(tap) (tap) Is this thing still on? Yes, dear readers it’s been quite awhile since my last post. Suffice it to say the ol’ pandemic had quite the impact on my travels. I was actually planning to take this particular trip later this year but thanks to my friend James’ eagle-eyed spotting, I found a truly great deal to do it now instead via my United miles.
The route to get to Melbourne was via LAX-SFO-MEL so I first had a nice sit down lunch at the United Polaris lounge at LAX. It was nice to be in the lap of luxury for a bit before that first flight, which was uh decidedly not.
Still, thankfully it was only an hour flight, although the landing in 60 mph winds was a bit bumpy – more, a lot more of that, in a bit.
I had an 8 hour layover and thankfully my good friend Stephanie and her husband lived close by so I hung out at their place to catch up and relax before the big flight. By the time I got the airport, the wind had died down just a tad but it was still pretty blustery. I chilled at the SFO’s much larger Polaris Lounge (pic not included bc well, I forgot)
Finally, it was time to board and this seat was a wee bit roomier.
Business class in United Polaris was pretty much mandatory for a 16 hour flight. My plan was to try to force myself into the new time difference (+19 hours) by staying up until the equivalent of 10pm Melbourne time which meant 3am on my body clock. I wasn’t quite sure how to do that but it became pretty easy when about 3 hours into the flight we started experiencing severe turbulence which would last pretty much non stop for the next 10 hours. That seemed like a good time to try some Zzquil and try to pass out. I was only somewhat successful though given I kept being rattled side to side the lie flat seat, which actually makes you feel the turbulence even more fully (First World problems, I know.)
At one point, there was what turned out to be a brief respite of the turbulence when the Fasten Seat belts sign finally went off. I turned on the monitor to see how far we still had to go… 6 hours, proving yet again why a biz class seat was a necessity. I asked a flight attendant at one point if this was unusual and she said that this was a particularly bad time of year for the flight because you are battling the jet stream, which can cause “a bit of discomfort” (no shit.)
After what seemed like an eternity, we made our descent, which the pilot told us would also be “a bit bumpy.” Great. Thankfully, compared to the rest of the flight, it was pretty mild and soon landed in Melbourne, where it was in the mid 80s and windy. It took awhile to get my bag but the customs/immigration side was almost all automated and took a matter of minutes. I grabbed an Uber and headed to the Melbourne CBC (Central Business District) where I was staying. I couldn’t check in until 3pm though (it was 11:30) so I stored my bags at the Melbourne Central Station and took a quick walk up the the hill to the massive Queen Victoria Marketplace – the largest open market in the southern hemisphere.
I wasn’t quite hungry yet so first wandered into the goods section of the market, which had the usual assortment of shall we say a range of products. That really wasn’t what I wanted so instead after cruising through the produce/fruits/vegetables, I headed to the Meat and Seafood Hall.
This got my appetite going but in the heat, I opted for something simple and cold – a Tasmanian smoke salmon wrap with red onions, cucumbers, slaw and a tartar sauce they insisted I add, which I had to admit was quite good.
It was still too early to check in so I walked over to a local brewery’s “beer shed” for a pint of Aussie lager.
The manager, Darrin. who was also a Cicerone, gave me a quick rundown of the Melbourne beer scene and how this particular beer was 100% malt whereas a lot of the more common Aussie lagers are only about 40% malt. It was just what I needed to beat the heat. He also helped advise me on a beer tour I’m doing on Saturday and was quite pleased I was doing it. That was good to hear.
Finally, I was able to check in to my Airbnb in the sky – 26 floor up in a great spot of town with a ton of incredibly varied cuisines steps from it.
A nice, spotless 1BR with what quickly became the best feature – a high pressured rain shower which was a major necessity after so much traveling. I decided to take advantage of the culinary diversity on my block and picked up something I had never tried before – bihun goreng – which is similar to my favorite nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) but instead had fried vermicelli.
To pair with it, I had what Darrin told me was one of his favorite local ales. The dish had the familiar smoky flavor of the nasi goren I love so much but with more texture due to the noodles and the chicken was perfectly seasoned. A great way to cap off a very long first day.
Your AirBnb looks really nice!