MONDAY 3/22/2010 SYDNEY >> MELBOURNE
Another Diem to Carpe! We woke around 6:00 am, showered, got ready, and went back to the Carrington Room for another buffet breakfast. No straightener for Lexie; another day with frizzy hair. It makes a girl very crabby. Fresh fruit bar, hot dishes, eggs, pancakes, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, sausage, plus pastries, breads, spreads, cold cereal, coffee, latte, cappuccino, and 4 kinds of juices. We grabbed our luggage and went down to the lobby at 9:05. Peter helped us get out bags down the steps. Thank goodness he didn’t ask about our Bondi- Coogee Beachwalk! The Sun Bus shuttle was there within a minute or two and drove us to the Sydney Airport. Check-in and security were a breeze compared to U.S. flights. Although, Marcia did feel compelled to explain the size of her toothpaste tube to Security.
While waiting for our 11:00 flight to Melbourne (pronounced Melbun), Lexie decided to do her homework, which included writing a poem. It had to be 3 stanzas, 4 lines each, 8 syllables in each line with emphasis on every other syllable. Marcia and I assisted. Here’s the final product:
The outback opens up the mind
To awesome wonders I will find
The land is full of animals
From lizards to marsupials
The desert sand is red at night
The sounds of creatures give me fright
With snakes that hiss and dingoes bark
My thoughts go crazy in the dark
The giant rock of Uluru
I look to see a kangaroo
This sight has made my Spring break great
It ‘s time to shout out “G-day, Mate!”
We landed in Melbourne at 12:30. We saw our driver before we even collected our bags. He seemed a little cranky that he had two reservations for our party, so he was disappointed when he realized there were only three of us – not six. The shuttle took us through the city to the Hotel Mercure on Swanston Street, right in the thick of things. We checked in and went straight away to Room 1307. We had to use our room key to turn on the lights. This was new to all three of us in 2010.
We checked our maps and headed south on Swanston Street to Flinders Station looking for the Free City Circle Tram. We buzzed across the street to the Visitor Information Center. The helpful young man there told us we could pick up the Burgundy & Gold Circle City Tram kitty corner in the middle of the street. It runs until 6:00 pm. The Red & White City Circle Bus can be picked up directly across the street. It runs until 4:30. When we asked which one he recommends to see the city, he said, “You can do both – since they’re both free!”
Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, is the capital of the state of Victoria. Known as the Arts & Culture center of Australia – style, fashion, food, theaters, 19th century architecture, galleries, trams, and gardens are abundant. It is also considered the sporting capital of Australia.
We chose to start with the bus ride since it stopped running earlier. We stood in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral (Stop #2) with a number of other tourists, including a former Reno, NV casino owner who has lived in Cabo San Lucas six months out of the year for the past 23 years. He had spent the last month in Australia and was getting ready to head back to Reno for a few days before moving to Cabo until the snow melts in Reno. He was waiting for a ride back to his hotel near Captain Cook’s Cottage. The free bus was right on time. The first stop (Stop #3) was MCG – Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was also the stop where Mr. Cabo got off.
The bus driver pointed out barkless trees along the way. Evidently the bark was removed by possums. The government put barriers around the bottom of healthy trees, but the possums just jumped from the barkless trees to the healthy ones and started destroying those, too. We stayed on the bus passing Chinatown and the Theater District (Stop #4), Carlton Gardens (Stop #5), the Italian District of Lygon Street (Stop #6), University of Melbourne (Stop #7), Queen Victoria Market (Stop #8), Waterfront City (Stop #9), Docklands Stadium and Victoria Harbour (Stop #10), the Melbourne Aquarium (Stop #11), Yarra River (Stop #12), the Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanic Gardens (Stop #13).
It was a nice tour of the city. We were tired of riding – so we didn’t even think of the Tram. We had intended to ride back to Stop #2, but the bus route was done when it got back to Stop #1. We walked past the art museum, back to St. Paul’s Cathedral. We wandered around inside the cathedral for a while.
After we left there, we popped into Young & Jackson Pub and saw the famous Chloe painting.
From there, we headed back to our hotel, windowshopping along the way. We ran across the National Opal Collection – the same establishment as the one on Pitt Street in Sydney for which we had a coupon for a free opal gift. We made our way to the second story shop. It had cave-like décor, and we were greeted by a miner mannequin. The jewelry was gorgeous. The older women tending the shop were incredibly knowledgeable and informative.
Opals are the national gemstone of Australia – 95% of the world’s opals are mined in Australia. According to aboriginal lore, the creator came to earth on a rainbow with a message of peace to humankind. At the spot where his feet touched earth, the ground came to life, sparkling every color of the rainbow, creating opals.
Unfortunately, the pieces we really liked were outside of our price range. We weren’t too proud, however, to show our coupons and travel documents to collect our free opal gifts. We walked out of the shop with three stickpins featuring gold kangaroos holding opal balls.
We passed a hair products store; I suggested we go in to see about purchasing a hair straightener for Lexie. The cheapest one was $89.95. They went up to $250. The clerk with her fake eyelashes, curly Q eyeliner and colored contacts apologized for not being able to help us.
We walked a few shops away and wandered into a HUGE Priceline store. They had a Remington hair straightener for $29.99. There were many different models; the majority under $100. Then, Marcia found one on clearance for $17.99. It had a one year warranty. We agreed, we really only need an 18 day warranty. The girl was very happy with our purchase. I think it was the best spent $17.99 of my entire life!
We made our way back to the hotel. Lexie straightened her hair and put on some perfume. Marcia commented that Lexie “smells like a French . . . “ she stopped short of saying whore. Lexie, unfamiliar with the phrase, asked, “like what? A baguette?”
We left the hotel and headed north on Swanston Street looking for dinner. We turned left on La Trobe Street and then left of Elizabeth Street. Somewhere along our walk, we saw drivers making right turns from the far left lane! YIKES! It seemed like they were waiting until the light turned red and then gunning it to pass in front of several lanes of traffic traveling in both directions! How are we going to get out of this city alive tomorrow?
We spotted a tent sign that advertised several dinner choices and a beverage for $10. Perfect. Lexie and I decided to share a BBQ Chicken Pizza and Garlic Bread. I got a POT of beer and she got a soda. Marcia had a salad and a POT of beer.
After dinner, we made our way back to the hotel. We stopped in at Haigh Chocolates and dreamed about the candies we hoped would fill our Easter baskets when we arrived home. We took the elevator to the 15th floor to check out the gym. While there, Lexie gave us a 10 minute preview of her 90 minute yoga workout and made us follow along. From there, we headed back down to the front lobby to request additional towels and washcloths. Worth noting: the Australians are very stingy with the towels. We got to our room. Ten minutes later, housekeeping arrived with 3 towels. We had to re-request washcloths and they arrived 10 minutes later. Before falling asleep, we watched a cooking show, MY KITCHEN RULES – AUSTRALIA on TV and lamented about driving on the left side of the road and getting out of the city.
I’m not sure when it happened, but I’m pretty sure that by now we had discovered Magnum ice cream bars. They became a daily treat. I think our goal was to try every flavor, and there were numerous discussions about how rich we’d become if we could be first ones to introduce Magnum deliciousness to the United States.