seaside towns: Mornington Peninsula

Leaving the bustling city life and entering the coastal towns at Mornington Peninsula, I decided to take a horse-ride through the countryside!

So much for exercising, I stopped at Sorrento village right after to indulge in the local culinary delights! Sorrento is lined with limestone buildings that are bursting with art, culture and gourmet food. I stopped by Hotel Sorrento for lunch and I must say it offers a great combination of very tasty food and best sea views around! Sit back and relax to enjoy the wines of the region, then take a short walk off towards the port!

If you’re at Mornington Peninsula on a weekend, I would suggest to drop by Red Hill Cheese, an artisan cheesery that offers home cheese-making workshops – only for the serious cheese-lovers.

That’s not all I did at Mornington … check out the next post! 🙂

hunting for history: Williamstown, Victoria

I decided to take a drive out of Melbourne City towards Hobsons Bay – Williamstown, a peaceful suburb with vast waters around it.

It first began with an interest in the name Williamstown. A quick chat with the folks at the Visitor Centre gave a better understanding – Governer Bourke and Captain Lonsdale had named the settlement area after the English monarch King William IV with intentions to create a capital city at Williamstown. However, the lack of adequate water supply resulted in the use of Melbourne as government centre instead. Today you’ll find a Bourke Street and Lonsdale Street in the CBD too.

I took a short walk from where I left the car towards Point Gellibrand, the first landing place of Victoria’s white settlers and also a first burial ground of Williamstown. Most iconic was the Timeball Tower; it had a history as a wooden lighthouse, then a bluestone lighthouse in 1849, and finally its current state as a timeball tower from 1861 to 1926. I’ll admit that this was the first time I learnt the use of a Timeball Tower – at 1pm daily the ball would descend down its shaft. This allowed ships to reset their chronometers (the ship’s timepiece).

If you’re lucky like I was and visited on a Sunday some time between 11am – 3pm, you’ll find a hidden treasure somewhere amidst the ship-building sheds – an amazing Maritime Museum at Seaworks! I was pleasantly surprised with my find as I wandered around the city’s nooks and crannies. You wouldn’t be expecting a grand location with lots of beautiful ceilings, but there’s a trove of historical items and ship models for viewing in a small cosy place, and all it takes is a gold coin donation. The nice folks there told me much about the maritime history at Williamstown, including the evolution of boat-repair processes and more!

That’s not all there is to Williamstown – if you’ll like to check out the site of the ‘Shenandoah’ Incident, look at the Armstrong cannons that stand dutifully on The Strand to guard against the Tsar’s warships, or simply take a walk round the city’s pubs and churches, make sure you plan a day or two at the home of the Victorian Navy of Williamstown!

Sovereign Hill and its past

In my usual fascination of history, I found out about the gold rush that happened in Victoria, and went in search of the its past…

Sovereign Hill is an open-air museum that recreates life at Ballarat during the years of gold discovery in 1851. Mining camps, huge poppet heads, 19th century hotels, schools, blacksmiths and printing houses stood within Sovereign Hill; and an awesome bakery and confectionery offered old-styled pastries and boiled sweets. PS: those stuff they have at the Hope Bakery were so good you could smell it from miles away when someone opened the door!

Immersed in what seemed like a blast to the past, I loved every minute I was at Sovereign Hill. I was like a kid in a theme-park, reading every detail and entering each establishment to relive the 1850s. You’ll see costumed ladies and gentlemen going about their daily lives as you walk amongst them to check out the town. I happened to be there at a good hour, fortunately in time to see the Redcoats fire their muskets!

There were also horse-drawn carriage rides, which I skipped; but I took the time to pan for some gold at the Red Hill Gully Diggings and took a tour in the underground mines. Unfortunately it was too dark for decent photos, but I’ll suggest you pop in and have a feel of getting lowered deep into the mines; a highly educational and intriguing experience not to be missed.

Despite this being a re-creation of the past, you might be interested to know that the Post Office is real and in operation here at Sovereign Hill! I bought a postcard for myself and mailed it home, and now it has a beautiful stamp of Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill on it! Do that too if you visit!

For those who are keen to read more about Ballarat and its people, history, rise and fall – be sure to check out the Gold Museum that stands right opposite Sovereign Hill’s entrance.

Great place either ways!

sights of Melbourne from trams

Back into the city of Melbourne you’ll find so much to explore. An iconic landmark would be the Flinders Street Station, a yellow building with a dome that was the first railway station of Australia.

Just opposite Flinders Street Station is the Federation Square where a vibrant arts and cultural scene draws you in – lots of cafes, performances and galleries stand around the area. If you can’t find your way around the city, heading back to Federation Square will get your directions back in place. You’ll find most trams and buses taking off from this area too. Melbourne has a free City-Circle Tram, used by both locals and visitors, and they have kindly provided commentary on the tram as well.

Melbourne prides itself for the preservation of trams and hence its large number of left-hook turns – the CBD has 19 hook turn intersections and counting! I like that traditional rickety trams are still in place despite the developments of the city, and more uniquely, Melbourne offers a unique experience on The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant – where you get some fine dining on a public transport! You’ve probably tried eating on a plane, in a train, but definitely not around the city in a public transport? It was a wonderful experience and great way to see the city, a bunch of fun waitstaff and mouthwatering food. Just remember to book in advance; it’s popular and synonymous to having to book your plane tickets 🙂

Here’s an interesting fun fact: a friend in Melbourne told me to check out the “ugliest tourist attraction” i.e. Federation Square when I went around to catch a tram or bus. I’ll leave you to judge! How do you think this looks?

seeking peace by the waterfront

Life hasn’t been so relaxing for a long time, until I took off to Melbourne and visited the Docklands, situated a little beyond the current CBD.

I sat for some time by the waterfront, thinking about how a coffee, pie and free time to read a book was such a luxury during my usual day back at home; I was wondering too how Man’s needs for development will result in diminishing natural environment, sparked by knowledge of plans to develop and include the docklands into the CBD, henceforth doubling the business district’s size.

Either ways, I stayed around to take in the views of Victoria Harbour and the nearby Etihad Stadium, reflecting about life, and the path ahead. Maybe some day I’ll own a catamaran and set off to sea in search of new adventures. Or I’ll get an apartment by the docks, take these leisurely strolls by the bay with a coffee or two and sketch/write. Or maybe, nothing will change…

It took me quite some time to snap out of that reverie, and it was time to grab a bite. I’ll recommend Squires Loft Steakhouse where I’d enjoyed a wonderful eye fillet.

We’ll leave the thoughts for another day. Who knows what the future might bring?

Melbourne – Shrine of Remembrance

I’d decided to start off my stay in Melbourne with a little bit of history, hence took a trip down to the Shrine of Remembrance which was situated right opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The tall structure stands grandly at an elevated location as Victoria’s memorial to those who have served Australia and sacrificed during conflicts and peace operations, amidst its surrounding greenery provided by the Botanic Gardens and against a vibrant city skyline. One can take a self-guided tour from the entry courtyard of the Shrine, up a flight of steps towards the Doric Columns, then further in and up to the balcony. The Shrine overlooks the Shrine Reserve, the bay and a clear line of view back into Melbourne city. Four statues stand at its corners, representing peace, justice, patriotism and sacrifice; these statues complement the East and West walls, with two distinct messages on each.

 

Of particular interest to me were two areas in the shrine – the Crypt, which held the Father and Son sculpture, representing two generations who had fought in WWI and WWII; and the Sanctuary, at the heart of the Shrine, with an engraved marble sunken into the ground stating “Great love hath no man”. Most amazing would be the effort taken to create a small opening in the ceiling that allows sunlight to shine upon the inscriptions at 11am every Remembrance Day; it had supposedly taken extensive astronomical and mathematical measures to ensure that the opening was positioned to allow sunlight to pass at the right time on the right spot for the next 5000 years!

As a war history buff, I was impressed, saddened and respectful of the messages the shrine shared. Maybe some day we will realise that war is never a solution; and as Bertrand Russell says, “War does not determine who is right – only who is left”.

excuse the disappearance – I’m back!

So I hopped onto the plane and headed for Melbourne about a week and a half ago – went off to the countryside for horse-rides and walks in the wilderness, booked random day-tours to check out the scenic coastal towns, embarked on a blast to the past as I learnt about the history of gold mines, ports, forts and more; and of course, indulged in endless great food in the country.

Now I’m back – with a truckload full of stories, photos and revelations about life which I shall write about over the next two weeks!

Amazing how inspirations and new perspectives come from all over the world, even in the most unexpected places! Great week ahead, everyone!