Melbourne with Helen and Sue

On Halloween our dear friends from New Zealand, Helen and Sue, arrived. We met them many years ago in Bermuda and have remained friends despite now living halfway around the world from each other. They are the kind of friends that no matter how much time passes between seeing each other we always pick up like it was just yesterday. Almost 14 years ago we came to vist them in New Zealand for my 60th Birthday. Now we are together again to celebrate Jim’s 70th and Sue’s 65th. They have even offered to stay with me in Melbourne for the first week of Jim’s 2 week trip back home to his roots in Ethiopia with family.

We last saw each other in London, the summer of 2018. They arrived late at night but that did not keep us from staying up late to have a welcome cocktail before going to bed.
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On Jim’s Birthday November 1 we take a nice long walk to explore the hip Carlton and Fitzroy neighborhoods. Here we stopped for lunch at an Italian restaurant and had a good laugh over the waitress badly messing up our order despite us being the only customers. We always have so much fun and laughter together. That night we celebrated Jim’s birthdy with a dinner at our favorite Israeli restaurant, Miznon. Helen, the foodie and amazing cook really liked it.
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On November 2 Jim left for Ethiopia. He is looking at 30 hours of travel to get there and will be meeting up with daughter Emily, cousin Jeanne, brother Claude and nephew Peter on arrival to Africa. It was really hard saying goodbye to this guy for two weeks. We both cried. He left with just that back pack.
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As I mentioned Helen is a foodie and great cook. Her favorite thing to do is go to markets and shop for food so we get an Uber and head to the Preston Street Market. If there is  one thing Melbourne nails, it’s markets. It’s difficult to pick a favorite among them but Preston Street indoor market is a highlight because of it’s eclectic cultural offerings. You find everything here from fruits and veg to local fashion and everything in between. The market was 9 miles away but we had great conversation with our lady Uber driver who like us enjoys traveling so we shared some good travel stories with her.
Melbourne is home to huge hubs of Italian and Greek immigrants. Our first counter stop was at this  Italian cheese deli. The bell in this picture is solid cheese.
How Now Market Cow
Helen in her glory trying to decide what to buy to make for dinner tonight. So many choices. Sue and I just follow her around like little puppy dogs as she wanders the market. Occassionally she gives us little chores like finding some herbs or spices for her.
Oh nice looking fish and that’s it, she has decided it will be Sesame seared Tuna, “yum” Sue and I say in unison and with relief that maybe in the next hour or so we can get out of this damn market!
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Our dinner was delicious, thank you Helen
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Helen held a cooking class 101 to teach Sandy how to make a proper chicken stock
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Helen also bought this chicken at the market which we poached to make a hearty stock. We froze it for Sandy to make green Thai curried chicken and Asian flavored Chicken soup for when Jim comes home. Sandy successfully made both and they were delicious. We enjoyed several meals from this.
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When you are with Kiwis and the All Blacks are in the Rugby World Cup, you watch the game with them even though you have no idea what you are watching and when they lose you go through the Seven Stages of Grief with them, that’s what friends are for.
We had a nice afternoon exploring the Melbourne Museum
We took a walk to the Botanical Garden and did a walking tour. The Guide was in his 80’s and was surprisingly spry as well as quite knowledgeable. He pointed out many interesting species and told some really good stories. We thoroughly enjoyed it and did not mind the occasional sprinkles of rain.
He brought us to the fern section of the garden which was beautiful.


First lonely run for Sandy with Jim gone.
For Sue’s Birthday her wish was to take a long walk along the promenade of the Yarra River. We walked quite a few miles enjoying the sights and sounds of this bustling area for people to eat, drink, shop, gamble, watch buskers perform and the passing of various types of boats as they glide up and down the Yarra river. We stopped for a light lunch then went to an open window bar for a drink and watched a busker perform in front of just a few people and became amazed at how rapidly the size of the crowd grew in such a short period of time. The city of Melbourne is proud of it’s reputation for supporting lively street art. A busker is considered to be an entertainer who is actively providing public performances in public spaces in exchange for a donation. The recomended amount being about $20-30 AD. They are required to obtain a permit from the city and depending on the area where they perform some are required to audition for the permit. It is highly competitive and very well controlled by the city.


One of many interesting pedestrian bridges that connect the South and North banks of the Yarra River.  This is the Webb Bridge.
There are some beautiful condos and impressive boats at their docks. The 2019 Population in Melbourne is reported at 4.8 million people and rapidly growing each year. It is expected to soon surpass Sydney which has a population of 5 million.
November 5 was Melbourne Cup Day. This  day is celebrated with a public holiday  for the state of Victoria. Since 1861 the Melbourne Cup has been an offcial race day and since 1877 a public holiday. It is held on the first Tuesday in November and is one of the most famous horse races in the world. It has been called the race that stops a nation. It is for no more than 24 horses that are over three years old. On the day it is difficult to know if the public holiday is about the horse race or if it’s about the hats and fashion. We did not go to this event out of Helen and Sue’s respect for animals. We did however enjoy seeing some amazing fashion statements which there are no pictures of out of Sandy’s respect for humans!  So all you get here is the Golden Horse Statue inside a restaurant patio along the promenade.
While Helen and Sue were with us our friends Katiti and Bill left Melbourne to spend a few days in Sydney which they really enjoyed. Bill met a random stranger who he chatted up and when they found out he was a sailor they invited him to go out on their sailboat. Australians are very friendly people. Another good eample is when we were in Berlin we met a stranger on the street and found out he was on Holiday there but he lived in Melbourne. He is a Proffessor at the Melbourne University. When we told him our dilemna of me being alone in Melbourne while Jim was in Ethiopia he gave us his business card and said he would be happy to show me around Melbourne while Jim was in Ethiopia. I did reach out to him when Jim was gone and he invited me to his home for dinner and even had a friend from Maine staying with him. Sadly the day I was to go there for dinner my sister Betty died and I was too distraught to go and cancelled.
One of our special delights is intermingling our friends. On November 5 Bill and Katiti return to Melbourne and meet for the first time our friends Helen and Sue from New Zealand. They hit it off right away. Helen had actually visited Katiti’s birthplace of Uganda years ago so there was an immediate common bond as they talked about that connection. We have had the pleasure so many times of introducing our friends to our other friends and having them become friends. We only have a two bedroom two bath Air BNB but there is a sleep sofa in the Living Room which Katiti and Bill opt to sleep on as Helen and Sue are now in the guest room. They said the sleep sofa was comfortable and Sandy who takes pride in being the ultimate host was forced to beleive this outright lie!
On the morning of  November 6 Katiti and Bill leave our Air BNB in  Melbourne for their home in Cambridge Mass while Helen, Sue and I head out for a wine tour in the Yarra Valley.
First stop on our Wine Tour in the Yarra Valley was a  Champagn tasing at Domaine Chandon
Spectacular dining room at the Vineyard
Classic. We were fortunate enough to be treated by our friends Andrea and Ed Conley to a tasting tour in the Champagn region of France when they visited us in Paris in 2017. You can only call it Champagne if it is from Champagne, everyhing else must be referred to as sparkling wine.
The offerings from this Vineyard
Spectacular Vineyard
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Helen grilling the tour guide
Looks like he was caught speechless


This was our taste pourer. He actually was pretty good despite our reservations about this initial facial expresion to the group infront of him!
Only picture of us all together at this vineyard taken by a stranger who obviosuly lacks photography skills!
Second stop was cheese tasting which was lovely. Unfortunately the person presenting the tasting requested no pictures of her be taken which I thought was odd so I had to just resort to take a picture of a table sale display.
After a wine tasting we had a not so great lunch here before movng on to our next stop
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Another beautiful Vineyard
The final wine tasting of the day was at a small boutique vineyard. It was our favorite and the only one we made purchases at.


Our final stop on the tour  was a chocolate tasting.
Actually the tasting ended up being limited to a tiny scoop sample from each of these three bowls of dark, white and milk chocolate morsels


This was a wonderful tour and one of the nicest things for me was that I  met a very nice lady from Perth named Kathy who offered to spend a day with me on the week I was alone. We met two days later and went to the National Gallery of Victoria where we saw some great exhibits, had lunch then went shopping at a discount mall where I bought a new pair of shoes. Kathy also invited me to join her and friends on a walking  tour but unfortunately that did not happen as it was the day my sister died. When Kathy heard this she offered to come over and spend time with me so I was not alone during this sad time. I will never forget how a perfect stranger came into my life when I was alone half way around the world from family and needed a friend. I regret we did not take a picture together.

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