At home in Melbourne
TRAVEL UPDATE - Marlinda Angbetic Tan (The Freeman) - October 23, 2014 - 12:00am

Just like in 2010, when I was given a year-long visa by the Australian Embassy, I took another trip Down Under to make full use of the visa granted.  I ticked off one item in my bucket list then, when I visited the island of Tasmania and saw the Tasmanian devils up close.  This time, I chose Melbourne because, like Cape Town (South Africa), it is getting known for its lovely vineyards.  Of course, Barossa Valley in South Australia tops the mark for Australian brands, with known wineries that I visited as a media guest of the Australian Tourism Board some years ago. However, the vintners of the Yarra Valley in Victoria are bullish and proud of their lush harvests, which I had the delightful opportunity to discover...this time.

Traveling alone is a welcome respite for me, to recharge my spiritual batteries by touching base with myself in a foreign place, surrounded by experiences novel or somehow blissfully familiar.  Always the friendliness of strangers, the kindness unexpectedly received reinforced my faith in basic humanity that transcends race or creed.

Despite the negative travel experiences of some people I know, I never had an unpleasant experience in my Australia trips.  In fact, I felt right at home when I entered my hotel, the Pegasus Apart'Hotel on A'Beckett St. The multiracial hoteliers at the front office were accommodating to each guest's needs. Being sleepless from my flight, I really needed a room soonest.  Despite a 3pm check-in policy, they tried their best to prepare my room by 11am. Before then, someone gave me a map and showed me where I could change my money into Australian currency. One advantage with me on this trip was my chauffer service for airport pick up arrangements so I did not need to change currency at the airport for transportation purpose.

During my "reconnoiter," I saw a Catholic church: St. Francis, just a few minutes' walk from the hotel. This is very important to me when I travel, to be near a church so I could attend Sunday Mass.  Another important thing is to be near the shopping center -- well, Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne's version  of Divisoria (but more diverse and convenient because merchants accept credit card payments!), is right next door. You just turn a corner from the hotel, then cross the street to QV Market. I found out that items here are really cheaper than in stores in the shopping district. Restaurants of all types offering various cuisines are everywhere so one can heat up/cook dishes in the fully appointed kitchen. (I was eating rice every day!) Actually, one can just walk to all the main streets in the City Centre district, from where my hotel was. Or one can take the free hop on-hop off City Circle tram, to check out which areas are interesting. Another option is the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle (Aust$5.00) that covers a wider area.

One highlight of my visit was watching a new musical that premiered at the rococo Princess Theater  -- "Once." It has garnered awards from Broadway and the West End and is aptly described as a stage production that "has it all, heart, soul, comedy and perfect, perfect music." (OfficialTheatre.com) What amaze audiences all over the world are the awesome talents of all the performers (to the last bit player!) who are not only required to sing well, dance and act, but also to play various musical instruments as the play progresses. The lead male (Tom Parsons) plays the guitar, while the lead female (Madeleine Jones) plays the piano. The rest of the cast play guitar, cello, piano, melodica, harmonica, cajon, castanets, banjo, tambourine, Mandolin, drums, violin, accordion, concertina).  Change of sets is done by adroit lighting effects. The music is magnetic, the humor prevalent, the love story poignant. My travel agent, Joan Tiu of Wanderlanes Travel, got me my ticket online in the VIP section which was mailed to me, entitling me to cocktails before the show, free souvenir program, ice cream and chocolates during the intermission. It was value for money. Really! (Thank you, Joannie Girl!)

The Yarra Valley wine tour next time.

(For a well packaged Melbourne trip, I recommend Joan Tiu of Wanderlanes Travel. She has good connections there! Tel #231-3935/36. Fax:231-3945. Email: inbound@wanderlanestravel.com)

mayen8tan@yahoo.com.

AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY AUSTRALIAN TOURISM BOARD BAROSSA VALLEY BECKETT ST. THE BROADWAY AND THE WEST END CAPE TOWN CITY CENTRE JOAN TIU OF WANDERLANES TRAVEL YARRA VALLEY
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