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Here we are on the first day of another grand adventure!
We woke up early and excited this morning, but needed all the time to finalise and pack our bags for the trip. With our flight leaving at 14:00, we wanted to leave home at 12:00 to give ourselves plenty of time. We managed it, but only just, tossing things into our luggage at the last minute, such as my umbrella and hat.
We'd hoped the weather would be warm and fine for our trip, but a weather forecast check before we left revealed that Melbourne was expected to reach a paltry 16°C today, with strong southerly winds and some showers. The forecast for the week up to Tuesday for the coastal areas west of Melbourne was scarcely much better, with a uniform 20°C and chances of showers across the board. So we quickly changed our idea of packing mostly shorts and T-shirts and sensibly switched to a couple of pairs of long pants and some jumpers and jackets.
After clearing out all the perishable food and cleaning up the kitchen, we rang for a taxi and then hauled our gear downstairs, where a cab was waiting by the time we reached the street. A short drive and $45 in fare later, we unloaded at the Qantas domestic terminal.
We'd bought our tickets online and there were a number of automatic check-in kiosks, one of which we availed ourselves of to complete the check-in procedure. I'd never done it that way before, and it was quite nifty. After the machine had printed our boarding passes, we took our luggage over to a "bag drop-off" counter where we waved it goodbye. As we were filling out some new luggage labels, a worker wandered by and said something to the guy manning our counter about a conveyor belt not working or something, but he paid it little heed and so neither did we.
With an hour before our plane left, we wandered the terminal concourse a bit. I bought a tiny notebook to use for recording any interesting information about photographs. Then we decided to eat lunch, since we were both hungry and figured we wouldn't be getting much on the flight, it being only an hour long. We found a Wok noodle place, this one called "Wok on Air" (as opposed to the "Wok on Inn" near our place), and I decided to get some noodles there. Michelle explored a bit more and found a focaccia with cheese and eggplant and other goodies on it. I had a chicken mee goreng, which came in a take-away box despite me saying that I was eating it there. It also didn't exactly taste like chicken; at first I thought it was pork, but then as I kept eating some bits of were more chicken-like and less pork-like, but then other pieces were definitely more porky. I didn't really mind either way, but it was odd that I really couldn't nail down which meat it was. Michelle decided maybe it was chork, or perhaps picken. I said if it had been made with cheese, it could have been chork and cheese.
While we were eating, two guys in pilots uniforms came over and also ordered noodles. We saw the same men later, getting on our plane just before we boarded it. I figured if I came down with a bad case of gastro mid-flight, we should probably start worrying.
The boarding was delayed a few minutes, but finally we got the call. We waited until the queue died down and boarded nearly last. We had window seats next to this moderately large guy who had to get out of the aisle seat to let us in. I'd figured when we checked in that it didn't really matter whcih seats we had since the flight was only an hour long and we wouldn't need to get up over someone. I hadn't counted on being squashed next to someone who hogged the armrest and whose long legs meant his knee poked over into my area.
Once we were all on board, we noticed they were still loading baggage from our view through the window. After a few minutes of this, the captain made an announcement that due to a failure of a conveyor belt in the terminal, all the baggage had to be carried manually from the check-ins to the spot where it could be transferred to the vehicles that carry it out to the planes. All the outgoing flights were being affected and it would be a few more minutes before we could leave.
A few minutes stretched to a bit over half an hour, during which the guy next to me decided to give up reading his book and have a snooze, which involved him spreading out even further. He didn't wake up for the delayed take-off, nor for pretty much the entire flight. In my cramped condition, I amused myself by doing the crossword in the in-flight magazine (with the cryptic clues), but the sudoku had already been filled in so I ran out of stuff to do pretty quickly. I flipped through the magazine and pretended to be interested in some of the stories, while Michelle read the novel she'd brought along.
Midway through the flight I glanced out the window just as we happened to be flying over Canberra, which was instantly recognisable from the geography of the lake and Parliament House. Getting further towards Victoria, the sky clouded over and we could see nothing but a plain of cumulus below us. The snack we were served was a cherry muffin, which was spicy with a lot of cinnamon. The captain announced that the temperature in Melbourne was 12°C. We were glad we'd worn jackets.
Landing was uneventful and we headed through the terminal to claim our bags, which took some time getting. Then we went out into the cold, dry Melbourne air and located a shuttle bus service with city hotel transfers for $15 a person. Since Melbourne Airport was further from the city than Sydney, We figured a taxi would cost at least $50, and elected to use the bus instead.
The bus arrived soon afterwards and after a fairly rapid drive along the new freeway and CityLink tollway it deposited us at Spencer St Station, where another driver with a minibus quizzed us and a couple of other passengers on our hotels. He then drove us around, dropping off the other two parties first and us last, despite us being the closest to Spencer St by far. The first couple were staying on Lygon St, some distance further away.
We checked into the Metro Apartments on Bank Place and were pleasantly surprised at the spacious apartment-style room on the third floor. The windows looked out on to a back alley between the hotel and restaurants. Later on I spied a couple of chefs taking a smoko out the back door of their kitchen.
We quickly dumped our bags and set off for a quick look around town. We soon decided that when we returned and then went out for dinner we would need to add a layer of clothes to stave off the chilly air. We walked over to Bourke St Mall and along it to Swanston St. Myer was just closing for the evening and a bunch of security guys and official-looking organisers were getting a red carpet ready for some function or other. Michelle wanted a snack so we located a 7-11 and she bought a muesli bar, which she ate while we walked south down Swanston towards Flinders St Station and the cathedral opposite, which was presenting a beautiful golden glow in the sunset. I took some photos of it, and some Clydesdale horses that were waiting around on the street in front of a carriage for passengers.
Griffin, ANZ Banking Museum, Collins St
We then wandered back up Swanston. We stopped at a fruit stall to buy some apples and pears for healthy fruity snacks tomorrow. Then we explored down the east side of Bourke St for a bit. We were seeking a supermarket where we could buy some bagels or something for breakfast. We found a Coles Express, but were surprised to discover it was closed. After some further fruitless searching (except for the fruit we'd bought) we decided to have breakfast in a cafe or something. Then we found an open IGA, and despite not wanting to get breakfast supplies any more we went in to buy some shampoo and a large bottle of water for the car trip.
We returned to the hotel for a half hour's rest before Damien would arrive at 19:00 for dinner. Only almost as soon as we walked in the door, the phone rang, and reception said, "There's a Damien here to see you." We had him sent up to the room and I was somewhat surprised when a a totally unfamiliar face arrived and walked in. Being the identical twin brother of Paul, who we'd met before, I'd expected him to look the same, but apparently their appearances had diverged quite markedly. We chatted for a bit while Michelle and I got ready, then left for a Nepalese restaurant that he recommended.
We walked over to Flinders St, near the western corner of the CBD, where we found Ghurka's Nepalese Restaurant. It looked very inviting and we were ushered to a table by the window, with a view of the street, trams, and the train line across the road. We ordered an entree of some mixed vegetable dumplings, plus main meals of a goat curry, a daily blackboard special of ginger mushroom beef, and a potato and chickpea dish, with rice and roti. Damien and I ordered a lemon juice from the drinks menu, which was sweetened just barely enough to take the edge off the lemon sourness, and I thought I detected a hint of salt in it too. It was nice, as was all the food that arrived.
While eating, we saw several parties of revellers walking past the window, including about 4 hen's nights, with groups of women escorting a comrade wearing a bridal veil. They were all heading west, which prompted us to ask Damien what was in that direction. He indicated that over that way were all the lap-dancing and strip clubs, including a few involving male performers...
After dinner, Michelle decided we wanted to head to Lygon St to have a look at the nightlife there. We walked over to Flinders St Station and caught a tram up Swanston to within a block of Lygon St, then walked over and along this busy Italian district, full of restaurants packed shoulder to jowl, with hawkers out the front asking everyone who walked by to come in and sample their fine Italian cuisine. We sought a toilet, and found some in a pub, then headed to a gelateria for some delicious gelato for me and Damien, and a warming hot chocolate for Michelle. I had almond, caramelised fig, and banana flavours, which were all delicious, although it left me feeling rather chilled as I ate them sitting outside on the street in the cold night air.
Desserted up, we wandered back to the tram stop and caught a tram back to the city. Damien left us at Melbourne Central for his train back out to the suburbs, while we continued along to Bourke St, where we got off and made our way back to the hotel. I had a shower and downloaded photos from my camera on to the laptop, then started this diary. We set our timekeeping devices forward an hour for the start of daylight saving tonight, and then set an alarm for 07:00, to give us time to shower and get over to a cafe we'd spotted for breakfast at their opening time of 08:30.
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