Scenes from the Skeens

Melbourne, (that’s Melboune if pronounced correctly)

April 21, 2007 2:41 pm by Melissa

Upon booking our trip to Melbourne, I didn’t think one part of Australia could be much different than another. Granted, Australia is huge, although not as big as Canada. The distance between Brisbane and Melbourne is over 1,600 miles, which made the decision to fly rather than drive an easy one.

We arrived at Melbourne airport late Saturday evening. We took a rather expensive cab ride into St.Kilda where we had booked accommodation for two nights.

St. Kilda, Melbourne
I had read a few website descriptions and Lonely Planet guides on St.Kilda and knew that it was once an area mainly populated with druggies and prostitutes but the majority of information I read supported the areas recent upgrades and rising real estate costs. I did leave our hotel booking to the last minute and had a difficult time finding any vacancies at the Lonely Planet’s suggested hotels. We ended up finding an apartment right in the heart of St.Kilda, walking distance to the beach and Luna Park. Our host, Somer’s directions were to drive to the corner of Fitzroy and Canterbury and flag her down, she would be the blonde in jeans on the corner. I had visions of a nice, quiet street corner her being the only person in view. Our cabbie dropped us at the corner and we decided to hop out with the kids and luggage in tow and walk down the street a bit to find Somer. Our drop-off point just happened to be right next to the streets busiest bar. The kids watched in amazement as one bar participant (who had obviously drunk past his limit) puked onto the sidewalk. I was trying to think of a spiel I could give Nate and Maddy on this gentleman’s behavior. Something to the effect of, ‘He was obviously not feeling well and should have stayed home instead off drinking massive amounts of alcohol in a public place.’ Luckily he helped me out by moaning between hurls, ‘I’m such an idiot, I’m such an idiot.’ No discussion necessary.

Our second interaction with a Melbournian was with a lady (sober) who was walking down the main street with her friend and stopped to ask us if we were looking for someone. Our heavy suitcases and tired children must have given us away. We explained our situation and she was very welcoming and then spent the next few minutes telling us everywhere we should visit while in the area. We did find Somer after ringing her on her mobile. She was on the street looking for our cab, along with hundreds of other people, blonde and in jeans. She settled us into our apartment for the night, very welcoming with a cold bottle of wine in the fridge waiting for us.

The next morning we woke up refreshed ready to visit all of the spots our lady friend had mentioned the night previously. I knew I was going to like Melbourne right from the start when Dan brought breakfast to us that morning. Fresh chocolate croissants from the corner French patisserie. We were free from our local breakfast place whose specialty is baked beans on toast with as much greasy bacon as you like.

Our first stop was the St.Kilda market. In Queensland it is normal to be up at around 6 a.m. 5 a.m. if you surf. Again, I didn’t think one place would be much different from another. Wrong, the Melbournian way seems to be to stay up as late as possible and get up as late as possible. The market was just setting up at 9:30 a.m. when we arrived. The displays of artwork were very impressive and it was difficult to not want to make a purchase to take back home as a very nice souvenir item from our trip. Nate settled on a small silver wombat and Maddy picked up some hand drawn cards of her favorite dog breeds. Dan and I, as usual left empty-handed.

On our walk we came across Luna Park and promised the kids we would return the next day when we hoped things were not as busy.

We then decided to visit the Melbourne Museum. Melbourne MuseumWe took an easy tram ride over and spent the majority of the day looking around. We skipped the Wall of China exhibit but we were very impressed with all of the museum offerings, especially the Forest setting. There are huge gum trees growing right within the museum building with a natural forest setting around, including slimy skinks and large lizards. The kids were very impressed with all of their interactive activities.

After a day at the museum we returned back to the apartment to prepare for an evening cruise I had booked to see the little penguins that swim into St.Kilda pier upon dusk. I didn’t know too much about the actual boat except where to meet the owners and that we would be out on the water for approximately 90 minutes. Dan and I were both hesitant to take the trip, as we didn’t like the idea of the little penguins being bothered. We were happy to see that we were not part of a big boat expedition but a small fishing boat expedition with only one other family. They directed us that no flash pictures could be taken and that they would be waiting until the other big boats had passed. While we waited the kids were served one of their favorite Aussie meals, sausages on white bread as they counted 53 jellyfish off the boat side. We also got to see an amazing sunset around the city.
Melbourne skyline






We then noticed our little penguin friends making there way over to the rocks, ready to settle for the night. We took a very slow sail along the rock sides and started our penguin spotting. Nate and Maddy, along with another child passenger counted 103 penguins in total.

The next day before heading to our next destination we fulfilled our promise to the kids with a trip to Luna Park.
Luna Park
Poor Dan stood in an hour-long line (even though we were there before opening) so we could get a few tickets for the kids to ride on the roller coasters. I guess Dan thought this was the least he could do, as I was the one who had to accompany the kids on their rides. We all survived and then headed off to meet some extended family for the first time in nearby East Brighton.

We were all looking forward to meeting some family connections after three months with no Stacey/Skeen gatherings. Even in California we had a group of close friends who spent an amble amount of time with.

Chris and Merilyn were very welcoming when we contacted them through e-mail and as our trip was fairly last minute, they were very accommodating to put us up for three nights. To the kids delight they had an inground pool in their backyard. And as is the case with every pool we vacation with the kids swam until they couldn’t see straight the first day.

Chris is one of seven (maybe eight, my memory is failing me) brothers in the Ludowyk family along with Anne the only girl. My Mom grew up with her first cousins in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and until this summer had not seen then in over 30 years. Anne had organized a family gathering at her place in honor of our arrival, which was fantastic. Tim and Paul had come all the way from Geelong to meet with us. And David and his wife were also there. It was nice to meet some of my Mom’s side of the family and make a connection with some people whom myself and my brothers look a lot like! Most appreciated of all was how accepting everyone was of the kids, especially Nate and his entertaining ways.

We continued our week by visiting several other places in the little time we had. We had planned on doing a good part of the Ocean Road but only made it as far as Torquay. We made the mistake of getting out at the beach and not returning to the car until late afternoon.
Torquay

One of the highlights of the trip was a top secret trip to Yarra Golf Club’s ninth hole at dusk. Ed, Anne’s husband volunteers with an environmental society and counts the flying foxes that take off from some trees within this area. At last count, Ed with some assistance, had counted over 18,000 in one evening. We waited patiently as the group of bats chattered away, eventually they took off all at once, slowly over top of us. It was truly an amazing, once in a lifetime sight. Maddy, animal enthusiast as she is, just sat and looked up, awestruck. Nate, of course had to take flight with the bats and ran all around as their take off lasted at least 20 minutes or longer. Both the penguin sightings and the flying foxes were nighttime adventures that we can only share through our memories, which make them even more awe-inspiring.

After a final day spent in the city (visiting Melbourne Cricket Grounds, Federation Square, Flinders Station and the Royal Botanic Gardens) I think what I enjoyed the most about Melbourne was how much it reminded me of the good parts of Toronto. Melbourne Cricket GroundIt is a very cultured city with so much to do and see. We will find it difficult to not spend more time there before our trip is over in November.








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