Just after Christmas, we picked Shalyn and Randall up in the Melbourne airport to spend a handful of days exploring the city, driving the Great Ocean Road, eating at only the best restaurants, becoming thoroughly engrossed in the sport of cricket, and simply enjoying the company. We packed a lot in to the few days with Shay and Randall and we wish we could have held on to them even longer.
We spent our first day together exploring Melbourne with a visit to a couple of the popular Sunday markets and a long walk across town to the beach side neighborhood of St. Kilda. It didn’t really matter where we ended up, we were just excited to see each other and catch up.
Day two we rented a car (Slim isn’t suited to take four people on a scenic drive) and headed to the Great Ocean Road. Although the entire day was spent in the car, save a few delicious burgers in Lorne, the sights were beautiful. The guide books warned that the scenic part of the drive doesn’t start until you reach the 12 Apostles, what is today 6 rock stacks just off the coast. The funny thing is that it was the opposite for us. The initial part of the drive from Lorne to Apollo Bay was stunning … turquoise blue water, lush green hills, and a curving skinny road. Despite the fact that it was Monday, it was the perfect Sunday afternoon drive. Once we reached the highlight of the drive at the 12 Apostles we also encountered every single tour bus and its occupants in the country, as well as the flies. Yes, it was really pretty, but the crowds took a bit of the splendor away and we only truly appreciated where we were when we looked through the photos at the end of the day.
A theme was quickly building during our visit as Randall was engulfed by the intricacies and wonders of the sport of cricket. This is a sport that BJ and I have continuously looked upon with a set of rolled eyes … boring! Oh, but how wrong we were. It just so happened that Australia was playing Pakistan in Melbourne for a test match. A test match is old school cricket, spanning over 5 days. Players start at 10am and play until 6pm daily, with breaks for lunch and, of course, afternoon tea. We hadn’t made any plans for our final day together and at the last minute decided to catch a half day of the match. I won’t go into all the details but after prying Randall with questions over and over again during the match, I think we all discovered a new found respect for the sport.
One of Shalyn and Randall’s favorite activities while on vacation is finding and eating at great restaurants. They had done their research and had picked out a handful of places to eat before flying into Melbourne. I could go on and on about every place we ate but nothing will compare to our final lunch together at Movida. We were denied the evening before because we had failed to make a reservation, but we were able to sneak in for lunch the following day, just after a morning of cricket and right before Shay and Randall had to head to the airport. Movida is a tapas restaurant so all but a few of the dishes were single servings. We must have ordered about 20 things all together and my mouth is starting to water just thinking about it. At the end of our many-course-meal with dishes like anchovy with tomato sorbet, croquettes, truffle custard in a perfect egg shell, shaved lamb in macadamia gazpacho, and our favorite, smoked mackerel with pine nut sorbet, I honestly felt like we should go hug the chef. If you love food, go drool over this menu for a while: www.movida.com.
We said goodbye to Shalyn and Randall as they were on their way to spend New Year’s Eve in Sydney, home of unarguably the best firework display in the world. We were almost convinced to drive the 10 hours as they flew the 1.5 hours to meet them to ring in the New Year in Sydney, but we ended up with no plans but to head downtown Melbourne on New Year’s Eve. Just as we hit the streets, dark clouds started to close out the evening light and we soon found ourselves trying to dodge rain drops. We spent most of our evening in a bar just below Federation Square with fellow travelers and others avoiding the rain, but made it back outside just before midnight to join in on the countdown and firework display over the city. 2009 was an eventful and fun filled year for us but we can’t deny our excitement to return home, see friends and family, and of course, plan out a number of adventures for 2010. Happy New Year!