Melbourne-Day 1

Our first day in Melbourne was action-packed. Every corner presented something new and exciting. Our host, Jen, had introduced herself to us at breakfast and she gave us a list of recommendations for enjoying Melbourne. Matthew and I had already found a few things we wanted to do, so we combined our list with Jen's list and made one huge itinerary.


Jen had recommended that we walk through the two big arcades. I learned that an arcade was basically a fancy section of shopping within a strip mall. She suggested that after the arcades we go to the Yarra River and then see the festival on South Bank. Seeing how we were the foreigners, we decided to take her instructions since they included bus routes as well.


So up the hill we walked, taking a right at the intersection and arriving at a bus stop for the 209. We felt pretty confident in our bussing abilities. When the bus pulled up we hopped on and swiped our cards over the card reader. It took me a couple times to figure it out but I eventually got it right. We sat near the front of the bus in the same spots we had sat in the night before. I was a bit surprised when the bus took off going the opposite direction of downtown but I figured it was probably just making a loop. A few minutes went by and I found myself dozing a bit. I woke up when Matthew spoke some rap lyrics into my ear. He poked me to put one of the ear buds in my ear and I did. Juicy J is what was playing. I liked the beat but I found the lyrics repetitive and a bit offensive. After thirty minutes had passed we looked around to see that the entire bus was unloading. Matthew ran to the driver and asked him something. When he returned he gave me the nod to get off the bus. I learned we had taken the wrong bus and had ended up somewhere opposite of downtown.


We got off the bus and walked across the street to another stop; sitting and waiting once again. When the 207 arrived Matthew had double-checked his app and decided that we were definitely supposed to be on that bus. This bus would take us to the center of town where we could walk conveniently to where we wanted to go.   I had quickly learned that Southern Cross Station was the main station for all things downtown.  

When we got to Southern Cross, Matthew put the address to the block arcades in his phone and we walked exactly where the phone told us to. At some point we looked up to see a sign that said “Block Arcade.”  We took a right and made our way into the shopping area.

There were lots of fancy shops--all way out of my price range. As I looked I stumbled into a place called “Dr. Seuss's Gallery.” It was an art studio full of prints and drawings created by Dr. Seuss himself. Matthew was as fascinated as I was. There were original sketches sitting parallel to the books they became and there were deep political drawings that I had never seen before.


The store clerk eventually asked us what we wanted to hang on our walls at home and we pointed to our favorite pieces. Mine was a yellow birdlike animal peeking through the trees of a colorful forest. It was an abstract-like piece that was very beautiful to look at. The clerk told us that Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss' real name) was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He said many of his drawings were based on the scenery around that area.

He went on to explain that Mike Scully was also from Springfield, Massachusetts and had confessed to being very inspired by Theodore Geisel.  Mike Scully is the creator of The Simpsons. After his explanation I could very well see the connection between the two.   The Simpsons artwork and Dr. Seuss' artwork had very similar qualities to them.  They were both colorful and the characters features were a bit wackier than in real life.  In fact, I wondered what the characters were supposed to be in either of the two artist's works.  Were they people, animals or made up beings?  I thought about this while the clerk rambled on.


I really wanted to own a Dr. Seuss limited edition print, but after noticing the cheapest one at being $500, I decided I'd better pass this time.


After walking through the rest of the Block Arcade and not seeing much of anything that was affordable or worth going over the suitcase weight limit, we decided to get back on the sidewalk and keep walking. We walked just a short ways before running into a sign that said “The Royal Arcade.” I thought this sounded even better than the first one, though it turned out to be much of the same. The cool part about the Royal Arcade is that just past it, on the other side, lies a huge location of H & M, a popular multinational clothing store I had previously heard of. We went in to browse, and I came out with a $15 pair of pants that were similar to the ones I had wanted in Surfer's Paradise.


Just outside H & M was a nice open concrete courtyard. On front of all the steps sat dozens of people watching a street band that captivated even the most resistant pedestrian. Amber Isle was what they called themselves, and though I desperately wanted a CD, I knew I didn't need to spare the money and I also reasoned that I didn't even own a CD Player.   I passed on the CD and settled for a Snapchat video of the band.


By this time it was just after noon and I was starving.  Matthew agreed that we could eat “breakfast.”  We had a small disagreement over whether it was was lunch or breakfast that we were eating.  Nevertheless, we decided on a corner cafe that looked like a good coffee place. It was a hole in the wall by American standards, but it had nice furniture and a friendly Indian couple waiting to take our order.

I briefly gazed through the bakery shelf and saw something labeled a Chicken Schnitzel.   By this time in the trip we had seen Schnitzels publicised everywhere and we had made many jokes about them but we had yet to try them. I walked up to the order taker and order a Chicken Schnitzel with a bottle of water. The total was $11.

When we sat down at a table matthew asked me if I had had a Schnitzel before and I said no but it sounded good so I decided to try it.  He also commented on the fact that I had once again paid $4 for a bottle of water when I could get tap for free. I knew I had chosen the more expensive option for water but the thought of ice cold water was just too appealing at that moment. I had drank lukewarm tap water from different faucets for two weeks now, and I was missing this one small convenience: cold water.


Matthew had ordered a bacon, egg, cheese and ham toasty and was looking around the table for ketchup or tomato paste. I volunteered to get us some so I walked up front and asked the nice Indian woman for hot sauce and ketchup. She looked concerned and said she didn't have any but she thought she might have tabasco. She rummaged around in a draw under the counter and then looked at me and shook her head no. The man behind her jibbered something and her face lit up as she said, “Oh, yes! Peri-peri sauce. I have peri-peri sauce.” I had no idea what she was referring to and her accent just confused me more.

When she sat a bottle of something in front of me I looked it over.  It was a tall glass bottle with a creamy orange-red liquid in it.   I decided it looked similar enough to hot sauce and told her I'd take it. She nodded enthusiastically as I turned to walk back towards our table.

I showed Matthew the sauce and we dumped a big plop of sauce in the middle of my napkin for us to try.  I dunked my Snitchzel in the sauce and felt my taste buds come alive with pleasure as I took my first bite. This sauce was great! It was smooth and creamy with a smidge of spice. It reminded me of a thinner version of chipotle aioli.  Matthew was just as excited about this delicious sauce. We studied the bottle again and decided we needed to buy some when we got to the island. This would be fun to cook with.


After breakfast/lunch we followed our iphones toward the Immigration Museum. During this 20-minute walk I said something in passing and Matthew stopped me to ask what it was that I meant. He wanted to know what “vibes” were. He had heard me use the word several times and was finally bold enough to ask what it meant. I explained that..........


We arrived at the Immigration Museum at 2 o'clock. The girl at the front desk gave us each a ticket after we paid $16 each. She said the entire museum should take about an hour and a half to view, but that we needn't hurry since they did not close until 5pm.


The museum was fascinating. My head was stuffed full of information after the first 30 minutes. We read every inch of every display and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I had had so many questions about Australia's history, and this museum answered many of them.

In a nut shell, I learned that Australia's history was mostly tourism-based. It was out in the ocean by itself, so in order to recruit citizens, they have always had to advertise heavily for visitors.   I remembered what I used to say all the time at my old job: "tourism is the purest form of economic development."  It was true.  And here stood a whole country proving that theory.

At first the Australian government wanted a “white only” Australia, so they advertized to Europe and America mostly. Then for periods of time the government would open the gates to Asian immigrants. Each time they opened up for Asian immigration, floods of asians would come to Australia and then the government would get worried and shut the Asian border again.

Off and on this went for years, until finally in the 2000's the government decided not to discriminate against races that weren't white. I did have a chuckle, at some of the earlier advertisements that read, “Come to White-Only Australia.” I also enjoyed learning that the working-holiday type of lifestyle that I was currently living, was a long standing form of tourism for Australia. The government had advertised this for years as well.


At one point in the museum, Matthew pulled me into a room where we got to interact with a computer and act like we were conducting immigration interviews for the government of Australia. We listened to two interviews, the first was a family from Greece with a man who had broken English but big dreams for moving his wife and daughter to Australia. After checking his documents, recommendations and medical records, we voted to let them enter the country. Fortunately the video guide agreed and told us we made the right decision.

The second interview was more tricky. We interviewed an Iraqi refugee who had spent decades fighting Saddam Hussein. He seemed honest and wanted a new life in Australia so he could escape his country's unjust government, but because the dates in his history did not line-up and because he changed his religion halfway through the interview, Matthew and I declined his application. The video guide said that after they did more research on the man they decided he was okay to enter the country, despite our negative recommendation. The interview process was very interesting and it made me think a lot about America's immigration laws.


After the interview stimulator we walked into another corridor. This one contained a replica of a ship that many immigrants would have road on their journey to Australia. As I studied the interior of the sleeping quarters, I looked up to see an old man standing next to me. He looked to be in his 70's or 80's and was wearing khaki pants, tennis shoes and a button-up shirt.  I smiled when he introduced himself as David.

David was Australian.   His grandparents had came to the country from Britain in search of a better life. He asked me where I was from and where my ancestors were from. I told him my father's side was from Germany and my mother's side was from Norway and Ireland. He asked why these ancestors had chosen to come to the States and I was disappointed to say I didn't know the answer to that question.


After walking through the boat I looked at my phone and realized it was nearing 5 o'clock.   We had been in the same museum for three hours!  Matthew and I were both shocked that we had spent that much time in one museum. We hadn't even made it to the third floor yet, but it was closing time and we had other things to see before dark.  

Next on our list was the Yarra river. We weren't far from it, according to Siri.


We found the Yarra to be a nice public space for relaxing. The sidewalks were full of street performers and the grass next to the river was full of people chatting and sunbathing. We took a few pictures next to the river and watched delightfully as a helicopter circled us, doing tours of the river.

After checking Matthew's Australia book for what else to do, we kept walking until we found ourselves at the front of a big convention center. It was here that I fell on the steps in front of a huge crowd of people. I laughed at myself and Matthew did too after he realized I was okay. I reminded him of the quote I had read at Jen's place, “In 100 years, no one will even remember you, so what's the big deal?”


Just past the convention center we found another photo opportunity, the World Trade Center of Australia. I didn't fully understand why Australia had a WTC just like America, but I put it on my list to research for later.


We then decided to make our way towards South Bank. We followed my iphone GPS for a good ten minutes before deciding it was pointing us in the wrong direction. We then turned around and earmarked the path we would need to take to get to South Bank. Another fifteen minutes of walking went by before we both looked up to find a huge block of cheese in the middle of the sidewalk.  It was a plastic replica, not real cheese, of course.  I ran up to it in wonder and excitement and touched it. It was the back of a building but it looked just like a block of cheese!

I then walked a bit further to discover a dozen crazy colored cow sculptures that I made Matthew take my picture with. We walked on a ways past the cows and found a giant milk bottle that led into a whole display of dairy facts. Matthew went to walk through the exhibit but quickly found that they were already packed up for the day. Apparently this was a three-day travelling exhibit that had just finished its course for Melbourne 2016.


While Matthew was mourning the loss of the dairy exhibit he didn't get to see, I ran ahead and found an ice cream stand with whole dairy products. I studied the menu briefly and then ordered a “Holy Pow Cow Now.”

It was a scoop of chocolate ice cream covered in a white chocolate shell and waffle crumbs. The scoop was in the middle of a plastic cup that the cashier then filled with Root Beer. She told me to be sure and let the white chocolate melt a bit before I cracked open the shell and mixed it all together with the root beer.

The wait for the white chocolate to melt was longer than I could stand. I waited only a few minutes before curiosity got the best of me. I cracked the shell as best I could and dug my spoon into the little opening of chocolate ice cream. I then put the bite in my mouth while swigging a drink of root beer. The whole thing was very interesting. I'm not sure I liked it, but I'm not sure I disliked it. It was just fun because it was so different. Matthew and I sat on a bench discussing dairy cattle while I finished my ice cream.


Afterwards we walked around until Matthew found a bathroom he could use. I sat out front next to a bunch of Indians while I waited. When Matthew came out he informed me that while he was washing his hands a gay guy had complimented him on his beard and asked him about his pants. We laughed at this happening and then continued our walk down the sidewalk.

We walked until we ran into a spray paint artist. We had both seen these artists before. They spray a ton of paint onto a piece of paper and using random objects they do all this confusing stuff until the end results in a picture of a galaxy scene floating above earth. This guy was still fun to watch, even though it wasn't our first experience.  We watched for several minutes as he painted a jet black sky filled with stars and meteors.  The foreground was a huge orange planet with white dust exploding from its edges.  When he finished he held up the painting and we all clapped in amusement.

The sign in front of the artist read: “Fare is fair. If you enjoyed my entertainment, please place a donation in the hat.” I looked in my purse but all I had was Australian 5's, 10's and 20's. I looked in another pouch on my wallet and found one US Dollar. I shrugged my shoulders and threw it in the hat. When I looked up I made eye contact with the couple next to me and they pointed at my donation and laughed good naturedly.


Matthew and I walked a bit more down the sidewalk before we found a human gargoyle. This was a man painted in a stone-color. He sat on a box that matched his skin and did absolutely nothing except change poses every 10-15 seconds. There was a huge crowd around him and we could see a lot of money had been thrown in his bag.  We decided this was the best way to make money doing street entertainment. The guy literally did nothing but pose for pictures and he was making a killing.


We didn't stop at the gargoyle, but kept watching until we came to the next street performer. This guy was a bit older, maybe in his early forties. He had a microphone and a bunch of random things lying on the ground in front of him. He was explaining something to the crowd as he pulled out even more random things from a black backpack. We stopped and decided to give this one a try. He started off by squaring off his “Stage” with a piece of yellow rope. All the while this fella would make jokes that were half for kids and half for adults; an intelligent form of humor. He introduced himself as Scott Chocolate and said his finale performance included fire juggling on top of a rollerball on top of a suitcase. Scott Chocolate has been street performing for 22 years and had in that time visited 22 different countries. We watched for several minutes as he did comedy and unique acts that made us giggle.


Towards the finale he announced that he needed an audience volunteer to help him with the final act. He looked at Matthew and walked directly toward him without breaking eye-contact. He spoke slowly as he walked towards Matthew. “ standing right next to you.” We all laughed and Matthew let out a sigh of relief as Scott Chocolate held out his hand as if to help me on to the huge rope stage. He asked me my name and introduced me to the crowd. He then handed me three torches and explained to everyone that I would be throwing him the torches during his finale performance. I was excited but also a wee bit nervous to have such an important job.


He stolled a bit first by throwing turpentine on the ground around me, forming a circle around my feet. Everyone squealed and I held my breath as I hoped that the torches wouldn't catch on fire and surround my feet. Finally he laughed and assured me that it was completely harmless on the ground and that I would be fine.

He tossed me a pocket lighter and told me to light the torches. Next, he explained that I was to throw the torches in a parallel manner towards him when he counted to three. On three I threw the first of the torches to him and watched nervously as he caught it and then swivelled a little on the rollerball under his feet. The suitcase was rickety and I thought he must be pretty dumb to have learned this trick in the first place. On the next count I through him the second torch, and on the third count, I through the third torch. Last, I through the lighter to him and watched in fear as he caught the lighter and then threw it back out into the audience, to the lady who had originally thrown it to him. He then told everyone to clap for me and allowed me to go back to where I had been standing. I walked speedily to my spot next to Matthew and felt relieved to be out of my pyro responsibilities. The finale was great and Scott Chocolate won over the whole crowd. Matthew and I each left him a $5 bill and told him how much we had enjoyed the show.


Still high with excitement, we talked and laughed and walked a few hundred feet toward the next attraction. This time I veered off the path after spotting an artist with a unique sketching style. I bent down and found one piece in particular that really caught my eye. It was a blue magnifying glass looking over some raindrops that were in black and white. The background of this piece and all the others was a beautiful cream color with splotches behind it. I asked the guy about the specific piece and he explained that it was his version of acid rain and what it was doing to the environment.

He told me to look closely and see that inside the raindrops there were factories and cityscapes. I asked him how he got the background and he said it was coffee and tea that had been rained on. That was why he called his business Coffee + Tea Art. Matthew and I talked to him for a few more minutes, learning that he was from Europe and this was his first attempt at traveling the world on the commission of his paintings. He said he had spent some time in an island outside of Fiji. He said on this island people did not wear clothes because they were one with nature. He said it was there that he learned of the importance of taking care of the environment and so it was reflected in his art. We asked about a few other pieces, all of which were beautiful depictions of the earth pollution problem. One was an outline of a whale with sketches of trash inside his body. I loved his work but couldn't afford it and also had nowhere to pack it so Matthew took a card and we promised to look him up online once we got settled in a place.


We kept walking again and discussed the importance of his artwork and how it reminded me of Clint Reid's sketching style. When the conversation lulled we noticed that we were in front of what must have been the festival Jen told us about.

There were lights and carnival rides all around us. We kept walking and noticed an outdoor movie theatre on the left and saw a big concert on the right. We chose to walk right and soon found ourselves towards the front of a stage full of jumping band members. Everyone around us was swaying their hips and rocking left and right.

The band had five members. The one closest to us was dreamy in my eyes. He had long black hair in a man bun and was rocking a sleeveless shirt that showed off his tattoos. The next guy was dark complected and was singing and rapping. He seemed to be a very talented man. Next to him was another bass player rocking a fedora hat and black skinny jeans. Behind him was the drummer and another guy with big bouncy curly hair.

We found ourselves quickly sucked into the music. It was an upbeat, pleasant islander-type of music. It reminded me of a mix of Sublime, Cage the Elephant and the Dirty Heads. Pretty quickly I found myself humming along and bouncing to the rythym. Just in front of me there was a petite woman in her early thirties dancing with a girl around age 12. She was trying hard to make the 12 year old smile but you could tell the girl was putting up a hard fight. I told myself there was no way someone could listen to this music and not get happy and sure enough the 12 year old finally gave in with a big smile.


We listened to three songs and loved each of them. When the announcer came on stage and said the band was done for the evening, the crowd went nuts chanting, “One more song, one more song..” The announcer nervously laughed and explained that the next band would be amazing. The crowd got louder and Matthew joined in on the chanting. The announcer laughed nervously again and said he had to keep the line-up moving. The black guy from the band was laughing at the crowd and made a motion to the announcer that they didn't mind doing one more. The announcer firmly said there was no way he would allow another song and told the crowd to look up Jacubi on the internet for more entertainment. At this final statement, the crowd booed horrifically and when I turned around I saw that there was a max exodus heading for the street. This was one of those moments, I thought, when you have to forget the schedule and go with the flow. Sometimes vibes were more important than organization. I thought about Woodstock and how the whole thing had been taken off schedule from the beginning but it was one of the most memorable concerts of all times. What would be the harm if the so-loved band sang a few more songs? I guess the power of the mic gets the last say.


Matthew and I followed the crowd and I wrote the name of the band on my forearm so I could look them up later. We then found another crowd around a skatepark. We walked closer and saw that it was 8-12 year old boys competing in a scooter competition. I laughed at first from surprise but soon found myself in awe of these brave young men. They were doing flips and kicks and bouncing off the walls like they had more than two years experience in their sport. The little dudes were so cute! They had skater haircuts and wore skater clothes. They were cool without being obnoxious or annoying. You could tell they were into what they were doing and I silently wished I would one day have kids half as cool as these little dudes. I wondered about the coolness of their parents and how hard it was to allow their kids to fulfill such dangerous dreams at such a young age. I then thought about how most sane parents would instruct their kids to do something less dangerous. I know logic makes sense and all, but what about these cool young men who had all sorts of bragging rights at such a young age.


When the skating moved to the side opposite of where we were standing, Matthew and I walked across the street and noticed something that looked like a wakeboarding competition. We found seats on the side of a hill next to a hundred other folk and watched as a boat pulled a crazy man around in the narrow Yarra River. He jumped up a slope and did a 360 in the air, then landed smoothly on his feet as the crowd clapped and cheered for his success. Matthew explained that this sport was called Wake Surfing and that he and a friend back home had done it a few times. I watched intently for about fifteen minutes but then I got bored because in between each bit of action was a two minute wait for the boat to turn around and go to the other end. I asked Matthew if we could go eat and he said that we could. We then realized it was 8:30 and we had spent the whole day wandering around a strange city.


After figuring out which way to go to get back to the city we began our long journey back to Southern Cross Station, the one place where we could navigate around the confusing bus schedule. We walked for about twenty minutes before we felt close enough to stop and eat.

Kung-Pao Thai Food, Authentic Koreign Cuisine, McDonald's, and dozens of other restaurants surrounded us but nothing had really sounded that great. I looked down an alley as we crossed the street and saw a place advertising Mexican Food. I read it outloud and Matthew said that sounded good so we turned the corner and walked towards the sign. Unfortunately, we found out that the place was closed on Sundays. We walked on a few more meters and I pointed to a sign that looked Mexican but wasn't clear if it was or not. “Nandos” was the name of it and the atmosphere inside looked fun and inviting. Matthew walked on in and got us a spot in line while I hung back to read the menu posted outside the building.


I red a big red block of text in the center of the menu first. “All of Nando's chicken is marinated in special peri-peri sauce for 24-hours before it is served.” I smiled as I realized that peri-peri sauce was our great find at breakfast/lunch earlier that day.


I ran inside to tell Matthew about this exciting news and he nodded his head with confirmation that this was a good sign. I ordered a Chicken Pita because it came with Nando's 24-hour Peri-Peri marinated chicken and I wanted to try it. Matthew ordered a form of burger with peri-peri sauce incorporated into the mix.


Before Matthew had even finished ordering I found my way upstairs and picked us a table by the window that overlooked the street. There were several other young people gathered around the other tables and the music playing overhead was fun and inviting. When we got our food we were very pleased with the peri-peri taste and even added our own peri-peri sauce to sweeten the deal even more.


When we finished eating we were shocked to realize it was 9 o'clock and we still had to catch a bus across town. We quickly walked towards the door and started walking again towards Southern Cross Station. We walked for ten minutes before Matthew decided to stop and check his app once again for directions. My phone was dead and he was running on 10% battery. He scrolled through something and then put his phone in his pocket, pointing at which direction we needed to walk. We walked another 10 minutes before arriving at Southern Cross Station. When we got to the bus stop we read the sign to make sure we were getting on the right bus. To our dismay, the bus we needed was not servicing this stop on Sundays after 7 o'clock. Instead, we were instructed to go to a different bus stop about four blocks away. We studied the map on the bus stop sign and then walked briskly towards the next stop. We had 8 minutes to get to the next stop. After a few blocks of brisk walking we second guessed ourselves because nothing looking right, so we stopped and asked a cop which way we needed to go to get to the next bus station. He pointed us down the street and instructed us to take a left and then a right into an alleyway.


We were border-line running down the street by this point. We had only a three minutes left and we desperately needed to catch this bus because it was nearing 10 o'clock and the busses stopped running at midnight. I thought two hours was plenty of time to catch a bus but Matthew seemed worried. We ran across another street and over a walk way where we found a bus station for the 900 bus. We read the sign and Matthew decided it would be better if we were at the bus on the other side of the street. We ran across the street and up a little bit, where we found the next bus stop. This time Matthew read it and became frustrated. While he checked his app again, I looked at the sign and tried to figure out where it was that we were going. After discussing our options, we decided that it would be best for us to go up a block and catch the 902 there, so we ran super quick and made it just in time for the bus to hit the brakes in front of us.


By this time it was 10:30p.m. I was exhausted and found it hard to keep my eyes open on the bus. We road for about fifteen minutes and then got off at a stop so we could catch a different bus to take us to the sotp by the house. By the time we got to our final bus stop it was 11:15. We walked the 2-3 blocks to the house and I went straight to the shower and fell into bed before Matthew had even finished a phone call. I remember getting into bed at midnight thinking maybe we had cut it a little close with the bus running schedule.