Day Forty Six – Wednesday –Sydney- Melbourne
Drove to Sydney airport, dropped of the Hertz rental car. Checked in – option to go on an earlier flight so jumped at it, only negative was we weren’t sitting together. As we queued to board Kerrie made way for a woman to join the queue and found out her seat was next to Kerrie so she swapped with AW. What are the chances of that on an air bus! The hour or so we thought we saved disappeared into thin air as only one runway was operating and there was a huge queue for take-offs, sat at the terminal for an hour before taxiing to the end of the runway and waiting there.
Finally arrived in a noticeably chilly Melbourne, caught shuttle into town. Frances and Miranda waiting for us in hotel foyer. That evening at Miranda’s suggestion, we went to the Queen Victoria winter markets for dinner – only on a Wednesday night!!
Got there early which meant we got our food without waiting in long queue. Went for Moroccan lamb and vegie stew with couscous, washed down with mulled wine. Shared table with a Kiwi who does tourist tours of the markets who said it was the most popular tourist destination in Melbourne! Lots of stalls – mixture of food and clothing, plus live music and cinema showing short films, very atmospheric, especially as night fell and all the lights made it feel very Christmassy! Delightful evening. Only disappointment was having a room with connecting door (again) and a crying baby (again!!!)
Day Forty Seven – Thursday –Melbourne
Miranda arrived with Chloe her NZ café work mate (originally from Cambridge) who has since moved to Melbourne for a change and because her grandmother is here.
Had breakfast in an arcade café with Italian décor and atmosphere with a wonderful healthy menu, most of us had salmon and poached eggs – the waiter/owner said he had the best coffee and almond croissants in the city but unfortunately none of us could fit them in!
We then walked to the Edgar Degas exhibition at NGV opposite the Botanical Gardens.
Very comprehensive exhibition, with many ( but not all) of his celebrated works featuring ballerinas and the Paris demi-monde, an artist committed to portraying lives of ordinary people.
His life covered an incredible period of France’s history including the rebellion of the communards in 1871 ( Degas was a sympathiser) and the Dreyfus affair ( Degas was convinced of his guilt).
Miranda and Chloe had to leave as Miranda had a class to attend before AW, Kerrie and Frances had finished. Kerrie was the last one to finish which flabbergasted AW as she is usually the first out the door –all agreed exhibition was fantastic.
We also took in two New Zealand exhibitions – quite original animated and photographic interpretations of Maori life and the voyage to Aotearoa. The latter involved light box photos of a group of Samoans re-enacting the classical painting by Gericault, the Raft of Medusa, challenging Goldie and Steele’s painting of starving, emaciated Polynesian voyagers.
AW, K and F had coffee then walked 20 mins along river front to factory stores in a huge three storey building. AW and K bought Icebreaker tops at vastly discounted prices, much cheaper than NZ. Walked back to respective rooms for a rest and to dump purchases before meeting Miranda in foyer for dinner at 6.30pm. With a few recommendations from the hotel receptionist, we wandered along the main street of Chinatown checking their menus as we found them, but decided on a very popular Chinese restaurant down a side street. We were seated right in front of the kitchen so could see them making their dumplings before ordering two very different house specialties plus a delicious minced pork and eggplant dish. Food was very fresh and flavoured with interesting spices. Wandered in search of gelato on the fourth floor of an extremely expensive and upmarket arcade near our hotel. We stopped at a very expensive tea ‘shoppe’ to view hilarious teapots, and the amazing variety of teas.
Miranda headed off to catch a bus home and we three had a cuppa in the room over which we discussed the benefits of having an apartment or terrace in the city – making it easier for us to come and enjoy the many attractions anytime! Time to buy another lotto ticket.
Day Forty Eight – Friday –Melbourne to Kyneton
A and K stored bags, then Frances (with bag) and A and K took a taxi to Miranda’s house. Weather overcast, with rain threatening. Walked to a café Miranda had discovered just the other day, very creative combinations of flavours and foods.
Frances said her goodbyes (flying back to NZ in the afternoon). AW found a traditional barber and got a traditional haircut, an Italian from Calabria. We walked around Melbourne University with Miranda guiding us through some of the Arts buildings including a futuristic one that had just opened this semester.
Rain now persistent, too wet to walk with only one umbrella between three of us, so had tea and a cake then headed back to Lygon Street where we went to the cinema and watched “Swiss Army Man” – possibly the weirdest film we’ve seen – a moral fable that challenges your sensibilities, confronts all your taboos and by making you feel uncomfortable and by pricking your conscience, forces you to think about your life, attitudes and the human condition. Unlikely to be a commercial blockbuster, but definitely worth seeing.
Back to Miranda’s house for her to pack her bag for the weekend in Kyneton, the three of us and Chloe walked to the restaurant where we were to meet Jack and Karen. Although very popular, we weren’t impressed with the food ( the pasta hadn’t been cooked to ‘al dente’ perfection). Jack arrived looking very smart and fresh faced. Karen was delayed at work so we had to order for her.
Karen always eats at her favourite restaurant, this was a different one for her, and we wished we had gone to her regular one! Food was average, menu extensive, promising much but under delivering in quality. However, good to see everyone and share a meal together before driving back to Kyneton. Two stops on the way first, one to pick up Miranda’s bag, the second to pick up A and K’s bags from our hotel, the Swanston Mercure, (tricky as we had to drive through Chinatown and traffic at a crawl due to Friday night diners and shoppers).
Dan and dogs met us on arrival at the farm, raining but wonderfully quiet. Cup of tea and a chat before bed, Squeaky very excited to see us – AW had heard much about this handbag dog but first time meeting the pint sized character. Noticed kangaroos near house, Dan said they were often seen on this side of the dam and their numbers had grown substantially. Really in plague proportions, eating lots of feed and breaking down fences, but you’re not allowed to cull without a license and you have to leave the carcasses where they drop – bizarrely.
Day Forty Nine – Saturday – Kyneton
Karen brought us a cup of tea in bed with Squeaky paying us a visit. Karen went off to her French class and we had a slow start to the day. Miranda appeared in the kitchen mid-morning with her face covered in a white face mask. This was Andrew’s first visit and he really was very taken with the timber interior, very Scandinavian as well as the country kitchen and its Aga style oven/wet back. Weather misty, very much like England, and the paddocks greener than Kerrie can ever remember.
Karen arrived back about 11am with Mum.
The five of us drove to a café at Malmsbury for lunch.
Back to Kyneton where we went for a walk on the roads around the farm, and saw the baby llama born that day sitting next to its mother amongst the sheep, Squeaky wanted to go with us but Dan said no as the sheep were lambing and dogs can separate the mothers from their young and the mothers then don’t accept the young back.
Back to the farm to prepare the food for dinner that night – marinated lamb chops.
Lovely dinner with neighbours, Ari and Christina – she, an anthropologist specialising in linguistics, especially Tibet where she did her PhD, currently working as advisor on a WA Aboriginal Land Rights claim. Great discussion on a wide range of topics from origins of violence versus imagination and creativity in homo sapiens to the inadequacy of the legal system to comprehend and adjudicate scientific evidence.
Day Fifty – Sunday – Kyneton
Took Barbs/Mum out for coffee, visited her rest home. Walked around Kyneton – some very attractive shops – artisan and design, lovely looking restaurants and coffee shops. Clear signs that Kyneton has become a popular weekend and holiday option for Melburnians. Checked out the storage lock up and the furniture (display cases) that we’re interested in shipping over to Wanaka. Look very solid and would fit well.
Back to the farm – Karen and we went for a longer walk – 6-7kms, up through the bush to a ridge road that took us through a conservation area, looking for koalas but didn’t see any. Accompanied by Squeaky and Spanner – the latter went off chasing kangaroos and re-appeared five hours later at the farm!! Lovely walk – a car stopped to ask for directions – the Census officer delivering forms for next week.
A quiet evening playing scrabble.
Day Fifty One – Monday 1st August – Kyneton/Melbourne – Ireland
HALF WAY!!! At midday – we are exactly half way through our trip, 50.5 days.
Non-stop rain – so we decided to take it slowly, packing and prepping for the 36-hour trip ahead of us. Dan drove us to the train station and we bid farewell before heading into Melbourne. Stashed our bags in lockers and went to find a tram to Lygon street where we’re meeting Miranda in her break. Asked 7-8 people in a row which tram to catch – none of them knew – none were locals!! Managed to find out eventually and met up with Miranda in the Italian restaurant where she works (Universal). Said our farewells to Miranda who we’ll see next for Christmas, then walked up Lygon to Tiamo – another Italian restaurant where we were to meet Karen. Had a lovely meal (calamari) then hopped in the car and Karen kindly drove us to Tullamarine. More farewells – then checked in to the Qantas A380, absolutely chokka flight. Luckily Kerrie had an empty seat next to her (one of very few). What wasn’t so good was that three toilets were out of order! Which meant there were only four available for the entire economy section downstairs – roughly calculated to hold 300-340 people!! This was appalling and a near disaster as queues formed rapidly and the toilets soon became very messy. Yuk! We asked why they hadn’t been fixed and were told they’d known they were out of order but decided to take off anyway to stay on time. Worse still, we were told it was most unlikely they’d be fixed in Dubai during the two hour stopover – and of course we were continuing on the same flight to Heathrow! However we survived, managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep – watched The Man from Uncle which was schlock but fun, slickly directed and wisely self parodying. Also finally got to watch the documentary, Racing Extinction which was excellent – and disturbing. The images of rare and endangered wildlife on sale, being prepared and eaten were horrifying (mostly in Hong Kong and China). The message – “do one thing”.