Saturday, March 27, 2010

Australia!! Part Two

On my first morning, I wake up to the exotic tones of an Australian magpie and the cackling of a kookaburra. Soon, these are joined by the raucous call of cockatoos (and truly the course squawk of these birds make crows seem melodic in comparison LOL) combined with the calls of crimson rosellas and lorikeets. You know right away, you are in a new land. The sun is warm and the sky a flawless blue decorated with small cotton ball puffs of clouds. I wake to a “cuppa” tea and warm porridge (oatmeal with milk and honey) and a nectarine (in season here). I hurry to get ready. Eva is taking us by train to Melbourne for our first adventure.
We board the train at Croyden station after buying a ticket that will cover all of our transportation for the day for $5.00 and head for Melbourne. I watch the passing scenery and marvel at how alike and yet, how different it looks from the US West Coast. There are tall, skinny Mary Poppins-like chimneys that would never pass earthquake code here and every one of them has character; alike and yet different in contrast to the ticky-tacky subdivision I live in, where all things are alike. Old facades speak of history past in older areas of town, yet downtown is an eclectic mix of sleak, newer buildings mixed in with historical buildings.

We pass a park where a man is feeding cockatoos bird seed, much as we see folks feeding the pigeons and sparrows here. Almost all roofs are a red clay tile and there are signs that advertise “roof painting” to refresh the color. The clay is sturdy and resistant to the ravenous appetites of the cockatoos, who eat unprotected wood, including windowsills and shingles. History here began much at the same time as most of the area near me in the states. You can feel the raw energy of a people who landed in primitive circumstances and yet managed in short order to create a platform of history to build a great country on. The city is clean. Trash is thrown in bins and cigarettes in receptacles. There is more smoking here than I am used to, but less than you see on our east coast.

And everywhere there is graffiti. I am puzzled at first as I did not think Australia had the gang issues we have. And they don’t. The graffiti, I am told, is down by young people expressing themselves. It is graphic and beautiful and covers the walls and fences that border the train tracks. Eva takes me to an entire alley of graffiti across from the arts center and I could have spent a day taking photos of the graphic art painted across the building faces. Some of it disturbing in intensity, but amazing art, all the same.
After walking a bit to visit the area near the cathedral and arts complex, we board a riverboat on the Yarra River, to take a cruise through Melbourne. Our guide is from Ireland and narrates our journey along the river. There are numerous bridges across the river, connecting the city, much as there is in Portland. However, some bridges are old and staid and some are new and funky. There is a metal bridge with bands around it that are meant to look like an eel being caught in a cage and another with fun metal figures decorating the span.
The bridge above has pillars that are five feet higher than the highest bridge in Sydney. The pillars are detached from the bridge and serve no other purpose other than being higher than those in Sydney, according to the guide and it is apparent these two beautiful cities have a bit of a rivalry!

We pass a restaurant that serves people, cats and dogs that at one time was a public toilet in the richest part of town and public art that cost a fortune but look simply basic such as a row of 4 by 4 posts in a curving path through the grass, canted at different levels call “the falling down fence.” I learn that life preservers anre “life rings” and that when you cheer for your team, you “barrack” and that “routing” is another word for sex. Everything we see is so clean. We pass tugs, container loaders, ocean-going ships and the amazing architecture of the city. It’s almost too much to take in.

We pass under the Swan St. bridge, built entirely by women after WWII…the only bridge that has not needed any major maintenance since being built. Hmmmm…..We see black swans that are indigenous to Australia. When the British were told that black swans inhabitated Australia, they did not believe it….after all, everyone knew swans only came in white. They are beautiful birds! The guide tells us that the Yarra is not the true river name, but that when the settlers asked the name of the river, they pointed to a waterfall and were given the word for that. The river’s true Aboriginal name means ‘the land of mist and shadows’. A beautiful name that touches the soul with imagined dawns where the sun struggles to burn through the clouds and the water is shrouded in mystery. We leave the boat with an appreciation for the beauty of this city. Here you feel the world around you and truly feel we are all one on this globe.


Dawnie said...

A beautiful recount with amazing pics,makes me want to visit ! Truly amazing pics you have shared here Jan...Melbourne is such a lovely place.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Jan!! What a fabulous post!!! I ahve just found you throught he Art and Soul Yahoo group for Hampton. I will be there and will ahve to see if I can squeeze in one of your classes!! as for this post- the graffitti art is amazing and the stories of the bridges (Women builders you say- what a novel idea- AHEM) When you wnat a job done right ask a WOMAN to do it!!!! You really had a glorious trip!! I have so many art friends alll met through the internet who live in Australia. You probably know some of them- dear Ro Bruhn, Jacky williams, Denise of GRL+DOG, Jo Wholohan, and many more. htnak you so much for asharing your trip so beautifully with all of us!! Best Regards and I will be sure to find you in Hampton!

Eva said...

It's amazing how we take for granted ones own land and lifestyle - till seen again through fresh eyes. Guess it's a reminder to us all to slow down the hectic pace of our lives and 'stop and smell the roses' more often.

Thanks Jan! I'm 'out and about' all day again today - but I'm going to do it at a slower pace.

Eva :-)

Robin Olsen said...

What a fabulous experience this must have been. The graffiti and bridges alone look worth the trip! Thanks for sharing this Jan.

Jen Crossley said...

Jan your pictures and words are amazing I only wish I could express myself as wonderfully as you do .It love to see how Melbourne looks through another persons eye.
Miss you

Anonymous said...

Hi Jan, I met you and sat next to you at one dinner at the CSR - and also visited your Secret Garden Journal class - I am impressed with your opinion of our beautiful city and am so glad you enjoyed your visit. It is interesting to see it from another's point of view too. I was very impressed with the work in that class and have been wandering around the web looking at some work people have posted from your class. I am inspired to do two things - look at my city artistically - and try to journal artistically too.
all the best for your future teaching and art work.

Ro Bruhn said...

It's wonderful to see our country through a visitor's eyes we really do take it for granted sometimes and don't always believe we're the 'lucky' country. It was lovely to meet you Jan, from all accounts you did an amazing job. All those in your classes were most impressed. I hope you get to return again some day.

Judy Wise said...

Hi Jan. The first thing I did this morning (even before coffee!!) was come to your blog and catch up on all the posts of your travels. I think I couldn't do it before; my heart being torn by all I knew I had missed. But then you took me there with your marvelous photographs and descriptive writing and it brought peace to experience with you so many good adventures.

You are certainly a wonderful writer!

Last night I told John that I want to go to Australia now. I feel your love for the country and especially the people; you were the perfect person to represent me there. xo

lindacreates said...

Thank you for the beautiful and magical tour of Melbourne. The graffiti is amazing. I love the story about the bridge. We need to have more women in charge of building in Amercia. I understand you met my "Aussie Sis" Jen Crossley. She is so special and is truly part of our family. We met online many years ago and that was it. She and her family have come to visit and she and Mark come to visit yearly. She said so many wonderful things about you. I look forward to meeting you one day.