Saturday, June 30, 2012

Not Necessarily the Ruby City

After returning from the Great Ocean Road, the husband and I spent a day in Melbourne proper. Our principal aim was to acquire an authentic didgeridoo for younger son, but we managed to squeeze a few tourist attractions in all the same. We were staying in Oakleigh, a suburb about 14 kilometers (about nine miles) from the central downtown area. We took the train in, which provided a good view of the city as we approached.
We got off the train downtown, across from Federation Square a civic center opened in 2002. One of the guidebooks said that people either love or hate Federation Square, and our hostess had told us she wanted to know what our reaction was.
I wasn't really sure how to react to it. My initial reaction was on the negative side, but I think with time it might grow on me. What unsettled me was not so much the appearance of the building but its appearance in relation to the other, more traditional architecture around it.

Although I by no means consider myself a city person, I do like walking around an urban downtown. I particularly like shooting (in a photographic sense) businesses, windows, and skyscrapers. I don't really feel comfortable photographing people; the people shots I took in Vietnam were mostly with a longer lens, and even there I still felt awkward at times. One of the businesses we say, in the train station itself, was noteworthy for its truth in advertising.
I guess this business might also be considered truth in advertising, though the business of the same name in DeLand, Florida, peddled ice cream instead of chips and gravy.
It appears, though, that "chips" are also called "fries" in Australia, judging by the fine print on the red letter board outside this business.
People who know my predilection for pie will understand why this business caught my interest.
The coffee menu was interesting in the number of strengths one could order.
During our day downtown, we saw quite a few Pie Face establishments and even partook of some of their yummy goodness for an afternoon snack.
The pies came in various sizes--we got the smallest for our snack--and fillings. The husband had apple for his snack, while I had cherry. Bigger pies also came in meat versions to serve as entrees. I'm sure someone has done this in a U.S. city, but I've never seen it.
Finally, how can you not love this business?

We walked through Victoria Market more for general interest than actually looking for anything. It was much higher class than the markets in Vietnam.
The vendors weren't shouting at you to come see what they had for sale, nor were they actually taking your arm and trying to lead you into their stalls. The prices were higher, too, though lower than one would pay in a shop outside the market. We kept in mind, though, that the $10 didgeridoos in the market were far from authentic. We did purchase a didgeridoo for younger son, but we did so at a shop outside the market. We had a lengthy discussion with the shop owner about her merchandise, buying enough merchandise that she threw in a cloth bag for free. She also held the didgeridoo for us while we did the tourist thing and visited the Old Melbourne Gaol.

Except for a brief period during World War II, the gaol hasn't been used as such since 1924. It almost seems out of place sitting in the shadow of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Inside, though, it looks very much like the gaol it was.
We were able to see how small the individual cells were, though we did not take part in the added experience of being arrested, booked, and actually locked up for a short period of time.
It would have been interesting, but we instead had to get back to the shop to pick up the didgeridoo.

I mentioned above businesses, windows, and skyscrapers, though in regard to the third, "buildings" might be a more appropriate term than "skyscrapers." Having covered the businesses side above, here are some of the windows I liked.
And as for the buildings, sit back, scroll, and enjoy.
We never did figure out what they were building in the shot below. If you have an idea, comment away!

I did take a couple of shots of people or other things I didn't necessarily expect to see, such as a temperance statue with googly eyes. I really didn't think younger son had been to Melbourne, but this is the sort of thing he would do.
There was also a representation of mercury droplets that I at first thought might be sidewalk seating.
The husband asked me to shoot this tram sign.
As for the people...
It was a long day, but we finally got on a train back to Oakleigh.
Of course, when we got there we wondered if the train hadn't taken a wrong turn and dropped us back in Vietnam.

I'm not a fan of large cities, but I enjoyed our day in downtown Melbourne. The husband and I agreed that it felt very much like a European city. I also thought that it had a very different feel than Perth did. Perth had a more frontier feeling, sort of like a city in Montana or the wild Western U.S., while Melbourne felt much more cosmopolitan. I can't say, though, that one felt better than the other. We visited Perth and Melbourne because those were the places in which I had friends. Pondering it, I think the two gave us a very good feel for some of the differences inherent in such a large country. I think now that it would be interesting to go back and see Darwin, in the north, and maybe somewhere in Queensland. Hobart, Tasmania also has possibilities for a future trip.

I never really felt as if I drew the lengthy blog of our 2009 trip to a tidy conclusion, so let me try to do that here for this trip. Many places I've visited seem comfortable as one-shot deals. I loved the week we spent in Rome in 2002, but I'm not sure I'd jump at the chance to go back there over going somewhere new. Australia is such a huge, varied country, that I could go there over and over, and each trip would be distinct. I'm not sure I can articulate why, but I would go back to Hue as well. There is a draw to the city that I can't explain. We passed on many of the tourist visits we made three years ago and settled more into living there than visiting, and that made it a very different trip. Will be go back? I don't know, though the husband has gotten several messages in the two months since our return from Hue students asking when he might be coming back. He somewhat jokingly told the Hue University folks just to contact me if they wanted him back, and he knows what I'd say. So who knows, there may be another trip blog to come. In the meantime, though, happy trails!


Terri said...

Love the final instalment Jean and look forward to you being able to add to it in 2014.

See you in October!
hugs to Blaine and you,
Terri xxx

Va said...

OK Jean - you usually research these things so well: What is a Meat Lottery?
Your selections of what people can and do see in cities (big and small) are truly inviting. Your photography gets better every day - THANK YOU.