Friday, September 4, 2015

Melbourne Snapshots - 2015

OK, so four months later I'm finally getting around to blogging our Melbourne trip.

After a week in Townsville for my Aunt's birthday celebrations, we flew to Melbourne for the Comedy Festival. We left on a relatively cool (30°C), clear Townsville day, stopped over in Brisbane for a couple of hours, then arrived to a cold (15°C), drizzly Melbourne evening. Welcome to Melbourne!

Comedy performances

Over the 10 days we saw seven performances. Tony listens to a number of comedy podcasts and was keen to see some of the comedians live. We saw Australian comedians: Wil Anderson, Justin Hamilton, Celia Pacquola, Tripod, and Impromptunes; American Jen Kirkman, and New Zealand group, Fan Fiction Comedy.

Favourite performance? Justin Hamilton's. It was a personal performance with an audience of about 40. He made an appearance in the hallway where we were all lined up, shook everyone's hand and welcomed us as we entered into the room. After the show he went to the back of the room, shook everyone's hand as we walked out and thanked us for coming! In a podcast he mentioned he uses this technique to make the audience comfortable. And the content was relatable. Talking about pre-mobile phones:

"You had to go to the phone and it was attached to the wall with a cord."
*Picks imaginary phone of wall*

"If you wanted to move, you could only move ..."
*Steps to the side*

Tripod presented a ‘musical’ This Gaming Life with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Austin Wintory, a composer of music for games. Opening night was the 17th April, the last night we were in Melbourne. Closing night was the following night, the 18th April, the day we were flying back to Sydney.

It was a long concert, much longer than we anticipated. We arrived back at the apartment very late in the evening, hungry (because we were expecting to be back around 9:00-9:30pm, not 11:00pm), and still needing to pack. We were so tired the following morning.

Chinese Museum

We've been travelling to Melbourne for years and even lived there for a year, and yet there are a number of places of interest we've never managed to see. One of these is the Chinese Museum, which was established in 1985.

The museum is housed in an old warehouse on a laneway that runs between Little Bourke Street and Lonsdale. There are four permanent exhibitions showcasing the experience of Chinese on the goldfields, Chinese Australians - where they have come from and their experiences, artefacts of Chinese culture and history, and all the trappings of the dragon processions. Because ANZAC Day was approaching there was also an exhibition about the Chinese ANZACs.

In the stairwell there was a hanging artwork created from the lucky red packets (lai see) used to enclose the monetary gifts presented on occasions such as weddings and Chinese New Year.

On the ground floor is the Dragon Gallery. The Millenium Dragon ‘hibernates’ here, its body winding around the ground floor gallery, down the ramp to the lower ground floor. It is ‘awakened’ for the Chinese New Year and Moomba Festival parades.

The Millennium Dragon is the largest processional dragon in the world. The dragon's head weighs around 200 kg and requires eight people to carry it.

The Dragon Gallery also displays the instruments, masks, costumes and props used in the parades.

There was one final photographic display that I found very interesting. It showed the streetscapes of Melbourne Chinatown and provided histories of buildings still standing today.

Old Melbourne Gaol

Old Melbourne Gaol is located on the edge of the CBD. The gaol is the oldest prison in Melbourne and the prison grounds once encompassed a whole city block. Old Melbourne Gaol operated as a prison until it closed in 1929. During World War II it was briefly re-opened to be used as a military prison for soldiers that went AWOL.

From 1880 portions of the prison were demolished. The prison housed and executed many infamous characters including the bushranger, Ned Kelly.

The North Wing is now the museum - three levels of exhibits relating the tales of selected inmates, the life of Ned Kelly and the Kelly Gang, life in the prison, and the history of the prison.

As a true crime buff, I spent a lot of time soaking in the tales in the North Wing. Tony finished way ahead of me and spent time photographing the gaol and surfing the Web on his phone while waiting for me.

The entrance fee also included an interactive tour of the City Watch House. We were not really interested in the tour so after we finished in the museum we wandered through the old gates of the prison into the courtyard that now forms part of the RMIT University Melbourne City campus.

Wanderings around town

Still invigorated from my early starts in Townsville, I woke early the first morning and walked down to the Yarra River and continued along the river towards Docklands. It was a beautiful, sunny morning - so different from the cold drizzle of the previous evening.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to keep up my new routine. I ended up with the flu and spent a couple of days curled up in bed, only emerging to attend a couple of shows.

Generally when Tony and I visit Melbourne, we return to old haunts.

So there were lots of walks along the Yarra and wanderings around the city. We were seeking out old and new eating places, and poking around the markets. (We actually didn't make it to the St Kilda this trip but we passed through the Queen Victoria Markets on our way back from the Old Melbourne Gaol.)

I don't recall whether there were locks on the Southbank footbridge when we were last in Melbourne but a quick Web search showed the Love Lock Bridge on a Melbourne tourist website.

I was surprised that there were love locks in Australia given the damage to bridges caused by love locks, particularly in Paris. I vaguely remember an article about locks being removed from a fence on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for that reason.

And the month after we returned, the love locks were removed from the Southgate bridge.

The nice thing (and bad thing) about Melbourne is that we are familiar with the city. We know our way around the CBD so can go our separate ways.

I visited Hosier Lane to view and photograph the gallery of ever-changing graffiti and street art. However, you can stumble on street art in the most unlikely places. I used to wander back to the apartment through different lanes and streets just to see what I could find. I found this stunning piece of art covering a garage and shop front in Hardware Street.

We have been to Melbourne so many times now that staying for a long period in the CBD (we were there 10 days) starts to feel too much like being at home ... we start to run out of things to do. We're thinking next time we might look at staying outside of the CBD and give ourselves a different neighbourhood to explore.

More photos

As I mentioned in our Townsville post, I was participating in the April Love photo challenge. More photos are available on both Flickr and Instagram.

Photos of our meals are available on my fromdebskitchen Instagram feed, the first photo taken on 7 April of the chocolate bunnies given to us on our flight from Townsville to Brisbane and the last about 10 days later of our late-night meal of noodles and dumplings.

Tony's Instagram feed has photos of Quila's vacation with my brother, sis-in-law and nephews. The first photo is a repost of one of Brother's photos of Quila, the last photo of Melbourne is of a comic and collectables shop in Northcote, the suburb where we lived.

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