January 9-10: EXPLORING DOWNTOWN MELBOURNE

tram picWe spent a couple of days exploring Melbourne’s shopping options, by foot and by tram, exploring and making observations about the City. We walked several blocks downtown in search of an ATM (that we know does not charge extra fees), only to discover later that there was one right across the street at The Vic. The walk did begin to familiarize us with the downtown, though—it’s rather easy to navigate as the streets are in a grid system. An interesting note is that when the city was being laid out, two of the planners had differing notions of street width—one wanted narrow, two-lane lanes while the other wanted wider four-lane streets. The compromise was that there would be some of both. And it was decided to name the narrower streets “Little ___” e.g. Londsdale Street and Little Lonsdale. In addition, there are alleyways that are either one-way streets or pedestrian walkways; the latter are often called Arcades and are usually occupied by eating and/or specialty retail establishments.

Bourke Street Mall

Bourke Street Mall

We took a tram to the Bourke Street Mall, a downtown modern and glitzy shopping center that covers about two city blocks. In addition to a typically noisy food court on the lower level, it has a cafe court on the upper level with some really nice food offerings. We chose a seafood kiosk and enjoyed some Blue Grenadier, a white fish that we’d never heard of that was the catch of the day, and Bob Flake—another local white fish. As we sat near a window overlooking some large buildings, we spotted a sign that made us laugh: a SuperFund billboard. Though not the same entity, Bob worked on the SuperFund program for EPA for 27 years—an amusing reminder of, as he puts it on his blog (bogbybob.wordpress.com), Life after EPA.Superfund pic

After lunch, we took a short walk to the Central Mall, a shopping complex located over the Central Station transit center. We went mainly because we wanted to buy some groceries at Coles (the local food chain that is often located within shopping centers). We liked this location so much better than Bourke Street as it was not so crowded and just felt more friendly. After some shopping and browsing, we took the tram back to our stop and called it a day.

Random Observations About Melbourne:

Weather:
As previously mentioned, Melbourne’s weather is unpredictable to say the least—it is not unusual to literally experience four seasons in one day. Dressing in layers and always carrying an umbrella is the order of the day.

Sports:
Australians in general and Melbournians in particular are crazy about their sports: cricket, Australian-rule football, soccer, and tennis—in fact, there are huge sport stadiums dedicated to each of those sports throughout the city.

TV Viewing:
Not sure how general it is, but the programming seems to consist of sports, cartoons, news, and infomercials, and some old American shows. Interestingly, we saw very few traffic reports, not sure why.

Politics:
Their politics seem to be as dysfunctional as ours, with the major parties totally at odds with each other. The interesting difference is that politicians, though elected for fixed terms, can be replaced by specially called elections at any time. One such election was happening in Queensland during our trip, on just a few weeks’ notice.

Diversity:
Australia was originally populated by people from the United Kingdom; Aborigines were, of course, the First Nation people. Later immigrants arrived from Greece and Italy; in fact, they compose the largest the largest number of each group outside of their respective countries. More recently there are arrivals from Asian countries, as evidenced by the number of Chinese, Thai, and other Asian-themed restaurants. In addition, many refugees are coming from countries like Indonesia and Cambodia.

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