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Australia diaries 28/12/15 – 4/1/16

January 4, 2016

After many months of planning and deliberating, we are finally back in our spiritual second home. When I say planning, I mean it in the loosest sense of the word, because we haven’t actually planned much apart from the first two weeks! Pete has retired so we have 8 glorious weeks in which to soak up the Aussie vibe and catch up with our dear friends who now live out here.

We flew with Qatar Airways – a new one to us, but they won airline of the year 2015, well deserved I think. The only problems were, as usual, other passengers! From the fidgety kids behind us on the first leg, inconsiderate reclining of chairs, and the wheeziest smokers cough I’ve ever heard on the second leg – I almost handed him my ventolin at one point. Arriving at night was a good plan, meaning we were tired enough to sleep at our hotel almost straight away (who can sleep on planes anyway?) Pete stayed up to watch Spurs v Watford (we won 2-1) after a bit of banter with the Gooner taxi driver on the drive from the airport (what luck, eh?), our body clocks allowed us to sleep until about 8.30am. Apparently the best cure for jet lag is to get outside and soak up the vitamin D, so that’s exactly what we did. A short stroll from the hotel is the hive of activity that is Federation Square. Nestled between the Ian Potter centre and Flinders street station, among the trams and thousands of people is a square full of cafe’s, restaurants and bars, and a huge outdoor entertainment area with big screen. Our favourite place for a magnificent Aussie breakfast is Time Out. For about $50AUD two people can feast on a breakfast combination of their choice, with coffee and smoothies. No need to eat again until dinnertime! From there we strolled (really strolled as it was about 27 degrees) to the MCG to watch day 4 of the test, Australia v. West Indies. Sit where you like on days like this, it was a pretty poor attendance of around 7000, so easy to bask in the sun until toasted, then retreat to the shade until you feel cool again.

Day 2 was my day – which meant shopping! There is no greater place to shop in the whole of Australia in my opinion. Not sure Pete would agree though. Myers department store is home to thousands of pairs of shoes – it was a bit like being a rabbit in the headlights! Still, bargains were bagged, coffee was supped, and we found a great microbrewery pub on the way back to hotel called The Crafty Squire. Beers and food reward for the workout that was shopping in the city.

Day 3 was New Year’s Eve, and our friends joined us from Albury. It was the hottest day, around 39 degrees, which showed no signs of abating by the time we arrived at the World Bar & Restaurant, our venue for the evening. I had to leave about 9.30pm, the heat was just too much. A shame, as it was a great place, loads of food, drink, and a brilliant salsa band and DJ. The fireworks at midnight were pretty special, I had a great view from my hotel room – by this time I had cooled down and had stopped feeling like my core was going to explode!

Day 4 – New Year’s day – another breakfast at Time Out, then a river trip to Williamstown – it seemed like the rest of Melbourne had the same idea…

Day 5 – Up early and onto the 96 tram to South Melbourne market to meet Pete’s cousin,his wife and their 2 year old for breakfast. The market is everything a market should be – the freshest and finest fruit, veg, fish, pastries, bread,  – the sights and smells are pretty wonderful – artisans and sellers of everything you could want reside here. We succumbed to a couple of French pastries which we ate later on a park bench in St Kilda. It was lovely to meet Henry, their lively two year old – the last time we met up was when Kathryn was 6 months pregnant with him! Since we were on the 96 tram route, it seemed churlish not to continue to the end of the line, St Kilda beach. A hot and breezy day, so we headed for a lovely bar on the next to the beach for a beer and  glass of fizz, to watch the world go by. Also on the 96 route is The Pumphouse – the pub opposite where we used to stay in Melbourne. So here we stopped for lunch, and for old times’ sake, before heading back to freshen up for the evenings entertainment – The Big Bash T20 game at the MCG. Longy & Holly – a couple we have met through Twitter and a mutual love of Spurs, are members – so got us signed into the members area, and it was pretty impressive too. They have it all worked out to make it a pleasant experience – no alcohol can be taken to the seats, so all drinking has to be done at the bar – the result is very little drunkenness at an event that is aimed at families and youngsters. Tonight was the only time I have felt cold, the wind really whips up in the bowl  shape of a modern stadium.  The home team Melbourne Stars beat  Melbourne Renegades – Kevin Pieterson (All Stars) & Chris Gayle (Renegades) were disappointingly average – the star of the game was England’s Luke Wright for the Stars, who scored over 100 runs, a rare event in a T20 competition. We rounded off the night with a late supper at another Fed square favourite – Chocolate Bhudda – dumplings and some Tempura prawns, and a cold glass of Sav Blanc, before saying goodbye to Longy & Holly.

Day 6  – a long lie in, and meeting two of our oldest friends, Chrissie & Steve for lunch at Cookie, a fantastic  Asian restaurant hidden away on the first floor somewhere along Bourke Street. Amazing soft pork dumpling, and  a snapper stir fry with pad thai noodles , with just enough heat to make a girl glow! Washed down with some local cider (7% at lunchtime? Marvellous!) After which we managed a bar crawl, for cocktails at Madame Brussels (a rooftop bar) then down one of the laneways to the Gin Palace for a drink before saying our goodbyes. Melbourne is full of secret hideaways, bars and restaurants  some of which are not obvious to the passer by – but ask a local and you’ll find the best the city has to offer.

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