Strolling Melbourne


The following is a report to friends from a lecture tour to Australia and New Zealand in the summer of 2002.

Travel broadens the mind, so they say. It can narrow the seat as well. Let’s just say that if god thought a square toilet was necessary he would have made one. They’re putting me up in some pretty swanky hotels, but I could do without the square toilets . . .

My Melbourne hotel was just off the central plaza near the Town Hall and just a block down from Parliament (Victoria state parliament for the geographically challenged). It’s where the action is and I was glad to have a day to stroll around between heavy bouts of computer work. Nancy and I had explored this area several years ago and I passed an outdoor cafe where we had lunch.

Nearby is the Sofitel. It has a restaurant on the 25 floor overlooking the city. My seat mate on the plane suggested I visit it just for the view. The food at this upscale hotel was a bit too upscale for me. The squid ink risotto was over the top. That’s something only Denny would order.

I developed a taste for veal pizzaola. Every culture seems to have a standby you can order when all else fails. In France it’s an omelette and pomme frites (french fries). In the Italian bistros here its the pizzaola, which is quite good with fresh tomatoes, greek olives, and onions in a tomato sauce. For the most part menus seem uninspired with lamb, beef, and fish.

While walking by the massive town hall I stumbled onto the Melbourne Film Festival. One of the venues for “forums” is in the basement of the building. I chatted with the usher and was invited in to take a look around since it was open to the public and there was no admission. That night was a presentation by avante-garde artists dubbed the “damaged Californians”. Naturally I had to investigate.

The atmosphere Saturday evening was bohemian with a mix of ages, a few gray hairs, lots trendy young people out for a night on the town, kind of like a campus hang out from our college days. Beer, wine, cappuccino, light entrees were served. I picked me a Tassy Cascade from the bar and found a table with some other folks. They eventually left and a women later joined me–very European.

As I may have mentioned, Cascade is a Tassy beer. It has stylized Tasmanian Devils on the label and the head of a Tassy stamped into the bottle’s green glass. The label proclaims, “Australia’s oldest brewery”. Cool.

These Californians described how they made these really funky films and how, through dumb luck mostly, they won a series of awards. They were just marvelling at the fact that Melbourne hired them to do some “performance art” related to the city and paid them to fly over. “It would just never happen in the states” they said later. It all made for a fun evening.

Monday was intense. I wheeled my heavy luggage down to the Telstra (the still national telephone company) building a few blocks from my hotel and was on from about 7:30 to 1:30. Took a taxi to the airport (Ethiopian) and then a taxi (Bengali) to my swanky Sydney hotel by 5.00 where a flurry of faxes and messages awaited me. Starting to feel like a real executive. On again early tomorrow then on to Tasmania.