We woke up for our first full day in Melbourne, one of Australia’s two best known cities, along with Sydney. We are picking up a tour here in a few days, and came over early to get settled.
A few bits of background before launching into our touring. First, as most of you know, Mrs Bear broke her lower leg in a biking accident in Sitka last August. She saw huge chunks of America from a wheelchair, and set a very firm rule that she did NOT want to be photographed in this condition. While I was able to sneak in an occasional shot of her leaning on a guard wall, readers were stuck with more shots of me than usually get posted. Well, I am happy to show that she has progressed to walking again. Today, she walked over three miles with the assistance of a pair of sticks. So you will see her often from my favorite vantage of walking behind her. No one works harder at rehab, and she puts me to shame if I complain of being tired. Here she is walking to the Australian Open Tennis Tournament. More on this in a couple paragraphs.
A second background topic is an update on the Australian fires. At one time, the wildfires made it to the Melbourne suburbs, and the air quality was awful. We saw videos of tennis players in the qualifying rounds quitting with respiratory problems. Well a few days before we arrived, this whole area of Southeast Australia got drenched by soaking rains. We have not noticed any smoke or haze since arriving. It’s supposed to rain again tonight into tomorrow, so we feel pretty lucky with our timing… And our tourist presence is considered a boost for the Aussies.
A few initial impressions: Australians appear to be a very friendly people. And for a country built on immigration, the trend seems to be very diverse. I have been impressed by the wide range of cultures, dining choices, and international influences. I spoke to a young Indian boy, along with his mother today in the hotel elevator. He was wearing a Houston Astros hat, and knew all about their recent cheating scandal. When I asked where they lived, they surprised me by saying “ Sydney.” By the way, this kiddo had a collection of ten hats from USA sports teams. We are headed to China Town for dinner tonight, after having lunch at a traditional British Pub: The Elephant and Wheelbarrow. Lots of choices and people to become mates !! I have seen very few American products here… An occasional Jeep, but not a single MacDonald’s.
The population here seems very young to me. Lots of 20s and 30s mingling at bars and bistros. But Mrs Bear says all cities are young. IDK… I never observed this trend until this trip. Maybe we are just getting older.
Finally, a little bit about our day. Melbourne is the host to the Australian Open, one of the four major tennis tournaments of the year. It is played in January, which is, of course, summer in the Southern Hemisphere. So it would have been silly to not go for a day. The complex had three major arena courts, capable of closing the roofs for rain or Smokey air. There were also 15 outer courts and practice facilities. We bought general admission tickets and settled in on an outer court with ample shade awnings. The video is a point from the second match. The courts were a little more than a mile from our hotel so we walked back and forth. Along the way, we passed numerous cafes with big screen video setups. That way, you can have some wine and still take in the matches. Not a bad way to start an Aussie holiday.