Saturday, January 13, 2001
Today we were on our own while the McAllisters attended a family wedding. We had Mary’s car, again, to use as we wished. First on the list was Sandy’s insistence that we take in the Queen Victoria Market in downtown Melbourne. This is a city market … basic stand holders, not quite as elegant as the QVB in Sydney, but just as vital. The market is huge and bustling with vendors hawking fruits and vegetables, jewelry, tee-shirts, leather goods and you name it. It was a blast and we found ourselves picking up all sorts of stuff that we really didn’t want to drag home but just couldn’t resist.
Then it was off to Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Garden. Again, this is a very large garden that would take days to explore and should be visited each season. We especially liked the canna display and the water gardens set in the lakes. We had a lunch of mixed salads and an excellent veggi sandwich in the garden’s lake front café. The whole garden was chock-a-block with people touring the gardens, picnicking and sunbathing.
On the move, again, we headed for the beaches of Port Phillips Bay. Circling the bay to the east, we headed about half way to the head of the bay and turned in to the beach front. The beaches were both beautiful and popular. In addition to swimming and sunbathing, there was lots of sailing in high performance dinghies and fishing. We worked our way north along the beach towns back toward the city. At Sandingham Yacht Club Marina we stopped to explore the array of sailing dinghies and walked out to the docks. We were surprised to look at the dock diagram that showed a submarine wreck in the middle of the marina. Yes, really! A WWII sub was sunk as an artificial reef and the marina was later built around it.
Finally, we stopped at Brighton Beach with its brightly painted one-room beach boathouses. They’re old and look really cool. Simple wooden shacks on the sand with no running water or electricity, they sell for aroundAU$120,000. That should give you an idea about the price of real estate in the area. It is really nice and goes on for miles and miles.
Returning to Eltham and the McAllisters we compared notes on weddings, family parties and our day’s travels. A couple of glasses of wine later we all headed off to bed for the strenuous day coming up.
Sunday, January 14, 2001
Strenuous, indeed! We stayed home, ate, lounged by the pool and did nothing constructive whatsoever! Just what we all needed!
Monday, January 15, 2001
Can you spell big time tennis? How about the opening day of the Australian Open Tennis tournament? And WE were there!
Early in the morning, Brent joined his mates to go to the venue by train. We then dropped Sharn and Trent off at the homes of friends, picked up a friend of Ryan’s and drove to MCG parking lot. Then we walked to the Vodafone arena(court one) where we’d watched a basketball game after Christmas. We had reserved seating which meant that we could come and go during the day to watch the matches we wished and also see what was going on in the outside courts. Ryan and his friend joined Brent and his mates courtside in the same arena in unreserved seating.
After watching the first couple of sets of Tim Henman over Hicham Arazi, we walked the grounds. We saw Pete Sampras and Pat Rafter (a local hero) warming up and numerous lesser matches and other warm ups underway in the outside courts. As at any major sporting event, there were dozens of booths offering the latest in equipment and attire. Finally, we returned to the Vodafone Arena to see Andre Agassi beat Jiri Vanek in straight sets followed by Conchita Martinez beating local wild card Australian junior, Christina Wheeler. We’re not tennis fans, but this was neat!
Afterwards, we returned to the McAllister’s to finish packing, have a light meal and say our tear filled farewells to them. Then Steve dutifully drove us to the airport to catch our 1:30 am Thai Airlines flight to Bangkok and, after a 12 hour sightseeing layover, onward to Dubai.
Australia was a great time! With our friends and their friends, a wonderful country full of beautiful scenery and friendly, helpful people, we couldn’t have had a better time!