Two days for the price of one in this instalment – 23rd December 2012, when we left New Zealand and returned to Australian shores, and Christmas Eve around the Melbourne area.
Bidding farewell to New Zealand
There’s really not much to report about this day. We returned the hire car (which was almost as informally done as picking it up). We’d had to make a choice on flights – there was a direct flight to Melbourne at some really unpleasant time (0630 or something), or an afternoon flight to Sydney, with onward connection. This seemed much more civilised, but would mean a longer day. Fortunately we were being picked up by our lovely friends Tiff and Michael (more on them later!), so we didn’t have to worry about fending for ourselves at the other end.
One slight oddity at Christchurch airport, is that one of the shops at the airport is (or at least was) affiliated with the nearby Antarctic centre – and yet the main gift it sold appeared to be cuddly polar bears: not really known for their presence in the Antarctic!
Arrival in Melbourne
After our flights with Qantas, we touched down in Melbourne just after 7pm, on what turned out to be Melbourne’s hottest day of the month – touching 39 degrees at the airport that day, and it hadn’t cooled down much by the time we landed. We’d be staying with our friends Tiff and Michael – Mrs Dr T knew Tiff from school days, and they’d had the good fortune to be in Europe for our wedding in 2011 – however we hadn’t been able to make it to Australia for their nuptials, and hence we’d arranged to spend Christmas with them as part of this trip, and they’d kindly agreed to put us up in their spare room in Geelong (not far from Melbourne) and share their family’s hospitality with us for nearly a week!
The promise of a super-hot Christmas (teased to us by our very hot arrival in Melbourne) pretty much evaporated overnight – the rest of our time in Melbourne would be generally punctuated by cloudy skies and relatively cool (c. 20 degree) temperatures.
Christmas Eve primarily involved visiting some of Tiff’s relatives in the area, and a trip to Barwon Heads – on the coast about 15 miles from Geelong, and where we’d been promised an excellent lunch. The area itself is at the mouth of the Barwon river, and has some nice beachfront views and walking. The Restaurant at the heads is in a lovely building on a short jetty, and has great views, and served rather better food than we’d been living off in NZ in the previous couple of weeks.
A quiet evening
Christmas Eve has always been my family’s primary get together, and of course we were 10,500 miles and 11 hours of time difference away. However, as my family meet for an early lunch, we’d arranged that we’d do a FaceTime with my cousin (who would be there) at about 1130 am UK time (1030pm in Melbourne), so we could have a catch-up with everyone. We’d spent the earlier part of the evening chatting, planning how Christmas would work, and having a few quiet drinks together, as well as the most important job – catching up with some washing!