The 3:00 a.m. reveille to make our 6:10 a.m. flight out of Auckland put a fairly serious damper on the day, but we tried to make the most of it.Â We arrived at the Intercontinental Rialto around 9:00 a.m. to find our room ready, and quite comfortable, so we hit the town.Â The hotel is right in the thick of Melbourne in the CBD (Central Business District).Â As such, we simply exited the hotel, picked a direction, and just started walking.Â
Our first order of business was to purchase a cellular phone since we will be in Australia and New Zealand for the next 7 or 8 months.Â So, we hit the local Vodafone branch and explained our situation:Â temporary plan, cheap phone, international calls, etc.Â As is usually the case here in Australia … no worries, mate.Â The whole process took maybe 10 minutes.Â We were surprised that no contract is required, and then that much more surprised to find no mailing address is required.Â Â Â
After some window shopping and a little cafÃ© society, we went to lunch at a tapas restaurant called MoVida which was absolutely fabulous … beef cheek, Wagyu beef and exotic mushrooms, croquette, anchovies, and all kinds of great dishes.Â This delicious meal and a bottle of wine prompted a sluggish walk back to the hotel for a big nap.
We lounged and napped for several hours, and then got ready for our dinner with Keenan’s parents.Â Who’s Keenan, and why are you going out with his parents, you ask?Â Some back story is required.Â Awhile back, we were investigating several visa issues regarding multiple entries and exits from Australia.Â Our plan is to fly to Australia once (for our Melbourne, Perth, Indian Pacific Railroad, Adelaide, Sydney trip), sail to Australia with the boat (spending at least 4 to 5 months sailing up the east coast), and fly to and from the United States in May of 2009 for Andy’s brother’s wedding.Â As such, our visa situation could be quite confusing so while we were in Los Angeles this time, we headed to the Australian Consulate to talk to them in person.Â
Unfortunately, after driving all the way over to west L.A., the Australian Consulate no longer consults on immigration and visa issues.Â They gave us a 1-800 number of a visa specialist in Montreal, so we sat down in the lobby to give them a call.Â
As I asked a million questions and gathered the necessary information, Andy started chatting with two Australian guys from Melbourne who were hanging out in the Consulate office.Â He learned that they were traveling the world, and one had lost his passport while in San Diego.Â The whole situation was turning into quite the logistical nightmare.Â The Consulate wanted official copies of his and his mother’s birth certificate, and of course, it was the New Year’s Day holidays in Australia.Â The rest of their group had already moved on to Las Vegas, and their next several stops to South America were already in jeopardy.Â They looked bummed and bewildered.Â The minute I saw Andy walk over to them, I knew we would be taking them under our wing.Â
So we packed up their stuff, got Keenan a new passport picture (curiously, for Australian passport purposes, you are not allowed to smile), and headed off to Los Feliz for some Yuca’s burritos.Â I phoned Andy’s mom on the down-low and dropped a subtle hint that we should take care of these guys and put them up for the night.Â She immediately agreed.Â
We then proceeded to have a lovely evening.Â Keenan and Jimmy caught up on Internet stuff, chatted on the phone with their parents, made the necessary arrangements for the delivery of Keenan’s birth certificate, etc.Â In the interest of a home-cooked meal of comfort food, Astrid made a trough of baked rigatoni and chicken parmesan which was delicious.Â We sat down to watch Oregon beat up on Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl, drank some beers, played with the dog, and talked about sports and life.Â Very fun, indeed.Â Andy and I blew up the air mattresses and tucked them in.
Andy drove them back to the Australian Consulate the next morning so they could finish up the passport reissuing process and catch their ride to Las Vegas.Â We exchanged contact information, but we know from a lot of experience of meeting people around the world, promises to stay in touch don’t always materialize.Â But several days later, we received emails from Jimmy’s father and both of Keenan’s parents thanking us profusely for looking after them, saying that our actions prove the kindness of humanity, and showering us with social invitations upon our arrival in Melbourne.Â We really appreciated their kind words, and we wanted to meet them since we enjoyed their sons’ company so much.
And so, back to our first day in Melbourne … Keenan’s parents, John and Loretta, picked us up at the hotel at 7:00 p.m.Â We went to a lovely restaurant called La Luna in the Melbourne neighborhood of Carlton, and proceeded to have a perfectly lovely evening.Â Andy had the porterhouse, John had the sausage, and Loretta and I both had the sizzling pork.Â And we all had plenty o’ delicious wine and laughing!Â Just as we suspected, John and Loretta are super-fun and interesting people.Â
But all good things must come to an end … except daytime in Melbourne during the summer evidently.Â Sunset is after 9:00 p.m. and it’s completely screwing up my body clock.