My magnificent [his edit 😜] husband picked Melbourne as the starting point for our seven-week stay in Australia because it’s the most southerly of our three intended locations. Since I don’t tolerate heat very well, we aimed to travel from South to North as the Southern Hemisphere transitions from summer into fall. Just as a little reminder, I should point out that “South” in Australia means closer to Antarctica, therefore it’s supposed to be cooler, while “North” points toward the equator and elevated temperatures. This is the reason why life in Australia and New Zealand appears upside down from a European perspective and they have been referred to as the Antipodes.
Naturally, the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley [Robert Burns “To a Mouse”] in other words, the best-laid plans often go awry. Instead of following its established chart of benign average temperatures for February, Melbourne has, for the most part so far, presented itself awash in hot desert winds, driving the heat index well above 32ºC/90ºF, occasionally alternating with temperatures plunging below 20ºC/68ºF. This temperature Jo-jo is slanted more heavily than expected toward the desert atmosphere, which the Melbournians seem to enjoy very much, while it forces me into serious shadow hopping when out and about. And bar hopping. One needs to refresh the spirit with a cool drink in a climatized space every now and then, doesn’t one?
Seeking shade, we popped into the Theater Building and the Hamer Hall Symphony. Though loitering inconspicuously we were nevertheless immediately pounced upon by their charming box office ladies. Consequently, we now hold excellent tickets for two shows. The “Tao Dance Theater in 6 and 8” is characterized by The Australian as ‘mind-pummelling’, while The Guardian’s reviewer Judith Mackrell uses expressions like ‘monochrome minimalism’, ‘sparse choreography’ and ‘purifying dance of all but its own physicality’. I shall henceforth report to you, once we have had our minds pummeled. On the lighter side of ballet, we’re also looking forward to “One Beautiful Thing by Circa”. Circa is a contemporary circus-like performance company based on acrobatics, movement, music, and innately, dance. I imagine Circa has similarities to Cirque du Soleil, if in a more contained format. Should it measure up to the fantastic performance of Les 7 Doigts de la Main troupe, an offspring of the Cirque, we saw in Chicago several years ago, we shall be delighted!
Following our cultural enrichment in the Arts Center, we climbed down the stairs between Hamer Hall and St. Kilda Road to the sun-bleached and vibrant Southbank Promenade stretching along the Yarra river, which our host called ‘just a creek’.
Eventually, the promenade brings you to the Queensbridge Square Plaza, the Southbank terminus of the Sandridge Bridge for pedestrians and bicycles. The plaza was obviously central to New Year’s festivities quite recently.
Sandridge Bridge has a long and distinguished history, having served as a railroad bridge in three consecutive incarnations since 1853. The original bridge carried the first Australian passenger train connecting the Port of Melbourne to the city, bringing in immigrants and goods. In the early 2000s, the bridge was restored and converted for pedestrian use. The renown Lebanese architect and artist Nadim Karam was commissioned to create an installation of oversized “Travelers”, ten sculptures that actually move across the bridge on rails three times a day reminiscent of the immigrants crossing this bridge toward their new home. The bridge is also lined with 128 glass panels etched with information about indigenous peoples as well as naming the countries of origin of Australian immigrants.