Melbourne

I guess I am not much of a city tourist…or Melbourne, like Sydney is not much of a tourist city. It is not bad; it’s just not much to me. Actually I am surprised by this fact. One of the German girls who were on my red centre tour, raved about how nice Melbourne was, but I just can’t see what she was so excited about.

The city has an excellent tram system, and a very nice market, but as trams goes I come from Hong Kong so, ho hum. And as markets go, the parts that interest me are no bigger or better than Adelaide. The rest was garment and tourist tripe. The Melbourne museum was a real bore, with much of the exhibition space under construction and the rest mostly gallery style, and not interactive. I could learn more by reading a book. I was glad to see many area school kids in attendance, but would have been more impressed if they were interacting with science experiments or being immersed in history dioramas, rather than pressing hands to glass to see things they could not touch.

The food of Melbourne is first rate, with that I agree. Better still the service is also outstanding. Having come from the country towns, and even in comparison to Sydney, it is great to again see a maître d’ who is totally switched on and involved…interested in his business.

One thing though. I had it on very high advice to try Flower Drum, a noted Melbourne Cantonese eatery. I went to china town with every intention of following the advice, but the best laid plans and all that.

Cantonese food, like all great cuisine (Italian, French, Spanish, Middle Eastern) is blue-collar food. I just can’t abide a pretentious Italian Ristorante, a haute Brasserie, or uppity Mezze, and I sure can not tolerate pompous faux Cantonese, which is what Flower Drum seemed to me. From the door man with his put-on british lilt, to the dress code (Can’t abide those either by the way). We have those kind of restaurants in Hong Kong, but only a tourist without any local advice would eat there.

To all my Melbourne friends, I’m sorry that I am not head over heels in love with your city. As I said, maybe I am more a nature and wilderness tourist. My partner and I have a usual habit of spending all daylight hours out hiking or snorkeling or otherwise adventuring, and only spending the after dinner hours doing city things. Even then we are more likely to go to a night zoo than a shopping complex. Patong is our perfect place, so far. The beach the islands, the reefs, the hikes are a full on full day affair. And the nightlife of the streets stays up far later than we ever want to, giving us complete days every day.

I still have Tasmanian towns to get-to-know so this is not the final tally, but so far my ranking of Oz cities and towns is as follows (1 being my favorite):

1. Brisbane

2. Adelaide

3. Cairns

5. Melbourne

6. Sydney

4. Alice Springs

7. Darwin

Two More Reasons Adelaide Rocks

I started today with a 7AM call to the Adelaide Central Market, a fairly large and well-represented fresh food market in the town centre.  My market breakfast (they have little tables throughout for people like me) consisted of a whole-wheat half baguette, a small chunk of South Australian washed rind cheese, and two South Australia peaches; it was delicious.

After the market I headed quickly up into the surrounding hills and then on to Barossa Valley, the heart of the Australian wine industry.  These places, all a short hour from the city, are absolutely gorgeous. Mile after mile of rolling pasture land, wooded hillock, tiny hamlet, and vineyard. I didn’t taste because I was driving and hate to spit, besides the SA wines in the stores and restaurants are the same as the ones in the wine cellars, so I have been tasting for some time.

Back to the city relatively early I returned to the market and bought a bevy of market vegetables, some SA Cheddar, and another small bread roll, and headed back to the Hostel to make an equally tasty supper of Cheese Salad.

Wildy, you really have a beautiful city. I have been a fan of Brisbane for some time, but Adelaide has given it significant competition in my mind.

Rainy Day

It is the third day in and already a major change in my set-up: No more dorm rooms after tonight. I have either slept alone or with Henry for the past 20 years and I guess I am not ready to change that system. Actually in hindsight, I should have guessed this would be a trial, since the last two times I slept in dorms were: in the Navy (I hated the experience and was booted out) and more recently (1990) in jail. So the whole dorm culture plays a lot with bad memory, enhancing the unease.

I’m fine with the Hostels in Australia, they are clean and I enjoy the common room and big kitchens, but I need a bed and bath to myself. I’m not sure how this will effect my budget in future, but I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.

Sydney day two was chilly and rainy, but still I ignored my rail pass and walked mostly. Speaking of that: First if a city has a tourist transportation pass, that covers ferry, bus and trains, it ought to also cover trams and monorails. So far I have barely used my rail pass but I have paid for 1 tram and two monorails.

I had planned Bondi Beach today, but due to the rain I covered markets and some museums instead. Speaking of museums, I wonder why, wherever you go, there are war museums, and memorials galore, but the only peace museum or monument I know of is in Hiroshima. Says something about our race.

Sydney has a lot of nice museums, galleries and similar haunts. I was surprised to find an USA gallery in the Maritime Museum, and also a Wisdom installation at the Central Library. The Wisdom thing is pretty interesting, a collage composition featuring the words and photos of many of the worlds more prominent seniors.

I also found a Nurses Walk, which I took, because my sister Cheryl is a Nurse. On the walk I found all sorts of interesting signs about the role of nurses in Sydney. Including the fact that they were criminals – figures.

Lunch today was done in one of my favorite ways when traveling. I market grazed. Where ever I go I am constantly on the look out for artisan food stalls and markets. Eating while meandering such places can take hours and is the best buffet going. I usually buy the things I eat, but you could get away on samples alone. Sydney has a very nice market sprinkled with food stalls at The Rocks, as well as a big one in Haymarket.

After lunch I walked barefoot on the lush lawns of the Botanical gardens. I walked that way for hours. Sydney’s Botanical gardens are massive and feature huge lawns, rolling hillocks, rocky outcrops, beautiful flora of every kind, and a full compliment of woodland fauna as well (mostly large and friendly birds). Odd though that the airport is in Botany Bay, but the Botanical Gardens are off Sidney Harbour

I rounded out my day with a long walk across to the Sydney Observatory, thinking that was a great thing to do at dusk. But they close at Five PM sharp, a few hours before the stars actually can be seen.  So I had Fish-N-Chips at Nick’s in Darling Harbour instead. They were quite good, and so was the salad I had as starter, but the portions were obscenely large. This with another starter would have been a feast for two.

Starting to get some bearings, but still quite uncomfortable. More soon. Chris