Everyone warned us that the flight to Melbourne was the hardest part of the journey. And I think that might have been true. But it felt okay as it happened.
We got to the airport really early since we were flying internationally. But it really did not matter because TSA pre-check worked perfectly. We got through security in a matter of minutes and headed to our flight to LA. Filled up our water bottles and prepared for the first leg of the trip.
I had started Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance and got about 2/3rds of the way through it by the time we landed in LA around 8:30.
Since neither one of us wanted to really rely on airplane food, we went to Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant and had a late/early dinner. And sitting at the bar was none other than Pauly Shore. In fact, after dinner, we went to get a second neck pillow – and there was Pauly Shore. And then we went to sit down and wait to board the flight – and there was Pauly Shore. It seemed like he may end up at our hotel in Australia, but alas, he wandered away. Probably did not want a 15 hour flight.
Additionally, we watched a guy named Ryan who looked like a CW star walk by with a security guy and then Gene Simmons exit an gate. Neither looked as friendly as Pauly Shore – or even pleasant to spend a few minutes with. But at 10:30 PST, we left for Melbourne.
We were tired but not tired, but also incredibly tired. For fifteen hours, we sat mainly in the dark. The night sky followed us most of the way across the Pacific Ocean. The sun only appeared with a few hours to go. Of course, I set up my monitor with parental controls, so I could not watch any movie or TV show rated over PG-13. Left me with few options I wanted to watch – just the new Spider-Man movie. It was not bad. Brian tried to sleep a lot. Neither of us did a great job sleeping. But really, the biggest problem was indigestion from the terrible meal they served us. We vowed not to eat airline dinners again.
When we landed in Melbourne, we seemed alive but a little tired. With my first visit through customs, I really did not have any idea what to expect. We walked towards these series of self-service walkways that looked like tollbooths with cameras. Brian went first and got through and of course, I did not. A big red X appears and tells me to get into the assistance line – a long, hellish pond of other tired travelers. Since Brian went first, he wandered away thinking that I would also walk through easily. Instead, I was not yelling past customs to let him know that I needed to go through the troubled visitor line.
Fortunately, it did not take too long. But it still freaked me out. I then met Brian at luggage claim and we waited a little longer for our two bags. Once we found them, we had to march through more lines and answer more questions about the amount of fresh fruit we had on our bodies. Since I left all of that back at our refrigerator in Kentucky, it really didn’t matter. But I feel bad for anyone who really loves fruit.
Next, we went to a SkyBus vendor. They seemed like the best offer to get to downtown Melbourne and our hotel. After first stopping at the Southern Cross station, we got on a second bus to get to the Treasury on Collins. By about noon, we got to our hotel and checked in. Our room was not ready, which we knew before we got there, but they let us leave our bags and get changed in the bathroom. We had Chicago winter clothes on and Melbourne already was about 50 degrees warmer.
After getting into shorts, we began walking down streets we would become incredibly familiar with over the course of the next ten days. We ended up on Bourke Street, which resembles Michigan Avenue in Chicago. One big difference – laneway restaurants. We had read about them before arriving, so we decided to select one. But really, they selected us by offering free coffee with a food purchase. I had a delicious spicy chicken salad and Brian jumped right into Australian food with a Queen’s breakfast.
After a little more walking, we returned to the hotel to check in. And Fr. Larry had already arrived at the hotel, so we got into our own room and cleaned up after a day of traveling. Since they gave us a key to his room, we went up to his room to say hello.
When you see someone you had not seen in over five years and whom you never thought you would see again, it becomes an out-of-body experience. He looked just about the same but as he said, a bit shorter and older. However, his smile was exactly the same. And I introduced Brian.
We talked about our flight and then mainly Brian and Fr. Larry talked about seminary. It was fun to see both people I love dearly finally meet and discuss something they both love. After about an hour, we left to meet up later for an early dinner. Fr. Larry asked if we could eat at the restaurant at the hotel and we had no qualms about that. It had begun storming as we talked – street flooding storms.
The restaurant had a booth for us as long as we promised to leave by 7:00. Like his older sister and my grandmother, Fr. Larry ordered a half slab of ribs, which he mentioned was not a common entry on the Australian restaurant menus. And I had to smile as he ate like my Gramma, who I also watched eat many a rib.
Continuing his Australian fare choices, he picked the Barramundi filet and I went English as well – fish and chips with a ginger beer batter.
Afterwards, they ordered what would become a habit – ice cream for Fr. Larry, which I remembered was his favorite. Brian, the chocolate lover, got some ganache. But as requested, we got out of the booth at 7:00. And it was fine – we were done.
We said good night and headed to our room. Brian and I decided to try to stay up until 9 PM to adjust. But we didn’t make it. At 8 o’clock, our first day ended. We fell asleep almost immediately.
Onto Day Two!