Melbourne Vignettes

I’m using this entry to close our visit to Melbourne, Australia.  I’ll jump to our conclusion and then follow up with individual impressions. In conclusion, Mrs Bear and I both agree that Melbourne is a very livable city.

I had mentioned previously that there wasn’t a lot of evidence for American products.  But I found the McDonalds and Burger Kings (aka Hungry Jacks).  They are primarily at the Rest Stops on the major highways. We were traveling through Little Italy today and our guide said that an occasional Chinese restaurant could be found within the 70 or so Italian eateries… A McDonalds was opened but lasted about four months.  I did see a Harley Davidson dealership, but haven’t seen a single Harley on the streets.  Finally, the most common American product is clothing… Lots of hats and shirts with the logos from NFL, NBA, and MLBB teams. But most of the people wearing them have no idea what they represent. I passed by a man with a Pittsburg Pirates hat and said “ Go Pirates.” He looked at me like I was crazy. I think people just like the lettering.

The streets in the CBD ( Central Business District) are very wide… approximately 99 feet. We were told an interesting tale. When the street width was initially proposed, the commissioners rejected the plan saying the streets were too wide. The developers revised the paperwork to 66 feet, and received approval. They then turned the papers 180 degrees so the 66 became 99, and built the wider roads. In today’s world their wide streets are very comfortable for their tram system in the middle, with vehicles and bike lanes nearer the curves.

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This sculpture of a cow in a tree actually has actual meaning. It appears that, in the more arid areas outside the city, rain is seldom but often causes flash floods. There have been actual incidents when livestock have been swept into the branches of trees.

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We visited two churches, St Paul’s Cathedral (Catholic) and St Peter’s (Anglican). As you can see from the photos above, they were majestic. But what really impressed me were full boards proclaiming regret and apology for the manner in which the Church had treated the Aboriginals and sexually abused boys and nuns.

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In Central Melbourne on the first floor of a major indoor shopping mall,  hangs Melbourne’s Bird Clock. It looks very impressive…

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But on the hour, the face begins to open up and a flock of golden birds sing Waltzing Matilda. Check out the video below. I thought the marching soldiers on the clock near It’s A Small World at Disneyland was the best… But this was better. Our guide said that the building that held the clock was for sale a decade ago. But the new owners could not remove the clock. So the Japanese investors built the current mall around the Bird Clock.

Another of the beautiful green spaces in Melbourne is the Fitzroy Gardens. There you will find the fairies tree:  the stump of a Red Gum tree that was carved into animals, dwarfs, and fairies by Ola Cohn between 1931 and 1934. It was intended as a “fairie sanctuary,” a safe place for all of God’s creatures.

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Close by is the Tudor Village… This model town was one of three constructed by Mr Edgar Wilson, a 77 year old pensioner who lived in London.They were presented to the city of Melbourne for it assistance in sending food to Britain during WWII in 1948.

Finally, the Fitzroy Gardens is home to Cooks’ Cottage. The first European explorers to visit Australia were Dutch who found the Western shores. They left unimpressed because of the lack of fresh water. In 1779, Captain James Cook discovered the more pleasant Eastern coast, and claimed it for Great Britain. Cooks’ Cottage was constructed in 1755 in the English village of Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, by James and Grace Cook, his parents. The Cottage was disassembled and brought to Melbourne in 1934.
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Finally a couple pics of Melbourne from the Skywalk’s 88th floor observatory.

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The photo below shows the Shrine of Remembrance. Once again, this was constructed to give grieving family a site to visit to commemorate the Aussie casualties of WWI.  The second photo shows Melbourne’s sports complex. The large stadiums are for cricket and Aussie football. The two stadiums with the open roofs in front are the centerpiece of the Australian Open Tennis Tournament, which was going on during our visit. We came twice, and Mrs Bear now wants to go to Wimbledon with our older daughter. Melbourne is the Australia sports Mecca. There is a world-class bicycle tour happening, and in March, the Grand Prix racing circuit opens its season on a track constructed from roads around a green space lake. There are major horse races and sailing regattas. Always lots to do. During the tennis, outdoor parks put up big screens and the locals sit, eat, and drink, while watching the matches. The fun goes up a notch or two if an Aussie is playing.

So there you have it.  Melbourne is a vibrant city with art, sports, tourist, and music attractions for both visitors and locals. There are over 125 cultures here, so there is every type of food to sample. The Aussie are outgoing, inviting people who welcomed us here…Especially this year with the fires decreasing tourism. They love to talk with us and find out where we came from. We were told Aussies don’t like to work too hard, and like lots of holidays. Don’t invite an Aussie to visit you at your house unless you really mean it…They will visit and will likely stay for a week or so. But no worries, mate!!
More as we move to the Outback.

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