One of the benefits of living in New Zealand is that Australia is relatively close to visit. I spent last weekend in Melbourne with my husband, for whom this was his first trip to Oz (I'd been once for a quick trip to Melb in 2009). We booked a glorified backpacker's hotel, (the Formula One) which was sparse but right downtown, quiet, and appeared to be secure. Melbourne has a mix of very old and new buildings, as the photos show.
Melbourne was "bought" from the native aboriginals and grew up due to it's port and the gold mines. There's a nice museum at the Treasury Building, where you can visit the thick rooms where they kept all the gold.
There are frequent trams that go all over downtown. We rode them to the St Kilda free music festival,
where we saw awesome motorcyle stunts and I bought a lovely green opal directly from the miners, to New Quay with it's modern and expensive looking new developments, where we ate good Greek food, and to Little Italy where we had massive piles of pasta with a bottle of chianti. We were walking distance to the river, the Flinders Street Station (1910), Federation Square, where the visitor center is, Hosier Lane, where there's great street art,
and shopping, including a vinyl record store.There's lanes and alleyways that have unique shops and cafes, and with the excellent public transportation system, everyone uses it and walks places. Unfortunately, I forgot my thyroid medication (Eltroxin), which I have to take every day, so we spent a good portion of Saturday trying to figure out how to get it. I only needed two days worth, so I asked at the pharmacy, where I was told that I had to have a prescription from a doctor in Australia and that I could only buy 200 pills. We managed to finally track down a clinic that was open on Saturday afternoon, but the asshole doctor said that he would have to charge me $96 for a visit. I explained that I only wanted the prescription, I can't get the cost of the visit reimbursed from the gov't since I'm visiting from NZ, and my travel insurance doesn't cover pre-existing conditions. He still said no, and I think he was a total A-hole for that. It's not like it's an addictive drug or anything. He could have charged me $30 or $40- I would have paid that. Instead I walked out.
Then this street art sort of described how I felt. But, as I mentioned, Melbourne is crazy awesome so we had a good time anyway. And that should be the last time that I ever forget to pack my medication.
We also were impressed and very jealous of Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market, where sections of the market are devoted to seafood, meat, chicken, fruit and veg, dairy, candy, bread, deli, and cooked food. Auckland has a historic old Victoria Market, but it's full of mainly tourist crap.
Too bad this picture is a bit out of focus. That's Zeus (4.5 mo) on the left, Fargo (11.5 yrs) in the middle, and Ruby (3 yrs, Zeus' mum) on the right. I took it just before we left for Melbourne. Fargo had his belly shaved for an ultrasound a couple weeks ago, and this showed neoplasms on his liver and adrenal gland. He's still playful and has a good appetite, but has been losing weight. It feels like you can feel every bone when you pet him. I've been boiling chicken and rice for him for probably 5 weeks, and I could probably do it in my sleep now. I've switched him over to browned ground beef now, and will see if there's any Science Diet kibble that he will tolerate (he has GI issues). I don't know how much longer he will live. The vet wouldn't give us any estimate, because every dog is different. There is no treatment that is going to cure him. He's the only one that hasn't pissed me off by waking me up this morning.
This street art from Melbourne makes me think of cancer- spreading, poorly defined, scary. One of the books I've just taken from the library is called The Emporor of All Maladies, a history of cancer. I've read a few pages, but have put it aside until I finish Johnathan Frazen's The Corrections (which is so intimate and voyeristic, funny and sad, and familar- really enjoying his prose, so like a painting).
I'm continuing to work 3 days a week, which is awesome. I took a Friday off in January to attend the Auckland Big Day Out, a multi-stage music festival that travels around Australia (but starts in Auckland, NZ). This was my first BDO, and I went mainly to see Grinderman. (Grinderman is Nick Cave's most recent band.) I also would have liked to see Tool, but they were playing just before Grinderman on a different stage. Since there was no seating, and I had difficulty seeing over peoples heads and shoulders during Iggy and the Stooges, I got to the Grinderman stage about 2 hours early so I could be right in front, so I could see. It was totally worth standing for hours, getting harassed and shoved around by an obnoxious, big guy during Primal Scream, and enduring one of the most boring bands I think I've ever seen, Primal Scream. You would think a band with such a cool name would be fun, but none of them smiled and their music was lame! Being up front for Grinderman was awesome, because they are such talented, energetic, and engaging musicians. Oh yeah, it was raining too! I was pretty pleased with myself because I'd stuffed a light rainjacket in my backpack, so I didn't get as cold and wet as other people. I also saw the Deftones, who I love. I remember seeing them back in San Diego at the Van's Warped Tour in about 1999. Wolfmother played a cover of The Who's Teenage Wasteland, which is my favorite Who song ("I don't need to be forgiven!"). I like this band and have one of their albums, and they sound a bit like Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin (remember them!?)- retro hard rock- you can hear Wolfmother's song Woman on YouTube if you click here.
Darin's birthday was celebrated in early January with a flourless chocolate cake (with sprinkles!) and a glass of port- yummy!
We took the ferry to Waiheke Island and rented scooters the day before his b-day. We visted Obsidian winery, swam in the warm Pacific ocean at Onetangi beach,
and had a charming lunch at Casita Miro. Our visit was over much too quickly!
We also went snapper fishing recently. I was a bit concerned because the weather had been very windy, which can make the water quite rough in a boat. But it was fine- a bit choppy later in the afternoon, but calm all morning. We took a boat charter out in the Hauraki Gulf (Dr Hook) for a full day. Between us, we caught 16 snapper, of which I filleted one of them! I caught the biggest one on the boat that day, 8.5 pounds, and all the other fishermen were jealous- what a great feeling. That gave my arm a real workout.