Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Playing Catch-Up in Melbourne

Feb. 20, 2013

It has been a very busy five days since I last posted a blog, so I’ll catch everyone up.

First – we moved out of Clement House, and I wanted to give them a little space – it was a lovely guesthouse in the St. Kilda neighborhood or town (or suburb).  The house was built in the late 1800s (I think 1888, but maybe it was 1861, I’ve kind of lost track) – an old brick house with a decorative colored brick façade and lacy ironwork.  Inside, each room has a beautiful marble fireplace, with gorgeous carved marble in the main rooms downstairs (including the kitchen).  The entrance hall and upstairs have lovely architectural details, just because that's the way houses were created at the time.  Colin and Chung were very helpful, and the place was very comfortable.  So – definitely think about Clement House if you go to Melbourne:  www.clementhouse.webs.com

Okay, so we had a nice Valentine’s Day, and the upgraded white lilies are opening up and smelling fragrant.  Our room is nice, nothing special – the St. Arnaud Budget Accommodation is nice, bigger and a bit crowded, sometimes quiet and sometimes noisy.  Nothing special, although the price is right and it’s in a nice neighborhood.  But we kind of miss St. Kilda, and have gone back over there a few times.

We spent one day walking around an area known for shopping – not that we were doing much shopping.  But we discovered several amazing chocolate shops, all within a block of each other – OMG, each one was better than the previous.  (Of course, if we went in the other direction they’d probably seem better too.)  Apparently Melbourne has become the chocolate center of Australia.  If you are a chocolate person, definitely check out the various chocolate shops around the intersection of Toorak Road and Chapel – the first store is something like Theobroma Emporium, theobroma (drink of the gods) being Greek for chocolate.  Beautiful, but too much “white chocolate” to make us happy.  (It only has cocoa butter, no chocolate liqueur – and they use cocoa butter in skin lotion – and you don’t eat that, do you?  No.  I rest my case.)  Across the street, the store Burch and Purchese had incredible displays made of chocolate, getting ready for Easter – and they handed out samples as people entered the store.  In fact, they offered me a chocolate flower – when I declined, saying I preferred dark chocolate to the white they offered, they quickly gave me a piece of the mandarin chocolate caramel mousse cake – which was OMG to die for – dark chocolate ganache on top, a thick layer of chocolate and orange mousse which was fabulous, a thinner layer of caramel mousse (good but not chocolate), and a dark chocolate cake base.  AMAZING!  We met the owner and chatted a bit, and I ended up emailing him the recipe for Richard and Phebe’s Chocolate Decadence Wedding Cake.  And then, across the other street (across the intersection) is Ganache – what a name for a chocolate store!!!!  I had rich and dense gelato in Caffe Latte and Dark Chocolate (a half scoop of each, the way they do in Italy), and Richard had the Brownie Mousse cake, featured here.  Plus gorgeous displays of truffles left over from Valentine’s Day – we were good and only had our one item each.

Okay, enough about chocolate (did you ever think you’d hear me say that?).  Supermarkets in new countries always have fun items – we laughed about the kiwifruit imported from Italy – I mean, New Zealand has the kiwi bird.  They grow the kiwifruit.  They  CALL  THEMSELVES  KIWIS.  So why does Australia, the neighbor of the Kiwis, import kiwifruit from Italy?????  (I’m guessing it’s a seasonal thing – but is kiwifruit in season in Italy in February?????  Inquiring minds would like to know.)  We also were impressed by the durian – in the fruit department, a big round hard thing covered in spikes.  Absolutely no idea what is inside – melon?  Breadfruit?  What color?  Taste?  It just looked cool, so I took a photo.
 We wandered around the riverwalk along the Yarra River, which goes straight through Melbourne and the outlying suburbs.  There are walkways on both sides of the river, and a series of bridges that cross over – a few for trams and cars, a few that are only for pedestrians.  The old railway bridge has been converted into a pedestrian bridge, and has strange metal sculpture – sort of Keith Haring meets Gustave Eiffel.  Some are dancing people, some animals, one I swear is an overflowing wine glass, and some I can’t figure out.  Several of these sculptures have pale pink fans inside, which turn gently in the breeze.  And all are underlit, so at night they reflect and almost glow along the bridge.  Very cool.  The sides of this bridge have etched glass panels, each one dedicated to immigrants – each panel gives a country, major cities where immigrants came from, years of the immigration, pertinent facts (such as European immigrants during the two world wars), information like that.  It was very interesting.

And there are little artistic touches all over – someone's backyard garden that features giant metal sunflowers along the curving gates.  A gate to a no-longer-there building, featuring migrating geese (or ravens?  crows?) wrought in lovely three-dimensional metal, flying across the gate and perching a few birds on the neighboring building.

And a few decorative light posts, in traditional Aborigine style – curling organic shapes in earth tones with the dotted decorative shapes inside, and the base of the light posts in similar earthy colors.  In the background, knitted and crocheted tree covers.  Don't ask me why, they just are.  Decorative tree cozies.  I don't know who makes them, or puts them on the trees, or why there are there.  They just are.  Little amusing touches, the tree cozies.

We spent Sunday back in the St. Kilda area, at an art fair – artisans set up booths and tables all along the Esplanade, which basically runs parallel to the beach.  It was a gorgeous summer day, about 90 degrees, with blue blue sky and breezes off the Tasman Sea.  We chatted with vendors, looked at items, watched the air show – you know, the small jets flying in formation and zooming around and leaving con trails to create loops and hearts and such – beautiful but nerve-wracking, because they appear to fly just inches from each other and always look about ready to crash.  We had a nice afternoon of this, and eventually made our way back to our guest house to cool off.

Not much else new.  Tuesday I had my surgery – the hospital was very efficient and essentially very similar to surgery in the States.  Or, at least, surgery in Puerto Rico and the USVI – I haven’t had anything but dental surgery and tonsils in the US.  The one thing that struck me, though, was that they didn’t give me anything prior to rolling me into the operating theatre (as it’s called here) – previously, I’ve always been given just a little hit of something (Valium or whatever) to relax prior to surgery.  Here, the anesthesiologist (called an anaesthetist here) put in the IV, someone gave me oxygen, Dr Anesthesiologist put something in the IV, I breathed three times, and then I woke up in recovery.  Also, Miss Dr Surgeon came by to see me as I was awaiting surgery – also not something I’ve had previously, except with another woman doctor.  (So I don’t know if that’s usual here, or just something that women doctors tend to do, be more patient maintenance oriented, rather than task oriented.)  Anyway, surgery went fine, I woke up, they gave me pain meds, I fell asleep, they rolled me into another room and gave me tea and biscuits (cookies), and eventually I was allowed to leave with Richard, who was there through it all.  So I’m back in the guesthouse, buzzed on pain meds (well, not buzzed, woozy is more like it) and hoping I’m relatively lucid in this blog.  Enjoying our lovely Valentine’s lilies, more and more are blooming.  Taking meds on schedule, reading and relaxing and blogging.  I’ll see the doctor on Friday to see what the pathologist said about the ducts, and then we go from there.

A few moments of humor – the intake nurse was from Zambia, so we had a nice time chatting with her about Africa in general, and she was very impressed with our travel without a plan.  The anesthesiologist was an older gentleman, white-haired, very doctorly – but he wore a bright red tie covered in small black cats with white whiskers, which I found quite amusing.  Richard didn’t notice it, from a distance it just looked like a red foulard tie (sixth grade English word) – but I was closer and the kitties just amused me.  And best part – the hospital had lovely starched and ironed hospital gowns to wear, and they gave us nice cozy bathrobes (which they called dressing gowns, white terry cloth dressing gowns) – so much nicer than the bleah green or washed out print gowns so many hospitals use.  Plus they had me wear a bright red cap to signify I have allergies.  (I guess other people wear blue.)

That’s it for the excitement in Melbourne.  I hope to be up and about tomorrow, the weather continues to be beautiful.  It has cooled down a bit, and even though there were brush fires at the beginning of the week and we had quite a bit of smoke down here, the fires seem to have abated with the rain and cooler weather of Tuesday, and things are okay right now.

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