Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Melbourne - It's heaps of fun

I continued my peregrinations down under in Melbourne, the world's most livable city. I can see why it has captured that crown. It has a lively arts and culture scene, a plethora of cuisines and cafes, classy arcades for shopping, beautiful parks and trails, great public transportation, street music, a generous sprinkling of hipsters and very friendly people. Sydney is clean and efficient, but is rather one dimensional and sterile. Melbourne has character and I'd give it a Daniel-Recommended badge.

Strolling around Melbourne, you get a taste of its artsy vibe. You walk down alleys and arcades lined by cafes and bars. The cuisines are as varied as the people you see around you. It is a melting pot of people from the world over. The alleys are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you will find next. Some are covered with street art (euphemism for graffiti), or you might run into a Mumford and Sons cover band. Sometimes you might see some building from the Victorian era. I love the Victorian architecture brick and cast iron edifices. It's a shame that a lot of it was torn down in Melbourne in the 60s. But the little that remains, blended with modern and post modern styles make for a eclectic mix of contrasting styles. Eventually I ended up at the Anglican Cathedral and was treated to delightful performance of classical music. I'm no expert in any kind of music, but it was a pleasure to sit in a magnificent cathedral and listen to a virtuosic performance on the grand organ. Personally, I'm used to perceiving beauty visually, and I realized that I have ignored beauty in sound. Thank you Asian guy for that wonderful afternoon.

When it comes to tall buildings, Melbourne ranks outside the top 100 of the world. But I'd still recommend the Eureka Skydeck. It always an exhilarating experience to view a city from a high up vantage point. The cars appear like ants and the trains like caterpillars. You imagine different people going about their lives with trains to catch and appointments to keep. As I walked out cheerfully, I was stopped by a tourist couple. I guess have spent so much time in Melbourne that I got asked for directions. Maybe I'm the world's most interesting man because when I'm on vacation, the locals ask me for directions. Stay thirsty my friends.

A few other observations in Australia. A tip is not expected at a restaurant and since tax is included in the price, it feels like eating out is 25% off! Hurray for livable minimum wage. And that I presume makes for a more egalitarian society. Very few homeless people and very few Teslas on the street. But I also see the downside of excessive government spending. Does every train station need so many assistants? Does it take 15 cops to control pedestrian traffic at an intersection? Just thoughts of a visitor, who is here today and gone tomorrow, that should be taken with a pinch of salt. So what do Australians do with the extra cash? They go to milk bars! They are all over the place. It is said, "Alcohol doesn't solve any problems, but then again, neither does milk." Maybe in Australia milk does. I imagine Aussies going in for a glass of milk on Friday nights. Shots of half and half for the extra kick. Cheese if you are looking for a 'cultural' experience. And when you review the milk bar, it will have at least 4 stars. Honestly every cafe I reviewed has more than 4 stars on Google and Trip Advisor. Is everything is that good? Or that bad, depending on your perspective.

Lastly, I would like to mention Emily, who I met on the flight from Honolulu to Sydney. We started chatting and got to know that we both loved desserts. She mentioned that mince pies are delicious, but unfortunately they are made only around Christmas time. I thought I'd have to make a Christmas visit to try this delicacy, but lo and behold, Emily mailed a package of mince pies to me in Melbourne when she found some back in Sydney after I had left. How about that for a connection with a stranger (now friend) who she may never see again? Travel reminds us that people are generally good and sometimes excellent.

Sometimes during travel, we tend to spend too much time planning the future and too little time engaging the present. I was reminded of a Calvin & Hobbs quote "we are always looking ahead that we don't enjoy where we are." I guess enjoying where you are is easy when you are in a beautiful city like Melbourne. I look a around and see beauty. I realize how we are all human. The kindness, the humor, the joy etc. unites us no matter who we are and where we are. And also bad drivers. I'm happy to report that there are morons on the road here as well. Road rage is that unseen cord that connects humanity across the seas. And wine snobs. Yes, they are here as well.