It was hard not to make comparisons at what some locals take for granted.
First day on the tram to the city, I was confronted by a large roadworks sign and three (not one!) transport staff eager to explain the problem and the proposed bus alternative which for the inconvenience would be free of charge for the entire week to 10 days. Free!!?
“Good morning, how are we all? Good? And who’s wearing that lovely coconut perfume? Is it you dear? I’d keep using it, ’cause it smells just lovely. My name’s George and I apologize for the roadworks and will get you into the city as soon as I can…….” That was the banter the bus driver greeted us with….can you believe it?
In Melbourne there are groups of volunteer tourist information staff in booths or literally on the street corners, with engaging smiles and ever so keen to be helpful. Even more delighted to pose for a photo for an ‘International blog!’
While it’s hard to identify tourists as no one is traipsing around behind a guide’s flag, some tell-tale signs did appear with the queue outside the Hopetoun Tea rooms….that must be in a Lonely Planet guide book.
Roaming the countryside I relished the road signs and even saw a kangaroo near one but not in time to catch him on film. Did manage to catch what looked like multi coloured kangaroos crouched grazing, only to find they were ‘pick your own strawberry people’ munching into scrumptious strawbs.
Wineries with fantastic views, layback music from Disco Rockers, great wine and even pizza made by an Italian! Wineries with the quirkiest names – Jack Rabbit, Ten minutes by Tractor or named after the owner, Will Wolseley Winery, or simply Italian at T’Gallant so I didn’t get homesick!
Empty beer cans being put to good use on the vine posts so the anti-bird netting doesn’t tear. A rather nifty idea. Fortunately Italy has no need for the nets or the beer cans and dare I add screw tops!
Australia’s equivalent of the Nike slogan ‘ you can do it! ‘ encompassed in Blundstone boots tagged ‘Let nothing hold you back’ still a great Aussie icon produced in Tasmania!
Endless beaches, magic white sand, surf tossing kids about and tugging at my bikini as even I braved the cold water to take an exhilarating tumble. Beach umbrellas serve as cover to the hoards that spilled out of the Portsea pub on Saturday afternoon, not as a line over sun lounges on a typical Italian beach scene.
Even one of my favourite buskers Matsumoto Zoku were entertaining Melbourne yet again in Bourke St.
Aussie laments of too much traffic ( 3 cars in a queue is too much??) and no place to park (there’s space for at least two Fiat 500’s and a Vespa in there!) fell on my deaf ears. Still a worry the road rage, and somewhat pig headed determination to not budge an inch, makes me feel Melbourne drivers could learn a lot from Italian drivers …..except for George!
Hiking in the wilds around the Great Ocean Road I felt very pampered by the superb designer wooden benches and eloquent wildlife information plaques, orderly paths and well equipped look out points. The so Aussie sounds of the bird life woke me in the mornings and the crashing of waves rocked me to sleep.
I enjoyed many of the Tennis cup matches, if only on Tv; loved to see the surfers out or at least studying the waves, and abseilers scooting across the bay or hovering above the water (was I seeing things?) on the new Flyboards.
Bowled over to see a great Aussie combo of cricket stumps and cooler in Bunnings. Only Aussies could think that up! And comforted to see Vegemite is still Australian made and bought a big jar to take home.
What did this Aussie miss from Italy ?…..slow dining, a good extra virgin olive oil and a bidet!!?