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Published: February 19th 2010
Over breakfast this morning, we were gently warned, yet again, about the dangers of a chance encounter with a "saltie" (or salt-water crocodile; the Aussies love to abbreviate words: breakfast is "brekkie", chocolate "chocky", etc). Our warnings came courtesy of a lovely Aussie couple from the suburbs who had run away from their four children for the weekend to celebrate a birthday (the wife's).
Apparently the wife's brother is a marine biologist in Queensland and he has had dozens of misadventures with scaly things. Clearly one of the downsides of his job.
We also discussed travel in the outback and the dream of every Aussie - to sell it all, buy a campervan and spend years driving around their own country. The idea is that, when they finish up seeing Oz, they can swap campers with someone in New Zealand or, more often, the U.S. and have a go around that country too. We were struck by the fact that most Americans would never even consider doing the same thing. We aren't exactly sure why most Americans wouldn't jump at the chance, especially when there are so many amazing things to see in the United States. Because people work until
A resident of the rainforest exhibit.
they die or are nearly bed-ridden? The fear of leaving the security of a home and a permanent address? No interest in travel? Puzzling.
Today was cloudy and cool - excellent conditions for more sightseeing around town. Melbourne is simply bursting with parks and the beautifully landscaped Carlton Gardens are one of the nicest. The most prominent building in the Carlton Gardens is the Royal Exhibition Building. It is a stunning structure which was built in 1880 for the International Exhibition and is a delightful mixture of architecture styles including Byzantine, Romanesque, Lombardic and Italian Renaissance. The styles work well together and the overall feel is quite grand - fitting for an international gala. The building has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status and was also home to the first ever Australian parliament back in 1901.
Nearby is the excellent Melbourne Museum. We roamed around a wonderful rainforest exhibit (kind of what the sad and overpacked rainforest thing in the California Academy of Sciences is supposed to be). The museum's emotionally powerful Aboriginal exhibit was the highlight of our visit. We learned about the hundreds of different Aboriginal tribes in the country and their painful histories. The most
Tea break at the museum
moving exhibit told the story of "The Stolen Generations" - entire generations of Aboriginal children who were taken from their parents and raised in white communities in order to accelerate the dilution of the Aboriginal race and culture. Unlike China's cultural revolution, this wasn't limited to one generation but instead occured over 100 years - from around 1870 until 1970. The popular 2002 movie "Rabbit-Proof Fence" told the story of two sisters who escaped from one of these settlements to return home to their parents. We contemplated all of this over tea (in very cute little ceramic tea pots) and cookies ("biscuits") in the museum's sleek cafe.
Our dinner plans took us to yet another fantastic restaurant recommended by Paul. It is called Movida and is an uber-trendy Spanish tapas place with excellent food and wine. After dinner we headed over to the Rooftop Cinema - a "theatre" that opens up every summer and plays movies on the roof of one of the downtown buildings. Dozens of brightly colored folding beach chairs are set up - "like lollies for your eyes" according to the website. "The Breakfast Club" was showing tonight but it was a bit chilly and we
decided to skip it in favor of the 1000 or so channels on our flat screen TV at the B&B. We learned later that the theatre does rent out warm wooly blankets (and that another excellent warmer-upper - alcohol - is readily available). The fees from the blanket rentals are all donated to a local homeless shelter.
On the way back to our B&B, we were drawn, as if spiraling into a black hole, to a flash (Aussie for trendy/flashy/hip) "Chocolate Lounge" for a hot chocolate which was really nothing more than high quality dark chocolate bars melted down and mixed with a bit of full fat milk. We spent at least 15 minutes admiring the gorgeous chocolate candies behind sparkling glass. Chocolate frogs seem to be especially en vogue and came in several different flavors: milk, dark, white, bittersweet - even the suprisingly popular "chili".
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