Postcard from Melbourne: Part III

I cannot believe that our Australian adventure is almost over. The time has just flown by and we’ve had such a blast.  Later today we’ll be flying back via Dubai and a four-day Dental Exhibition.

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We’ve spent the last 10 days or so, including Australia Day, close to the Mornington Peninsula. Last year we spent the national holiday in Coonawarra and everything was closed. This year we had live racing to watch. The organisers of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race put on crits around the F1 racetrack in Melbourne. There was a good turnout, despite the rather low key promotion of the event.

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We’ve been staying in a small flat, off the main drag, which is beautifully decorated and appointed. We’re within a minute’s walk of all amenities including, the station – direct line to Melbourne – and the beach, long and gloriously sandy. Even I was tempted to wander along the shoreline. It was also great for my early morning plodding and my beloved’s rides as he could easily cycle to the more undulating terrain on the Mornington Peninsula.

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Over the first week-end, we drove to Geelong for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Races. We’d passed on this race last year because the weather had been very wet. This time around the weather was beautiful and we stationed ourselves at the yacht club – facilities, food, big screen, close to start and finish line – for two great days of racing.  

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We had planned to watch some of the stages of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour but finally settled for just stage one’s individual time-trial once we realised the latter stages were in the back of beyond, over 400kms from Melbourne! While I’m not one to pass up on the opportunity to watch live sport, I felt a few days just chillin’ before flying to Dubai would be perfect. In addition, my beloved could continue to build his base mileage for the new cycling season in Europe. 

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Our days soon fell into our usual routine of early breakfast, exercise, lunch out, followed by a spot of moseying around, largely on the Mornington Peninsula. We love Mounts Martha and Eliza, the hinterland around Red Hill and Arthur’s Seat, and the beaches on the wilder Southern Ocean coast. We took the opportunity to visit a number of farm and vineyard restaurants while the weather was warm and dry.  

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I had a potter around the shops for gifts to take back to family and friends. I also went shopping for a swimsuit. The shops here have a dizzying selection, and the sales had already started. Typically none of the ones I liked were in the sale. Instead I fell in love with what must have been the most expensive suit in the shop. Still, it fitted, made me look slimmer and was extremely flattering. You can’t put a price on that, can you? 

Wednesday afternoon, we took the train into Melbourne to watch the Jayco Herald Sun Tour team presentation and short prologue. One of my VeloVoices’ colleagues is a huge Kenny Elissonde fan so I interviewed him using her questions. I managed to pose most of them, not necessarily in the same order. It was kind of strange interviewing a rider with someone else’s questions, albeit really good questions. However, my colleague was delighted so I might find myself doing it again.

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Thursday we had lunch at an olive farm with a great menu for me and enjoyed a post-lunch stroll around the grounds admiring their veggie garden. Friday we ventured into one of the major cycling clothing shops to check out the latest Australian kit, all in the interest of research you understand! My beloved is now the proud owner of some navy blue kit. 

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Over our final week-end the weather has been spectacular and after our morning work-out we made farewell visits to some of our favourite spots before returning to lounge on the beach and reflect on our magnificent trip. We’ll definitely return to Australia but it probably won’t be until my beloved retires so that we can spend at least three months here. While it would be nice to return next year, I don’t think we’ll be able to take such a long break away from Europe while he’s still working. In fact, next year’s Christmas vacation is already organised. We’ll be spending a month cross-country skiing (weather permitting) in Seefeld (Austria) in an apartment we last stayed in many summers ago – another trip down memory lane!

Postcards from Melbourne II – Yarra Valley

All too soon, we were on the final lap of our vacation. The time had just flown past. We chilled at a Vineyard Spa hotel in the Yarra Valley where the roads were quiet, albeit undulating, which afforded us plenty of opportunities to explore the nearby towns on two wheels. As before in Adelaide, we watched the cycling, this time the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, two stages of which started close to where we were staying.

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Yarra Glen

 

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Healesville

Once more, we self-catered for some meals and ate out for others, usually lunches at neighbouring vineyards and cafes. Most evenings we enjoyed watching the wildlife, mainly rabbits and the odd kangaroo, from our balcony, glass of local wine or beer in hand for my beloved and sparkling water for me. All very relaxing after a busy couple of weeks travelling.

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De Bortoli Vineyard and Restaurant

My beloved has been taste testing the local baked goods, particularly pies, scones and hot-cross buns from the many local bakeries. Sadly and very enviously, I’ve had to rely on his reporting of the tastiest pie, the lightest scone and the spiciest bun. British firm Greggs would have no chance in Australia as there’s so many excellent local, family-run bakeries. And so many cafes offer “cream teas” you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Devon, if it were not for the countryside and its miles and miles of vineyards.

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We found another excellent “local” in the next town which served its own craft beers, local wines with a small but excellent lunch and dinner menu. A number of breakfasts and lunches were also enjoyed at a nearby family-run organic café. In truth, we’ve been spoilt for choice and I’ve never been so well catered for on my new regime.

We also renewed our acquaintance with central Melbourne visiting both the Southbank – site of the Tour’s prologue – and the art gallery, where they staged the press conference.

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Jayco Herald Sun Tour Press Conference

 

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Melbourne

The Tour’s last two stages gave us an opportunity to re-visit and better explore the Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland, two locations we’d much enjoyed on our initial leg from Melbourne to Sydney, where the roads and undulating landscape are perfect for cycling. Allegedly, Sky’s Chris Froome plans to spend January 2017 training in the Mornington Peninsula.

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Plenty of towering rain forests as well as vineyards

We’ve much enjoyed watching the wildlife, particularly the colourful birds despite their early morning raucous cries. Finally, I met my first koala bear on the road to Inverloch. He was casually sauntering across the road, we stopped to let him pass but he scampered off before I could take his photo – obviously paparazzi averse. They have very appealing faces and are surprisingly large, with thick fur and sharp claws – all the better to climb trees. The following day, we saw another koala but sadly this one had met an untimely end. I made my beloved stop the car to check, but riga mortis had already set in.

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Inverloch

You may recall I had three back massages in as many days at the start of our trip and then none for the next four weeks. My neck and shoulders were feeling stiff from all the riding and my frozen right shoulder had gotten worse. I know; I’m falling apart. While my beloved had his hair cut, I popped into a nearby Thai massage shop for a neck and shoulder massage. This tiny Thai woman, with hands of steel, administered 20 minutes of exquisite torture but I now felt so much better. I topped this off with another chair massage on the flight home.

We’ve never before taken such a long holiday but the time has flown. I’m now looking forward to going through and cataloguing all of my beloved’s photographs and discussing (and blogging further about) the best bits!