June 30-July 1 - I know, I know, it’s July 2nd (for a few more minutes anyway). Rather than updating you on (read: boring you with) tales of science, I will tell you about Melbourne. This will probably be somewhat abridged because I’m starting this pretty late (and lets face it, I’ve already forgotten some stuff probably).
Friday’s travels were pretty uneventful, except for a brief scare due to the fact that it turns out only some #400 buses go to the airport? Some end their route at the library (I think) where you wait for another bus with the same number that will take you to the airport. It took about 30 seconds to get through security, so leaving myself 2 hours was probably unnecessary anyway. It’s kind of funny to really realize how absurd US airport security is - I never had to show anyone ID, I didn’t have to take out my little baggie full of tiny liquid containers, and most importantly, I didn’t have to take off my friggin shoes.
Anyway, I arrived and found Leo, which turned out to be pretty easy. It was already about 8:30 or so by the time I got back, so we pretty much just went to grab a bit to eat and then called it a night to prepare for Saturday! He recommended (and I got) chicken parma at the pub, which is apparently a generally safe/good pub option in Australia (or at least Melbourne). This is a little surprising since I probably wouldn’t ever trust a US pub with it, but it was in fact pretty good! They add a piece of ham on top of the whole thing which is pretty generally a good plan I think.
OK Saturday! This turned out to be a mix of wandering through the city and watching sport. The morning we first headed for the Shrine of Remembrance which is in a park just a little outside of downtown. It’s a World War I memorial, and it was constructed so that on November 11, at 11AM light will shine on the word “love” on the plaque. Then some jerk went and invented daylight savings time, so now it’s the 10th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
From there we headed towards the Melbourne Cricket Ground via the Royal Botanical Gardens. Really huge and nice park, right along the Yarra River leading to an enormous collection of sports stadiums - Rod Laver Arena (home of the Australian Open), Melbourne Cricket Ground (very old and famous ground for cricket, whatever that is - also was involved in the 1956 olympics which I learned were held in Melbourne ),as well as all the secondary courts for tennis (never realized how many of those there are!) and a rugby stadium. We got tickets to “footy” (Australian Rules Football) at the MCG because it turns out that is cheaper than going on the tour, plus you get to see the stadium “full” of fans. Collingwood was playing someone else, don’t ask me. Apparently Collingwood are like the Yankees of footy, so naturally they were crushing the other team and we left at half time. I mostly had the sport figured out at this point (more on that later).
From here we took the train downtown. Melbourne, from what I’ve read, is supposed to have much more European influence than Sydney, so naturally there was a Cathedral (St. Paul’s, Anglican I believe) directly across from Flinder’s Station (main train hub). We just about spent 10 minutes in there before they closed for a mass or something, and we were forced back into the streets where it was now raining. Luckily Elmo and friends were giving out free hugs. This also resulted in rainbow number 37 of the trip (though the first since New Zealand I think). Looks like the pot of gold will be center court in the MCG. To get out of the rain we wandered through the arts center (not pictured, because it is an incredibly unattractive building, though the inside is nice), and through the National Gallery of Victoria (also not pictured, though it’s a perfectly nice building). After that the rain eased up, and we wandered briefly through some futuristic/outer space looking place that I think was an entertainment center or something. From there we headed to the train to catch game #2 of footy, passing other notable old and probably famous buildings including Melbourne town hall and Melbourne public library.
Australian Rules Football, which is in all seriousness referred to as footy, bears no resemblance to any other form of football I was previously aware of. Though it does involve the foot considerably more than American Football, so I’m not complaining. Basically the goal, as Leo summed up nicely, is to “kick it through the big sticks.” You might be able to tell from the photo that the inner two posts are taller - if you get it through those, 6 points. If you get it through the outer posts (but not inner obviously, stop being difficult), you get 1 point. That’s basically it. You can’t throw the ball, you can only pass by kicking or sort of hitting it with your hand (think underhand volleyball serve kinda). Oh, and the field is an oval. Anyway, this match was Essendon, who were the “home” team, vs. the Western Bulldogs (also a Melbourne team, but not “home” in this match - I think something like 9 of the 18 teams in the league are from Melbourne). I bought myself an Essendon scarf so that I could be a total bandwagon fan - also because it was legitimately cold even though the stadium was covered (15 C which I guess would be something like 59 F). We won (by a lot…I think it was 120ish-40ish). The rest of the night was spent bar hopping around Melbourne with “Dr. Luigi” and friends!
OK, phew, this is long! Sunday! Well, slept in a decent amount to recover from said bar hopping. We then headed down to Lygon Street, which is just one Italian restaurant after another, so we got some lunch. All the places looked (and smelled) amazing, so we pretty much just picked at random. I should have had some food photographs…sorry, I blew that one. Anyway, by the end of lunch it was really raining, so we headed to the nearby Melbourne Museum to see what was inside. Across the street was another old pretty building which I thought was the museum, but turned out to be the Royal Exhibition Hall. The museum was really nice (and I got in free cause I was a student!). They had an exhibit on the brain, which featured visual illusions! They had lots of other interesting science stuff, including big exhibits on evolution, earth science, and of course dinosaurs. One thing I learned - apparently Darwin was on a 5 year expedition as a naturalist, and never left London after that! I greatly enjoyed this depiction of fish first emerging from water (photo titled “Evolution - Boom.” Also, this “realistic” recreation of Australia’s coat of arms just makes me laugh for some reason.
El fin. From there, it was time to get to the airport (although not really as it turned out). My flight was delayed an hour and a half due to 1) weather, 2) some crash in jetstars computer systems earlier in the day, and a third reason I don’t recall (the pilot felt compelled to explain the delay to us). When we landed, we also got stuck on the tarmac for 45 minutes (and had to taxi to a second gate) because they could not successfully connect us to an external power source or something. I never really considered this before, but yeah, obviously a plane would generate all it’s electricity from the engines. But then they kind of want to turn those off so people don’t die when they get off the plane. So, I learned something, it wasn’t all that bad. The people next to me were insufferable though. They just complained constantly for 45 minutes. The girl next to me was sitting behind her parents (I hope they were her parents), and just started like, repeatedly whacking her mother in the head. This seemed to be something she just did, cause the mother didn’t get all that upset and mostly ignored her. I should point out that this girl was probably about my age, not like a toddler or anything. There was also some business man next to me who was equally impatient, but rather than complaining just kept physically getting up and trying to get off the plane even though clearly that wasn’t going to happen. Whatever, weird people. I’m pretty sure my cab driver made up all the time I lost sitting on the tarmac, wow was he flying. He literally treated the road like a race course at times - 3 lanes, sure I’ll just drive through all of them to get a better angle through the curve. The gas light was also definitely on for the entire ride, so I was slightly concerned. But we made it. OK, the end for real!