After my great couple of days in Cairns, it was time to take my first australian domestic flight to Melbourne. The flight was almost an hour delayed but really didn't mind as I had nothing much planned. I was pretty excited about was flying outside of the US....boy how less strict the regulations are. Not sure what the rules and regulations are back home, but it was great being able to fly again bringing on unlimited amounts of liquids. I brought a 2 liter bottle of water thru the security checkpoint, and didnt have to go thru paying double the price of water after the checkpoint just to stay hydrated on the flight. Just like the good ole days before terrorists made it almost an incovenience to fly around in the states. Another thing, which i was a bit suprised about, was that my passport was checked once, only when I was checking in at the airline counter to get my boarding pass. My passport was never checked at the security checkpoint or before boarding the plane. Found it a bit odd but non the less security obviously was pretty laid back.
Anyhow, the flight into Melbourne was about 3 hours long, went by extremely quick, partially to the fact that I slept almost half of it.
The Melbourne Airport is almost 30 kilometers outside the city center, so had to catch a shuttle to my accomodation. I am staying in a suburb of Melbourne, St. Kilda. St. Kilda has had a dodgy, seedy past with the streets prowling with drug dealers and prostitutes. Today it is filled with cafes and restaurants and heaps of backpackers. It is very close proximity to the beach and about a 15 minute tram ride out from the city. The hostel I am staying at, Coffee Palace, is pretty run down and may have been used as a brothel back in the "old" St. Kilda days. Really has some good character here, ha.
The night I got in, I took a stroll around St. Kilda, towards the beach, etc. While on the stroll, I bumped into my old roomate from Sydney, Flora. Small world. She was also stayin in the same hostel and it was good to catch up with her. She was taking off for Adelaide the next day so we caught up over a couple drinks in the hostel lounge area.
Great Ocean Road, See Post Below
Today I finally made my way into the city center. I hopped on one of the trams and made the quick journey to the tourist infested Melbourne hot spots. First stop was Federation Square. Melbourne is known as the fashion capital of Australia and definitely a lot of flare goin on in and around the city. Federation Square is surrounded by some cool modern architechured buildings with heaps of restaruants and entertainment to tickle your fancy.
After walkin around the square, I took a stroll along the Yarra River and headed towards Melbourne Park, the home of Rod Laver Arena and The Australian Open.
Just a few photos from the walk:
Just two days after Roger Federer won the grand slam title, the area was filled with contruction workers taking down all of the tournement buildings and promo areas. Didn't get a chance to see inside the legendary arena, but atleast snapped a shot outside of it.
From there I hopped back on one of the citys many trams and made way to the Botanical Gardens.
There I took a pretty good nap and caught up with my favorite free australian newspaper, The MX. The MX is filled with useless stories from around the world, celebrity gossip, and a good horoscope section. It is put out by the goverment and made available nearby all transport hubs...all the work commuters pick it up. The paper is filled with rubbish information but everyone seems to pick it up and pass the time with it. I read it in Sydney everyday but have been without it for a month since it wasn't in print on the east coast, only the major cities. It is good to have it back again.
As you can tell, I really enjoy touring Botanical Gardens. After seeing the three major east coast cities gardens I would rank them as, #1 Sydney, #2 Brisbane, #3 Melbourne. The backdrop of Sydney's with the harbour, bridge, and opera house makes it a clear favorite for me.
After a relazing, calm, self meditating sesh in the gardens I headed back to the hostel.
I showered up and headed back into the city where I was headed on a train to go meet up with a family friends, friend. Bob lived about 30 minutes outside of the city. Bob took me to his home where we shared stories and had a bit of vino. From there we made way into a nearby town to his favorite Italian restaurant, can't remember the name for the life of me, but it was EXCELLENT. This may have been due to the fact that it was only my 3rd or 4th sitdown dinner in Australia, but nonetheless it was great. We had a garlic pizza appetizer and I went for the carbonara gnocchi for the main...damn was it good.
Anyway, really enjoyed meeting Bob, a great aussie. He then drove me all the way back to my hostel as we listened to two of his favorite bands, The Eagles and The Bee Gees.
Today I slept in a bit, (10 oclock). Funny how i call that sleeping in now, as back home or in college that time would be like sunrise to me. Oh how travelling has improved my lifestyle. Today the rain was out, but like always, I wasn't let it going to deter me from doing what I wanted to do. I went back into the city to go take a gander at the Queen Victoria Markets, the largest open air markets in the southern hemisphere. It reminded me a whole lot of Sydney's Paddys Markets, just heaps of stalls, all selling the same exchact merchandise with competitive prices.
Anyhow I managed to pick up my first round of souvenirs. Don't expect anything at all if I dont know you or like you. If you are expecting something, dont get too excited as I dont have the funds nor the luggage space to accommodate your likings. For myself, the didgeridoos have really been standing out at me, they are such a cool instrument and the aboriginal artwork on some of them are sick. I will hold out from buying one until I know how to play it and have the luggage space to bring one home. Plus I have been told I can make one out of a pvc pipe, so will try that back home. They are extremely difficult to play so I have great respect for any musician that can master to 'doo. It requires a circular breathing motion that does not come easy. A lot of training and practice has to go into getting it down.
The fruit and vegetable of the section may be the most impressive parts of the markets.
Although they didnt have this variety of cherries, the market atmosphere reminded me alot of that time with, BING CHERRIES, GET YOUR BING CHERRIES. Little inside joke for the fam. Yes but all the merchants would be yelling out their best priced products, plus it was closing time and they were all slashing their prices. I quickly jumped on a box of strawberries for 1 dollar, they were damn good. Also picked up some chili flavored rice crisps, after I tried the free sample I was hooked.
I spent the remainder of the day back in St. Kilda, walking along the beach and out to St. Kilda Pier. The pier is an extremely popular fishing spot and also a breeding calling to the Little Penguins. I was able to spot 2 of them in the rocks.
My evening walk also led me past Luna Park, the city's main amusement park. Sydney also has a luna park. Anyhow the park entrance is a widely known icon. Also had some fun with some trippy mirrors inside the park.
Reminds me of days before I hit my growth spurt
Later in the night there was a reggae band playing at the pub right on the nearby corner from my hostel. I casually went just to quickly check them out...woo what a find. This 6 piece reggae band put on a hell of a show. One of the best live reggae acts i've seen and it was all for the price of free. They were called, "Jahmakn It Funky" a cheesy yet quite clever band name. Mostly Bob Marley covers and other roots reggae songs, but it was the vocals of the lead singer that really captivated me, along with the bongo drummer that was absolutely jammin. Ended up being a pretty memorable night.
Woke up relatively early and took advantage of the hostels daily free pancake breakfast. Right now writing this blog from a local cafe having a cappuccino and enjoying the free wireless access. Flight is at 430 back to Sydney but need to take a lengthy shuttle to the airport around 2. Raining today so not much else on the agenda.
Enjoyed Melbourne, 4 days for me here was plenty, could have done with 3. Not much goin on in the city center other than a bunch of shopping. Perfect for fashion setters and trenders, but for your average straight man, not much for your fancy inside the city centre. Glad I stayed out in the suburb of St. Kilda, much of a younger crowd and laid back vibe. It rained 2 out of 4 days but nothing like the rain back in wet north Queensland.
Looking forward to my final 4 nights in Australia back in Sydney, wouldn't want to spend them anywhere else. I have some good day trips planned but the weather is currently forecasted to rain and thunder. Won't be too devastated if I can't do them but definitely not ideal.