At St. Kilda Beach.
From the Southbank of the river.
Horsies on the main drag.
December 28, 2006
There was one thing I knew from the get-go: I was not going to have a lot of time in Melbourne.
As luck would have it, I would have even less time than I originally thought after having our minibus break-down on us on our
way back from the Great Ocean Road. To throw one more little kink into this dilemma, it was also Boxing Day. Oh yeah. And the
Ashes Boxing Day test (which is a cricket match – or ‘test’, as they call it – between Australia and England) which seems to be
the equivalent to the Super Bowl. In other words, nobody was going to be rushing to help us on the side of the highway. Three
hours later a mechanic would come and fix our fan belt and we would eventually end up in Melbourne later that afternoon (when
the original ‘time of arrival’ was supposed to be in the late morning).
This really only gave me enough time to walk around the ‘CBD’ of Melbourne (i.e. the Central Business District). But it did also
happen to be the day after Christmas…which does not differ too much from back home in the fact that there are sales galore. I
did check some stuff out but I did a stellar job of resisting the urges to make purchases. I am a little more in-the-know about
certain styles these days (with the help of splurging on my weekly ‘WM’ which is the equivalent to US Weekly out here – this
always shows the trends going on). But I know that these trends aren’t around to stay so there was no point to buying something
that is going to be sent home and stay in a box for the next six months or so. In the meantime, it was a little dose of ‘home’ to be
in department stores during a major sale.
I was hoping to meet up with Sam and Dave (my English friends from my Trans-Mongolian trip) but it didn’t work out. By the
time I SMSed them, they had already started drinking and they were about a 30 minute drive from where my hostel was. The
next day they were going to be at the cricket match all day. Shoot. I am hoping something might work to see them in New
Yesterday was my first full day to explore Melbourne. I also opted at this point to opt out of spending more time in Sydney so
that I could spend an extra day here. It still wasn’t going to give me much time here…but at least it would help. I felt like I could
relax and enjoy my time here a bit more. Always a bonus.
Melbourne’s public transportation isn’t a bus system. Nor is it a metro system. Instead, it is a tram system. While it is virtually
the same thing as being on a bus, there was something a bit more enjoyable about it. This could just be one of my strange
tendencies. Don’t know.
I took the tram down to an area called Toorak in the southern part of Melbourne. This is a neighborhood that is adorned with
great cafes, restaurants and boutiques. A girl could really spend hours looking at all of the boutiques in this neighborhood. I didn’
t have that kind of time so I venturing only into a few.
I was planning on going down to St. Kilda Beach after. My tram took me past the river and I noticed what a cute area it was. I
decided to hop off the tram so that I could get a latte in this area.
The Southbank area was great. What a beautiful view of the Melbourne skyline and the small bridges. It was a very understated
area for having so much to offer. It wasn’t completely lined with expensive restaurants like the Circular Quay in Sydney; instead
there was a food court and you could happily sit outside and have a magnificent view whether you purchased a $3 latte, a $5
sandwich or, if it tickled your fancy, a $30 main course at a nice restaurant. It was your call. In any case, there was no ‘price to
pay’ just for the opportunity of having this scenery.
While I was sipping my latte and reading my book (what better than Bill Bryson’s ‘Down Under’ while out here?), somebody
came up to me. It was Ronen – the Israeli from my Great Ocean Road trip. I was actually a bit surprised that I was happy to see
him. After all, we definitely had our ups and downs on the trip. (Kind of a long story but to sum it up: we hit it off the first day
but then I felt he was smothering and annoying – something I had no problem at all telling him – after that. To distance myself
from it, I completely retreated and ignored him. Not the best way of going about it but why really ‘deal’ with it when you know
the trip is only 3 days?) Anyway, as I said, it was nice to see him. He grabbed a coffee and joined me.
We decided we would go down to St. Kilda Beach together. I must say – I had a really good time. We both did. There was no
longer the pressure of fighting off his flirting. We were able to hang out and really just talk like good friends do. He’s such an easy
going guy that conversation with him was great. We agreed with many things and disagreed about many things. In any case, we
were both willing to listen to both sides so even disagreeing with each other was rather pleasant.
Today was my last day in Melbourne before boarding my overnight bus. In fact, I am at the bus station right now typing this as
I await spending the next twelve hours on a bus. I can’t begin to explain how excited I am about this (note the strong sarcasm)…
I started the morning off by heading to the Queen Victoria market. It was closed yesterday and I wanted to take some time to
stroll through the stands. But I was going to be doing that later on (as I was meeting Ronen here later on for lunch)…what I
really was in search of right now was a yogurt shop. I did not come away disappointed. On my last day in the country of truly
excellent yogurts, I would opt for a combination of half passionfruit-banana and half mango.
I then got on a tram and headed out to a café in the St. Kilda Beach area where I would enjoy a latte to start my morning. I also
wanted to take a bit of time to upload pictures and upload my website. I found this place yesterday and saw that they had free
wi-fi – something that was very uncommon in Australia (which is kind of funny as it is so prevalent in places like Egypt,
Cambodia and Vietnam). I figured it was worth the trip out to this neighborhood.
I met up with Ronen and grabbed lunch at one of the stalls in the market. In a bid farewell to Australia, I got a sandwich with
roasted pumpkins. They love these things out here…as do I. Ronen showed me some of the stuff he bought for New Zealand
from the market – socks, a hat, a scarf, a jacket, etc. I was now wondering if I should get out of my denial mode of how cold it
just might be in New Zealand. After weighing my options, I decided to purchase a few things. I got a black windbreaker of much
higher quality than the one I am currently toting around, some full-length socks (as all of mine go up no further than my ankles)
and a horribly ugly pair of pants. I only had one pair of full-length pants in my possession up to this point. And they were far
from waterproof. I knew I had to buy another pair that was more South Island-of-New Zealand-friendly. I just had to tell myself
that while this new pair of pants lacked much in the way of appearance, they made up a bit in the practicality department. But,
man…they are ugly.
Ronen and I hung out for a few more hours in the Fitzroy area. The main street is lined with many cafes, restaurants and
boutiques. This was, however, unlike St. Kilda Beach as there was a slight seediness to it. Not a bad seediness…just a seediness.
The afternoon was capped off with some wine. Actually, I should say that ‘Melbourne’ was capped off with some wine as this was
my last stop before having to head back to the hostel to pick up my stuff. Ronen and I said our good-byes and I was now on my
way to pick up my stuff.
I had a pretty good amount of stuff to carry…thanks in large part to purchasing a few bottles of wine while out in the wine
country. This really didn’t pose much of a challenge as I will do whatever it takes to transport a few great bottles of wine.
I was waiting a little while for the tram. I finally saw one approaching. It came. It stopped. It opened its doors. I was the sole
purpose for this tram stopping so all eyes were on me. I picked up my stuff to board the tram and there was one word that
everybody could hear with no problem…
The voice of this statement can only be described as…well…mine.
When I picked up my tote box of wines, the cardboard gave way and left me holding just a few inches of the handle. The rest of
the box fell to the ground. Along with the noise of glass crushing, there were now remnants the glass bottle everywhere. More
sadly, there were remnants of the red wine all over the sidewalk and my ankles. Keep in mind…the tram doors were opened and
all eyes were on me. All of this was happening so quickly and so slowly at the same time.
The tram driver let out a beep that said ‘either get on now or I’m leaving’. I opened the box to see if there was a survivor. There
was. The only casualty was the Woodstock Cabernet-Shiraz blend. I had hoped to drink this in ten years when the winery said it
was going to be even more incredible than it was right now. My hopes for this came to a crashing halt (quite literally) at this
tram station. I grabbed the survivors and was torn as to what to do with the box and the broken bottle. I heard another toot and
new I had to act quickly. I figured if I was going to litter with a tram-full of people watching, I might as well litter nicely. I placed
the box on the side of the bench and got on-board the tram. The looks I was getting were pathetic. Nobody wanted to outwardly
look at me but it was obvious that everybody was staring out of the corner of their eyes. Nobody was mad at me (for both
delaying them for a minute and also for my littering the fine streets of Melbourne) but had looks that were much more of a
sympathetic nature. Especially as I had to grab my fleece (thankfully it is a black fleece) to wipe off the wine that exploded onto
my remaining bottles.
So that was how my time in Melbourne ended. On a sad note, indeed, and not just because I didn’t feel like I had enough time
Even sadder…I have a twelve-hour overnight bus ride ahead of me. This isn’t quite the way I wanted to say ‘good-bye’ to