Today is Leap Day and the sixteenth birthday of one of Chris’s oldest friends, he who Chris met when he first arrived in Australia over forty years ago, and subsequently first explored his adopted country with. Do the maths; 40 …16, such is the confusing aspect of Leap Years.
We finally hit the Museum today after three weeks. A very slow commute in, held up by ridiculous safety barriers for little reason on the road, and just missing the train, all led to a rather late start. We also had to find an Office Works in the middle of the city and stand in a slow queue to have some printing done, before we could set out on trivial pursuits.
The museum is situated right next to the Royal Exhibition Centre within the formal Carlton Gardens. We spent some time wandering around these, enjoying the fountains, trees and wide pathways and taking in the wonderfully majestic building constructed just in time for the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880-1881. This exhibition was in the style of the grand exhibition held in London in the Crystal Palace in the same era, and while this building is less wondrous than that which was subsequently destroyed by fire, it celebrated the 19th century prosperity and the limitless opportunities of life in gold-rich Victoria.
In fact it is the only major 19th century Palace of Industry exhibition building in the world to survive substantially intact. In 1888-89, the Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition attracted two million visitors, and continues its role in modern times. Chris recalls that he attended his first caravan and camping show here. The idea of caravans and tents being displayed in such a fine building baffles me, especially when we peered in through the glass doors to admire the fabulous ceiling and the lovely timber floors. And after all that, I will add that we did not take opportunity of any tour through the building, deciding that our own observations were probably enough.
After lunch we entered the museum, a relatively new building, opened in 2000 in a very modern style and very different to that it stands next to. We spent nearly four hours there seeing little more than the section that explores the history of Melbourne itself. This is a brilliant exhibition and plainly captured our attention. We left with the knowledge that we will have to return yet again to see the rest. But will one more visit do it? Only time will tell.
We made an impetuous decision to alight from the tram when we reached the Parliament railway station, and were just in time to jump on the Sydenham train, all coinciding with half a million other commuters. We were squashed in like sardines; young and old, black and white, tourist and workers, but mostly young. Any possibility of getting to a seat had one been relinquished was thwarted by the crush of humanity.
The weather had remained dry all day although dark clouds remained all about, and tonight as I write this, the rain has started once again. There are severe rain warnings for most of NSW and the ACT, and a reminder to those in Victoria that they should not be too complacent. We consider ourselves fortunate measured against those who are in the thick of floods again.