"" Writer's Wanderings: Australia - Melbourne

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Australia - Melbourne

We ended our trip along the Great Ocean Road at Queenscliff and took the ferry across to Sorrento which is at the tip of the Mornington Peninsula just outside of Melbourne. The ferry ride was only about 40 minutes long but about three-fourths of the way across, we were joined by a pod of dolphins that played in and out of the wake of the ferry entertaining all on board.

As we reached Sorrento, we called on our GPS lady to get us to a restaurant that had been recommended by another couple from Sydney that we had met at Kangaroo Island. It turned out to be a little more than half hour drive and even though we were hungry, we decided we’d go ahead and eat there. For those of us who deal in feet and miles instead of kilometers and meters, it was always a bit difficult to judge when our GPS lady wanted us to turn. A graphic would show a countdown and then she would say, “Turn now.” Well, at her command we turned into the drive we thought was our destination. It wasn’t.

Our target was a winery with a restaurant called Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove which our friends had said served great food and also had an award winning display of sculpture. The drive we turned into was also a winery, Tuck’s Ridge, but we didn’t notice the sign. It had a beautiful covered patio with tables and a view of vineyards and olive trees that was reminiscent of Tuscany. The hostess greeted us with an apology that by unfortunate happenstance, both of their cooks were home and all they could give us was a sampling platter. That sounded good to us as we didn’t want to eat too much and have to drive a couple of hours more to Melbourne.

Our platter consisted of several kinds of pate, smoked salmon, veggies, bread, and a wonderful dish of assorted olives. We sat and enjoyed the food, the atmosphere, the quiet, and the view. Bob noticed sculptures off to the right of our view in a field and suddenly we realized we were in the wrong place. Sure enough 50 meters (about 150 feet) more there was a second driveway that led to Montalto which had a parking lot full of cars, minibuses, and vans. It was a busy place. We were happy to have made the mistake. Perhaps we’ll have to return another time.

As we got closer into the city of Melbourne, the traffic picked up and we realized we had another challenge ahead as Bob had to navigate around the tram lines that were in the center of the main streets. “Give way to the trams” was posted all over but in addition to driving on the left, having roads suddenly split with tree lined dividers on one side and tram lines on the other, we white-knuckled our way to our hotel.

After getting settled, we walked along the river and scoped out the restaurants on the waterfront near our hotel, the Hilton on South Wharf. We found a spot we liked and enjoyed a very nice dinner. Tired from our drive and our introduction into Melbourne traffic, we stayed out long enough to enjoy a gorgeous sunset and then snuggled into the softest beds I’d ever slept in. As we began to relax and enjoy some of the fun TV programming Australia offers, the fire alarm went off. Of course our first thought was that someone was smoking in their room (which turned out to be the case) but the alarm continued on and soon we could hear sirens.

Now when you are on the seventeenth floor of a hotel and can’t use an elevator to go down, you want to be sure there really is a need to evacuate. We slowly got dressed and by the time we were ready to go out the door, the alarm stopped and shortly after an announcement was made with apologies for the inconvenience. Collectively we exhaled and got back into bed hoping that it would not happen again. But unfortunately it did—the next night, after we had gone to sleep. This time the alarm was short lived but followed by two announcements that all was well and apologies for the inconvenience.

The next night we stopped by the desk and asked what time the fire drill would be. He smiled and said, “No worries.” He thought everything would be okay. That’s when we learned it was a smoker one night and the next night someone overheated a caterer’s serving dish and set off the smoke detector. All was well that night. We slept through.

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