My first time out of Asia, I watched as the sun dawned over Asia Pacific. I was en route to Melbourne, the longest flight I had been on and the first other continent I travelled to. Being excited was an understatement.
In three weeks, I squeezed in three beautiful states, was inspired by some breathtaking views and was completely loved by wonderful friends and family. I really couldn’t have done it without them.
Having being picked up at the airport by my cousin and aunt, I was taken to a Sri Lankan restaurant for some fresh ‘polos’ buns (baby jackfruit) and a bottle of SMAK Mango (a brand of fruit juice in Sri Lanka that is decades old) – because you know, priorities. What can I say; you can take the girl out of Sri Lanka but you can’t take the Sri Lankan out of the girl!
…and so began my adventures! Without wasting time on getting over jet-lag we drove up to Dandenong the very next morning. At 3C degrees, Winter was still coming to an end in Australia and I had just arrived from a very tropical 38C degrees and 93% humidity! My system did take a while to adjust, it was freezing at the Dandenong lookout but it didn’t stop me from getting out of the car!
The drive was beautiful – as we drew closer to the area, it was interesting to see how the houses changed from being compact to sprawling with little gardens by the sides. A quaint village atmosphere swept over, stores with little bits of everything – felt like it was all out of a novel. We stopped by at a quiet little cafe for a cuppa hot chocolate and pie – perfection.
I left an entire day to roam around the city – which was a 40 minute train ride from where I stayed over in Berwick. It still wasn’t enough – I missed going over to the MCG, but managed to cover quite a few other interesting spots. It felt like the city had a culture of its own; the art, the music, the pubs on one side and a cityscape of highrisers on the other.
One of my favourite parts was the streets of graffiti – coming from a relatively conservative culture, seeing the freedom and sound of art was different and lovely! I was almost gaping at the artists, the street performers and the skateboarders – a different world.
On the other side of the world, stood the tall and dominant; quite a contrast from the free and easy – and nevertheless, awe-inspiring. A drive around the city streets took me past government buildings, the ANZAC war memorial, the central business district and the financial centers; sleek, serious and solid.
There are few fun things to do with children (or adults) – like the Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium. It’s fairly small compared to the S.E.A Maritime Museum in Singapore and smaller than the other three main Zoos in Australia. There’s info on their website if you want to read up before you go. It was fun though!
A cold Saturday morning. We took a drive towards Mornington Peninsula, one Melbourne’s National Parks. I love how they’ve created lookout points everywhere possible – they’ve not wasted a single angle of the glorious view. From the Mornington lookout, we drove down to St Andrew’s Beach. Took a bit of finding even with the GPS but it was so worth it. A beautiful stretch of golden beach and completely blue skies – a pity that it was 5C degrees!
Next stop, the London Bridge Lookout and then on to see the Blowhole – which didn’t really work that day, but the drive was not at all a waste. That’s the thing with Melbourne – the drives are long but beautiful.
Another one of my favourite places – Cape Schank. A beautiful lighthouse on a cliff, going down to steps of rocks, waves crashing in and a lovely hillside. I felt like I was in one of those Irish novels.
It was a long day, but fulfilling. Got back home to a nice warm shower, a hot plate of dinner and a couple of hours of girl-talk with a mug of tea before bed. It was the real definition of a holiday!
Chocolate, ghost mansions and zoos!
On yet another wet morning, we drove to the infamous Yarra Valley Chocolatier. It’s chocolate – who cares what the weather is! Driving through the vineyards (it was the first time I had see vineyards for real, haha), acres of farm land and orchards, we arrived. We walked into heaven; every type of chocolate in every possible flavour imaginable. There stared at me, a wall of chocolate – white, dark, milk, crunchy, spiced. Take your pick. You can very safely guess that I invested here the most, naturally. I also only had time for one picture with my ladies!
Yarra is also known for its wineries; the weather was too glum and my heart was too full of chocolate for wine – so I skipped this, but I hear it’s too good.
The next day, a Tuesday when the sun actually shined, I dragged my aunt out to the Werribee Open Range Zoo – the closest zoo to Berwick. Time was of essence for me at this point and so I had to forgo Healesville Sanctuary and a trip to Phillip Island. Make sure you put those on your list!
Right next to the Werribee Zoo is the Werribee Mansion. If you’re taking the bus from the zoo to the city, make sure you check the departure times. If you spend too much time at the zoo, you’ll not have enough time for the Mansion. The Mansion is on the same property, but a 10 minute walk down the road. They don’t have signs, so you’ll need to ask around for directions.
I clearly read a lot and so the Mansion reminded me of Pride and Prejudice. You’ll see why when you see the pictures. The story of the Mansion is quite haunting. The Chirnside brothers arrived in Australia in the early 1800’s, got this mansion built which took 03 years – still known as “Victoria’s largest and most elaborate private residence”.
The tragedy in a gist: one of the brothers left a woman he loved back at home, sent the other brother to bring her but they fell in love in the meantime. The other brother died, heartbroken and the woman later died – her hair caught the flame of a candle and burned to death.
The Mansion was then used as a seminary for about fifty years. The entire place has just the right amount of that old Victorian eerie feeling with marquees dressed in housemaids attires, the kitchen and larder in the floor below, the wooden staircases, the candle holders in the hallways and signs of the seminary. Yup, you know what I mean.
But oh, I loved Melbourne. It has little bits of everything, and the right mix of anything. I’d be back, for sure.