Tuesday, February 22, 2011

There's no place like home, but Oz felt a lot like it

My last day in Oz started at 4 a.m. local time. I popped out of bed and knew the hours were closing in, so I got in a workout, grabbed breakfast, called home to chat with Angie and the kids, and mapped out my day. A quick stop to get some Aussie jeans and a sportcoat on Flinders Street, an iced Chai at Starbucks (it had been 5 days, people; nations have gone to war over less), then off to the Melbourne Museum of Natural history. It was, in a word, impressive, with featured exhibits on animals, human science and Aboriginese culture, among others.

The modern design of the museum was open, with tons of natural light flooding in -- and there was plenty on this beautifully sunny last day in Oz. The exhibits were highly interactive, with a dream simulator (perfect for those who want to lie down for 3 minutes) and facts on how and why the human eye can play tricks on us and our depth perception.  I enjoyed the circus-type mirror that made my forearms look like Popeye's (see picture). There was an in depth feature on Charles Darwin as well (you know there's a Port Darwin on the northern coast).

As I left the museum, I spent some time around the adjacent Royal Exhibition Hall, one of Melbourne's great claims to fame. It was here that in the early 1800s the city played host to the World Exhibition. At that time, Melbourne was considered to be among, if not THE, richest city in the world -- evidence of the then-gold rush era and the affluence it brought. The world came to see what Melbourne had to offer not just once, but twice as the host of the World Exhibition, another claim to Melbourne fame (no other city ever hosted more than once).

On the other side of the Great Exhibition hall were the most beautiful gardens -- Carlton gardens, complete with fountains, benches, wide pathways and even wider open patches of freshly cut summer grass -- all to inviting to pass up. So I threw my pull over on the ground and took another one of those dream simulation experiences. And hour and half later (yes, I did stop to smell the roses), it was a stop for a quick lunch and back to the hotel to begin packing and making plans for my last evening in Australia.

Departure is tomorrow and I have both sorrow about leaving and joy about what I take with me. On the tram restaurant dinner tour last night, the Winnepeg tourists I mentioned told me that on their first trip, all their friends said to enjoy it because they'd likely never be back. They told me they couldn't wait to come back, and have done so many times. I nodded in complete agreement that this is a country that never lets go once you's spent time here.

From the cosmopolitan streets of Sydney to the outer outer banks of the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns and the culture of Melbourne, I have so think I worked a lot in, but only scratched the surface. So I won't say goodbye to Oz, merely "See you again, mates."

May all your journeys be as fulfilling, Thanks for reading.

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