Melbourne – Neighbours, Christmas and Cricket

I arrived in Melbourne fairly late in the evening, so had little time to explore. I instead co-opted a random German guy to share a box of wine - I needed someone to share a birthday drink! In a completely random manner, I also met an Italian guy who I'd spent time with in Cairns, which was a pleasant surprise. I had worried that I would be spending my birthday entirely alone, but hostels (and a bit more confidence and chattiness than I left home with) will often provide. The next day was spent in the Dandenong Ranges, a small set of hills about 30km east of the centre of Melbourne. A popular weekend destination for Melbournians, the Dandenong contain several interesting diversions, including walks, restaurants, sculpture gardens, and a steam railway. I spent a few hours there, and think I exhausted the backpacker options (a two hour walk, and the sculpture garden), though having friends with me to enjoy one of the restaurants would have been quite nice. I will admit to finding that the sculpture garden, while pleasant, wasn't particularly brilliant - while the artist appears to be very highly regarded locally, I had trouble getting into his work.
William Ricketts sculpture in the Dandenong Ranges

William Ricketts sculpture in the Dandenong Ranges

Does anyone recognise this house?

Does anyone recognise this house?

Travel duties called, and I headed into the suburbs for vaccinations for Asia. The travel clinic I had found on the internet was an hours tram ride out of town, but fortunately it was a mere two kilometres from Pin Oak Court. This address will mean little to most people, but it is the exterior set for Neighbours, a strangely popular soap opera, particularly in the UK. Walking around the street (complete with a security guard, to stop itinerant British tourists from harassing the residents) was a peculiar experience. I haven't watched Neighbours for around ten years, but could still recognise the houses, and even put some of the family names to the houses. Sometimes there are actors and crew in the street for filming, but being next to Christmas, the 'studio' was not active. A nice highlight though 🙂 Melbourne itself is a very grid-like city, bisected by a river, and laid out over mostly flat ground. The architecture was quite nice (for Australia), with a decent mix of Victorian and modern buildings. It's a very easy city to get around: the tram system is excellent and covers most of the city; frequent trains head further afield, and walking is remarkably pleasant for a busy city. One of my favourite parts was the street art - small lanes deluged in artistic graffiti (as opposed to mere tagging). I spent a good hour in just one lane trying to see all of the pieces, but as they are often repeatedly overwritten this can be a challenge.
Flinders St station at night

Flinders St station at night

Graffiti on Hosier Lane

Graffiti on Hosier Lane

Graffiti on Hosier Lane

Graffiti on Hosier Lane

Building on Elizabeth St

Building on Elizabeth St

Christmas day was spent on the beach at Brighton with Helen, Chris, and his sister and boyfriend. I'd anticipated this being a typically Aussie thing to do at Xmas, but the people on the beach all seemed to be tourists - possibly because they had no families to spend the holiday period with. Nevertheless, my temporarily adopted family provided perfected cooked kangaroo and snags (sausages), we all went swimming, much wine was drunk and merriness was in abundance. The sun and heat were a bit strange, and it didn't really feel like xmas - even watching Elf was a bit odd in a toasty warm lounge - but I was very happy to be in good company for the day.
My Xmas day beach companions

My Xmas day beach companions

Too camp

The water was colder than I'd expected

I started Boxing Day early, with a pounding headache: self-inflicted, so no sympathy was to be found anywhere. The day was spent at one of my most anticipated events to date - watching the Boxing Day test match (well, day one of the test) between Australia and Sri Lanka at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the MCG. I'd treated myself to a good seat, and the view definitely didn't disappoint. Neither did the Australian cricket team for that matter as they handily demolished Sri Lanka, bowling them out inside the first day! The atmosphere in the stadium was great, the beer only moderately overpriced, and weather perfect - I would highly recommend a day at the cricket to anyone with even a passing interest.  The following day was used for recovery, and gently ambling about prior to catching my flight to Tasmania - spending New Year at a music festival 🙂
Boxing Day cricket at the MCG

Boxing Day cricket at the MCG

They were very drunk

Happy Aussies after a successful day at the test

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