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Cruise Diary: Melbourne

HAL blogger Gary Frink currently is sailing on board Oosterdam and will be sending in posts from his voyage.

Aboard Oosterdam, en route to Sydney, Austraia

The modern rail-tram at the end of the Melbourne ship pier had hardly begun to move toward the center-city when the renowned friendliness of the Australian people touched us. A short man with a brush cut, wearing a jacket bearing “Carrier” badges struck up a conversation; we soon learned a little about the man: “I worked for Carrier (the heating and air conditioning manufacturer) in Syracuse for six years,” he began. I asked how he dealt with the cold weather in upstate New York (Melbourne maintains moderate temperatures in the winter, rarely falling to freezing.) “We got used to it. In fact, we all acclimated to to America generally. When I would call home, my brother would kid me about my American accent.” By this time he had learned that Jeanne and I live in Virginia. “Is it any warmer in Virginia in the winter?” he inquired. I assured him it was. “Virginia is not Florida, but it sure is warmer that Syracuse,” I averred. Our new friend and his family might still be in Syracuse but for one serious issue: “What really drew us home was college education for our children. Here it is free, there it costs a fortune.” He wished us well as he exited the tram at the next stop.

A man sitting behind Jeanne took up the be-friendly-to-the-foreign-Frinks cudgel. He began a tourist guide-like patter: “That building on the left was the stock exchange. We are in the financial district now…” Before he got off the tram, he made certain that we knew that the next the tram stop was ours, two blocks from the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets, the bulls eye of center-city Melbourne.

After a block walking up Swanston street, we encountered the massive St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, which sits astride one third of a city block, facing Federation Square across Flinders Street. I took photos of the apparently-Gothic, gargantuan seat of the Church of England in the State of Victoria.

Federation Square is a huge space, facing The Cathedral. It is partially filled with fragmented and cubist structures that strongly reminded me of the work of Frank Gehry, the famous Los Angeles architect. Wrong Again! The Federation Square structures were designed by two firms, one from London, the other Melbourne-based. Part of the open space is consumed by a 10,000 seat amphitheater. All and all, Federation Square screams out: Look at me! It is a Melbourne civic triumph and, if one is within sight, impossible to ignore.

A street performer in Federation Square with the train station in background.

A street performer in Federation Square with the train station in background.

Across Flinders Street is the Flinders St. Station, a full block long and built in the style and magnitude of grand European rail stations. “It even has a ballroom on top,” a docent at the Federation Square Visitor’s Center told me.

Jeanne and I approached a group of three red-coated Visitor’s Center volunteers assisting tourists across Flinders Street from the rail station. “I’m from the United States,” I began “and I want to go to the nearest authentic Australian pub.” The woman I spoke to chuckled and pointed behind us. We were standing in front 150 year old Young and Jackson, a saloon and restaurant, a very old establishment given that Capt. James Cook didn’t claim the continent for Great Britain until 1770. “You are standing in front of it,” the woman said. As we moved away, she said: “Be sure to go to the second floor. There is a very famous painting there.”

We walked into The Young and Jackson second floor tap room and there she was: Chloe! A six foot tall painting of a 19 year old, demure, barely-blossoming nude girl, or as the saloon brochure states: “a wistful nymph-awaiting a lost love.” Done in 1875 by Jules Lefebvre, Parisian academician, Chloe, the painting, possesses an interesting history.

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In May 1883, a Doctor Fitzgerald lent her to the National Gallery of Victoria. Chloe’s nudity caused such a public hubbub, the good doctor re-took possession of her. Now from the Young and Jackson brochure: “Chloe was purchased at the end of 1908 by Henry Figsby Young — a publican and art collector…Chloe was installed in Young and Jackson in 1909 in the main bar of the hotel creating a frenzy of excitement, disdain, curiosity, rumour and innuendo. In her first year Chloe reputedly caused marriage break-up, general loss of innocence and St. Paul’s Cathedral to move its main entrance to Flinders Street! (Apparently the church objected to its flock fleeing directly from church, across the road, drink with Chloe.”) Nowhere have I seen it mentioned how Chloe made her way to Australia, but that doesn’t dull the story a whit.

Tim, our Young and Jackson bartender, hit it on the head when he observed to us: “You two stumbled on to one of Melbourne’s landmarks.” Oh, yeah we did! Jeanne finished her lemon-lime bitters and I my hoppy-lager and we bid farewell to Tim and Chloe. We walked two blocks and boarded the #109 tram. Soon we were safely within the bosom of Mother Holland America. Upon arrival at cabin 0482, I flopped on the bed exhausted. Travel adventures are tiring.

1 Comment
  • Interfo News

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