Note: This post contains a bit of reviews on the hotels and restaurants my family and I visited during our trip.
I would like to interrupt my series of post on Tuscany for this recent trip to Melbourne. My family has been invited by long-time friends on their wedding in one of the beautiful vineyards of Yarra Valley, a few kilometers off Melbourne.
We spent the first few days in the city. It was already autumn, but we were blessed with warm, sunny weather the whole time we were there. We stayed at a hotel close to Chinatown, where most of the sites of interests are conveniently located.
Melbourne is a nice city for walking. Although, there is a free tram that conveniently takes you right around the tourist spots. We had a nice walk along the Yarra River and had lunch at one of the restaurants. Melbourne is a lot more relaxed than Sydney. But I found the people a lot less friendly and the streets more invaded by Chinese tourists and migrants. In fact, it was one of the cities with the biggest Chinatown area that I have ever been to. And also, the first one where I have seen a homeless Chinese person.
My friend, who just recently moved to Australia said she’s quite disappointed with the shopping scene there. But I just have to say, I went totally bonkers shopping for yoga clothes at Lululemon and Nike. There just aren’t enough variety of yoga clothes at the shops here in Singapore, for some reason… and it was quite a bit cheaper there also.
My favorite part of the trip was the drive along The Great Ocean Road. It was a tiring four-hour trip to The Twelve Apostles, but we had some gorgeous sites, and plenty of stop-overs for lunch, run around in the beach, or interact with animals in the wild. I was so surprised to see birds and koalas and kangaroos just hanging around corners. This was really a most enjoyable experience for me as I really hate seeing animals in captivity or visiting zoos.
It was a very looong drive from Twelve Apostles to Yarra Valley. And we had to pass by Melbourne, which had really heavy traffic jams at 4:00 PM. It was very strange.
On the way to Yarra Valley, we were expecting hilly vineyards, much like the ones in Tuscany, but we were disappointed. It was nothing like the Bordeaux or Tuscan vineyards at all. It was mostly flat lands with tall trees, farms and orchards, and a few not-so-hilly vineyards.
My friends’ wedding, though, was at a gorgeous vineyard and spa called Balgownie Estate in Yarra Valley. It’s always been my dream to attend a vineyard wedding, and so I made sure that I attended this wedding despite the odds that came my way a few days before the trip. We spent three nights there. And had a chance to try the restaurant and the wines, but not the spa.
I had the most wonderful time in Melbourne and around Victoria. Seeing old friends, visiting the beautiful sites, being amongst exotic animals in the wild, experiencing the truly great ocean, just helped me revive my spirits and feel a lot more refreshed.
Have a good weekend and thanks for dropping by.
From now on, my more recent trips will include the hotels, sites of interests, and restaurants that I’ve been to. And I will include a short tip or review of some sort about them.
Fraser Place, Melbourne – 3 out of 5
I liked the clean, well-lit room and the amenities of an apart-hotel. But I most especially didn’t like that they never vacuumed, the whole three days that we were there. And that the receptionists looked hostile and unfriendly.
Twelve Apostles, Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road – 3 out of 5
Average, clean motel. The receptionist was very helpful. Not enough variety of food in restaurant menu. I did not like the toiletries. It was really cold at night in the wooden cabin. But it was very good location, very close to Twelve Apostles Park, Loch and Gorge and Port Campbell. The koalas and kangaroos were all over the place. Very nice experience.
Balgownie Estate, Yarra Valley – 4 out of 5
Very beautiful vineyard setting. Great value for money. Our single-bedroom suite is huge, with a nice balcony. It has a very nice bathroom with a huge bath tub that I enjoyed using every day with my daughter. Also, it was the only hotel we had that had a heater!
The only not-so-good point is that the restaurant menu is overrated (both dinner and breakfast buffet) and I was not impressed by the service of the restaurant staff. Very good wines, though.
Riverland Bar along Yarra River in Melbourne – 3 out of 5
Very good food. A little bit expensive though. But very nice view and ambience. Staff were not so accommodating and unfriendly as well. It seems to be the general air in the whole of Melbourne. The locals don’t seem to like the tourists very much.
Hargreaves Hill Brewing Co, Yarra Glen – 5 out of 5
Very good food and very good beer. We tried the Suckling Pig for lunch and hubby had the beer sampler, while I had the Apple Cider. Hubby bought a lot of beer to take back to Singapore. Service is really good too.
The Old Butcher Shop Cafe, Yarra Valley – 4 out of 5
Best brunch ever. I got a huge pile of thick pancakes, with whipped cream, maple syrup, red fruits and berries on top. And very good coffee and juice drinks. Service and ambience was also great but a bit slow.