Australia, Days 1 to 7 - Melbourne
Updated: Mar 21
The one with all the family
Our first two days in Melbourne were spent catching up with my brother and his family. They have been here just over 20 years since he married my sister-in-la who comes from Melbourne originally. Whilst they have been backwards and forwards since they moved here, this is the first time circumstances have allowed me to visit. It's been lovely catching up with them and we will be spending more time with them later in the week.
The weather since we arrived has been very British - it has rained since we got here, however on our first day as tourists on Sunday we had blue skies for a while so ventured to the Royal Botanical Gardens which was about 15 minutes walk away from where we are staying in Richmond. If I were comparing Richmond to somewhere it would be Shoreditch I think; it's very buzzy, has lots of restaurants and shops and is very good for public transport.
The gardens, unlike Kew in London, are free. We have discovered that Melbourne is a pretty green space on the whole. Exercising in the Gardens is banned, but there's so many other areas for people to run and cycle around the city. This means that the gardens have a mostly peaceful feel - we saw lots of families picnicking but no ball games destroying the peace. There are only two cafes in the gardens though so you need to make sure you carry something to drink with you. We really only scratched the surface of the gardens, as by the time we came out the other side we were looking for lunch. After lunch we moved on to the Lanes to see the famous graffiti. We walked everywhere today with the exception of an uber in the middle of the day when MrS's knee gave up for a while but tomorrow we will investigate getting a Myki card, which is kind of like an Oyster card.
Today took us first to our nearest station to investigate the Myki card. Getting around on public transport in Melbourne is really easy, you have the option of trams and trains and if you can't get one you can just as easily get the other, they work on a tap and go basis but you do need a Myki card, you can't use your debit/credit card like in London. Once we'd purchased our cards we set off on the tram to The Lume, to see the French impressionist installation Monet and Friends. It was absolutely beautiful and well worth an hour of anyone's time. We spent time wandering along the Southbank of the Yarra River, and then hopped on a boat tour up to the docklands area and around the dock. The sun was out by the time we hopped off again so we headed back to our apartment on the tram via a lovely local roof top bar, The Corner. Pubs aren't called pubs here, they're called hotels. On my sister-in-law's recommendation we ate at a small Mexican restaurant tonight and by 9pm we could barely keep our eyes open again. Two days of 16000 steps in the bag!
Much easier on the legs today - my brother took the day off work to take us to the Yarra valley. First stop was Yering Station winery for a 6 glass wine tasting. We didn't discover anything earth shattering until the sommelier whipped out a bonus wine, at which point purchase were made! We lunched on amazing antipasti and pizza at another winery just down the road called Soumah and after we decided to visit Four Pillars Gin for a tasting paddle and more purchases were made. I felt a bit sorry for my brother watching us drink all day (it's character building apparently!) but we did make a fair dent in his own wine collection once we returned to his house for dinner!
Today we went to the Mornington Peninsula, specifically Sorrento. It's a beautiful town nestled right on the peninsula of Phillip's Bay, the giant bay on which Melbourne sits. It took about two hours to drive down there but my brother drove us and we had a relaxed day taking in the beaches, and a walk around Sorrento. It's interesting to see so many independent stores, while in the UK every town and city hight street seems to offer nothing different these days. MrS had requested a beach with waves and my sister in law had taken this seriously, taking us to Back beach first. It was beautiful and reminiscent of South Africa, and even Cornwall. However what Cornwall doesn't have is March Flies, which instantly made a tasty treat of MrS. We have come well prepared for bugs here, given himself's much documented issue with swelling up like a balloon when bitten, but we hadn't reckoned with these on a windy beach! Lesson learnt. He has been instructed not to leave the apartment without full bug kit in future!
There is, obviously, a big asian influence on food here, and we left it to the locals to choose our dinner venue. Lucy Liu is in the Lanes, and you wouldn't know it was even there if you weren't looking, entering down a tiny incongruous alley way. As our first "proper" dinner out here in Australia it was a really great choice and we enjoyed it so much there are no photos, sorry.
Because we needed to pack up and clean the apartment, our last day in Melbourne featured a brief visit to Queen Victoria Market. What a fantastic place, if I lived in Melbourne I like to think I would shop there! We wandered around for a few hours and sampled bratwurst (him) and borek (me) and also a sneaky couple of pints of craft ale. It's packed with fresh fruit and veg, and terrific fresh fish stalls. There are delis and bakeries with more tasty things than you can shake a stick at. They also do a weekly 'summer nights' market on a Wednesday evening.
Tonight night we said farewell to my brother and family with the promise that we will be back to say a proper goodbye at the end of our trip in March.
Our accommodation in Melbourne was booked through Air BnB, it was in Richmond, which we found to be a really good area to stay. The public transport links are excellent and there is so much on offer locally, with good food, pubs (hotels!) and shopping. As we were staying for a week we wanted a good size apartment with full facilities, including a washing machine and dishwasher, which this had. It was a great choice, both for size, cleanliness, comfort and location. Highly recommend the apartment, and Richmond as an area to stay in, although we were set back from the Main Street which I think would make a difference.
Tomorrow we start our drive to Sydney...