As mentioned in my Christmas post, out next stop was Melbourne, where we stayed in the lovely little town on the outskirts called Sunbury. We spent 11 days being spoilt rotten by the Pike’s – living luxuriously, using a real washing machine and shower, being fed at every opportunity and taken on several sightseeing excursions. All in all, we had a fantastic and much needed relax after being on the go for the last two months. We spent a lot of time lazing around and taking full advantage of the home comforts that we had once taken for granted, but we did get up to a few things!
Melbourne itself was very accessible. A quick train ride took us straight into the centre amongst the hustle and bustle of the city streets and dinging of local trams. It appears to be a fairly European looking city, and it was easy to understand why it was an area well loved by tourists and expats alike – a little taste of home perhaps.
We visited The Queen Victoria Market on a very rainy morning and took cover amongst the vast stalls. I even found some bunnies, which of course made my day. Other tourist destinations were ticked off our list with a wander down the main streets towards the likes of postcard worthy Flinders Street Station alongside St Paul’s Cathedral and Federation Square. Being the avid adventurers that we are (not), we mainly wandered the streets and took in the sights. Of course with food stops along the way and a sneaky drink on The Yarra River on our walk to an area called The Docklands which provided stunning views of the city, as well as a peek at some rather expensive yachts!
On one trip into the city we were accompanied by our Aussie tour guides. We had the advantage of a car this time, which worked in our favour as we took an air conditioned driven tour of some landmarks that we had previously missed. We had been hoping to see the city by night, and we weren’t disappointed. We were able to go into one of the girls office buildings, the second tallest building in the city, and watch the sunset and the streets light up. Definitely not something you’ll find on trip advisor, but a wonderful experience.
One of my favourite features of the city was the cobbled arcades lined with street art. Many cities are lined with graffiti, but the pictures around Melbourne are far from acts of vandalism. Artists from around the world travel to make their mark on doorways and concrete. In some areas, you could see the proof of its popularity by the thickness of the paint building up. The quality of the work was incredible, especially for work on such a large canvas. Colourful, vibrant and impossible to not enjoy.
We journeyed with the Pike’s inland to a town called Echuca, which looked much like the scene of a Old Western film, and as though nothing had changed in the streets for a long time. The old port mining town still showcased traditional trades with a working blacksmiths yard and local wood turners. The river was also a home to many steam paddle boats. An afternoon was well spent with the girls window shopping and the guys heading to the car museum and then the pub of course.
A huge highlight of this leg of our trip was seeing The Great Ocean Road. Two cars headed out for the day and drove up to the iconic 12 Apostles. Apparently, there have actually only ever been seven apostles, and there are now only six as one fell down a few years ago. Nevertheless, the picture was postcard perfect. As though seeing this natural marvel wasn’t enough, we got to see it from the air too. We took a helicopter flight over the sea and took in views of not only the rocks beneath us. But a pod of dolphins playing below. This was particularly exciting for me as I had never been in a helicopter before! It was a very odd sensation, especially on taking off, as it didn’t even feel as though we were moving much. The journey turned a bit more “white knuckle” when the pilot swooped found a corner and took the helicopter on its side a little!
Of course, it goes without saying that easily the best part of our stay in Melbourne was the company and kindness of our amazing hosts. The Pike’s invited us to stay with them months ago when they spotted our travel plans on Facebook. Being James’s extended family, they obviously knew him previously, however only as a child some 10 years ago. They had never met me before and I had merely conversed with one over messenger a little in the months leading up to our trip, however I can honestly say it was like meeting up with old friends. Chris and Grant welcomed us into their home, shared meals, beers, stories and old home videos with us (as well as their adorable cat Bella) and Chris took to doing our washing and ironing too! Both Mel and Kath ran us around sightseeing and shopping and Andrew provided a wonderful afternoon tour of the city that he should be charging for (you’ll get a five star review on Trip Advisor). Then of course there was Abby, who was so shy and quiet when she picked us up at the airport, but very quickly got used to our presence and provided us with hours of entertainment, as well as a bit of exhaustion. The whole group made us feel so at home, which was so wonderful and much needed after being away from home!
Thank you guys so so much for giving us the best Aussie Christmas, and for looking after the pair of us. It was by far the hardest goodbye yet, and I’m not ashamed to admit I had a few tears at the airport after hugs and farewells! It’s funny how people that barely know each other can just “click” and enjoy each other’s company so greatly. We are hopeful that we will see you again soon – be it on your side of the world or ours! We certainly owe you and can’t wait to repay the favour of running you around and feeding you local delicacies (hope you like kebabs!).
We miss you lots already! Until next time…