Sunday, July 5, 2015

Boomers' Tails Drag Through Melbourne

As I write this last vacation post, I am headed to Minneapolis.  Last left you in Uluroo.  From there we went to Melbourne. The natives say it without pronouncing the "r" for those who want to read this in an Aussie voice. Melbourne has a cooler climate, dropping to the low 40s at night and is in the state of Victoria. That's today's geography lesson.

It's an interesting city.  Hubby and Grace preferred it over Sydney, but I liked Sydney. The difference can be summed up in one word, tourist.  Sydney is more of a tourist destination and I proudly proclaim myself to be one.  Grace and Hubby tend to avoid the more touristy locations.  The towns are different in other ways too.

Sydney has reminders of Queen Elizabeth everywhere. In Melbourne it's all about Queen Victoria, as would be expected. Sydney has the iconic landmarks: the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge and while Melbourne has some fabulous buildings, there aren't any I would have immediately recognized. You can hardly avoid a store that doesn't contain aboriginal, kangaroo or koala merchandise in Sydney.  In Melbourne there is barely any recognition of aboriginal people except at the Melbourne Museum. And in Melbourne I had to hunt down even the t-shirt/cheap souvenir shops.  You might consider this an advantage. I would have too except I had decided to wait until our last stop to pick up some things. Suddenly shopping was a challenge.

This was Grace's third time in Melbourne so she already had her favorite spots and little interest in hanging out with us on our two days together. We did however go with her to an interesting convent turned vegetarian food establishment and a hip vegan restaurant across town somewhere. I've no idea exactly where we were. I just followed.

The rest of the time hubby and I spent wandering and checking out some of the historical buildings.  We saw Captain Cook's childhood home which was transported piece by piece from England to Melbourne.  We peered into the magnificent Exhibition Center which was home to a world exhibition in the late 1800's.   Made me wonder when we had the last World's Fair. Do those happen anymore? We toured the Parliament Building which houses the Victoria State government.  It's an impressive building that at one time housed the nation's capital until it was moved to Canberra. Melbourne and Sydney both wanted the title of capital and both lost. 

Hubby was pretty much dragging his tail on this last Australian stop so I did a bit of wandering on my own.  That's when I discovered the Melbourne love of graffitied lanes.  Disturbing at times but always colorful. It was very Melbourney. 
I also walked through ornate buildings containing little boutique stores and took pictures of the ceilings and lights.  We don't have many buildings like these in Minneapolis.

We considered renting a car and driving the Coastal Road to see the Twelve Apostles. It's a beautiful drive to a well-known rock formation in the ocean.  But as a 2nd to last day activity, we decided it required more effort than we had left in us. Instead we opted for a short train ride to the beach all for the purpose of photographing the Brighton Beach Bath Houses.  Yes, I admit it was all my idea, but Hubby soldiered on and joined me for our rainy day venture.

The Victoria Market was an unexpected delight. We were amazed at the selection and pricing of meat and seafood in this open market. There were big slabs of meat, including kangaroo, and every kind of ocean creature with bug eyes staring at you. Hubby said if he lived in Melbourne, he'd get a place right next door to the market. Our cab driver later told us there were two markets even better elsewhere in town. 

Melbourne was an easy town to get around. They had streetcars that circled the central business district and you could ride for free. That's our favorite price point! The city is very concerned for our safety as the sidewalks at tram stops told us to "mind the gap" and posted signs to avoid getting hit by skateboarding rhinos (tram). It was also a very green city with big expanses of parks and gardens.   And, like everywhere we went in Australia, there were lots of public toilets with lots of signage pointing the way.  Grace said that the toilets in the middle of the streets will even talk to you if you stay in too long, asking if you are okay. And I have to say the Melbourne restaurants were abundant, well priced and interesting.  It is known for its dining scene.  I can see the appeal of making Melbourne your home and Sydney the place you visit if you are Australian.

We did not get to see an Australian Rules Football game.  It's a winter professional sport but games happen only on the weekends and we left on Friday.   I suspect it's a cross between rugby and American football.   Since that plan was squelched we took in a performance of the Lion King at a historical theater. Yes, we flew across the world to watch a musical that's been playing in the U.S. For 15-20 years.  But we'd never seen it so it was still impressive and fun and the theater was spectacular.

So now we are on our last flight having survived the ordeal of the 15 hour flight to LA. We flew out on July 3 at 5:00 p.m. and landed at 2:00 p.m. on July 3.   Pretty neat trick, huh.  Hubby got to celebrate his birthday twice!  Definitely ready to see my kitties and sleep in my own bed.   

G'day mates and Happy July 4th.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Boomers Feeling Kind of Small

It's July 2 and we are leaving tomorrow so I have a fair amount to cover. 

First a word about internet.  It's been a struggle. Hotel coverage has been spotty to non-existent.  In Cairnes our BnB host believed the radio waves of the Internet caused cancer so would only turn on service on request.   Hubby bit his tongue on that one.  In Sydney the iPad but not the laptop ran well. Had to use the hotel lobby.  In Melbourne the hotel gave you an hour a day then you had to pay. But even getting the hour was difficult at best.    So here's to the USA, greatest Internet provider on earth.    

Now a word about food. I've eaten way too much since leaving Sydney. Bread bread bread.  But forgetting calories for the moment, we've had excellent meals.  I did not try any bushmeat. Just couldn't bring myself to do it. We were warned things cost a lot, but other than coffee, we've found food prices quite reasonable. When you take into account the exchange rate and not tipping,  it's pretty close to what we'd pay at home.  Tipping is not expected here and only 10% in cases of outstanding service.  That's what we read and we asked a waitress who confirmed the practice.  I admit I still felt a bit guilty when not tipping and let Hubby handle all financial matters.  The waitstaff seem to work a bit more as a team. We sometimes weren't sure who had our table and it took us sometime to realize people just went to the cash register to pay while we sat bewildered at our table.

So on to Uluroo. First you must learn to say it properly.  Accent on the last syllable.  All together now  ooo-la-ROO. Like kangaROO.   I've said it wrong pretty much the entire trip.

We have now moved from wet tropics to desert. From Queensland to the Northern Territory.  Other than the resort area  by Uluroo, there is nothing here.   This place exists to support the tourism surrounding Uluroo and the Olgas.

It is the most focused on aboriginal life of all the places we visited. Not surprising since this is a sacred area for them and the aboriginal  community appears more intact.  Uluroo and the Olgas are on land owned by the aboriginals and leased to the park service who manage the park.

The aboriginals request no climbing or photos in certain areas (but still allowed by the park service) because of the religious significance of the rocks. We didn't climb but I did take pictures.   Lots. The agreement is that climbs will be prohibited once there is enough other tourism activity.

We walked around  Uluroo, about six miles. Since it's winter, it was no big deal. I imagine in summer it could be deadly. One side of the rock looks pretty much like the other.
The Olgas are more interesting because they are a collection of many rocks and the trails take you into gorges between rocks. They are crazy big too.  Seeing them standing out in the desert with nothing but blue sky surrounding them is awe inspiring. They just overwhelm everything.

 We did three sunsets and one sunrise. I have many pictures to say the least.

Besides seeing the rocks you could do a night sky tour, camel rides, walks with an aboriginal guide, learn to dot paint (aboriginal style) and similar stuff.   I took in the performance of a creation story by some amateur actors. It involved an eagle who marries a crow but then falls in love with a cockatoo. You had to be there.

I tried to get on the night sky tour but it was booked.    Since we are in the  Southern hemisphere the constellations are different. No North star or dippers.  Our last night was hampered by a very wide cloud cover so our plans to star gaze on our own that night were squelched. I should also mention  the daytime sky. When you are looking away from the rocks, it is enormous. There is absolutely nothing to break it up so it stretches across the horizon so far it is difficult to take it in. Difficult to capture in a photo also. But of course I tried.        

I was hoping to see a camel crossing the road like the sign said but alas I did not.