Crystal clear night sky over Australia as I head back to Shanghai. Stars. Billions upon billions of sparkles glitter the night sky. Magical. Flickering boat lights below on the ocean. While the plane quiets down, I stare out the window.
What an adventure down under! Visiting a dear friend meant the world. Exploring Melbourne was so much fun. A summer-winter escape was so refreshing. It felt like a crisp Nebraska fall as temperatures ranged from about 10 to 20 degrees Celsius; nights were chilly and sometimes the wind blew and a couple evening rain showers occurred, but it was a welcomed break from the sweltering Shanghai heat. And the air. Oh how it felt good to breathe! The skies were the clearest, swirling white clouds and the bluest of blues (when it wasn’t rainy)!
I arrived in the morning and my friend and her mom picked me up and we went for breakfast at a local chain restaurant called the Coffee Club. They served a wide range of breakfast options but we opted for the Smashed Avo. (Apparently it’s all the rage here and you know how I’m all about the avocado on toast life). We rested and relaxed that afternoon as my friend needed to lesson plan and teach that night and I was exhausted from the flight. It’s still 12 hours or so from Shanghai. For dinner her mom made Nasi Lemak. One of my favorite dishes ever. Coconut rice, chicken, and toppings. It’s a Malay/Indonesian dish.
The following day we headed into the city for a late lunch at Operator 25 then made our way out to the suburb of Brighton.
Here, we walked along the coast and took the salty air and waves. The historic Brighton bath houses line this beach, an array of bright colors and perfect photo opps. The sunset was brilliant oranges and yellows sinking into the calm water. For dinner, we ate Japanese curry. Delicious.
We called an early night as the next day we had to be back into the city center by 7am for a driving tour along the Great Ocean Road. The GOR is an historic road built by the solidarity to create jobs after the war. It winds along rugged rocks and soft sand beaches and through quaint tourist towns that would be packed during the summer holidays, but since it was winter they were a bit sleepy. Our tour guide, Toby (Tobs), gave us tid bits of information and fun facts throughout the day.
At one of our stops at a campsite cafe we spotted a wild koala 🐨 napping in a tree. It was so fluffy and cute, but according to the locals it’s pretty much a useless mammal… they figured out that the only productive quality it offered was tourism! 😂
For lunch, we are traditional Australian grilled sausage and vegetables at one of our stops.
Points of interest and historical landmarks along the way included Cape Otway and Australia’s Most Significant Lighthouse, the 12 Apostles (a series of limestone rocks jutting out from the ocean), Port Campbell National Park, and the Gibson Steps leading down to the crashing waves and beach coastline. The scenery between Melbourne and the ocean road reminded me of Nebraska; such stunning natural beauty… and that coastline…gorgeous.
When we got back to the city we ate at Betty’s Burgers 🍔 before heading home.
To conclude our weekend we went to Ballarat Wildlife Sanctuary to see Australian wildlife. We saw a wombat, koalas 🐨, penguins 🐧, kookaburras, and fed kangaroos. Even though it was rainy this day, it was still a nice drive in the countryside.
We lounged the rest of the day and packed our bags to head into the city for the remainder of my stay. Because my friend had to work we decided to stay in a serviced apartment so we could maximize city exploring. For dinner, we ate at Nando’s, a Portuguese chicken restaurant and for dessert we had chocolate waffles at Max Brenner chocolatier.
Monday morning! We headed into the city today by train. Since check in wasn’t until 2, we got brunch at Higher Ground. Yum! We had xx . After brunch she went to teach and I walked around the city. (And went to an English bookstore, since I’m living in China…) Another blue sky day!
Dinner was Korean chicken and rice 🍚; cheers 🍻!
Tuesday, we brunched on Degraves street, a cool side street with funky graffiti and cafes. The place was Issus: We had smashed avocado 🥑. I holed up in one of the cafes and read all afternoon with a latte. Seriously perfect. People watching, reading, sipping my latte… my kind of afternoon. When she got off work we got pancakes at Pancake Parlor for dinner.
Wednesday! My friend took the day off work so we headed back to DeGraves Street to try another brunch place called The Quarter before heading to Her Majesty’s Theater 🎭 to watch Aladdin. Wow! What a spectacular show, absolutely fantastic! The sets and scenes were detailed and the Cave of Wonders glittered in gold ornaments and jewels… the night sky of “A Whole New World 🌎” sparkled like diamonds and the even constructed a magic carpet ride… the actors and actresses did a fantastic job too and the Genie was hilarious! ! A definite must-see! After the show, we walked through China town and her Mom treated us to high tea at the Tea Salon. That evening we walked around the Queen Street Winter night market. So cozy while we sipped hot buttered lemonade from a local vendor. 😴 time for bed after a fun filled day in the city!
Thursday brunch was at the Grain Store, so filling but delicious. We had xx. Before she headed to work we walked by the Riverfront. The Yarra River runs through the city. Along the path there are eateries and it leads to Federation square which is a place where local talents can perform, there is also a museum and gathering points for speakers and shows. From Federation Square we continued walking up to Hosier Lane which is another graffiti street of Melbourne.
While my friend was at work I went back to DeGraves Street to relax and read, I also got my hair cut because in China they don’t know how to cut my hair! Later that evening we went to a Thai fusion restaurant called Chin Chin. It was so good! After eating we took a taxi to St. Kilda beach where usually at this time of year you can view penguins 🐧, however it was closed without our knowing. Looking out onto the horizon of city lights and listening to the waves lap the shore was so peaceful…
Ahh Friday! What a week it has been! I love Melbourne: good vibes, friendly people, cool side streets, delicious brunch, fabulous coffee ☕️ in funky cafes, blue skies, fresh air, and beautiful scenery. We brunched at Euro Lane. I wandered the city while she taught and afterward we walked the Riverfront and had wine at the Arbory, one of the outdoor restaurants overlooking the water. So pretty to see the city lights glimmering on the river and good wine to cheers our friendship.
Saturday was my last day, we had a chill day and had breakfast at the Conservatory with her family who picked us up from the city center. We drove back to her house and relaxed until my evening flight.
Saw the sunrise in Kuala Lumpur during my layover before flying back to Shanghai. It meant the world 🌏 to me to visit a dear friend, meet her family, and explore Melbourne. This trip was so special for me as Australia was also the first place where I started to receive international postcards; my travel experiences have come full circle now that I have traveled “down under”. How cool is it to have received postcards, then met an Aussie friend living abroad, and visited her in her hometown? I’m blessed in all of these life experiences! 💗