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Visiting the Land Down Under in Melbourne

Author: Gay Maloney
Date of Trip: December 2015

My, oh my, first class on Virgin Australia is AWESOME! Think the 14 hour trip from California will be too hard on you…think again! Seats are wide, luxurious, and adjust numerous ways to make you comfortable. At night, a mattress is put on the flat seat; and you are given pj’s, socks and a hot towel. Imagine having your clothes hung up and exiting the plane fresh and crisp. Service was friendly and attentive. We felt spoiled. Meals were excellent! Loved the raisin waffles with rhubarb and pistachio nuts and corn and tomato “pancakes” topped with avocado, salsa and smoked salmon. Did I mention there is a bar so walking around is easy. We arrived one hour early in Sydney, went easily through customs, and boarded a shuttle to the domestic terminal for a flight to Melbourne. The two hour layover was enjoyed in the Sky lounge. Just opposite the Lounge was an ever-changing sky of the galaxy. The airport is beautiful. So your points or dollars are well worth the extra expense to start your trip without exhaustion and in style.

Upon approach to Melbourne, we can see through the clouds the wine and farm countryside. It has been dry here so much of the landscape is brown accented by numerous green trees. Land is rolling and reminds us of Napa. Grabbing a cab is easy as the airport is relatively small (and old) to go to downtown rather than take a shuttle. Taxi is $68 AUD and shuttle is $38 AUD to downtown drop-off plus a cab ride from there to hotel. Cab driver was chatty whose family is in India but he was raised in Canada and came to the area as a banker and now owns two cabs and a hotel. We had a good laugh as we went by the tourist Ferris wheel which cost millions but developed a crack after several months. It had recently opened again with view of not the city or ocean but of the docks and industrial area. It cost $30 per person and no one goes. It took 30 minutes to our Doubletree Hotel which is across the street from the historical train station, Federation Square, the river and waterfront restaurants and shopping.

Our entry to the hotel is somewhat narrow but quite hip. The reservation desk flows to the wine and coffee bar and goes back to an open grill restaurant area. The accent wall by the elevator has huge black marble and adjoining wall is unique multi-design sizes of dimensional black wood and metal. Early booking and Visa points paid for our top floor (1301) corner room with balcony. There are only four rooms in the hotel with a balcony. The room overlooks the trains below and is high enough to see the Yarra river and Alexandra gardens. The art deco buildings of Federal Square are on our left with the famous Skydeck on our right. Our room is contemporary, clean and modest with floor to ceiling windows. There is a 42″ Samsung T.V. sitting on the spacious desk. Our refrigerator is empty so we can buy goodies from the two small grocery stores next door.

“Box day” is December 26th; and the shoppers are out in droves to get the sales. Close by is the famous no cars Degraves Street going up to Collins and Bourke Streets all filled with shops and restaurants. China Town has no atmosphere with compacted crowded cafes– clearly their version of fast food. Because of the shoppers, there are lines everywhere trying to get a seat. West Lake Chinese on Little Bourke Street specializes in Yum Cha and has white tablecloths. Service is horrible. We wait 20 minutes at our table before getting up and requesting a menu and then again to get chop sticks. Food is tasty from the carts which is bok choy, seaweed, 3 shrimp and 2 scallops with mushrooms and cheese plus jasmine tea. The bill was $38 AUD–expensive. We wanted to try the duck but no one asked for our order.

Take the free City Circle tram around the City to get off and on to visit the Farmers Market, Carlton Gardens, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Museum, Parliament, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Federation Square with the visitor center next door. Make sure you cross the bridge over the river to enjoy the street entertainers before dining.

Excellent meals can be experience at South Gate’s Waterfront restaurant and Italian Rosetta at the Crown’s Concourse by the Casino. Try breakfast on DeGraves Street at Cafe Andiamo.

This City is exciting and fun. There are excellent side trips to Mornington Peninsula driving along the coast to historical Sorrento and then take the ferry to Queenstown. Go north to the Yarra Valley, Macedon Ranges and Bellarine Peninsula for wine tours and beautiful scenery. Tour Otway National Park to see ancient trees, beautiful waterfalls and emerald ferns or drive to Grampians National Park to marvel at ancient Aboriginal rock paintings, A must is a trip to the Great Ocean Road, one of the top ocean drives in the world. The best way to fully appreciate the stunning 150 foot rock formations in the ocean and tall cliffs is to get a piper plane out of Barwon Heads from Adventure Flights.

If time permits, give yourself at least four days to get some of the activities in to fully appreciate what Melbourne has to offer. Folks are friendly and eager to help.

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