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


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