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27
Jan 04
Tue

Melbourne Trip & Aussie Open

Melbourne was fun, although the train ride down was not. The overnight XPT from Sydney Central to Melbourne’s Spencer St Station takes ten hours. Seeing that it was currently the middle of Summer, and keeping in mind the infamous 40ÂșC temperatures that seem to afflict the Australian Open each year, I didn’t pack a jumper. The train, unfortunately, had its air conditioning set at full blast, and the result was a sleepless, frigid night where I observed the train stopping at a variety of country stations at odd hours such as 3 and 4am. Upon debarkation, Melbourne greeted me with sub-20 degree weather and I was immediately familiarised with why they say the city is renown for its four seasons in one day.

I had accommodation with Andrew in a well-located serviced apartment on Bourke St, in the heart of the CBD. Melbournians, engaging in the traditional Sydney-Melbourne rivalry, have touted their city as much more trendy and happening than Sydney. I can probably concede that Melbourne fashion is better (if only because they need well-stocked wardrobes to deal with the temperamental weather changes). It may have been the long weekend, but Melbourne is a lot quieter that Sydney. Shops seem to have even shorter opening hours (we couldn’t find a decent cafe open on Sunday morning), and the footpath traffic is light. And of course the scenery alongside the Yarra can’t compare with the backdrop offered by Sydney Harbour.

The first thing we did was try to find a jumper for me to buy. We entered Myer but couldn’t find anything suitable to buy. Strangely, not many jumpers were being sold – I know it was mid-Summer, but most of the locals were wearing jackets and jumpers. No matter, because by the time we emerged from the store, the sun had broken through the clouds and the temperature shot up.

We spent the first day sight-seeing the CBD – the Rialto tower has an observation deck where you can look down upon Melbourne. From there we made our way down to Crown Casino (which dwarfs Star City), where, after a couple hours, we won our dinner money. We then walked to Federation Square, where they were showing the tennis live on a large screen, and afterwards to Rod Laver Arena and its surrounds.

Caught Lost In Translation at KinoDendy on Collins St at night. I loved it. I have this considerable fascination with the peculiarities of modern Japanese culture and the movie did a great job of sending them up and inflicting them upon a hapless Bill Murray. The film, as its title suggests, basically shows how foreign cultures can be as baffling as customs and actions in our own Western society, especially when they come to relationships. It’s funny and thoroughly entertaining.

The next day we went to the Australian Open. Saw Mauresmo vs Molik, Davenport vs Zvonareva, Agassi vs Srichaphan, Roddick vs Schalken and a bit of Grosjean vs Ginepri. I’ve never watched tennis live, and you get a real appreciation for just how hard they whack the ball around, and how fast Roddick’s 220kph serves are.

Agassi vs Srichaphan
Click here for more photos

I was approached a few times by groundstaff who sought assurances that I wasn’t going to use more than 200mm zoom on my camera, so just be careful if you turn up with a huge lens, because you won’t be able to use it if they catch you (but it is pretty hard for them to catch you once you’re actually at your seat).

The following day was Australia Day. Wave graciously took Andrew and I for a drive along the Great Ocean Road. She came at around 7.30am, so we had to be back in about 12 hours for my train back to Sydney. It’s a nice, meandering drive out to the West. The road mostly follows the coastline, edged continually by the ocean, beaches and sheer cliffs. We first stopped for a morning snack at a joint called Andrew’s in a small town that I can’t remember the name of. By coincidence, we ate lunch at a restaurant called Waves (yes, chosen because it was Wave’s namesake) which had decent food but non-existent service. We reached the first vantage point overlooking the 12 Apostles shortly after noon, followed by the other rock formations – The Arch, The Grotto, and the famous London Bridge, which before the 1990s, was a double arched outstretch of rock. Giving it that name obviously cursed it, because one of the arches collapsed one night, stranding two people on the newly-formed island who had to be rescued by helicopter.

On the return journey we had dinner at a shop in Geelong called Gilligan’s (too bad my name isn’t Gilligan, that would have completed the trifecta), which was described by Wave to sell “the best fish and chips in Melbourne”. I must say, she was right on the mark with that one. I don’t even think I’ve found a better place in Sydney for them. Photos here.

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