Australia, 2009-12-01

We awoke in the morning intending to check out the Queen Victoria Market, of which we’ve heard so much.  Downtown Melbourne is very walkable, in spite of the free trolleys that start a little too late and end a little too early.  When we arrived, some booths were still setting up, but it was almost in full swing.  I was initially disappointed — it’s essentially a big swap meet, although if it’s the largest it’s only slightly bigger than Kobe’s Swap Meet in San Diego (albeit covered), and contained much of the same or similar items if you substitute “Australia” for “San Diego” on the various t-shirts and trinkets.  I picked up some coasters as memorabilia, while Lanaea browsed for some gifts for those back home.  We did meet one interesting local, a man selling authentic (I have no way to know, although there was a grizzled old aborigine hunched down hard at work on items soon to be on sale), who also spoke a bit of his walkabout experiences.  Wether patter for the tourists who are looking for a boomerang or not, I can’t say, but he was certainly pleasant and provided a break in the monotony of made-in-china handbags and fridge magnets.

Olives!

Sausage!

Everything changes when we hit the food area.  It was like the largest farmers’ market I’ve ever seen; you could get just about anything.  The fish men were out every ten feet, pitching the quality and value of their edibles with loud, practiced voices, as if working a carnival crowd.  It was far more interesting to browse here than outside.

Meat!

Shrimp!The sight of all the delicious food got our stomachs grumbling, so we retired outside of sandwiches with the pigeons, then set off to the CBD to see if we could find a reasonably priced opal for Lanaea.  Unfortunately, we discovered we had impeccable taste in opals, and the ones that caught our eyes, even if quite small, were frequently had three or four zeroes on their price tags.

The afternoon called for chores, and it turns out that finding grocery stores and laundromats can be a bit more difficult that we anticipated.  There just don’t seem to be that many of them around, at least in downtown.  The only reason I mention it was because of the drunk old man who wandered into the minuscule laundromat we’d managed to find, sloshing around whisky and spilling it on the floors and some other people’s clean clothes.  Apparently, I looked to be a friendly chap in desperate need of advice, and he latched on to me, alternating between mumbling and shouting barely comprehensible phrases.  At one point, he’s staring directly in my face, stating and re-stating that “you must look them in the eyes and don’t answer, it’s the only way!”  I though this a nice semantic trick to play on someone while attempting to invade their personal space, but felt he couldn’t legitimately get angry with him if I did just that (and more stable legal ground, if we tried something, since we was starting to get a bit close for comfort), so I just stared him directly in the eyes and gave him the hardest look I had. He paused, asked for money, but when I said nothing, he smiled, offered me some whisky which I wordlessly declined, then turned and went stumbling out the door.

Immediately after he left, local just finishing his drying cycle asked me “Do you know him?”  At which point I became a little concerned with the quality of my personal appearance.  A glance in the mirror told me there’s no way it looked like we hung in the same social circles, so this comment actually confused me more than the drunkard’s ramblings.

Carlton Gardens

Three days worth of clean laundry in hand, we hit up some bad chinese for dinner (avoid “City BBQ in Melbourne”!) before washing it down with some gelato in the park and prepping for the Brunswick Street pub crawl we’d planned with Natalie and Jordan.  Brunswick St cuts through the heart of Fitzroy, a hip enclave just outside the CBD.  Plenty of bars, cheap restaurants, cafes, art galleries, independent fashion designers, etc.  At night, most of these weren’t open, but the bars were in full swing.  We started at a lively beer hall (featuring free commuter bikes to ride around the various bars) for some good local beer, hit the Black Pearl for some ridiculously expensive and elaborate mixed concoctions (although it had great decor and atmosphere and I once again found an awesome local belgian-style brew), and then to the communist themed Bar Open, where it appeared some sort of film was being played upstairs.  After a beer or two more, and pictures taken in front of the various murals featuring communist leaders adorning the walls, we hiked back to the CBD for a final brew at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow before heading home.  (Incidentally, for those playing along at home, most “hotels” appear to not actually be hotels, but “bars.”  Forewarned is forearmed.)   All in all, much more “crawl” than “pub”, which may very well be my speed these days, and a nice last night with Nat and Jordan before we meet up with them in New Zealand.

Melbourne CBD at Night


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