Saturday, 26 May 2012

The East Coast...Melbourne to Sydney


"Oh my God, it's Jesus of Nazareth"...This was the first thing Laura's cousin, Kev said to me when we arrived in Melbourne after 12 days on the road. I was by now looking a bit like a hippie, resembling my hero; Lister out of Red Dwarf, so it was time for a good shave and a hair cut...Ok a trim. It was great to know that we were staying with Lauras family right in the heart of Melbourne city; a place to relax with out the fuss of looking for accommodation and spending lots of money. Melbourne is a great place, it is so cosmopolitan and Bohemian. What I love about it more than anything else is that there is always something happening every day, it has a special vibe and you can feel it as you meander around the city streets. For example, One day we walked into a superstore in the city and the next thing I know I am having a question and answer session with Jamie Oliver and ended up winning a $200 frying pan...'only in Melbourne' . Our arrival coincided with the Fringe festival which meant that the city was alive with music, art and dance, even the busking is of the highest calibre. Most days we would walk over to the city via the beautiful Botanical Gardens, were hundreds of people run around the famous 3 mile Tan; health & fitness is a life style choice over here and it seems that everyone is getting involved. If there is one thing the Aussie's love more than anything else, it's sport, they love their sport, and their passion for it is evident all around the city. The massive sporting complex  on the edge of the city has everything from an indoor football pitch to state of the art Tennis facilities where they hold the Open, to Rugby stadiums and of course the MCG that holds Victoria's prestigious Australian Rules Football Grand Final. Professional and amateur sports play along side each other and there are pitches and sports fields everywhere. Even on the Yara river sport takes place; rowing clubs compete almost every day and while we were there they hosted the World Water Skiing Championships which was great to watch. I can see why It was voted the most livable city in the world. 

The first day I was there I was walking past the MCG on the way into the city and noticed  that there was a one day international cricket match on: Australia v Sri Lanka, Great stuff. I bought a concession ticket with me out of date student card and watched my first ever international game at the MCG. What an amazing stadium. I was sitting with all the Sri Lanka fans, they just love their cricket and they are renown for creating the best atmosphere. I got up close and personal with Lasith Malinga and was actually thinking of All Saints version of Malinga; Elis 'Malinga' Rawlinson, so the photograph is for you mate...believe me I had to duck and dive through security to get it so enjoy. I remember going to get a coffee during the game and noticed a small crowd, when I got closer I realised it was the cricket nets that  they use to warm up before and during the game. I was standing  watching Micheal Hussie in the nets with his coaches just before he came on to bat at number 6. He just makes it look so easy, he has every shot in the book and to watch him at such close range was unbelievable. One minute he is a couple of metres away from me and the next thing he is at the crease...crazy. I had a great day at the cricket and the Sri Lanka fans went berserk when  the main man Malinga bowled his trade mark wide arm sling  to Doherty in the final over, who went for a big six to win it for Australia and was caught by Dilshan on the boundary.  Sri Lanka won it in the 50th over to clinch victory after a nail biting finish in Commonwealth Bank Series.

While we were there it was Lauras birthday so we all got dolled up and went for a meal in the city. As we were waiting to order Lauras Mum and Dad came into the restaurant...what a surprise, it must rank as her best ever birthday present. Kev booked us all tickets for the Australian Grand Prix on the Sunday to further celebrate Laura's birthday. It was the opening race of the season, and what a race and what a day. It was the first time I had ever been to the Grand Prix, there is such an electric buzz around the place and the noise of the F1 cars is unbelievable...such raw power. Before the race all the drivers take part in a lap of honor. I got right up to the track and gave Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton a shout and they let onto me ha ha ha... 'only in Melbourne'. We got ourselves a great position on the track and watched a really exciting race; but Jenson Button was class and led from start to finish after a shaky start. Every lap he showed skill and aggression to keep the class Sebastian Vettel at bay and get the best out of the Maclearn car and win the opening race.  He was just unbeatable and to watch him has made me a F1 fan. Vettel came second and Lewis Hamilton finished third to get himself on the podium, which meant a great day for us 'English'. We had a great 3 weeks staying in Melbourne and we were fully recharged and ready to travel up to Sydney. There is a special vibe in Melbourne and we had so many unexpected surprises in such a short time. Kev summed this beautiful and vibrant city, the best, he would sit back with a wry  and assured smile and proudly utter the words ...'Only in Melbourne'.

Watching my first ever international at the MCG

He's not happy, I Ducked and dived security for this photo

This one is for Ellis 'Malinga' Rawlinson

Overlooking the Yara river with Melbourne city behind me

My hero...Jamie Oliver...where's me pan?

Me and Emma with our $200 frying pans...get in there!!!

All the gang on a day out in Melbourne

At the Grand Prix

Soaking up the electric atmosphere

Sebastien Vettel who trailed Jenson Button all race


After a 14 hour train ride through the night and pins and needles in both legs we eventually arrived in Sydney on the morning of Wednesday 21st March. It was a gloomy day in Sydney but we made the most of the day by visiting all the icon attractions including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. We were lucky to be staying with some more of Laura's family in's mad, I have never known anyone to have so much family in the Southern Hemisphere. Laura's family, Brian and Marie and of course Nina Aka...'Slasher' the cat, live in the beautiful suburb of Caringbarh, located perfectly for access to all the best beaches; Cornulla,  Bronte and Bondi. Over the next few weeks, Marie and Brian took us to great places around Sydney, visiting beaches, doing coastal walks and eating in delicious bistro's and feasting on Brian's excellent home cooked culinary delights...I actually think I put weight on for the first time in my life. I love to cook and he taught me some great dishes which I have since used whilst on the road...delicious. Through the week days, me and Laura did our own things, sightseeing, walking around Woolworths and spending lots of our time down the local beach at Cronulla. What a mesmerising beach; everyone is surfing, swimming, kayaking and what ever else you can do in the day I watched a year 8 class surfing as part of there PE lesson...class.  

Laura's best friend Katie and her boyfriend Kieran had only just emigrated over to Sydney from Liverpool when we arrived. So, after a couple days we got to meet up, spending the evening in their wonderful new home and indulging in a great 'Ozzie' bbq! They live in Newtown, a very open, bohemian and cool little place with a very friendly vibe. People work hard here, long hours, but, they play hard too, and really live at the weekends., its my kind of place. We met up with Katie and Kieran a number of times together with their Dutch friends and had some great times at the beach, surfing and body boarding and having a few beers...good times. We had a great stay with Maria and Brian, they are lovely people and made us feel right at home in their beautiful apartment. Again we were planning to get back on the road, and has fate would have it we got in touch with a couple we first met way back in October in Halong Bay, Vietnam. Dan and Ayse are from Southampton an were looking for travel companions on their way up the East to Brisbane. Great news. We exchanged numbers and organised a date for our 2nd road trip...Sydney to Brisbane and it was to be yet another little cracker.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Outside the Oprah House
This time on a sunny day...

Surf lesson on Cronulla Beach...class

With Marie and Brian on a coastal walk