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Friday, April 15, 2011

April 8 – 11, 2011 – Goodbye Tasmania, Hello Melbourne!

Friday morning brought another departure yet another adventure. We packed, loaded the car and then filled our tummies on the bountiful breakfast buffet at the lodge and bid adieu to the lovely national park. I was dreading our long drive back to Launceston airport because the rental car's seats were so horribly uncomfortable. I think someone took the stuffing out of the front and left side of my seat, replacing it with a metal bar. My body ached just thinking of 4 more hours in this clunker. After a few miles, I picked up my purse from the floor, plopped it in my lap to rummage around for some chapstick, and suddenly shouted, "ewwww!" My lap was soaked as was the bottom of my handbag. What now? I groped the carpet with my hand to find it squishy. Frank, not wanting to stop the car until we needed gas said, "We'll deal with it later, just put your purse on the back seat".

Oh, and dare I mention that when we had placed our wet shoes and socks in the back window to dry 4 days ago we had forgotten to take them out in Hobart. They sat and fermented in the car from Monday until Wednesday, resulting in a very smelly car (as in between men's locker-room & dirty wet dog). I neglected to point out that we drove most of the way to Freycinet with windows wide open to try to air it out in the previous posting. I dreaded the thought of even putting those shoes back on my feet in fear of what may be living in them. But they were all we had for hiking (and mine were brand shiny new and mildewed), so we dealt with it.

After about 2 hours of driving, Frank signaled it was time for an apple and something to drink. I lugged the ice chest off the rear floor into may lap and UGH it's bottom was soaked, as was our guide book and the rental car agency's map book. Come on! Frank pulled over; we got out while he surveyed the problem. We never did figure out what was leaking but realized everything we had placed on the floors was literally soaked through. We had no towels or napkins to dry anything, so he instructed me to place everything on the back seat and pray for some sunshine as we rolled down the windows to get some air circulating through the damp car. Sadly our drive back to Launceston is not very memorable other than car distress and so there isn't much that we recall about the scenery on the way. When we returned, Frank went into the agency to sort out the overpriced, leaky, uncomfortable car while I tried to dry out our stuff and to make room for myself on the (now wet) back seat. He came out smiling, followed by a dour-faced woman who grunted as she touched the carpets, mumbled something to herself, walked around the car inspecting it as if it were a prized trophy, nodded and then got into the driver's seat to take us to the terminal.

Thankfully our flight into Melbourne was a non-event, putting us on the ground in time for Loretta Wise to pick us up on her way home from work. We spent the weekend with her, John and their two sons, Keenan and Jordan. We had met John and Loretta in Sri Lanka at Andy Heger and Melissa Woolf's wedding. We had become fast friends with these two and the Spencers, Scott and Muriel from Brisbane. Friday night we enjoyed a real Aussie Barbeque and then settled in to watch the Collingwood Magpies in Australian Rules footy. John is a former player for the team so it is a very big honor for us to watch Collingwood footy with him at his house. In fact, there is a Collingwood room in the Wise home. What a great night!

Loretta and John had our weekend well planned out. After a nice long walk after breakfast, John and Loretta took us for a bit of a driving tour of their favorite historic areas of Melbourne, we of course drove past the famous Collingwood Magpie grounds before lunching at their favorite pub in Abbotsford called The Retreat Hotel. It oozes old world charm, showcasing beautiful stained glass windows, antique appointments and walls adorned with memorabilia and authentic old photographs. A former historic Australian hotel, this one is now a restaurant, bar, function venue. It is also famous for having been location for the filming of a favorite Aussie TV series, "The Sullivans". John and Loretta gave us a bit of history of the place and while we awaited our food I took a self-guided tour.  Surprisingly, the food was absolutely gourmet quality. My simple dish of corned beef and cabbage was better than any I've ever made or eaten elsewhere.
Early Sunday morning, after our walk, Loretta announced plans for the day. She had the day precisely planned out – nearly to the minute. I was really impressed as they loaded us into the car for a trip to Melbourne's famous Queen Victoria Market. My goodness what a market! It is the largest open-air market we have ever seen. Opened in 1878 it features literally everything. We could have spent a weekend here and not seen it all, but what we did see: farm fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats; and then seafood, baked goods, home goods, arts and crafts, jewelry, clothing, fresh herbs and spices… This was big time sensory overload. We were in and out though within an hour – and could see why we had arrived so early. By 9 AM the crowds were nearly elbow-to-elbow. Frank and I did manage to make a few purchases of kitchen goods and spices, lamenting not having Destiny with us so that we could really stock her up. Gosh I'd love another chance at that market!

We returned to the house, stowed our purchases and then drove into the wine country for an afternoon of wine tasting. I'm not sure if Loretta remembered that I do not drink, or they figured we'd really enjoy this outing since it is a "do not miss" on everyone's travel plans to the Yarra River Valley, but I kept my trap shut and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Our eyes were not disappointed and neither were Frank, John and Loretta's palettes. At some of the vineyards, gift shops and galleries abutted the tasting rooms, giving me my own distraction to the commentary of the tasters. After the third winery, I could tell that Frank and John felt a little uncomfortable that I was not joining in. Frankly I did too, because one who goes to wineries but just hangs around loitering whilst the others are tasting stands our remarkably. I would be arrogant if I didn't admit feeling jealous and a teeny bit irritable that this was how we were to spend our day, but by the same token I was happy that Frank could finally enjoy this with them since losing his wine-loving partner (me). Fortunately my love affair with wine ended in an ugly break-up which helped ease the pain of being on the outside looking into my favorite candy store. The highlight of the day was a late lunch at Oakridge, a winery featuring one of the best restaurants around. Unluckily, an indoor/outdoor wedding was in full swing at the same time we were booked, which caused a delay of over an hour. Loretta and the boys tasted wine during the wait. I began to snap photos when an ugly storm raised its ghastly head, clawing at the horizon and breaking through throwing fierce gusts of wind and angry torrents of rain at the lively wedding party. Quickly, tables overturned, guests scattered and staff responded en masse, swooping in, gathering up and moving indoors as quickly as the storm had emerged. We were bustled into the restaurant where the sliding glass doors were slid to a close in time for us to only have gotten a bit splattered. Loretta really fretted over this delay in our tightly woven schedule, sending John to expedite our service. Finally seated, because we had already memorized the menu, we immediately placed our food and drink orders. Sadly the food arrived a very long time later, but was so well worth the wait! Because we had spent an inordinate amount of time at Oakwood, we rushed into and out of the tasting room at our last stop, Domaine Chandon, Loretta's favorite. Because Loretta's birthday was close by we purchased a top of the line bottle to give to her as a birthday/thank you gift which we presented later that night.

Back at the Wise household we feasted on fresh seafood and baked goods that John and Loretta had purchased earlier at the market. I felt as though all I had done was eat for the last two weeks and looked forward to taking a break from gourmet on our return.  After dinner we all retired early because Monday morning was a workday for them and a flying out day for us. Early flight back to Sydney and our beloved Destiny.

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