Day 2 South-Eastern Suburbs

12th February

Next day we found our book shop, bought a map, and decided to take the car out to the south-east of the city down the coast towards St Kildas. Unfortunately today (Sunday 12th Feb) was St Kildas Festival day. This meant that the main Beach Road was closed - and every time you tried to find a way round St Kilda you hit a closed road and were turned around! It meant we got to see a lot of the back roads of St Kildas so I could form an opinion of the place. It seems to be the Melbourne equivalent to Auckland's Mission Bay, with the road along the beach and cafe culture, lots of joggers, bicycles and people out with strollers. There were some lovely old houses in leafy roads in the back streets, and lost so 'sleeping policemen' to slow everyone down. My guess is that it's one of the more expensive areas to live….

We eventually fought our way through the traffic (Melbourne is busy, even on a Sunday) and the closed road signs and found ourselves on State Highway 3 heading south. This is a wide road, with 4 lanes in either direction. And each direction appears to be split by an island down the middle as well. So - bear in mind - we're heading south. We want to head west (where the coast is) and to do this we need to turn right. But we've managed to find ourselves in the left hand lanes with a barrier between us and the lanes that can turn right. And it's busy. And Melbourne drivers are not very patient. Aaaargh…. it was not a good experience.

Eventually we sorted ourselves out and found ourselves in Brighton. Except it felt very much like Bournemouth or Poole. The beach was definitely better than Brighton (UK) beach - a golden sand. And it was raining. We drove down the coast road, and found ourselves in a little settlement called Black Rock.

Now 'little settlement' probably isn't the best description - that sounds as if we have driven through areas without settlement to get to it. In fact, this area is a continuous sprawl of houses running out from Melbourne. Again, Melbourne seems like Auckland with regards the suburban sprawl - but more so. Where it's reasonably easy to get into the countryside and find a beach in Auckland, in Melbourne you're likely to have a row of houses just the other side of the road.

After a very pleasant coffee, we drove further down the coast and found a car park where we could park up looking out over the sea to eat our Chinese buns. Still in the car of course - it was still drizzling.

Which brings up car parking - a number of places you go there are green 'P' signs, with numbers like '1/2', 1, 4 etc. written next to them. It appears that this means that you can only park there for the length of time indicated. I must admit that we haven't looked at this too closely, so I'll have to look it up on the Internet. But if it actually means we have to purchase vouchers to park there we're in trouble…

Then it was off to find a supermarket to stock up with some supplies for our road trip. We found a 'Woolworths' which is the same chain as the Woolworths and Countdown stores in New Zealand. It all seemed very familiar. Even the prices - and (as mentioned before) as the Aussie dollar is worth more than theNZ dollar, this made them about 20% more expensive. I've kept the receipt, so will do an actual price comparison when I get home.

There wasn't a brilliant bakery section though - and this one of my favourite areas in a NZ supermarket. I found a small section tucked away, but couldn't find any bread rolls. It appears that Australians still buy their bread from the local bakers - there are still a lot of them around, usually with a cafe attached, which I like. Alcohol of any kind isn't sold in supermarkets either - you have to go to the liquor store. Not a problem - we have our Duty Free bottle of brandy to keep us going…

So it was back to the hotel, then a stroll to SouthBank again to sit and watch the river and life. There are a number of buskers along the Southbank, and they all seem very good. Over by the pedestrian bridge was a juggler of knives & fire, while near our bar was a lady dressed as a statue. Much more gentle entertainment, but entertaining all the same, watching the reaction of people (especially children) to her tiny movements. She was very good - but staying stationary for so long probably didn't do her varicose veins much good.

In an attempt to save some money we were going to go for an Indian meal, but when we arrived at our chosen restaurant there was no-one else in it. I'd still have gone in, but Art has this thing about going into empty restaurants, so we headed to the Greek Quarter where there seemed to be more life. 'Stalactites' seemed busy, so in we went. And had a very pleasant chicken & lamb kleftico with salad & chips, with Greek beers to wash it down. Not quite our planned budget meal - $50 AUD - but it could have been worse.

Melbourne - Summary

Melbourne reminded me of a number of cities I've known. The general feel was like Auckland - similar buildings in the centre, not too many high rises, lots of sprawling suburbs. But there were more street cafes and much better public transport in the way of trams and buses. But this came at a price, with a multitude of overhead wires for the trams and electricity in general. I found this to be a bit of a mess, and it did not add to the city's charm. The Yarra River and the South Bank also reminded me of London, and the port is similar to Docklands also - built at the height of the property boom and now busting.

We were in Melbourne over a weekend, and I was amazed at how busy it was, both with pedestrians in the centre and traffic in general. I dread to think what it would be like during the week. And of course with a population of circa 4 million, it is more than twice the size of Auckland but half the size of London. Either way, I just found it too big and busy.

We didn't find it cheap either - everything seemed to be Auckland prices, but of course we were paying in Aussie dollars. And at 77 Australian cents to the NZ dollar, that makes it all very expensive to us.

So - to sum up our view of Melbourne so far - we prefer Auckland (sorry, Melbourne!)

holidays/abroad/melbourne_and_the_great_ocean_road/c_melbourne_again.txt · Last modified: 2012/02/22 09:40 by art
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