at one of Melbourne’s beaches
Opera diva Nellie Melba (1861-1931), née Helen Porter Mitchell, changed her name to honor the city of her birth: Melbourne. Nellie was, so says Wiki, ‘the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician.’ And possibly also the first to have a dessert named after her. Peach Melba... not Melba Toast.
Spent the whole day in Melbourne, which was named for British PM Lord Melbourne; was capital of Australia from 1901 till 1926; and calls its climate temperate oceanic, aka, Mediterranean. By the time we reach the north side of Australia, at Darwin, the climate will be downright tropical. Which, speaking from Polynesian experience, means too damn hot.
Yesterday started with a 4-hour bus tour that included a lengthy stop at the lovely Fitzroy Gardens, home of 400 possums, a furry little menace that has earned ‘protected species’ status in Australia. But not in NZ, where it’s considered a pest. This is ‘The Fairie Tree,’ carved during the 1930s. There’s most likely a possum on it somewhere.
Another thing Aussies and Kiwis battle over: Who invented the ‘flat white’ coffee? They each claim it. Had one at the garden. If you’re unclear, google it: no one agrees who invented it OR exactly what’s in it.
Also stopped at the Shrine of Remembrance dedicated to those killed in The Great War, with special attention to Gallipoli, the year-long military fiasco in Turkey for which First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill accepted responsibility. There was a wall of art made by school children. This by a child of six.
Tree-filled Melbourne was much bigger in size and population than I expected — 4.5 million vs. 5.2 million in Sydney, our next port. Many of you know that Australia was ‘settled’— involuntarily — by convicts shipped here from Britain. That was Sydney, in 1788. Melbourne, on the other hand, was settled by sheep farmers in 1835. In 1851, gold was discovered 75 miles away in Ballarat* and by the 1870s, the shiny stuff had made Melbourne very wealthy. In fact, it was once one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Supposedly, there were nuggets the size of basketballs on the surface, there for the picking!
Victoria (the state) and Melbourne have just lost their last two auto plants, so no more cars from Oz. Too far for bringing in resources and shipping out finished product. But the city continues to build skyscrapers, with big funding from China and Singapore (as in New Zealand). And the 100+ cruise ships that visit every year contribute $5.4 billion to the economy. Houses outside the city start at around $850,000 for 1/6 acre. Think the guide was talking NZ dollars, which would be somewhere under $700K U.S.
*If the name Ballarat’s familiar, that’s where ‘Dr. Blake’ lived. The TV series was filmed mostly in Ballarat, but his house is in Melbourne.
Lots of interesting 19th- and early 20th-century architecture...
Plenty of new architecture...
This is the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board office building. Look closely. Followed by multi-colored shipping-container-esque apartments.
And combos of old and new...
Snack stand in the big open air market. Love the decor.
Spent a fun afternoon aboard an antique velvet-seated and bauble-lampshaded tram car that puttered along its tracks around the city for three hours while we enjoyed a very good (beef tenderloin) lunch.
Lox atop avocado crème atop red pepper sauce with grilled Bibb lettuce and baby basil leaf garnish.
The waiter explained that dessert was a cheese plate of brie and a cheese I had never heard of: chuh-dahr. Being a cheesaholic, I’ll try anything and took a taste. I suggested to him that he’d get fewer quizzical looks if he pronounced it “ched-der.”
All created in the kitchen aboard this vehicle!
At sea today before the bigger metropolis of Sydney tomorrow — which will culminate in a night at the opera! #