Dayna's Blog

Holidays, walks and who knows what


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Open Day on ‘THE NEW’ Spirit of Tasmania

“The idea was to create something like a top-notch hotel feel,” quotes The Mercury of Richard Nilsson, the Swedish designer behind the new look of the twin Spirit of Tasmania ferries which travel between Port Melbourne (Victoria) and Devonport (Tasmania).

I won’t bore you with how many return trips we’ve taken aboard one or other of the ferries (strangely, it’s been more often number II), but since the refurbishments were completed in August we have been keen to see for ourselves what has changed. (If you haven’t been before, or if it’s been a while, check out my photos of before the refurbishments here.)

Having received permission to come aboard (you had to apply in the week or two before the Open Day) we decided to catch a tram (well, two trams) across town to Port Melbourne. The route 109 tram stops about 100m from Station Pier. Given we live pretty close to a tram stop, and the high likelihood of experiencing lots of bother trying to find a park had we taken the car, tramming it was definitely the way to go.

Cool! Stilt walkers, balloons, and mini SoT's! Getting excited now!

Cool! Stilt walkers, balloons, and mini SoT’s! Getting excited now!

There weren’t queues, but enough people were wandering in the right direction so it was unlikely anyone was going to get lost – even if there hadn’t been plenty of red-shirted, boat-hatted people greeting people and making sure we didn’t get lost.

Up in the check-in lounge there were a dozen or so Tasmanian tourist stands, to whet the appetite of prospective travellers.

There were about a dozen information stalls to help you plan your next holiday

There were about a dozen information stalls to help you plan your next holiday

A bit of Tassie for everyone in the Check-in Lounge

A bit of Tassie for everyone in the Check-in Lounge

Passing by all the photos in the hall I started to feel the usual excitement I get when we board the big red boat. Pity we weren’t sailing off to Tassie today!

Lots of fabulous photos - many places we've been, some still to discover

Lots of fabulous photos – many places we’ve been, some still to discover

I guess 'The Revamped' would have been a bit long...

I guess ‘The Revamped’ would have been a bit long…

Ooooh! How exciting! Everything is about to be revealed!

Boarding!

Boarding!

Hmmm, this bit feels like Crown Casino… (I haven’t boarded this way before so I don’t know if this has changed or not.)

Oooh, I almost feel like I'm in Crown Casino!

Oooh, I almost feel like I’m in Crown Casino!

First change – no tourism shop. Now there’s a Tourism Hub. There is a desk to the left where (hopefully) a staff member will be there to answer any questions passengers have.

Walking up the port (left) side of the ship there is now a BYO Library (officially named the Reading Room) where there used to be The Leatherwood Restaurant. Clearly this area is for quiet activities – if you want to make noise, there is plenty of space on upper decks.

Leatherwood Restaurant has become a BYO library

Leatherwood Restaurant has become a BYO library

The light shade in the 'library' was very nice - scrolls of huon pine - Deck 7

The light shade in the ‘library’ was very nice – scrolls of huon pine – Deck 7

Next to the library is the new reception area. I wouldn’t have chosen red, and continuing red along the corridor seemed a little over the top, but hey – that’s just my opinion, and it’s just a small area of Deck 7.

Not sure if it feels more like a school corridor or fire department, but it is very red around this small section of Deck 7 now

Not sure if it feels more like a school corridor or fire department, but it is very red around this small section of Deck 7 now

Turning the corner was the next surprise – the new shop! The Pantry will almost certainly meet your (or the kids’) sugar/salt/caffeine requirements, but the most notable difference is the lack of souveniers now. (I hope you stocked up on your last trip as we did!)

The Pantry replaces Tasmania Onboard (shop)

Tasmania Onboard has become The Pantry

The Pantry has also kicked out the pokies! And I can’t say I’m sorry to see them go. It was the only inclusion I really disliked about the previous layout of the ships.

Ahead was more lounge area, with a touch of blue, and lovely Tasmanian scenery instead of TV screens.

The old reception area is now also lounge, as is where the shop (Tasmania Onboard) used to be.

Reception used to be straight ahead, and the shop to the right

Reception used to be straight ahead, and the shop to the right

I’m not certain if anything has changed in the cinemas, but this is how they are now. Red on the left, and blue on the right. (I don’t think you have to read too much into that.)

Onto the cabins.

Not much has changed. ‘Soft furnishings’ simply means the blinds, possibly the upholstery on the chairs, and I’m fairly sure the carpet in the rooms has been replaced. The bunks and bathrooms appear to be the same as usual. The Deluxe suites feel noticeably smaller, but they’re still a lot roomier than any of the other cabins. (Note: the 4 bed porthole cabin photo was from Deck 8)

A brief spell outdoors (still on Deck 7)…

…past the place we used to hang out, read a paper and have a drink whilst waiting until it was time for dinner – the lavender of Bridestowe has been replaced by the Aurora Australis…

…before finally getting a look at the new dining area. Goodbye Captains Table. Hello TMK (The Market Kitchen)! No more table service and white table cloths, I’m afraid. Now we’re all taking a tray and loading our own plates, I think. The menu looks familiar, but I wonder how long it’ll last. As for the condiments rack? Hmmm, classy.

Well, that’s Deck 7 covered. Sleeping, eating, and a bit of lounging.

Unless you’re sleeping on Deck 8, there won’t be much there to see for you – unless you’re here on an open day! So, check it out!

The Recliners have all been replaced. I had a brief sit in one. It felt pretty good, but I’m not in a hurry to give up booking a cabin in favour of the ‘cheap seats’ – especially as I like having a shower at least once every 24 hours. But if you’re not so fussy, and if you’re not taking a whole pile of luggage with you (or planning to bring a lot of souvenirs back), then these might be the best option for you.

The Recliners on Deck 8 have all been replaced so they should be better than ever

The Recliners on Deck 8 have all been replaced so they should be better than ever

Native Tasmanian woods are much admired. It was nice to see them used onboard

Native Tasmanian woods are much admired. It was nice to see them used onboard

Moving up to Deck 9 now – brace yourselves!

Rear of Deck 9 is where things started to get realy funky

Rear of Deck 9 is where things started to get realy funky

Well, they said it would be different. It’s all to encourage more day sailing passengers.

Deck 9 always felt more weather tight than Deck 10, so having lounge areas here wasn’t too surprising. But would there be more of the same upstairs?

Well, no. It was More.

I’m sure they’ve thought about things sliding around in heavy seas. Of course they have. Because not every sail is a pleasant day like this one was.

Now how do you get everyone up on Deck 10 to come down again? Send up the band!

They were very good, and I’ll wager that most of the people upstairs followed them to see where they went, not knowing that we were being surreptitiously being escorted out.

Playing and walking down the stairs was quite a trick. I’m not sure where the trio exited, but we had to walk down to Deck G3; this is usually a cargo/freight deck. Cars are usually parked on Decks 5 & 6, sometimes Deck 4 if it’s really busy.

And that was it! We disembarked at ground level and were treated to a fantastic sight of the Spirit of Tasmania – you may recognise it from their ads. I find it fascinating the way the sides at the front also come away from the ship.

Disembarked

Disembarked

So, overall impression?

Bass Strait is not the Mediterranean; the weather ranges from windy to blowing a gale, so the ‘bringing the outdoors in’  idea with the use of the fake grass and garden furniture struck a chord that didn’t resonate true with my memories of previous crossings.

I didn’t test the furniture to see if it was bolted to the floor, but there is a lot on Deck 9 & 10 that looked like it wasn’t secured. If bad weather is forecasted, there may be a lot for the staff to put away for passenger’s safety. It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts.

Ditto with the bars on those levels. I was advised that the Bars on Decks 9 & 10 would be open for day sailings (as you’d expect) and winter sailings (for at least a few hours. Something to watch with interest. I certainly hope that Deck 10 is a little more air-tight now, as it used to get a bit chilly up there during winter.

We are both very sorry that The Leatherwood restaurant has been scrapped. Having only one sitting a night did not improve profitability, but the demand was certainly there to do two sittings – even in winter. Now, instead of racing to get a restaurant reservation, I wonder if we’ll be hurrying to get a small table for dinner – despite the expanded dining area.

It’ll be interesting to compare our next voyage to our previous experiences.

You can check out the official time lapse videos and information about the refurbishments on the Spirit of Tasmania website.

🙂


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Melbourne Brompton Club – Ride to St Kilda Pier – 31 May, 2015

The forecast had been for showers today, so I was pretty relieved when I woke up and didn’t hear the unmistakable sound of rain drumming on the roof. I’m not sure that everyone in our group was quite so lucky, but despite the weather (this IS Melbourne after all – if we only planed activities around ‘good’ weather forecasts nothing would happen for 8-9 months a year!) we had a pretty good turn out.

So good, in fact, we doubled the number of Bromptoneers we’d had on our inaugural ride! Not bad, hey?

First group photo on Webb Bridge, Docklands

First group photo on Webb Bridge, Docklands

We managed to turn a few heads of passers-by as we met on Webb Bridge (a popular pedestrian and cyclist bridge over the Yarra River at Docklands). Is it wrong to say that most Brompton owners like taking snaps of their Brommies? Well, as soon as I saw what Cory was carrying, I knew I didn’t have to worry about being the unofficial photographer for this ride. Besides, I’ve seen some of his photos previously; he’s got an eye for it. (There’s a link to his photos at the end of the post.)

After numerous of photos were taken and all riders were present and correct, we set off to Port Melbourne. It’s only about 4km to Station Pier and once we’d picked up the bike path around the back of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre the path follows a tram (aka ‘light rail’ to most of you non-Melburnians) track all the way to Station Pier. Early on the bike path twice crosses tram tracks, and there are a couple of road crossing, but otherwise it’s a pretty cruisey ride.

At Station Pier we turned left and rode the short distance along to Princes Pier. A known fishing and photography spot (some people even combine the two) it was a joy to spread out and cycle along the smooth, wide concrete jetty. I’d never been on this pier before – I’d only seen it from inside the Mini as we’re queuing the board the Spirit of Tasmania docked at Station Pier to the east. Time for more photos, surely?

Not dallying too long, as a couple of our riders had limited time, we back-tracked slightly to ride by Station Pier to continue down to St Kilda Pier for a hot drink (and possibly a treat) at the Pavilion.

Bromptons at Port Melbourne, with the Spirit of Tasmania in the background

Bromptons at Port Melbourne, with the Spirit of Tasmania in the background

A quick stop for photos just on the other side of Station Pier, with the Spirit of Tasmania in the background, then Cory and Greg had to depart (Greg would meet us at St Kilda Pier later).

Bromptons at Port Melbourne, with the Spirit of Tasmania in the background

Bromptons at Port Melbourne, with the Spirit of Tasmania in the background

Setting off, there was even a hint of sun and blue skies as we rode along the flat cycle path along the foreshore, making the beach and Port Phillip Bay look very enticing, indeed! Plenty of folk were out enjoying the day – other cyclists, walkers, many people with dogs, some people swimming  or playing sports on the sand.

People playing sport on the beach at Port Melbourne

People playing sport on the beach at Port Melbourne

It’s usually a bit windy down by the bay, but we hadn’t really appreciated just how windy it was until we turned to ride out along the pier! It’s a good thing my helmet’s strapped on! I wonder what it’s like when there’s a strong wind warning for the bay? Golly!

Fortunately there weren’t too many people around at the Pavilion, and we didn’t create a nuisance of ourselves as we lined up to take more photos. We even managed to grab a couple of tables and sat down to enjoy a hot beverage and chat while we waited for Greg to rejoin us.

Brompton line-up at St Kilda Pavilion

Brompton line-up at St Kilda Pavilion

Looking back to the city from St Kilda Pavilion

Looking back to the city from St Kilda Pavilion

All good things come to an end, and soon enough it was time to ride back to the city. Unfortunately Greg and Siewmee said goodbye as we left St Kilda Pier, so we were down to five Bromptoneers. Heading back up the beach was all into the wind – I’m sure I’m a bit windburnt on my face from that 4km stretch. Shedding a layer (down to two) I was not disappointed to head inland and follow the more sheltered bike path by the (Route 109) tram line.

It had clouded over again by the time we'd finished our drinks at St Kilda Pavilion

It had clouded over again by the time we’d finished our drinks at St Kilda Pavilion

The heavens opened and we were rained on as we neared the end of the line – but only gently and briefly, and just enough to prompt a couple of slightly adulterated lines of ‘singing in the rain’ from Elsie and I. Well… she started it!

Back at the Exhibition Centre it was our turn to peel off from the group. Stephen and I were turning right and heading home through the city – the others (Stanley, Elsie and Bethy) were heading left to go home. So then there were three.

It was another great day, and a real pleasure to have more members along on the ride. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be a Brompton owner (yet, anyway) to join us – you just need to be interested and not mind that we love our Bromptons!

To see some REALLY good photos from this ride, have a look at Cory’s photos for the Melbourne Brompton Club on Flickr. Stanley has also posted his photos on the club’s Facebook page.

The best way to keep up to date for future rides and activities is via the group’s FaceBook page, but we also have Twitter and Strava accounts.

: )


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Tassie Summer Holiday 2014-15

It’s all just memories now… But damn fine ones, I might add!

After an absence of way too long (just under 2 years) we were BACK! And Hobart over Christmas/New Year is THE place to be when you’re in Tassie – even if you’re not a ‘foodie’, even if you’re not into sailing, even if you ‘don’t get’ art, and even if nature gives you a rash… there will still be something here for you to do and enjoy.

Having made no reservations in advance (except passage aboard the Spirit of Tasmania and our accommodation), our itinerary was very flexible. It turned out as follows:

Friday – Depart Port Melbourne for Devonport aboard the Spirit of Tasmania

Saturday – Drive to Hobart, Salamanca Markets, Hobart bookshops

Sunday – The Taste of Tasmania, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (TMAG)

Monday – Mt Field National Park, The Taste of Tasmania

View of Lake Fenton from Mt Field East Circuit on a stormy day

View of Lake Fenton from Mt Field East Circuit on a stormy day

Tuesday – Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), TMAG, The Taste of Tasmania

Wednesday – Hike Mt Wellington, The Taste of Tasmania’s New Years Eve Party

The view from the top of Mt Wellington was especially good after the walk up

The view from the top of Mt Wellington was especially good after the walk up

Thursday – Drive to Sheffield in northern Tasmania via the Midland Highway

Friday – Hike Mt Roland, near Sheffield

Descending Mt Roland, the peaks of Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park closer than expected

Descending Mt Roland, the peaks of Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park closer than expected

Saturday – Visit Launceston, the Cherry Shed at Latrobe, depart Devonport for Port Melbourne aboard the Spirit of Tasmania

Our base for five nights in South Hobart was the Fireman’s Loft, a small apartment for a couple decorated with firemen-themed paraphernalia to pay homage to the buildings’ history. The Fireman’s Loft is either a 20min walk or a 5min drive/bus ride into town.

In Sheffield we stayed for two nights at the Kentish Hills Retreat (motel) which was clean, comfortable and an easy 5min walk to town.

We would have liked to spend longer in Hobart. There was so much that we were hoping to do this trip that we just didn’t have time to squeeze in. Trips to Port Arthur and Bruny Island spring to mind, exploring the Huon Valley (south of Hobart), visiting the Maritime Museum, finish looking at everything in TMAG (because even after two visits we still didn’t see everything!), restaurants, wineries – not to mention revisiting places we’ve previously been, such as the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (which are lovely and definitely worth a visit).

But we were lucky to get five nights between two other bookings at the Fireman’s Loft – and I made my booking 11 months in advance! As I have previously said, if you want to visit during the summer holiday period, you have to book well in advance!

You know, when people ask me what I like most about Tasmania and I reply “Everything,” I really do mean everything!

: )


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Something To Write Home About

As I wrote in my Drive-by Photography post, taking a good photo from a moving car can be a challenge. It’s a good feeling when you’re reviewing photos and find a few have turned out just as you’d hoped.

This was of those photos, even though at first glance it might seem to be of nothing much:

"The road hugs the Orford River"

“The road hugs the Orford River”

Of course, I had no idea that it would end up here:

Spirit of Tasmania ad from The Age newspaper

Spirit of Tasmania ad from The Age newspaper

Let me explain…

I love Tasmania. The island captured my heart on my first trip there.

To express this love, just over a year ago I created a series of pages on my blog that you will find if you look up at the top right of the screen and click on Tasmania – A Treasure Island (or hover over for the drop-down list of related pages). I’d already written what Stephen called ‘Dayna’s Lonely Planet Guide to Tasmania’ for a friend, and I’d subsequently passed it on to a couple more people who wanted tips on where to go and what to see in Tassie – by putting my email online, I was mainly adding photos and making it viewable by everyone.

What about the photo then?

As is our habit, Stephen does the driving while I keep my camera handy and entertain the driver (quizzes, I-spy, etc) as and when required. Although, when we’re driving around Tassie, there’s more opportunity for photography than call for keeping Stephen alert behind the wheel.

You may have noticed that my posts are generally long – yes, I freely admit it. But I like detail. Which is why I included my above photo on my Freycinet & The East Coast page.

Had I not, it wouldn’t have been seen by the Spirit of Tasmania’s media agent, and someone else’s photo would have been used in this ad.

So the moral of the post is – keep posting! You never know who’s looking at your blog.

Oh, and visit Tasmania! Drive there if you can. You may fall in love in love with it, too.

: )


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Launceston & Ben Lomond NP – January 2012

As with all our Tassie holidays, this one started aboard one of two passenger and vehicle ferries that share the name the Spirit of Tasmania. The ferries run daily between Port Melbourne and Devonport.

If you want to see what you’ve been missing by flying to Tassie, have a look at my How to get to Tasmania page.

THURSDAY (Australia Day)

After a relaxing night onboard, we were up early and on our way. Breakfast was at ETC (Elizabeth Town Cafe) a traditional stop for many travellers heading towards Launceston or Hobart from Devonport. If there’s one thing you can count on in Tassie it’s a decent breakfast.

It’s not far from Devonport to Launceston – only 100km along the Bass Highway. Our plan was to then drive up the west side of the Tamar River, cross Batman Bridge (no, not the Caped Crusader – this Batman) and explore the eastern Tamar Valley.

There are vineyards all around this region and you’ll pass many if you take a drive. Mind you we were passing before 10am – way too early to stop – and we had a wine tour booked in a couple of days time anyway. We did buy some pretty good cherries from a road side stall (actually just a ute with some big esky’s) – the bonus of driving around in summer time! I LOVE summer fruit!!

We came to Bridport and it looked so good we decided to stop. We’re not beach-goers. Quite the opposite, actually. Yes, there are beaches in Victoria; some not that far from home. But I haven’t forgotten that I am from Queensland, and every now and then – like on that gorgeous Australia Day at the beach in Bridport – I just had to feel the sand between my toes and the water around my ankles. Who could resist this?

Having squeaked across the dry and padded across the damp sand, wet our feet in the clear Tasman Sea and clambered among the rocks to our satisfaction (almost) and haven taken plenty of photos, we washed and brushed off the sand as best we could and continued on our way.

We turned south to Scottsdale to see if we could find where Rhubru is made – no luck – but we saw plenty of rhubarb in the fields, and a number of fields of poppies, ready for harvesting, protected by their electric fences.

Next stop was Bridestowe Lavender Estate. Their website says the best time to see the lavender in flower is December – January. Right-o, we were at the tail end of January but there was still almost a week before the end of the month… we were hoping to get some fantastic photos like the head photo on their website.

It’s an interesting fact that you can’t actually see the lavender fields from the main road, or from the driveway – in fact, not until you’ve paid the entrance fee and get to the car park. We felt somewhat cheated to discover that the majority of the lavender had already been harvested. There were just a couple of rows left that we didn’t exactly have to queue up to photograph… but almost. We did the best we could. The other two things worth seeing (if you’re there anyway) are the old oak trees that were planted in 1881. Over 130 years old! Their shade is quite welcome on a warm summer’s day.

We ate at the cafe (a Lavender spiced sausage roll and a bottle of Rhubru went down quite well) then bought some lavender products in the shop (for our mums mainly, and some cooking lavender for us) then headed back to Launceston to check in at The Sebel Launceston.

Our dinner reservation was at Black Cow Bistro, an old art deco building that used to be a butchers shop, just a short walk from The Sebel. We’d been wanting to try the Black Cow for a while and I’m pleased to report that it didn’t disappoint.

It was still reasonably light after dinner so we took a walk. There are plenty of interesting buildings to look at around the CBD.

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See more on my page Launceston & Surrounds.

FRIDAY

Ben Lomond National Park is not just a pleasant, but a fun drive about 1hr southeast of Launceston. Despite its convenience, its also the least visited NP in Tas, with most people visiting during the winter months to ski.

As with much of Tasmania, the ancient plateau is dolorite and to the casual observer does give the impression of being dry and pretty barren. Nothing could be further from the truth though. The bare ground squelches underfoot where it’s not running with water.

We were following a track from Legges Tor to the Ben Lomond summit, then back via the road, as described in Day Walks Around Tasmania book by J & M Chapman. Someone from Tasmania’s Parks Service has at some point gone to a lot of trouble to create a path through the boulder field below Legges Tor! We certainly appreciated their efforts!

There are a couple of private huts of decent size at the top – one at the summit was even for sale!

A cairn marks the summit (incase there’s any doubt?). I can’t say the view is particularly spectacular. There’s a lot of plateau in every direction before you see other mountains in the distance. But we felt a sense of achievement nonetheless.

We checked out one of the ski runs – looks a bit rocky in the summer – then headed down to the road to head back to the car.

The most notable feature of the walk is Jacob’s Ladder. A series of steep switchbacks up the mountainside. So glad we were walking down, not up this part. Definitely scenic viewing! Also a place many cars have trouble traversing in winter! Given the number of potholes, we were glad we’d left the Mini behind at the earlier carpark!

It wasn’t a hard walk back to the car but it felt long enough. It was a good day’s hike.

Dinner was at Stillwater that night, the top class restaurant on the ground level of the Old Mill at the mouth of Cataract Gorge, just next to Kings Bridge. We have dined here (breakfast and dinner) a number of times before and it was as good as ever. It’s also a pleasant walk along the water front from The Sebel to get there.

SATURDAY

Today we tried something we’d never done before… a wine tour. Does that surprise you? Yes, we’ve stopped at a couple of wineries in the past, but one of us (ie Stephen) has always been the driver, so it’s not really the same.

We were picked up from The Sebel – I wasn’t going to book a tour that couldn’t pick up & drop is back at our hotel – by Marcia from Valleybrook Wine Tours. The Tamar Valley wine region can be broken down into smaller areas – east, west, south – and due to the number of wineries in each area tour will usually visit cellar doors in just one of these areas. We visited wineries in the West Tamar Valley area.

Marcia was a great host and we all really enjoyed our day visiting the following cellar doors/wineries:

Velo Wines
Pipers Brook Vineyard & Ninth Island cellar door (part of the Kreglinger Wine Estates group)
Elmslie Wines – where we also stopped for a very good lunch
Grey Sands (by appointment only)
Holm Oak Vineyard
Goaty Hill Wines

By the end of the day we were well and truly done – and didn’t miss not having dinner that night. Next time we feel so inclined, we will only book a half day tour. Marcia was a great host and I think the whole group had an enjoyable day. The original plan was just to visit 5 clear doors, but a late request (by us) got Grey Sands included. We really appreciated going to Grey Sands, but it did unfortunately mean that by the time we got to Goaty Hill we were not in much shape to really appreciate the wines as we had at the start of the day.

Moral of the story? Don’t chose a wine tour by how many stops you do, but by where those stops are.

SUNDAY

After checking out, it was back on the road. We had a few favourite stops to make.

Breakfast at Stillwater, olive oil at Evandale, jam and sauces at the Tamanian Gourmet Sauce Co just outside of Evandale on the way to  the Cherry Shed at Latrobe where were had a pretty good cheery ice-cream and bought 5kg of fresh cherries, then finally Ashgrove Cheese at Elizabeth Town (see also my pages Midlands and North Coast Towns). Phew!

After a wonderful long weekend, we were back on the Spirit of Tasmania for the overnight ride home. I had a fresh change of work clothes for the next day so Stephen would drop me off at Melbourne Uni to catch a tram to work then he would take the gear home and unload the car before going to work himself. Not a bad arrangement, really.

: )