It was an early morning departure as we headed across country, by-passing Canberra, and onto the Hume Highway at Yass for our trip to Melbourne for a photographic convention. With a few stops on the way to eat/drink/refuel and change drivers it took us around 10 hours. The Hume is four lanes nearly all the way now, has a 110km/hr speed limit and with virtually no traffic was a dream run. The new Albury/Wodonga by-pass has just been opened and this saves at least 30 minutes.
We arrived in town at peak hour and had to deal with not only heavy traffic but trams and the eccentric Melbournean "hook turn" where, to make a right hand turn, you pull over to the left and wait for those lights to turn green. There is a method in the madness. The trams behind you don't get held up.
Our hotel was near the convention centre and the Crown Casino which has forty restaurants, cafes and snack bars.
The first night we ate at Neil Perry's Rockpool Bar and Grill. Neil has the Rockpool, a famous Asian restaurant, in Sydney but I have never been there due to its prohibitive pricing. So it was nice to experience the Perry touch with a more reasonable bill.
The place was hard to fault. The room itself was beautifully set out, the service seamless and the food wonderful. We had sushi and grilled prawns as starter, roasted grass fed dry aged rib eye beef on the bone as a main and I endulged in a caramelised apple tart with vanilla bean ice cream to finish. This was all washed down with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley and a Chianti to die for.
Sorry Dr. Brett! Will start that diet next week.
Next morning we walked into the CBD and had a coffee and sambo breakfast. Then we explored some shops at the "Paris End" of Collins Street and some of the old Victorian shopping arcades that have been beautifully restored. After that we hopped a tram to the National Gallery of Victoria and spent some time viewing the many treasures in there.
Lunch was a lottery but we chose well, a Japanese Restuarant in Federation Square.
Then it was back to the casino for some gambling. As usual there were no winnings.
Later that night we went back to the Jasmine Thai Restaurant for dinner.
This had to be the worst Thai meal I have ever been served. Completely inedible!
Their web site states: With expert preparation, perfect cooking and serving of the finest quality Thai Cuisine; you can expect superior freshness, exciting taste and a dining experience that will guarantee you will bring your friends back with you next time!
Grounds for suing for false advertising I think.
Next morning, K went of to the photographic convention and I went looking for some wine making equipment at my favourite store. Talk about toys for wine boys! Ended up with two additional tanks that just fitted in the back of the car and had the potential to rattle for the entire 1000km trip home.
I was born in Melbourne and spent the first 10 years of my life there so it was interesting to revisit some of my old childhood haunts. On the way to have dinner with relatives, we passed my old house. It still looked exactly the same although the neighborhood streets seem a lot narrower and distances a lot shorter than from a kid's perspective.
Next morning we headed up into the Dandenong Ranges. This line of 600m high hills is an hour's drive out of Melbourne and is a combination of touristy villages, National Park and rural residences. There is a great view from the top overlooking the city and surrounding districts. When I was 6, my parents went to Europe (it was a 6 week ship voyage each way in those days)and I was at a boarding school in this area for around 9 months. I found the old one teacher school I went to which brought back memories of walking to class in the snow and not being able to eat lumpy porridge.
Part of the area has been maintained as mountain ash forest.
These gum trees (eucalypts) are the largest flowering plants in the world and can grow to 100m (330ft) high. It's a wonderful area with deep gullies full of giant tree ferns and tumbling waterfalls. It is home to the lyrebird and other Australian forest wildlife.
Back in the city we headed to Lygon Street, Carlton which is the Italian part of town. Here is an amazing choice of restaurants, coffee bars and shops. We picked a cafe at random and had a great meal al fresco while watching the passing parade.
That night we went to K's first Australian rules football game at the Telstra Dome. The Sydney Swans were playing the North Melbourne Kangaroos. The Swans were originally South Melbourne but got transferred to Sydney in the 1980's after the club fell on hard times.
I have been a Swan's supporter all my life so it was great to see them play again. Unfortunately they let the Kangaroos get too far ahead and despite a stirring fightback in the last quarter, they failed to overhaul them.
But I think K is hooked on the game and there may be a few trips to Sydney in store to see the Swannies play again. And we do get live telecasts of their games via satellite.
Next morning it was back on the Hume heading north. We took a small detour to Brown Brothers winery at Milawa for lunch at their great restaurant and took time out for a tasting of their experimental wines which consist of small plantings of less well known grapes from Spain, Italy and Portugal among others.
We especially liked their Tempranillo and Barbera as well as Viognier.
Needless to say the rattling tanks were joined by rattling bottles for the rest of the trip home.