Today it was time to bid adieu to Sydney and head off to Melbourne. Melbourne has been considered a more European city than Sydney due to the large number of Italians and others that emigrated here at the beginning of the 1900s. The flight was pretty full and full of amazing aromas, but was rather pleasant. One thing about Qantas though is that they have very bizarre food on their flights.
We arrived in Melbourne and I headed over to the CityLink desk to ask about whether I was getting frequent flyer miles for the intra-Australian flights. The best part is that her name was Kim and she sounded exactly like Kim from “Kath and Kim”. I nearly fell over laughing. We met our driver to the hotel, and I anticipated that it would be a quick trip to the city center. Unfortunately, our driver seemed to be driving around in circles trying to ind the hotels of the passengers and it took him over an hour to get to our stop.
Our hotel is the very nice Sebel Suites – another hotel that was made out of an office building – just like the Grace Hotel in Sydney. Of course due to our early arrival, our room was not ready yet so we set out and explored Melbourne CBD. Gary wanted to get his Hard Rock shirt so we decided to eat there. The food was pretty sub-par for Hard Rock standards, but at least it was filling. We decided to take the free circle tram back to our hotel. Since this particular tram was free, it was crowded and had a bit of the pee smell. We hopped off at our street and headed back to our hotel. The room was ready and it was super nice. Our room has a bedroom and a front room with a sofa-bed which I get to crash on. It actually was pretty good – you can barely feel the bar through the mattress.
After hemming and hawing for a bit, we decided instead of paying for an escorted tour to the Penguin Parade and the Great Ocean Road, we would just rent a car. I was excited that I was finally going to get to drive on the left side of the road. Thankfully, Budget gave us a Toyota Corolla, a car that I have driven in the states. I will admit the first few minutes out on the road were full of sphincter-pleasing moments, but without much delay we were on the main road out to the Penguin Parade. We were trying to get there before sunset since the Penguins come on to the beach after dark. On the road we passed many interesting and bizarre stores, and I think because we were distracted we missed a turn. When we crossed the freeway again, I new we were in trouble. We finally pulled off and I figured out how far we were past the turnoff. Luckily we discovered an alternative route. It was on these alternative routes that I learned that not all roads in Australia are sealed. Luckily, when there was no asphalt it was a well-groomed road and there was no rain for mud so we managed to navigate without much difficulty.
After a 30 min detour, we were back on the path to the Penguins. We were worried we missed the action since we didn’t arrive until a quarter past 8. The Penguin Parade is a crazy tourist trap. It cost money to get into the amphitheater built on the beach and the visitor center. Since we came so far, we ponied up the cash and went in. I was very disappointed that there was no photography or videotaping. It was quite humorous to see so many tourists freezing in these concrete bleachers watching a bunch of penguins come out of the surf, walk past them and then head into the shrubs. They made a bunch of noise, and Mom really thought it was neat. I nearly got busted trying to sneak a photo when my flash accidentally went off, but I played it very non-chalant and didn’t get busted.
We shopped for some souvenirs and then headed back onto the road to get back to the hotel. It took us about 2 hours to get back to the Hotel. One of the difficulties I had driving was the white backed gauges on the Corolla which glared off my glasses causing me to not be able to see the road signs. The best part of the evening was when we got into Melbourne. We somehow managed to end up right back in front of the hotel without knowing exactly where we were. Whew! Tomorrow we are off to the Great Ocean Drive!