It was finally time to see if the “cultural capital of Australia,” and the “most livable city in the world” could impress this southern girl. On our last study break, five of us went off to discover Melbourne. Melbourne was the original capital of Oz, and to this day the city continues to compete with Sydney. Although I would have loved to see the opera house, I think that Melbourne may have been the right city for me to visit. As for Dave, the Australian who traveled with us, any place on the east coast that provided Krispy Kreme donuts was the right place to be. Not a day went by on our trip without his quest for donuts and diabetes being accomplished.
Although our trip was absolutely sleep-deprived, we made the most of it. Renting a car and driving to Philip Island to enjoy a picnic on the beach, a stroll to the pinnacles, a taste-test in the chocolate shop, and then a PARADE OF PENGUINS was the best way to start our trip. And when I say parade of penguins, I mean it. We probably saw over 500 penguins appear out of the water and travel to their nests. Unfortunately, we watched this with 100 other tourists, but it was magical nonetheless. These little blue penguins, the smallest species of penguins, have been known to appear at shortly after sundown at the same spot, and we got to watch them make their journey, fending off the seagulls along the way. This was my first encounter with wild penguins, and I was mesmerized when we got to stand a mere meter away from them as they searched for their nests of their young.
The next morning we made it back into the city, again with very little sleep. After checking into the hostel, we joined a group on a free tour. Matthew was our immensely informative guide, and really helped us learn about the city, its history and its traditions. We had a much better idea of how we wanted to spend our next few days, and also got to see the trademarks of Melbourne along the way. These included alleyways full of graffiti, parks full of trees, and streets full of delicious cafes. The rest of the day was spent exploring and taking pictures every chance we got, until we settled down for a big, fat Greek feast.
The timing of our trip was perfect, because on Thursday we got to attend one of the races in the Melbourne Cup, which is the largest horse race, after the Kentucky Derby. We put on our dresses and heels, arranged our fascinators, and headed off to Flemington Racecourse. Throughout the day, I cheered on the horses (always picking number 8 to win), and took pictures of all of the headwear that caught my attention. These ladies didn’t have a problem competing to be the center of attention with their colorful assemblies of flowers, lace, and more riding on top of their heads.
On Friday, Brenna and I scheduled in time to check out the Queen Victoria markets and Rod Laver Arena, where the Australian Open is held. I took tons of pictures with Federer’s picture, and touched the place that he signed in the hall of fame. It was raining, as it always seemed to be in Melbourne, but we kept moving and saw as much as we could. Brenna is such an awesome girl, and I think we both really enjoyed getting to know each other better during all of these experiences.
That afternoon, I headed off to check out the Melbourne zoo. With the possibility of seeing a platypus, I just couldn’t stay away. When I got there, and saw that there was also a pygmy hippopotamus, I didn’t want to leave. I could have watched that little guy swimming around for ages. I also gave my company to the platypus for an extended period, impressed with his speed and skill in the water.
After my animal excursion, Brenna and I met up with Dave and Eva, or should I say Daeva – when you become too tired of addressing the couple together as Dave and Eva, you simply combine the names to save time. The four of us went to the top of the tallest building in Australia to see the surrounding city during sunset, then went to the casino before heading in for the night to prepare for our 6 am flight back to Perth.
I did enjoy Melbourne and all of the memories made with our group, but it reiterated my repulsion of cities, with all of the buildings, all of the people, and all of the noise. If you’ve enjoyed the sound of crickets instead of the bustling nightlife as you fall asleep every night for most of your life, or the wide open spaces instead of skyscrapers cramping your view of the horizon, there’s no way that you’d ever want anything more.