and Hugh still hasn't called!
11.10.2009 18 °C
3:45 am Monday, 12 October 2009
Grand Hyatt Hotel
I simply do not understand it. I have been in Australia two whole days and Hugh hasn’t rung me once. What is wrong with that man? Could it be that he realizes I am simply having too much fun in “Melbun” to chat with him right now? Yep, that’s how they say it here. Apparently I have been grievously in error by actually pronouncing the “r”. Please forgive me, Melbournians.
As you can see from the time stamp, we have not managed to overcome the time problem yet. I pursued a different strategy last night: sleep until I woke up, then take a sleeping pill. However, by the time I woke up, it was too late to a sleeping pill but frankly, it’s really too early for normal humans to be awake. And David is worried we won’t be able to get up for our 4:00 am balloon departure. Don’t really think that’s going to be a problem, do you?
We spent most of yesterday going walkabout again. We had breakfast at the hotel (more on this in a bit), then set out on a walk along the Yarra River, the Ohio River of Melbourne. You know that saying, “I went to a fight and a soccer match broke out?” Well, we went for a walk and a marathon broke out! The Melbourne Marathon was yesterday morning, and it ran along the river, so we got a closeup view of the runners, some of whom were not unattractive. We watched them run for a bit, which is frankly like paint dry, then proceeded with our walk. We visited the Rod Laver Arena, site of the Australian Open (I did not see Patrick Rafter…such a disappointment), then the Melbourne Cricket Ground. (It is named after some famous cricket player, but I did not retain that information. There is only so much room in my brain, and that doesn’t qualify for retention.).
We circled back around and hit the cutest arts and crafts fair that is apparently held every Sunday along the river walk near the National Gallery of Victoria. You all know how I love a good arts and crap fair, and this one certainly qualified as a good arts and crap fair. I did manage to restrain myself somewhat, but it was really difficult and I really was only able to manage it knowing the amount of space available in my luggage for schlepping stuff home. I talked to several of the artisans, including a food vendor making ebelskiver pancakes (the little spherical ones you make in the special pan). I tried to study her flipping technique, because hers came out much prettier than mine ever do. As for what I bought, well some of you will just have to wait until I get home to find out.
We wanted to go see the aboriginal art collection at the National Gallery of Victoria since it is free and we were right there. In we traipsed. Turns out the aboriginal part of the collection is in a separate facility that is actually much closer to our hotel. But on the theory that a little art appreciation never hurt anybody, we viewed the modern portion of their collection. I can see dead Egyptian stuff anywhere, frankly, so we gave that a pass. The collection was small, and not totally my cup of tea (Musee d’Orsay is still my number one all-time favorite walk-till-I-drop museum), but we met the nicest docent. We were the only ones in that part of the gallery, so she gave us a personal tour of the art and told us all about what she liked and disliked about the various pieces. That was nice. It was a little disappointing, however, because we apparently JUST missed a huge Salvador Dali exhibition that just closed last weekend. That I would have enjoyed.
After a buffet lunch at the hotel (more on this, too, in a bit) with the tour group, we went back to the Queen Victoria market. David wanted to pick up some souvenirs, and not being personally averse to shopping, I tagged along. If anything, there was more stuff to see than yesterday, including the mother lode of Uggs. The only problem was, I couldn’t tell which were real and which were fake, so I opted for none. On the way back, we saw a sign for Borders, which you know draws me in with an electromagnetic force, so we popped in. They actually have an Australian baking cookbook! However, I was strong (figuratively) since I am not strong (literally), because that sucker’s a monster and I am not carrying it all over Australia. (Don’t fret, little campers, I’ll pick it up in Sydney so schlepping will be minimized.) I also found Australian office supplies! You know my love and fascination for foreign office supplies, much like Monica’s hotel shampoo collection on “Friends”. That I did not resist, (though I did limit), because a pen doesn’t really take up much room at all. It’s not completely abnormal, is it, to covet office supplies from other countries? It sprinkled on us on our way back to the hotel, but it was okay because we saw the loveliest rainbow afterward. I think it’s a sign that, overall, our trip is going to be good.
It was not an immediate indicator of the success of our next adventure, dinner on the Tram Car Restaurant. This is where you go for a ride on a 1945 tram car and they serve you dinner as you clickety-clack around town. Dinner was good (macademia chicken with sweet potatoes and sticky toffee pudding, a new dessert for me, to end), and the entertainment, and Joe the singing waiter serenaded us with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra tunes as we ate. We met two lovely (if older) couples during dinner: Bob and Betsy from Vermont (he’s an electronics engineer and she’s an occupational therapist) and Neil and Betsy from California (he’s a PVC salesman and she’s pretty much a whiner). However, as we were eating, it became apparent that we were no longer moving--the tramcar had broken down! Joe the waiter, the chef, and the driver all got out and tried valiantly to fix it (don’t know how much Joe and the chef contributed to that enterprise, but at least they tried), but alas, the tramcar would not clickety-clack down the track any more that night. They had to call our bus to come pick us up out in the middle of Melbourne! Oops. (This is not unlike the time on our Hawaii trip where our bus got into an accident on Mount Haleakala…perhaps I am a bus hex?)
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about our tour director. Her name is Lisa, and she’s very sweet. She’s Canadian, dontchya know (insert Canadian accent here), and seems to run a pretty tight ship. I like that in a tour director! We also met two women who appear to be traveling by themselves (my future fate, I am certain, since David is getting married soon): Sandra, who is about my age and is from Denver (occupation currently undiscovered) and Linda, a retired public health nurse from Riverside, California (she says to get your H1N1 vaccine, by the way). We met them at lunch yesterday, which brings me to…
THE FOOD. Oh my gawd, the food here at the hotel is spectacular and I know that for a fact because I ate most of it! We had the breakfast buffet yesterday morning (and let’s all say a little prayer that the front desk clerk wasn’t yanking our chain that it was included with our room rate, because it was $76 for the two of us, so I made sure to get my money’s worth, just in case) and it was epic. Now, I love a good breakfast buffet, and this was better than most: egg station for omelettes, fruit display, variety of breads for toast (lots of spreads, too, including Vegemite. David tried it and reported that it’s very salty. I stuck with peanut butter and lemon curd…don’t make that face, it was on two separate pieces of toast!), waffles, yogurt, juice of all kinds, scary Asian breakfast stuff, cheese station, charcuterie (look it up…it’s a word you need to know). It just went on forever. Like I said, I got my money’s worth, and even though we tramped all over Melbourne, I was barely starting to get hungry when it was time for the LUNCH buffet. Oh dear God, it was a thing of beauty. Of course there was food of all types, but that was only an annoying prelude before you got to the centerpiece of the thing: the dessert buffet. It was glorious: churros and chocolate sauce, scooped-to-order gelato (I had chocolate, David the vile strawberry), brownies (kind of dry…Mrs. Varner’s are better), individual crème brulees and chocolate puddings, a chocolate fountain with marshmallows for dipping, macaroons (I had a lemon one), cookies, chocolate tartlets (excellent ganache in those), lemon tartlets (redeployment of the morning’s lemon curd if I don’t miss my guess), something with strawberries in it (you know its fate with me), more waffles, a cinnamon crumb cake that I was simply too full to even taste…there was probably more but I have forgotten in all in the sugar coma! They did have HUGE blocks of Callebeu (this is not spelled correctly, but Microsoft changes other spellings to weird words!) chocolate as part of the display--I had severe chocolate envy--but David would not steal one for me to bring back for the stash. Something about weight and melting…he has obviously never had the chocolate pudding I make with that stuff, or he would have packed it out on his back!
Australia observations for today: they really do say “No worries mate.” Also, they have dual flush volume toilets with a little handle that selects half flush or whole flush (I will let you conclude for yourselves what you are supposed to do with that!). I am not a fan, as the half flush really doesn’t flush much away. I am being environmentally rude and using the whole flush every time.
Today (Monday) is our Melbourne city tour, then I think we might go on a river cruise or the City Circle Tram. Unfortunately the National Gallery is closed, so no aboriginal art for us. And maybe tonight I’ll figure out a medicating strategy such that I’m not up at 3:30 in the morning blogging! Then there’s always Hugh stalking…
No worries, mate!