Love is Love

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Since being in Australia, I have roamed museums and historic monuments where I have learned much about Australia’s past.  I attended Melbourne’s annual Midsumma Pride March where I got the opportunity to impact Australia’s future.

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On what was supposed to be a dreary day, gray skies and thunderstorms, Mother Nature had a change of heart and St. Kilda was bathed in sunlight.  The pleasant weather mirrored the cheerful, supportive, and prideful aura emitted from everyone participating in and attending the March.

Members of the Melbourne and Regional Victoria communities gathered on Fitzroy Street to celebrate and honor members of the LGBTI community.  It was beautiful to see people of all races, job statuses, and sexual orientations gather to show respect and support for marriage equality.   Flight crews, police forces, supermarkets, and churches were a few of the groups present.

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Ten minutes after the March’s commencement, a radical group sat in the street in protest of the Midsumma Pride March.  Derogatory remarks were spat at marchers and bystanders, while police worked to get the protesters under control.  As they say, “The show must go on,” and so it did.  Within five minutes, the event staff rerouted the parade around the hindrance and police escorted said hindrance off the street accompanied by a chorus of cheers and hollers from the crowd.

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The March continued as planned and finished with a great celebration complete with Aussie sizzles, performances, and immense support for the LGBTI community.

The theme of this year’s event was marriage equality, and I can only hope that the politicians present will have a positive impact within the Australian government.  As great as Australia is, it would be so much better if it abandoned its homophobia and embraced what so many other nations have already.  Love is love.

xo

 

Watched Some Tennis. It Was Ace.

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It’s not everyday you are in Australia to catch the Australian Open.  Lucky for me, I was able to attend days six and nine of the Grand Slam.

On day six, I started my day meeting Australia’s first Bachelorette, Sam Frost, and her beau, Sasha.  Upon entering Melbourne Park tennis grounds, I witnessed the following Round Two games:

Annika Beck (GER) defeat Laura Siegemund (GER)

Daniel Nestor (CAN) and Radek Stepanek (CZE) defeat Lukasz Kubot (POL) and Marian Matkowsh (POL)

Jocelyn Rae (GBR) and Anna Smith (GBR) defeat Johanna Konta (GBR) and Heather Watson (GBR)

On day nine, I watched Men’s Legends Jonas Bjorkman (SWE) and Thomas Johansson (SWE) defeat Wayne Ferreira (RSA) and Mats Wilander (SWE) in a no-pressure, rather comedic, no-ad game.  Following their game, Adrian Mannerino (FRA) and Lucas Pouille (FRA) defeated Jean-Juhen Rojer (NED) and Horia Tecau (ROU) in the Men’s Doubles Quarterfinals.

Although we did not have tickets to enter Rod Laver Arena to witness the Women’s and Men’s Quarterfinals first-hand, big screens located around the tennis grounds were airing the matches.  Much like sports fan gather outside Madison Square Garden to watch the NHL playoffs, we spent the rest of the afternoon gathered on the lawn outside Rod Laver with hundreds of tennis fans, celebrating Australia Day (equivalent to America’s Independance Day) and Serena Williams’ (USA) and Roger Federer’s (SUI) defeats over Maria Sharapova (RUS) and Thomas Berdych (CZE).

Talk Nerdy to Me

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While travelling to the destination (Melbourne Museum) of, yet another, solo Sunday exploration, I cut through the Carlton Gardens, home of the immaculate Royal Exhibition Building.  The Building hosts many events throughout the year, including but not limited to:  university exams (BOO!), bridal expos, design fairs, and car shows.  It can be toured (a fact I was unaware of until after planning my day) and you can bet it will be toured, so stay tuned…

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The Darwin (#mancrusheveryday) to DNA exhibit is only a small portion of the Melbourne Museum which is home to approximately six permanent galleries, each comprised of up to five sub-galleries, three changing galleries, an IMAX theater, and an amphitheater.  The Melbourne Museum is equivalent to the Museum of Natural History in NYC, although, I’m convinced its number of specimens trumps New York’s…easily.

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I have never seen as many nor as perfectly preserved insect specimens as I did in the Bugs Alive! exhibit.  The exhibit had displays of beetles, butterflies, spiders, ants, and more displayed in shadow boxes standing well over two meters tall.  It was an entomologist’s dream come true, to say the least.

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While there were no aquariums housing live marine fauna, the preserved animals found in jars and tanks around the Marine Life exhibit offered easier observation of past and present species.  Museum guests could approach and get an up-close-and-personal view of a giant squid, Australia’s infamous blue-ringed octopus, a blobfish, and dragon kin (seahorses and pipefishes).  My marine biology-loving nerd flourished in this particular section, as I was able to see anglers and other deep sea species that are typically not present in other museums or aquariums.

“Try not to have a good time…this is supposed to be educational.” –Charles M. Schultz

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The Melbourne Museum caters to the entomologists, marine biologists, environmentalists, and Norman Bates’s of the world.  The Wild exhibit is floor to ceiling, 270-degrees taxidermy heaven.  Everything from birds to monkeys to large felines to rhinoceroses (well rhinoceros, but yes, there is one!).  It is quite possibly the coolest, most disturbing exhibit I have ever experienced.  The Museum has placed several touch screen monitors around the exhibit, on which guests can select animals from an identical image of the wall, and the image of the animal of interest will enlarge with both the scientific and common names.

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The Mind and Body Gallery included a look into the anatomy and physiology of the human body, as well as the workings of the human mind.  Among other things, interactive exhibits exemplify how the brain varies between mentally healthy and unhealthy individuals, how the brain works to memorize and analyze inputs, and how generations have contributed to the ability to study such instances.

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It would not be a trip to the Melbourne Museum without a tribute to the aforementioned city.  The Melbourne Gallery gives a brief history lesson from the 1890’s to present-day.  More than 1200 collection objects tell the Melbourne Story, including artifacts from the first derby days, Cole’s Book Arcade, and, Australian hard rock band, AC/DC.

xo

Natural and Man-made Beauties

As you may have deduced from my previous posts, Melbourne is home to an array of beautiful sights produced by Mother Nature and man.

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I had the pleasure of attending the Tesselaar Tulip Festival, established in 1954.  The event combines music, food, crafts, and, of course, tulips.  The Tulip Festival is held in Silvan, Victoria in the Shire of Yarra Ranges.  In its 61 years, the festival has grown to 25 acres of land covered in half a million tulips of over 120 varieties.

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I was even able to see a bit of good ol’ Gloucester County, Virginia while visiting the farm.  There was a spread of approximately twenty varieties of daffodils–not quite as vast as the tulips, but bittersweet nonetheless.

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One of Melbourne’s number one attractions is its graffiti streets.  In 1964, graffiti began to appear on buildings of suburban neighborhoods, metro trains and trams, put there by the disaffected youth of the city.  As this vandalism became recognized as an art form, it became prominent in well-seen areas around Melbourne Central.  In 2008, in admiration, Florida’s Disney World took to recreating a Melbourne laneway for a tourism campaign.

While the decorated laneways attract tourists to the Australian city, the government is torn on how to manage the production–art versus vandalism.  For now, graffiti will remain a double-edge sword.

xo

Books, Badges, and Botany

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I never had to exercise such self-restraint as when I went to the Book Market at, you guessed it, Federation Square.  Every Saturday, bibliophiles gather to sell, buy, and swap new and old titles.  Vendors line the Atrium with an array of titles, varying in genre from Russian literature to romance to children’s books, for prices that would even give Amazon a run for its money.

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After convincing myself that lugging ten kilos of literature around Melbourne would not be my smartest decision (or the easiest task), I strolled down St. Kilda Road to the Shrine of Remembrance.  The Shrine was dedicated in 1934 to the 114,000 Victorians–men and women alike–that served in the Great War (1914-1918).  During the war, not all the bodies of dead soldiers made it back to Australia for a proper burial, so the Shrine was erected to provide acknowledgement, honor, and closure for the families of the deceased.

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Spanning the entry wall to the Visitor Centre is a display case containing 4,000 medals presented to Australian military personnel during times of war and peacekeeping.  These medals reflect the honors of 106 Victorians.

The Visitor Centre houses a museum of war relics–uniforms, letters, weaponry, etc.–from the establishment of the colony, Victoria, to present day efforts in Afghanistan.

Throughout the day, a remembrance ceremony is conducted in the Sanctuary of the Shrine around the Stone of Remembrance.  Engraved on the Stone is “Greater love hath no man.”  The Sanctuary is constructed with a glass roof allowing the sunlight to rest upon the word ‘LOVE’.

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Underneath the Sanctuary is the Crypt, a holy room in honor of the sacrifices made by all the Victorian men and women who have served the Australian military and lost their lives.

Across the street from the Shrine of Remembrance is the main entrance to the Royal Botanical Gardens.  Like a lush Central Park, the Gardens provide a beautiful backdrop for families to picnic, play soccer, and soak up some vitamin D.

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Within the Gardens, the National Herbarium of Victoria is located.  The Herbarium conducts research on over 35,000 specimens of Australian plants, fungi, and algae; as well as some non-Australian collections.  Researchers focus on the taxonomy and systematics of Victorian flora.

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Lastly, I finished my day of solo explorations with lunch in yet another Melbourne alleyway, musical entertainment free of charge.

xo

Kiss My Sassafras

Finally, after approximately ten months of winter, spring has finally returned to my life.  Good-bye nine-degree (48˚F) mornings, hello high of 23 (73˚F)!

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Torta:  spicy grilled chorizo in a flaky roll, topped with a pineapple pico de gallo

To kickoff the season’s festivities, my friends and I attended a Mexican festival held, in the heart of Melbourne City, at Federation Square.  The event was comprised of craft vendors, food trucks, sombreros, mariachi bands, and glorious Melbourne sunshine.  Mexican food craving:  satisfied.

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This past weekend, Sole and I took a scenic drive into the hills to yet another quaint, country town, Sassafras.  Like many of the other small towns in Victoria, Sassafras is a single lane-way with a row of shops, boutiques and cozy cafes on either side.  We were fortunate enough to hear the work of Stephen McCulloch, a member of Team Delta from the most recent season of The Voice Australia, while browsing a cute knick-knack and home goods store, Smits & Bits.

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We continued our journey through the winding roads of the Dandenong Ranges to the SkyHigh overlook (no, Dad, not where they train superheroes).  From atop Mount Dandenong one gets a panoramic view of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne CBD, and Mount Macedon.  Other attractions at SkyHigh include:  a secret garden, an English Garden, and trail walks through the ranges.

Unfortunately, we have a dreary-spell for the next few days, but you know what they say:  [September] showers bring [October] flowers.  The weather is getting progressively nicer, which means I will be increasing my explorations and discovering a lot more of Victoria’s beauty in the months to come.

xo

Never Judge a Book by its Movie

Another Sunday morning of solo-exploring led me to the State Library of Victoria, one of the first three public libraries in the world.  The State Library was established in 1854 and is comprised of several reading rooms and galleries housing books, magazines, historical archives and artifacts, and artwork.

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The La Trobe Reading Room is situated under the largest dome of its kind.  The room spans 35 m (115 ft) in height and diameter with enough space for over one million books and 600 readers.

Along the perimeter of the dome, on levels five and six, were exhibits.  The first exhibit was a walk through Victoria’s history; it contained artifacts and historic information pertaining to the establishment of the English colony, the infamous Ned Kelly, ANZAC involvement in WWII, and the first Australian made car.

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The newly formed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was sent to the Gallipoli peninsula in April 1915 to assist in the demise of Turkish troops.  Although the campaign was a failure, ANZAC endured primitive conditions and plagues (lice and dysentery), earning their countries’ respects.  Alongside propaganda, the courage, ingenuity, and self-sacrifice to withstand such terrible conditions aided in the recruitment of new soldiers who would step on the battlefield during WWII.

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Holden was a saddlery manufacturer founded by James Alexander Holden in 1856, until Edward Holden converted the company into the automotive field in 1908.  In 1919, they began specializing in completely Australian made car bodies before being subsidized in 1931 by U.S.-based General Motors.

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The second exhibit displayed many works (writings, paintings, sketches) regarding natural history.  Joannes Jonstonus was a Polish natural historian and physician whose goal was “to make young men delight in natural history” by illustrating real and imaginary sea creatures in his notes.  Francois Le Vaillant was a French explorer and ornithologist.  Unfortunately, he was not credited for many of his ornithological discoveries because he preferred to use his own descriptive names, rather than the standard Linnean nomenclature.

[ATTENTION:  If you do not know what Linnean nomenclature is, do not ask me, as my biology-loving heart will shatter into a million pieces.  I suggest you do a quick Google search and educate yourself.  That is all.]

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A stereograph is formed by posting two images, taken from slightly different perspectives, next to each other on a cardboard mount.  When viewed through a stereoscope, they create a three-dimensional single image.  There is a large collection of stereographs at the State Library, most of which depicting the interior architecture of the Library, as well as its galleries and exhibits.

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After wandering the Library for three hours (and I am still convinced I missed things), I met with a friend to attend the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF).  I am no film critic, but when in Melbs, right?  We viewed a compilation of shorts directed by aspiring Australian and New Zealand filmmakers.  Prior to the viewing, each director gave a short speech thanking their cast, crews, and family–a practice run for their potential Oscar-winning speeches.  That’s right; some of the shorts are being considered for 2016 Oscar nominations.  How cool!  While there were a couple shorts that I did not quite understand, others were great and took a new or different approach than anything I had seen before (again, personal preference, not a film critic).  Just another thing I can say I did while on my Australian adventure.

xo