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Last weekend, we spent some down time for our fifth wedding anniversary in our favorite spot in Melbourne — Mornington Peninsula.  With Bentley in tow, we headed down to Rye Beach for some R&R.

Among the weekend’s activities: golf at St. Andrews Beach, strolling on the sand, multiple rounds of competitive ping ponging courtesy of the “table tennis” at our rental house, wine tasting and champagne sipping at the Cups Estate, catching the panoramic views up at Arthur’s Seat, snapping shots of the sculpture work of William Ricketts (a Richmond native famous for integrating Aboriginal imagery into his works) and getting reacquainted with the finer points of our Sony Cybershot HX1, testing out manual aperture and shutter speed and playing with variable color filters.

A few photos… on the photos page.

Week 4 was a (delightfully enjoyable) hiking let-down.  A holiday weekend (with Australia Day on Thursday and a vacation day reserved for Friday), we had originally planned to go to Snowy River National Park, no the Victorian Alps, no Snowy River National Park…

With much indecision, and soaring temperatures for 4 days straight, we went… to the beach.  After our very hot excursion at Werribee Gorge, Steve was feeling a bit hiked out.  And it was, as he put it, “stupid hot”.

So on Friday, instead of hitting the road for another hiking adventure, we did a nice 15km bike ride down the coast of Port Phillip Bay, from St. Kilda to Brighton and back.  And on Sat, we rounded up Kelly and Adam and escaped the heat of the city, fleeing to our favorite ocean-side beach on the Mornington Peninsula.

Sure, it wasn’t the most active weekend, but when it so hot outside you’re sweating standing still, hiking is just no fun…

Dave and Holly, our Kiwi friends, heard us profess our hiking mission over dinner (and vodka) and decided to join along this week.

Claire the vicambulist, spreading the word of walking one person at a time.

Week 3: Werribee Gorge State Park – circuit walk
Distance: 10 kms
Grade: moderate to difficult
Weight: appx 6-7 kgs

It was a hot one today in Melbourne.  A top of 34, and a series of unfortunate events put us at the trailhead just before midday. The walk was mostly exposed, and moderate in grade, up and down the gorge cliffs.  But although it was incredibly hot, there was a soft breeze, and it was a good, varied trek.

Not more than 20 minutes in, we spotted an echidna.  Score another one for Claire & Steve’s adventures spotting furtive Australian fauna!

(getting a closer look)

(if I can’t see you… you can’t see me… right?)

We also brought Bentley (bad idea). It was longer and hotter than we’d judged.  Plus, as we discovered, the trail involves several sections of scrambling, including one with a “handrail” to assist.  It took a 3-man handoff shuffling the lil’ pup like a football to get him around the bend…

(note the wire affixed to rock ledge)

But in the end, sweaty and breathless (and nearly out of water) we completed the circuit.  We rewarded ourselves with some snacks and a well-earned cold beverage.   All and all, it was a challenging but good hike for week 3.

(a tired lil pup gets a lift)

Looking for a new “hiking” venue within an hour of the city, we headed to Mount Macedon the day after Boxing Day (which was observed Christmas, or some otherwise sanctioned holiday).  Turns out, a lot of people had the same idea. 

Our little dachshund powered his way to the top, despite the constant clatter of “oh, a sausage dog!” from pretty much everyone we passed on the trail. 

It’s DACHSHUND people.

Steve could barely contain his audible teeth grinding by the time we descended.  Luck for us it was a short summit and there was not a soul on the base walk, so at least we enjoyed the second half of our walk without edible epithets.

Last year, we had Christmas on the coast, spending a long weekend on Phillip Island and Mornington Peninsula.  After almost a year and a half in Melbourne, the coast is our good friend and so this Christmas, we spent our time in the CBD.

Strange, you might think, since virtually no one stays in the city for the holidays.  The coffee filled alleyways of the CBD grind to a halt, as does the Great Ocean Road, and the city becomes a barren ghost town as everyone heads for the beach.

But we enjoyed a few leisurely days and got out in the sun where we could.  Thunderstorms rocked the city on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (hailstones!), but the thing about Melbourne is that the weather’s always changing…

Merry Christmas everyone!

Turns out the old adage is false, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.  On a gorgeous sunny hot Saturday this weekend, we took off for the beaches on Mornington Peninsula.  The coast on the eastern of the peninsula catches the Arctic winds, but on a hot humid day that seemed like the right place to be.

It was a day of firsts for our little dachshund–he learned to swim and dig!

This fine Sunday, my husband took his wife and his dog for a walk.  We were both in great need of a little exercise and R&R.  So we took off for Airey’s Inlet, a quiet and remote coastal expanse only a short drive (<2 hrs)  from the city, at the beginning of the Great Ocean Road.

It felt human again to have the sun and wind on my face, and hear the calm crashing of waves.  And Bentley, oh Bentley was beside himself.  We walked up and down the coast for 3 hours, til our tired little pup nearly gave out (he slept the entire ride home, and is snoring next to me now).

Yep, it was a pretty great day. Full pics on the photos page.

I’ve always loved tulips.  I have countless pictures of me as a child bent down to sniff the elegant petals of spring’s bloom (but, ironically, no pictures of my disappointed face when I realized tulips don’t actually have a scent).

Tulips have a great history.  As any good financial analyst knows, tulips were the source of the first economic bubble (and collapse) in Holland in the early 17th century, trading, for a brief period of time, for 10x the annual salary of an average worker in gold…

…and why not, for a bloom this beautiful?

Growing up in good old North Andover, my family always visited the Stevens Garden is spring for our tulip fix.  The last few years in D.C., the three of us would trek down to the tulip library by the cherry blossom- and tourist-dotted banks of the Jefferson Memorial.  And in Australia this weekend, we visited the Tesselaar Tulip Farm.

The Tesselaars came to Australia from the Netherlands years ago, and started their family farm in the Yarra Valley.  But contrary to public perception, and despite persistent images of the tulip along side clod-bearing maids, the Dutch were not the original tulip growers.  Nay, the Turks are thought to have supplied the first bulbs to the booming Dutch economy, triggering a national obsession, a breakthrough in botanical science, the boom and bust years of “tulip mania” and centuries of associating fields of blooming tulips with spring.

(Incidentially, Michael Pollan’s The Botony of Desire is a fabulous book about the interdependent relationship of man and plant and has a great chapter on tulips.)

Pictures of our day at Tesselaar are on the photos page.

Well, you can see how much Bentley loves Australia…

I just wish it felt the same about him.  We are in the midst of planning a last-minute Christmas vacation.  It sorta snuck up on us… November was here and gone in a flash, and then we found out I have a 4 day weekend and Steve has a full week of what the employees fondly call “forced leave” and the employers call a “closed office.”  Setting out to get somewhere near the beach (with plenty of coastline to be had around here) and to bring our little sausage dog with us, we thought we’d have no problem finding a booking for 2.

Little did we know, Australia hates dogs.  Seriously.  Notwithstanding the fact that one lone pet friendly website asserts that there are actually more pets than persons on this great continent, pooches are banned from virtually every state park and coastal/beach areas. 

See sign, from a park in S. Yarra.  What is a large expanse of green fields good for in an urban metropolis, if not for dog-walking?  Apparently, they think protection of furry animals like kangaroos and koalas is more important than allowing  furry kids to explore Victoria with their parents.  There’s actually a publication put out by the state of Victoria on where you can take your dog in VIC.  Short answer, 3 pages later:  there’s a few kilometers here and there, so goodonya if you manage to live near one… Aussies also apparently book their Christmas holidays months in advance (and I mean, like in March of the previous year), so when you throw the dog into the mix there are slim pickings.  Undeterred, we are on a mission.  The thought of sunset filled evenings with toes in the sand has invaded my subconscious, and I’m not letting go of the dream.  Stay tuned.