Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Melbourne sunshine and a wedding
The sunshine was glorious in Victoria Lakes when we stepped out of the car. Almost instantly, Mijo started sneezing and my eyes got itchy and red. We didn't realize that it was springtime in Southern Australia . This means allergy season! No wonder everything was in bloom? This was the start of a vacation filled with sunshine. It didn't rain the whole time we were in Melbourne. This Filipino guy was a happy camper!
My cousin and her fiance picked us up at Melbourne International airport after our gruelling 16 hour flight. We went on a detour and stopped first at their house in Victoria Lakes, a suburb outside of Melbourne. They were having a barbeque that day and they graciously invited us. We guessed it was the pre-wedding barbeque? Eventhough we had just landed and been traveling for almost a day, we said yes. We were ready to party! Who wouldn't be up for an authentic Australian party? The crowd was great, the food delicious and the seasonal produce fresh. At the barbeque, we met my cousin's fiance's family, my other cousins who were visiting from the Philippines and those who live in adjacent suburbs. I also saw my aunt who I haven't seen since 2005.
We didn't get to our hotel until 3pm that day. After a quick shower, we unloaded our luggages and took a nap. Because of exhaustion and jetlag, we woke up at 10pm. I was a bit annoyed because I felt like we wasted a whole day not seeing Melbourne. Mijo gently reminded me that we came to Melbourne because of my cousin's wedding first and my agenda last. Thank God for Mijo! I've got work to do, so I decided to practice reading the first prayer I was going to read at the wedding. I was rehearsing very very hard with an Australian accent, but it wasn't working!
It was Saturday and the sun was up early. Spring in Southern Australia is sort of like fall in Northern California - warm days and cold nights. Perfect for the day's itinerary. The wedding was going to be at 5:30pm so we hit the streets of Melbourne as early as 7am. We went everywhere - had a quick and light breakfast at the Queen Victoria Market (QVB or Queen Vic), wandered around the artsy Federation Square, checked out the classic Central station, watched the athletic rowers on Yarra River, walked the entire length of the chic Elizabeth St, lunched at the hip and ultra modern Melbourne center, shopped for new pairs of shoes on Little Collins St., had a coffee break at the Royal Arcade, and lastly, had an Australian haircut. We got back to our hotel around 4pm and got ready for the wedding. The other sites - Melbourne Park, Williamstown, St. Kilda, and the food expedition through Queen Vic will have to wait another day.
My cousin was beaming, in a flowing beaded white gown, when she stepped out of the limousine. The low lights of the spring afternoon bounced off her veil making her gleam as she walked down to the altar. The groom, looked giddy like a little kid in a candy store, as if he couldn't wait to marry my cousin. Surely, he wanted to just snatch my cousin right after the ceremony so they can spend their magical hours together, away from everyone. My aunt started crying profusely, crying for utter joy. As I was waiting for my cue from the priest so I can read the first prayer, I looked around and then realized I was in an Australian wedding.
The rest of our stay were sunshine-filled days, just like the wedding. We got to see the rest of the Melbourne sites, bought some Australian Open souvenirs at Melbourne Park, marveled at the artsy buildings, ate our way through the city's multi-ethnic cuisine, savored coffee at different cafes, hopped around different boutique wineries in the Yarra Valley, perused the artworks at the National Victoria galleries, and then got to see more and enjoyed the company of the newly married couple and the rest of my relatives.
Thank you, congratulations and all the best to you Beth and Michael!
Here are some photos of the city's exciting sceneries.
Melbourne has a pretty skyline because of tall skyscrapers and densely built downtown.
The Yarra River also provided some balance because it added a bit of nature to the concrete, glass and steel characteristics of the city. I also noticed how locals are active in outdoor activities.
Of course, a trip to Melbourne is not complete without at visit to Melbourne Park, the Home of the Austalian Open. We went there two months before the Open but I can still feel the energy of tennis here. I remember thinking, wow, the courts' floor is really blue! It is surprisingly close to downtown. No wonder the Melbourne skyline is always seen as the background during the Australian Open telecast. My sister is also an avid tennis fan so I went to the park's store to get her a souvenir beach towel.
Since I don't live in Melbourne, I couldn't tell if the city can be considered a serious beach town. What I can tell you, though, is that St. Kilda has some good beach scene and it is very accessible from the city center because it is just another stop on the streetcars. While at St. Kilda, Mijo and I had a quick but very satisfying lunch at Donovan's.
The National Gallery of Victoria is such a treat. We were able to take the docent tour right after lunch where a museum staff toured us around the museum explaining the highlights and popular paintings. I also saw some choir groups performed at one of the museum's halls. I bought a souvenir coffee mug here.
Even though it was blisterry hot outside, I remember feeling festive as we stepped inside the Royal Arcade. The stores were all dressed up in holiday gear. I found in this mall some unique stores selling toys, candies, chocolates, souvenirs and clothing items. I remember buying the chocolates and candies here for my officemates. Mijo and I also had a quick lunch at Cafe e Torta and then a coffee break at Koko Black chocolates.
I remember seeing some scenes of this street from a tv commercial during the telecast of the Australian Open. So when I chanced upon this street, I was happy. I think it is a Melbourne only scene. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of this street. It is somewhere near the shopping district.
This is called the Webb Bridge, one of the city's bridges to cross the Yarra river. We chanced upon this while walking around the city. It is hard to find because it is neither high nor big. What it lacks in being grand, it makes up for in artistry.
Here's another one that I think is brilliantly designed. This was taken inside the NGVA or the National Gallery of Victoria. The web like links look like they are never repeated which means each segment connecting the webs may be unique? I also like that it allows natural light to come in.
I am a sucker for a sculpture. This one was taken around Melbourne's South Bank. I am just not sure if this is a permanent art installation.
Here's another photo of a winery in Yarra Valley called Rochford. This is where we had a lunch pairing with our wines. Looking back, I should have bought a bottle from each of the winery we visited in the Yarra Valley.