Saturday, November 20, 2010

meandering melbourne

My brief visit to Melbourne is over and I have to say that I really liked the place. I was fortunate to have had mostly great weather which always casts a good light on any city.

But I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of green space I found in my wandering, and also at the general friendliness of the people. It made me realise we Sydneysiders are not a particularly friendly mob to each other or to strangers.

As per usual, my flights did not go smoothly - silly me naively thinking they would.

Boarding my Jetstar flight at Sydney went without a hitch, but then we had to sit an inordinate amount of time waiting to taxi out onto the runway.

An announcement informed us that our cabin crew was arriving on another flight which had been delayed. "But they are now on board and we are ready to depart." reported the Captain.

Then I noticed a passenger get up from her seat with her bag and head to the front of the plane.

Again, we sat sitting...waiting.

Eventually - "Sorry for the delay, but a passenger decided to leave the aircraft and we have had to wait for the airbridge to connect back to the plane. We will be underway shortly." ('Why did she leave? What does she know?? Did she have a premoniton about the flight???')

Another minute passed with quite a long line of its companions.

A further announcement:

"We apologise for the delay but the airbridge has become stuck and we are now waiting for the engineers to come and remove it from the aircraft."

But finally, about an hour late, we took off and arrived safely at Tullermarine on the outskirts of Melbourne city.

I found a basic hostel in St. Kilda which suited my price and purpose, dumped my bags and went for a wander to get my bearings.

the oslo hotel (web

the Oslo as it was in 1872

I didn't know anything about St.Kilda - but a website I've just come across has this to say:

"St Kilda is a remarkable place. It is situated on one of the most picturesque points of the Bay a short distance from the city, has safe sandy beaches, and yet for decades was shunned by Melbournites because it was the haunt of prostitutes and druggies."

So it's a lot like the place I live in here in Sydney!

Interestingly, there was never a 'St.Kilda' The name derived from a ship 'The Lady of St.Kilda' that was moored along the foreshore of the village of Fareham, by which the suburb was formerly known. The ship in turn was named after an archipelago in the Scottish Hebrides, from the Viking word "skildar" which means shield, and of which it is said the islands resembled.

However I found it a charming place, with many grand old houses, tree lined streets and some wonderful cake shops and cafes on Acland Street. St.Kilda also has its own Luna Park, and a delighful Botanic Gardens.

In the early afternoon I met up with me ol' china Scottwoz, over from Cambodia, for a long natter and catch-up. Later we had dinner and listened to some live bands at the Espy down near the St.Kilda beach on the Esplanade.

espy rock chick

The following day I walked into town, meandered around the National Gallery of Victoria, dropped into some independent galleries along Flinders Lane, and generally basked in the beautiful sunny day and friendliness of the locals. By the time I had walked home at the end of the day, then walked around St.Kilda in the evening a bit more looking for groceries, I've worked out I had covered about 18kms. That night my legs told me it seemed a lot more!

My third day I was able to catch up with my old friend Fols whom I don't see enough of. We go way back to the late '70's where we were at Art School together. She moved to Melbourne many years ago and this was the first time I'd managed to visit her on her own turf.

We had an enjoyable and relaxed day (despite it turning wet and cold overnight) checking out some contemporary art at The Ian Potter Gallery; a great Bill Viola Video work called 'The Raft' at the Australian Centre of the Moving Image, and coffee at the landmark Pellegrini's Cafe at 66 Bourke St (which was redolent in atmosphere of Bar Italia in Soho, London - another coffee institution serving espresso when most other English cafes were still serving instant coffee.)

the raft - bill viola


In the evening, back in my hostel, I sat around with some randoms at the hostel - a favourite pastime of mine, and one of the reasons I still enjoy hostelling instead of the frigid formality of hotel environments. Many of the young'uns I met were here for a years working holiday, most appearing to have made Melbourne their arrival destination, with plans to then head East and then North up to Cairns.

I left to come home the following day, flying for the first time with Tiger Airways. They have a shed out the back of Melbourne airport and a Flight Schedule board that simply lies to everyone.

Waiting for my flight well past the departure time, the board continually informed me my flight was now boarding when it was quite obvious, due to the explosion of bodies lolling around the very much closed Gate, that the plane was not about to go anywhere. It was quite possible it had not even arrived.

After flashing "Final Boarding" for a while it then announced "Now Closed."
Several nervous people (myself included) approached an airport official who blithely told us not to pay any attention to the board ( it was obviously an attention seeker) but instead listen to the announcements.

Now let me say here that I feel that although I might not have perfect hearing, it is still adequate enough to serve me in most real life situations. Thus - the following is as accurate a representation of a Tiger Airways announcement:

"Would argle bargle bappenraps Tiger dabro woadle Sydblee barble darger boola and woaler woodle tuba to the bordle or da farso lah ti doh."

But eventually the gate opened, we boarded and took off. And only 50 minutes late.

Quite good really.

melbourne collage

airportcontainer cafe

oslo next door neighbour

curious headless woman

digital supermarket labels

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

virgin flight

I'm off to Melbourne in a couple of weeks. I haven't been down there since the 1980's. Not that I have anything against that fair city but there has not really been a good enough reason to go.

But I've recently rediscovered an old friend who lives there, and a new friend is flying in from Cambodia - so it seemed like a perfectly good reason to make the trip. (And who can resist a $49 airfare anyway??)

Consequently, it has reminded me of the very first trip where I flew in an aeroplane!

It was April 1977 and I had finished my first half semester at art school. My flatmate at that time was doing the same visual arts course; we had gone to the same high school together and both worked part-time at the Old Spaghetti Factory in the rocks. (More tales about that notorious establishment later...)

We booked a one way flight to Melbourne, which if I remember correctly, was $45. Considered a good (student) deal even then.

As a dirt poor art student this was the first of a lifetime of budget trips.

Our first destination was to meet up with a school mate who had joined the RAAF and was stationed in Melbourne. My memory tells me he was based near Laverton airport, which I think in the '70's was military only. (But I'm willing to be corrected as my memory is shot at the best of times). I only say this because I recall it was a bit of a train trip from the city centre to get there. the railway station was called, appropriately, "Aircraft".

We managed to catch up with him briefly but his work restrictions meant we couldn't stay. As it was getting late by that time we ended up sleeping under a motorway bridge. (First night!)

accomodation underpass [image:googlemaps]

The next day we wandered into central Melbourne and stowed out luggage in Flinders St. station lockers.

flinder st station [image:web]

This freed us up to roam the city, take in the National Gallery of Victoria and various other sites of interest. Early in the evening we were waylaid by a happy troup of young folk who invited us to dine with them free of charge. We gladly accepted this unbounded hospitality to later find out they were acolytes of the 'Children of God' (aka 'The Family of Love' and later just 'The Family')

do the hippy hippy shake... [image:web]

Beating a hasty heathen retreat (after a good feed of course) we returned to Flinders St station for our bags to find it completely locked up for the night.

So, sans sleeping bags, we headed down to the Sydney Myer Music Bowl (an outdoor music/entertainment venue in the Kings Domain) and curled up on the under cover but outdoors seats to spend the night. It was April and in Melbourne it gets quite cold by that time of year. I remembered reading that homeless people keep themselves warm using newspaper. Only having half the facts, and failing to realise that the bums stuff the newspapers INSIDE their clothes, I spent most of the night chasing after my newspaper 'blankets' whenever the wind whipped them up and off into the darkness. (Second night.)

sydney myer music bowl [image:web]

The following day we continued out explorations of the city, buying bread and cheese in the supermarket for lunch, and then went off to spend the night at the Salvation Army's People's Palace, a refuge for those in need! My travel mate's father was a high ranking Sally official so we had connections! (Third night)

Having had our fill of the city we then headed north to Montsalvat, an artist's colony in Eltham. Begun in 1935, the collections of buildings were erected often with recycled building materials from city developments. Consequently it has become a melange of oddly incongruous architectural styles, vaguely Medieval and/or parochially rustic. Still - very charming and still worth a visit.

montsalvat great hall [image:web]

We spent the entire day there and then as evening fell we once again found ourselves without accommodation. So armed with our trusted sleeping bags, we heading into the fields and woods around Montsalvat and found a quiet spot under a large Eucalypt to spend the night. This was particularly memorable for me as it was the first time I had encountered the truly unholy howling moan of the common brushtail possum. Sort of cat-in-a-blender screech with some hissing and moaning thrown in for good measure.

spawn of satan [image:web]

Lying exposed to the elements in the utter darkness of night it was a fearful sound. I was fortunate that my travel companion knew what it was. So I gave it a bloody loud "SHOO!" As a result, for a good hour afterwards the damned fiend dropped bits of broken twig down upon us. (Fourth night.)

The following day we headed to the railway station to catch the train to Wagga Wagga where we had intended freeloading off an old friend there. Leaving my putrid backpack full of unwashed clothes and half eaten packets of biscuits on the station platform for 5 minutes whilst I bought our tickets, I returned to find some miserable sod had stolen it.

Thoroughly disheartened we exchanged our tickets for some going back to Sydney and spent the next night sleeping sitting up on the train. (Fifth night.)

Once safely back home, I thought I'd had a bloody brilliant holiday!