A week in Melbourne

I went to Melbourne primarily for the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular (geronimo!), but also to revisit a city I hadn’t explored since university days. I was then in the Adelaide University Science Fiction Association, which had many dealings with the Melbourne University Science Fiction Association through conventions and friendships struck up.

Day 1 was spent flying 2 hours from Ballina, booking in to the hotel around 3 pm, then walking around, looking especially for bookshops. One can easily buy books off the net, usually cheaper than in a bricks-and-mortar bookshop, but – call me old-fashioned – I still like the experience of  actually being in a bookstore, and the sight, smell and feel of a book. I’ll probably get a Kindle or suchlike one day for the sheer convenience of storing lots of books in one place when travelling, but for now I’ll stick to objects whose battery life is more than a couple of hours and which won’t be destroyed when I drop them. Melbourne bookshops did not disappoint, although they are gradually closing down like those in Brisbane and Sydney.

Because of daylight saving, sunset wasn’t until about half 7, so we had plenty of time for an initial reconnaissance.

It’s very easy to get from Tullamarine Airport to the city centre – just jump on a SkyBus, which goes every 10 minutes and has a courteous staff member as well as a driver to help with queries. This trip takes 20 minutes to Southern Cross Station, the main train/bus/tram hub.

We’d booked an hotel about five minutes’ walk from there, in Spencer Street. I’d chosen it as it was five minutes’ walk from the Convention Centre (where the Doctor Who concert was happening), just near the Yarra River which flows through Melbourne and close enough to the rest of the city to walk around. It’s relatively cheap, and the rooms are small but stylish. I like to walk around in a city to get a feel of the place.

Melbourne is set out on a grid pattern and is very easy to walk around. There’s a free tram which encircles the city, and a free tourist bus, too, so you can get your bearings with a ride on these. Recorded commentary tells you spots of interest and where to get off for certain places, like the museum or art gallery. Then you can strike out on your own – simple!

Melbourne is the only city in Australia to retain its trams as public transport (Adelaide has one line and Bendigo a couple, but they are minor lines). Trams and cars share the roads, and pedestrians have their share of deaths and injuries – I saw several people over the week just walking into the path of moving trams, usually wearing headphones or texting. A sign painted on several trams, going the whole length, says “If a rhinoceros on a skateboard was headed your way, you’d get out of the way, right? Well, guess what, a tram weighs about the same as 30 rhinos”. This should get the point across, but some people are too busy being distracted to read signs. The trams move fairly slowly, but there are few barriers between them, cars and pedestrians. You can see the amusing video of stampeding rhinos on skateboards, the safety awareness campaign, here.

Rhino tram sign Melbourne

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Melbourne Museum

The Melbourne Museum is the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere. It is “Victoria’s state museum of natural sciences, indigenous cultures, Australian history and cultural heritage”. I was impressed with it, even though it has the usual museum habit of concentrating on educating children and not having enough details for educated, interested adults. There was the usual emphasis on dinosaur skeletons as soon as you go in the main entrance – including a cast of our very own Muttaburrasaurus – and inside there was a lot of Victorian and Australian material, as you’d expect.

Muttaburrasaurus skeleton at the Queensland Museum; photo by Casliber, Wikimedia Commons

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Melbourne Aquarium (part 2)

Continued from part 1

The nautilus  has been on the planet around 500 million years. It lives at depth in the Indo-Pacific ocean. I haven’t yet found its shell washed up on a beach, but I’m still looking.

Nautilus Melbourne Aquarium

The very successful nautilus - around for half a billion years so far

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Not enough monsters!

<GEEK ALERT! NON-DR WHO FANS NEED NOT READ THIS POST. Apologies for the poor quality of the photos, but my camera was not up to the conditions. You’ll get some idea, though, of what it was like.>

Those three words in the heading are my mini-review of the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, this afternoon at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, welcomes the audience. Seems he might be visiting Oz again soon

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