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Saturday August 31, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday August 31, 2013 MYT 8:33:26 AM
by jason godfrey
Simply breathtaking: View of the Yarra River and the city of Melbourne.
In Victoria, Australia, our writer discovers the best breakfast burrito he’s ever tasted and long-forgotten skiing skills.
AFTER having merely passed through its airport three times on this trip around the continent of Australia, I finally got out of the airport to visit Melbourne in Victoria.
Melbourne seems to be caught in an eternal battle with Sydney for supremacy, with Aussies declaring allegiance to either city, like a favourite football team. I was happy to be in a city where surfing didn’t seem to be a necessity. Surfing may not be the thing in Melbourne, but there are plenty of activities in the surrounding area where I could fulfil my quota of falling flat on my face. I’ll get to that later.
In the meantime, I set out on bike to take in Melbourne, which turns out to be an amazingly bike-friendly city, with its wide streets and tree-lined sidewalks.
The city is a maze of red brick laneways, each one seeming to house a trendy café or eating spot, each one with its very own hidden secret. There is no shortage of cool spots to sit outside and sip a coffee or sample a panini or a falafel wrap or some other tidbit of world cuisine, which gives Melbourne a distinct old-world feel. It’s like a little slice of European charm in a country inhabited by kangaroos and surfers.
There is much more to Victoria than Melbourne, so I headed out of town to the Yarra Valley, already famous for its incredible wineries, but also home to something new – The Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. Just opened over the last six months, it is already very popular – its parking lot is always packed on weekends. A couple of bites of the sweet stuff they have inside and it is easy to see why.
Chocolate-covered honeycomb, chocolate bar milkshakes, even chocolate-infused sausages, because – well, why not infuse a sausage with chocolate. The chocolatiers at this place, mostly from Belgium for authenticity, are like the scientists in the movie Jurassic Park – always pushing the boundaries of what can be done. The chocolates here are incredible!
I stayed on for breakfast, which could have been a mistake at a place that does chocolates so well, but I did not regret it at all. The breakfast burrito I had was absolutely the best breakfast burrito I have ever had, and breakfast burritos are my thing; from Los Angeles to Bangkok, I’ve ordered breakfast burritos and no one has done it better than the folks at The Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery.
The burrito was definitely unexpected, but Victoria had another trick up its sleeve.
A slice of Europe
In a country known for its red dry outback, and it’s shimmering ocean coastlines, I hadn’t really expected to see snow, but that’s exactly what Mt Buller provided and, with it, skiing.
Mt Buller added to the Euro-feel I’d already gotten from Melbourne, and the well-crafted Belgian chocolatiers in the Yarra Valley. If that wasn’t enough, I was greeted by the owner of Hotel Pension Grimus, an elderly Austrian man named Hans.
Hans had definitely infused his resort with an Austrian feel; it felt like I’d been transported to the Alps, with all the wood finishings and carvings on the walls, and the suites with their rock fireplaces and high wooden ceilings.
This was definitely Hans’ place. Black-and-white shots of him skiing in the early days with a big smile etched on his face explained why an Austrian would leave Austria to open a resort in faraway Australia. Han’s passion even carried over to his dog – there were several shots of the canine skiing, and I nearly cursed out loud when I found the dog had passed on some years before. I’d have loved to challenge a skiing dog to a ski-off.
Han’s passion for skiing definitely rubbed off on me. I hadn’t gone skiing in years but was itching to get on those slopes. The instructor took me out for a refresher course on the bunny slope, a nearly flat snow-covered slope where grannies and children took turns stumbling around.
This was no place for me, until I realised it’d been years since I was on skis, and was having trouble turning with skis on. Suddenly, I had joined those children and seniors embarrassing themselves on the bunny slope, and I was aware that there was a real possibility that I could fall flat on my face.
Now there’s something extra-humiliating about falling while skiing, for me. Falling while surfing is all right, even expected, but as a Canadian who has skiing experience, falling would be the piece de resistance of humiliation, the crowning failure on a multitude of failures that occurred whenever I tried anything requiring a modicum of athleticism or skill.
When my instructor told me we should hit the slopes, I hadn’t regained any control but I agreed anyway. I steeled myself for the failure to come, tumbling into the snow and rolling down the hill would be shattering to my ego but it would probably make for good TV.
We started down the hill, picking up speed, snow blowing in my face, and something incredible happened.
I remembered what I was doing.
Suddenly, all at once, on that slope in Australia skiing came back to me. I was cutting left and right, bombing down slopes, just stopping short of chucking snow into the faces of the camera crew. Take that, camera crew ... vultures, just waiting to catch me fall on film. It wasn’t going to happen, not this episode anyway.
I spent the rest of the afternoon getting my skis off.
Now I don’t know if Melbourne is better than Sydney or if Victoria is the best state Down Under, it’s all preference I supposed, but I do know I’ll always remember both because I got something from it that I never expected; I rediscovered my ski legs on a mountain in Australia.
Catch Jason Down Under tomorrow night at 9pm exclusively on Life Inspired, Astro B.yond Ch728. The trip was sponsored by Tourism Australia and Malaysia Airlines. Visit www.facebook.com/litvchannel and stand a chance to win a trip to Australia courtesy of Tourism Australia and Malaysia Airlines.
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Travel, Travel, Jason Down Under, Jason Godfrey, Melbourne, Victoria, skiing
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