Monday, December 24, 2007

Streets of Melbourne

Melbourne I've been told has a more European feel to it when compared with Sydney. I'll be travelling up to Sydney this week and so I'll be able to judge for myself.
Melbourne on the whole doesn't feel very European to me. For one the sun feels just that little bit brighter than the sun I've experienced in and around the Mediterranean. I say this and I haven't yet felt the full force of the Aussie sun. Even though Melbourne is supposed to be suffering a drought at the moment it has been raining for a large part of my stay with temperatures well below 20 degree Celsius. Just like the summers of my youth... in Ireland.

But this Christmas eve the weather is starting looking up. The sun is back out to play, the wind has calmed down and the clouds are light and fluffy. That's more like it, X-mas in shorts.

Some parts of Melbourne are, I must admit, a bit like Europe. St Kilda being a prime example. Narrow streets where the trams are blocking the rest of the traffic. Sweet. Also some of the side streets in the city centre are pedestrian only and have this wonderful feel to them. They're perfect for hanging out drinking flat whites or a nice local chardonnay. Café culture looms large here. In Europe pubs seem to be more prominent, I kind of prefer the wider range of café's, wine bars, tearooms and bars found in Melbourne.
Personally I love Asian food and the choice here is overwhelming. I suspect that this kind of choice probably doesn't occur anywhere else in the world, with, I imagine, California coming a close second.
Sunday, December 23, 2007

Poor old Rodger

Hayley and I have been enjoying our time off relaxing and sight seeing. Melbourne is big and there is plenty to see and to eat. Food and wine is plentiful here. Just about any type of cuisine is available along with all kinds of fusion food of the highest level. We both enjoy our food and haven't been disappointed. The first few days was nice and sunny in the high 20's. Very nice. Then the rain hit. Lots of rain. Flooding everywhere.

In a span of about half an hour 40 mm of rain fell in the area of Melbourne where we were. As parts of the city can be hilly we had to navigate through some nasty puddles. Then we came across a dip in the road that had a rather large puddle in it. Cars stopped, traffic jams grew. We saw cars drive across the median to the other side of the road going the other way. That looked pretty risky, seeing wheels spinning and due to the downpour you couldn't see very much, never mind on coming traffic. We also saw cars driving through this ever growing 'lake', and making it to the other side. All that tried succeeded and we so no reason to suspect one could fail. So we bit the bullet and moved Rodger (the name Hayley's family had given the white Holden Astra) towards 'the great highway ocean'. All seemed fine, Rodger didn't complain when water rose up and over his radiator grill. Half way our nautical adventure all went quite. Electrics and lights worked but the engine would sail no further. There we sat, in a massive downpour with cars passing us and being slammed by their wake. It would be just a matter of time before water would start to rise through the foot wells. Then this bloke, barefoot and in shorts, ran across the highway from is van and knocked on the window shouting, "Do you want a push?". We just stared at him, still embarrassed and shocked that we'd just killed Rodger. Then I blurted out, "Yeah, sure". He waded to the back of the car and we where on the move again. I didn't get out until the water had subsided past the door opening. I took over and we soon found 'dry' land.

Still in a awkward position on the road we decided that I would push on a bit further so we could make a right hand turn across the oncoming traffic to a nearby fitness club car park. That sounded like a wonderful plan.
Once at the car park soaked and out of breath we tried to revive Rodger but still no luck. So we arranged for Hayley's dad to come pick us up. While waiting we bumped in to some Aussie blokes coming out of the fitness club having a laugh. "Hey, did you guys see that white Astra floating down the mountain highway?" I said, now I started to see the funny side, that we had made it safely to the car park.
The next day after the RACV guy had a look at the car we found out what I had feared. Water in the engine. To what extent we still have to find out, but it's safe to say that we had killed Rodger stone dead.
We weren't the only ones to suffer from this ferocious weather and in hind sight we have been fortunate that we didn't suffer worse.

Since then we've been able to drive Ashley's (Hayley's brother) old car Dougie (an old Honda Civic) to see some more sights. More on that in my next post.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Adjusted hemisphere

Melbourne, I've arrived and survived the long-haul trip. Schiphol, Heathrow, Hong Kong Airport and Melbourne Airport.
Just to get to Schiphol we rented a car and left at 4.45 am because that was much better than taking the night train at 4am. Our first leg of the trip lifted off at 7.25 on time.
I've never been to Heathrow and after hearing the horror stories I expected the worse. This dread would most certainly dull the edge, was my thinking, my hope. Well, in the end, it didn't. Heathrow is truly an awful airport. To be fair airports are not very nice places anyway. Some have done very well and I do like Shiphol. Dublin and Manila Airports are a bit of an embarrassment on the one end and on the other Kuala Lumpur airport is actually very good. Very good signing (as good as Schiphol), beautiful architecture and nicely laid out like a modern day village. Nothing felt complicated and dare I say it, it felt comfy and easy going.
For some reason I was expecting Hong Kong Airport to be similar. It wasn't. The signing wasn't as good and the shops and restaurants felt disjointed, not connected. As if they were all there temporarily. The airport building was as I had imagined it after seeing some of the construction on the Discovery Channel, stunning. The vast open space does relax and I felt a ease and safe. If they could get more of a community or village atmosphere going it would be an outright winner, despite the flawed signing.
Melbourne Airport reminded me of Shiphol, not a open clear as Shiphol but still modern and European. Easy entry and exit for departures was a nice surprise and is better than most.

Jet lag mostly dissipated and still a bit bemused with the wonderful weather I'm starting to settle. The lack of public transport will be something to get use to. Melbourne is vast and sprawled out city and so having a car is effectively mandatory. One thing is exactly as I had expected. Australians are in sense louder.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What to buy for my GF?

They are forever!