we meet her husband Earle, and daughters, Eliza and Tamara, and last but not least, on a trip to Seaford just before we left Melbourne, we also met Graham (Elaine’s son). Ok, half of Morag’s family tree, done! Thanks again to everyone who made us so welcome and looked after us!

Our home for most of Melbourne was Barkly Street, in the suburb of Elwood, just to the south of the famous St Kilda. We were in an upstairs flat on the corner of Dickens Street, with a lovely German couple called Gunther and Sabrina. The flat was perfectly placed, 5 minutes from the beach, 5 minutes from St Kilda, 5 minutes to the tram stop, and a bus stop right outside. There were also lots of shops, bars and restaurants very close by. There was also the friendly dog from next door, Stanley, who spent a lot of time in the garden, so often met you excitedly as you came home the gate – or perched his front legs up on the wall to get patted as you walked along the pavement. We loved it there and would happily have stayed for a lot longer!

About 10 minutes from our flat

Our building from across the road

The stairs up to our flat

Us and our flatmates, Gunther and Sabrina

As I said, Elwood is just to the south of St Kilda, a very popular part of Melbourne. We were a few minutes away from Acland Street which, as well as having lots of shops and bars, is also famous for its cake shops.

One of the many cake shops

It has a busy beach front and a pier where, believe it or not, a colony of penguins live!

One of our local penguins

Everyone likes watersport in Australia!

The whole area is beautiful and although the weather wasn’t always on our side, we were treated to some spectacular sunsets.

The sun going down at St Kilda Pier

Stunning sunsets were common in St Kilda

 

And there were plenty of boats there too

St Kilda at sunset

So that was our local area in Melbourne, now onto the main things we did, in roughly chronological order.

Our first big event, and one I was massively looking forward to, was the Australian Grand Prix. Now for those of you who aren’t big fans of the Formula 1, a GP weekend lasts for 4 days, Thursday to Sunday, and somehow, I’d persuaded Mo that we should get 4 day tickets! Thursday there isn’t any F1 action on track, but there are lots of other races and displays, as well as loads of stand, and static displays around the track. We spend some of Thursday checking out a few different viewing points, and we also tried to get autographs from some of the drivers. I got very close to getting Lewis Hamilton’s, but just missed out. He signed the guy in front of me’s hat while saying he had to go, so close!

Nearly got his autograph!

Friday has 2 free practice sessions for the F1 cars, before and after lunch, as well as lots of other things, so it was our first chance to see this season’s cars on track. What a noise, and what a speed! Like no other cars I’ve ever seen on track, it was great to get so close to the action.

First sight of the F1 cars up close

Unfortunately the weather was against us and we had to invest in an umbrella and some very fetching plastic ponchos. But when it chucked it down we were glad we had them! Gladly it was just some (very) heavy showers, but it was warm in between

Snazzy ponchos

Saturday morning there was the final practise session for the F1 guys, before qualifying in the afternoon. On Friday we’d found a good spot on a grass bank next to a couple of the corners that had a big screen opposite it, so we decided to head there on Saturday morning and set up camp. We were glad we did as it got very busy!

A popular spot

Then Sunday came and it was time for the race! Again we headed for the same place as Saturday and watched all the action in the build up to the start of the race (which wasn’t until 5pm!). As well as stunning weather for the 2nd day running, we were treated to various on track action, as well as a fly past from a Qantas 747 – Awesome to see it so close overhead.

Qantas 747 flypast

We also met up with a good friend of ours from Edinburgh, Olly (aka Olly Longhair) who has been living in Melbourne since August, along with Scarlett (aka Scarlett Longhair), also from Edinburgh. They squeezed (and I mean squeezed, every bit of grass was taken by the time the race started!) in next to us on the banking for the race, which was eventually won by Jenson Button, which went down well with a lot of people on the banking.

Race Winner, Jenson Button

And before we knew it, the race weekend was over – the most surprising thing? Mo says she didn’t get bored despite 4 days of car related fun!

The end of the Grand Prix

Melbourne is a city that you could spend a lot of time explorer (much more than 3 months), and still not get close to covering it all. So, to help us get started, Guther gave us a couple of maps from the Tourist Info place that provided a route round a certain part of the city, along with points of interest and some info around them. Basically a DIY guided tour. The first was the ‘Arcades and Lanes’ walk which took us through various small shopping arcades and little lanes, full of great wee cafes, shops and bars, many of which we would never have come across otherwise.

Degraves Street

The Block Arcade

The walk also took us to Hosiers Lane which is famous for its graffiti. Basically the owners of the buildings allow them to be painted, which means it a sort of every changing gallery of some pretty amazing art. Everything has had something done to it, from the obvious, massive paintings, to little sculptures.

Every wall was different

Everything was art

It’s also a popular place for wedding photos – Olly and I were there one Saturday afternoon and saw at least 4 different brides!

Popular for wedding photos

Our time in Melbourne only overlapped with Olly’s for a few weeks as he was heading off up the coast a few weeks after we got there, so we tried to do a few things with him before he left. One of those was Great Ocean Road, which is a scenic costal road that goes West from Melbourne and has some wonderful sights, and some Aussie wildlife!

Koala in a tree

We had a great day driving the route and checking out sights like the 12 Apostles (there used to be 12 rock formations, there are now only 9), and the Bay of Martyrs.

Bay of Martyrs

Some of the 12 Apostles

Cheers to Olly for his company, tour guiding and his car!

Olly Longhair and his wheels

 

Mo and I (and lots of tourists)

Great Ocean Road

A few days later Olly was also good enough to lend us his car so we could go and visit nearby Philip Island. First stop was the chocolate factory, which provided a tour and free tastings! As well as lots of things made from chocolate

Yep, all chocolate.

Dame Edna, in truffles

We went to the race track on the island (which hosts MotoGP and V8 Supercars amongst others), and in the grounds they had a field of kangaroos!

Kangaroos, chilling out

We then toured round various parts of the island and at one point took a boardwalk along the coast to see Devil’s Blowhole – a hole in the rocks that the sea sprays out the top of when there are big waves. Unfortunately it was a bit calm that day to see anything very impressive but the scenery was still good.

We didn’t see any of the penguins that are famous on Phillip Island but we did see a seal pup very close. There was a small jetty which we walked out on and he was playing underneath, so close in fact that he managed to splash us a few times!

A coastal cave

 

Not your standard road sign!

Friendly seal pup

Another of the guided walks we did was round the Botanic Gardens and parks in central Melbourne which was really nice. We got lucky with the weather and it was a good couple of hours spent one afternoon.

Mo in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens

 

Melbourne Botanical Gardens

Temple of the Winds

Melbourne Botanical Gardens

As well as our DIY guided tours, we also did one with an actual guide…around some chocolate shops in the city! Free tastings at all the stops on the tour, finished off with a coffee and cheesecake at the last place sent us home close to bursting and high on sugar!

I LIKE FREE CHOCOLATE!

This place had some amazing hand made chocolates

Anyone for cake?

Look at the size of that cheesecake!

For a while in Melbourne, around the time that we were working, we didn’t do too many touristy things, more just relaxing and eating out, but as we got close to leaving Melbourne we started to get back into tourist mode and see as many of the things we wanted to as possible. One of those was the museum where we had a great day. We arrived shortly after it opened at 10 in the morning and only just got round the place by the time it closed at 5pm. For general adult admission it’s only $10 as well, so definitely worth a visit – but give yourself plenty of time to see it. We also paid extra to see a documentary in the IMAX cinema – a 3D feature about flying dinosaurs, voiced by Sir David Attenbourgh, which was really good. And we spent the rest of the day looking round exhibitions about dinosaurs (we were thinking of a certain wee Macleod who would have loved it!), insects, the animal kingdom, the human body, geology, the history of Melbourne and a display of local art and engineering student projects! Knackered by the end of it but well worth it.

A whale skeleton

 

This one's for William

That isn't fur, it's stone

This thing is life size!

 

A really cool display of loads of animals

This one I did myself as it was a car collection, all owned by the family who run a large transport company in Australia and the Far East, Linfox. The display was of about 60 cars, but the collection itself is over double that, and the ones on display are changed regularly. There were old (1920s Rolls Royces) and new (Merc/Mclaren SLR 722 Sir Stirling Moss edition) as well as some interesting ones like Ringo Starr’s Mercedes Limo, complete with very small TV in the back. I’d recommend it for any fellow car geeks who have an hour or so to spare.

Big TV in Ringo's Merc

 

There's only a handful of these in the world

Racing SLR Mclaren Mercedes

One of 3 Ferraris on show

 

An iconic classic Mercedes

We visited the Victorian State Library a couple of times as the first visit was at the end of the day so we were only able to have a quick look before it closed. One of the most notable areas was the Dome which is a large reading room set below an imposing domed roof. You can go 4 floors up to a balcony that looks down onto it – eerily quiet, especially as it is smack bang in the middle of the city.

A couple of floors further down you can walk all the way round the balcony and it houses an exhibition on various parts of Melbourne’s history from its beginnings up to the mid-20th century, including one about Ned Kelly which houses one of his home made suits of armour.

Shhh!

 

Mo at the other side, being quiet!

Homemade armour

One day we treated ourselves to a snack at Chokolait, a chocolate café serving some very indulgent (and chocolatey) delights. I had a coffee and hot chocolate mud cake, and Mo had a hot dark jaffa chocolate (yes, that is a drink), and a slice of chocolate mousse cake. Safe to say, another sugar rush ensued!

Even more chocolatey than it looks

 

Mmmm, chocolate...

As well as all the nice places we ate out, there were also a lot of great bars, in fact we only made it to a handful of them, there were definitely lots more to see. One of the ones we did go to though (thanks to Kate for the recommendation!) was the Rooftop Cinema. It’s an open air bar 6 floors up on a building in the city centre that in the summer shows films (the clue was in the name!), but is a bar all year round. Mo and I had a couple of drinks there one afternoon as the sun went down, very cool.

Nice view for a drink

 

Mo had a hot spiced cider to keep her warm

I've no idea what this was, but it looked cool

 

Watching the sun go down

Part of the Botanics guided walk we had done takes in the Shrine of Remembrance but as we were pushed for time that day we left it for another time. The day we went was another of beautiful blue skies which went you could real enjoy the view from the top of the building.

Stunning views

 

Looking down to the front of the Shrine

But obviously the main reason for it is to remember those who have fought for and with Australia in all the wars since the First World War. It stands on top of a hill and from the top of the steps you can look all the way up St Kilda Road and on up Swanston Street, right through the city centre. Inside there is large room with a memorial to the Unnamed Soldier, a sobering experience as there’s an eerie light coming through the translucent glass on the peak of the ceiling. Downstairs there is a small exhibition area which included a display of 4000 medals. Each one of these represents 6 servicemen and women from Victoria who have been killed in the line of duty. Outside there are a number of statues and monuments, and the eternal flame.

Australians are hugely proud and respectful of their service men and women with lots of places similar to the Shrine (although mostly on a smaller scale), as well as the annual Anzac Day, similar to our own Remembrance Day. You can’t help but leave the Shrine without feeling the same way.

View of the Shrine as you walk up to it

 

Inside the Shrine

Only some of the 4000 medals

 

Lest We Forget

The Eternal Flame

A must do on our list was to visit the Melbourne Cricket Ground, aka the MCG, or simply ‘The G’. Don’t worry, we haven’t suddenly turned into cricket fans while in Australia because, despite the name, the stadium is actually home to a lot of the Aussie Football League (AFL) games. AFL is aussie rules football, a mix of rugby and gaelic football I think (although not understanding the rules of either of them, I can’t be certain), and is very popular in Victoria. Everyone has a team, old, young, men and women, you have to support, or as they say here ‘back for’, someone. So we went to watch a game The G, the Richmond Tigers vs Syndey. The general rule, we’ve been told, is that your support the team nearest to where you live when you first move to Melbourne, so technically that should have been St Kilda, but we couldn’t get a Saturday afternoon game in which they were playing when we weren’t busy, so we went with ‘The Tiges’. Gill and a couple of other members of Mo’s family were Tiges fans so we at least had a tenuous connection!

The G is massive, capacity of about 100,000, the circular stadium is very imposing, as is the standard AFL pitch. It’s about as long as a football/rugby pitch but it’s oval shaped so it’s namely the same again in width. And the players don’t really have positions, they just spend the game running all over the place – incredible fitness. We spent the game only understanding the basics of scoring and passing, but it was still a great experience, and the Tiges won, so we got to enjoy the song they all sing at the end of the game. And also on the train to Seaford that night as it was full of fans!

The very large pitch

 

Not a bad view as the game starts

Go Tiges!

Kicking for goal (that's worth 6 points by the way)

The final walk we did was actually the other half of the botanics walk that we hadn’t had time to do. It took us through the parks to the north of the botanic gardens and round some of the local landmarks and statues. There is also an amphitheatre which Mo looked right at home on stage in! And it finished off with a walk along the river and back into the city centre.

Mo and Victoria

Morag Kennedy, Live in Melbourne

 

The Grotto

Beside the river with Melbourne behind us

For our drive up the coast we’ve hired a car and, as we were leaving on a Tuesday, we decided to pick it up on the Friday so we could do one last touristy thing before we left – a food and wine tour of the Yarra Valley which lies north of Melbourne.

It was a bit of a DIY tour made up of places on a map that we’d picked up and took in a cider and beer brewery (where we were tasting their produce at 10am….early start!), a few wineries (Mo doing most of the tasting as I was driving), lunch at the Balgownie estate (familiar name for the Aberdeen readers), and a chocolate shop with Mo’s name on it – Kennedy and Brown. A great day despite the miserable weather and nice to do another bit of Victoria before we left.

Mo by the fire at the brewery

Trying some of Yering Valley's finest

 

Lunch anyone?

"We have to go, it's got my name on it!"

And that was Melbourne in a (rather large) nutshell! Sorry for the essay length of that post but I wanted to get all of Melbourne up so that you’re all a bit closer to what we’re actually doing. As I write this we only left Melbourne 2 weeks ago, so you’re nearly up to speed. More regular updates to follow – promise!

Oh and the very last thing we did as we were literally driving out of Melbourne – nipped into Pin Oak Court, more commonly known to any Neighbours Fans, as Ramsay St.

Everybody needs good Neighbours...

5 Comments

  • Dan says:

    I enjoyed reading that with a cuppa! Loves great guys, nice to see Olly’s smiling face too. Love his motor – looks like a Nissan Bluebird haha.

    We just had the Jubilee celebrations over here so a long weekend. In typical British fashion, the weather has not been great. Did you guys see anything on the jubilee out there?

  • Mum M says:

    Don’t apologise for the essay length of the post – great reading over a large cup of coffee! A fine way to spend a rainy (unfortunately) June afternoon. I’m just envious you remember it all in such detail after so long! xx

  • mum k says:

    Well done, tall boy! You really made places come alive…I’m amazed (NOT) at the number of times the word ‘chocolate’ appears. You know my girl so well 🙂 Actually enjoyed the car photos too!!! Loved the look of your flat and your flatmates and am so glad you found the time to pop into Ramsay Street! Looking forward to the next episode of ‘Mo and Martin Tours’ – no pressure though! Big hugs to both xxx

  • Louise Tough says:

    Sounds good Martin! Hope you are not missing work too much…..

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