[The second least pleasant part of the trip is now over, 16 hours in the air from LAX, and for us, this was the third flight of the day, Boston to Denver to LAX to Melbourne, but, with such a long overnight flight, you don't have much choice but to get some sleep.
A word of warning to all who imbibe of spirits. Prices are extremely high for alcohol in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Do as the locals do, buy your alcohol in Duty Free at the airports. It seems that you are able to buy on arrival, as well as departure, and I'm not sure that you have to be on an international flight.
As we were at the back of the plane, we were among the last to get off and clear customs. Maree was there waiting for us and had Susan, Alice and Vince watching for people with Grand Circle name tags. Being punchy from the flight, it might be possible to walk by the welcome sign.
We weren't even off of the airport grounds when we saw kangaroos hopping around, which apparently is quite unusual.
The hotel was the Rydges Melbourne see Map (GPS (37 48 41.31S, 144 58 13.34E) This is the format that Google Earth requires. If you are are going to stay in multiple Rydges hotels on your trip, get a Rydges card at your first stay, as you get a complementary drink on arrival, as well as discounts in the restaurant, as well as other benefits. The hotel was not fancy, but it was comfortable and a short walk to the trolley up by the State Parliament House. There were also plenty of reasonable restaurants in the area.
Maree immediately assembled us in the lounge and gave out a lot of material on the city, This she did in each city. She also made it very clear that everyone was to be punctual for all departures for the sake of all everyone else. This definitely sunk in, as I don't think that anyone kept us waiting for the entire trip. She then took care various housekeeping issues and gave us our keys.
After getting settled in our rooms and taking a nap, we met Maree for an orientation walk of the area pointing out points of interest. Surprisingly, almost everyone joined in, despite the jet lag. That evening, dinner was in the hotel.
The next morning, after brekkie, as the Ausies and Kiwis call breakfast, we boarded a bus for a half day city tour including the Shrine of Remembrance, see MAP, GPS(37 49 49.77S, 144 58 24.41E) a memorial to the Australian and New Zealander war dead, not unlike out various memorials in Washington, [PHOTO_ID_R=soldier.jpg] and the adjacent Royal Botanic Gardens. Unfortunately, being late in the Austral autumn, very little was in bloom, and the gardens were largely deserted. They then took us to to the Queen Victoria Market, see MAP, GPS(37 48 25.5oS 144 57 24.35E) This was a European style market with many individual vendors and about everything that you could want to buy.
[PHOTO_ID_L=view-of-city-from-shrine-of-remembrance.jpg] After doing some shopping, we walked southeast on Queen St. to Latrobe St. to pick up the free City Circle Tram, see MAP, GPS(37 48 39.78S 144 57 31.89E) which we rode around for a while, seeing the city, before getting off at the Parliament station near the hotel. We picked up fast food in the area for dinner, eating in in the hotel room, before going out for a walk.