My road trip ended, I found myself in Melbourne again. You may be asking yourself why Melbourne again, well I came this time to visit some friends. The first afternoon there (Wednesday) I headed over to the museum. Tim gave me a tour of the collections and then allowed me to explore the exhibitions. I also got to learn a bit about crinoids (echinoderms) as Marc was identifying specimens. When they were done work a bunch of us went out for a couple of beers, including Jaqui who I had met at the Temperate Reef Symposium. Wow people from both conferences in one place - it really is a small world. Afterwards, I had sushi with Marc and Mark. Then Marc and I went out to the beach and you'll never guess what we saw on the breakwater rocks (unless of course you've looked at the pictures or I've already told you). Penguins. Little penguins. There were two of them just wandering along the rocks. They are tiny but apparently pretty vicious. They used to be called fairy penguins, but too many people thought that ment they were cute and pettable. So the name got changed.
The next day I wandered down the street. There was a trapeeze set up and four guys were giving lessons to people. So I watched a bunch of kids and adults get their first trapeeze lesson. They swung out on the swing and then put their legs up and then let go and grabbed the arms of the other guy. It looked pretty fun. In the evening Marc and I went swimming at St. Kilda beach (near the penguins). It was a really windy day, so the waves were pretty nice. It reminded me of the time Pam and Val took me to Sandbanks and we played in the waves. Now that was a fun trip.... ahhh.... Anyways, we had a great time floating around, though I ended up with sand everywhere. There were also lots of kiteboards just down the beach. They filled the sky with pretty colours. After swimming we found an Indian restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal (though the wine had to be sent back since it was hot the first time... apparently it was sitting beside the condensor and the whole box of wine was hot. silly, silly, you can buy wine cellars that fit in rooms now).
Friday I hooked up with Kate and got the tour of Melbourne from a real Melbournian. We wandered around the town and stopped for crepes at a little french place. It was neat to see some places I hadn't stumbled across before. Then I headed back to the museum because they have wine every Friday night at the end of the day. So I took my bottle and showed up. Sabine (also from the Echinoderm conference - from Sweden) and Chris (her partner) were waiting for Tim to come down and let them in as well. So we joined the festivities and they were festive because one of the girls was getting married this weekend. I met a lot of new people, including Gary, the crustacean taxonomy guy, who invited us to his house later that night. So Sabine, Chris, Marc and I headed back to the beach and had a short swim before showing up on Gary's doorstep (his wife's name in Linsey too) where we ended the day with gourmet woodfire pizza and wine.
Saturday Marc and I went to the botanical gardens and wandered around all the beautiful trees and plants. It is an old gardens - over 150 years. But still gorgeous, even with the watering shortages. We had a picnic lunch beside the pond and two birds came and watched us eat - obviously hoping for a snack, which they didn't get. After the gardens, we went swimming at the beach again - it is pretty warm here... the beach is a fantastic option. There were a few waves this time, though not as big as Thursday. Tim and his wife Debbie hosted a dinner party that night, since it was Marc, Sabine and Chris's last night in town. Gary and Linsey were there as well. Wow, Tim and Debbie can cook. We had Vietnamese and Moroccan food. It was a fantastic evening.
Sunday I hung out with Kate again. We went out for breakfast at a french pastery cafe with her friends. The croissants were wonderful. Then Kate, Lisa and I went snorkling on the bolder beach. It was really cool. I got to see more sea stars, sea urchins, fish, and so much more. It is neat to see habitats similar to what you work in (rocks with coralline algae) but with completely different species because it is the other side of the world. We spent quite a while swimming around and I was diving down and taking pictures. The ocean really is a fascinating place. We ended our afternoon with ice cream. My flavours were passionfruit; ginger swirl; and chili chocolate - all of which I highly recommend. Echinoderms and ice cream... does life get any better?