Friday, 31 March 2017

The Grand Slam Plan : To Upside the Down

Because we're on the other side of the world and eleven hours ahead of Blighty, my birthday starts earlier than usual. I've been longing to run for the last few days (I'm getting weirder by the minute, obviously) but the gigantic mozzie bites on my feet swell up if I even show them my trainers. But today they are better and whilst Big Foot lies in bed, I am off pounding my way (well, jogging and gasping for breath in the heat) round the road that circles the golf links and runs between the hackers and whackers and the sea with spectacular views.

Then breakfast and card opening (thank you, children with forethought who hid cards in our luggage) and then we head to Red Hill Market which is a huge charity market over about 15 acres, full of crafts and foodie stuff. The perfect place to buy today's gourmet picnic. Then off to Shoreham beach which we had scoped out a couple of days ago. Definitely our best beach yet and although it is a sunny Saturday there's plenty of room for everyone. Swimming and walking along the beach looking for shells and watching for dolphins - not making an appearance again! The absolute perfect way to spend my midwinter birthday.

By the time we get back and are changed ready for dinner, Yorkshire is waking up and lots of nice messages are winging my way - thank you! And a phone call from our North Rigton chums who are still on their way to Perth in their camper van. Brave folks, I'm too much of a comfort-lover to be up for that. Dinner was at Cook and Norman again and it was delicious and for once we are not holding back and have all three courses. Back to the Flinders Hotel for our last night. Flying home tomorrow.

This should really be called The Last Post because that's what it is but on our travels we met Michel and Narija and she came up with the expression "To Upside the Down" to describe their odyssey Down Under and I couldn't leave my blog of this wonderful trip without including it somewhere.

Our last morning in Flinders starts with a run along the beach and breakfast. Then, because the weather forecast is not great for today, we pack our bags and hit the road. Melbourne takes about an hour and a quarter and once we're in the city, the difficulty of finding a parking space - even on a Sunday - is all too apparent. For starters, it's Chinese New Year and the streets are thronging. Anyway our plan is to go to the Immigration Museum which is a real eye-opener in terms of the huge numbers of people and races absorbed into the Australian nation over just a few generations. No wonder everyone we meet here wants to tell us where they originated from.

Melbourne is hot and sticky with the promise of rain in the air and after lunch we decide that the air-conditioned airport is a better option than walking the humid streets being jostled by the crowds. So as I write we are sitting in the airport lounge with an hour or so to wait for our flight to Doha. 

This has been an extraordinary trip. Truly a holiday of a lifetime, brilliantly planned by my very special better half. We have visited friends in Sydney, tasted amazing food and wine in Adelaide and the Barossa Valley, watched superlative tennis at the best tennis venue in the world in Melbourne, run with kangaroos in the Grampian Highlands, driven the Great Ocean Road, done a treetop walk in the Otway National Park, watched the Parade of the Little Penguins on Phillip Island and relaxed on the beach in Flinders. We've flown thousands of miles, driven hundreds and even done a few by boat. We've seen kangaroos, koalas, bandicoots, wombats, wallabies, seals, kookaburras, cockatoos, parakeets, penguins and had the car well and truly poo-ed on by a pelican. We've tasted at some wonderful wineries and, in my case, a little knowledge may well turn out to be a dangerous thing! I'm sniffing and tasting like Jilly Goolden! We've eaten superb food and discovered that in Australia the quality of fresh ingredients is exceptional. We've stayed in the best hotel in Melbourne (the Langham is absolutely top) and in b&bs without television, let alone wifi. And every day has been an adventure. One day we'll be back!

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