We realized by this stage that the trip had been planned in the best possible sequence - because after a couple of days getting all dusty in 40 degree oven-like heat, a little bit of urban culture was just what we were needing. We arrived in Melbourne after two days in the Centre and it was lights, traffic, and restaurants everywhere. I couldn't help but lead my folks down some laneways and where did we end up on our first night? Not a quaint little Melbourne eatery, but Grill'd... not exactly the classiest/most typical Melbourne dinner to be had, but as we all know, it's really hard to beat a Grill'd burger.
We did a lot of exploring on foot the next couple of days. Our unexpectedly swanky hotel was on Collins Street, just a block from Fed Square, which was incredible. Having lived in Melbourne for nearly a year in 2008, I was automatically appointed tour guide -- kind of a tough job when you know a place by living it (and not necessarily doing most of the touristy things in that time). I could tell you where to find the best bagels, or how to get to the library or The Body Shop outlet (hint: it's in Richmond), but as for organizing an introductory walking tour, I'm kinda hopeless. Lucky for us, the amazing tourist info centre at Federation Square now publishes an array of walking tour maps that I'm positive weren't around when we lived in the city. So from there, we set off on a route that wound through the CBD along colourfully-painted laneways, lush parks like Fitzroy Gardens, to cool historical sites like Cook's Cottage (where we learned a lot about the famous Captain Cook, and even got to take silly photos in period costumes!), to huge ornate churches. All that walking wore us out, so we hopped on the old City Circle tram and ended up in Docklands, where a Harbourtown outlet mall had popped up in recent years (oooh, if only there was time to shop!), and later that night had a laneway dinner in picturesque Hardware Lane.
Our second day took us further afoot-- I revisited our one of our old neighbourhoods and found our beloved little apartment building still standing strong amidst all the development in South Yarra (and about to be dwarfed by a huge glass tower in the works next door). My parents hopped on a free bus and discovered a war memorial with great views over the city on the south side of Melbourne... that I didn't even know existed. After a brief visit to the fascinating and creepy Old Melbourne Gaol, our wanderings took us to Chinatown where we found a fantastic (and cheap!) dinner at Golden Orchids. I am a little sheepish to admit we possibly saw more of Melbourne in two days than I had in 11 months, but we were on a mission to check of all we could in the few days we had in the city. The next day we set off super early on a bus tour of the Great Ocean Road (a bit more relaxing than driving it all in a day!) and took in all the sights -- Bells Beach, koalas around Kennett River, the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge. It was all as beautiful as I recalled and definitely impressed the socks off my parents!
Sadly, our time with Erin and Jemma was also far too short, and we said more goodbyes just a few days after our reunion... although we were happy to find no problem in occupying ourselves for the next couple of days in Sydney, where we visited the Art Gallery of NSW for the Picasso exhibition, ate humongous breakfasts, walked the gorgeous Bronte to Bondi seaside clifftop walk high above the ocean, and chilled out in Bondi (where it rained on us yet again) before hopping on a plane back to our far less exciting home of Brisbane. It was a fabulous end to a fabulous couple of weeks, and if I realized anything in that time, it's how small the world is nowadays -- my parents are already talking about what they plan to do "the next time" they come to Australia -- and the fact that we live just a short plane ride from all of these amazing places makes us really, really, really excited to be stationed once again down under. And the fact that my parents and I can share a hotel room for two weeks without murdering each other. :) Success all around! xx d.