But definitely different to my usual Sundays.
I slept a lot better last night and while I woke up one around 3, I slept in until about 6:30 or so, which is a decent sleep-in for me. And by the time I was showered and dressed and organised and made it to Ma's room and she got organised, it was just after 8 when we left the hotel.
We started out, as expected, with breakfast in Hardware Lane. Now I have nobody to blame but myself. We had the choice between two different places... a regular place and a place that was all busy being French. And they seemed probably about the same as these things go, other than the French thing... and we ended up at the not French place. Stupid, I know.
I had the French toast (the irony, of course being that we were in the non-French café) with a side order of bacon, because bacon is a food group. I honestly don't think anything in the French toast genre is every going to quite live up to the stuff we had when we went to Brisbane... it might have been a hippy/vegan type of establishment, but they made some amazing French toast.
When we were done we weren't really sure where we wanted to go or what we wanted to do other than the desire for a wander in the general direction of the river, since we had to head that way anyway.
We headed down Queen Street, then took a detour along Collins for photographic purposes, then down Elizabeth Street to Flinders and from there, over the river to the Art Centre. By the time we got over there it was just after 10 so the majority of the stalls at the Art Centre Market were good to go.
"I remember the first couple of times we came to Melbourne, the Art Centre Market was massive... it took up the entire undercroft at the Art Centre, there were at least four rows of stalls, things everywhere you look. Then they started doing something with the undercroft that still isn't finished and moved the market up to the top. And once they did that it was awful. There probably aren't 20 stalls in the whole thing, and it just feels half-assed."It still feels half assed... which isn't to say that it doesn't have some nice things... in fact, on previous occasions we've bought nice things... but there's only so much you can buy from there, especially since it's so small now.
We did stop for a hot apple strudel cone... which sounds weird, but it was very nice... a puff pastry cone filled with hot strudel filling, topped with some whipped cream (which would have been better if Ma hadn’t knocked her cream off the top of the cone and had it hit my Crumpler bag which she borrowed for the day.
Can't take her anywhere.
So instead we just sat outside the Art Gallery of Victoria watching all the peoples come and all the peoples go... seriously, do they deliver people to the Gallery by the metre on a Sunday? There seemed to be a never-ending stream of people headed into the building while we watched.
We had one of our patented "poke ourselves in the eye" moments for a while there... neither of us really knew what the hell we wanted to do and neither of us were coming up with any suggestions that seemed like a viable plan... so we sat... and were indecisive.
This is why we generally prefer to actually have a plan, or at least the skeleton of a plan, because otherwise everything kind of goes fruit-shaped.
So that's exactly what we did. Well... eventually.
We started out just by wandering across the street from the Art Centre and wending our way through the Queen Victoria Gardens, then crossed over into the main section of the park and strolled past the King George V monument and checked out the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, home to the annual Carols By Candlelight from the television. It's both bigger and smaller than I was expecting, if that's possible.
And then we just wandered around until we ended up in the Botanical Gardens. Hard to believe that we'd never previously gotten around to wandering through the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, since we've done Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane already. But we hadn't... and we really didn't do all that much exploring this time around, we kind of followed the path around for a bit, then needed to locate the Visitors Centre for a "rest stop", and right across from the Visitors Centre we could see the Shrine of Remembrance, so we headed off that way instead.
And it is an incredibly impressive building. Clearly World War I had a massive impact on the people of Victoria as nearly two thirds of the money was raised in less than six months by public contributions... and school children donated the equivalent of $400,000 in today's money.
We wandered around outside for a while, then climbed up all the stairs to have a look inside the shrine itself, however it was closed for some sort of ceremony (something to do with Jewish soldiers I think as there were a number of Jewish people around and there was a small number of temporary markers for Jewish soldiers on the lawn outside) so we hung around at the top of the stairs for a while before heading downstairs to the information centre to use up some time and then headed back up the stairs once the shrine was open again.
Once you step foot inside the shrine, it definitely is a breathtaking space... from the pyramidal ceiling to the shrine itself and the fact that at 11am on November 11 there's a special hole in the ceiling that lets a beam of light shine onto the word "love" (as part of the phrase "Greater love hath no man") on the Stone of Remembrance, which is pretty amazing.
It's just a shame that it's a place that still needs to be added to in this day and age.
By the time we were done it wasn't quite 1:30, so we decided some lunch was in order, and wandered back to the Arts Centre and then down to Southbank to find something to eat.
My two favourite things though were the letter from Johnny Depp addressed to "Hector" (Barbosa) and signed "Captain Jack" (Sparrow), which was awesome, as well as Geoffrey's script from the famous "I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request" scene from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, complete with his notes about changing the words to more piratey lingo and where to put the emphasis on certain sentences. All very interesting.
Although it did waylay us a little bit.
When we finally made it down to Southbank, we didn't get too far along before it started to rain, so we gave up wandering any further and headed back to Grill'd for some burger goodness. Now, since I've mostly given up on burgers, I thought I'd go with a chicken version for a change... but sadly they don't just have a plain old regular chicken burger... they're all sexed up with brie and chilli and avocado and satay sauce. So I went with the Bird and Brie which wasn't too bad (chicken, brie, cranberry sauce, mayo, lettuce) but not amazing.
I think by that point it must have been somewhere around 3pm, so we really could have just called it a day at that point, come back to the hotel and generally chilled out... but we didn't.
Since we already have to Miki cards, we'd been talking about going somewhere other than St Kilda, but still beachy, and since I've never been out to Brighton Beach to see the famous Brighton Bathing Boxes on Dendy Street Beach, we thought that that sounded like a plan.
I did a search for the best way to get there, and it seemed like the train was the better option, and since neither Ma nor I have been on a Melbourne train, it seemed fitting.
It only took us about twenty minutes to get out there, although it was raining when we arrived (wait, you'll sense a theme shortly), and we could have just given up and got back on a train, but we'd come to see the bathing boxes, and I'd be damned if I was leaving before I saw a bathing box!
We wandered down the foreshore and Ma asked some nice passing French (at least I think they were French) girls where the boxes were... the answer, about 15-20 minutes further on. Well, at least we were going in the right direction.
As we walked the rain slowed down and then mostly stopped and eventually we made it to Dendy Street Beach and headed down onto the sand. We actually went down one of the pathways to the beach that brought us out at the end of the line of boxes, but even with grey cloud, wet sand and a grey ocean, they still looked amazing.
And clearly the weather hadn't deterred other people either as there were quite a few people out and about on a Sunday afternoon taking photos of the boxes (mostly Asian tourists, but not entirely).
We made it all the way along only with the grey skies menacing, and when we got to the head of the line, I saw something I've never seen before in my entire life.
Swans, in the ocean.
As we headed back along the row of boxes to take out final look it started to rain. We attempted to shelter for a little bit on the step of one of the boxes, but the rain didn't look as though it was going to let up any time soon and there were two of us jammed under quite a small umbrella... so we figured we'd get just as wet if we stood there than if we headed back to the train station.
Well, that's was Ma's theory, and to be honest I'm not completely sure it was true... it was raining hard, but I think we'd have been better staying still huddled under the brolly than trying to huddle and walk.
But huddle and walk we did... and boy did we get wet. Not all over, but my shoes, both of our backs, and a shoulder each were soaked through our jackets and our shirts. Urgh.
I've kind of been kicking myself all weekend that I didn't bring a second hoodie with me... mostly for sartorial reasons. I mean I know that in the back of my brain I half expected to be the owner of a new leather jacket, which would have kept me nicely dry, but alas, an imaginary jacket doesn't do squat to stop the rain.
But it would have been nice to have a spare jacket while my jacket dried off.
The train came back to Flinders Street Station a different way than it had when we went to Brighton, it actually turned into the City Loop train and stopped at all the stations. So when we stopped at Parliament Station a little voice in the back of my head yelled out "hey, you went past that yesterday on your way back to the hotel... getting off here is closer to the hotel... go, go, go!". So I shepherded Ma off the train (really, there's been a lot of shepherding this weekend... she really doesn't seem to be able to suss out directions to or from the hotel to save herself) and we headed up towards daylight.
Eventually we made it out into the light, well, the fading, overcast, grey light, and headed back to the hotel to get out of our wet clothes.
Thankfully due to a combination of cranking the hotel room heater up as high as it would go and then the topical application of the hairdryer, my jacket is all dried off... but there really isn't anything as good as that feeling of getting out of cold wet clothes and into warm dry ones.
We kind of hung around our respective hotel rooms for maybe three quarters of an hour before we headed down to get something to eat.
In the end we decided to go down to the Yum Cha Café on the corner of Exhibition Street and Little Bourke... we've been there before, when we came to Melbourne just for the one day to see QI Live, since it's right next to the theatre.
And you know that's it's an authentic yum cha kind of place when the waitresses all write in Chinese characters.
We ended up just getting some soup (chicken and sweetcorn for Ma, wonton for me) and then shared a bunch of yum cha items... spring rolls (very tasty), soy beans (nowhere near as good as the ones at Wagamama, but still okay), vegetarian dumplings and some very lovely ginger prawn dumplings (very, very nice). And we were pretty content with that.
Then after I got back to my room there was a flurry of online negotiation and then Reece happened. Reece was kind of the same as the rest of Melbourne... not quite what it looks like on the surface, a little worn around the edges and left me with a little bit of a disappointed feeling, although he did fulfil his intended purpose.
So the less said about Reece the better.
And tomorrow afternoon we go home... I have about half a plan for tomorrow in my head already, but I don't know that it's going to fill in all the time we'll have... but we'll see.