Firstly, I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year.
It’s hard to believe that our time in Melbourne is already over. I love Melbourne and, although I haven’t been anywhere else in Australia, it may well be my favourite place. I have been looking forward to getting out of the city though and exploring more.
To bring us almost right up to date, this post will cover the highlights of our last couple of weeks in Melbourne.
Carols in the Park
In an attempt to get in the Christmas spirit, we went out to South Yarra to watch some famous Australian singers (we didn’t know who!) and choirs sing Christmas carols. We were all sat up on the hill turning the park into an amphitheatre and, once the candles came out and the sky darkened, the atmosphere was good. It was hilarious watching Aussie kids ‘sledging’ down the hills on cardboard boxes.
Melbourne Zoo, 400 Gradi
A trip to the zoo is always fun and we had waited to go specifically when the new carnivore exhibition opened. We were pretty happy to have our first sight of two koalas, a mother and daughter, who were wide awake eating. We were told that the koalas normally sleep all day and eat briefly during the night so we were quite lucky.
It was interesting to see so many different animals although it will never be the same as seeing them in the wild. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any of the new animals (including snow leopards) as they were apparently still settling in. At the time I was quite annoyed but I guess it can’t be helped.
We ended the day with pizza at 400 Gradi in Brunswick. The head chef won the world’s best margarita pizza at a competition in Naples so our expectations were high. The food was expensive and probably not quite the world’s best. It just tasted like good quality pizza to me.
On the way back to the city I noticed a missed call from home which was odd as we normally call on Wi-Fi only as its free. I began to wonder whether something bad had happened. The tram driver announced that there were road closures in the city due to emergency services. We saw one man unconscious on the floor with fire engines, an ambulance and a police car around but we thought it was strange that the closures would be just for that. We were up the top of Swanston Street.
On the tram home we saw even more police down Elizabeth Street. We didn’t know anything about what had happened just an hour earlier until I spoke to my Dad. This world really is a crazy place and it’s so sad that one man passed away after a few weeks of being in a critical condition. I had been saying a few days earlier that it was so busy on the streets that it wouldn’t surprise me if something happened.
Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory
Football, as we know it, is not Australia’s main sport. They love their own form of football (AFL), which looks a bit like rugby/basketball/football, as well as cricket.
I wasn’t expecting much in terms of soccer but I didn’t want to miss the popular ‘Christmas Derby’.
I had intended to follow Melbourne City as the manager used to play for Preston North End. Whilst both teams weren’t anywhere near English quality, Melbourne Victory were so much better, with more fans and a few more years of history. Victory were formed in 2005 as opposed to City’s 2009.
The game wasn’t great and had 0-0 written all over it until a 94th minute penalty for Victory. The stadium itself looked fantastic and the purple sunset made it even better.
The run up to Christmas was completely different this year. It’s hard to get in the Christmassy spirit with 38 degree heat. This was actually the first time we’d ever spent Christmas Day together as we are normally back in Lincoln/Durham with our families so that made a change. It was also nice to catch up with family back home thanks to video calls!
We cooked up a big roast dinner which wasn’t probably the best idea when it was so hot. After trying to slip out of our food comas, we made our way to the beach at St Kilda and went in the sea. I hadn’t been to the beach on Christmas since I was 12 in Cyprus. There was a huge party on St Kilda beachfront which made headline news the next day. It was probably a bit too rowdy for us.
Boxing Day Test at the MCG
This was THE thing I had most been looking forward to. I’d booked the tickets for day one of the Boxing Day Test some six months earlier. It’s only once every four years that the Boxing Day Test features Australia v England in the Ashes. We were incredibly lucky to be able to spend Boxing Day at the cricket despite England having already lost the Ashes.
Our seats were Bronze Standard, one higher than general admission but happened to be only four rows from the highest point in the stadium. This gave us an incredible view of the entire cricket pitch and stadium. The crowd peaked at approximately 88,000 and we were treated to brilliant batting from Australia (as usual) with a hundred from David Warner and a fifty from Steve Smith. England did manage to get three wickets in the end but I think the bowlers saved their best for day two.
I know the Boxing Day Test is on so many people’s bucket lists so all I can say is that you have to try and make it work for the next Ashes tour in 2021. It was such an incredible day; one that I will not forget for a long time.
Thanks to my sister, Charlotte, we had tickets to the viewing platform 88 floors up the Eureka Tower. Not only that, we had tickets for the Edge experience. A glass cube juts out from the tower with nothing to stop you looking down. I think the tower is the largest in Australia and, being slightly afraid of heights, I was nervous.
We decided to spend our last night in Melbourne up the tower so we could get a birds eye view of everywhere we had been. The views were fantastic even though the weather wasn’t fully clear.
After a 1.5 hour wait, our time in the Edge arrived. I didn’t realise that the cube was normally in the building and then mechanically moved itself fully out over the edge. At first, the glass wasn’t transparent so my nerves were still intact. Then the music came on and a loud crack as though the glass was shattering. All of a sudden the glass cleared and the streets were visible 88 floors below. The experience lasted about fifteen minutes and I will admit that sweat was dripping from my forehead. Especially when some old fella decided it would be funny to jump up and down.
It’s a shame that our time in Melbourne is over but I’m sure we’ll be back in the not so distant future.
Next up was a three day road trip to Sydney for New Year’s Eve and the beginning of a new way of life; vanlife.