Monday, 8 July 2013

Cape Schanck

The second day of our trip down to the Mornington Penisula we went to Cape Schanck and walked a 2.6km trail to Bushranger's Bay. Again we were lucky to have some gorgeous winter weather and spent a good hour on the beach, watching the waves come in. Too cold and rough for swimming though!

Cape Shenck Lighthouse

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Our new car!

A few weeks ago we made the decision to buy a car here in Australia. Neither of us owned a car in London as public transport was more than adequate for getting around the city, not to mention the traffic issues and expenses (congestion charges, petrol, insurance) associated with owning a car (and driving it!) around London. I naively believed that we could do the same here, as Melbourne is a fairly big city I thought that public transport would be an easy enough way to get around. However, it is a far cry from the ease and convenience of good old TfL.

Many of our expat friends here told us they wished they had bought thier cars sooner, as there are so many places to explore in and around Melbourne. Day trips to wineries, beaches, national parks are all pretty feasible with lots of options 1-2 hours from the city. Also relying on public transport to get around at weekends was driving us a bit crazy, as there are fewer trains and the trams are very slow. So we bought a little 2013 Ford Fiesta, perfect for both getting around the city and the two of us taking trips on the weekend.

The one hitch? I have never driven on the left side of the road before! And it's proving to be much more disconcerting than I thought it would be. It's like I have completely lost any sense of spatial awareness. I keep feeling like I am too far over on the right side of the lane, when in fact Andy keeps telling me I'm too far on the left. Combined with looking out for trams and the aggressive driving here (NO ONE will let you in anywhere. Ever.) essentially I'm learning how to drive all over again. Thankfully I have a very patient teacher!

Here's some info for any expats wanting to buy a car in Melbourne:

  • If you are on a temporary visa you can only get a car loan for the length of the visa. We had 41 months left on our visa so that was the term of our car loan. I'm not sure if it's the same for permanent residence but I'd assume so. 
  • Cars seem to retain their value pretty well. We looked at some Fiestas that were about 3 years old but they were only about $4000-5000 cheaper than a brand new one.
  • Interest rates are pretty low at the moment. Car dealerships seem to have good deals on interest rates if you are buying a new car (not for used cars though!). 
  • June is the end of the financial year so that is typically when you can find the best deals.
  • Car registration is about $700/year. If you buy a new car the first year is included in the cost of the car.
  • Insurance for us cost about $790/year, fully comp. They insure the car here, not the driver. So with fully comprehensive insurance anyone can drive your car and it's insured.
  • Expats complain about the high cost of cars, but we compared the cost of ours to a new Fiesta in the UK and it was pretty similar. Canada was cheaper though.
  • There are speed cameras everywhere, and you can get a tickets and points deducted if you are more than 3km over the speed limit. Because of this no one speeds. 
  • There are also cameras at intersections that catch people going through red lights. If you are not already in the intersection when turning right and the light turns amber you can't sneak through!
  • If you are on a temporary visa you can drive on your license from your home country. This is highly advisable as then you can't get any points taken off if you do get a ticket! Once you are on a permanent residence visa you will need to get an Australian drivers license. If you are from Canada/UK/USA this doesn't require you to take a test.
  • If a tram is flashing that means it's doors are open and you cannot pass it under any circumstances! I think the tram drivers are allowed to give tickets - I have seen them shouting at cars plenty of times. Which is fair as if you pass a tram when it's doors are open you might run someone over!
  • Parking is a pain. The signs tell you how long you can park somewhere for free, for example 1P means 1 hour parking, 2P means 2 hours and so on. Read parking signs carefully as there are lots of ticket inspectors lurking around! Also if you don't have a car and your flat/house comes with a parking spot you can probably rent it out. We were renting ours out for $50/week before we got a car!
That's all I can think of for now. If anyone has any other experiences with buying a car here in Melbourne please feel free to comment below!

Penisula Hot Springs

Last weekend we took our first weekend trip in our new car down to the Mornington Peninsula. Our first stop: The Penisula Hot Springs.

We took the long way, driving along the coast and stopping for breakfast in a beach cafe overlooking the bay. We were very lucky with the weather, blue skies and about 17 degrees, which is perfect winter weather in my opinion.

Stopping for lunch in Seaford

We arrived at the hot springs at around 11am, and spent some time first in the Spa Dreaming Centre which is adults only. In this area there were hot springs of different temperatures (ranging from 37 to 42 degrees) set amongst the woods. Very peaceful and relaxing. After about an hour we went to the main bath house which was busier with families but also had more facilities, including a hot springs on the top of a hill with a beautiful view of the surrounding area.

This type of thing is my idea of a perfect getaway... although Andy gets bored easily and we constantly had to hop around and try different hot springs! My favourite part was going in the sauna and then jumping into a cold plunge, getting out and standing under a hot spring shower, and then jumping in the plunge pool again (and repeat several times!)

We also really liked the foot reflexology path, where you walked on different rock formations which supposedly stimulate different areas of your foot. Painful the first time but got better after you walked the path a few times!

Reflexology walk

We bought a deal that included lunch and got to eat in our bathrobes, which always feels like a treat!
Andy enjoying his lunch!

After the hot springs we went on to Red Hill Winery for some wine tasting, and so I could build on my knowledge and collection of Australian wines. They charge you $5 for tasting, but you get to try everything on their tasting list in order from Sparkling to white to red to dessert wine. Also they waive the fee if you purchase wine. I left with their Cellar Door Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, yum!

Oh yes!
We spent the night at the Hummingbird Eco Retreat which values healthy living and sustainability. They offer courses on yoga and meditation, needless to say Andy was not interested in partaking! They do grow all of their own produce for use in the restaurant where we had a tasty (if a bit expensive) dinner and breakfast. The rooms were simple and cosy, lots of white painted wood and NO TV so after dinner we had to... gasp... talk and read! Luckily Andy is in the middle of The Hunger Games trilogy and actually enjoys reading at the moment! I liked Hummingbird, the room was comfortable and we were surrounded by forest, but the room was a bit cold at night and like I said the meals were pricey.

All in all a great day - hot springs, wineries, a cosy dinner for two (that I didn't have to make or clean up) - what could be better?

Stay tuned for day 2 of our road trip!