Day 1 - The Journey and Melbourne

Feb 11 2012

Our flight was at 8:20 am. It's not essential to be overly-early at Auckland airport (the delight of a small airport!) but even so we wanted to be in the terminal building by about 7:00 am. So it was up at 4:45, out the house by 5:30 to be at the car park by 6:30 and at the International Terminal by 7:00. It went like clock-work.

I rocked up to the Business Class desk to claim my upgrades. No problems there - the staff are lovely. Then she tried to book me into the flight. 'Do you have a visa for Australia?' she says. Oops! Knew I'd forgotten something! Fortunately you can purchase an electronic visa on-line and the lady did it all for me.

We had just enough time to purchase a bottle of cheap brandy and a couple of magazines, and we were on the plane, coccooned into our oh-so-comfortable Business Class seats and being offered fresh orange juice or a glass of bubbly. I wish we could afford to travel this way all the time. The journey was uneventful and gave me the chance to watch 'Seone's 2', a comedy film made in New Zealand about a Samoan group of friends. It gives a real insight into Samoan culture, and is very funny.

We had 'express' tickets to get through Immigration, but it didn't make much difference as the luggage was delayed behind two 777's on the same conveyor. As we live on a lifestyle block now we thought we'd be stopped and checked in Biosecurity, but were waved through.

Out into the rain. This was not booked. We've had a bad summer in Auckland (bad for the townies - good for the farmers) with a lot of rain, and we thought we'd get away from it in Melbourne. But we appear to have packed it and brought it with us.

Next queue was at the Europcar desk. A very nice man 'upgraded' our car from a Hyundai i30 to an Audi A1. Hm…. the jury's out. It might have a few more bells and whistles but it's only a 3 door, and our (medium-sized) case only just fits in the back. Not to mention Art's legs - it doesn't really easily fit a 6 foot man. And as I now work for Hyundai I think maybe I should have suck out for my original order.

We used the GPS on our mobile phone to find our way in to the centre of Melbourne and our hotel - not sure this is such a good idea as I think this will work out to be expensive. So tomorrow we find a book shop and do the old fashioned thing of buying a map! Bearing in mind that we were travelling on a Saturday, the roads were very busy. And there were trams everywhere. We found the suburbs we were driving through were old and a bit tatty - and there were wires overhead from the trams and electricity lines everywhere. But we're assuming that this could be one of the poorer areas of the city.

The Mantra Hotel is fine - nothing posh, but comfortable and clean. There's a small kitchenette with a kettle, toaster and microwave. And as it's on Russell Street it is a very central location - ideal for our purposes.

Exploring Melbourne

Melbourne Centre

Melbourne and Yarra River

It's raining again - not ideal - but it isn't raining all the time so we packed up our backpack and started walking.

First impressions are that Melbourne is very much like Auckland. In fact, the Flinder Street railway station is identical to the Auckland ferry terminal - but longer. If you look at it from Elizabeth Street it even has the same clock tower. There are loads of street cafes too, and a huge selection of different Asian restaurants. We're very near to Chinatown and have spotted a restaurant that does Peking Duck and pancake rolls, so that's where we're heading for dinner tonight.

Public transport seems much better than in Auckland - there is a good train system (10 platforms at Flinders station), and trams run everywhere. The down side to this is the overhead cables - they are everywhere! And Melbourne centre is busy - there were a lot of people and traffic (we're here on a Saturday).

To the back of the station is the Yarra River, and the Southbank. Here you could be on the Thames in London. The river ferries go from here, and there is a row of restaurants and bars on the riverbank. We strolled along and found a bar with a comfortable seat in the sun (when it was out). And started talking to a very interesting American from New York, who was a thespian over on a lecture tour. This passed a very happy hour discussing Middle Eastern politics, American Primaries, Native Americans, Aborigines, Maori, religion and other equally potentially explosive subjects. Fortunately we seemed to think along the same lines so blood was not shed.

We also investigated the ferries. There are a number of trips available from a half hour potter in a small wooden boat (about 20 people, I'd say) to a Bateaux Mouche style vessel, through to the one we tried to get on - a three hour dinner cruise on a ship called the Spirit of Melbourne. This was between $97.50 AUD and $130 AUD (depending on day) for a six course meal with drinks. But it was fully booked :(

Next attempt was a visit to the Theatre. 'A Chorus Line' and 'Yes Prime Minister' were on. But after investigating the cost of the 'Yes Prime Minister' tickets, we decided against this - around I'm afraid we found the prices a tad expensive - around $95 AUD for very mediocre seats. So we'll give that a miss.

Generally we're finding prices in cafes and bars comparable dollar for dollar with Auckland - but of course they're in Aussie dollars. So actually everything is about 20% more. Our find of the day was a Chinese bakery just across from the hotel that does a selection of the best buns ever for a very reasonable price. We bought a selection for breakfast.

With the 2 hour time difference we were in bed relatively early. One disadvantage to our central location was the very noisy revellers who were shouting at the traffic lights under our window at 4:30 that morning.

Flinders Street Staion Melbourne
holidays/abroad/melbourne_and_the_great_ocean_road/b_melbourne.txt · Last modified: 2012/02/22 10:14 by art
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