Monday, March 20, 2017

Here we come Melbourne with a few side trips

We next met up with Dan and Yo, sailors we had last seen in 2009 in Trinidad!  They have a cottage in a Tamboon national park.  A fresh water river, the mouth of which is closed off, until there is enough rain to break the sand bar.  We spent time hiking the sand dunes, going thigh deep into water to not have to climb that sand dune again, walked the long sand beach, helped a neighbour careen his boat and clean the bottom...And identified a sandling, a bird Dan, another birder had seen before, but not in Australia.    And the food!!!  Dan and Yo circumnavigated and have picked up recipes from all over the world, although their favorite is  Asian, I think.  They like to keep everyone off balance from a food perspective, a Thai dish, with a Brazilian, with a... You get the idea!  After six days in Tamboon, it is time to our next stop.

Cheryl, Yo, Karen, Dan and their Grandson Marlo

Finally,  Melbourne.  First night the biggest rain in the last 2.5 years, welcome to Melbourne. We are staying at Dan and Yo's house, while they remain in Tamboon for another couple of weeks.  It is a century home, beautifully redone.  And they are foodies as we said, so the kitchen is amazing!  We had stopped on the way to Melbourne to buy fresh prawns and scallops.  So that was dinner, done in butter and garlic not bad for our first night!  Someone has to do it!

 We had called a friend of Dan and Yo's, Ross, as we needed help getting into the house.  Next day we go for a walk with Ross and his dog, along one of the smaller rivers flowing through Melbourne.  The next day he took us on a tour of the east arm of Melbourne Bay.  Lovely, all brought alive by someone from the area!

 We did the walking tour of Melbourne with a great guide.  The architecture is lovely, so many period building saved, even if they don't serve the same purpose anymore.  The history is that the gold rush brought in so much money when Melbourne was young, that she has these lovely buildings.  Oh, and drop bears in the trees.  They have metal plates around the trees in many parks, so the drop bears don't land on the tourists!  And if you believe that, do we ever have a bridge to sell.  Okay they are actually to keep possums out of the tree, but it was a funny story our guide told us.

 A break from Melbourne, we went to Ballarat, then onto the Great Ocean Road.  In Ballarat we spent two days with friends from Paradise Resort in Fiji, Bevan and his wife Lisa.  Bevan came out to help with the rebuild of Paradise, post Winston.   They have  every animal you can imagine!  OK, 5 horses (mostly Clydesdales), 4 dogs, 2 parrots and 1 cat!  We went on a carriage ride behind Major, one of the Clydesdales.  And helped with a new, very large, cage for the two parrots.
Bevan, Karen and Major
The kids

We drove down to the beginning of the Great Ocean Road, via the Geelong wine region.  Some lovely wines, but starting at $40 a bottle!  Regardless we had a lovely tasting and then lunch overlooking the vineyard.  The lady conducting the wine tasting recommended a couple of wineries in Geelong itself, so we carried onto those wineries.  One was fully booked for lunch and tasting!  We had tastings at two others.  I commented to one lady that they were very busy, she said "no, the lawn is usually full".  We then carried on to the start of the great ocean road. Stayed in Torquay at place called the View on the Grossmans a cute self contained one bedroom, reasonably priced and almost brand new, highly recommended this place.
THE Great Ocean Road

 We drove the great ocean road as far as Port Campbell the first day.  Many lovely views on an up, down and around road. It is truly an amazing drive as long as you are ahead of the tour buses.  We lucked in at Port Campbell as all the places where booked or really expensive but Cheryl saw a sign for a cottage for $80 so we went in.  It was a 2 bedroom self contained cottage and the man was very nice and gave us some tips for the area plus told us about a cute little restaurant called the Fat Cow on our route back to Melbourne the next day.

Grotto on the Great Ocean Road
The next day we left early for the great ocean road as we would hit all the highlights and wanted to do so BEFORE the tour buses!  So we saw the 12 apostles (now only 11), the grotto and the bay of islands, from many lookouts!  The grotto was a serene place that day, the day before with the wind and seas it would have been wild.  From the great ocean road we stopped at the Fat Cow for a burger and fries, which we split, real chips, made from potatoes! The man was right it was great food.

While in Melbourne one must go to the horse races especial when you are staying 1 km from the Flemington Racecourse the Home of the Melbourne Cup.  So off we go on a rainy cold Saturday to a yearly event call Black Caviar, apparently it was a famous horse so they named the race day after it.  It was quite a day.  The men where all dressed up in suits and hats and the women in summer dresses and high heel shoes and the grounds are beautiful.  Oh did we mentioned it was a rainy day and cold well we had on long pants and rain coat and we had a lot of the women saying we were the smart ones.  After 6 races and watching all the side events they had around the track we came home $9 poorer.  No big wins but fun.  That night we met up with another Paradise resort guest, Margot for dinner and walk around white night, an event happening in downtown .Melbourne.  Talk about crowds we think all of OZ was at this event.  We escaped to a roof top bar and made plans to catch up the next day at Margot for dinner.
Melbourne at night
Roof Top Bar with Margot
It was lovely to catch up with Margot and walk around her neighborhood with her 2 dogs.  Dinner of roasted chicken and all the fixins, our favorite home cooked meal.  Yummy.
Melbourne is in the centre of several wine regions.  We ventured tot he Yarra Valley and had lunch at Chandon, because we could!
No caption required!

When we were at Paradise sometime last year, Allan the owner had his mom and some of her friends from the Seniors home visited the resort and we happened to be there at the time, we had a Hoot with the ladies which they call themselves the Lexington Ladies.  As Lexington Gardens is in Melbourne off we went to have lunch with the Allan's mom, Stella.  Stella had arranged a lunch for us and the ladies that we met at Paradise.  Lexington Gardens is really beautiful and food was super and chef was quit a character.  Once again it was a lot of laughs, we are so glad we saw them again.  Our cheeks still hurt from laughing so much. 
The Lexington Ladies plus 2

 The next day we went to the Victoria Art Gallery, International, which was lovely.  Then as we were walking around we say the War Memorial, so headed that way.  While it is called a War Memorial, and it is, it is also a museum.  We toured the WW l exhibits,( which were very well done) at which point we were museumed out, and headed back to Dan and Yo's.  We arrive back at their place about two hours after Dan and Yo.  They already had all their stuff away and Yo was happy playing in the garden!  They went to dinner at their son's, and we finished our prawns and scallops, once again, someone had to!

Melbourne from the Dandelong Mountains
 We went to the Dandelong mountains for the day, lovely look out over Melbourne.  We found a nice restaurant on the hill for lunch.  As we made our way back to Melbourne we stopped for a walk, but the trail was also a memorial for the men who served on the Kokoda trail in Papua New Guinea in World War ll.  More history.

Dan and Yo  prepare a several courses dinner.  Once again, we put out a cheese plate, then we had a amazing of soft shelled crab (wow) sticky rice with Chinese sausage, green mango salad and chicken skewers coated in fermented bean curd.  Just because they can!

We said our good byes to Dan and Yo the night before as we made an early start for Canberra, a 7 hour drive.  Back in Canberra we were greeted by Rob and Lee and pink bubblies, a Paradise tradition.  It was great to be back.  We were getting good at cheese trays, so we did it again.  Then Rob made a lovely Chicken, Bacon in a cream sauce pasta.  And then a game of  Cabo broke out.  We laughed so hard that another morning of  sore checks and smiles left over from the night before.

Off we go to must see  Australian War Memorial.  We got there early, had lunch in and stayed until we were museumumed out.  While Karen like the coverage of the first world war much better at the Melbourne museum, the coverage of the second world war and the war in the pacific in particular were excellent.  Once again, going with a retired military person allowed you to ask lots of questions!  And get answers!  And we found out the full storey about the Kokoda Trail. That night, no cheese tray as we had leg of lamb for dinner with all the fixing's!

Bondi Beach
We left early the next morning for Sydney, stopping at a bakery recommended by Rob and Lee and the perfect distance from town.  A lovely pie or sandwich depending on who you were and onward to Sydney.  Karen had called the hotel and we could check in early, this was a bonus.  We did, dropped our bags so the car was empty, then onto Bondi Beach.  While it was perhaps not as nice as some of the beaches in Northern Sydney, it is iconic, so as good tourists we were there!  Fish and Chips on the waterfront, a walk on the beach.  Pictures from some look outs, a walk through centennial park and we were done.  Wine and Cheese in our room.

We had breakfast across the street, as the hotel did not serve breakfast, must have picked the best place, it was busy and really good, Karen had poached eggs, Cheryl had pancakes, which turned out to be crepes, yummy.  We turned in the car to Jucy, having done some 7,300 kilometers in two months!  I would say we did Australia proud.  The funny thing was the driver of the shuttle van was from Ono, one of the islands in the Lau group of Fiji!  It is a small world.

Thank you all for an amazing time!!

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