lesson for anyone attempting to fly to a foreign country is not to listen
to the Airline that you have chosen to book for the flight. In this instance,
United attempted to book us on a flight that allowed thirty minutes between
our flight from Seattle to LAX to Los Angeles and our flight to Australia.
When we objected it took a while from one spokesman to another and finally
handing it over to our travel agent to convince United to finally give us
flights that would allow a four hour layover between dropping into LAX and
heading out to Aukland and then Melbourne. A good thing, too. The flight from
SeaTac Airport turned out to be forty minutes late as we waited in a traffic
jam right on the tarmac. Waiting at LAX, the trip to Australia began
with my laptop and Ricochet Modem in LAX and getting my last chance for a
while to download my email. I had more than enough time as it turned out that
the flight was going to be an hour and more late. None of this, however, really
damped our enthusiasm and excitement.
So, lets begin our account of the flight itself. Put simply, a long flight with very little leg room. Still, the food was great and plentiful. Hour on hour we chased the night until sunrise finally caught up with us outside of Auckland, New Zealand.Auckland was rainy and New Zealand in general green. Very, very green. Which, coming from Seattle, made us feel quite at home. Three or more additional hours on top of the twelve already flown and we reached our ultimate destination, Melbourne. Customs was notable for its brevity and the small dog that checked all our baggage for contraband anything. The real surprise was how warm it was. This is the end of the Australian winter and the temperatures were more than we left behind in Seattle. Subsequent accounts by locals informed us that Australia was getting a very comfortable winter. Too comfortable, actually. The lack of snow pack will likely mean water restrictions in the summer ahead. Jet lag took both Fran and I for at least a day while we made the adjustment to five hours back and a day ahead. Another surprise was the edema or swelling in our legs. This was probably a combination of inactivity and changes in air pressure during the flight, but seems to be a universal lament that I was not aware of previously.
Across from our hotel, Centra Melbourne, is a casino that would rival anything in Las Vegas. The Crown Casino. It certainly would put anything in Washington state to shame. Built at a cost of a billion Austalian dollars according to the taxi cab driver bringing us into town, it hosts all manner of shops, eating places, gambling opportunities, big name entertainers entertaining, even a Planet Hollywood and a flaming light show each night that lights up the sky from outside of the Crown Casino atop towers that drip in water at other times.
The fun part of the pyrotechnics to the left was hearing about how the Crown did their grand opening. It seems that they released hundreds and hundreds of doves to fanfare and the above flaming spectacle. And they fried about half of the doves which dropped back into the audience.
Visions of WKRP
and turkeys thrown out of a helicopter flashed in my head. On top of this,
they were setting these off every half hour for the first several days only
to roast the occasional pigeon and have it land amongst those attempting to
eat. Roast squab on the fly could, I think, be a bit disconcerting.
The cost also probably entered into the equation. So, now the towers flame on the hour from six to midnight. The effect of this light show is amazing and well worth the viewing. Their intentions were good and they finally got it right. To see a much more elaborate version of this extraordinary lightshow click on your bad width choice and see a more elaborate version. You will need Real Player. If you do not have it, click on the logo below.
Our initial reasoning for coming to Melbourne, well, let's be serious, we wanted to see Australia, but the thing that nudged us over into actually doing it was taking in the World Science Fiction Convention, Aussiecon. In particular I would like to show the picture of an individual who I had meant some years past on the writers forum I began four years ago called Writer's Notebook. Kim Wilkins or Britomart as I knew her on the Notebook, turned out to be all I had expected and more from her comments on the Notebook and her books which I am happy to say our now available via Amazon.co.uk. A fun time was had by all at the con and I will say that I give heart felt appreciation to the convention for providing an excuse to visit this wonderful country and continent.
Melbourne in general is a lively, vibrant city with friendly people and diverse architecture. The shops, restaurants and churches, were alive with an energy that was exciting, refreshing and always one surprise after another. Our exploration of Melbourne began with a bycicle tour. I complete this account with a range of pictures for your pleasure to get a hint of what we encountered and enjoyed.
Some of our firsts exposures of the city aside from the Crown were long walks along the river. So, to begin this range of pictures, lets start with a boat coming and end with a both leaving. In between, enjoy a range of pictures either taken as we did our bycicle tour, others taken from the observation tower of the tallest building in the city or coming back from Ballarat.