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From Auckland to Sydney Part V: Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne, Australia

PART V

Day 15- Melbourne, Australia (1/16/05)

The state of Victoria and its main city, Melbourne (pronounced Mel bun) has a unique distinction in Australia; it was founded by free settlers, not convicts. Melbourne was the capitol of Australia until 1927 when the city of Canberra was established. With a population of over 3 million people, Melbourne is home to 70 percent of Victoria’s population. Melbourne is big on culture and art, high fashion, expansive parks and friendly, sports minded Australians.

We docked at Station Pier, a 25 minute drive from downtown. The first things that I noticed looking at the city skyline were the tall skyscraper buildings in the distance and the high-rise condominiums lining the beachfront area near the pier. Mom and I left the ship at 9:00am to board a bus for our tour called “Leisurely Melbourne”, a guided tour of the city with photo stops along the way. Our driver and guide was a very friendly and absolutely hilarious young man named Cliff, who right from the start was determined that we all loosen up and have a good time. His running commentary about the sights of Melbourne was sprinkled with lots of “Aussie Slang” words that were often nonsensical and very funny when defined for the “Yanks” on board.

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The first part of the tour was a drive through the city streets which included views of the Business District and the ethnic shopping areas of Little Italy and the Greek restaurant row. We drove through “Paris End” with its exclusive fashion boutiques and famous shops like Versace, Louis Vuitton and Ferragamo, and then traveled past the State Parliament House and the Victoria Courts buildings.

Our fist stop of the day was the Fitzroy Gardens where we got a chance to stretch our legs and admire some of the most beautiful gardens I had seen yet. Mom and I walked through the Conservatory and along the pathways of the park. You could see the tall buildings of downtown through the canopy of trees. It was a warm sunny morning, with a bright blue sky that set off the scenery in a wonderful way. We took lots of photos and then headed back to the bus. Cliff was waiting for us; full of wacky comments and eager to take us on to see more of the city.

Melbourne places a high priority on two things from what I could see; parks, lakes and green spaces for the inhabitants to enjoy, and sports, sports, sports. Cliff drove us past more sports arenas than I have ever seen anywhere. We saw Rod Laver Stadium, the stadium where the Australian Open was set to begin the next day and several other sports venues where “Aussie Rules” football is played and the Special Olympic Games were being held. There were lakefront areas for picnics and bike riding, and we saw sections of the Yarra River where boat races were staged.

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Close to noon we stopped at the Royal Botanic Gardens for a bite to eat at the Café and to shop for souvenirs. The gardens were gorgeous with a large lake and beautiful plants and flowers. Mom and I had coffee and scones in the café and bought some postcards and souvenir pins. When we returned to the bus, Cliff told us that we would be making a stop at the Shrine of Remembrance next for a “sticky beak” (a quick look around) and then we would head back to the ship.

The Shrine of Remembrance is a memorial to Australia’s war dead. It is a majestic building, similar in style to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. The plaza in front of the Shrine has a large stone carving with an eternal flame and there were tall steps leading up to the entrance of the memorial. I climbed the long set of stairs into the Shrine and was immediately drawn to a marble case set into the floor of the building. There was writing carved in to the stone, and to read it I had to bend over the edge. The gold lettered writing said” Greater Love Hath No Man”. It was a moving tribute to all those who had given their lives for their country. One of the Shrine guides told me as I left the building that the case with the writing was set into the floor so that everyone who read it had to bend over and bow their heads in respect to all who had died.

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I spent much of the trip back to the ship quizzing Cliff on the meaning of some of the Aussie Slang words that we had been hearing. I learned that guys (men) are called “Blokes” and girls are “Shelia’s” and everyone is called “Mate”. “Lippy” is short for Lipstick, “Bikky” is short for Biscuit and a “Cackleberry” is an egg. According to Cliff, Australians love to cut words off at the end and add a “y” or “ie” as a kind of shorthand. I found the whole subject fascinating and vowed to find a book on it before I left Australia.

At Sailaway Mom and I stood out on the balcony as the ship pulled away from the pier. As we watched the shoreline, we saw a familiar sight, only this time, in Australia. All along the dock were hundreds of people waving good bye to us. As a group, we and the other passengers of the Sapphire Princess waved back, happy to have had such a delightful day in a delightful city. We had only scratched the surface of Melbourne, and I knew that I would have to return one day to see what I had missed. I plan to be ready when that day comes. I will have a full repertoire of Aussie slang to show that I really can speak the language. Now it’s on to Sydney, our last port of call.
END OF PART V

Posted by Gerriv 09:34

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