Ballarat and Melbourne

The sky was clear enough overnight to see the southern stars and the Milky Way again. At least until the Moon rose over the sea.

The Moon is made of cheese

There are much better, clearer, higher definition photos of the Monn available, but this isn’t too bad with a phone camera.

And in the morning, Venus greeted us before the Sun came up. People were already swimming in the sea at dawn, and I envied them as I crawled back into bed. Or vice versa.

Venus and sunrise begins
Hello Sunny Jim
Hello early swimmers

The wind had died down so we were able to break our fast on the balcony.

Selfie of the day, in the bathroom

And after packing, we drove to the car park where we’d spent some time yesterday and enjoyed a long, long walk along the beach.

The temperature was perfect, the wind was mildly refreshing, the sand was soft, a cushioned insole under bare feet.

Jyoti and Liesel on the beach at Port Fairy

There were plenty of gulls, but we were surprised at the lack of oystercatchers. Maybe this beach has the wrong kind of shellfish. Jyoti watched a snail extract a clam from its shell, before a wave took them both away. There was one solitary, but dead, starfish too.

A pretty shell on a dainty hand

Then we stopped by a coffee and pie shop in Port Fairy for a coffee and a pie before our long, long drive to Ballarat. This would be our longest driving day in Victoria. And it was long. We saw signs warning us of the presence of koalas and kangaroos but we didn’t see any. We watched the temperature creep up from 25° to 34° as we progressed eastwards. The land was flat, the roads were straight, some tree-lined, we passed lots of fields with brown grass, hay bales, bulls, cows, horses, sheep. When we saw a small hillock in the distance, we called it a mountain. This wasn’t the most enjoyable drive for sightseeing. Liesel commented on the dearth of Highway Patrol Cops here in Australia. Well, within a minute, we saw one on the other side of the road having a word with somebody.

We stopped in Smythesdale, definitely equine country: we saw at least three shops selling horse feed. I had a big bottle of cold coffee, J&L enjoyed an ice cream. The town remembers its early settlers too, German and Chinese.

Nieder-Weisel community
Chinese immigrants

Of course, the drive was made more bearable by the music. The highlight was Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by Burl Ives. Thankfully, Santa Claus is Coming to Town failed to appear: we had two versions of Santa Cruz by Erin McKeown instead.

Our b&b in Ballarat is on the second floor: we had to climb 36 stairs to get there. The view isn’t as good as the one in Port Fairy of course, but it’s a nice big place. It’s still warm and we are very grateful for the fans.

We went for a quick walk after supper, down to Lake Wendouree to enjoy the cooler end of the day and to see the sunset. Ballarat is known as a mining town and sure enough, as we were crossing one road, we saw a car driver having a go: finger right up the schnozz to the third knuckle.

The first surprise by the side of the lake was an oak tree. When Liesel sat down on the bench underneath, I warned her about the acorns falling, but she said she was more concerned about birds, before moving to another bench.

This lake was the venue for the rowing events in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

The 2km rowing race start

You can swim along this course in March, but we’ll be somewhere else. Otherwise… we might come and cheer on the participants.

We watched the Sun set behind trees and we watched a photographer with a proper camera taking pictures of the sunset too. In the end, she wasn’t happy with her results so she’s planning to return tomorrow, probably further round the lake.

Good night Sunny Jim
Sun eclipsed by a photographer

Ballarat was another one-night stand so there wasn’t a lot of time to see its history. But we did visit Lydiard St, famous for the Victorian architecture (Victorian as in from the era of Queen Victoria, not just because we’re in the state of Victoria; obviously everything here is Victorian in that sense, it goes without saying, so I won’t say it). This cinema complex exemplifies how forward-looking people from the era of Queen Victoria were, even to the point of coining the word ‘Multiplex’.

The Regent Multiplex
Building at its best

By chance, we found the Eureka Stockade, another place where honest working men had to fight for their rights. We didn’t visit the museum, but the Eureka Circle sculpture outside was very well designed and executed and a plaque told the story.

Eureka Circle
Eureka slaughter
Eureka oath

As well as this historic event being marked, we were quite lucky regarding wildlife too.

Spur-winged plover
Ibises
Wooden horse and a man cleaning up afterwards
Seahorse squirting water from its nose

Liesel was driving us to Melbourne today, not convinced we were going the quickest way. I checked and the option to avoid motorways was still turned on from a few days ago. Oops. Dropping the car off was easy and we caught the Skybus into the city centre.

Melbourne, seen through a dirty Skybus window

We bought Myki cards to make use of public transport easier and then caught a train to our new place. Above the railway station sits an alien blowing cold air into the concourse. It was 34° outside.

You – will – be – air – con – ditioned

Ballarat: 36 stairs. Melbourne: we’re on the 27th floor, our highest Airbnb ever! Thank goodness there’s a lift. A Schindler’s lift and yes, of course I made the usual gag. The building, we think, is Chinese owned. Certainly our host is Chinese and so are many of the other guests that we’ve seen. We later learned that the Chinese community is the largest in Melbourne right now. We knew that Melbourne was the largest Greek city apart from Athens, but the Chinese thing was a surprise.

The view from an apartment this high is brilliant. We can see the park in one direction, the sea in another and some hills over there.

A view of the Parliament Building from the 27th floor
Mr Poetry

This chap made me laugh on our walk to Vegie Bar for our evening meal. I’d googled Veggie Bar by mistake and the nearest one of those is in Tel Aviv. Of course, here, they spell it with only one G. But the food was good, just too much of it and none of us finished our meals.

We walked back through the park, past the Exhibition Hall and Melbourne Museum.

Galahs in the park

From our luxury suite, we couldn’t determine which way the Sun was setting. So, when it comes up again tomorrow morning, it could shine its light on any one of us. But almost certainly, we won’t even hear the loud birds from this height.

What we did hear quite late was a knock at the door. Earlier in the day, we noticed the rubbish bin hadn’t been emptied by the previous occupants. Liesel sent a message to Jess, our host, but in the end, we used the shute just along the corridor. Now, here was Jess, with an apology and a bottle of wine.

Jyoti witnessed the sunrise, Liesel and I slept through it. We had to pull the blinds down overnight. Many of the high-rise buildings have lights at the top, and one in particular stood out: shining its bright white light right onto my pillow. That said, a city at night has a beauty of its own, not better nor worse than what nature provides, but very different and inspiring in its own way.

Melbourne at night

We all went out for coffee with Chris, a friend of a friend of JyJyoti. He’s lived in Victoria for many years and was kind enough to act as a tour guide for a couple of hours. I hadn’t been to Melbourne since 2002 and as you’d expect, some of the sights were familar but a lot has changed here.

The Leviathan and Harry Potter

We couldn’t understand why the Harry Potter play was being advertised everywhere, when tickets are sold out already.

The tram system is fantastic: rides are free within a certain area. And there’s a nice mix of old ones, albeit covered in adverts, and new ones with those concertina-like joins between the cars. Like the bendy buses, they should but don’t play a tune when they turn a corner.

One of Melbourne’s famous trams

Last time I was here, I met Barry Humphries at a book signing. What a top bloke. He signed his own name and Dame Edna Everage’s. So what a joy it was to see that a (very) small part of Melbourne has now been named in her honour.

Dame Edna has a Place in all our hearts, darling

Chris took us through an old arcade that was very reminiscent of London’s Leadenhall Market, with its ornate ceiling and decorative floor.

Block Arcade
Lots of Mick’s feet spoiling the floor
Mick, Jyoti, Liesel, Chris

We walked by Flinders Street Station, Federation Square and over the River Yarra.

St Paul’s Cathedral

We’d enjoyed some relief from the soaring temperature in the arcade and we were delighted to visit the NGV. Even watching the water fall down the glass walls had a cooling effect, never mind the air conditioning inside the National Gallery of Victoria.

We had a laugh at the many pictures of Weimaranas dressed up or posing in ridiculous positions. ‘Being Human’ is a collection of mainly Polaroids by William Wegman taken over a period of several years. Actually, some of the photos made us (well, me) wince a bit. I’m sure no dogs were embarrassed in the production of this exhibition.

Eustace Tilley
Dogs being human

Chris had to leave us at this point for work, but we were quite happy to spend more time in the Gallery. Not just to avoid the heat, a scorchio 35°C, 95°F.

What’s got four legs and flies? Regular visitors will know the answer. I’m pretty sure this one was never alive, though.

This horse is a lampshade

After lunch, we bought timed tickets to see MC Hammer, no, not him, it was M C Escher, 160 of his works in a display designed by the Japanese company nendo. “Escher X nendo: Between Two Worlds” is utterly magnificent and fascinating. This is the sort of mathematics that should be shown to young children when they first start school, not times tables.

Parrot, or maybe cockatoo?

Halfway round, I realised that many of my doodles (when on the phone, for instance) are inferior versions of some of Escher’s drawings.

Some of Mick’s doodles (nearly)

He has always been one of my favourite artists, because of the mathematics behind the art and the incredibly clever way he makes tesselations work. We’re glad we didn’t come across any snakes in the Aussie bush, but these ones are very cute, the picture very complex and very clever.

Snakes, by M C Escher

The design of the show often used the simple motif of a house. There was even a large 3D reproduction of houses that you could walk through to see even more works.

Walking through a work of art, magical
Houses

M C Escher made woodcuts and the amount of chiselling, gouging, scraping, cutting to achieve that amount of detail is phenomenal. Especially when he tries to get to infinity and beyond.

Circle limit IV (Heaven and Hell)
Very fine detail at the edge

And when you zoom in to the edge, you can see a shadow effect too. On a woodcut. Amazing. Yes, I took far too many photos and yes, I would have loved to buy the 2-inch thick book that accompanies the exhibition but… we’re not buying more stuff!

“If only you knew how entrancing, how stirringly beautiful the images in my head are, the ones I am unable to express.” M C Escher.

The trams were all packed so we walked back to our place, making use of cooler arcades and shade where possible.

Jyoti went out for a meal with Chris while Liesel and I went out for a different meal, to Trunk, located at an old synagogue. We had to go as its name literally has my name in it.

A short-lived synagogue
Margarita and Margherita together at last

While we were inside, it rained! Only for five minutes, but a little precipitation cooled the city down by half a degree.

We’ve stayed in some nice, interesting places over the last few months, but this one is probably the most urban, modern and industrial-looking. And as far as we know, the only student accommodation we’ve inhabited!

Author: mickandlieselsantics

We are a married couple, married to each other, one American, one Brit, one male, one female, neither of us as fit as we would like to be, over 109 years old altogether.

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