December 8, 2008 – Edging toward Christmas
It’s a hazy day in Melbourne, too cool for short sleeves, too warm for jackets. We’ve spent the last two weeks in the cozy, warm atmosphere of family. This time we were with Michelle, Robin’s daughter, and Mim, her partner. They made us feel right at home even though a nasty cold made us lethargic guests.
Michelle is thoroughly at home in Melbourne, with family and most of her friends here. Come Christmas, though, she feels more Canadian than ever. Warm weather is disconcerting as Yuletide approaches, at least for those whose memories of Yuletide are of snow and cold and gathering by the fire with friends. So come December she transforms the old Victorian home she and Mim share into a winter wonderland.
We thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks in a very urban setting. St. Kilda is near the beach so one day our exploration took us on a walk along the water and then back along one of Melbourne’s many streets of small shops. On the first Friday Michelle took us to Williamstown, where we saw a production of Dust, written to educate people on the history and terrible health toll of the asbestos industry.
On her birthday, Michelle drove us down to Seaford, where she and Mim have a second home, and then on down to Portsea, the very tip of Mornington Peninsula. We had lunch at the Portsea Hotel and then drove to the blustery beach facing the South Pole before heading back to St. Kilda.
On our way south we stopped at Dendy Beach in Brighton and took a look at the Bathing Boxes. The little beach sheds have no power or water. On the rare occasions they come up for sale, you can expect to pay around $50,000 for the privilege of storing your beach gear and having a private change room.
Mim and Michelle treated us to a Gold Class Cinema evening to see the new film, Australia. We don’t have Gold Class in Kelowna, and I’ve never heard of it elsewhere in Canada. Ours was the largest of the three screening rooms, with space for twenty patrons. We settled into our reclining lounges, with tables between every two, and watched the movie in splendour while being served drinks and refreshments at times we’d designated. What a way to see an epic film. And if you haven’t seen Australia, ignore the carping of some of the critics and be prepared for a classic tale of greed, corruption, and the triumph of the determined little guy, as well as a very satisfying love story. The 11-year-old Aboriginal actor is a confident, engaging character. The four of us thoroughly enjoyed the film.
On one of our last nights in St. Kilda we dined at SoulMama, which surely must be one of the best and most environmentally responsible vegetarian restaurants in Melbourne. The food is served buffet style. The beach view is unbeatable. And the fare appeals both to the gourmet and to the environmentally sensitive diner.
Three couples from Robin’s tours with APT (Australian Pacific Touring) have arranged gatherings for us. With Wayne and Grace Tan and their friends and fellow travelers, Jackie and Chong Ooi we feasted at Omah’s, a Malaysian restaurant. Since both couples immigrated many years ago from Malaysia, they knew the menu offerings and ordered a variety of dishes, every one of which was a burst of flavour on the tongue.
Lorraine and Max Wearne invited a group of friends to meet “the best tour director ever” (Lorraine’s words – and a comment Robin well deserves). They’ve moved to a spacious townhouse in Brighton, just blocks from the beach. Friends are always a reflection of who we are, and the Wearnes’ friends are bright, interesting, and welcoming.
Saturday Joe and Rosanna Carullo drove into the city to pick us up on Saturday and then took us all the way out to Leopold near the city of Geelong on the Ballarine Peninsula to the home of Milton and Adrianna Hardman where three more APT travelers came around to give a warm Oz greeting to Robin and me.
So we’ve feasted on both wonderful food and warm friendliness. We’re missing the round of Christmas gatherings back home so really appreciate the way all these busy Australians have taken time to welcome us.
We have now commenced a five-week house sitting stint for a couple we found on the Internet. They have a small flat in Brunswick and a dog named Max, who is an adorable silk terrier with an orange-brown coat. He’s snuggled against my leg and snoring softly beside me as I write.