I know it can happen anywhere, but our first day in Melbourne was unfortunately tainted by a rather disturbed man, who was both verbally and physically threatening to us and others, on the tram from St Kilda. They police did eventually detain him but we were all left a bit shaken up. Saying that there were some lovely Melbournians who were kind and supportive to us too! So we shook it off and spent some time ‘doing’ the sights.
It was nearly Anzac Day (the 100th Anniversary) so we visited Melbourne’s carpet of poppies in Federation Square. Here a lovely ex-soldier gave us some old penny coins to play two-up on Anzac Day – a game of chance that is only legal on this one day a year. We did intend on attending the Anzac Day commemoration ceremony too, but heavy rain decided otherwise for us.
Other highlights from this City included lunch in a dumpling restaurant Chinatown, followed by a visit to the infamous Melbourne Gaol. Here, we discovered the story behind the hanging of the outlaw, bushranger, murderer and Aussie legend Ned Kelly. The boys got to wear the Kelly Gang’s replica armour (homemade from old farm machinery and quite effective), and stood on the trapdoor upon which Ned said his immortal last words “such is life” and was hung for his crimes. They have his death mask here too, made posthumously to prove the theory of phrenology, that the contours of the skull can show deviant tendencies. This was a ghoulish but a fascinating insight into life in prisons and colonial Melbourne.
We also visited the Watch House used by the police until 20 years ago, where a desk sergeant treated us like criminals, reading out our crimes (mostly drunken misdemeanors, of course) and locking us up in the drunk tank (cells with drains in them!). The boys got the padded cell of course! We were only released after being processed and photographed. Hopefully it has put the boys off a life of crime!
Melbourne Museum is fantastic and we spent a long afternoon here, mainly in the natural sciences section. The displays of minerals, rocks and gemstones is extraordinarily beautiful to see and ticked another educational box. We had also just heard about the terrible events occurring in Nepal that day, and had been following the eruptions of the volcanoes in Chile we had recently visited so the earthquake and volcano displays were particularly relevant.
We also caught up with our friends, John and Denise Farmery who kindly provided a delicious Sunday afternoon tea at their beautifully renovated period home in the historic tree-lined suburb of Kensington. John reminded Ben of the last time he visited them in 1997 when he did his last world tour.
Our accommodation in Melbourne was a privately owned apartment in the trendy area of St Kilda, famous for its restaurants, bars and little blue penguins to be found nesting under the pier. We had a wander down one night to see them, and we’ve now clocked up an impressive 4 different species of wild penguin spotting!
Cameron’s highlight: “I really enjoyed watching the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie in the Imax Cinema that they have in the Melbourne Museum. The screen was so huge and the special effects in 3D were wicked.“
Oliver’s highlight: “The ferry to Tasmania, was great, it had a cinema, bar, restaurants and good sized cabins (bigger than the ferry to France we sometimes catch). At one point when we were in bed it got really choppy and we were going up and down, left and right in our beds which felt a bit weird.”