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The next day was the start of the conference held at the Hilton hotel.

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The first keynote was very good but a couple of other sessions I went to were so-so.  I also had meetings with exhibitors.

At lunch I sneaked across the road to the Queen Victoria building (how could I not?).  It’s a gorgeous old building.  Photos never seem to capture its grandeur.

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So the evening.  Boss and I had been invited to dinner by some vendors.   It was a half-hour walk, more or less, from the hotel.  Apparently the restaurant was quite exclusive and “in”.  We were downstairs and immediately plied with never-ending glasses of Veuve Cliquot.  I know I should not have let them refill the glass.  Normally, as I’m not a huge fan of champagne, I would have said no, but noticing that it was an expensive brand of bubbles, I thought why not.  Mistake.  The glasses were constantly refilled, and after a whole month of no alcohol I was probably more susceptible.  Another mistake, I think, was to eat the oysters.  Once seated, it switched to constant refilling of white wine (or red if you chose in huge glasses).  The food was a mix of western and Chinese.  I would have preferred to choose from the menu, but this was easier for the hosts no doubt.  Some of the food was very nice, some of it a little strange or rich.  I drank too much, then as they had the bar open offering free cocktails, I followed the friendly Australian from the night before to the bar.  Mistake number three, but by this time, I was pretty much already gone.  I remember walking back to the hotel with the boss and trying to walk evenly.  We arranged to meet the next morning at a certain time, which I also remember.

The next morning was not too bad.  I didn’t have a headache at all, but did feel rather queasy.  I met boss and we headed to the conference venue for a meeting with one of the exhibitors.  I then attended one of the sessions but could not concentrate.  I felt the urgent need to go to the toilet (again).  I thought it might ease, but I was not feeling great.  I didn’t want to be at the next one-and-a-half hour meeting feeling the constant urge to go the toilet or the constant nausea.  I returned to the hotel.  Any food I smelled on the way made me want to vomit.

To cut a long day short, I spent a lot of it in the hotel bathroom with vomiting and diarhoea.  I felt cold and got into bed.  My insides were churning.  This wasn’t an ordinary hangover.  I suspected food poisoning.  I slept, then woke up hot.  I was determined to get back to the venue but was too late for a session I had wanted to see.  Instead I aimed for another exhibitor meeting with the boss.  I felt fragile, however, and hot and cold.

I thought I’d feel better by the evening for the conference dinner and made an effort.  I looked dreadful but had left behind some of my newer makeup and had to make do with crap.   I couldn’t eat, however, and my insides were still churning away.  I certainly wasn’t enjoying being there, which was regrettable.  I had looked forward to the evening, buying a new dress and jewellery.  Very disappointing, to put it mildly.  I left, and headed back to the hotel to sleep.  I felt ashamed that my boss would be disappointed in me.  (She believed it was simply a hangover.)  I was quite pissed off with myself, and with the hosts of the previous evening.

 

 

 

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Monday to Friday was a long week.  Thursday felt like Friday, and I couldn’t concentrate in the hot afternoons working in a non-airconditioned building with no breeze coming through the small windows (in about 29deg C heat every day).  Besides which, my mind was already in Sydney.

I fly out tomorrow morning with boss and colleague.  We fly via Christchurch where we have to wait 4 hours for our flight to Sydney.  Why?  Because it was the cheapest flight.  It’s a wonder we’re not staying in a youth hostel.

Jasmine seems to sense something’s up.  Could be the suitcase lying at the ready, haha.  She’s been hanging around me this morning, wanting attention.  Poor love.  I feel like a traitor, taking her to a cage in a cattery, when she’s used to lying on a bed and having cuddles in the evenings.  I drop her off this evening.

During the week I tried on my dress shoes, which I needed for the conference dinner and a cocktail party.  I must have bought them in winter because they were tight and there was no way I’d be able to walk from the hotel to the conference or cocktail venues in them.  So, this morning I headed back into town, yet again, to do some shoe shopping.  The fact that I’m sitting here writing at 10.30 am indicates that I was successful.

I tried on one pair which were very comfortable but were in a beige colour.  The only other colour they had was white.  No good.  Needed black.  I tried on another pair that, although not as comfortable, felt good to walk in.  I bought them, and they were on sale – reduced to $79 with a further percentage off lowering the price to about $65.  Excellent.  I’d only looked in three shoe shops and tried on two pairs.  Next errand was a small umbrella, as the forecast for Sydney this week is some rain.  I did have a small one which I brought from work but it’s a bit broken, so I decided to buy another cheapy.  The “$2 shop” in the Plaza didn’t have any small ones, and KMart had cheapy made-in-China ones for $15 which I thought overpriced, so I headed over to Broadway to “Barris” another “$2+ shop” and got one for $6.  Done.  All set.

The camera battery is charged.  The cellphone is charged.  Now I just have to wander down to the local shop to get some more credit.

There’s a smallholder’s auction down the road.  I might head down for a short while, as I have no idea what to do with today.

As to exercise/semi-diet regime, I was very disappointed last night to find I had lost nothing at all in the past week.  I felt angry with myself for giving into a couple of pieces of toast during the week, as well as having a sugary drink.  Then I told myself not to be an idiot and take it easy.  I will have to restrain myself during the conference, however.  I still haven’t reached my goal which is only 2kg away (and of course once I reach that, I’ll want to lose more).

May update later, may not.  If not I will update in a week’s time after my return from Sydney (returning via Auckland).

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It’s already been a week since the end of the conference in Melbourne.  Hard to believe.

Sunday:  I flew to Auckland with the  boss.  Mt Taranaki was fully visible above the cloud.  We flew over several eroded, denuded hills.  The erosion looked like comets dotted on the hills.

Mt Taranaki just visible top centre

Mt Taranaki just visible top centre

In Auckland we met our other colleague and sat together on the plane to Melbourne (I didn’t get the window seat, or any further window seats).  We had heard it was going to be 40 deg C on our arrival in Melbourne.  We watched as the temperature outside the plane went from minus 19C to 20, 27, 30 (at just 1000 feet above).  It was 37 on the runway with the plane still moving.

On arrival, a taxi to our destination.  We had been given 2 addresses for our accommodation – we figured one was our actual accommodation and the other the check-in desk (there were several apartment buildings).  As it happened, the one we arrived at was where our accommodation was at.  It was a three-bedroomed apartment.  It didn’t compare with our previous accommodation in Brisbane last year.  The lounge was small, the balcony miniscule, but we did have a view over the casino and river.  I was delegated the room with 2 single beds while the others got double beds (one with ensuite) and the morning sun.  Oh well.  Can’t have it all.  We headed out to find a supermarket to buy breakfast food, then wandered along the river front, where they still had stalls set  up for Chinese New Year.  We watched the dancing dragon, then decided on an Italian restaurant for something to eat.  The vegetarian pizza we shared was very nice.  I was tempted to have a beer, but didn’t.  It was hot in the sun but quite bearable in the shade.

Monday dawned grey with a cold wind.  We headed to a meeting on the other side of the river, directly opposite Flinders Street station (more or less).

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In the evening we went our separate ways.  The boss and I had been invited to dinner at different places.  She went to Maha, while I went to Chin Chin.  Lots of different dishes brought out for people to share.  All very good.  I passed on the runny egg.  I wasn’t keen on the desserts either but the rest – just wonderful.  You can’t book so have to turn up either early or late.  I walked back to the apartment after dinner – approximately 35 minutes’ walk.  I was the first back, followed by Auckland colleague, R, followed by boss.  Enjoyable evenings had by all.

Tuesday was the start of the conference proper.  Another rather cold wind, which was disappointing.  We had come from a summer of grey cloud and cold winds and had wanted a change.

Convention centre

Convention centre

I got to a couple of sessions but missed a couple of better ones because of talking to vendors.  The first plenary was good.  That evening boss and I had been invited to yet another dinner at Atlantic on the river front.  We were there from 7 pm to 11 pm so saw the flames powered by gas in the columns in front of the Crown Casino complex.

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Wednesday:  I only got to see the first plenary session – the rest of the time spent with vendors.  That night was a conference dinner at the NGV under the stain-glass ceiling.

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We had a lovely walk along the riverfront afterwards, and caught the flames again.

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Thursday:  And then, all too quickly, the final day of conference.  The air-conditioning was cold so a couple of times I snuck out to absorb the warmth.  It was glorious.

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Three times I was asked where DFO (Direct Factory Outlet) was from passers-by.  Luckily I did know and could direct them, envying them somewhat – so close but no time.

After the conference ended I met C and we walked to ‘Mamak’, a Malaysian restaurant.  Boss was out with a friend and R had taken the afternoon to visit a Hindu temple.

Friday:  In the morning boss and R left for the airport.  I had a shower, tidied up, and checked out.  W picked me up from behind the apartment building.  C was at work.  He took me to their apartment in Prahran, which had a good view of the CBD.

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W and I headed down Chapel Street, which was hot and busy.  Some amazing old buildings such as the Victorian arcade building, which looked rather creepy in its unrenovated state.

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We had steamed dumplings for lunch, then headed back to the apartment.  When C returned we went out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant not far away.

Saturday:  As it happened, W was flying to New Zealand in the afternoon, but we did have time to visit Chadstone mall and the museum.  I had heard that Chadstone mall was the biggest in Australasia.  However, it was not as big as I expected and only on two levels.  C and I had seen way bigger in Kuala Lumpur (several levels and including a theme park).

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Next stop, the museum, to see the Designing 007 exhibition.  Photos not permitted, but quite interesting and some of the gowns were gorgeous.  It was 42 deg C outside and we saw a woman sunbathing – complete madness.   I didn’t find the heat unbearable.  It was a different sort of heat to the hot (28-32) days we get at home.  Not a burning heat but more diffuse, like a fan heater.  The worst of it was getting back into a hot car.  Spotted wedding photos being taken on the way out – phew!

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C dropped W off at Southern Cross station to get the skybus to the airport.  We headed back to the apartment.  That night we ate pizza at an Italian restaurant in Prahran.

Sunday:  W and C had only recently bought a car, so C wanted to drive somewhere out of the city.  We thought of going to Bendigo or Ballarat.  Ballarat was closer.   In the morning, about 11ish (C takes a while to get moving), we headed out, but almost immediately, C realised she’d left the keys in the apartment.  We were locked out, without car keys or even a way to get back to their level if we went down the lift.  Luckily she had her cellphone and made a few calls.  A locksmith was needed and we waited close to an hour in the lobby.  Great start to the day and a costly mistake.  I thought we’d have to settle for driving somewhere closer but C was ok with driving to Ballarat.

Ballarat was a lot smaller and quieter than I had imagined.  It reminded me a bit of a local town near where I live, with a central strip and clock towers.  Very sleepy place but some nice buildings.  Bells were ringing for a long time (probably annoying the locals, but I enjoyed them).

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Sovereign Hill ‘museum’ was way too expensive at $47 each for the couple of hours or so we had to spare.  After a bite to eat, we decided to go to the local wildlife park.

Plenty of reptiles, but in rather small enclosures, and a couple of huge snakes.  A kangaroo was hanging out in the shade (although it was only about 30 deg) just in front of the alligator enclosure.  Luckily they couldn’t see each other, and the kangaroo probably knew it was perfectly safe.

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The biggest attraction for this park, were the number of tame kangaroos roaming freely about.  Many opportunities to stroke them and have their claws touch your hands while seeking food.

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Such lovely animals.

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There were a couple of free-roaming emus too – the first time I’ve come across non-aggressive ones.  Other animals included quokkas and some awake koala!  Didn’t spot the wombat (as usual) or the Tasmanian devils.  There were cockatoos in the trees that chased away the many pigeons.  Didn’t get a proper photo.  As we left, we heard kookaburras, as if laughing that we’d missed seeing them.  A good day out.  In the evening we headed down Chapel Street in the  opposite direction and bought burger and chips.  Chapel Street had a lot of eateries with outdoor seating and it was as busy as a Friday or Saturday night!  The salmon burger I had was very nice.

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Monday;  I didn’t look forward to the return home, and it didn’t start well, the taxi being 35 minutes late picking me up.  It was chaos at the airport with long queues.  Apparently none of the ‘smart’ equipment was working and they didn’t have enough staff at check-in counters.  There were a lot of pissed off passengers waiting.  However, got to the departure lounge and, of course, waited.

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Farewell to Melbourne.

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Update soon

Just back from a conference in Melbourne.  Haven’t yet uploaded photos.  So, will update (with some pics) later on.  Must do this soonish, as I’m off to the South Island for an actual holiday next week.  Before that, I have another “road trip” with the girls, for birds, wine and cheese.  Will then have to upload those photos and empty the memory card ready for the south!  Such a busy period for the next few days.

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Another day of vendor appointments.  We got to one conference session in the morning, missing the keynote (via Skype).  After lunch we attended a keynote.  She was not a particularly good speaker, the subject wasn’t particularly relevant and we both started nodding off.

There was a panel discussion.  Again, we had trouble staying awake so decided to miss the rest of the sessions and go for a walk along Southbank for some fresh air.

It was mid-afternoon but there were plenty of people of all ages at the artificial beach.  We wondered how these people got the time…

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There were plenty of ibises and crows again, but I  also saw a Willie wagtail, a bird that looked like a cross between a weka and a pukeko, a bird that I think was a currawong and another mynah-type bird.

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We reached the cafe area and saw a lizard just lounging at the feet of  some patrons.  It watched me as I took photos of it.  Satisfied that we’d seen some sights, we sat for a while before heading back for final conference drinks (after all, it had been paid for).  One of the waiters looked exactly like an extra from Lord or the Rings – he was very tall, fair-haired (dyed) and fine-boned.

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At the hotel we overheard the receptionist recommend a restaurant to someone.  We figured we’d check it out as well.  It was Valentine’s day, however, and there were a lot of couples on the streets looking for places to eat.  The restaurant recommended was busy but we only had a short wait before being able to sit outside.  We had the special of the day with the house wine and it was very nice.  A sudden downpour didn’t drench us as we were under cover and the staff were quick to lower the screens.  The rain didn’t last long at all and the streets were basically dry on our return.

I phoned my cousin’s wife on the Gold Coast and we had a bit of a chat.  There had been no time at all to visit her, my other two cousins or aunt in Brisbane.

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We had a leisurely breakfast before we had to be at the first session of the day, which was an interesting keynote.  Then we had heaps of appointments with vendors.

It rained, both before we headed out in the morning, and just before lunch.

Boss wanted me to take her place at a vendor’s lunch presentation as she went to another.  We were late because of the last appointment running late.  I went along but their food was not at all appealing and I was hungry, so I left and ate a more substantial lunch in the exhibition hall.  I then sneaked off to visit the nearby art gallery.  It took a while to get there so I only had a brief time to quickly look at a couple of rooms of paintings before I had to return for a relevant afternoon session.

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We went to a final keynote speaker (who was interesting if not particularly relevant) before heading back to the hotel.

In the evening we had the conference dinner.  The band was good but they played loudly so it was difficult to talk with others around the table.  We were right near a speaker too and the bass was so loud I could feel it in my chest.  The food was average.  The music that was played before the dinner was good, with the likes of Van Morrison and Sade – music I could dance to.  The music after the dinner, when people got up to dance, was the usual 80s pop which I just do not enjoy dancing to.  I danced a little while the boss sat and watched, but soon gave up and we left early to return to the hotel and bed.  There was no point staying to chat when you couldn’t hear.

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Day three started with an early breakfast at the conference centre.  I went to a first-timers’ breakfast (first time to this particular annual conference) and the boss went to a vendor’s breakfast.  I sat at one of the circular tables and got talking to the people on either side of me.  The person on my right was from Melbourne and looked just like one of my cousins (also in Melbourne) – short (shorter than me), fair-haired, and round-faced.  She was very pleasant.

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Boss and I met up after registration and headed to the opening address and first keynote speaker.  For the rest of the day we were pretty much busy with vendor appointments.

In the evening we were invited to a fancy restaurant by a representative of one of our bigger suppliers.  We met at the Aria restaurant at Eagle Street pier.  It is co-owned by Matt Moran of the Australian Masterchef series.  The food was tasty (as you’d expect) and artfully presented (as you’d also expect).  The wine, chosen by the sommelier was a very distinctive white wine – very nice.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the bottle to see what it was.  I wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway.

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