Monday 3rd April 2017

Melbourne

Another fabulous day!

We'd arranged to meet Dave and his wife Marti at the Visitor Centre in the Central Business District at about 10am, so left the ship a little after 9am. We picked up myki cards (Melbourne's Oyster card) at the quay and boarded a tram more or less straight away. I texted both Dave and Geoff, and the former replied that he was already at the Visitor Centre. We met him a little after 10am and Dave, his wife and children arrived shortly afterwards.

Geoff is waiting here for his new motorbike to arrive from the UK by sea. It was due to get here on Saturday in a container, and it'll take five to six days before it's ready for collection. Then he'll set out north again, giving himself three months to get to Darwin before he crosses over to Indonesia. He's been back in the UK for five months, nervous about whether he still has the urge to continue, but I sense that in a way he'll never properly come home again.

Dave and Marti's son, Josh, was born in Woolwich a year before the family returned to Australia in 2007, and Beth arrived a couple of years later. The children were amazingly good company, both verging on hyperactivity and both with huge appetites for such slim people.

We spent a while just standing around, catching up, before setting out by tram for 'Cook's Cottage'. This is described as 'the oldest building in Australia', which is sort of true. It was built in 1755 by Cook's father … in North Yorkshire! In 1934 it was dismantled and shipped to Melbourne, where it was reconstructed in beautiful Fitzroy Gardens as part of the city's centenary. An ivy cutting from the original site was also brought over, and now covers most of the front wall. The cottage is tiny, with only two bedrooms upstairs and a kitchen/dining room downstairs. It seems that half of the building had already been demolished before it was brought to Australia. We had refreshments at a nearby café before moving on. I had a great deal of catching up to do with Dave and Marti, less so with Geoff who came to us for dinner in February.

Then it was off to 'Old Melbourne Gaol', built in the 1840s and closed only in 1994. It was a grim place, and we were shown around the 'Watch House' (Remand Wing) by a stern uniformed sergeant who treated us all like prisoners, even locking us up in cells in groups of eight and turning out the light! In the second half of the nineteenth century and even into the twentieth Melbourne was a somewhat lawless place, especially at the time of the gold rush in the 1850s.

After being 'discharged' we went next door to the Gaol itself, which was strongly reminiscent of Slade Prison in 'Porridge'. Here the gallows were also situated, and the last execution took place there as recently as 1967. The infamous Ned Kelly was executed here, as well as others guilty of ghastly murders over the years, although a few sentenced to death hardly seemed to deserve it. The gallows are still here, as are the death masks of Kelly and quite a few other executed prisoners – a bit ghoulish really.

We went back to a bar near the Visitor Centre for a late lunch and sat outside in glorious sunshine; the first we've enjoyed in nearly a week. As the sun went down Dave and Marti took us on a walk around the city centre, so much of which reminded us of the Edwardian parts of London, like Northumberland Avenue. There were several familiar retail names to be seen, like H&M, Subway and so on, but the majority of the city was very Australian in character. Melbourne has been voted somewhere or other as 'the world's most liveable city', and we could see why. To be be fair, we've also been pretty impressed with Sydney!

We walked along the Yarra River as night fell, then retired to a nice bar for farewell drinks, with Josh and Beth still buzzing but starting to show signs of over tiredness. They walked us to our tram stop and we said our goodbyes, hoping that it wouldn't be another decade before we met again. We got back to the ship at 9pm at the end of a LONG day, got tea and cakes from the buffet and retired for the night.

'Sirena' sails at midnight for the very short trip to Geelong (less than 100 miles), where Gill has booked an 'Aborigine Experience' excursion. Dave and Marti looked puzzled at this and then grinned, so we're wondering how authentic this 'experience' might be :o)





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