12th Mar 2015 - 19th Mar 2015
It was time to go on our holiday to Australia!! We had decided on Australia for a few reasons, the main one being it was going to be Shannon’s Birthday and he wished to spend it at the Formula 1, and also our friends Shaun and Jodie are living in Australia at the moment, and coincided to go on a road trip at the same time and meet at the F1, as Jodie’s parents were coming on holiday.
As we were only taking hand luggage, Shannon opened his Birthday presents early from me and my mum and dad. He was well chuffed as my parents had gifted him more lovely t-shirts (one thing Shannon definitely doesn’t need is more t-shirts) but he loved them and subsequently never had them off his back the whole holiday. They also gave him little fun gifts all of which we both appreciated so much, it’s always so nice to receive gifts from loved ones, especially when you are so far from home.
We were up at 3am to catch the skybus to the airport at that time in the morning it only took 30 minutes, I had some 15% off vouchers so had pre-booked that, costing us $48 return. Checked in and went through security and into departures. Our Virgin Australia flight was delayed a little on departure and took 4 hours 10 mins to ‘hop’ over to Aus. I was asleep for pretty much the whole flight but Shan felt it long- without any food coming or a TV to watch.
As we had just taken hand luggage we managed to skip out of the airport and onto another skybus which took us into Southern Cross Station in the centre of Melbourne, this journey took 40 minutes and was Aus$38 one way.
We had a few things to sort out whilst in Melbourne- so we ticked the first off our list straight away, Shannon still had quite a bit of money lying in his NAB account, it was the money we got back from selling our campervan back in 2012, the card expired last year so we had ordered a new card to be delivered to a branch in Melbourne, so that was lovely, instantly gaining some money! Also whilst we were there we visited ‘TaxBack’ which is the company we used when leaving Australia to gain all our tax back. At the time we were also told we could claim our Superannuation, but if we did and came back to Australia to work we couldn’t claim again (not true, as time has past we could claim again if we ever did work again in the future). Anyway for the past few years we both regularly receive emails from Tax Back stating they owe us money- but we were so very cautious that we didn’t believe them- mainly because it was many different emails and all from people with names like Svetlanka and other foreign names so we thought it might be a con. However we decided to stop in at this Tax Back branch and the friendly Irish guy proudly told us we had Aus$900+ between us to collect, so all was legit and we handed over our bank details, and a few days later the money was in our bank accounts!! So it was a very successful trip collecting owed money that we didn’t have to get!
After a quick bite to eat we headed to Flinders Street Station where we boarded a free tram which took us to Albert Park where the Grand Prix was being held. We had a confirmation email for our tickets but got off the tram at the wrong gate and had to walk right round to another gate to collect our tickets. Once inside we wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere and buying some souvenirs. We done the same things throughout the whole weekend- we watched the V8 supercars, the Porsche Carrera Cup, The Speed Comparison Race and all the practice races and the qualifier as well as the main race of course, for the Formula 1. We went to an autograph signing and managed to get autographs from drivers Grosjean, Verstappen, Carlos Sans Jr, Massa, the legendary Jackie Stewart, Red Bulls Team Principal and Ginger Spice’s partner Christian Horner, and Jenson Button’s model wife Jessica Michibata. It was mobbed and at one point I managed to squeeze my head through someone’s armpit and stretch my hand out, but unfortunately we didn’t get some of the big names that we wanted like Lewis Hamilton (but Shan did get his autograph last time). We did however get photos of most of the drivers and stars which is pretty cool. We also watched in amazement as the RAAF Roulettes whizzed past us in all directions, and jumped in shock- clasping our hands over our ears when the FAA-18 Fighter Jet soared past us which piercing sounds, and then on race day marvelled at the QANTAS 747 flyover at Albert Park, the jumbo was low and looked great against the Melbourne skyscrapers backdrop.
We were staying with my cousins Darren and Lorraine and their lovely cat Pye again in their really lovely house in Bayswater which is about 50 minutes away on the train, plus a 20 minute walk from the station. It was very kind of them to let us stay again (we already have stayed twice before). They treated us to a very yummy Thai takeaway on our first night and then a lovely homemade Indian another night. We didn’t get to see them as much as we would have liked as we had so much planned, but I am sure they really didn’t mind. We did spend time with them on the Monday when they took us a drive up the Dandenong Ranges, we stopped at a country pub called the Pig & Whistle and I had the biggest chicken parmigiana I had ever seen. Then we went a walk around the forest and looked around the William Ricketts Sanctuary which was full of hand made sculputures made by this man who lived a quiet life after living with Aborigines. It was a quiet and serene place nestled amongst the trees, if a little odd. I have the link to the site to explain better. http://www.experiencethedandenongs.com.au/?ed_activity=william-ricketts-sanctuary
And as I said we were also here to see our friends Shaun and Jodie, and we got to see plenty of them. On the Saturday we met up with Shaun and Jodie and met her parents, we headed, after much discussion, to a place called ‘Taxi Kitchen’ in Federation Square. Turned out it was very upmarket and over everyones budgets, but the place was very trendy and from our stools we could see out over a now rainy Melbourne CBD. I ordered Schezuan Duck which was amazing but we had a few mixed reviews. As we were leaving we heard a table for ‘Riccardo’ was coming in, we assumed it would be Daniel Riccardo the Australian F1 driver, but then only half the party arrived, so who knows. We then headed across the road to a very packed pub and spoke loudly over the music to one another. Jodie’s parents left us and we stayed for a bit longer sampling Fosters and Hahn Superdry beer. On the Sunday we met up with everyone again as we had booked our seats for the F1 in the same Schumacher stand although at opposite ends, after the race we all headed to Nandos for some spicy chicken then made a slow way back to Bayswater waiting on lots of delayed trains.
We hired a car for a few days so it would be easier to get around and we could get out and see more stuff, so while we were in Melbourne we also done a lot of famous ‘house’ spotting. In our Mitsubishi automatic 4WD car (which was meant to be a micra or similar, but when we turned up they said this was the only car they had which was awesome!!!) we set Darren’s Satnav to visit ‘The Block’ which is an Australian TV show that I love. We went to High Street, Prahran a Melbourne suburb and visited The Block Glasshouse which is season 9 and has just finished on our Kiwi screens. The building was smaller than I was expecting and we were a little dismayed that the glass front was in desperate need of a wash (The glasshouse was an old office block converted into 6 apartments, with competing couples trying to take home cash prizes). Another day we visited the newest season which hasn’t aired in NZ yet, that was a lovely and very interesting building, with not much windows as it was covered in shutters but looked cool, and we both can’t wait to watch it when it comes on our screens (hopefully while we are here, as they are so far behind). And then of course as it was only 10 minutes’ drive away from Darren and Lorraine’s we visited Pin Oak Court, more famously known as Ramsay Street, from Neighbours!! We parked the car at the end of the clos and wandered around the street, there is a security guard on 24 hour watch and he said it was fine to take photos but not if the residents were around, as there is real residents that live in Pin Oak Court and they let the film crew film the front of the houses and the back gardens. We looked up Wikipedia at the same time so we knew whose houses were whose. It was even more exciting as it was the very day that Neighbours turned 30! Although no cast were around it was very good timing!
Having the hire car meant that we could also spend Shannon’s 27th Birthday sightseeing and avoiding all the partygoers celebrating St Patricks Day. After stumbling upon a lovely café in Auburn called Hello Sailor and enjoying a lovely, very well presented breakfast, we headed an hour out of Melbourne to Werribee to visit its open range zoo. It was really amazing. We walked around and saw everything from cuddly koalas to cute lions, hungry gorillas to hippos. Then we boarded a safari bus and got up close and personal with kissing giraffes, wandering zebras and big rhinos and lots of other species. We had a really good time! Read more on Werribee here...
Then we headed a further hour and half out and arrived at the start of The Great Ocean Road in Torquay, home to the famous Bells Beach. We have already been here before, when we lived in Australia, but we both liked and were happy to go back. First stop was to the home of the ‘Rip Curl’ brand, where we treated ourselves to hoodies which is advertising the up and coming Rip Curl Surfing Championships held at Bells beach in April, our hoodies even say ‘Bells Beach, Victoria, 2015’ which is awesome. As my Mum and Dad, and Gran and Papa ever so kindly (as always) gave Shannon lots of money for his Birthday, he used a small part of their token of love to buy his hoodie. My family are so thoughtful, as I mentioned Shannon also received gifts from my mum and dad, they had posted this along with my birthday present back in December!! Talk about being organised!!