We chose the inland route to travel to Melbourne, which brought us to a delightful little town recommended by both hosts…Beechworth. Not much here, really, other than everything one needs. A Brewery with excellent Pizza. A homemade Ice cream AND a Gelato place. An excellent Bakery. A friendly AirBNB and time to walk.
After a restful night we went onwards with a list of towns Norman recommended for stopping, or so we thought. One of the “suggestions,” Violet Town had absolutely NOTHING to see or do. Wondering why he recommended it, we asked. He mumbled something about “he was just giving us towns along the way…” which somehow we had misunderstood to mean “Recommending” towns along the way. Must be a language thing!
Driving to Melbourne was relatively “Routine.” That is to say at the highest level, the terrain “felt” a little like Nebraska or maybe Oregon or Kansas. Hilly. Grassy. Cattle. But every now and then you just get this idea that something is not right…like watching a spooky movie where the score is carefully designed to make you feel like things are about to go awry (and the heroine/protagonist/bimbo is about to open the basement door….DON’T DO IT…)
There is the obvious “wrong side driving” thing, but that is not the real issue. On a Motorway (like a Freeway) it is two lanes in the same direction with a large median. Easy to manage. It’s all the stuff around…the atmospherics. There are mostly Eucalyptus Trees. Cities have weird names. The road signs are all wrong and the road kill is large and marsupial. Definitely NOT Kansas.
Every so often you get the overwhelming urge to tap your heels together and say, “There is no Place Like Home…”
Eventually, arrival in Melbourne was uneventful. The GPS brought us right to friend Norman Same’s apartment. But then we had to navigate to the Rental Car return. Norman said: “Follow me…”
He has a new Electric Car and let’s just say he “enjoys the acceleration,” which the rental is hard-pressed to match. The route included a couple of “interesting” U-Turns, but despite counseling me (after the fact, not before) about these, none of Melbourne’s famous hook turns.
A “Hook Turn” is a system whereby you pull into a turning lane on the left in order to make a right turn on a yellow lite. It is as counterintuitive s it sounds. OK, so there are probably some logical reasons for this if there is a Tram line on the street…but I think this is more about the abovementioned wicked Aussie Humour.
Later, over wine and beer, Norman’s friend Sarah smiled and said she was very impressed with our follow-ability. “Especially that last U-Turn,” she said. This is the one where Norman pulled over to the parking lane and pointed to the rental car return across the street, and across the tram line.
Traffic behind and all around. The traffic Signal there had multiple greens and reds and yellows, including a “T” that changed colour. Not clear what to do (legally) or when. I didn’t see a tram or a cop or any immediate interference from traffic, so I quickly made a U-Turn across the Tram Line at the next intersection and pulled into the return garage before we could be spotted and “congratulated” by the police.
From Sarah’s expression, I am guessing she and Norman had a bet (Aussies will bet on anything) on whether we would:
a) survive Tram Impact, or
b) be arrested.
Not sure “c) return the rental car” was even part of the bet because of the poor odds!
During our stay, Melbourne was hosting the Australian Open (Tennis). We had plans to “attend” in Federation Square, picnic-style. Until we saw the weather report: 40 C with a hot Northerly (I know, that sounds WEIRD) wind. With no shade and 20,000 people in the square, we thought that the Botanical Gardens, under a big tree was better for a picnic. When it actually got around the time to leave, we decided a picnic on the living room floor (in the AirCon) was an even better idea.
We were also hoping for Cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (The Iconic “MCG”) , but the schedule-makers conspire against us. The “Big-Bash” Cricket (a short format version) season ended the day we arrived. Playoffs MIGHT include a championship game in Melbourne…if the Melbourne Renegades win their first round AND Hobart beats Perth. We understand there is a chance, but not a good chance for these circumstances to align.
The other option: Australia plays England in the “ODI”. Which would be a really fun experience. Unfortunately, the match is in Tasmania on 7 Feb when we are in Melbourne; and in Melbourne 10 Feb. when we are in Tasmania. (And, BTW, the series was also in Auckland, but of course after we had left NZ!)
We looked to change our flite to Tasmania to 11 Feb. to allow us the option of seeing the Cricket Match on 10 Feb at the MCG. The charge was over $250 pp. to do this…the Secretary of The Treasury would not approve AUD$500 (not even counting the Cricket-ticket or a Pie at the game) to see a Cricket game that, truth be told, she probably did not want to see anyway.
Looking for other options (I REALLY wanted to see a Cricket match), Australia’s budget carrier Jetstar (affectionately called “ShitStar” by Aussies) offered a $56pp one way trip 11 Feb., which was just on the edge of possible. Liz refused to authorize any transaction involving anything called “ShitStar.” Period. That is even before the luggage fee of $60/bag (we have 3) made the financial details unworkable.
Oh well, Cricket on TV; . It seems like we were NOT going to expand our appreciation of the game in person! ☹