Victoria: Creature Comforts

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August 24th 2012
Published: August 23rd 2012
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This blog comes to you after two weeks of recharging our batteries and getting pretty cold in the suburbs of Melbourne. We won't go into detail of what each day has brought us as the blogs are too long enough and some days there would be nothing to report. Literally one day we didn't even leave the house! We were staying with Lauren's third cousin Con and his wife Mary in their bungalow initially for the first week with them and the second house sitting as they were away in Europe holidaying. They kindly picked us up from the airport having flown from Sydney. This was a slight debacle, the flight? No this was fine plenty of movies, drinks and fairly good food we even managed some sleep. No the problem was, we were turning up to stay with relatives for free and we had big baggy clothes on, only met once before at grandmas 100th birthday three years ago, and we were empty handed! So we thought, as you do, we shall get something at the airport, so we got off the flight and although passed duty free we know you can't check in with hand luggage over 100ml etc. So off we were duty free shopping on the other side, we were offered champagne which was mmmm and proceeded to buy. But no we were domestic so not entitled to duty free! Turns out we should have bought before and they send through, like we would no that! Same also for when we landed in Melbourne, so Lauren was pretty embarrassed and annoyed for the duration of the cheap cold Jetstar flight. Please don't think that cheap meant our tickets, no they were a fortune but we were still flying "Ryanair" style.

Needless to say as soon as we met with Con and Mary all drama was forgotten as we hugged like the long lost relatives we were! We chatted family things on the hour drive home, stopping off at their local mall for food. And you guessed it, we had Chinese food! Having just left Asia we weren't expecting this but it made for good humour. The whole flight Lauren had dreamed of a long hot soak and home cooked food. When we were shown to our own section of their home we were relieved to see the adjoining BATHroom! Followed by a much needed "nana"nap as Mary called it! We were awoken with home cooking aromas and had the second best shepherds pie we had ever had. Lauren's grandpa still takes the prize on that one, I would say must run in the family but it's grandma and Con that are cousins! The next few days until Con and Mary left the following Friday had us feel home from home. Many things in this part of Australia made us feel at home, non more so than calling Lauren's grandpa and having a chat as her uncle had just had a baby daughter and Lauren wanted to her all about it, unfortunately Queenie, her grandma was visiting said baby Poppy! Con and Mary were fantastic putting us up and provided home cooked dinner every night which after 8 weeks of eating out was the best thing ever!

Unfortunately the day following our arrival Con and Mary had to attend a funeral but we were invited, not to crash Will Ferrell style, but to head down with them as in the beautiful coastal town of Rosebud. We willingly agreed glad at the opportunity to see as much as possible and the potential of purchasing some warmer clothing! The town, despite being very windy and cold, was beautiful and you could see why it would be packed out in summer. We found a shop selling atmosphere clothing for cheap and Lauren got some 200 denier tights which she never even knew were marketed and a polo neck. We found that alcohol is sold separately in supermarkets but there was a drive through alcohol shop. No joke just as you drive through for McDonalds you wound down your window ordered your beer and on your way! We encountered the supermarket, Woolworths, and looked at what things are likely to set us back. Some things were good, five packs of noodles were $1.09 about 70p and soup for Lauren about $1, loaves of bread could be bought for a $1 too. However toiletries were very expensive standard face wash was at least $10 and vitamins which we thought we should keep taking as we won't be affording meat were astronomical at $20 for 30 days, so think we will take a risk! We did buy a cake to say thanks to our hosts which was amazing, caramel mud cake, this cost $6 but worth every cent, and may not have been the only one or two we bought, we are currently eating our third... We also saw the biggest black birds and crows known to man that made funny R2D2 sounds and imitated other birds. Initially this was humorous, hearing this every morning at 5.30am it has soon lost its charm but still get surprised by the size of the birds in and around the city.

Saturday was very eventful as Con took us into Melbourne on the train to watch an Aussie Rules Football match at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground. We tried hot jam doughnuts and had hot pies delivered to the seats, take note English clubs who overcharge and not hot at your seat! As Con's daughter is PA for Shane Warne we spent some time searching for his new statue and headed in to watch Melbourne and the hot favourite St Kilda, otherwise known as Demons Vs Saints. We had a great time despite the freezing weather actually making us leave at half time. We didn't follow a thing though, Lauren summarised what she thought and was told she was spot on, but in her summation she actually said "weird" and "random" ha! It's a bit of a mix between football, American football, rugby and Gaelic football. You score by kicking the ball through three posts, middle scoring you more points. There is no goalkeeper but there are random people on the pitch all the time! As well as endless numbers of players there were always girls running on mid play with water plus the coach's assistants running on to tell them the next sequence of play! When the ball went out one of the five referees threw it back in, but not simply, no backwards with an elaborate leg action! No more needs to be said but if you want a laugh and watch something enjoyably without pressure of supporting anyone watch Aussie Rules!

We were lucky enough to be visiting before Con and Mary went away and this coincided with Mary's 70th birthday so Sunday saw us attending a family birthday party, which meant cake! And there was and lots of treats it was like a British garden party with sandwiches and champagne! We had a great time meeting other more distant relatives, everyone welcomed us and wanted to talk about our past and future plans. And everyone had heard of the Lake District and most had been and seen signs of Lancaster!

On Monday, Mary's actual birthday we went to Healesville, a small town home to a big animal sanctuary. The drive itself was beautiful passing the Yarra Valley and many vineyards. The sanctuary was wonderful famous for being home to Australia's indigenous animals. We revelled in seeing koalas feeding on eucalyptus and kangaroos lazing in the sun. We also saw possums, wombats, wallabies, Tasmanian Devils and Galah's! We watched a bird show and saw the very strange platypus a mix of duck as it has a beak and otter as swims in water, when it was first brought to Britain to a royal they thought the beak was sewn on!

Thursday saw us go into Melbourne central which is on a blog previously, before a farewell to Con and Mary on Friday. Armed with instructions for the week ahead we familiarised ourselves with living alone together again! It had been a while! We had fun though and revelled in the home comforts of watching tv on the sofa, late breakfasts and using a dishwasher! Even doing the washing wasn't a chore but something to be enjoyed as an easy way to get clothes cleaned and nothing came back shrunk, damaged or missing! We passed days with long walks to the many surrounding bush walks and parks and walking up to the local mall, but that in itself was a 5km round trip and we were both working out each morning for thirty minutes so it felt good to get back into a healthy regime. We enjoyed cereal breakfasts and soups etc as this is most likely what our meals would consist of in dorms and the camper van over the next six weeks. We also spent some time researching our next few weeks and beyond, booking things with Ben's parents for America.

One highlight was walking to Ramsey Street home of the national show, Neighbours. We both used to watch it in the UK in yesteryear, Lauren was even banned from it by her dad for picking up the Australian accent so you can imagine how she was talking being over here! We walked on the street and tried to remember which house belonged to who in the show, as we went on Sunday the road was open as in the week it is blocked off for tours and filming. We did see some producers but they weren't interested in us! We were glad we didn't bother paying for a tour for this even though would have met a cast member!

Tuesday had us break the traditional lie in for our trip to the Great Ocean Road, again another blog. The rest of the week again we rested catching up on Internet jobs for the weeks ahead as Internet was looking scarce at the upcoming dorms. We also found a gem of a place, recommended by Lauren's friend Natalie, back in the UK, Max Brenner's Chocolate House, turns out there are a few of them outside of Sydney, roughly about twenty total, but one being in Glen Waverley at the mall! We had white hot chocolate, in a HugaMug cup, perfectly shaped to hug! It was the most delicious hot choc ever! Best of all we can go again in Sydney but also there is one in NYC to Ben's mum and dad, and Vegas to Lauren's mum, this is gonna be a firm favourite! They have chocolate pizzas and dessert too but we were being good...for now! We cleaned the place up to leave as we would want to find and a thank you present to our very kind relatives and are making our way to Melbourne on Friday ahead of a sixteen hour coach journey overnight to Sydney.

Things of note:

7Eleven's are in abundance again, anyone would think we were still in Asia, but they are actually petrol stations outside of city centres. Apparently they always have been.

The first ever McDonald's in Australia was built just down the road from where we were staying!

Most things are more expensive than the UK, notably in supermarkets and chained fast food. Although we have only had one McDonald's on our Great Ocean Road trip, meals were $8 at best roughly £6.20. Cereal for known brands is at least $6 a small box but home brands can be cheaper than home brands in the UK so guess it is all relative.

We loved seeing wombat and kangaroo crossing yellow warning road signs! Still looking out for actually seeing them though!

People are genuinely really nice, of course the family probably felt they should be, but strangers are so kind too, when we arrived in Sydney we were ushered to join the Australian passport line as shorter and the gent in front took time to introduce himself and his wife, just returning from the UK and welcome us to his country. We also ran home when we got caught out in the rain from Melbourne and a gent pulled over his car offering us a lift! Ben made us decline though!

Most houses are bungalows built in the 1970's but it is cheaper to knock down house and build again if want an extension so every few houses on streets are modern two storey homes but look great.

Streets are really quiet in a good way, we went for runs and walks without ever having to worry about cars and when they are there they drive slow to accommodate for pedestrians, the polar opposite to Asia.

We have been surprised, knowing how hard it is to get a visa for Australia, at the range of cultures living here. It is a source of debate on the news regularly, there are many Indians and Chinese living here that don't speak English. Also the amount of Irish and Scottish people living here is a lot higher than we would have imagined.

The tv shows are very British and show many British dramas and it is a rare thing to have a genuine Aussie show as the adverts make a big deal of advertising such a show. X factor Aus has just started here and the calibre puts every other talent show to shame, plus the producers are a lot nicer, they rarely show bad auditions and make a huge deal of good ones.

Speaking of tv, adverts are all too regular like the US where they pop up in between dialogue rather than at natural scene breaks, but programmes start and finish at random times to compensate like 7.33 etc and there doesn't tend to be adverts between shows. It's very different considering the amount of British influence over here.

What would we do differently:

Absolutely nothing! We would recommend this kind of down time to anyone travelling! It could potentially have come a few weeks later to make it more of a half way break but it has been great, home comforts and time to reevaluate, save some cash and forward plan. We would like to have seen other sights, like Wilson's Promitory and Philip Island but due to the weather these activities wouldn't have been enjoyable. Just means if we ever come again we have a list!


Near Misses:0

Fallouts:1 Ben was asking Lauren what they should talk about and it got Lauren a bit upset that they had run out of topics and she got upset and Ben just laughed! He hadn't meant that though it was during a walk home and we had talked so much about the next few weeks, months and plans for our return that he wanted something random like movies or even a game!

Guess that is what happens when you spend every minute of every day for ten weeks solid with the same person, conversation is directed by what we are doing and going to do now, in the near future, and more distant future and it can become too consuming and you need a time break on this. Having said that we wouldn't have it any other way, we have become so close, sharing everything, thought, feeling, emotion plus food, drink, toothbrush, you can't help but think as one, become one that you can almost feel alone as it is just two (one) of you for so long. Another great reason to come and spend time with other people in your trip. But we are happier than ever and so very excited for what Australia still beholds us and forwards, looking to our next countries. We are in one sense over half way as we have visited nine of fourteen countries but time wise we haven't come close and our bank account is, at present, telling us we still have a lot more to come, but ask us again in a few weeks!

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