Monday, February 8, 2016

Melbourne, Australia

Monday February 8, 2016

Today we had an amazing day in Melbourne. We were very fortunate to have a private tour with not one, not two, but three private guides! Allow me to explain. Last spring Russell and I took a Mediterranean cruise aboard the Zuiderdam. At the table next to us in the dining room there was a group of six very fun and gregarious Aussies (three married couples). Well, we befriended them and when they mentioned that they were from Melbourne we said that we were going to be visiting there in 2016. They very graciously -- and probably very innocently -- offered to show us around and today -- some nine months later -- the bill came due! Note to all you readers out there -- don't offer because we just might take you up on it!

Coming in to port this morning 
Reunited in the car -- no Russell's not driving, Jill is. It's a right side driver car which caused Russell some angst as he sat in the passenger seat with no steering wheel or brake pedal.

Helen, Jill and Kaye
Famous meeting place in Melbourne-- the old train station
Federation Square (not a great photo sorry) The pavement is done up in outback colors.

Kaye, Jill and Helen picked us up at the pier and we had a brief drive to the downtown where we parked the car and proceeded to explore the city on foot. We walked first to Federation Square and then to a classic old bridge over the Yarra River. Next, we strolled through some of the shopping arcades, alleys and streets of Melbourne ending up in front of the City Hall where we observed an interesting display on vegetable gardening. At some point, we also stopped at a knitting/needlework shop. It was a big store in a tony location, had great yarns but the needlepoint, though there was a lot of it, was all printed and kitted designs. We also stopped for a coffee and a snack at an outdoor cafe before heading back to the car for the drive to Mornington Peninsula which is where Kaye, Jill and Helen live (with their husbands Neil, Lance and Mike respectively). The drive, along the very large (40 miles wide I think I read) and quite picturesque bay was an hour and a half but the ladies kept us entertained by pointing out the sights and explaining what we were seeing.

Arts center I believe 
Yarra River
Here we all are outside a shopping arcade

We stopped at a couple of gorgeous overlooks where we got some beautiful views up and down the coast. Fortunately for us the weather which had been rather cool and cloudy in the morning turned bright and sunny but still very comfortable temperature-wise by noontime.

Jill and Lance have a true outback car -- complete with a snorkel that ensures the engine still gets the requisite amount of air when fording a river -- don't laugh they actually do that!
Mornington Peninsula coastline
Beautiful water

Lunch was at Jill and Lance's house which has a terrific view of the water and a very large and comfortable outdoor space. The gents had cooked up a good old fashioned Aussie barbecue including numerous vegan options that the ladies had procured. They even went so far as to buy a barbecue cover so that our meal wouldn't be contaminated by their smokey, juicy, oh-so-good-looking burgers and sausages. I found plenty to eat (and drink) as is my want and thanks to their thoughtful generosity we were able to stick to our meal plan.

We almost caused Jill to have an accident as we screamed for her to stop so we could take this photo -- not of a koala but rather of a koala warning sign. (Note: only old people and the politically incorrect say koala bear -- you're supposed to just say koala -- so now you know!)
Our brush with the outback! Actually it's just a dirt road/shortcut that we took but I had you thinking there for a minute.
The view from Jill and Lance's patio is spectacular!

Unfortunately, time for us to leave came all too quickly and Helen and Mike took us back into the city (poor Helen went down and back to Melbourne twice in one day!). We were able to see some more of the countryside -- this time from the highway though. We made it back to the ship just in the nick of time as "all aboard" was at four o'clock (we had thought it was four thirty) and we didn't re-board until four twenty. We were very lucky that the ship hadn't sailed away already owing to a mandatory lifeboat drill for which we were also late. Fortunately, we have these terrific friends in Melbourne who I know would have helped us if we missed the boat, though I would have hated to impose on them any more than we already had. 

Helen points out the vegan options
The gang is reunited -- ten months and ten thousand miles later.

Such a nice, generous and friendly group of people! I feel that we have truly seen the "Best of Australia" and this was only our first day here!

Goodbye Melbourne (until we meet again)

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