The countdown has now begun. I leave less than one month from today. It’s amazing how time has flown by. I was lucky to squeeze in one last Nottingham reunion before I leave. Amy and Eliza flew in from Brisbane and Sydney to meet Steph and me in Melbourne. Our adventure started Saturday morning. Amy and Eliza had arrived late on Friday night and stayed with Steph. The girls met me at res and I showed the girls around my unit. We all agreed that the facilities are much nicer than in England! We were dropped off in the city at the botanical gardens. On the way into the city we saw a few Collingwood football players which got Steph very excited since she is a die-hard Collingwood fan. This was our first “celebrity” sighting of the day. We recounted our sighting to Steph’s mum later that day and she just laughed. Apparently only Collingwood fans think the players are celebrities. Collingwood has the strongest fan base out of any of the AFL teams. If you’re not one of these fans it’s likely that you have some choice words about the team (which I won’t repeat here). If you don’t love Collingwood, you hate them.
Adjacent to the botanical gardens is the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance. It is a beautiful war memorial that looks out over the city. We climbed to the top and looked over the gardens and Melbourne skyline. Unfortunately one of the busiest streets in Melbourne is currently undergoing tram track replacement so we took a long scenic walk across the Yarra river to Bourke street. This walk afforded us with our second celebrity sighting. Outside of Flinders Street Station was Mark Occhilupo. He’s a world champion surfer who’s currently on Dancing with Stars in Australia. If I hadn’t been in Australia I would have no idea who he was but I was still star struck!
We continued our tour of downtown Melbourne and did a little dress shopping for Amy’s 21st birthday party. 21st birthdays are even bigger in Australia than they are in the States. Though there are no new privileges to celebrate, it’s a rite of passage for a 21 year old to invite all their friends and family for elaborate parties. The highlight of these parties is the speech in which a close friend recalls funny stories about the birthday boy or girl (often ones that kid doesn’t want their parents to know about).
On Lygon street we stopped for lunch at an Italian restaurant. From there we headed to Madame Brussels for afternoon cocktails. The bar occupied the top floor of a building so the terrace looked over the entire city. It was a beautiful clear day so the view was spectactular. After a few beverages we took the train back to Steph’s house to relax before heading out again that night.
We hit the town all dolled up and made our first stop at the rooftop bar. Like Madame Brussels, the bar occupied the entire top floor and roof of a building and gave breathtaking views of the river and city all lit up. The only downside was that there were no elevators so we had to trek up countless flights of stairs. Our final celeb sighting of the day was another unknown to me. His name was Xavier and he was one of the regulars on the soap “Home and Away.” Australia only has two running soaps. They occupy prime time spots and for many are indispensible parts of the evening. Xavier seemed like a normal guy to me but the girls were giggly with excitement after our spotting. It got chilly quickly so we left Xavier and headed for the shelter of another bar called Toff on the Town. This bar was decorated in the swanky Moulin Rouge style. We all tired early and headed back to Steph’s for some veggiemite on toast (even me!) and a warm bed.
Our Sunday started with a late brunch prepared by Steph’s family. We then loaded into the car and headed to St. Kilda for an afternoon stroll along Acland Street. Pastry shops line this street and it was no surprise that we ended up in one of them soon after arriving. Adjacent to Acland Street is Luna park – Melbourne’s homage to Coney Island. After the trip to the bakery we were all happy to bypass the roller coaster and walk along the pier instead. The weather has cooled down considerably (though it is still warm by Northwest winter standards) so the beach was basically deserted. Steph informed me that the beach draws massive crowds in the summer, though. The afternoon flew by and before long it was time to head to the airport to send Eliza and Amy back home. I was happy to wave goodbye to the girls and the airport as I journeyed home on solid ground. Yet, I will be returning to the airport soon, happy, and with a smile on my face because I’ll be flying home.