Day 14 or 15 in Australia.  I was halfway through my time here.

In my last post I wrote that I’d gone to Greece with Heidi, Rob, and a second Aussie girl.  Her name was Melissa and I would not see her on this trip because it was just too dang complicated to get to her in Whyalla.  She’s a single mum who works full time so she couldn’t come to me.  Heidi and I had tried to work it out—I would have to fly to Adelaide, then rent a car and drive for five hours.  Heidi wouldn’t be able to accompany me so this could have been my initiation into driving on the left, but in the end there just wasn’t enough time.

I had bought a Minnesota baseball jersey for Melissa and a jersey from our soccer team for her son.  I stopped in the post office near the train station and mailed them.

The three of us then stood in front of the ticket machine at the station for 15 minutes trying to figure out what to do.  In Melbourne there is the Myki transport card, much like the Oyster in London or the Opal in Sydney.  You buy some initial credit then top up the card when needed.

Except there was no way to buy a card, and no information on where to get one.  Heidi and Danielle had Mykis from their last visit, but I didn’t.

“I’m okay with just getting on and talking my way out at the other end,” I said.

It took an hour to get into Melbourne, so I had plenty of time to come up with a sob story for why I had been unable to buy a Myki card.  But when the train deposited us at the Flinders Street Station, the bored guard just waved me out and over to a service window where I bought a card.

It’s a beautiful station.

This was my first view of Melbourne.  Immediately, I had the impression of a very cosmopolitan, bustling, super-charged city. Sydney is a big city, but it somehow feels more laid back.

There were construction cranes in every direction.  The banner on the old church said “Refugees Welcome,” which was good because blonde, blue-eyed Aussies appeared to be in the minority.  At one point I lost my bearings and wondered if I had somehow been transported to Beijing.

The streets were heaving with trams, buses, cabs, pedestrians, and bicyclists.  We made our way to David Jones, one of the big department stores, where I bought socks and boots for my cold feet.

“It’s almost racing season,” Heidi said excitedly, “so all the stores have their selections of frocks and hats on display.”

“Aww,” I replied, “I wish I could be here for that!  We could start an annual streak of dress-up sporting events, like Wimbledon last year.”  Yes, we had gone to Wimbledon in 2017, buying the cheap tickets and sitting on the lawn, drinking Pimms and watching the matches on the jumbotron.  It was a scene.  It was a blast.

I could have taken photos of frocks all day but Heidi and Danielle were on missions to find shoes for their dad and a watchband for their mum.  We went from store to store and never found either. I looked at jeans in Target but had no idea how Australian sizes correlated to American.

I was cold and tired.  Suddenly I that moment that comes during even the best trips, where I think, “I want to go home now.” And by home I mean my own home, with my bath and my bed and all my familiar things, where I can lounge on the couch watching TV in my pajamas while shoveling popcorn into my mouth.

Instead, we got on the train for the hour commute back to Dean and Lisa’s.  Their house was lovely and welcoming and comfortable, so if I couldn’t be taking the train back to my own home, theirs was a welcome second choice.

Within a few hours the five of us were seated in a cozy Argentine restaurant gabbling away over tapas and I was back to being the happy traveler.

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