Sunday 6th September

The morning sunshine revealed that our upgraded status had provided a balcony in addition to our larger bed!  It was a shame we weren’t going to be staying long enough to use it! Nevertheless we appreciated the sentiment.

Our breakfast was perfectly cooked.  I ate my poached eggs, eyeing the mountain of food being consumed by the young man across the way.   The plate veritably groaned under the weight and it almost had to have extension boards on each side to hold it all up!  He was as thin as a reed of course!! I couldn’t help but have that ‘ah but wait until you are older’ thought pass through my head!! I am becoming Mrs Bouquet!

Breakfast over we left the good offices of Bateman Bay Manor and were able to see where we were – perched up on a hill with several other large establishments with drives as big as the lane we arrived down. This caused some initial confusion as we couldn’t get out of the area!! Stupid girl! When we found the correct route we crossed a rather attractive river with lovely reflections in it

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Having overcome this early challenge, we wandered along to downtown Batemans Bay to see what it was all about.  What we found was a town with all the trappings of a holiday resort in a quite dramatic setting in that the sea appeared to come in through the town along a wide river.  A sort of huge inlet.  We drove up to a spot along the river side close two young men were fishing. The water in front of us was a bit odd in that it seemed to have fast moving wrinkles.  It took us a little time to realise that what we were watching were a ‘pod’ or a ‘school’ of Dolphins. (I had to ask for the collective term – my wordsmith did not fail me!) it was not very much later that our two fishermen starting packing together their equipment – the Dolphins were consuming all the fish in their path!

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It was an amazing sight.  Another new experience on a trip that seems to give new experiences at every turn!

It was then back on the road.  Wendy and Sarah had recommended two possible stops on our journey as it is not too far in terms of Kilometres – what we had not legislated for was that it was Fathers Day in Australia.  This coupled with our getting closer to Sydney meant a lot more people around.  However the drive was delightful – the landscape more akin to Derbyshire than anywhere else we decided.  Soft rolling hills and green meadows.  Still the interestingly named creeks appearing at regular intervals.

Berry our first stop, was a very bustling town.  We arrived around lunchtime and it was buzzing.  We visited the bakers recommended and bought ourselves a couple of rolls and then, finding things too bustley we moved on to Kiama.  By this time the day had become overcast but we sat on the headland munching the rolls filled with delicious smoked fish we had purchased in Eden and watched some young lads practising their surfing manoeuvres in the bay below us.

Kiama being equally full of celebrating families we moved on to our last port of calll Wollongong  it was only a few kilometres away but we had the distinct feeling of getting towards the city.  We passed major road improvements, the highway had increased to two lanes and our creeks and tree lined roads were in the past.

Our accommodation was also back to ‘city fayre’ in that we had a suite of rooms with cooking facilities.  The good thing was that the sea was not far away and we wandered through a ‘family resort village’ to find the beach   Here we looked out on what tankers and container ships that must have been at anchor on the Sydney ‘roads’ waiting to berth in Sydney.   We were very close to the metropolis.  The sandy beach was empty except for a lone figure looking out to sea.

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We decided not to intrude on her contemplation and turned back to the apartment taking advantage of the limited supplies provided at the ‘resort’ shop for supper.

We then spent an entertaining of television.  The first Australian viewing we have done.  First a Grand Designs we had not seen and then the Australian equivalent of Strictly.  It was awful!!!!  We are going to have to report back to the Strictly Culture a club in Peckfam Bush that we have a far superior offering!!!

Saturday 5th September Lakes Entrance to Batemans Bay

Les had already left when we got up, he had apparently just caught the 5.30 bus that would start his journey to Adelaide where he was to spend the next week doing some jobs around his daughter’s house.  At 8.30 when Darolyn arrived with her basket of breakfast goodies we had already been entertained by the Rosella parrots on the veranda – both adults and some youngsters who had yet to develop their red plumage. image image

The breakfast was to the same high standard and magically produced in the little kitchen in the corner of the room. Throughout we chatted to Darolyn and heard more tales of the family and the highlights and one or two lowlights of running an establishment like Goldsmith’s in the Forest. While we were talking there was a lyrebird bathing in the pond just outside the window.  It was all fascinating and difficult to tear ourselves away from.   We must go back and stay longer – it is a real treasure of a location.  Sadly we had to move on.  There was a long drive ahead as our next stop was Batemans Bay –  the holiday location of the Canberra glitterati we were told, but it was nearly 400 kilometres away.

Reluctantly we said our farewells and after a brief call into Lakes Entrance itself with its black swans and attractive waterside, we were back on the Princes Highway, getting ever closer to Sydney.  The road continued its meandering, sometimes following the coast and sometimes somewhat inland.  We were constantly crossing creeks with very unlikely names, some recalling those early pioneers and some obviously in aboriginal language. The morning progressed into midday and then early afternoon when we reached a place called Eden where we had been told whales had been sighted.  It is apparently the time when they move up from their Antarctic habitat.  Eden is a big fishing port and we found a cafe where we purchased a fish sandwich a took it to the look out point on the headland.

As we were finishing our lunch overlooking the sea, a lady returning to her car next to us said that the white recurring wave just off the end of the promontory we were looking at was a hump backed whale.  Great excitement, but Keith even with his birthday binoculars was not prepared to commit himself to agreeing.  So we shall never know.  Perhaps we saw a whale, perhaps we did not.  Who can tell?  It was a lovely view anyway!image image

If you look very carefully you can just see a speck of white just off the end of the headland…….!

And so we drove on through the afternoon – the scenery was glorious.  As the afternoon progressed the tree lined road opened out and it looked more and more like the Lake District.  The drive is definitely a very close second to the Great Ocean Road for us.   It was beautiful – the route often crossing wider rivers as we got further north.  The sun was gradually setting to our left and the colours and reflections were amazing.  It eventually began to get dark and we were running through towns and more built up areas and around 6.30 we reached Batemans Bay but could see little of it in the dark.

Our accommodation was a hacienda style establishment a little way out of town.  I was pleased to get out and stretch my legs. Our hostess, Rhonda, greeted us enthusiastically (she had called at about 5.30 to confirm that we were going to arrive!) and was keen to tell us she had upgraded us at no extra cost – showing us our original room before taking us to our new upgraded ‘king sized’ location. Everything was absolutely pristine.

Knowing that the Batemans Bay Manor did not supply an evening repast, we had purchased some prawns at Eden and we dined on these with lemons helpfully provided by Rhonda.

The Bateman Bay Manor residents Handbook was an absolute hoot. It took the form of a book of regulations once you had read the ‘Welcome’ salutation!  Every situation was covered!  It was priceless – which the various items you could buy certainly were not. They came with a hefty dollar sign!

Nevertheless it was a lovely luxury after our long drive and our king sized bed even had a dual control electric blanket!

Friday 4th September leaving Melbourne and on to Lakes Entrance.

The day dawned bright over the city.

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We did did our final packing and George arrived.  Thank goodness for George!  We were able to stow our bags and, surprisingly, the still nearly full box of wine in his car and be delivered to the door of the car hire company and then to the tail gate of our hire car. Fantastic!  With big hugs of thanks and fond goodbyes (George is one of my favourites) he was gone and we were ready to start the next phase of our journey.

In actual fact we decided not to leave the city straight away but instead to take advantage of our close proximity to the Victoria Market prior to setting off.  It is vast and sells everything from crabs to racks of lamb, from bags of bones for the dog to spices and  from clothes to souvenirs – all were available if you cared to buy them   We wandered the stalls sniffed the spices, marvelled at the immaculately displayed meat and bought tahini paste in case humous is required in Sydney. All nationalities seemed to be represented. I think in the end we agreed with Paul about the South Melbourne market having the edge but The Victoria market certainly had its own charm.

Having had our market sighting, it was time to take on the Melbourne traffic again. In actual fact it was fine. A few twists and turns and traffic lights and we were out on the freeway and four lanes of traffic. Initially, as we passed the suburbs of Melbourne, business was brisk on the road, but as this was left behind the number of lanes diminished and the number of vehicles with it and we were soon bombing along the M1 merrily.

I have to say there is a lot of attention to driver fatigue here and even catnap areas to pull off the road, which as a great cat napper I find very sensible. Eventually the M1 turned to the A1 and it was just a single lane in each direction but still the enquiries about sleepiness continued. I was very impressed.

We must have pulled away from the car park in Melbourne at circa 11.30. Around 1.30 we stopped for our ‘snack’, the left over cheese and an apple from the apartment. Keith said we should have a ‘light lunch’ as ‘tea’ would be served where we were going. Now I am not sure why this was or proved to be so irritating, but it did. It might have been that ‘tea’ to me is cups of tea and cake. I do not like either. Although I was not happy and was irritated, I went along with it. Irritation, hunger and martyrdom are not a good combination. By 3.00 I was spoiling for a fight. By 3.30 I had stopped talking altogether feeling it was best for all concerned. By four I was ready to do a murder. Keith was unhappy with the silence but did not realise it was his best option….

Just after 4.00 we turned off the road onto a sandy track. ‘Harrison’s Trak’ as it was labelled.  Soon after a kangaroo hopped across our path we made yet another turn and arrived at the Goldsmith’s In The Forest. It was lovely. All irritation dissipated. Les and Darolyn (!) were lovely and met us as we drove in. In no time bags were removed from the car and we were ushered into their garden room that was their guest accommodation. We were to be the only ones there for the night. We passed the entrance hall with its internal log cabin sauna and the free standing bath tub and then were into the dining/sitting room, hexagonal with its four bedrooms coming off it. The view in front of us through floor to ceiling glass, was the tall natural trees of the forest with a grassy clearing in front of it accessed, through glass doors,  to a deck where beautiful red plumed parrots waddled and picked up seeds.

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A true room within the forest. Aboriginal paintings and Les’s photographs of some of the birds and animals with whom they share the property adorned the walls. Chatting all the time Darolyn disappeared behind a screen to what proved to be a minute kitchen area and produced the ‘tea’. This proved to be biscotti and macaroons and buns, yes, but with tastes never experienced before. They were all from the forest or from her garden. Lemon myrtle, macadamia, orange and lemon. Nothing sweet or creamy. They were delicious and I felt totally ashamed of myself. Keith had researched and found this little bit of paradise, not wanting to tell me about it, but keeping it as a surprise and I had behaved like a spoilt child. Hmmmmmm.

Anyway, no time for dawdling and recriminations (anyway Keith was looking a bit smug!) we were whisked off for a walk around the forest with Les as our guide after Darolyn had shown us around the special trees she had planted and used in her cooking from her garden area. Nearly all had had their lower limbs decimated by deer, kangaroo, wombat and any number of creatures who had seen her efforts as an invitation to dine. Poor woman. She just laughed,  but it was the frustration of years battling with the wildlife. However, a solution was at hand. A huge area of the garden was in the process of being fenced and netted off and new trees were being planted. We have seen these areas before (Ross and Jenny had one in Adelaide). We were later to learn that a hard won inheritance had allowed this and other developments to take place on the property.   Previously they had just fought a daily battle.

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It was a great perambulation as we wandered along paths paved with a soft but bright green moss and Les told us of the early settlers to the land who had found it so difficult to make it habitable. At every few yards he stopped to tell us about a tree or crunch a leaf for us to smell or taste. There were all sorts of wattle trees, laurels of different types and, I thought surprisingly, bracken that looked very British, but is apparently native. Les told us of how the aborigines had used the trees and plants, the issue of fire and trees that lose their bark, we had sightings of birds – there were a lot of owls and parrots – and we saw evidence of wombat burrowing – it was a lovely walk and very interesting.

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Les and Darolyn have lived on the 60 acre property for 35 years and brought up two children there. They were both primary school teachers but gave this up to run Goldsmith’s in the Forest. Darolyn having taken herself off to Melbourne to train as a chef as part of the venture.

When we got back it was dusk and the logs that Les had thrown on the huge log burner in the sitting room had roared into life. Les withdrew and left us to a lovely sofa in front of the fire to read about wombats and look at the other interesting reading about the place. It was lovely.

At 7.00 they returned with a basket of supplies and while Les chatted as he lay the table Darolyn in an incredibly short space of time cooked us an amazing meal. John Dory with a potato stack of dauphinois potatoes, thin whole carrots, celeriac cream, asparagus and sweet potato crisp garnish accompanied by home made ‘music’ bread and soft rolls. This was followed by individual date and walnut pudding home made lemon mousse and macadamia ice cream with a sauce to die for. It was unbelievably scrummy.

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Having eaten and chatted our way through this and Darolyn and Jenny finding themselves kindred spirits on the food stakes, our hosts adjourned as discretely as they had arrived and we were left to the cracklings fire and the sound of frogs…….. It was very special.

Thursday 4th September

it was quite a bright morning first thing but quite cool as we headed off to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground)  to meet with Helen and George. The boys were going for a tour of the ground (it is vast and holds 100,000 spectators!) and the sports museum while Helen and I did a tour of the young Australian designers fashion shops.  We left them very excited in the safe hands of a volunteer called Malcolm, decked out in a vey posh striped jacket, who was to be their guide and we scampered off towards the Fitzroy area.

We had a real girly amble along the designer shops. Mostly the shops were filled with everything in all shades of black and grey. We got very excited when we found someone with some colour in their collection.  It was a rarity. There were some marvellous designs – all made for the woman of 7 ft 6ins and above!  We visited a wonderful jewellery designer – as Keith says, we save a fortune because my ears aren’t pierced!  The other shop that really impressed me was the hat shop. Inside was an extremely dapper chap, beautifully turned out wearing a splendid hat.  We chatted hats with him and found that they made some of the hats at the rear of the shop. Apparently you just can’t get tricorn hats any more?!  I can only guess there is not so much call for them as there are fewer pirates about……  Always good to know where to get them wen you want them though, isn’t it?

On from here we headed back towards the city where I was chuffed to realise I recognised a few places!  We stopped for Helen to have a coffee and later I paid a lovely Irish man to clean my boots. He made a wonderful job of them – I felt quite ashamed of their dusty state before!

By then it was time to meet up with the chaps again.  We had agreed to meet at Movida as we had enjoyed such a great meal there earlier in the week.  Again we had lovely food there.  Unfortunately H has a very bad cold and I don’t think she got the best out of it.  I think George enjoyed it though and we certainly did. We felt rather abashed that they paid, but it was lovely of them

It was then time to say goodbye to Helen.  We will see George again as he has kindly offered to take us to pick up the car on Friday which is a real boon.  Helen and George are determined to return to Europe, but sadly at this stage they cannot leave her elderly mother, so it could be a few years until we see them again.

As it was still fairly early in the afternoon, after a quick visit to the information centre to get a map for the next phase of our travels,  Keith and I decided to go to the Ian Potter gallery to see an exhibition of Indigenous Art and were pleased we did. It was excellent.  There have been no sightings of any aboriginal people Melbourne.

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The first picture is made of barbed wire and rusting bits of metal – and obviously a tribute to the aboriginal struggle  the second is a war mask –  a thing of beauty but no defence against the white man’s gun.

We we then set off for our last walk along the river to Richmond and it was home to get the dreaded bags and bags in order so that we can be as consolidated as possible for collection on the morrow.

Tuesday 2nd September – cooking for Al

We woke up to good news regarding the seat launching ceremony in Tollesbury in that it had gone well.  Curly’s perch has been declared open. An excellent result.

We were up very early to go to the South Melbourne market to purchase the ingredients for the meal Keith wanted to cook for Al For dinner.  I felt a little out of place in my bright orange cardigan amongst the blacks and greys of the city workers on the tram. However, despite being inappropriately dressed, we reached the market well before 9.00.

It is not the biggest market in town, but we were advised (Mr F again!) that it was the place to go for fresh food shopping. And so it proved. The meat, fresh fish and vegetables were superb and K was spoilt for choice in terms of what he should cook. In the end decisions were made, ingredients were found and purchased and we could stop for a bijou breakfast.

We found an even quicker tram route back and were soon swinging along Swan street with our bulging backs, with Keith itching to get his stock going. A rather domestic day ensued  in the apartment which was quite good as it had started to rain.  Keith cooked and I blogged and popped out for last minute purchases. Richmond feels very much our patch now.

by the time Al arrived (carrying what was very much a gamp rather than an umbrella) all was ready and we broke open the second bottle of champagne that he had very kindly bought on his first visit.

The evening took a very similar form to that of his previous evening with us –  except the food was much nicer!  More reminiscences of larks and antics and lots of laughter.  I think the pair of them were probably very naughty boys.  Al is still saying he is going to return to the UK but I wonder……

I adjourned early to leave them together. I wonder if we will ever see Al again……

Tuesday, 1st September – the first day of Spring in Australia.

We were up with the lark or perhaps it is the Noisy Miners here. George and Helen, friends we have stayed with frequently in Europe are looking for a new home in Melbourne and came to go out to breakfast and then go to see the house they are thinking of buying.   They are currently renting in the Fitzroy area so are not far away.

They came up to view our establishment which was showing itself at its best with sun pouring in all the windows. We then took off for the local bookshop cum Cafe in Swan Street around the corner where we all had eggs in various forms and with various accompaniments while we talked over what had happened since we saw them last.  There was a lot to catch up on!!

Breakfast over we strolled in the sunshine to their potential new home.   We had no arrangements to go in,  but Helen was keen to see whether it’s patio area would catch the winter sun.  We were able to see it from a number of angles, but it was difficult to identify exactly how much sun would be seen and when.  Having exhausted our speculation they came back to the apartment for some reviving water and for Helen to get a sighting of The Opal ring which I have not mentioned nor seen for some time myself.   It is beautiful!!

While we were discussing the house and it’s features, the estate agent rang to say that as a special concession she would be willing to let them visit the house again while the sun was shining (I think she is sweet on George!).  So Helen Keith and I went off to meet her.  I think George was sorely missed but he had a car registration issue to attend to.

The house was very modern, with a great deal of exposed concrete.  I think the architect had experienced real enjoyment in designing it –  it really optimised the light and space and had two courtyards opening out from rooms that would be fun in the summer  it also had a fireplace.  There were several bedrooms and the whole thing was beautifully presented, The sun poured into the house and to some extent onto the upper courtyard – I guess it would do it more in the summer.  It had a lot of charm.  it is to be sold by auction at the weekend, so even if they want it there is a chance they will be outbid  I would find that very difficult if it was something I had really set my heart on.  I guess it is in the hands of the gods

At this point we left Helen, having arranged to meet at the MCG on Thursday so that Keith and George can tour the cricket ground and Helen and I can go off to do girlie things .  We booked ourselves a table for dinner at Richmond Oysters said to be one of the best sea food restaurants in Melbourne on the way  (again Fanthorpe recommended!)  and toddled home for a break before our afternoon outing to the Botanical Gardens.

The sun shone as we set out across the river to the Gardens. They were lovely – as was the bride who it seemed had just got married there.    We came across the men just putting away the bridal arch and silver chairs that had obviously transformed the Melbourne botanical gardens on  a Tuesday afternoon into a wedding location.  Elsewhere a party of Japanese ladies kept disappearing into the undergrowth as they got up close and personal with the shrubs to have their photos taken.  It takes all sorts – I was fascinated as they emerged with nits of leave and sticks attached!

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We had our usual effect on the hot house plants in that the greenhouse had closed two minutes before we got there, ditto the cafe, but we loved the new fern grotto  the light was just extraordinary. The stag ferns though we’re not a patch on those we had seen in Jenny and Ross’s garden

Being Spring the camellias were out and other exotic Spring flowers.  A treat of an afternoon stroll.

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Our meal at Richnond Oysters was equally successful.  It was really busy and we were fascinated by people eating huge platters of sea food and following it up with paella!  Amazing!  We had a drink to Curly’s Perch which was being inaugurated at the same time in Tollesbury and hoping that the rain held off for the celebration.  We were sorry not to be there.

Our final excitement of the day was a telephone call to Justine and booking Coco and Micky to take us to the zoo in Sydney before they fly off to Adelaide to spend their holiday with Jenny and Ross which will be popular with all concerned.. Coco has a birthday before they go that will be fun not to say a little raucous no doubt!

Monday, 31st August Melbourne

We decided we would walk into the city along the Yarra River which meanders through it. Our route took us past a number of sports stadiums – there were noticeable remnants of both the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.  It all felt very sporty!

We arrived in Federation Square to find that, like most places these days, Monday is the new Sunday in Melbourne so a lot of things were closed.  However, the Treasures of the Hermitage exhibition was still on and we had not seen it in London so we opted for Catherine the Great and all that she entailed. It was really interesting and spurred us on to think we should get to St Petersburg next year as part of Keith’s birthday celebrations – not that we are going to do so much travelling…,,,,!

the Hermitage and its art and tales of Catgerine (did not quite get why she had to change her name from Sofia..) behind us, it was time for lunch  Paul had recommended a Tapas place but I had left my map with the details behind.  Nothing lost,  a quick Google and we were off to Movida   It was somewhere Keith had always wanted to go and is keen to get one of their recipe books so it would have been rude not to try it out.    It was excellent   I thought my chicken escabeche was the best ever   They also had their version of a Santiago Tart very much associated with the food on the pilgrimage where we met.  It had to be done – we shared one  it was nothing like anything we had in Galicia – it was nectar of the gods!

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I think this shows me enjoying it a bit too much ……

Lunch and a great conversation with some visitors from Perth, we wondered back along the river towards home, did a it of shopping for supplies and the a bit of rest and recuperation back at the apartment, prior to being picked up by Mr Fanthorpe again (this time in a rather posh truck – I am sure it has a name)  for ‘tea’ in the Vietnamese quarter and then an evening sightseeing tour of Melbourne.

it all worked very well. We picked up a bottle of wine on the way and then had a very good Vietnamese repast.  It was jolly good and even got me eating squid which did not taste of elastic bands. Yummy!

Our night tour of Melbourne with Paul showing us the city he loves gave us a very different view of Melbourne.  it has so many facets – the markets (Victoria -huge – and South Melbourne – THE place to go for food we were told), the botanical gardens, museums, art galleries, the war memorial and the race track.  All were pointed out and commented on.  We will never get to see them all in our time here but the tour around gave us a much better sense of the city

And so to bed! Another interesting day to tuck into the kaleidoscope that is proving to be the Australian experience!

Sunday 30th August. Melboune

we woke up in our rather stunning apartment – which feels very ‘New York loft’ or how I imagine one of those might be!  It is all very open plan and we have an amazing view over the city in the distance and in the middle foreground  the famous ‘MCG’ (Melborne Cricket Ground).

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The building started life as the Melbourne Kayser stocking factory!

Another amazing experience!

However, the amazing bits of the day were to come,  first the car had to be returned.  At my insistence we were up at the crack of dawn – my feeling being being that the church goers of Melbourne might be a bit more thin on the ground than the MCG football crowd the day before and might be a bit more lenient with me.  With a heavy heart I left the building – to find the sat nav got us there in one go – Avis were only 6 minutes away – tortured minutes they were but there were only 6 of them!

There were two lovely ladies at Avis and they took pity on our situation and gave us money off for the nasty Sat Nav which we did not expect and told us how to get back to base.   And so it was that we had our first tram ride.  Whilst we were not as yet convinced about Melbourne, everyone we met wanted to help and were lovely.

Back at our fourth floor eyrie we both made our preparations for our outings.  Keith was off to see a football match with his chum George and I was off to lunch with Paul Fanthorpe an old friend from PPP days.

I am not sure how much Paul paid for the sun to come out in time for him to pick me up in his open topped Ferrari – however much it was it worked and I was whisked off –  doing a bit of sightseeing on the way – to the  home in Caulfield North Melbourne that he shares with his friend Michael.  And what a home it was……..

a 60’s town house very tastefully  restored to its original glory and more.  It was beautiful.   One of the most stunning things for me was the hand made 60’s wallpaper shipped in from England…… In addition to the rich but tasteful decor were their two English Bulldogs, Miss Moneypenny and Mrs Slocombe ( we wondered how they called them back in the park!) – both rather awesome ladies who seemed devoted to sunbathing………

It was great to catch up with Paul, talk about old times – which he reminded me started 25 year ago! – old friends and acquaintances, family and experiences. It was just fantastic to see him doing so well. Michael was lovely too and very tolerant of our reminiscing.  He actually owns the house and played a major part in its renovation.  The art was flamboyant and interesting, the pool looked sparkly blue and inviting even to a non swimmer like me and I felt thoroughly spoilt just being there. Lunch was a delightful crab risotto followed.by barbecued Moreton Bay Bugs.  They were delicious. We have seen them on menus once or twice but not tried them  but they were just perfect ( now who has run out of superlatives?!)  I have to admit to feeling something of a country bumpkin in these surroundings, which rendered me somewhat quiet and thoughtful for the rest of the day……….

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As I was the keeper of the only key to the apartment, I arrived home before Keith and continued to catch up with the blog while watching the sun set over the city from the window

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Saturday 28th August Queenscliff to Melbourne

Another chilly day but quite sunny. Despite our best intentions we managed to miss the 10.00 am ferry by a whisker – but we were very early for the 11.00 am crossing!

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It was quite a large ferry when it arrived. It took about 45 minutes to get across to the Mornington Penisula – where Melbourne people have their weekend beach houses. It all looks very plush and the place is awash with vineyards and wine cellars.

We wanted to get some wine in so we stopped at Merricks General wine store. The two canines sitting patiently outsides belied the buzz going on inside.  They looked a bit like I felt as I was driving …….

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We arrived at a good time, in that there was space at the wine tasting counter and a fearsomely knowledgeable young lady took Keith on a detailed trip through the Merricks wine offerings. I could, of course, only sniff at the fumes and watch him get quite squiffy before he made his selection and we went off to have lunch while they packed our bottles away and another wave of ‘testers’ ‘took our place at the counter. It was a busy dining room with a large log fire blazing in the grate and a general air of good living about the place.

We lunched on a rather lovely soup of roasted cauliflower, leek and potato which was quite thick and absolutely delicious. It was then time to head for Meloume. That was another thing altogether .

The first bit was ok as we drove along a sandy track for about 6 kilometres. Then we joined the freeway and then we entered the city. Eeek!  All of a sudden I was knee deep in traffic and the sat nav which has never been totally reliable became totally incomprehensible. However, by some fancy footwork and a degree of tolerance by one or two drivers who, not to put to fine a point on it, I cut up – we were off the main road and into the area of ex factories/ now sort after loft apartments which is the modern and up and coming part of Melbourne called Richmond. This was fine – but the sat nav got us to the front of the building from which there was no access……. Several phone calls and Keith wandering on foot and we tracked down the lady with the keys who took us around the block to the vehicular access to the apartment. Great stuff!

we got all the bags and baggage and then it remained for us to get the car back to Avis. Then began one of the worst drives of my life…..  The said sat nav gave us three different routes to the address ranging from three minutes to fifty minutes.  An hour later we still had not arrived there and our full tank of petrol was fast becoming less than full.  We then called Avis whose directions still did not deliver us to the Avis office. We then abandoned all previous instructions and Keith took advice from a taxi driver – and we got there. Two minutes after the place had closed.

By this time I was in a state of not so mild hysteria as I realised that we had to go back through the traffic to the apartment area and find our way back again on Sunday.

We got back to the apartment building to find that the  parking permit we had been given expired the day before. I think we should draw a veil over the next hour until we had calmed down…..

Sadly our planned meal for Keith’s pal Al who he had not seen since 1988 had to be abandoned and plan B bought into play – the Indian Take Away.  Luckily Richmond is an area rich in eateries, so this was not difficult, but not quite what we had in mind  I was still a quivering wreck.

Nevertheless, we got ourselves together and Al duly arrived – a larger than life character in every respect.  I was engulfed in an enormous bear hug by a man twice my size, with a personality equally all enveloping!  After a hello drink the chaps went out to get the food and we had a great meal and it became clear that this was a friendship made with the deep roots of shared experience.  It was good to seem them both with tears of laughter running down their cheeks as they recounted and remembered incidents and people and bands and parties.  It was a real joy to watch  it had obviously been a real blast being around the two of them all those years ago.  At 11.00 I made a tactful exit to bed and I  understand the party broke up about 1.30……..