Up at the crack of dawn, as is the norm these days! only this time Nick and Ange had beaten me to it and were sitting outside on the balcony having a brew when I went upstairs. The weather was looking a lot brighter with blues skies in the distance to the north. We were soon joined by the others and in no time at all breakfast was prepared, consumed and everything squared away. We had the place till late, in fact we could have stayed another night if we wanted too, as the third night was included if you paid for two. so we were in no rush to get out and we decided to hang around until at least four O’Clock in order to get a full days activities in around the beach and Mollymook itself. The clouds had rolled away by now and Nick and Ange disappeared down the garden to explore the cliff tops just below the house. When they came back to report that the access to the rocks below was quite easy, my dad and me also took a look along the flat rocks that linked the beaches at Narrawallee and Mollymook. We also spotted a group teenagers diving off the rocks into the sea, something that looked decidedly dodgy to both of us.
As the day wore on the weather got better and as the sun was out by now, we couldn’t pass up another chance to get into the sea. Mum and dad decided to hang around the house for the afternoon, I didn’t blame them as it looked stunning in the afternoon sun, the girls said that they would walk down to the beach and meet us there after our swim. So it was James, Nick and I who jumped in a car and drove over to the far end of the beach where the Surf Life Savers had set up their flags for the day. After a quick chat with them, we were soon in the water and although the sea was a lot calmer than yesterday, the bodysurfing seemed better as we could judge the waves easier. By the this time the girls had joined us and after having a coffee in the beachside cafe we made our way back to the house to pack up and get ready to go home.
Back at the house, mum and dad told us that they’d tried out all three of the outside patio areas and that they were thinking of putting in an offer for the house. We all speculated how much we would have to fork out and soon came to the conclusion that even if we sold all our houses, we still wouldn’t have enough to buy it. Plan B is to win the lottery! It didn’t take long to pack up all our stuff and load up the cars for the journey home and it was with a heavy heart that we left the Cliff Top house and headed back to Canberra and work in the morning.
Jamie Olivier I am not, but I do like to cook up a storm in the kitchen and so this morning after an early start and a lounge around waiting for everybody to get up before I prepared a full English in the fantastically equipped kitchen. We all ate together out on the balcony overlooking the sea below and we had just finished when it started to lightly rain. Fear not, the boys had arranged to take a dip in the sea (Part Two!) only this time we were going body surfing! we spent the rest of the morning watching the wildlife out in the garden, playing snooker, reading books from the larger library of books or just generally lazing around the house.
The weather didn’t look like it was going to improve so we made to decision to head into town and the beach, collect the cars that we left down there overnight, have a swim and then do our own thing until we would meet-up again for dinner tonight. Some of us drove down to the other side of the bay, while others set off to walk the 3 or 4 km along the broad walk by the sea. Those of us who drove down dived into a large beach side cafe for a coffee to warm us up and to wait for the others to arrive. Fortunately by the time they arrived and had a brew, the weather had made a turn for the better and us boys (the women again had made the strategic decision to sit this one out) wondered down to the beach and spent the next hour or so bodysurfing in the waves.
God the surf was rough! I think we all got picked up and dumped on the beach at least once. Great fun though if you caught the right wave and it took you in all the way. I would love to be able to do proper surfer, but body surfing is about my limit at the moment. Once we had returned to the house, showered and sorted ourselves out, mum, dad and me jumped in the car and drove down the coast line towards Batemans Bay. Everybody who lives in Canberra associates the coast with Batemans Bay and it was certainly my first port of call when I first arrived in Australia. Personally, I don’t think much of it these days as there are far better places to go on the NSW coast, but it’s an interesting place all the same and my parents wanted to see it on this trip.
As usual the centre of Batemans was pretty quiet, so after taking a quick look around we drove on along the coast until hit Batehaven where there is an excellent Fish n Chip shop that I’ve been too many a time. Here we ordered three fish and a massive portion of chips which we took a little further down the coast to eat by the sea at Sunshine Bay. On the way back up to Mollymook we dropped into take a look at Pebbly Beach, which a beautiful nature reserve about 10km north of Batemans Bay. The weather wasn’t particularly good when we arrived, but the beach still looked fantastic and there was even a few kangaroos hanging around to greet us.
Back at the house, we caught up on what the others got up too during the day and then got ready for dinner. Grainne & Ange had called into Rick Stein’s, the celebrity chef, place just up the road, Bannisters to see if A: we could get in there for dinner and B: if we could afford it! They had brought back the menu, which is printed for each separate day, and after we had got over the eye watering high prices, we decided to give it a miss. So it was off to the town of Milton, which is about 3 or 4km away to see if we could find a restaurant that could accommodate the seven of us. After a couple of false starts we got a table in an excellent little bistro where we had a great meal along with a few drinks. When we left the restaurant, we found the local pubs had closed for the night (how strange!), so we returned home and cracked open a couple of bottles or wine/beer…
I’ve been planning this weekend since I found out my parents were coming over to Australia to see me again. I wanted my mum and dad to spend some time with some of the people who have become very good friends of mine during my time in Canberra. Ever since I spent an evening with Glenn, Meryl and their family at their holiday rental during the Christmas/New Year holidays, I thought it would be a great idea to get everybody together for a weekend down on the NSW South Coast.
So after a searching the internet for a suitable place to accommodate us all, I came across this beautiful looking house, high on a cliff top just outside the town of Mollymook, NSW. I wanted one on the beach itself, but whenever I searched the websites for one that ticked all the boxes, I kept coming back to the same place, as I liked the look of it. So today, after an early finish at work, my mum and dad picked me up outside the main doors of the office and we were on our way down the Kings Highway towards Batemans Bay and the NSW South Coast. Of course we stopped off at Braidwood for the obligatory pie at the bakery (it’s the law!) on the way and as soon as we hit the coast, we turned left to head north along the Princes Highway to Ulladulla and Mollymook. As we were the first ones there, we picked up the keys to the house from the Estate agent and then drove through Mollymook, to the cliff top where the house was located.
Wow, what can I say! This place is amazing, the pictures don’t do it justice and it’s filled with the most fantastic facilities. Table placing’s for about twenty people, every kitchen gadget you could think off, high end music system, BBQ etc. As we were first there, we got the pick of the bedrooms. The only ensuite master bedroom was allocated to mother and father, they pretended to object, saying that it wasn’t fair on the others, but as I told them it was ‘first in, best dressed’. I grabbed the bedroom with the two single beds in it, which left two large double bedrooms for James & Grainne and Nick & Angela, which were service by two bathrooms further down the hallway.
Not long after we started to unpack the car, Nick and Ange turned up and once they got over the shock of how great this place is, they were soon settling in themselves. finally, James and Grainne turned up to complete the entourage and once we were all unpacked and sorted we decided to take walk down the hill to Mollymook beach. The weather wasn’t the best, but of course us boys wanted to show off our manliness and go into the sea for a swim. Anyway by the time we arrived at the water’s edge the temp. had dropped dramatically and I’m sure we were all secretly hoping that someone would back out, but no stubbiness had set in and so it was off with the clothes and into the freezing water we all went. The girls of course, being the sensible ones, had long ago decided not to bother and stood on the beach chatting and no doubt laughing at us in the water.
For dinner, we had decided just to drive over to the large golf club clubhouse on the other side of the bay from us, so once we had returned to the house, showered and got ready, we jumped in a couple of cars and made our way over at around 7:30pm. Most clubs, be them RSL’s, sports clubs or golf clubs are always happy to welcome guests, especially if they’re going to spend cash on their premises, so we had no problem getting in and we were soon enjoying a meal in their bistro room. These social clubs usually come in two forms, the first generally cater for the food market and once people have their meal, they’re off. The second kind try a bit harder and usually put on some sort of entertainment to try and keep the punters in a bit longer. This one fell in between the two, as the grill room was packed when we first arrived and not long after a two piece band started off in the main room. However, by the time we had finished our meal, we noticed that most people had gone home, so we just bought a few more rounds of drinks and sat around the dinner table talking.
Again in an attempt to keep people in the club, most clubs will put on a shuttle bus to take people home at the end of the night and so after a long day, we decided to head for the hills and retire for the night. except nobody wanted to go to bed, so when we got in, a few bottles of wine were opened and a few more bottles of beer were drank while we sat round the massive lounge suite talking into the wee small hours…
Big day today! So up with the larks again and downstairs for swim before packing up and vacating the apartment by the allotted check out time. We’d parked the car overnight in the pay and display car park down the road from the apartment and we were soon on our way across town to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG or the ‘G’) for a tour around Melbourne’s biggest sporting venue. I had broached the idea with my dad a couple of days ago, as I knew that he would be thrilled to take a look inside the ground with all it’s history surrounding Australian cricket etc. however, he had told me that he wasn’t too bothered about going as it wouldn’t be that interesting of my mum. Anyway, when I returned from my morning swim, everything had changed and we were going to the ‘G’ after all, with mother saying that she would be more than happy to take a tour round the ground.
Inside the visitors centre we paid our money and joined a group of ten or so others who we’re waiting for the next tour to start. Our guide duly arrived at the stated time and after a few introductions, we were on our way down to the pitch level. Many of you will know that the MCG is not just a cricket ground, but also home to the Australian Rules Football League (AFL) which is played on the ground during the winter months. As the cricket season had just finished, the groundsmen were busy preparing the grass for the AFL season, where the teams that play at the ‘G’ regularly attract crowds of 65k and upwards. I think there are four or five Melbourne based teams that call the ground home and when they play each other the capacity of the ground is easily reached.
Next, we toured the dressing room area deep below the stands and then up to the press and media galleries up high above the pitch. We also took a look around the MCG library before finally moving onto the members stand with its impressive committee rooms and lounges complete with wood panelling and leather chairs. All the time we were kept fully informed with loads of interesting stories and facts about the ground by the excellent guide who we all thanked at the end of the tour.
Outside in one of the streets outside the MCG, we loaded up the address of Mike and Kath Atkins daughters home in the town of Altona just to the south-west of Melbourne and once the nice lady inside the iPad had instructed us to move off from our parking spot, we were on our way out of Melbourne CBD. Mike and Kath live down the Great Ocean Road in beautiful place called Apollo Bay and were up in Melbourne (at their daughter’s place in fact) to meet their old friends Alan and Mary Logan (my aunt and uncle), who had just flown into Melbourne from the UK the previous evening. The Atkins and Logan’s were friends back in Manchester in the days before Mike and Kath emigrated to Australia, but have kept in contact over the years, with each visiting each other on several occasions.
We found the house we were looking for without any problems, thankyou nice lady inside the iPad! and we’re welcomed into the huge house by Mike, Kath, Allan and Mary who had laid on lunch for the occasion. After a couple of hours chatting and finding out about Mike and Kath’s family in Australia it was time for us to leave for the airport and our journey back to Canberra.
Mother & father pose for one last picture at the apartment.
The MCG guide shows us round the ground
Down at pitch level.
Inside the changing room under the ground.
Great view of the CBD from the MCG
Inside the press gallery
The view from the member stand
Preparing the pitch for the next match.
Sitting in the posh chairs in the members lounge.
Standing by the statue of Shane Warne
The MCG from the outside
dad, Mum, Kath, Alan, Mary and Michael pose of a group picture.
I needed to be up early this morning even though I had a late night last night, because we had booked a hire car for a couple of days in order to take a drive down the Great Ocean Road. The GOR is one of those iconic Australian things, like the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, Bondi Beach, Gold Coast, Federation Square etc. that you must do before you leave this great land. Anyway, I had arranged to pick the car up at 10:00am at a location across the CBD and I still needed to get up, sort myself out, have a swim/shower, jump on a tram and take some daytime pictures of the artwork on some of the lane ways (alleys) that I spotted last night and be at the car hire place.
Picked up the car with no problems, which is more than I could say about trying to get back to the apartment! It looked fairly straight forward on the map, but when it came to taking a left turn at the appropriate place I found that it was a one way street, which meant that I had to go around the inner city ring road looking for a suitable exit. Anyway, I eventually got back to base and picked up the folks ready for our drive down to the GOR.
I love technology! Being a fairly new car, the radio had Bluetooth connectivity and once we had paired it with my iPad and plotted a route down to the point where we wanted to join the GOR, all we had to do was follow the nice lady’s instructions over the sound system. Hopefully sometime soon they’ll bring out a car that will do the driving for you as well!
Just after we joined the GOR, I spotted a sign for Bells Beach. Now Bells Beach is famous for its annual surfing competition to which the world’s best surfers flock too in the hope of being able to ring the bells for being the winner of the competition. Its board cast all over the world and is one of the oldest surf competitions out there. Obviously, it’s also a bit of a Mecca for your average surfer too, as when we arrived the car park, beach and surf was swarming with people in wetsuits. We walked down to a lookout point to take in the breathtaking scenery, where my dad spotted a paraglider soaring into the sky on the next headland. Being an ex micro-light/hang gliding person himself, he was interested in taking a look, so we drove over to see was going on.
Turns out this area is a designated paragliding area with a special take off/land in strip on the slope leading over a cliff into the sea. There were a couple of guys setting up their equipment and the first ready simply took a couple of steps down the a ramp and he was off. After watching these guys for a few minutes, we was off down the coast again towards the town of Anglesea where we had lunch. The next stop on the GOR was Aireys Inlet and the lighthouse that sits on the headland, it was a bit of steep climb for mother to negotiate, but once up to the top of the hill the views made the walk worth it.
We had planned on taking a swim in the sea at some stage today, but time was pushing on, so once back in the car we drove all the way along the GOR to the town on Lorne. It was a shame that we didn’t stop as there were some truly spectacular beaches along the way. Once we had parked up the car and took a short walk along the beach boardwalk, we found ourselves in the Lorne Hotel at the end of the beach, where we had a well deserved drink. On the way through town, we spotted a sign for the Erskine Falls and I remembered that Nick had told me that these were worth a visit if I ever found myself in these parts. We had always planned on returning to Melbourne tonight, so I suggested that we find somewhere to book into for dinner, go visit the falls, have dinner and then drive back to Melbourne in the dark. Another place Nick had told me about was the Grand Pacific Hotel located just out of town, so we called in and booked a table for dinner at 18:30, then drove up to the Erskine Falls about 10km up the mountain out of town.
Up at the car park at the top of the falls, we were greeted by a sign that told yes that there were two viewing platforms, one at the top about 80m away and one at the bottom about 300m down a steep looking set of stairs. The look of horror on mothers face told me that she wasn’t going to attempt the bottom viewing platform and after my dad and I had done it, I wished that hadn’t either! The falls themselves were impressive but there wasn’t a lot of water coming over the top, but I can imagine what it looks like when there’s been a decent amount of rain previously.
Back at the Grand Pacific Hotel we had an excellent meal in the large open (too open for some, as we had to move indoors when the sun went down!) dining room, before retracing or steps back along the GOR to Melbourne. When I was planning this little trip, I had considered the option of spending the night somewhere along the GOR in order to explore it more. After today’s trip I now wish that I had.
Street art in an alleyway just off Flinders Street
The graffiti is a pretty popular attraction.
The iconic Bells Beach
Surfers in the water at Bells Beach.
Where were we again.
A paraglider takes off from the runway.
Mum watching the paraglider.
Close up shot of the paraglider.
Great shot of the mum, beach and paraglider.
Wow! what a view from the lighthouse at Aireys Inlet.
After a good night’s sleep, I was up early to go for a swim in the lap pool on the ground floor of the apartment block, while mum and dad got themselves ready upstairs. The only problem with the apartment we’ve got, is that there’s only one bathroom, so the ideal solution is for me to do 20 lengths in the pool, and then have a shower in the changing rooms down there.
After breakfast we took a walk along the river bank to the newly built South Wharf complex, where the Melbourne Conference & Exhibition Centre (MCEC) is located along with the usual bars and restaurants that come with these places. Also in this area is a DFO outlet centre where we spent a couple of hours browsing the many stores. We should have been out of there sooner, but somehow I managed to get separated from the other two and not being able to get a decent signal on my phone to ring them, spent ages wondering round trying to find them again.
We had done the retail therapy now it was time for the cultural bit. We had planned to jump on a tram across the CBD to the Victoria Parliament building and take tour around. However, when we got there and taken a few pictures outside, we discovered that it was closed at weekends! Fear not, we had a backup plan, next door to the old Parliament building is the Old Treasury building and looking at the tourist guide it promised rare Ned Kelly documents, a history of Melbourne and even a tour of the vaults were Australia’s gold reserves used to be held. Not today! Closed on Saturdays said the sign outside. After a quick discussion, we decided to forget the cultural aspect of our day and catch a the tram back across town and down to the seaside town of St Kilda in Melbourne’s South. As it was, the first tram that came along, the number 112, took us all the way down to the beach at St. Kilda, where we took a walk along the Esplanade. As the weather wasn’t the best, we ducked into a bar right on the beachfront and had a drink. After walking a little further on we decided to forgo the bracing sea air (it was bloody freezing!) and headed over to Acland Street, where I knew the 96 tram starts its journey back into the CBD. I also knew that this street is lined with the most fantastic cafés and cake shops and it wasn’t long before mother was getting stuck into some of their wares. Back at the apartment, we had a quick change and headed out to dinner back in one of the restaurants at the MCEC.
Tonight Melbourne was throwing a massive party in the streets of the CBD, something called ‘White Night‘, which promised an evening (7pm to 7am) of cultural events, light installations, street entertainment and partying. The trams were scheduled to run all night so we squeezed ourselves into a packed one that was heading for the heart of the action. When we arrived the crowds were unbelievable! Burke Street was heaving with people trying to catch a glimpse of a light projection here or a band playing there, so we decided to push on down towards Federation Square. The crowds were getting thicker as we moved down Swanton Street and a couple of policemen told us that it was even worse down at the junction of Swanton/Flinders streets and Federation Square. At this point mother and father decided to bale out and return to the apartment, while I pushed on to grab some pictures of the light projections onto some of the older building along Flinders Street.
Any thought of entering Federation Square for a look at was going on in there were scuppered by the sight of a couple ambulances trying to force their way in, no doubt to retrieve some poor unfortunate souls who had been crushed in the throng. So I spent the next couple of hours wondering around the fringes of the festival looking at some of the stuff going on in the streets and even dropping into the Ian Potter Centre to look at some contemporary art, strange stuff! At 2am I’d seen enough and headed for the tram stop to be amazed at the sight of people still coming into town to join the nights activities.
The Polly Woodside built in Belfast, Northern Ireland
Mother out the Victoria parliament House
The ‘old and the new’
The statue of Gordon of Khartoum.
Outside of the cake shops in St. Kilda.
St. Kilda High Street
Some of the entertainers at the start of the White Night Festival.
The streets at getting busy
Wow, look at that crowd!
One of the buildings lit up by a projection.
Flinders Street Station gets the treatment.
Another building is lit up…
and one more.
‘Art’ inside the Ian Potter Centre
Some of the Street Art in the laneways behind the main streets
My parents have been to Australia a few times now, but have never been as far south as Melbourne, so as soon as I knew they were coming down under, I was on the internet arranging a trip for the three of us.
Therefore, at 04:30 this morning, I found my alarm going off and I was up getting ready to set off for the airport and the flight down to Melbourne. The flight itself was uneventful and upon landing, we decided to jump on the transfer bus which took us into the centre of town where we left the suitcase we brought with us in a left luggage locker at the train station and headed into the city centre to grab some breakfast. As the accommodation we had booked would be available until 4pm, we took a walk round the main shopping streets of the CBD where strangely the majority of the shops were not opening until 10am. At the bottom of all the shopping district is the old town hall and next to that is the Anglican St. Paul’s Cathedral. Unfortunately we thought it was a catholic cathedral and only realised our mistake when we were inside taking a look round. Still, mother lit a candle or two and we listened to the choir who were practising for an event later in the day. Outside, we found ourselves crossing over the road to Federation Square, the main hub of Melbourne, just as the lunch time trade was starting in the cafés, restaurants and bars that are dotted around it. After lunch we jumped on the City Circuit, which is a free tram service around the CBD provided by the council to show off the various tourist attractions to visitors.
When we had finished on the tram, we walked past Flinders Street Station, over the River Yarra and down onto the South Bank area. Whilst chatting over a beer or two (orange juice for mother) in one of the many bars in this area, we decided to carry on walking along the South Bank, past the Massive Crown Casino and see if we could gain access to the apartment a little early. We were in luck and were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful two bedroom apartment on the 24th floor of a block just behind the casino. My dad and I jumped on a tram back up to the station to fetch the suitcase, while mother had a well earned sleep.
It had already been a long day, but we still needed to eat, so after a quick change we walked over to the casino, had a quick look round the casino floor while looking for a suitable restaurant to eat in out of the many in there. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to stay in the casino, my bed was calling me, so after dinner we a headed back to the apartment.
Just arrived in Melbourne.
Mother at the central Station shopping centre
Father at the Central Station shopping centre
School choir practicing inside St. Paul’s Cathedral
Stained Glass window
Mum lights a candle for her brother, Eddie
Plaque describing an old battle honour flag inside the cathedral.
This is the actual flag
At the alter
Posing in front of Flinders Street train Station
Mum spots herself on the large screen in Federation Square.
walking across Federation Square.
My dad check the gauge width of the tramlines.
On board the free City Circuit tram.
enjoying the ride
Inside the City Circuit Tram
Melbourne CBD from the bridge over the Yarra River.