Although we were sad to leave New Zealand, I couldn't wait to get to Melbourne and see one of my oldest and best friends Shawna, who was my volleyball roommate for many years. We arrived at 11pm (which was 1am on our clocks!) but had to catch up for a couple of hours before we could head to bed.
The next day we went for brunch in Shawna's neighbourhood Coberg. Brunch is what Melbournites do best and there are great places all over the city where the coffee is always amazing. This one was in a chocolate factory so the smells were unbelievable!
Sarah (Dave's sister) arrived from Brisbane in the afternoon and we took Bert (Shawna's chocolate Labrador- adorable- and the first dog I've met who suffers from FOMO) out for a walk and then out for a wonderful Greek meal. Cooking was not something we were going to do a whole lot of in Melbourne!
We were excited to be hitting the road again, this time up the beautiful Great Ocean Road with Shawna and Sarah. We stopped in Torquay for the kids to stretch their legs at a playground but rain forced us into a cafe for coffee and cake. Next stop was Lorne, where we had fish and chips - inside - after an unfortunate event with an overfriendly cockatoo who mistook Sarah's thumb for a tasty treat. Ouch!
Next stop was Apollo, but on the way, Sarah had read about a place where you can see koalas in the wild so we had to see for ourselves. It was incredible to see these cute little bears perched precariously on a branch sleeping! A massive tick for us to see - and Sarah, who after living in Australia off and on for many years hadn't seen one in the wild. The road trip was great for seeing unusual road signs - beware of koalas and kangaroos!
Apollo was a picturesque seaside town by the sea, and after checking in to our boathouse, we walked along the beach to find a cold beer and enjoyed a beautiful rainbow. We found a brewery, with a playground opposite, so settled in front of a fire (I know it's Australia but it was freezing this whole week!) to sample the local brew. Kids fed and a Chinese take-away in hand, we headed back, lit a log fire and settled in for the night with views over the turquoise ocean.
After the obligatory brunch in Apollo, we were back on the road and off to a Treetop adventure. It was well worth the inland detour to enjoy the World's highest treetop walk above a rainforest and climb a 47 metre tower to sway up high with the trees. Not for the those with a fear of heights, or for those drowsy after a travel pill!
Legs stretched and kids exercised, we headed off again for the main event - The 12 Apostles. They didn't disappoint and although extremely crowded on the viewpoints, the sight of these 8 rocky islands was stunning against the blue and green ocean hues. There was only ever 9, but they were named The 12 Apostles and one was destroyed in the storms a couple of years ago.
Onto Port Fairy where, after checking in to another house called the Boat House, we wandered down to the beach and Dave braved the boogie board. He was the only person in the sea without a wetsuit - spot the pomme!
We drove into town which was very quaint and stumbled across a Mexican bar where we had tacos for tea. The house we were in was very homely so after getting the kids to bed, settled in front of the fire and watched a movie.
The next morning we decided to make the most of Port Fairy before heading back, so had a walk around Griffiths Island which is steeped in history and is a full 1 hour circuit of sandy beaches with rocky volcanic outcrops to climb and wild wallabys to spot.
This was made even more interesting because Dave had decided to lose the travel beard. But rather than just shaving it off (like a normal person!!) he decided to let the kids design 'a look' that he would sport for the day. Needless to say a 6 and 9 year old came up with a half a beard one side, half a 'Tache the other side that made Chedge look like someone's village was missing an idiot ... As it was the 5th November, and the kids were missing out they re-christened the day 'Hug an Eijit' Day in honour of their Dad's 'special' look!!
Of course we had to have brunch before we left, so headed into town and had a stroll around the shops. It was a good 3 or more hours to get back, so apart from a toilet and playground stop, we kept going on the inland road and went straight into Melbourne for noodles and a stunning view of the sunset on the bridge (as well as multiple double takes at Dave's comedy facial hair).
After a delicious brunch (cooked by Shawna today!) and Dave once again almost looking normal, we took Sarah back to the airport and said our Goodbyes. Not so teary this time as they are all coming over to the Uk next summer 🎉 but we always feel a little empty when we part.
We headed into Melbourne to get some supplies and have haircuts and then onto Cathy, Pete and Thomas's house in St Kilda, a pretty beachside suburb. It was amazing to see Cathy (another volleyball family friend) and her family. We were all headed to the Melbourne Cup the following day and Cathy and Pete not only fed us a delicious dinner, but found us both clothes to wear and had offered for their son Thomas to babysit. Amazing friends!
Melbourne Cup Day 🐴 🇦🇺
What a treat to be in town for one of the highlights of the Australian sporting/social calendar!
We were lucky to be guests of Audi and Hawthorn AFC and had a finish line view inside the track. Dave and I loved having some time together and had a lot of fun backing (usually the losing) horses. Sophia's choice in the Melbourne Cup, Max Dynamite, came in 3rd so she was our only winner for the day! Shawna and Cathy, and Paul who had arranged our tickets were being entertained by their own clients and we only managed to catch up at an after-race party on the roof terrace of the QT hotel.
The after-party was sponsored by GQ, and Chedge managed to hook up with another Australasian sporting icon - Ian 'The Thorpedo' Thorpe for a photo and chat. Cathy had to go home for work the following day but had offered to keep Sophia and Jake overnight so we didn't need to rush home. Such a fun day.
After collecting the children the following morning, we took Bert for a walk on the beach and stopped for a much needed feed. The pier at St Kilda was lovely, not only with a wonderful view of the boats and the city, but there were also fairy penguins in the rocks at the end of the pier.
We headed back with some groceries for the evening (we actually ate in!!!) and to pack our bags for an early flight to Hong Kong the following morning. It was so sad to say Goodbye to Shawna, she is so much a part of our chosen family.
Fortunately she is a leading speaker on radiology and neurology so is often on our side of the world and we look forward to welcoming her soon.