Australia is a sport mad country. They play host to the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast near Brisbane in April, but some of their biggest events are staged in Melbourne. The Australian Open Tennis, The Melbourne Cup for Horse Racing, and the Boxing Day cricket Test, are just three world famous events hosted in this city. However, one of the biggest and most popular is the Australian Grand Prix. For non-petrol heads Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor racing and Melbourne plays host to the opening race of each season at Albert Park.
For something over 300 days, this park, a short tram ride from the heart of the city, is a quiet peaceful place with a large lake and pleasant paths where you can enjoy a walk, or watch the birdlife. For one long weekend at the end of March each year though, it plays host to 20 F1 teams and their sponsors, and 120,000 race fans, as the Aussies “put on a show” as only they know how.
Mural on city wall in Melbourne
I had always wanted to go to a Grand Prix and the opportunity arose whilst we were out here for me to attend. The weather for the day did not look promising. It had rained for most of Saturday and the weather forecast for Sunday suggested more was coming. As it turned out, the sun blazed down all day, so the factor 30 was out in force. Only in the evening, when I got back to Altona did it pour down in a prolonged storm.
Left: The weather looking towards Melbourne on GP Day. Right: Looking the other way! Both shots taken on the Esplanade in Altona
What an amazing experience! I had what was called a General Admission ticket, which got me into the Albert Park circuit, but restricted my viewing locations to certain grassed areas around the circuit. I managed to get a place on top of a raised mound at the beginning of the first straight after the start, which was also close to a large viewing screen. The view was a little restricted by tall catch fencing which is there for safety reasons, but nevertheless for a minimum amount of money I could still enjoy the race and soak up the atmosphere of a huge sporting occasion.
Before I took my place I was able to wander around the infield and see what was on offer. One of the key elements to any GP team is merchandising. On the trams down to the venue there were many fans wearing the shirts, caps and wearing flags and carrying bags of their favourite driver or team. I saw Red Bull shirts (the Australian driver, Daniel Ricciardo drives for the Red Bull Team) and so many people sporting the colours of Ferrari, that I began to wonder if half of Italy had come to Melbourne for the race! Once inside the circuit, there were stands everywhere selling team branded stuff. As I mentioned Daniel Ricciardo is an Aussie favourite, and his party trick when celebrating victory is to do a “Shoey”, that is drink celebratory champagne from the boot he has worn during the race. (Yuk). Ever keen to cash in on this, his team has produced a “tinny” holder in the shape of a boot and Red Bull team colours, so fans drinking beer can keep their can cool by placing their drink in this foam shaped boot! A marketing man’s dream!
Left: View of the CBD from Albert Park. Centre: Red Bull Team Merchandising stand. Right: Mugs and “The Shoey” far right.
The day’s racing featured Porsche and other sports car events, a “Do a lap in a Lamborgini” event, where I presume potential customers pay loads of money to have 2 laps around the Albert Park circuit, a couple of air displays and then the big event.
Porche and Sports Cars in the pits and racing.
“Try a Lamborghini” event
Shots of the air display: Left: C17 Globemaster of the RAAF: Centre and right: F18 Hornet of the RAAF
The race itself was a tense and exciting battle between the Mercedes and Ferrari teams with the latter winning with their driver Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton, the current World Champion was second in his Mercedes. The Aussie favourite Ricciardo was fourth behind the “flying Finn”, Kimi Raikonnen.
Top: Drivers Parade with on left Daniel Ricciardo and right his Team mate Max Verstaapen.
Top Row Left: Ferraris on the warm up lap. Right: Lewis Hamilton Leads
Second Row Left : Ferrari of Kimi Raikonnen Right: Renault- Driver not known
Third row Left: Fernando Alonso – MacClaren Right: Red Bull – Daniel Ricciardo
Forth row left and right: The crowd around me
Hamilton on warm down lap. I missed winner Vettel as he was going too quick, even on warm down!
It was a great day out, but if I were to go again, I would pay out some extra money for a seat in the stand, as standing for 3 hours in a crowd as people moved to and fro around me was not ideal.
We have done more travelling around in our hire car on this trip. On advice from friends Nick and Jenna, we took a day trip to a lovely small town called Daylesford.
Daylesford is a spa town located in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, approximately 115 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. First established in 1852 as a gold-mining town, (as it appears many were in this area), today Daylesford is one of Australia’s few spa towns and together with its twin, Hepburn, a short distance away, they form the epicentre of Australia’s spa country. It is a also a rich wine producing area and has numerous walking tracks, making it a notable tourist destination. On the outskirts of the town is a small lake and nature reserve which also provides a number of walking trails of various lengths. The broader area around the town, is known for its natural spring mineral spas, and is the location of over 80 per cent of Australia’s effervescent mineral water reserve.
The town’s main street is classical architecture, with most buildings preserved from around 1900 and having the overhead verandas over all the shops which is typically Australian. Even the local branch of The Coles supermarket chain was hidden away at the bottom of a precinct, so as not to spoil the ambience of the wide main street. The town’s Botanical Gardens lie at the top of a steep tree lined hill. This street must also be the town’s religious centre as we passed five churches and a church hall on the walk up to the gardens.
Views of the main street in Daylesford
Sights of Daylesford: Left: Old fashioned scales outside the bank building Right: Morris 1000 – One careful owner, mint condition………not!
The splendidly named Wombat Hill Gardens are covered mainly in trees which provides shade and shelter for a wide variety of smaller beds and plants. At its heart is a Tower with a tight, steep, spiral staircase to the top. The views from the very small platform at the top looked out over a treetop canopy and to a wider Victoria. The tall buildings in Melbourne could just be seen in the far distance.
Left: Me at the entrance to the tower. Right: Lyn and the tower.
Left and Centre: Views from the top of the tower; Right: Us at the top of the tower.
Left: Part of the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens. Right: Statue
Left and Centre: Views of Daylesford Lake Right: Us at Daylesford Lake
After lunch and a walk round the lake it was time to explore the town. There were many quirky shops and galleries and one in particular was owned by a famous Australian artist named David Bromley. He was born in Sheffield, and came to Australia with his family in 1964. He came to prominence in the 1980’s and is now one of the country’s most popular artists. His work is not to everyones taste (mine included) but Lyn was attracted to some of his art and sculptures. One other shop took my interest. Named “The Bazaar” it sold a cornucopia of stuff, from toys to stationery, and had in one corner, several racks of vinyl albums. I spent some time leafing through the stock, some of the names I recognised, others, local Australian artists, I had never heard of.
Views of the David Bromley Gallery
We spent a couple of hours ambling round the town before we headed home, another great day out discovering and exploring the variety that Victoria had to offer.
Before we left Australia we spent more time with friends Nick and Jenna with a lunch at a very good cafe in Elsternwick, a suburb of Melbourne. Tasty vegetarian dishes were its speciality and they did not disappoint. We had a lovely lunch in great company. We also spent some time with Lyn’s cousin Joanne, Craig and Oscar. This was our last evening before we departed on our journey home. Lyn had the chance to join Oscar jumping around on his trampoline whilst Jo and I helped him play his version of cricket using a soft baseball bat and ball! This boy has talent and his energy levels are inexhaustible. There was also adult time with Jo, Craig and Annette (Craig’s mother) and we had a special time with them.
Left: Oscar blowing bubbles: Centre and right: Adult time Jo and Lyn and all of us.
One of our pleasures whilst in Altona is our early morning walk/run down the Esplanade to the Doug Grant Reserve and Nature Park. (Sorry, don’t know who Doug Grant is or was). On our last full day we went out on a bright sunny Autumn morning. The sun was just up, the sea a flat calm and the peace and quiet interrupted only by the occasional sound of a car or the local train. It was a beautiful scene and one which will stay with us. A fitting end to our trip.
Early Morning Altona on our last day.
By the time this blog is published we will be back in the UK, no doubt struggling with, and trying to recover from the jet lag brought on by two long flights in two days. Thank you for reading the story of our trip and I hope you have enjoyed it.