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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

Little lanes…

Day 53/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Geelong/Melbourne, Queensland, Australia.

Day 54/138. A sea day. Thank goodness!

We arrived in Geelong around 7am and dropped anchor. The first tenders were to leave the ship at 7:30am for anyone doing independent exploration. Our optional tour which was called ‘Panoramic Melbourne’ was to meet in the Star Theatre at 8:45am, to then proceed to the tender on Deck A. After a very short 10 minute tender ride we arrived in Geelong on the waterfront. Next to our bus pick up location was this lovely lady:

Geelong bollards…but more about these painted bollards later in the blog!

We knew that we were in for a long bus ride to Melbourne this morning, which we understood would be about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The traffic seemed to move ok through Geelong, which is quite spread out, and soon enough we were on the highway to Melbourne. Richard started to nap, which is what he usually does when he’s bored. I looked out the window and tried to understand the landscape.

Our guide named Ralph, decided to take us a few different spots which were not on our itinerary in Melbourne. The first stop was for a quick photo op at Luna Park in Melbourne.

Luna Park opened on Dec 13 1912 and since ‘Mr. Moon’ opened his giant mouth to St. Kilda, he has welcomed millions of visitors to ride the iconic rides in the Melbourne amusement park. The amusement park was the first in Australia and The Philadelphia Toboggan Company made the Luna Park Carousel which was #30 of a total of 80 carousels the company made between 1903-1931.

Ralph decided that since the Melbourne Grand Prix- F1 was coming to Melbourne from March 30-April 2, 2023, we should take our bus and drive down the straight away before the viewing platform.

The viewing platform is being erected at the finish line of the Melbourne F1. I actually got to drive Jaguar’s doing ‘hot laps’ on the F1 tracks in Austin, Texas and in Portimao, Portugal. The perks of my past life, so being in a bus driving down the F1 speedway in Melbourne, was not much of a thrill for me.

After driving through the Sports Centres Area of Melbourne, we then finally ended up at where we were supposed to be going on the tour, which was to the Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanic Gardens. We had the option of doing one or trying to do both of these scenic spots in the short time we had at this stop.

I had visited the Shrine of Remembrance when I was in Melbourne once before. The group I was with had done a bus tour around Melbourne and one of the places we were finally allowed to get off the bus, was at the Shrine, so that we could enjoy the views of Melbourne.

A very imposing structure.

The entrance to the Shrine of Remembrance which was originally built to honour the 19,000 Victorians killed in the First World War. Because so many of the bodies of their loved ones were never returned, the shrine was a place where families could come to remember their dead. When Australians had high unemployment and financial difficulty in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the shrine was built. It was opened in 1934 by Prince Henry, the son of King George V. Since that time other memorials have been added to the site to mark the service of successive generations of Australians in other wars. Just in 2014 was Stage Two of the Shrine finished which includes using space under the shrine for a Gallery of Remembrance.

It was very solemn to see how many medals were awarded to Australians for their military service.

The columns on the Shrine were very impressive!

Melbourne skyline shot from the steps of the Shrine.

It wasn’t a warm day in Melbourne.

+19C was the temperature and that jacket I had on did not come off at all during the day.

The shrine is very impressive. We didn’t have much time for a thorough tour though, so we headed over on our own to the Royal Botanic Gardens, which was across the street from the Shrine.

The Royal Botanic Gardens were founded in 1846 when land was reserved on the south side of the Yarra River for a new botanic gardens. Extending across 38 hectares with 50,000 individual plants, and 8,500 species, the Gardens attract close to 2 million people a year to walk through this free, beautiful place. We saw that at the entrance to the gardens there was an ice cream stand, so we grabbed a lemon sorbet on a cone and shared it walking around the gardens enjoying the flowers and fauna.

The gardens were gorgeous!

The contrast in colours was stunning!

Another bee! On a beautiful flower!

We had to run back to the bus, as we were leaving the RBG at 11:45am. We got to the bus at 11:43am and of course we were ‘that couple’ that were the last ones on the bus. Never a nice feeling to feel you are holding up the entire bus, even though we still had 2 minutes to spare!

Our next stop was Fitzroy Gardens located in East Melbourne. Established in 1848 the landscape is a classic Victorian-era design. There are extensive lawns and pathways lined with mature elm trees, garden structures and floral displays. We only had about 20 minutes to explore beautiful Fitzroy Gardens. I was getting anxious about the short amount of time we had to explore. I’m not very good with being the person to ‘stay with the tour’ and if I had done research, by now we would have ‘bailed’ on the bus tour and figured out how to get to downtown Melbourne and ‘when and where’ the bus was picking us up for the trip back to Geelong.

Fitzroy Gardens with its sweeping lawns.

A beautiful waterfall.

I really enjoyed the whimsical carvings done on the base of this old stump which is called ‘The Fairies Tree’. The tree was a red gum tree and the artist Miss Ola Cohn in 1930-1934 (which was Victoria’s Centenery), worked on the likenesses of fairies, dwarfs, gnomes, a jackass, flying foxes and koalas. The inscription on the tree says “I have carved in a tree in the Fitzroy Gardens for you and the fairies but mostly for the fairies and those who believe in them, for they will understand how necessary it is to have a sanctuary - a place that is sacred and safe as a home should be to all living creatures.”

A replica of an old Victoria village, in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne.

A statue of ‘Diana and the Hounds’ by William Leslie Bowles unveiled in 1940.

I really liked these plants, but I do not know what they are. My brother in law Norm can probably let me know.

Gorgeous Elm trees. We miss these trees in Canada, which mostly all died with Dutch Elm disease.

After the too brief a stop at Fitzroy Gardens, we hopped back on the bus to Federation Square, located by the railway yards in the Central Business District of Melbourne. We arrived at 1pm and we were supposed to be back to the bus at 2:45pm, so we had less than 2 hours free time to spend downtown Melbourne after all that. Ralph our tour guide offered to have us spend 15 minutes with him or longer as he explained some of Melbourne‘s unique features, but we elected for some independent exploration. I had stayed in downtown Melbourne just a few streets over from where our bus dropped us, when I was visiting Melbourne once before, so I knew my way around.

Melbourne‘s laneways or ‘little streets’ in the CBD originated in the Victoria era and were used at the time as lanes for horses and carts. Starting around the 1900’s as the city began to gentrify, the laneways, pleasingly intimate in scale and tucked away from the busier streets, became famous for their street art and are now highly popular locations for shops, restaurants, and bars.

A little lane in Melbourne named after a famous Australian rock band.

AC DC Lane.

Meghan and Harry?

Baby YODA anyone?

And another little lane in Melbourne.

And one last particularly good street art painting in a little lane in Melbourne.

We were looking for a good bar to watch the rest of the Super Bowl game and managed to find a nice Valentine’s Day display in Collins Place. The area reminded us of King and Bay Street in Toronto which is the Financial District, where I spent all of my career with Scotiabank in Canada.

I don’t think we’ll enter the contest, but it was a nice spot for a photo op.

We found a very quiet bar near Victoria’s Parliament building, but we wanted something a bit noisier to be able to enjoy the last quarter of the game.

Melbourne’s Victoria Parliament House which is currently under wraps as it is being renovated. The iconic old tram is a symbol of Melbourne which has an extensive tram network consisting of 250 km of double track, 493 trams, 24 routes and 1,763 tram stops. The system is the largest operational urban tram network in the world.

As we were looking for a pub to watch the football game, we saw a great looking rooftop bar with patio umbrellas that had set up televisions on the roof. We crossed the street and asked if we could go up on the roof, but the person at the door said that it had been rented for a private function. We decided to try and find a table inside at the bar though, because there appeared to be quite a few televisions and the bar was a ‘happening’ spot.

The Imperial Bar downtown Melbourne, opposite the parliament buildings.

Waiting for our food and the game to come back on. It was strange to watch the game with Australian commercials instead of the usual Super Bowl commercials.

A special Super Bowl menu and because Richard ordered a Brooklyn beer, he got a free hat!

Delicious! Chicken nachos! Probably the best nachos I’ve ever had! We shared the bowl between us, so it was an inexpensive, tasty lunch!

Checking his email. We finally had some free wifi!

The game was very, very exciting! Of course I was cheering for Kansas City, so to see them come back in the 4th quarter and score on every possession they had was amazing! I think KC got lucky with a pass interference call late in the game, which was somewhat questionable, but I’m still happy with the outcome considering. Go Mahomes!

After the game, we walked around the CBD and back to the bus, making sure we were not ‘that couple’ who arrived last to the bus. We ended up leaving downtown Melbourne at 2:43pm. And what a nightmare! I thought Toronto traffic was bad, but Melbourne is a real disaster. To leave Melbourne we had to cross the iconic West Gate bridge and after a full hour in the bus, we were not even over the bridge! Melbourne is building a new tunnel under the bridge to relieve their reliance on the West Gate bridge. Unfortunately we were stuck on the bus because we had a 74 km drive back to Geelong. Richard of course went to sleep and I looked out the window and felt trapped frankly and wondered why we did this excursion! I sure wish there were ‘little lanes’ we could have taken to find our way to Geelong faster today, but unfortunately the ‘little lanes’ were all in Melbourne’s CBD.

We finally got back to Geelong and our drop off point near the tender dock at 4;45pm. A full 2 hour drive back to Geelong from Melbourne! UGH! After finding one of the Guest Services team from Viking we determined that the back on board time was not until 8pm, so instead of going back to the ship, we decided to walk around Geelong. When we were leaving Geelong in the morning, I had seen that there was a Westfield Mall not far from the ship. We decided to walk over to the mall to see what was there.

TARGET! Pronounced ‘TARJAY’! I can’t believe Australia has Target! I looked around but I was not too inspired by anything in Target. We did find a great grocery store called ‘Coles’, so we stocked up on some more snacks for our cabin and Richard picked up a couple of ‘buttery’ Chardonnay wines since Viking has run out of the Mondavi Chardonnay he enjoyed from L.A. We are hoping now that we are almost at Sydney the wines will be replenished and some good Australian wines will be onboard for our enjoyment.

I wanted to explore the Geelong waterfront and since Richard was weighted down by all of our purchases at Coles, I parked him a waterfront restaurant where he could enjoy a glass of Chardonnay, while I explored on my own.

The Geelong Baywalk Bollards Trail features 48 different sites and 103 bollards which are made out of old timber pylons from the demolished Ybarra Street pier. Each bollard tells a story about the incredible people who played a part in Geelong’s history. As I was walking around taking photos of the bollards, my memory card on my Fuji suddenly said it was full! So rather than take Iphone photos, I went and collected Richard so we could take the tender back to the ship. We were both pretty exhausted after a 12,500+ step day and way too long sitting on a bus!

While I was wandering around the Geelong harbour I found a tollboth for a ferry service to Melbourne. When got back to the ship I investigated the 70 minute ferry ride to Melbourne which costs $19 per adult. Well I guess I really didn’t do my homework because if I had known there was a ferry to Melbourne, we would have been on it. Despite the 70 minute ferry ride, which was frankly comparable to the bus ride to Melbourne, we would have had time to explore Melbourne on foot and by tram, rather than being captive on the bus for short visits to gardens in Melbourne. I would have loved to be able to just get to downtown right away and perhaps explore the funky St. KILDA area on our own, take a water taxi down the Yarra River past Rod Laver Stadium which holds the Australian Open Tennis tournament, or walk around the Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanic Gardens without the strictly imposed timeframes. The tour yesterday has jaded me against more bus tours, even though we really wanted Richard to have the chance to see and experience Melbourne, because he had heard me talk about it so fondly from my brief trip that I had years ago with work. Live and Learn, but I’m definitely going to be reviewing upcoming excursions, and frankly we just cancelled a 4 hour bus tour of 3 spots in Eden, Australia tomorrow, so we can walk around on our own and do some independent exploration. I would rather see less, and enjoy it more, than trying to drive by more places, to say we’ve seen them, when frankly we didn’t get to enjoy them or truly experience them at any great length.

Day 54….

Happy Valentines Day! What did your sweetie get you for Valentine’s Day? Nothing? Well that sounds familiar!

Today I had osteopathy with Pedro at 9am and thank goodness I did! After all that walking around yesterday in Melbourne, I needed a good treatment before he leaves the ship in Sydney for a month!

After seeing Pedro, I quickly rushed back to our cabin to grab my dot artwork to enter it in the Art Exhibition which was happening from 12:30-2pm today. When I went to give Deb my artwork, she asked me what I would like to do today? Since I do not normally attend art class at 10am in the morning, I thought why not? I will make a Valentines Day card from Richard to me. since I knew he wouldn’t have picked one up. While I was at Art Class Richard was working out and doing some laundry.

After Art Class, I headed up to the Explorer’s Lounge to save seats for Team Trivia which was a Valentine’s Day theme today. We had to be out of our cabin because the you know what had hit the fan finally about the HVAC in our cabin. We complained last night to the head of housekeeping who reports to Ronald, the GM. Richard also went down to speak with Mara the Head of Guest Services this morning and what do you know as he was speaking to her, two of the FINCANTIERI guys were walking by at the time. Mara grabbed them and marched them up to our cabin to get some action on what the issue was and why our HVAC system did not work.

Finally! We are getting some action on the HVAC system in our cabin before it starts to get really hot in Indonesia!

There was a lot going on. And next door too! Apparently the regulator which is located in the cabin next to us had something to do with the reason we didn’t have a working HVAC system. It seems to be working now as it is much more comfortable in our cabin. Finally! We’ve had nothing but bad luck in our two cabins that we’ve had so far from Ft. Lauderdale, to L.A, where we had noises waking us up every from life boat compressors, to a non functioning HVAC system from L.A. until now. Last night Richard read the riot act and said someone needs to OWN this as the FINCANTIERI guys are getting off in Sydney and we still don’t have a working HVAC system. Ugh. The joys of a new ship! Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the HVAC system stays working for the rest of the trip!

I took Richard to the Art Exhibition after lunch and told him that I had made a card from him to me and he had to go through all of the Valentine’s Day cards on display to find the one I made for him. He looked and looked and then he finally figured it out!

“I love you to the moon and back and one under my pillow!” This is something that Richard says to me quite often and he often changes up the number under the pillow from 1 to 10 to 15 million! The card turned out quite well since I had only about 45 minutes to figure out what I was going to draw and then paint it!

The card I made for Richard. I used some multi media on the card to make it stand out more. Using some twine for the sails and rope from a bag for the bottom of the ship.

I painted coffee stir sticks from the World Cafe and pieced them together to make a hardwood deck for the boat. I also wove some string and painted it for the life preserver and used some more of the red rope for the mast. It was a fun project and at least I was able to be creative for Richard’s Valentine card this year using what I could find, rather than buying a card.

My dot art work project. You know that song from Sesame Street “One of these things is Not Like the Others, One of these things just doesn’t belong!“ well that reminded me of my dot art project. I hadn’t signed the project when I handed it in, and Deb said, “I love it. Don’t sign it. I’ll keep it and say its mine!” She is too kind. I will miss her and her husband Jim when they do finally get off in Sydney. We have been told that there will be another art teacher at some point, so we are all hoping that they board in Sydney so we don’t have any disruption to our sea day art classes. In the meantime I may pick up some more art supplies in Sydney. I’m really enjoying watercolours and its a great way to spend some free time, which we have lots of, on sea days.

This afternoon I went and laid by the pool while I was writing blog, facing out to sea on this beautiful sunny sea day.

Not a straight photo but you get the picture! 63 F and a nice calm, sunny day for sailing!

We do not have reservations for dinner anywhere. Richard thinks Valentine’s Day is a ‘hallmark holiday’ so we will be eating dinner at the World Cafe, since we think most people will be trying to dine at either Manfredi’s, The Chef’s Table or The Restaurant this evening. We can always eat at one of these spots tomorrow and call it Valentine’s Day!

What a lot to cram into two days! I will be spending some time looking at future excursions and making sure that we are not spending the majority of our time on buses. On some tours long bus rides are unavoidable because of where we are docked to where the major attraction is located, but yesterday was avoidable and we will do better in the future. We do not want to feel like we did yesterday when we got off that bus from Melbourne, so we won’t. Planning excursions I have learned is really an art. Figure out what you want to do and then find the best way to do it trying to avoid traffic, queues, long bus rides and for me not having to ‘stay with the tour’. I’m too much of a free spirit I guess for organized tours, so we can fix that!

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Feb 14, 2023

I thank you for posting information about the excursions. It is very helpful for those of us going next year. I love your artwork and you are truly very talented.


Feb 14, 2023

You've been so lucky with the cooler weather! On our Auckland to Bali cruise 2019 Australia was HOT HOT HOT! I love your blog and agree about the bus tours!


Feb 14, 2023

The Chiefs are our hometown football team - thanks for cheering us on! For what it's worth, James Bradbury, the Eagles cornerback who got the late game call for holding, said he did grab the jersey of Chiefs wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster. Now, whether or not they should have let the grab go I suppose is up for discussion. We were concerned about the Carl Cheffers officiating crew for the Super Bowl as they were also the zebras for two Chiefs games earlier this year and called a lot more penalties on the Chiefs than their opponents in those two games. But now we're celebrating winning the Super Bowl with a big parade tomorrow!

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