Up and over a bridge over the main highway and we are at the artisan fair. Much like our Saturday market in Portland, OR, there are a multitude of booths containing a wide variety of arts and crafts. From fine art to fine soaps, souvenirs to sculpture, I see for the first time, the amazing talent of the Australian artists. And in such a beautiful setting, with the bay in the background and the palms all around! I want one of everything!!! But knowing I have little room in my suitcases, I simply drink in the beauty and commit it to memory and settle for a few small things. From the fair, we walk towards the nearby Luna Park and the Palais Theater. The art deco theater was built in 1927 and is situated just across the street from the eclectic Luna Park entrance: the gaping mouth of a neon clown. A peep inside takes you back to a Coney Island setting: terrified screams coming from the roller coaster, lovers walking hand-in-hand and kids, whose hands and face are decorated with the leftovers of sugary treats wearing wide grins and accompanied by worn-out parents. We go on to stroll the nearby stores of Acland Street, passing cake shops with windows full of tempting treats, so many I had a hard time deciding what to buy and went on Eva’s brother’s recommendation of a Brandy Snap.
I stop for a meat pie – a delicacy I immediately fell in love with. I had never had anything quite like it in the states (but have thankfully located a place in Portland and in Seattle so I can still have a treat now and again). A flaky crust with a creamy stuffing of meats, cheese, onions and roux, topped with “sauce” (ketchup in the US). We continue on down the sidewalk, passing open air bars and restaurants, funky store exteriors and even a backpacker’s hostel, labeled the Ritz.
As we head for the beach, we pass a combined community garden and art studios, just behind the amusement park, where artists have decorated the individual gardens with both fresh and recycled art. The art was whimsical and practical and ideas swirled in my head for my own garden at home. As Australia is just heading into their autumn, there were still tomatoes on the vines and scarecrows still worked hard to keep the birds away. The mosaic art that decorated the walls of the studios, the sidewalks and plant containers danced light in the air while a sign warned to cover the sandbox at night.
We head down the boardwalk towards the bay and a walk down the St. Kilda pier. Along the way, we are treated to the sights of jellies and octopi, starfish and shells in the clear water to the side of the pier. Two black swans are sunning in the grass and a multitude of seabirds fly overhead, before landing on the pier. At the end of the pier, is the St. Kilda kiosk where we finally stop for a much needed break, before heading back to dinner.
We have dinner at Soul Mama’s, a vegetarian restaurant where you are handed a bowl of rice of your choice (jasmine, basmati, white and brown, if I recall correctly) and then pick three entrees to go on top of your rice. Delicious! But so much to eat, I could not finish it all. A bean salad, a curried pumpkin dish and some pumpkin seed balls. We serve ourselves our water here, unlike the US and it does not come with ice, but is quenching all the same.
As the sun began to set, we wandered along the beach towards Steve and Pam’s car, for a last cup of coffee at Pam’s house. The beautiful sunset is our parting treat as we head back into the city.We settle around the patio to sit and chat, when I realize that I have come to the attention of the local mosquito population and they are certainly enjoying the rare blood of a US visitor. I dash inside, but too late realize I have been “tasted” at least fifteen times by these hungry bugs, and the bites itch just as much here as in the states. As we leave and say our goodbyes, I look to the sky and the unfamiliar constellations above me and realize I am so very far from home. Yet, in my heart, I feel instantly at home in this wonderful country.