We had a 3.5-hour flight on Virgin Australia from Cairns to Melbourne (pronounced Melburn). The Melbourne airport seemed huge after having been through Ayers Rock Airport, Alice Springs Airport, and the Cairns Airport. As we were walking to baggage claim, we were surprised to see a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts stand. We could not resist getting some. We eventually made it to baggage claim and then I found our driver who was holding a sign with our names on it. This time we had a private driver who led us to his nice SUV.
As soon as we stepped out of the airport, we knew without a doubt we were no longer in Australia’s warm tropical north. Melbourne is located in the state of Victoria which is in southern Australia. We were there during the end of winter and people were wearing winter coats, hats, and gloves. We had only our light spring jackets.
Melbourne is a big city with tall buildings, billboards, bridges, busy streets, etc… I found it funny that we had spent three days in the Outback earlier in our trip and only saw one kangaroo in the wild. Now that we were in an urban environment, I saw many of them. We saw a mob of them grazing on a patch of grass in front of an overpass as we were leaving the airport. I would later see one scooting down the median strip of a congested city street while we were waiting at a red light.
Our lodging for the next two nights was the Travelodge Southbank Hotel (not the same Travelodge brand of motels in the U.S.). Upon arrival, I went through our ritual of check-in, Wi-Fi password, and tour reconfirmation. The hotel receptionist called the tour company reconfirm our bookings for the long day of touring that would occur the next day. We were given a choice of being picked up by a shuttle at 7:20 AM or simply walking to the tour meeting place. I did not want to take a chance of missing the tour because we got lost walking to the meeting place, so I scheduled the shuttle pick-up.
Travelodge Southbank Hotel
We had a moderate room on the 7th floor. It had all the amenities of the other hotels of our trip; however, this one had a microwave oven with a warning that you could pay up to a $3200 fine if you burn something that sets off the smoke detectors! Yikes! No problem. We did not have time to use it anyway.
We put on extra layers and headed out in search of dinner. Our hotel was located next to the Yarra River. There are riverfront restaurants. The scene kind of reminded me of the Riverwalk in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
As we walked along the river, I began to realize how much of an international city Melbourne is. I rarely heard English spoken by passersby. The few times I did hear English, it was not spoken with an Australian accent.
Traci and I ended up in the Southgate Shopping Centre. This was a strange place in that the there is a large opening exposing the first and second floors. We got no relief from the cold as we walked the corridors. The restaurants and stores are heated, however. Maybe this open architecture is desirable in the summer months?
Traci and I found two restaurants in the shopping center that interested us. We chose the Waterfront restaurant. I don't know why we hadn't noticed this until now but in Australia, an entree is not a main dish. It is what we would consider an appetizer in the States. Having ordered "entrees" we were still hungry after we finished eating the very small portions. No problem. This ended up being our excuse to try our second restaurant choice. Continue...