Thursday, October 22, 2015

Richardson Street - 37° 50' 37" S 144° 57' 04" E

After weeks of gorgeous weather, and a run of days well into the thirties, Melbourne suddenly got chilly. Chilly enough to make me dive into the bottom of the suitcase and pull out the forgotten jumper (sweater) and trackie dacks (sweat pants).

In Australia, we generally do not have a central furnace to pump warm air through the house as soon as the air gets chilly. Instead, we pop on thicker socks and another layer. The bathroom tile is cold on the feet and the toilet seat can make you gasp. This I had forgotten.

And I had also forgotten the joy of leaping into a bed with the electric blanket having been set on 3 for the hour previous. Why do I not have one on my bed in Calgary? A toasty warm bed is a magical thing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Albert Park - 37° 50' 37" S 144° 57' 04" E

The past two weeks has seen us driving the three-hour stretch of the Western Highway between Horsham and the greater Melbourne area.  We have been tag-teaming with Susan and Simon as they take us up on our offers to spend time with their kids (and our niece and nephew).  Pick-ups and drop-offs at sports and music; cooking lessons (spring rolls and pulled pork) with Auntie Kate; trips to the local grocers and bakers to get our daily supplies; bicycle riding around town; games of Monopoly; household chores like feeding and recapturing the chooks … all these tasks that might be deemed mundane are happily done by us, as we get the kids’ perspectives as we go.  We also have some time with Susan and Simon once the little ones (at eleven and thirteen) are shoo-ed off to bed.  We hear about this year’s crop, catch up on family and town gossip, and get a better feeling what has been happening with them.  We are treasuring this time with family.

Kate's Lovely New Bike ... with hearts!
Three days ago, we returned to the city.  We’ve been spending hours each day on our bikes, riding along Port Phillip Bay as far as Sandringham to the south and Williamstown to the west.  As the weather here will support it, Melbourne has a large (and growing) community of active cyclists.  This is reflected in the number of bike lanes, bike paths and general infrastructure set up specifically for cyclists.  A special commuter punt takes cyclists and pedestrian traffic across the Yarra River during the two daily peak-hour commuting times.  Dedicated paths for non-motorized transport (bikes, pedestrians, scooters, skateboarders, longboarders et al) exist to get into and out of the suburbs here.  Kate and I are taking full advantage of this by exploring the communities, which are self-contained but seamlessly joined neighborhoods.  There are kilometers and kilometers of pathways along the sandy beaches. Parks and palm trees abound.  There are bike paths along the various tributaries that flow into the bay, as well, connecting greenspace after greenspace.  It is easy to see why Melbourne always gets such high marks for livability.

The inner city has its charms. Each of the neighborhoods has a 'village square' where much of the neighborhood's commerce happens.  Cafés, bakeries, pharmacies, little restaurants and other merchants are mostly gathered here, as is a tram or train station that can take you to the city centre.  Residential and commercial buildings rarely go above three stories in these neighborhoods.  Combine that with the basement-less constriuction (most structures are built on ground-level concrete slabs) and the neighborhoods have a very low-and-flat feel.  Yards and private spaces for the buildings are often behind the streetfront, lending privacy to the spaces.  This particular neighborhood, once upon a time, was a working class area as it was close to the piers and warehouses.  It has since gentrified with the piers and loading docks moving up the Yarra.  Now, kilometres of sandy, well-kept beaches are close by.  Those lucky enough to live in the neighborhood (or have relatives with a place here) can be at the beach before or after work for a swim/run/cycle/stroll/coffee/etc.  That would be Kate and me right now.

Today we are holed up in Susan and Simon’s weekend house in the Melbourne neighborhood of Albert Park.  It is a rainy day, therefore an opportunity to document, reflect and do laundry. And 'blog.  And do puzzles.

Chillin' at Albert Park

The Vincent, our local pub

Tram stop near the beach

Bike paths going forever along Port Phillip Bay

'Little' streets, similar to Mews

Victoria St., a typical main thoroughfare

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Horsham - 36° 42' 38" S 142° 12' 24" E

A few observations about being home:

Not being required to give way to pedestrians - This results in me, as a driver, being particularly courteous and, as a pedestrian, at high risk of a good squishing.

Having switches on the power points (plug-ins) - Constantly thinking the toast is taking forever to cook and wondering what the hell is up with the hairdryer, again!

The horror of change - How could Nestle possibly think of discontinuing Violet Crumbles, Poly Waffles and Steam Rollers without consulting me??

The location of the cutting strip on the Glad Wrap - After tying Glad Wrap in knots and rendering at least half the roll useless in Canada, I find they dared move the cutter on the Aussie Glad Wrap. The outcry against this poorly engineered, physics defying location was so great, Glad returned the cutter to the sensible location along the bottom of the box. Hurray!

Four'N Twenty meat pies - As. Good. As. Ever. And still highly unlikely to contain any meat.

Swimming clockwise in the pool - Fortunately, we have been spoilt with our own lanes swimming after school drop off so have had some opportunity for practice before an imminent had-on collision. And we are loving our 14 day free trail of the Horsham Aquatic Centre.

Shoulder checking on our bikes - Yep, still feels more natural to shoulder check right than left.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG) - 37° 49' 13" S 144° 58' 57" E

Thanks to the Winnekes for generously providing the tickets, we found ourselves at the Grand Final - Hawthorn versus West Coast! As we were presented with four tickets, our nephews Tom and Angus got to come along too - providing, of course, they supported Hawthorn.  A first Grand Final for them both - and Uncle Sean too!!

I have been a Hawks supporter since, as a tot, my mother convinced me that brown and yellow was indeed a fashion statement. Far more glamorous than the option of my Dad's team, who sport black and white.  So it was very exciting to be going to watch The Mighty Hawks in their fourth straight Grand Final.

Sean supports the North Melbourne Kangaroos after a rather surprising incident for both Sean and the kangaroo during his first trip to Austrlia. He saw this as a sign and has been sporting the blue and white ever since.  Unfortunately, North was defeated the week before by West Coast during the Preliminary finals. But as North had finished eighth after the home and away season, and West Coast second, we thought we were in for a better game of footy.

Not. To. Be.!!!!

The Mighty Hawks totally outclassed West Coast. The first quarter resembled a footy game but the last bordered on a joke. The Hawks looked like they were playing the local Thorpdale team. So, the Mighty Hawks went on to win their third premiership in three years.

🎶 We're a happy team at Hawthorn
We're the mighty fighting Hawks! 🎶