Melbourne Travel Blog› entry 26 of 34 › view all entries
Saturday, August 29
Today is cold and gray. We walked to the tram, which included a steep 4-block hill. You'd think after 3 weeks here, my legs would be stronger! But noooooooo.
We caught one of the trams into town. Our hosts, John and Sue, have given us an excellent set of directions for the bus, train, and tram. We choose the tram because we don't have those at home. They run in the middle of the street with traffic on either side. Out of the city center, you wait for them on the sidewalk at a designated stop. When the tram stops, all traffic must stop so pedestrians can get on the tram.
They built a lot like your basic subway car but on street rails. Since they're in the middle of the street, you can see where you are and where you're going. I think they're great!
We are meeting our friend Geoff to go to an Australian Rules Football (ARL) game. He has lived in the US for 30 or 40 years and is now a US citizen but he grew up in Melbourne. He, his wife, and daughter are in Melbourne visiting his family. We have arranged to meet him at Fed Square.
Fed Square is a strange building. It's actually more of a complex. There are several buildings. They look like a serious of artsy blocks laid down at various angles, though connected. It's most definitely not Victorian-inspired, which is a dominant architetural theme in Melbourne. Nonetheless, I thought it was cool.
It wasn't, however, easy to navigate from the outside. We stood outside one set of automatic doors for several long minutes trying to figure out how to trigger them open. Even more frustrating is that we could see, inside, where we wanted to go! We finally gave up and found the doors you were supposed to use, tucked into a corner. Pity there weren't any signs letting you know how to find them!
We were early so we stopped at a little bakery / sandwich shop (which are everywhere in Australia; they fill the gap between fast food and a sit-down restaurant) in the lobby. I ate my meat pie quickly because it turned out the lobby also hosted the weekly book market! Tables and tables of books, new and used, in addition to a couple of enclosures for the Melbourne Book Fair.
I love this town!
Before I did too much bank account damage at the book market (only one book, used) Geoff and company showed up. (Later, while chatting with Geoff's brother -- Doug -- we discovered he and his girlfriend are active in the local folk music scene and actually know our hosts Sue and John quite well!). After they all have a snack, we start walking to the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (the MCG), one of Melbourne's sports stadiums.
It's about a 15-20 minute walk and the crowd grows in density as we get closer. We don't actually have tickets and this is a big Melbourne rivalry (the two teams, the Hawthorne Hawks and the Essenden Bombers, are both from Melbourne) and this is the beginning of the ARL play-offs. Doug is not daunted. He's confident we can get tickets and we do. And the price for walk-up-and-buy-them-30-minutes-before-the-game? $20.
I love this town!
It turns out, I also really like Aus Rules FB. Our seats are nosebleed but it also means we're under cover (the MCG only has a roof over about half the seats). It also meant we had a great birds-eye view of the oval field. I can't see the faces of the individuals but I can see how they and the ball move around the field really well.
And it never stops moving. Like soccer, it keeps going. Like American football, you can throw, kick, or run the ball. Like basketball, scoring occurs often (the final in our game was something like 95 - 55). Plus, the players (20-something and oh-so-hunky) play in shorts. Not those oughta-be-called-a-skirt basketball shorts but shorts. Maybe an 8" inseam.
I really like this game.
Because it's free-for-all seating and both teams are from Melbourne, the fans are intermingled. The passions run high during the game and there's some choice insults tossed around (some guy just above us does a 45-second guttural shout that has fans on both sides stopping and looking up at him in awe). Still, there mood is primarily cordial and civilized (y'know, for a sporting event). We had a great time, even though "our" team fell apart in the 2nd half and got their butts kicked.
Afterwards, I was so jazzed I tried to jump up a set of steps, forgetting the I am not 24, athletic, coordinated, or in the best shape of my life. Took about 3 weeks for the bruises to dissipate.
After a lengthy confab, we decided to head to Chinatown for dinner. It's a cool setup, because a bulk of it is in a set of alleyways marked off with Chinese arches. No one had a favorite so I picked the first one with roasted ducks hanging in the window. We ordered way too much food but ate very well.
Afterwards, we walked a few blocks to a nearby cake shop that had a stunning array of baked goods. We were like kids on Christmas morning! Except for the fact that I was so stuffed I could only handle a cup of tea, which just broke my heart. The bake shops in Australia are fabulous, simply fabulous.
We waddled to the tram and made our way home. We were still so jazzed about the football, we watched the end of another game and played with the dogs for a while before collapsing into bed.