What An Arresting Journey! Melbourne – Part 1

Saturday 14 – Monday 16 May 2011

What do you get when you cross a dead pharaoh’s treasures, great coffee, a guy and his guitars, adorable elephants and depressed gorillas, weird new architecture slapped in between gorgeous old architecture, me being arrested and having to be a barrister, a stunning public garden, and a woman who runs the Kosmos? That’s right, you get Melbourne. Where else?

Hmm, Melbourne. I’d come here for one main reason: to see the elephant calves at the zoo. No, that wasn’t it. I mean, I did want to see them, and they were so cuuuuuuute. (See? I can use that as well!!) 😉 Ooooh, and the gorillas. I love gorillas. I saw them at the zoo, but they just made me sad because they looked so darned depressed. I guess I would too with all those ugly mugged humans gawking at me. Why did I come to Melbourne? *thinking* Ah, yes, that’s right. I’ll get to that later.

After a suffering a killer migraine and horrid vertigo, an eleven-hour sleep was exactly what I needed to set me on the right track, which, as it turns out, led all the way to the Melbourne Museum. I had acquired my hard-to-get, one-of-the-last-ones-available-for-that-day ticket to see the Tutankhamen and the Pharaoh’s Gold on Thursday, and had decided that I’d mosey on up to the museum to check it out in advance. I like to know where I’m going, and how long I was going to have to wait in line before I gained admission.

I made it, without looking like too much of a tourist, to the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, or as I like to refer to it: home. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to fit that place out with all the necessities and modern luxuries, and live in it! Anyhoo, coffee in hand, Blackberry Smartphone in the other hand, cameras sort of at the ready if I put down either the coffee or the Blackberry, I parked my butt on a bench and took in my surroundings. And what do I say to that? Holy mother of God! What is this place? It’s . . . divine. All it took for me to adore Melbourne was the tree-lined avenue up to the Royal Exhibition Building (REB). If you’ve never been to Melbourne, I totally recommend you go in April when the leaves of the trees are turning, and that you get yourself to the REB and Carlton Gardens and take in the sight. Sitting on the bench, in that instance, I absolutely, categorically fell in love with Melbourne.

Eventually, after a few tweets, a bazillion photos of the sight in front of me, I head over to the museum. Once there, I figured that while I was on my walkabout, I should orientate myself with this new and exciting city. So, I did what any normal person would do . . . I went to the Old Melbourne Gaol and spent some time wandering the corridors, peering into the cells, and taking photos of gruesome things like death masks, gallows, and cats o’ nine tails. As recommended by the woman who sold me my admission ticket, I spent about twenty minutes in the Gaol, before going to the Watch House, for an interesting experience.

You see, once you arrive at the Watch House, you’re in for a surprise. The duty Sergeant comes out, bellows insults at you, orders you inside, and then proceeds to arrest, and search you. Hell yeah! Okay, so you’re not actually arrested – it’s all role-play, except the bit about not touching the building or fixtures, as the Watch House is heritage listed. After an exciting, and arresting (you had to know I was going to throw in a pun) Watch House experience, it was off to the Court House for a re-enactment of Ned Kelly’s trial.

When you arrive at the Court House, one of the tour guides comes out and asks for volunteers to help during the trial. Now, I’m a Drama teacher by day, so I couldn’t possibly stand back and watch this poor woman try and find one last volunteer. As a volunteer, you’re ushered into the Court Room ahead of everyone else, and another tour facilitator asks for each of you to play the roles. She convinces one of the guys to play the judge, and then asks for someone to play Prosecutor Charles Smyth – the man who tried Ned Kelly. No one else is jumping in, we’re mostly all female volunteers, so I say ‘Sure. I’ll play Smyth.’ And it is here, that my childhood dream of being a lawyer comes to fruition. I’m enraptured when she points out that I’m required to wear the robes and wig of a barrister. OMG, I get to wear a barrister’s wig! I’ve always wanted to wear one of those.

All roles assigned, scripts handed out, and our re-enactment facilitator mikes some of us up. The re-enactment begins. I say my first lines, and you know what happens. Writer/teacher Danielle disappears, and performer Danielle steps up. I’m playing this role like there’s an Oscar at the end of it. Sadly though, no Oscar. But I was delighted when the facilitator turned to me as we were leaving and said (her words, not mine) ‘Oh my God, that was the best Charles Smyth I’ve seen since I started doing this. You rocked the role. Thanks.’ And having worked on my compliment acceptance, I returned her thanks, mentioned I was a Drama teacher, told her I had heaps of fun, and headed back to the Gaol to finish off there.

The first tweet-up I had in Melbourne was with Rob Godfrey a.k.a @No1Nevyn. We met at my home, sorry, the REB and headed to find a cool place for coffee. One of the best things that I’ve found with tweet-ups is that you find out so much more about people, and that’s obviously because you’re not restricted to 140 character updates. Rob is a cool guy. He’s easy going, articulate, witty, interesting, and just effin’ awesome. I loved talking guitars and music, and everything else with him. And I loved the fact that we did just sit and talk. I think in our technology driven society, people are losing the ability to be able to converse, so it’s refreshing to find people who still have that art of conversation making.

Next on my Melbourne agenda was the State Library of Victoria. Hey, I’m a writer, and a book nerd. It really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone that I’d end up in a library. But not just any library – you should see the dome on that building. And the spiral staircases that the authorities have blocked off so that no one uses them. And the leadlight frieze of Shakespeare. And all of the books. And the galleries with the awesomely old, historic, and amazing portraits and paintings that are significant in Victorian history. OMG. Floors and floors of history and culture. Oooooh, and the exhibit on books – no, don’t mock. I actually got to look at a page from the Gütenberg Bible. Do you know how old that book is? I’m swooning at the memory of all of this.

While I’m wandering around the library, I get a direct message (DM) on Twitter from someone I’m here in Melbourne to see. We set up a meeting, and for the rest of my day my face looks like this :D. Could this trip get any better? Well, yeah it could. So, I wander down to the Art Gallery of Victoria. Only, it’s not really as interesting as I’d hoped it would be, but then I’ve come at a time when the exhibition isn’t something that I’m interested in.

Wednesday I figure I’m going to head up to La Mama Theatre. It’s a non-descript lil building in Carlton, but its place in Australian Theatre History is highly significant. I’m in my element here. So much has happened at this modest theatre, and it was kind of like a pilgrimage for me. Plus, I’m really close to Lygon Street, so I drop in to a fab lil café for a late breakfast. Love Lygon Street and all of the eateries. It’s a foodie heaven.

It gets way better here: Thursday is my Tutankhamen day. As I was so excited about this, I decide to take the day to try and get into some sort of writing routine that has been sadly lacking for nearly three weeks. Before I know it, it’s time to head of to see the dead pharaoh’s treasures, and the exhibit, which includes a lifesize replica Tutankhamen mummy. All I can say about this moment, and this exhibit is, can anyone say ‘Danielle feels like she’s having one of the greatest moments of her life here’? Had it not been for my high school bestie finally getting in touch with me, and saying that he didn’t have any time to catch up, it would have been perfect. Never the less, it was a fantastic day.

Friday was Royal Melbourne Zoo day. Woot! Elephant calves and gorillas – they’re all I really wanted to see. Although, there was a particular gibbon that enthralled me, hanging from a bar in front of the viewing window, looking in at us looking at him, imitating the things that I was doing. Yeah, I got aped by a monkey. Further along, I managed to get a great shot of a Mandrill’s ass. I was trying to get his face, but he turned around at just the right moment, and I got an ass shot instead. How dare he? I’d be lying though, if I said I didn’t burst into laughter at the sight. Another recommendation from me: when in Melbourne, definitely go to the Zoo. It’s worth every cent of the entry fee.

It’s a remarkable city, Melbourne. The one thing that I found disconcerting though, was the injection of modern artsy architecture, á la what I like to call ‘The Great Green Booger’ at RMIT – no offense to whom so ever created it, but it does remind me of a bogey – in amongst the beautiful and historic, older architecture. I’m all for modern art. In fact, I love it a lot. One of my favourite modern art paintings sold a number of years ago for somewhere around fifteen million dollars, and it was just a giant purple painted canvas. But puhlease, you guys slapped Federation Square right across the road from the gorgeous St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the historic Flinders Street Station. What the hell were you thinking? However, your redeeming feature is that you thought it was a neat idea to put a chocolatier in the lobby/foyer of the hotel that I was staying in. Good Excellent idea.

Anyway, Melbourne is a must on my travel calendar, and I will be returning . . . with a spare, empty suitcase because I clearly had not anticipated a whole store dedicated to Adidas sportswear, or the whole store dedicated to Swatch watches, or the chocolatier in the lobby of the hotel, or the bookstore in the State Library, the giftware/souvenir store at the Zoo, all of the D&G sunglasses I can get at Myer . . . the list, it just goes on. My point being that I’m not sure visiting Melbourne twice next year will actually be enough. Hmm, maybe I should consider moving. Sydney and the GC would both be closer. Say, what are the real estate prices like in Melbourne? Anyone?

. . . To be continued . . .

In Melbourne – Part 2, you’ll meet the woman who runs the Kosmos

This is where I knew I was going to love Melbourne forever.

Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens, or as I refer to it: my house & yard.

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About Danielle

I like to write. What more is there to know?
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One Response to What An Arresting Journey! Melbourne – Part 1

  1. mmartin51 says:

    Thank you for the “word pictures” of Melbourne. I will never get the chance to get to Australia, I’m sure so I really enjoy personal observations and pictures. Thanks

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