I caught my first glimpse of Melbourne's skyline against a backdrop of gray clouds through a bus window as we rode in from the airport. And much to my surprise, tears brimmed and blurred my vision; so this I knew this must be important. The airport bus arrived at the main train station – Spencer Street station – and there we found a free, connecting bus that transports travelers to various hotels within the city. We were destined for the Victoria Hotel, one of Melbourne's oldest hotels where my mother worked, and lived, as one of the staff when she was a young woman.
As our bus navigated the turns and stops through downtown Melbourne, it served as a tour service and we quickly had a sense of direction and place when we arrived at “The Vic”, as it is affectionately known. The Victoria Hotel is located on Little Collin Street (one block over from Collin Street) – a narrow version of the latter. (Funny coincidence – Mark's middle name is Collin). By now, I am almost giddy with excitement as we collect our bags and walk through the sliding glass doors. You see, we came all this way without a room reservation and it's Saturday night.
I could hardly contain myself while we inquired about a room and I began telling the lovely young woman behind the desk my entire family history and how the hotel was so much a part of it while she checked her computer screen. She was pleased to announce that we were in luck; they had one room available and would we like to have it. Giddiness turned to near-silliness and I didn't care how much it might cost. Fortunately, the Victoria Hotel is big on charm and not price.
Our room was smartly remodeled with upscale amenities, but it's clear they are operating in the confines of old architecture. Hmmm...narrow rooms with odd bump-outs that could be a potential closet? I've never seen a room footprint like this. But all was shiny, swanky and new, even down to the big, flat screen TV hanging on the wall which we noticed was impossible to comfortably watch from nearly anywhere in the room. Utterly charming!
Our first order of business was to drop our luggage on the floor and head for 'Happy Hour' at “The Vic”. In the lounge, we saw remnants of the past that included floor-to-ceiling (including the ceiling) raised hardwood paneling and the famous neon bar sign welcoming our arrival. Historical memorabilia adorned the walls and it all felt very regal and old. At first we didn't notice the television barking off the latest news but it turned out to be an historic event that I consider myself very fortunate to have witnessed. Sixteen-year-old Australian born Jessica Watson was sailing back into Sydney after her record-breaking, around the world expedition.
We settled into a pair of comfortable lounge chairs to watch the excitement as this young lady returned home to Sydney Harbor after an arduous seven month journey, her S & S 34 pink Barbie boat bobbing and leaning in strong winds. As she fought the winds, slowly making headway in her sturdy little craft, I felt - in some way - connected. The television screen began to blur and I knew I was coming home, too.