Features > Only A Footstep Away: The Ramsay Street Bus Tour by Aaron
The Place: Pin Oak Court, Vermont South
The Price: AUD $25.00
For those who love Neighbours, there's nothing more exciting than a visit to Pin Oak Court, Vermont South in Melbourne - the real Ramsay Street. But because most of us aren't native Melburnians and the street is located the middle of the city's vast suburbia, it can be more difficult than you'd think to find. Earlier this year we booked ourselves a couple of places on the official bus tour run by Backpacker King and checked out what it had to offer...
We waited eagerly outside our hostel for the tour bus to arrive. And waited. And waited for over an hour until finally we decided we'd better call the people at Backpacker King and find out what was going on. There were no bookings from our particular hostel on that particular day, we were told, but there were a couple of places left on the next day's tour. Having booked a month previously we were somewhat disappointed (as it turned out, a week later while staying in Sydney we got a call confirming our reservation on the Ramsay Street bus tour; we'd been booked on the wrong weekend), but optimistic that the next day would be an exciting one for our first visit to Ramsay Street. We also couldn't really complain because the bus was picking us up right outside the door of our hostel, which it does for all of the larger hostels in Melbourne.
The following morning we again waited eagerly on the street corner near our hostel, pondering what the bus would look like and hoping we wouldn't miss it. Would it be a classy white minibus with a small golden Neighbours logo painted on the front? Or maybe there would be a subtle Ramsay Street sign somewhere on it? When the bus came around the corner, right on time, it was obvious we wouldn't have missed it. The word "eye-catching" doesn't exactly do it justice - with its gigantic yellow "Neighbours: The Official Ramsay Street Tour" sign painted against a fairly conspicuous blue background you would be forgiven for thinking the people on board were a bunch of obsessive Neighbours fanatics. Oh wait. So making sure no one from the hostel was watching we held our heads high and stepped on board.
Of course that was only the start of the embarrassment but as Angie Rebecchi might say, if it doesn't kill you it can only make you stronger. In an ironically Neighbours style drama, we were caught in the beginnings of a drug bust when collecting passengers from the centre of the city (who never did show up funnily enough - they don't know what they missed). Conveniently, the bus was parked by a group of stoners who after causing a small amount of trouble by trying to get onto the bus, dumped something in a litter bin. Unfortunately for them, the said article was promptly discovered by two prim looking middle-aged women and equally promptly our tour driver alerted the police and led them to the gang before driving off leaving police, tourists, a gang and what seemed suspiciously like "not tobacco" in our wake.
The rest of the journey however went remarkably smoothly. Driving through the cosmopolitan streets of Melbourne in a Neighbours emblazoned bus drew a few bemused stares but the driver thought nothing of it and immediately launched into the tour spiel riling up the passengers with a few classic music videos courtesy of the DVD - Neighbours: The Music. The Blakeney twins, Craig McClachlan and inevitably Kylie passed the time as we drove out of the city and heightened the atmosphere. They were followed by a short but slightly dated track of tourist snippets, discussing their love of the show and visits to "Ramsay Street." It appeared fans had made arses of themselves (quite literally in some cases) out of their love for the show.
The stories and old school memories raised the bar of anticipation but it was most certainly not enough to prepare us for the unexpected arrival of Pin Oak Court. As the street is ensconced firmly in the heart of cramped suburbia with locals barely batting an eyelid at the onslaught, it takes one by surprise. In one swift left turn, we had arrived in Ramsay Street and came to a halt. After a brief but friendly warning about respecting the residents, the doors swung open and we were let loose to roam the street even being offered the use of a mock Ramsay Street sign with which to have pictures taken if we so wished.
Doubtless what most people are interested in is Pin Oak Court and we are happy to report that it thoroughly lives up to expectations. A cliché it may be but the street is a great deal smaller than it appears on television yet perhaps more attractive with lime trees and little details becoming apparent. Who knew for example that the house numbers on the mail boxes are amended for the show by the production team by simply sticking on a "2" or a "3" in front of the real house number? The tour guide was commendably well informed about these things and even brought up the change of the Kennedy's front door along with details of exactly how much real life residents are paid yearly for the trouble of being involved with the show. Let's just say that it would serve as a perfectly reasonable household income...
Within twenty minutes of arriving, it was time to leave the cul-de-sac for the remaining part of the tour and we were given water and other refreshments when back on board the bus to keep us occupied after the excitement. In a clever move by the tour planners, the driver was eager not to let the tour go radically downhill after the peak of the street and chose the time to share gossip about storylines and the show's stars. Some tidbits were a tad inaccurate - Joe and Lyn getting a divorce to accommodate Shane Conor's departure for example. There was even the odd heinous "Ian Fletcher" slip up but that was easily excused considering the tour leader was driving and entertaining at the same time.
As she continued with some very interesting gossip about the stars' behaviour on Neighbours Night, we passed both the real life façade of Erinsborough High and the Global TV studios where the show is filmed, with Toadie's old car and the tips of Lassiter's and the gazebo tantalisingly visible on the back lot. Of course neither of these could compare to the street itself but they are only a very short distance from Pin Oak Court and gave the driver the chance to share a few facts about production procedures.
Now the tour was effectively over. So how do you finish off the bus tour of a lifetime visiting the setting of your all-time favourite television program? With some Neighbours videos! The driver had a copy of the Neighbours Defining Moments DVD and had it ready to play on our drive back to inner Melbourne. She asked if we were in the mood for a birth, a death, or a marriage. After an argument between the passengers on the bus which almost turned nasty (we wanted to see a death, damn it), the driver decided some heavy nostalgia was in order and played Neighbours' most widely-recognised special episode - Scott and Charlene's wedding. But we were rewarded after this with the screening of Jim's death, an episode which didn't disappoint by prompting the most laughs out of anything on the tour.
While there were some minor glitches for our experience on the Ramsay Street bus tour, we feel it was well worth the money for an easy and entertaining way to see "Ramsay Street" and its surrounds. And hopefully the promised back lot tour will be in operation some time soon. Bookings can be made at the tour's web site, www.neighbourstour.com