As the photos, when I finally get round to uploading them, will testify, it’s been bloody hot here mate. I mention this only to illustrate my first observation about the natives–they do like to talk about the weather a fair bit. When they aren’t talking about house prices, that is.

Perhaps it’s just a myth that the English talk about the weather (or, for that matter, house prices) all the time, as the rest of the world seems to be equally obsessed. They’re a friendly bunch round here though. Out shopping in the city on Monday, it struck me how people in shops seem to be genuinely friendly and, well, happy (maybe it’s all that sunshine). It’s a bit of a contrast to the grumpy, customer-comes-last “service” culture we have in the UK, or the “have-a-nice-day-I’ll-be-your-waiter-for-this-evening-I’d-like-a-big-tip” fakery of the US.

Conforming to cliche, they also like a beer or two over here, and although I haven’t even been here for a week, I’ve already been to two barbeques, as well as having built one (although that’s a bit of a long story that I won’t go into here).

Yesterday was probably the highlight of my trip so far. My birthday present from Sal: hot air ballooning over the Yarra valley. The day started at the ludicrously early time of 2:30 am when my alarm went off. At this point we weren’t even sure if the ride would take place, but nevertheless we were out of the house by 3, and parked up outside the Chateau Yering hotel and winery in the dark by 4.30 waiting for our pilot to arrive and take us off to the meeting place. After a short while, a young chap called Simon, the ground crew, popped up in his little red vintage MG, and he let us know that the pilot would be along shortly. After a little while, turn up he did, and we were off to a large dew-covered field a short drive away.

About to take off

Part of the fun of the balloon ride is that they get you involved in putting the thing up and taking it down again, so they soon had us helping the basket off the trailer, velcro-ing the bit on the top of the balloon on, and pulling it upright. Before we knew it, though, we were drifting up above the vineyards, and sipping champagne in the sky.

Mist rising from the water

The Yarra valley is a fair way outside the city, but at one point we could clearly see the skyscrapers of Melbourne’s CBD shooting up into the sky way off in the distance, as well as the rolling hills, the vineyards, and, perhaps the most beautiful part, the mist rising off the lakes below.

About to land

If you ever get a chance to go up, I’d strongly recommend it.