The Wonderful World of Oz

August 29, 2019


Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 12:51 pm

We spent several days in Melbourne, and we saw a lot of interesting things there. Brandon has already written a bit about the cricket grounds; I won’t be redundant, but I will say that it was one of my favorite things we did on the trip. Other adventures tacked on to the Melbourne branch of the trip were our tour of Yarra Valley wine country, a day trip along the Great Ocean Road, and a visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol (Jail), not to mention some great foods, mentioned in my previous post.

First of all, I will say that I loved Melbourne as a city in its own right. It’s full of funky modern architecture while still retaining some charm and quirkiness from its older days. We went on a walking tour that led us through several old arcades (walkways between buildings) that featured dramatic storefronts, beautiful décor, and even some interesting mechanical features, like a window display with moving figures drinking tea at a table. There was even a giant clock! “Giant” referring both to size and to the fact that it had two figures of mythical giants – Gog and Agog – who took turns chiming the hour on their own bells. Another colorful feature of Melbourne was the abundance of street. We saw some really cool graffiti, cartoons, and political statements on the walls of the city. One final noteworthy tidbit about Melbourne was that a few intersections (and I really mean just a small handful) had changed the figures of the “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” signals to women, instead of men. I personally found it completely delightful.

The day trips we took were really nice. I’ve talked a bit about the wine adventures, so I don’t think there’s much left to talk about with that. Although, I will note that I enjoyed how different the wineries were. Steele’s Gate was small; super classy on the inside but full of flowers and countryside on the outside. Balgownie was large and spread out; they were a full outfit, complete with fireplaces and a restaurant with multiple dining rooms. The third one was rustic; our guide said something to the effect of it having a “classic Australian farm feel” to it. I’m inclinded to agree, but I’ll also say that its log cabin and barn aesthetic certainly also reminded me of a few Virginia wineries we’ve visited. The last stop was Chandon, which was a lot like the Chandon we’d been into Napa Valley: swanky, sleek, and just as sparkling as its wines. Beautiful views and delicious bubbly, but it’s also the kind of place that makes you wish you’d dressed better.

The second day trip – our journey along the Great Ocean Road – was nice, but I mostly just remember being COLD. See, I walked out of our hotel that morning wearing my leather flats, thinking that they’d be comfortable for the small amount of walking we’d be doing but also cute enough to not look overly chunky or touristy. What I wasn’t prepared for was rain. Typically, shoes like these will do okay in rain, but I found out – when it was too late to go back and change – that both shoes had splits in their soles, so the water on the sidewalks and roads was sloshing up INTO the shoes. Also, it was colder and windier than the forecast suggested it would be, and our driver did not seem terribly inclined to run the heat in the van we were on. My saving grace was that we stopped fairly early on for a restroom and coffee break at a little travel plaza that had a surprisingly big store in it. They sold all kinds of wares, including these fuzzy slipper-type boots that had a white-and-black checked pattern on the outside and cheap fake fleece on the inside. The soles were not necessarily going to take me up any mountains, but everything else about them would keep my feet dry and warm for the coastal pathways we’d be walking on that day. So from that point on, my feet were at least more comfortable.

Aside from that, it was a nice day of seeing some beautiful coastline and impressive rock formations. We also made a stop at a place where we saw about five koalas just, ya know, hanging out. It wasn’t really a park or a zoo, just a little neighborhood where one of the two types of eucalyptus that koalas eat happens to grow. There were also a bunch of cockatoos and parrots that would sit on people’s shoulders and heads; we enjoyed those immensely. Our adventure that day concluded with another Chinatown meal and a trip to a kitschy rum bar with fancy and delicious cocktails.

Other than the Cricket Grounds and the nice meal – both of which have been chronicled in other posts – one of the bigger stops we made I he actual city of Melbourne was the Old Melbourne Gaol. This was fascinating because of how well preserved parts of the building are. Well, and it’s just a really well done museum. They had a lot of death masks from people who’d been hanged there, and many of them were accompanied with stories of the person and their case. There was also quite a bit about Ned Kelly, a famous outlaw in Australia that brought to mind, for me, Jesse James. Brandon and I were especially drawn to a story in the gaol about a man who’d been convicted of murder and rape of a young girl and insisted on his innocence; years later, DNA evidence exonerated him, and people have set out to find who the real killer was. Another feature of the gaol was the adjacent “watch house,” a kind of holding-cell facility for people either awaiting trial or awaiting sentencing. For that, you are actually brought in and treated like a gang of offenders who were being thrown in the clink together, so a little bit of acting and playing along are required; obviously, I enjoyed that.

Our final stop in Melbourne before flying out to Sydney was a brewery that Brandon had scoped out prior to our trip. They had some really nice beers, and we enjoyed some yummy toasties for lunch. Because of the way our day worked out, we were able to hang out there for quite awhile, leisurely enjoying beer and lunch. Our flight out of Melbourne wasn’t until about 8pm, but we got there nice and early. Turns out, that was probably not necessary because it ended up delayed til around 9:30. Our delayed arrival into Sydney really affected us getting to hotel (and therefore to bed) at a reasonable time, which then affected our plans for the first day in Sydney. But that’s a different city for a different post. :)

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