Saturday, 8 August 2009

Melbourne Continued Tuesday 28th - Wednesday 30th July

Yvette's favourite uncle died the last Wednesday before we left Cobargo and she decided to fly back to Sydney for the funeral. Luckily flights are quite cheap at the moment and managed to get a good deal on a return flight with Virgin Blue. She'd booked to fly out Tuesday morning and back Wednesday night. What we hadn't counted on was that David was going to a concert on Wednesday night and I would have to drive out to Melbourne airport by myself and pick Yvette up. I had the TomTom which made me feel a little better and David suggested he drive out to drop Yvette off on Tuesday morning and I could get an idea of the route. So we left about 9ish and it was quite an easy drive which took about 40 minutes. Having your airport a long way from the city does have its advantages in that Melbournians are not plagued by incessant aircraft noise the way we were in the inner west. It does, however mean that a taxi fare from the airport costs a small fortune. I don't know which is better. When it was overcast and the planes would fly lower and the sound would bounce off the clouds, we'd curse the planes in Sydney, however when we needed to pick someone off, drop someone off or catch a plane ourselves, we knew it was only 15 minutes drive or a $20 cab fare.
After dropping Yvette off, David decided we should have a look at the ill-fated, poorly executed development known as Docklands. Conceived along the lines of Darling Harbour, it is one of the rare occurrences where Sydney got it right and Melbourne buggered it right up. The old docklands area has been revamped and has shops, restaurants, a little amphitheater and is on the water. Nice enough, but do Melbournians really need another area that has shops, restaurants and amphitheaters? What was needed was a reason to go there and so a giant ferris wheel was built. Not as large as the London Eye, but considerably bigger than any fairground attraction. Unfortunately the wheel broke down a few months after opening (the owners blaming the extreme heat Melbourne had in summer) and is now sits like the giant white elephant it is quite possibly only attracting people such as David and myself who come to marvel at the complete stuff up and at how many people there aren't. The Docklands is actually a nice area and I imagine when it's not winter and it's not freezing cold in the shade, it would be a pleasant place to be. If you can imagine what Brisbane's Southbank would look like would be like after one of those bombs that kill all the people and leave the buildings intact hit it would look like, you'll have some idea. On the large projection screen near the amphitheater they were showing a Mets game but David wasn't interested enough to stick around and watch it. If you look at the photo of the statue of Kylie on my Flickr site, to the right of her bronze botbot you'll see Perez about to pitch.
After a little more of a driving tour around the city with David pointing out various buildings, we headed to Dights Falls inside Studley Park. These are very shallow, man-made falls on the Yarra but what is so amazing is that you feel like you are out in the bush when in fact you are only a few kilometers from Collingwood or Fitzroy. We took a few photos and then drove up to the lookout past the wealthy houses of Kew. From there, we went back to David's house and grabbed some of his photography gear and went down to the beach huts of Brighton. The light was fading fast and I managed to grab a couple of really nice shots of the huts before David gave me a lesson on flash photography. We started with one external flash and then went to two as the light disappeared altogether. This is what we were doing f you're wondering why there are so many photos of me on Flickr. Also the reason for some of the looks is that it was freezing cold down there. I'm sure if you zoomed in, you'd see the tears in my eyes. I felt a bit of a wuss though when a girl in a two-piece bikini walked past us after her evening swim in what passes for surf in Melbourne. She didn't even wrap her towel around her for crissakes. David and I packed up and headed back to Bentleigh where I grabbed some of the worst roast chicken I think I've ever tasted from one of the takeaways on the high street. Most of it went into the wheelie bin where it continued to stink like an ill-considered fart.
Wednesday was going to be a lazy day. David had to go into the city about 4ish to meet a friend for the concert and I'd made plans to catch up with my friend Emily for lunch in Hawthorn. There was one important thing to do however, and that was to go to USA Foods - The All American Grocery Store (located in nearby Moorabbin). When Emily first moved from London to Melbourne I did a bit of an internet search for shops that stocked UK foods in Melbourne of which there are a couple. I thought, well there must be places doing the same thing for American foods. Oddly enough, there were none in Sydney but one in Melbourne. I had considered ordering some stuff from them, but when you add postage to the already expensive prices, it was hard to justify. However, as I was in town now, a quick visit was entirely justified. Why American foods you may ask - don't we have enough Americanisation here already? True enough, but even though you can get Oreo cookies in Woolies and Coles now and even Hershey bars and Reeses Pieces in some corner stores, what has failed to make it into the country is two of my favourite food creations - Hostess Twinkies and Cap'n Crunch. Now I have written at length about Twinkies on The Road To Hell, so I won't repeat myself here, but one of the things we are severely lacking in this country is a decent range of highly sugared breakfast cereals of dubious nutritious value. Sure we have things such as Fruit Loops and Cocoa Pops but we can not hope to compare with such brilliant creations as Trix, Lucky Charms (which have marshmallows in them!), the three flavours of Cap'n Crunch (including Peanut Butter Crunch) and Cookie Crunch which is a breakfast cereal made to look and taste like tiny chocolate chip cookies. Genius. Unfortunately, as these cereals were never introduced when I was a kid, there will be little hope now as Australia deems it has a child obesity epidemic. Tip for parents: if your child is fat it is your fault, not the food companies or the advertisers. Take some fucking responsibility for fuck's sake and stop letting them spend all afternoon on the computer or the Playstation. Oh, and say "no" once and a while. (Climbs down from soapbox).
David doesn't share my obsession for things American and watched with bemusement as I filled my basket with things I hadn't tasted since I was 12 and in L.A. I ended up with some Trix, some Cap'n Crunch, 4 Twinkies, a Hostess Cupcake, some instant mashed potatoes claiming to be as good as the real thing (as yet untried), some cinnamon Tic-Tacs, some apple strudel Pop Tarts and some Altoids mints (curiously strong donchaknow?). Of all of this, the only thing David would even try was a Twinkie and I'm sure that's only because of how well known they are. By this stage it was getting on and we had to get back. We also just had to go by a JB Hi-FI for a quick look.
Around 12ish, I once again put my fate in the hands of the TomTom and drove across town to Emily's place in Hawthorn for lunch and a catch-up. I'm sure it was quite disappointed as it found no dirt roads it could send me down en route. Em made a delicious lunch of garlic bread and cheeses and paté and we had some wine and chatted about stuff.
I left about 3 to get back before David left. The next few hours were spent working up the courage needed to drive through Melbourne, by myself, at night, in the intermittent rain. It started off well enough. The TomTom said it would be about 35 minutes, so I left a little early to allow for delays along the way. What I'd failed to take into consideration was the sheer amount of roadworks that seem to happen everywhere at night in Melbourne. Most of the freeway was being closed down to one lane in one direction which did nothing to help my anxiety. In a way I guess the slowing down of traffic was a good thing but it meant that I couldn't just pick a lane and stick to it. Also, for some reason the street lights weren't on for one section. By the time I reached the airport pickup zone, my nerves were a bit frazzled. This wasn't helped by parking in the wrong area and being rudely beeped by some asshat in a van. Once I had someone else in the car however, it was a bit easier and the drive back was quite a lot less stressful.

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