A bit of a delayed post (recovering from jetlag!) but here it is.
We checked out of our accommodation in the Yarra Valley knowing that we had to fill in the day until our flight home at 23:55. On reflection we should have travelled straight to the Yarra valley from New Zealand and then stayed in Melbourne the day before our departure. That would have allowed us to leave our things in the hotel and possibly get a late checkout. Make a mental note for next time.
As we’ve already been to Melbourne several times on both holiday and business we know the city pretty well which means that taking a tram tour or one of the other one day itineraries was not really worth it so we decided to fill the day with shopping and seeing the national sports museum.
Finding reasonable priced parking in Melbourne is no mean feat in itself as most of the parking in the CBD is in the $50-$60 dollar per day range (with “a day” representing anything about four hours). The best bet (as we did) is to head for one of the shopping centers where they will offer you a fixed priced ticket provided you make a t least one purchase in the center. We bought a $4 coffee which reduced the cost from $50 to $19 which seems like a fair deal to me.
We headed to Federation square which is the home for anything ‘tourist information’ related. In a place such as Melbourne with so many options it’s a wise first stop. They gave us a self-guided ‘sports walk’ which takes you past a number of sports related facilities which included the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) home of the National Sports Museum. Now, if you have even the vaguest interest in sport then this place is well worth a visit. Of course it has an Australian bias but it also has some fantastic displays on international sport (e.g. the Olympics) that are well worth a visit and I actually learnt a few things (e.g. I never knew that Japan had originally been awarded the 1940 Olympics, I also did not know the origin of how “the ashes” came to be named as such). In addition to the various displays there’s also an interactive section which enables you to demonstrate how inferior you are! We ended up spending a good couple of hours there.
On the way to the museum you can see the federation bells which if you are lucky enough to arrive when they are chiming (we were) are really quite a spectacle in their own right. They chime at various point throughout the day, depending also on whether they are being aligned to a particular theme (at the moment Christmas Carols of course). Well worth a visit.
After a brief visit to the Tennis Centre we then headed for a walk down the south bank where we had a stop for lunch (noting that the local Lindt café was respectfully closed for the day) before heading back into town for some last minute Christmas and souvenir shopping. And that pretty much filled the day.
We’ve been flying with Qatar airways who were pretty good and our flights home were amazingly uneventful. Using a middle east based airline means that that the long leg of the trip back to Europe is first which I personally prefer and from Melbourne to Doha its around 14 hours in the air which is exhausting. We then had only a one hour stop over before the six hour flight from Doha to Frankfurt (which is a doddle by comparison).
We arrived back in Frankfurt to a 30 degree temperature differential, rain and fog, however it feels like home. It’s difficult to get your head around spending Christmas in the southern hemisphere and Christmas Trees and 30 degree temperatures seem a little incongruous. So despite having had an unbelievable vacation we are happy to be home for Christmas.
A lot of people comment after a six week holiday that the time went so quickly. I don’t think it did and it felt like being away for a long time. All-in-all I would say that New Zealand mostly either met or exceeded our expectations. However, barring any exceptions I expect that we have now had enough of Australia (although we may go back to see a sporting event).
I’ll be writing another blog post on this trip to talk about how to budget for such a trip (although I won’t be telling how much we spent) and what our next steps (travel) steps might be.