Thursday, August 2, 2007

Australia: Melbourne/Mornington Peninsula: 27-31 July 2007, Written 31 July 2007

I was starting to get itchy feet, sooner than I expected; I needed to get out of the city.

Friday I took a train from Glenhuntly and was off to the Mornington Peninsula to visit the Rockstroms. The Rockstroms came to Japan, parents and 2 of the 5 kids, in April this year. I was going through a really tough time with the illness of my grandmother and all 4 of them were really supporitve and helpful. I was really excited to see them again.

Roberta came to pick me up and we went home. John was there (in a suit! ugh, haha) but had to rush back to work. Roberta and I had lunch and went down to the beach for a walk and around the coast a bit. They live in Mt. Eliza, named after Matthew Flinders's wife or one of his friends' wives or something like that (Australian history is...interesting). The rest of the afternoon was relaxed and I ended up having a nap before we went to dinner. Dinner was quite an experience; the small community where everyone knows everyone and you get recognized by people at half the tables in a small restaurant was so different from anywhere in Japan, particularly Tokyo. I focused on the delicious mouthwatering steak and the meringue- mmmm.

Marcus and I watched "A Fish Called Wanda" after dinner and John came home during it, after he had finished his aikido training in Melbourne. We stayed up til the wee hours of the morning, complete with a midnight snack...mmm.

Saturday morning we planned a rough itinerary for the day and set off. Some walks, wineries, food, and nature stuff were on the agenda. We tried to go to Stillwater Vineyard at 10.30am and found that it didn't open until 11am. I thought Australians started drinking earlier than that ;)

At Arthur's Seat, we walked around Seawinds, a massive garden that had been built by a guy who spent all his money on the garden and then ran out of money so he couldn't build a house there. Hmm. It was beautiful, with great views of the Port Philip Bay. We saw several kangaroos very close, all males, and they were just munching away on the grass. We headed to T'Gallant Winery and had several tastes before we settled in for a Tutti Gusti taste plate and some Pinot Gris. Yum. Yes, there was a theme to my visit. Eat, drink, repeat. The taste plate had a delectable selection of olives, salami, prosciutto, different breads and grissini, pickles, pickled vegetables, roast pumpkin, and a few other dishes.

We then went for a walk at Bushrangers Bay, whereupon both Roberta and I winged a bit; after I eat and drink, especially anything alcoholic, I want to sit and lounge in the sun and have a nap - not walk. However, the scenery was gorgeous, a nice soft dirt track winding through, first with views of farmland, then continuing out to hug the cliffside and provided a stunning lookout above a beach. By the time we got back to the car, we were ready for more gastronomic treats.

At Montalto, they not only offer wine tasting but there are a variety of olive oils that are produced. Lemon and basil infused options are a tasty variation, and of course the wine is a big draw; the Riesling there was my favorite wine of the day. We had a tasting plate again (the chorizo and roquefort were divine) and a pizza, followed by a brownie and hot chocolate. Yes, in 3 days in the Mornington Peninsula I probably packed on a few kilos.

The day was nearing its end as we arrived at Coolart, known for its colony of koalas. Koalas are incredibly difficult to spot, mainly because they look just like the trees they're in and they don't move at all. They roll themselves up into tiny balls, stick their claws in the bark, and close their eyes. We walked around looking in the gum trees and we went towards the trees that had tin around their trunks, as this kept koalas off - meaning that there would be koalas in the area, or so we thought. As we were climbing over a fence, John said he'd show me a koala if I gave him a dollar. I refused, and he pointed up into a tree with a ball of grey fur in it - there it was! It turned its head towards us, scratched itself, and looked the other way; apparently, for normal koala standards, I was getting some great action. I stood in various different positions around the koala to take photos which were relatively mediocre due to branches getting in the way but I was excited nonetheless. We searched for more but as I mentioned, they're incredibly difficult to spot and we gave up.

Once home, I had my nap and awoke just in time for Greek Lamb and roasted and steamed veggies. Yummm. And a beautiful red wine from South Australia. Another movie and off to bed.

Sunday morning we went down to Mornington for breakfast by the water, stopped off at home, then John and I went into Melbourne to meet Kate at Southbank. I thought I was getting a light lunch option when I ordered the lamb salad at Blue Train Cafe but instead I got 3 lamb chops and almond tabbouleh, with about 5 pieces of lettuce. Was delicious, though. After that, Kate took me to Capitol Theater and dropped me off. It was so nice to spend time with the family, they are really nice, interesting, well-rounded people. I hope I can see them again, in the not too distant future.

I met Greg and Saori for Jellyfish, an Israeli film in the Melbourne International Film Festival, and I was surprised by how much I liked it. 4 intertwining stories, with themes of lost innocence, what we take for granted, how shortsighted we can be, and of course, coincidence and how we affect one another often without realizing it.

Afterwards, we went for some Indonesian food, mmm beef rendang, then walked to Fitzroy. I met Bec that evening at Bimbo’s, packed as usual, stopped off at the Standard, then back to Greg’s. Some quality delayed American TV (Grey’s Anatomy, which I’d never heard of, shows the extent of just how cut off I now am from mainstream American culture), but afterwards Saori, Greg and I watched Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles. It’s a Japanese film, a father estranged from his son for 10 years goes to China as his son is dying – it was beautiful cinematography and it was a moving story. Made me a bit nostalgic for Japan, whilst at the same time making me really glad that I wasn’t in Japan. Strange feeling.

Fronsky the Greyhound and I hung out in the guest room that night. Was good ; )

Monday morning I headed back to St. Kilda after breakfast. Spent the day trying to write a proposal about Burma for an Australian travel publication, so we’ll see how that goes. Angie, Mark, Aiden, and I went to The Espy for dinner, yum. We had Malaysian, Italian, and Russian dishes, so quite an eclectic menu, and great atmosphere. My favorite spot in St. Kilda I think.

I was introduced to Big Brother, an utter and complete waste of time and brain cells if you ask me, but Angie was excited. It was a good last day in Melbourne. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to catch up with Angie, Mark, and Aiden. Angie is the type of person I hope I have around forever; I think we could go years without speaking and then just come back together again. I can't wait to see what Aiden's like as a child, and hope the other baby/babies that pop out will be just as cute and cuddly :)

I’m waiting for my flight and I’m excited to be going, though sad in a way. It was really really great to spend time with people in and around Melbourne, some good quality time and I’ll miss the people, looks like I’ll have to come back. At the same time, I’m ready for a few days of not seeing concrete buildings everywhere, albeit pretty ones in Melbourne for the most part.

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