Happy Melbourne Day!

We’re having a great time in Melbourne, but haven’t blogged because free wi-fi isn’t widely available. Today is Melbourne Day, the 175th anniversary of the city’s founding. We saw a couple of hot-air balloons from our 28th floor balcony this morning.

The flight to Australia was about as painless as one could hope for. We’d upgraded to business class using miles and got these great lie-flat seats. I slept about 7 hours and spent the rest of the time eating and working on my current YA SF novel (it’s not going well, alas). On the first day we managed to keep going until dark and then crashed at 8 or 9, waking up around 6 the next morning, so we’re working on approximately Australia time, which is not to say we aren’t suffering from jet lag. It’s hard to tell the difference between jet lag and fatigue from touristing too hard.

Melbourne in August reminds me a lot of Vancouver in November (though not quite so cold) — multinational, multilingual, multicultural, and subtly not-American. It’s a very civilized place, very walkable and well-supplied with trams, and the tourist info office in Federation Square is top-notch. Many fine cafes and shops and much cool architecture can be found in the chaotic network of “laneways” that fill the spaces between major streets. We also haven’t had a bad meal or a bad cup of coffee yet. Given Australia’s location it’s not surprising that there are a lot of Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian restaurants, also Bangladeshi and Nepalese. Many aspects of the language here strike me as a weird mix of American and British; for example, tickets are one-way and return (American: one-way and round-trip, British: single and return) and the Parliament consists of two houses called the House and the Senate. Australia also has its very own words for many things, such as coffee (a “flat white” is a latte with no foam, a “short black” a shot of espresso, and a “long black” an Americano).

So far we’ve been touristing around Melbourne’s central business district, including the Tim Burton exhibit at the Australia Center for the Moving Image (ACMI). Spending that much time in Tim Burton’s head was kind of disturbing. Also very cool at ACMI was their exhibit on the history of film and video in Australia, including some snippets of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. That kangaroo could do some amazing things, including getting letters out of the mailbox and reading them — Lassie was a piker by comparison. Also on display: a replica of the Last of the V-8 Interceptors. Yesterday afternoon we took the tram to St. Kilda, a slightly shabby beachfront tourist town featuring keen little amusement park Luna Park. I can’t imagine how crowded it would be on a summer Saturday.

Random notes and pics:

  • My god, the moon really is upside-down here!
  • Both Sydney and Melbourne from the air are a sea of tight-packed single-family houses, with remarkable uniformity of roof (all hipped, all red-tiled).
  • All my instincts about “what is that bird” are wrong. Both crows and seagulls look almost the same as back home but sound very different. Pigeons, though, are still pigeons.
  • Fluffy gray-green eucalypts look like lichen trees on a model railroad layout.
  • Vegemite spread thin on a toasted English muffin is actually quite nice. Tim Tams cookies also very nice; have not yet tried the apparently traditional “nibble off two opposite corners and suck hot coffee or tea through the Tim Tam” thing.

Gog and Magog in the laneways

This is not the entrance to the Tim Burton exhibit

This is the entrance to Luna Park

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