Sunday 21st August
For our our first day in Australia we headed out for a walk along the beach to G&B’s local town of Mordialloc where we stopped off for a nice lunch in the Bridge Hotel before having a stroll around town and picking up some shopping in their local Woolworths.
In the afternoon, Briony’s parents Pat and Kay came over to visit with Briony’s nephews Jensen and Ollie, it was good to catch up with them again.
In the evening, after a nice meal we sat and watched one of the Aussie Rules Football games on TV, and enjoyed learning all about the rules etc, it was great fun. At this point jetlag started to hit us, so we opted for an early night. This was a good first day in Australia.
MONDAY 22nd August
This morning we took the train from Mordialloc to Flinders Street station in the city centre, we intended taking the city circle tourist tram to see the sights, there seemed to be a problem with it so instead of waiting for it to arrive, we took another one down to the Docklands area, it certainly was interesting to see all the pleasure boats instead of the large cargo ships that I visited on in the 1970’s.
Back at Flinders Street we gave up waiting for the tourist tram and went over to the Timeout cafe in Federation Square for lunch instead. The meal was made all the more memorable by the waiter spilling a whole pint of beer over Jim, soaking his trousers, they then had the nerve to try and charge us for the beer. We visited an Optus store to get our phones to connect to the internet correctly before setting out on Jim’s quest of finding the Lego Store and a Starbucks, we were successful in this and managed to track them both down. After a nice refreshment break (tea and coffee) we caught the train back to Mordialloc.
We had another nice night at home with G&B chatting and watching some Aussie TV, Jim is certainly getting hooked on some of the shows over here.
Tuesday 23rd August
Another trip into town after breakfast saw us heading down through St Kilda Road where we stopped at the National Gallery of Victoria to see an augmented reality exhibition, the technology was a wee bit flakey and it was difficult to find all the installations, perhaps it was a case of first day bugs and it will be set out soon.
After visiting the NGV we carried on down the St Kilda Road to the Shrine of Rememberance, an impressive memorial to Australian Armed Forces lost in the many and varied conflicts over the years, the memorial and surrounding gardens were a fitting tribute and a nice place to visit, we then went on further down the road to Gentlemans George’s where we met Graeme for lunch, it being close to his place of work. After lunch Jim had us make a pilgrimage to the nearby Albert Park, the home of the Australian grand prix, it was fun to walk on part of the circuit.
Once back in the city we had to visit a station to sort out Jim’s travel card, unfortunately the station was inside one of the giant malls and we found getting back out onto the street a wee bit difficult, by the time we reached the street and arrived at the Queen Victoria Market where we want to go, it was closed. We opted instead to pay a visit to Melbourne’s St Paul’s cathedral, which was very impressive with some spectacular stained glass windows. To finish off our day in the city we stopped off for a pint in the Duke of Wellington pub on Flinders Street before catching the train home, this was another interesting and fun day.
Wednesday 24th August
After our train ride this morning we went to the north of the city to get to our hotel, Brady’s on Jones Lane, which we had booked into for a couple of nights, fortunately our room was ready so we were able to check in and leave our bags before going back downtown to visit the Eureka Skydeck 88 floors above the city, although there was a bit of rain, we were still presented with some spectacular views of the city and the surrounding area.
We experienced what they call ‘The Edge‘ a glass box which moves out of the building leaving you suspended above the streets, it wasn’t as terrifying as they described it but good fun nonetheless, we were not brave enough though to try the ‘Plank Walk’, a virtual reality zip line over the city.
After lunch on the Skydeck we went uptown again to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol, unfortunately due to some flooding part of the tour was cancelled but what we saw was very good and gave us an insight into life in times gone past, we were amazed at the things people, children included, were imprisoned for, apparently you could get 6 months for swearing in public, if that happened today the prisons would be crammed.
Having missed the Queen Victoria Market yesterday, we were lucky that there was a Winter Night Market every Wednesday. This was ideal for us with a wide and diverse selection of stalls and food from all over the world, after wandering around we both decided to try the devilled chicken and rice from a Sri Lankan outlet, this was a great choice. A bottle of wine purchased on the way back to the hotel finished off the day perfectly.
Thursday 25th August
Our hotel was a great place to spend the night prior to our tours, the first of which was the Philip Island Eco Tour, after being picked up by our Go West (formerly Bunyip) guide and driver, Hilda, we headed of to our first stop at the Brighton Beach Huts, a row of colourful iconic huts, before heading to the Moonlit Sanctuary where we came face to face with kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and various other wildlife, it was great fun feeding the kangaroos and wallabies.
Next stop was at the Nobbies, overlooking the Bass Strait, the Nobbies boasts spectacular clifftop views., which we explored on the winding boardwalks, looking out to Seal Rocks, the home of Australia’s largest fur seal colony.
It was then on to the largest Little Penguin colony in the world. We experienced the magic of watching these amazing little seabirds waddle home from the ocean to their burrows from the viewing platforms and boardwalks. Unfortunately you are forbidden to use your camera after sunset, but this video from Bunyip Travel lets you see some of what we experienced. A 2 hour journey back into the city meant thst we were a bit late for most of the restaurants, so a Chinese takeaway and a glass of wine in our hotel room finished the day off perfectly, It was certainly an interesting and fun day.
Friday 26th August
An early start today for our trip down the Great Ocean Road, we were picked up outside the Marriot, this time by Sheridyn from Go West and once all the other hotel pickups had been made off we set.our first stop was in the coastal town of Torquay, the traditional home of surfing in Australia, it was nice have some cake and coffee at this stop. Our next stop was at the memorial arch, commemorating the returned WWI servicemen who built the Great Ocean Road, we made a quick stop at the Kennett River where we were able to see Koalas and many colourful birds in their natural habitat.
After stopping off for a welcome lunch of a pie and a pot of beer, in the nice town of Apollo Bay before heading to Maits Rest for a walk through the rainforest to see the magnificent trees and ferns.
Next on our trip was the 12 Apostles, Gibson Steps and The Loch Ard Gorge, all equally impressive. We topped it all off with a stop at a noodle bar in Colac for dinner before returning to Melbourne. A quick well earned pint in a pub near the station were we were to catch the train to Graeme’s topped off a great couple of days.
Saturday 27th August
This afternoon we met the rest of Briony’s family when we went to the nearby Chelsea. RSL, a club for returned servicemen similar to our British Legion, we were there to celebrate Kay’s, Briony’s mothers, Birthday, it was nice to meet her brothers Sean his wife Moni and their children, her brother Andrew was there with his children but unfortunately his wife Sheree was unable to attend. The club was quite a special place and the food was very good, some of the portions were enormous, especially Andrews’s lamb shank.
After lunch came what must rank as one of the highlights of the trip for Jim, Briony took us for a drive around Melbourne’s Grand Prix circuit and he was stunned when she gave him the chance to drive around a section of it himself, his face was a picture to behold.
After the excitement of the afternoon we returned home, picked up Joffrey the dog then went to a local food court in a venue called Urban Ground, the pizzas there were pretty spectacular. After dinner we went round the corner with Graeme to a local brewery, Braeside Brewing for a couple of ales, this was a great way to finish off a very special first week in Australia