The Blog has been dead for the last month or so due to me taking the family back to Melbourne. It's been two years since we'd been back, which is way too long. Anyway, here's the report.
So, we got back to Texas yesterday after nearly four weeks in Melbourne! We were only supposed to be gone for three weeks, but bad weather in NZ combined with busy July 4th travel made it impossible for us to get home as scheduled. So, we got an extra few days in Melbourne which was just brilliant!
We had a terrific time. A nice combination of hanging out with friends and family as well as the odd bit of sight-seeing and going to my old haunts (those that are left, anyway!)
Highlights of the trip include:
1. Going to the Wallabies/England rugby game at the Telstra Dome! Getting to see the great game in live action was awesome, and the atmosphere at the stadium was just great. The Wallabies winning the game didn't hurt either!
2. Trip to Warnambool. Warnambool is a smallish town on the coastline about four hours west of Melbourne. We drove via the Princes Hwy as opposed to the Great Ocean Road (a scenic, coastal drive much like Hwy 1 in the US), and went via the Otway Ranges and visited the Otway Flywalk there. It was pretty amazing - large metal walkway structure going over the rainforest. Amazing views! When we got to Warnambool we immediately headed to the whale nursing area and found a single whale (surrounded by dolphins) flopping around the coastline. It put on quiet a show!
3. Lots of Melbourne Daytrips, including the Crown Casino, the new Docklands area (not bad, but not overly exciting), Lygon Street (aka "Little Italy"), Royal Botanical Gardens.
4. Lots of lattes on Chapel Street!
5. The kids were two years older than our last trip, and were able to better bond with my family this time as a result. They loved the Aussie tucker (sausage rolls especially!) and had a blast with their grandparents and aunts, and new-found cousins. Mum and Dad also shouted them tickets to Disney on Ice as it passed through town.
6. Had a few sausage sizzles at Jells Park, a small local park and lake system that attracts a multitude of bird life. It had been ten years since I was there last and it was fun to be back there again.
7. Catching up with old mates, obviously!
8. Quick trip to Phillip Island, a small resort south-east of Melbourne. (God they are developing a lot of homes there now!!!)
9. Helped Dad buy a rather large telescope that he was tossing and turning over. We spent a few nights looking at Southern Hemisphere objects and it was just great (skies down there are way less polluted than up here in Yankeeland)
10. Meeting my new nephew for the first time!
So, lots of things done, and we really had a good time. We even spent some time looking into timeshares/properties down there as we'll be going back once a year now.
Melbourne is still a great city. It felt really large this time, due to me living in Austin for so long now. The pace there seems to be much more frantic than memory, more like the US. Folks don't seem to be as relaxed as they used to be and always seem to be on the cell phones (either talking or messaging). A lot of my friends are also working serious overtime.
Another thing I noticed is that the suburbs seem to be more "urbanized". The new subdivisions that have sprouted up, as well as the multitude of extensions and architectural changes that have occurred to already existing houses have made the suburbs (from what I saw) feel more closed in and tighter than memory. I think a lot of folks got house extensions as opposed to buying new homes during the boom they had there, but I am not sure it's really that attractive. Further out towards the Southeast seemed nicer and more open.
Eating out is also insanely expensive. Even fish and chips is more expensive than I remember, and they make you pay for tomato sauce!!! (Still no free soft drink refills either). However, the high cost of this sort of activity didn't deter us - we ate like there was no tomorrow!
Still, it was nice to be back and I am still somewhat envious of those that still live there. With the beaches and forests so close to each other, the bustling night life (which I was very fond of when there), and the myriad of outdoor activities they have it pretty good. The city itself seems to have an air of charm about it still, despite some odd modernization elements (new trams, artsy-fartsy stuff in the streets, post-modern architecture). A lot of mates still there take all that for granted it seems.
Okay, that's my Melbourne report. Fantastic time, and can't wait to be back next year!