Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Switching to the New A-Dream, the Australian Dream!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Switching to the New A-Dream, the Australian Dream!

Lakes Entrance, Gippsland Lakes National Park
12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road

While watching the Australian Open on TV in Arizona in January 2017, I was taken by a series of scenes with a haunting voice-over by a woman. It was an invitation to see Melbourne’s beauty thru the words of the Aussie poet E. J. Brady in his piece “Far and Wide:”

Let me watch the sea rain falling
Smell the salt, deck-driven spray;
Let me hear the bush-birds calling
At the dawning of the day.

Let me see the sun-bars streaming
Down the valleys, 'ere the night;
Fills the world with pleasant dreaming
Love and coolness and delight.

You can just imagine the thrill I felt knowing that within three months of that tennis open, I was to spend four months in this lyrical land! My youngest daughter April had chosen Melbourne as her new home. And I was to take care of my grandson Kyrie while she and husband Clint settled down to their new jobs.

She is smart to choose the city. At the time, it had been the World’s Most Livable City, seven years in a row.  You see, her visa application to the UK was disapproved by technicality even after working there for four years. Earlier her application to join me in the US had also been denied. But it was Australia’s gain and the UK and US’ loss. It turns out that April's skills and talents are meant for Melbourne which has top ranking in five factors: healthcare, culture and environment, education, infrastructure, and stability. 

one of the many pedestrian bridges that cross the Yarra River

Kyrie is not even two, so I panicked when he didn’t stop crying one day. But in just a ten-minute walk, I got to a clinic. It was so easy to find a slot for an appointment. Although he isn’t assigned a permanent doctor, records are well kept so the transfer of medical information among staff is no problem. And all care is free! The bedrock of the Australian healthcare system is prevention and quality of life. Work/life balance is held sacred and companies keep workweeks at forty hours or under. My son-in-law Clint loves the beer and wine his office serves in the last couple of hours on Fridays while April relishes the chance to see Kyrie early. It's no wonder Australia's life expectancy is 82 years, #7 in the world (79 for the US, #26).  

Culture and Environment

South Melbourne Market

Ten minutes from their apartment are also many places of interest. Frequently, while I was babysitting, Bill would do sight-seeing walks. The South Melbourne Market, just after the children’s playground, is where Bill and I spent many an afternoon, Kyrie in tow in his stroller. We relished plates of paella, hot jam donuts, borek, dim sims, etc., after buying produce, wine, clothing, or whatever else we needed.  We simply walked in another direction and reach Downtown in just ten minutes, too. There we hopped on a Yarra River Cruise, explored the newest exhibits at the Convention Centre, and marveled at modern art in the many galleries. Other times we wandered around Street Art Alleys, relaxed at Federation Square and Flinders’ Station across it, and shopped at the malls or the Queen Victoria Market. There were theatres galore, casinos, and good old Chinatown. We caught up on all kinds of reading at the majestic State Library of Victoria. And sometimes we simply strolled the Southbank.  

Melbourne Museum at Carlton Gardens

A little farther away are lovely parks and gardens. Melbourne Park is where the Australian Open is held. The Royal Botanic, Fitzroy and Carlton Gardens are filled with flowers and plants and the ponds hum with ducks, fish, and birds. Museums, shrines, gathering places and other landmarks are located in these green oases right in the middle of the city. Even refreshing beaches are plenty nearby. Port Melbourne can be easily reached by tram in just five minutes from the apartment (or a longer walk). St. Kilda Beach has the awesome Luna Theme Park for kids and Brighton Beach is famous for the multi-colored bathing boxes.

the littlest penguins in the world at Philip Island

Easy road trips filled our weekends. We drove to see the littlest penguins of the world at Philip Island, had fruit scones and clotted cream up in the mountain town of Sassafras, and fished, crabbed, and feasted on seafood and swam at Gippsland Lakes National Park. Nature was at its best on a tour of The Great Ocean Road and Australia's "Gold Rush" history came alive in the town of Ballarat. At both the Grampians National Park and the Healesville Sanctuary, we played with kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras, wallabies, wombats, dingos and Tasmanian devils. My days got even brighter with all the wildly beautiful wattle trees in bloom everywhere! What else could a girl ask for (especially those in love with the color yellow)? 

right outside our motel room door at the Grampians National Park


At the many parties that I attended with friends and relatives who had also migrated to Melbourne, I got another good answer to the question “Why is Melbourne the most livable city in the world?” I found out that elementary and high school education is free! And loans provided to any student who pursues higher learning come with payment terms so low and lenient that they might as well be free! A former staff, a past colleague, and a grade school classmate all had similar stories. All their children are already professionals or on the road to being one. What a great future little Kyrie has!

State Library of Victoria

Made in Melbourne for Melbourne Tram System

Even if April had not chosen an apartment so centrally located, there is an efficient Tram system that takes you anywhere around the city. In fact, it is free to use in the many blocks around the central business district.  Sometimes an additional short bus ride is needed but it was so easy to go to all the places we visited except for the weekend trips when we rented a car. This makes it easy for millennials, like April and Clint, to postpone buying a car. Road trips are also so much fun because roads are as good as those in the American network. As a matter of fact, RVing is as commonplace in Australia as in America. And the bridges, both for vehicles and pedestrians, are superb in both form and function.


at the entrance to Yering Vineyards in the Yarra Valley

Isolated as a continent, Australia is free from border wars and conflicts. Immigration is largely controlled and strictly based on merit. Even if diversity is high, it is good. The Chinese have recently been coming in droves because they are making large investments in the economy. Rich in natural resources, mining and oil are topped only by services as economic contributors. But what fascinated us most is Australia’s wine industry. It is already the fourth largest in the world with more than sixty wine regions. We took road trips to four: Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, the Grampians, and the Pyrenees. 

wattle trees in bloom!

My four months in Melbourne showed me why the city “fills the world with pleasant dreaming, love and coolness and delight” and why it deserves the accolade, "Most Livable City in the World." It's like the American Dream has been overtaken by a new A-Dream, the redefined Australian Dream! My April has made a very good choice. Kyrie deserves no less.

colorful bathing boxes at Brighton Beach
Queen Victoria Market's winter night market

a cafe in the mountain town of Sassafras

Melbourne Skyline and Bolte Bridge in the Yarra River cruise

street art (#not so hopeless) tucked away in a far corner of an alley
chanced upon the Oz Comic Con at the Convention Centre

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