Melbourne – Arriving and Exploring…

Arriving

After many hours of driving our arrival at Melbourne city centre, got off to an inauspicious start. We decided to return our car and use public transportation whilst in Melbourne. Thus started the real life nightmare. We’ve had a few instances with this car and frankly, was keen to see the back of it. Also, personally prefer to get about by bus, tram and train in cities. Can’t really understand why everyone doesn’t feel that way but by the amount of traffic in Melbourne, this clearly isn’t everyone’s opinion.

I located the office and car park on Google maps and we drove there. Simple. Unfortunately, we forgot to fill the stupid car up with petrol so I located a petrol station on G maps. Except it wasn’t one. It was a shop selling lots of lovely food. Also, during this time, I’d taken over driving, had a meltdown because of the trams, and was on navigation duties again. The mobile signal and or g maps continued to also have a meltdown so I attempted to evaluate the situation, and turn off the phone. Ho hum.

Another go at finding petrol failed miserably and we realised we would have to drive until we find one. Are you feeling panicked yet? Because I was giving up hope.

Two hours later we still hadn’t found one and the gauge was dropping. Eventually, we stopped outside the city and asked someone. Something my father used to do. Yes, it has been confirmed, google maps seems to go haywire in Melbourne. The man informed hubby of directions and we found a petrol station. Hooray.

The panic had set in and it was like one of those reaccuring nightmares where you can’t quite get to where you want to be. Except it is real life. On the way back to the car park we saw many petrol stations. Of course we did. When we took the car to the drop off rental place, the official asked if we’d filled up, started the car and said we could go. This meant that we didn’t have to visit the car rental office. The relief was profound. Hooray.

Not a great start to the wonders of Melbourne but onwards and upwards…

 

First day exploring – Arcades and Lanes

A good way of becoming accustomed to an area is to do a walk. We decided on Arcades and Lanes Walk to integrate ourselves with Melbourne.

The Tourist Office in Melbourne, similar to others in Australia, appropriates useful information in a friendly way. You can pick up all sorts of useful information including leaflets, walks, transport, maps and tips about the area. Think most of the staff are volunteers and they are incredibly good at what they do.

We set off with our leaflet on this particular walk through cobbled streets, arcades and lanes. It is fascinating to view the old buildings juxtaposed with new.

Degraves Street and along to Centre Place are known to be meccas for café society, juice bars, healthy foods, fresh coffee and the like. Some of the cafes are tiny, chic hotspots with recycled cinema seats and even benches from a former court of law. Very quaint, cool and fun.

Then to the famous Block Arcade which is named after the fashionable Collins Street where people flocked to ‘do The Block’. This area was built between 1891 and 1893 and retains the heritage shopping experience with mosaic-tile flooring and carved stone decorative interior. This is said to be one of the finest examples of a 19th century shopping arcade.

Continuing through the trendy areas of Melbourne and elegant, old shopping arcades we could see why people like Melbourne so much.

Unique expressions of art and music appear throughout the city and make the walking experience exciting. The independent shops, cosy cafes and laneways threading through the city are wonderful to behold.

One of the most distinctive places, for me, on this walk is the Capitol Arcade which opened in 1924. Was this one of the first shopping malls? It is beautiful and designed by Walter Burley Griffin (architect of Canberra) and Marion Mahony Griffin. It is a truly magnificent area with a great book shop to peruse in the basement.

The historical buildings, warehouses are also full of charm. In fact, this walk is charming as you see the shabby chic and quirky places mingling with glamourous, historical architecture. The graceful arches of Cathedral Arcade are extraordinarily exquisite, retaining original features and linking Swanston Street and Flinders Lane in the Central Business District of Melbourne. The arcade is covered with stained glass and lead lights which creates an amazing dome. The shop fronts feature wooden panels and the building is listed on the Victorian heritage Register.

How do you think we ended this walk? Yes, a pub. Well, the walk instructed us to. We had a quick drink in Young and Jackson where beer has flowed for over a hundred years. Drinking our beers, we sat in the bar pondering the nude portrait Cloe which shocked conservative Melbourne and made the hotel famous. The place is devine with photographs of old Melbourne adorning the walls. The public house is beautifully restored and blends a boutique bar and classic pub perfectly. A perfect end to our first day.

 

Mornington Peninsula

We arrived here and couldn’t find anywhere to stay and had a half an hour drive to a hotel. This is a lesson learnt. Check the area has copeous accommodation, especially if your visit falls on a weekend (Friday/Saturday).

We’ve bought a spare, cheap phone for local internet use. You buy a SIM card, pop it in the mobile and it is a useful tool, whilst travelling. It proved invaluable on this occasion. The panic was real, I can tell you when all the local places are fully booked.

Anyway, we spent the following day in this glorious area. Just an hour from Melbourne, you can enjoy an array of quirky shops, cafes, galleries, etc. in Mornington plus explore the harbour, park and walk along the coast. We soaked up the sea air before heading to Melbourne the next day. The alfresco lifestyle is abundant in the town and parks as people enjoy the innovative cuisine in the many cafes. I enjoyed a dish called ‘nearly vegan’ and the waitress looked disappointed as I confirmed my choice saying unnecessarily “even though I’m not nearly a vegan”… It was delicious and I didn’t regret my choice.

This reminds me. The following day we both had a Cornish Pasty for lunch. This may seem an odd choice, in Australia, but they are known for excellent pie making so we decided to devour one for an early lunch before leaving for Melbourne.

The Cornish miners came to Australia but I don’t think they passed the recipe down. Flipping heck it was bland. Wondered if I’d lost my taste buds. Both hubby and I sat and chewed and chewed in silence. A lady nearby, ordered the same because mine looked so delicious. She took one mouthful, jumped up towards the counter, disappointment palpable and asked for Ketchup. Oops.

Back to the Mornington Peninsula landscape we enjoyed meandering along the beach and endless coast. My hubby noticed Melbourne on the horizon, shimmering in the distance. It is quite surreal spotting the city on the horizon as you look directly out to sea. Do have a close look.

 

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Oh no, not just climbing to the bridge. No. Literally climbing the bridge. From bottom to top, across then down again.

When this was originally suggested as something we’ve “got to do”, I thought the world had finally gone mad. Then when I suruptitiously looked up the details, the rediculous cost involve and it is probably all booked up, thought I’d sealed the deal for not doing it…

“Think we should go for it.”

So, after much thought and consideration… (‘Think of all the clothes/posh handbag I could buy with the money?’), I agreed to climb the bridge. It will be a good workout, if nothing else.

‘We can go on any day, and most times are available.’ Hubby joyfully informs me…

History

Since 1912, J.J.C. Bradfield, “Chief Engineer of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Metropolitan Railway Construction” was keen on the idea of a bridge. At that time it was deemed prudent to spend money on the war effort.

After World War 1, Bradfield went to investigate tenders and decided an arch design would be beneficial and the work was given to NSW Department of Public Works for their design. Dorman Long Co Ltd was given the contract,  because of their experience with the Tyne Bridge, also an arch.

The “turning of the first sod” ceremony was held on 28 July 1923 and arch construction of the abutment towers began 26 October 1928.

The two halves of the arches joined on 19 August 1930. The first vehicle crossed the bridge on 19 January 1932 and the bridge was officially opened on 19 March 1932.

The total length of the bridge is 1.149 metres, width 49 metres and cost AU£6.25 million which wasn’t paid off until 1988.

Sydney Harbour Bridge connects Sydney central business district (CBD). Apart from practical transportation uses, it  also has become a tourist attraction and is used by tourists, including myself, for them to partake in climbing to the top of the arches. 

When arriving in Sydney you quickly realise the enormity of the construction. You are able to see parts of the bridge, from many areas of Sydney.

The Experience

It was FANTASTIC! Couldn’t have enjoyed the experience more. You are given all the gear and instructions and off you go. Everything is attached to your boiler suit, including one’s glasses, and you are not allowed to take anything with you (including cameras, phones, etc.). Our guide was Scott. He is a funny, outgoing chap who clearly knows what he is doing and instilled confidence in everyone.

First you climb up ladders, have a brief (history) chat then a walk along towards the arch. Photography is undertaken throughout the session including a team one and it is enormous fun. The exercise didn’t faze me at all and neither did the height. The whole jolly expedition is well worth doing. The stories and history about the bridge are fascinating (which you are told about as you go along) and I would highly recommend the experience.

Onwards towards Melbourne now.

 

 

 

Sources

http://www.bridgesdb.com/bridge-list/sydney-harbour-bridge/

https://www.nfsa.gov.au/collection/curated/sydney-harbour-bridge

Manly, New South Wales

The ferry to Manly took only 30 minutes. It was delightful looking at Sydney Harbour, from different perspectives, as you sailed along.

We arrived to another spectacular beach and area. Similar to Bondi, it has a vibrant hustle and bustle with a chilled atmosphere. The panoramic views are magical and again, we were lucky with the weather. It was a beautiful sunny day and great to be able to explore this area.

Manly is placed in northern Sydney about 17 km north east of the city centre. Henry Gilbert Smith thought about making Manly into a resort in the 1850s and acquired nearby land. By 1873, Smith sold property leases with steamers to the operators of ferries and eventually ownership passed to Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company. This company built many attractions including the swimming pool, pavilion and pier. In 1972, the company was sold to Brambles Limited and in 1974 the Government of New South Wales and is now part of Sydney Ferries.

It is one of the most popular local resorts. In fact, I’ve been told by locals, tourists frequent Bondi Beach and the locals prefer Manly.

We loved it and I can see why the locals prefer it. You arrive off the ferry and walk 10 minutes through the town to the beach. The beach itself is long and wide and isn’t so busy and obviously attracts a wider spectrum  of people. Youngsters were enjoying volleyball while we were there but the emphasis is on just chilling with family or friends as opposed to serious surfing, etc.

Overall, think I preferred Manly as it is good to walk along the tree lined avenue and grass area in front of the beach. There are also a better variety of shops with buskers, painters, speakers, etc. Also, loved the ferry ride over to Manly. You hop on the boat by using the Opal card which is handy and very simple.

 

 

Bondi Beach…

Today, we had a bus ride and ended up at Bondi Beach. This is another iconic place I’ve always wanted to visit. It was a Sunday, so the place was buzzing and very busy.

People everywhere looked like they were thoroughly enjoying life, as I am on this amazing trip. This crescent shaped beach is breathtaking and full of people surfing, wandering, sunbathing or relaxing. Yes, of course the sun was shining. What a great way to enjoy your free time. Chilling, eating and chatting with friends and family.

The beach is one of the most famous in the world and when you arrive, you can understand why. It is so vibrant and seems such a happy place to be. There’s even the grassy knoll if you don’t like sand. Campbell Parade  consists of shops selling surf gear, t shirts, swimwear, food and drink or even hire a surfboard.

Bondi Beach 1875

 

Bondi Beach 1930

 

It is famous because of the surfing and kite flying competitions. The name Bondi is an aboriginal word and means water breaking over rocks or noise of water breaking over rocks. Francis O’Brien of the Bondi Estate started it all by making the land available to the public for picnics during 1855 and 1877. It wasn’t until 1882 that the government became involved, and made Bondi a public pleasure resort.

Good job they did. Anyway, we loved the experience and next Stop is Manly which is the beach the locals prefer. Which is best?

Source: Bondistories.com

 

Sydney

We finally arrived in Sydney. My goodness it is built up and has building work going on. Still, I’ve parked the car and we are using the brilliant public transportation system.

Bought an Opal travel card, which covers you for trains and buses. This is a successful way of travelling around the city. You obtain the card in the newsagents, pay to put credit on ($35) and off you go. Wish we had this option at home, as it is much better than struggling with money as you embark on a journey. Ok, I know you have Oyster cards in London, but not where I live.

We arrived in the city and decided to do a walk, as mentioned in the free official Sidney Guide. Starting at the harbour we stopped to admire the bridge, which is huge, then walked towards the Opera House. Felt quite emotional when I first spotted the Opera House. It is so iconic and it’s something I’ve known about since I was tiny, and never thought I’d see it in real life.

Yes, of course copeous photography was undertaken. Wouldn’t you? I recently watched a documentary about the construction of the Opera House and it was designed by Jorn Utzon in 1957 but not completed until 1973. He won an international design competition and the work was authorised in 1958. Unfortunately, the design proved challenging with costs and scheduling overrunning and Utzon resigned from the project.

However, eventually Utzon received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2003 in recognition for his masterpiece and being one of the most iconic buildings of the 20th century. As I viewed the building and looked at the ‘shells’ which house multiple performance venues, I couldn’t help but realise, this prize was richly deserved.

Eventually, we walked to the alluring Botanic Gardens. Love wandering around these enticing parks, this part of the world enjoys, and immersing oneself in the astounding gardens. The array of colour and curious plants and trees are fascinating and disparate. Quite extraordinary to observe and admire.

Continuing on to Mrs Macuarie’s Chair, we took more photos of the harbour and continued. Rather embarrassed to admit to taking some ‘selfies’ here! Even I’ve succumbed but the views are quintessential and I couldn’t resist.

Onwards to the Art Gallery of NSW. Love going around these places and enjoyed some work by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Bacon argued the only way to portray fact or truth, is through a form of distortion.

Freud is interested about not who but how the person is. How they sprawl, sag, stare and so on. This painting seems to convey reality and soul. Personally, I like the weird, abstract and surreal stuff but it has to be artistic and not frames with a splash of paint. Paintings that contain the reality of a situation, their passion, exhaustion, happiness or distress, etc. It definitely should convey imagery and not be like a photo either. What do you like to see?

We walked past the historic Library, Parliament House, Mint and Hyde Park Barracks and walked into St Mary’s Cathedral. The cathedral looks like one you’d see in England and reminded me of home. Inside the place has an ethereal, peaceful atmosphere.

Finally, we arrived at the Hyde Park & Anzac War Memorial. The public space of the J.F. Archibald Memorial Fountain is moving and impressive.

During the evening we frequented a couple of super pubs. The first one was called Taprooms and I enjoyed a glass of Endeavour Pale Ale (4.5%).

Also, enjoyed the oldest pub in Sydney, Lord Nelson Brewery which had some English style ales available! Hubby was rather pleased.

Jolly splendid end to our day of walking and seeing lots of amazing sights.

The Great Barrier Reef (Never again…!)

So we rocked up half an hour before sailing and waited to be summoned to the relevant vessel. Eventually, a steward appeared and we went on the boat leaving most of the customers behind. She had to bellow again and they woke up, and moved. Well it was 7am in the morning, so you can’t expect people to be sharp.

We settled in our nice seats ready for our cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. Kindle ready, and looking forward to morning tea and a cake. This should be a good day.

As soon as the boat started we started to rock fiercely. It’s a fast catamaran that goes at about 22 knots, riding the tips of some big waves. We sat there while they went through the obligatory safety procedures and already I was feeling rough. A steward came round and advised me to go to the top deck and sit in the front of the boat, in the fresh air which I endeavoured to do.

Walking, legs wide, pouncing from hand rail to hand rail, I somehow got to the relevant place with all the other sickies. Sat in the middle of the bench, wind howling, waves rolling, clutching fiercely wondering how I was going to survive for two, long hours. Couldn’t move because of the violent rocking of the boat. Lots of young chaps were joking around about how ill they were feeling and whether they could stand or not and the steward explained how ‘you get used to it’ and demonstrated his skill of ‘sea legs’ by walking round without looking paralytically drunk (like the rest of us).

Of course, eventually one man went down and we all followed suit. Mr ‘Sea Legs’ promptly got the hose out and I went down stairs and sat at the back of the boat desperately wondering if we were ever going to get there.

We did. It was a wonderful day.

The water became calm, vivid blue and we went over to the Lady Musgrave Island for a walk. The sand is almost white with the most beautiful shells, faurna and trees. Lady Musgrave Island is the only coral cay navigable lagoon on the entire Grea Barrier Reef.

The Island is a 35 acres coral cay with surrounding reef and named after the wife of Anthony Musgrave, a Governor of Queensland. Apparently, Lady Musgrave held tea parties on the island.

We explored the island with our guide and learnt about how the female birds, noddy-terns, sit on a branch whilst waiting for the male bird to bring them yellow leaves, to build a nest. They sit, like princesses, only accepting one in ten leaves. When the leaf is accepted, they poop on it, to build the nest and the male bird goes off to look for more suitable leaves.

On the way back to our vessel, we had a glass bottom boat tour and observed sea creatures including fish, turtles and stingrays, with educational and informal commentary. Back to the boat for lunch and snorkelling.

The lunch was superb. Lots of salads with cold cuts, bread rolls and all the food was fresh and yummy. The most amazing aspect of the day is the snorkelling. I was a little unsure about this as you snorkel off the vessel but put the gear on and just went for it. Can’t tell you how stunningly beautiful the Reef is. Having all the colourful fish, float past you is a most surreal and special experience. I swam around looking at the Reef for a long time. The vibrant colours are extraordinary and I’m so pleased I experienced this part of the day because it is magical.

So after this we dried off, took photos and enjoyed the views and then eventually set off home. I grabbed an afternoon tea and cake because I’d missed out on the morning refreshments. The trip back started off calmer.

It didn’t last. I sat still this time, drifting in and out of sleep. Then the banging started, the waves rolled violently and I kept my eyes shut, trying to ignore the rolling waves.

“Are you ok?”The concerned steward asked.

Staggered to the facilities…

This time, I returned to my seat, helped by Miss Concerned Steward, and hubby is still there, sitting, reading his Kindle.

I would like to mention the staff on this vessel were extremely helpful, concerned and very aware of your personal safety. As I came out of the facilities, I think I could have easily had an accident, if it wasn’t for the support of the staff. The boat was rolling up and down and it was difficult to hang on!

For all that, I wouldn’t have missed this trip for the world. Never thought I’d go snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and it was certainly one of life’s great experiences.

No more boat trips though. Never again. NEVER. By the way, hubby wants to go whale watching.