Notes from the Antipodes from Marilyn Downing Staff, Asia Transpacific Journeys’ Founder and President
I have just returned from adventures in Australia. This journey began as both the quintessential ‘girlfriends’ trip and a journey of exploration to shores unknown. My dearest friend, who I had met long ago when, post college, we were both traveling in Latin America, called one day to suggest a nostalgia trip. Remembering how much fun we had long ago? Our kids are now grown and we finally had time to sneak away to rekindle a dear friendship, within the framework of adventure.
Travel to Australia is a huge undertaking, so we decided to bite off a manageable chunk: Melbourne, The Great Ocean Road, the Barossa Valley wine country and a few days in Sydney. The perfect road trip.
Melbourne’s sophisticated charms captivated us from the beginning, as we spent a lazy weekend exploring the markets, craft fairs, admiring the architecture both Victorian and oh, so contemporary and watching the Sunday rowers on the Yarrow River.
Leaving Melbourne, our first few kilometers on the road toward the coast were memorable, mostly for the sheer terror of driving on the left side of the road. But, alas, even Americans can be quickly retrained and within a short time we were comfortably cruising like the locals.
The Great Ocean Road will forever loom large as one of the World’s great road trips. Quaint coastal villages, spectacular ocean vistas, bronzed surfers, charming cafes, friendly people all along the way, koalas, kangaroos and (oh, should we mention?) great shopping. We had days were we achieved record low distances covered. We stopped at every sight, drank coffee in each café and visited with countless, interesting people. Watching the sunset over the ocean from the sheer cliffs at the Twelve Apostles rock formations will stay with me forever.
Eventually, with time drawing short, we begrudgingly picked up the pace and arrived in the Barossa Valley, Australia’s premier wine region. Quaint and charming don’t begin to describe. Closely resembling California’s Napa, this valley produces some of the world’s fine wines and has an outstanding food and art scene, as well as world class accommodations, including The Louise with it’s award winning Appellation restaurant. We could have stayed here forever, but Sydney and home beckoned. Will we return? Absolutely!
View Marilyn’s Australia travel photos on our Flickr site >>
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