We boarded our bus in Canberra at 9pm, ready for our overnight journey to Melbourne. Soon after leaving Canberra, the air con went off on the bus which made for a very hot and uncomfortable journey and we started having flash backs to our bus journeys through Asia! About 1 1/2 hours into the journey, the bus driver pulled over to inspect the problem and found it was too serious to continue the journey. Thankfully we were only an hour and a half from the depot in Canberra, so a replacement bus was brought to us and our journey continued albeit running a couple of hours behind schedule. One good thing did come out of the unexpected stop, we saw a magnificent display of stars- more stars than sky it seemed!
Bleary eyed, we pulled into Southern Cross station and were met by our host for the next ten days, a lovely lady called Liz. As we were staying in Melbourne for more than a few days, we had decided to seek alternative accommodation to a hostel. We'd put an advert on Gumtree asking if anyone could help us out and Liz had replied. For a fraction of the cost of staying in a hostel, she invited us to stay in her spare room in her lovely flat in St Kilda West, the beach area of Melbourne. The rest of the day was spent sleeping and orientating ourselves with the area and a bit of food shopping.
Over the weekend& Monday, we spent some time in the city. Melbourne has an extensive tram network and St Kilda is only a 15 minute tram ride into the centre of the city. There's also a free tourist tram that does a circle around the city taking in the major attractions and sites which we made good use of! We paid a visit to Queen Victoria Market, which is a famous and historic market that sells fresh produce, souvenirs, clothing, art and many things but we were both restrained and didn't really buy anything (our backpacks have already grown in size since we left and we literally can't carry anything else!). We spent our evenings with Liz, chatting, cooking and chilling out. We also managed a couple f runs around Albert Park, which is directly behind where Liz lives. Albert Park hosts the Australian Grand Prix in March and preparations are already evident in the park, with lots of infrastructure popping up. The pit lanes and garages are a permanent structure in the middle of the park, with alternative uses for the rest of the year.
Tuesday we were VERY excited to be going on the Official Neighbours Tour. I (Hannah) am NOT ashamed to say that this was the second time I had been on this tour and it was just as good and exciting as the first!!!! Our Neighbours bus (see pictures, an actual NEIGHBOURS bus) picked us up at 8am and whilst making more pickups and our journey to the first location, we were entertained with some classic Neighbours episodes on DVD, including Charlene and Scott's wedding. First stop was Erinsborough High- as is the same as Ramsey Street, it's only the outside of the building that they use, the building is actually a completely different and functioning school in real life. Next up was a visit to the studio lot where the outside shots are filmed. You are only allowed access to certain areas, where we saw Fitzgerald's Motors, Dial-a-Kyle, Grease Monkeys and the famous bus stop. For anyone who watches Neighbours, they only have access to very limited "locations" and so certain places are used over and over as different locations. I.e. that car park that belongs to the TV studio, is basically the car park for anything that happens in Neighbours, there is a white revolving gate which has been the exit to a prison, the entrance to an animal testing lab and most recently over here the entrance to the Greyhound races! Very clever people these Neighbours producers!!!!! After a few photos and a look through the window at Fitzgerald's Motors (there are actually props inside in the garage, it's one of the only indoor scenes that is shot on location rather than in the studio!) we got back onto the bus and headed off to the most exciting part of the day- RAMSEY STREET! Ramsey Street is actually an ordinary cul-de-sac in a suburb of Melbourne where normal people live. They do have a security guard who patrols the street to stop pesky tourists from doing anything naughty! Ramsey Street location filming only happens once every couple of weeks so they will film all of the indoor scenes and then have one day catching up with all the outdoor scenes, so as not to disturb the residents so much. The street itself is quite small - it's amazing how TV can manipulate your perspective! It was pretty cool to see the houses such as the Robinson House and the Kennedy House, and not forgetting the House of Trouser, that we have grown up with. We did the typical tourist activity of holding the Ramsey Street sign outside our favourite houses and having our photo taken!! Last stop was back to St Kilda to meet our mystery Neighbours star- as part of the Neighbours Tour package, you get to meet a past or present member of the Neighbours cast.... but who would it be?!! At the moment, Neighbours is on a 2 month Christmas break in Australia so the majority of the current cast are elsewhere on holiday so we had an idea that it would be a previous cast member. Thankfully when they arrived, we recognised them straight away! We met the beautiful Stephanie McIntosh who played Skye Mangel. She answered lots of questions, signed some autographs and took lots of photos and was generally lovely! We headed back to the city and spent the afternoon at the cinema as it was "Cheap Tuesday" and watched the second Sherlock Holmes film (go see it if you haven't, it's amazing and just as good, if not better, than the first!).
The next 3 days we spent on a trip to the Great Ocean Road, which will be write a separate blog about!
On Saturday, we decided to walk into the city rather than taking the tram. It took about an hour but it was a lovely walk with some of it being through Albert Park. We did a bit more sightseeing, browsing the shops and enjoying Melbourne. We also walked back and then spent the evening catching up with Liz.
Sunday we once again caught the tram into the city, on a Sunday you can get a day ticket for the tram which only costs $3.50 so we decided to make the most of it! In the morning, we headed to the MCG- Melbourne Cricket Ground- and decided to have a tour of the ground. We ended be very lucky and it was just the two of us on our tour- the previous group had 15 on their tour and the next had 20. We had a lovely older gentleman called James to show us around. He was very knowledgeable about the history of the ground, of cricket and AFL, both of which regularly take place at the MCG. He showed us around the players changing rooms, the members section, behind the scenes of what goes on and provided us with lots of very interesting information. Although it is called the Melbourne Cricket Ground, it actually gets used mostly now for AFL - Australian Football League- games although the weekend before it had just been used for a 20-20 match with Shane Warne's Melbourne Stars. The ground has been completely rebuilt over the years and is currently undergoing even more work to bring the older stand up to date. From one of the terraces at the MCG, you can see over the railway tracks to Melbourne Park- home of the Australian Open tennis which we were going to the following day! After lunch, we headed to the Australian Immigration Museum. The museum tells the history of all aspects of immigration from the first settlers to the current day. Currently there is an exhibition called "British Child Migrants - On Their Own" about British children who were sent to Australia and other Commonwealth countries under government-endorsed child migration schemes from the 1860s up until 1967. Some of the stories were uplifting but the majority were quite harrowing. There were also other exhibitions which were very positive, with people migrating to Australia for varying reasons including political, war, desire for a better life, reconnection with family. It was a great museum and we definitely a lot about immigration, both in the past and the reasons for the stricter immigration rules in the current day.
Monday was the day we had been waiting for since we began planning this trip. Day One of the Australian Open!!! The weather in Melbourne is famous for being very changeable and Victorians will joke about the fact that they can often experience four season in one day. For the majority of our time so far in Melbourne this had definitely been true. However on the morning of the first day of the Australian Open, the sun was out and there wasn't a cloud in the sky- the weather forecasters predicted a temperature of 33 degrees which turned out to be very accurate! Armed with hats, suncream and a picnic we arrived at Melbourne Park at 10am and joined the queue to get in. We just had ground passes, however due to the sheer size of the Australian Open, Ground passes can get you onto all of the outside show courts and in the first week, you can see some amazing tennis and high ranking players on these courts. Unfortunately Andy Murray wasn't scheduled to play on day one however another Brit called James Ward was, so we headed straight to court 11 and claim our seats and watch the match. It turned out to be a brilliant match with some great tennis being played and James was unlucky to lose but he had plenty of British support behind him on court 11! We had a bit of a stroll around Melbourne Park to see what was going on and then went into Margaret Court Arena, which is the 3rd largest court at Melbourne Park and which a ground pass gets you into. We saw a bit of Berdych playing and then moved out to the main big screen viewing area and joined all of the Aussies to watch their fellow countryman Bernard Tomic come back from 2 sets down to win the match. The atmosphere was great and it was exciting to watch, however it isn't a patch on sitting on Henman Hill watching a Brit playing at Wimbledon! We then moved on to the beer garden to watch the end of the Nadal match and some of the Federer match on the big screen. An amazing day out and another Grand Slam ticked off the list- only 2 more to go, NY & Paris here we come! We headed home to start packing up our stuff ready to leave Melbourne the next day.
On our final day in Melbourne, we went for a walk along the seafront in St Kilda, had a paddle in the sea and then walked along the very blustery St Kilda Pier. We then went to Ackland Street and met my (Hannah) friend Mel, who lives in Melbourne and I hadn't for about 8 years, for a cup of tea and a catch up. It was then back to Liz's to collect our bags before she very kindly dropped us at the tram stop, where we headed to the bus station to get the bus to the airport for our flight to our next stop- Darwin.
Despite the changeable weather, we can see why so many people love Melbourne, it's very different to Sydney but equally as charming. Life is very much outdoors regardless of the unpredictable weather! We had a great time staying with Liz who made us feel very welcome and are looking forward to re-visiting her in the future.