Melbourne - Vineyards, Wine, Native Wildlife & the City
I had been warned that the weather in Melbourne was very changeable (something along the lines of four seasons in one day) and I was not disappointed. We had blazing sunshine, pouring rain and days that reminded me of a UK summer. Although the sun was very intense and you definitely needed sun cream and a hat (something I don't normally wear but even I conceded at the cricket). It was lovely to be in a much drier heat and one that didn't leave you in a sweaty mess after walking 100 yards down the road. The coolness of the evenings was refreshing too, when the sun went down it got noticeably cooler (like the UK does) and yes at times I was cold but in a pleasant way. Again a refreshing change from here when even at night the temperature fluctuation is so small you don't notice much, if any, difference.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were lovely with our hosts and included what I figured an Australian Christmas might involve, a BBQ. In fact we had lots of BBQ's whilst there but our host did very good ones (how could I say anything else being he is an Australian) and that combined with delicious salads ensured I ate well.
We visited both the Domaine Chandon and Coldstream Hills wineries and of course got to taste some of the products. The Domaine Chandon visit included the option of a free tour round giving us the chance to find out the process used to make the sparkling wine and then (as shown in my picture above) the chance to have a glass after all that concentration proved too great a temptation to resist!
In the afternoon we went to the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to native Australian wildlife. Although I've seen kangaroos in zoos in the UK and here in Singapore it was great to see some in their homeland. I also got to see platypuses (which were much smaller than I imagined), dingoes, bats, koalas, snakes, lizards and a sleeping wombat. I really hoped I might get to see a Tasmanian Devil but they are nocturnal and unfortunately even though the sanctuary has cameras in their den none of them were asleep within range of them. That said I was especially pleased I got to see some kangaroos and koalas and the other animals I did see.
Our hosts actually live on I suppose what you might describe as a bat flight route and every evening at dusk and just after numerous bats fly over their house. Whilst at the sanctuary I saw some Flying Foxes (bats) and I understand that these are the bats that fly over their house each evening. They were certainly the biggest bats I've ever seen in the wild and as they flew over head they were big enough that you could hear their wings as they flapped them.
Dingoes, Koalas & Flinders Street Station
On our last full day in Melbourne we started the day with a trip to St Kilda. This is a beautiful spot right by the sea including a pier (another thing I haven't seen for a long time) and ideal, I would imagine, for spending a relaxing Sunday morning or any free time. There were lots of boats around and people taking part in various water based activities so it is obviously a popular place with the locals.
Although we only had a couple of free days on our Christmas trip to Melbourne we seemed to fit a lot in. For me having never been there before and not knowing much about the place I feel I saw a lot, but there is definitely scope for a return visit I think!