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Shrine of Remembrance.

This morning Miller went off and explored some of Melbourne’s skyscrapers, so Sheldon and I set about on our own walking tour of this wonderful city.  We rode the train into town then walked along the beautiful Yarra River toward the Royal Botanic Gardens.  Melbourne is best seen on foot, and the river walk provides some terrific vistas of the city.  We were able to walk past the Cricket Grounds, which, in 1956, were home to the Summer Olympics.  Just a couple of months ago, the city celebrated the golden anniversary of those Olympics by hosting the 2006 Commonwealth Games. 

The Royal Botanic Gardens literature claims it is the finest such display in Australia and one of the finest in the world.

This is what the penguins would have looked like if they let us take pictures.
  After walking through but a small portion of it, I would tend to agree.  The Gardens started in the late 1800s before Australia was even a single country.  As with any good botanical exhibit, species from all around the world are present.  We viewed flowers, shrubs, trees, and other plants from all the continents.  But the magic of this garden came from its sheer size and from the amazing maintenance job by the staff.  The colors and the varieties seemed infinite, and I only wish we had more time to explore… but to give the Gardens its due, we would have needed to spend a half-day or more there.  

Just beyond the main gate for the Gardens is the Shrine of Remembrance for the State of Victoria.

  Australians believe in honoring those who served the country in her armed forces, and, in particular, those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  While the Shrine pays homage to soldiers and sailors from all conflicts in which Australia has participated, this magnificent structure specifically honors those from the Great War (World War I) and then World War II.  In fact, the inscription for the Great War states the Victoria erected this monument to honor those who fought for “the Empire.”  And in 1954, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II came to Melbourne to dedicate the eternal flame of remembrance.

The Shrine is elevated on a hill and looking north from its steps, one has an unimpeded view down a wide parade (which, in Australian, seems to mean “boulevard”) toward the city.

Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne...they were huge. We have a ton of pictures we'll put up later.
  The view is a magnificent one and would merit a visit to the hill just for that.  However, a trip inside the memorial is powerful.  A simple granite slab sits in the middle.  Around the slab are bouquets of flowers placed by people and organizations, and inscribed upon the slab are the words, “Greater love hath no man,” which, of course, is the front end of one of the most powerful verses in the Bible. 

After we paid our respects, we ventured back to the river, stopped off in a hotel that reminded me of Vegas – lots of lights, mesmerizing fountains (both inside and outside the hotel), a glitzy casino, and a large arcade of shops.  We had a bite to eat and then stopped by an internet lounge before we met Miller back at the motel.

For our afternoon and evening excursion, we drove about 150 kilometers to the southeast to a Phillip Island.

Great shot of the city from down near the gardens and the 1956 olympic site.
  The island is a bit difficult to describe; it is part wildlife sanctuary and part beachcomber’s paradise.  We specifically sojourned to the island to watch the nightly Penguin Parade.  I capitalize the event because it is proof positive that capitalism is alive and well in Australia.  The three of us lined up and gladly paid about $12 to watch the world’s littlest penguins waddle ashore at sunset.  We weren’t allowed to photograph the experience, and we had to play by all their rules, but it was worth it.  Those little buggers are so cute! 

The penguins are creatively called “little penguins,” and they are quite tiny.  The tallest of them measure but a foot in height.  At sunset, they swim out of the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean and gather at one specific beach on the island.

More from the garden.
  Quite the social animal, the first three or four out of the sea wade ashore and then wait for a whole gaggle of their penguin friends to join them for the parade up to their nesting areas.  Sometimes the waves would come in hard and whisk the group back into the ocean.  And then sometimes one rogue penguin would decide he wanted to swim some more and rush headlong back into the Pacific.  Undeterred, the penguins would eventually reconnoiter and return to the beach.  After a few minutes of this cycle, the leader of the pack would waddle off at high speed and the others would follow, often single file, behind him, up the beach, and into the grassy nesting areas… literally, a parade of penguins.

We sat in the brisk, damp, and downright chilly air to watch the penguins come ashore and then to follow them up into the hills to their roosting locations.

Sheldon at the Shrine of Remembrance.
  The birds are amazing critters, shuffling and wobbling and squawking their way up the beach.  Then, in the paths beyond the beach, they would trail off to their homes, often in groups.  But, just like a freeway, when one of them arrived at his or her home, it would simply take the exit ramp and pull into the driveway.  Shortly thereafter you would hear loud noises that resembled the Three Stooges.  Last night, around 700 penguins came ashore, but in the season when young birds are born, that number can increase to 1,500.  I’m only disappointed that we could not take pictures of these little birds, but the experience was well worth the time. 

One more day in Australia…


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Shrine of Remembrance.
Shrine of Remembrance.
This is what the penguins would ha…
This is what the penguins would h…
Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne…
Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourn…
Great shot of the city from down n…
Great shot of the city from down …
More from the garden.
More from the garden.
Sheldon at the Shrine of Remembran…
Sheldon at the Shrine of Remembra…
State Parliament in Melbourne.  Th…
State Parliament in Melbourne. T…
Chris at the Shrine of Remembrance.
Chris at the Shrine of Remembrance.
More from the gardens. I dont kno…
More from the gardens. I don't kn…
photo by: jendara