Knowing that we would be in for two weeks of nonstop adventures, we had deliberately planned for a low-key last few days in Oz, and St. Kilda, a popular beach suburb close to downtown Melbourne was the perfect place to decompress and soak in the last few days of vacation.
We left Apollo Bay after a lazy morning, strolling around the town and grabbing breakfast, and then hit the road to head back into Melbourne. Once we got into St. Kilda, we had some time to kill before our next Air BnB would be ready, so we stopped at a little joint around the corner for some appetizers and drinks. When we checked into our place for the next few days, we were treated to a cute little art-filled studio in the heart of the neighborhood, walking distance from everything we planned on doing for the next few days.
After settling in, we went to a local Mexican joint recommended by our hosts for margaritas, and then continued down the main drag until we stumbled upon a Thai restaurant that beckoned us in with its affordable (and, as it turned out, delicious!) noodle dishes. After dinner, we took a little walk down to the pier to check out the evening windsurfers.
The next morning, we awoke to our second rainy morning of the trip (we know these are excellent odds). We said our goodbyes to Jules and returned the rental car to the CBD, just as the drizzles began to subside. We hopped on a couple of bikes again and made our way back to the previously closed South Melbourne Market. We wandered around the many booths, grabbing a few souvenirs and finally found ourselves in the extensive fresh food market. We grabbed some dimsum and dumplings as we discussed cooking a dinner in the studio that night, and what we would choose out of the many offerings on site. We eventually settled on some lamb kabobs, giant prawns, asparagus, and entirely too many cheeses for two people.
The dinner was simple to throw together in the simple kitchen, and we used some of our hosts’ provided olive oil and spices for flavoring, paired with some of the wine picked up earlier in the trip. After so many days in a row of eating out, which we hardly ever do at home, it was quite fun and rewarding to cook a meal together with local ingredients on foreign soil, and we were so glad to have given it a try.
After dinner, we set out to catch a glimpse of one of St. Kilda’s most endearing attraction – the fairy penguins. Now, I know what you’re saying: “But Erin, you hate birds. You’re terrified of birds. You think birds are flying demons.” Yes, reader. Yes, this is all true. However, penguins — FAIRY PENGUINS — are quite different. These little guys have webbed (non-talon-like) feet, the tiniest beaks ever, and their wings do not provide looming flight. So, with all of the fear-factors removed, penguins get the unique honor of being the only bird I would consider as a friend. So, when I heard that there was a small colony of penguins that lived at the St. Kilda pier, there was no way we were going to miss it.
After a while of ogling the babies that were waiting ashore for their returning parents, we decided that we didn’t need to wait another hour in the wind for the sun to set and the rest of the colony to arrive. Also, knowing my night vision (or lack thereof), I figured I wouldn’t be able to see them after dark anyway. So instead, we headed out of the crowds and back down the pier.
We decided to pop into a local icon, the Esplanade Hotel, or “the Espy.” We were able to catch a few unsigned local artists — many of which were very good — in the setting of an old, and untouched venue, where the pitchers of beer were cheap and cold. This ended up being one of our latest nights out, as we kept saying to each other — “let’s watch just one more act.”
The next morning, the last of full day of our trip, we set out to catch the last glimpses of the city, of course, from the seats of the Melbourne bikes. After a delicious breakfast at Il Fornaio, the restaurant across the street, we grabbed our bikes from the nearby station. We were headed back to the South Melbourne area, to a local yarn shop that had been recommended to me by another vendor I’d met at the Market. I was able to get some local merino wool yarn (I tell myself it came from all of those sheep we had passed during our drives), and a kind lady helped me choose a knitting pattern for a scarf that I could make with the yarn. Having picked up what I consider to be one of the most fun souvenirs (call me an old lady, if you will…), we headed back to the bike path and rode our way far down the city’s edge. We made it all the way to a little suburb called Brighton, with gorgeous houses looming over the water’s edge.
After the bike ride, Anthony retreated back to the studio for a nap, while I couldn’t resist the urge to take my nap on the sunny beach. After wandering around the neighborhood on my own for awhile, and grabbing some more sushi rolls, I settled into the sand for an hour or so of sunshine.
We ended our last day with happy hour together, followed by seafood at a highly-recommended restaurant called Clay Pots. With only a limited amount of seafood listed on their boards, based on the local catches, we knew we needed to be there early to get the tastiest pick. We got a couple seats in their beautiful garden area, and enjoyed a dinner of garlic chili prawns (the sauce was the stuff of dreams… I still haven’t been able to enjoy a piece of bread not sopped with the buttery goodness), blue crab, mussels and veggies.
The next morning, we headed to the airport and said our goodbyes to Australia. Of course we enjoyed the trip immensely, but after a couple weeks abroad, it’s amazing how excited you are to see your home, your bed, and most importantly your pets! We were lucky to have some great friends watching Gizmo and Olive, and sending us occasional emails to let us know how well they were doing. But all the same, getting home after the 30+ hours of travel from door to door, and snuggling with our fur-babies, helped ease the pain of the end of vacation.
So that concludes our dream trip across the world! It’s difficult to sum it all up in just words and pictures, because the feelings and fun we had during the trip cannot be described. We always return from foreign travel with a different perspective and slightly larger worldview, and this trip was no different. However, it did all feel strangely American, with a few distinct differences. For that reason, it never felt like we were that far from home, and yet we were nearly as far away from it as physically possible. Regardless, as usual, we returned home with our travel bug not eliminated, but only fed and hungry for more. Needless to say, we are already dreaming of our next trip.