January 3-5: SAYING GOODBYE TO SYDNEY (for now), HELLO TO MELBOURNE

January 3: Shopping Day

During our 2006 trip, we visited Paddington Market, a local and very popular artisan market held every Saturday in a schoolyard property. We were eagerly looking forward to visiting it again; however, It turned out not to be our best excursion—it was a very hot day (also a longer walk than I expected) and the market was very crowded; additionally, the prices of goods were extremely high. We were there in the month of November before, so the weather was more pleasant—it may well have been as crowded and expensive, I really cannot recall. I would have to label this experience “Sometimes you can’t go back.”

We got a bite of lunch before leaving—a turkish flatbread stuffed with mushrooms, spinach, and onions that was very good—then took a bus back “home” because it was totally too hot to walk. After resting and waiting for the temps to drop a bit, we walked back to Queen Victory Building to continue our exploration of that amazing structure and its retail underworld. On the way to the QVB, we passed the Sydney Town Hall—a strikingly beautiful building.

Town Hall, next to QVB--largest, most ornate late 19th century building in Australia

Town Hall, next to QVB–largest, most ornate late 19th century building in Australia

Queen Victoria Building

Queen Victoria Building

We had a mission at the QVB, to buy a bamboo cutting board in Victoria’s Basement that Bob had spotted during our earlier visit. Then we walked and explored a number of passageways, going down escalators to lower levels and encountering a maze of walkways and escalators. Although Bob has an excellent sense of direction, after a while he had no idea where we were.

Finally, we encountered a food court and stopped for some cones of frozen yogurt. Then we took an escalator up to the ground level and, to our amazement, discovered that we were in the Westfield Center, another huge shopping center–we had indeed inadvertently happened into an amazing underground retail city!

January 4: Packing Day

We were taking a train to Melbourne the next day, so we sorted through our three suitcases, with the goal of packing only two for our next adventures: 10 days in Melbourne, followed by a week at a beach in the Gold Coast. We left behind items specifically brought along for the cruise we were taking at the end of the month.

After succeeding in that endeavor, we walked a few blocks to a Greek Restaurant—Santorini on Oxford—that we had totally enjoyed during our previous visit. This time we “went back” and were not disappointed…the menu had changed a bit, but the food was authentically Greek–even up to Mama cooking in the open kitchen.

We chatted a bit with the owner and told him of our trips to Greece and our love of the food. In the very hospitable Greek way, he offered us an ouzo toast at the end of our meal–It was the perfect ending to our time in Sydney.

Monday, January 5

View from our friends' 22nd story apartment overlooking Hyde Park

Awesome view from our friends’ 22nd story apartment overlooking Hyde Park

We had reservations on the 7:30 am train to Melbourne—we made the decision to use this leisurely mode of transportation to get some R&R rather than deal with the angst of air travel, and to see some countryside. We got up early, had a quick coffee and said goodbye to our wonderful view of Hyde Park. Then we caught the underground light rail just outside the building for the five-minute ride to Central Station, where we would catch the train. The train was there when we got to our track; we boarded, and waved goodbye to our friend who assisted us. The train left exactly on time and we settled in for a long (10+ hour) but comfortable ride.

The time on the train went by comfortably and even rather quickly. We were in the car next to the cafe so there was easy access to food and beverages, and we had comfortable seats that reclined and had footrests—not to mention we could get up and walk around at our leisure, not subject to seatbelt signs. As a bonus, the train had wi-fi, so we both worked on our blogs, caught up on email, posted on FaceBook, and did some internet research.

Unfortunately, there were glitches along the way, of which we were not aware while they were happening, that made the train run about 45 minutes late—by that time we were more than ready to offboard! Finally, we arrived at the Southern Cross station in Melbourne, got our luggage, hailed a cab, got to our new home-away-from-home that we had found through VRBO. It was a small, modern, well-appointed studio in the Central Business District (CBD). Tired and hungry, we walked down the street and found a not-particularly notable Thai restaurant where we had a quick bite. We went to bed exhausted, but eager to explore our new environs the next morning.

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