In Melbourne

Melbournians do love their coffee. There is a zillion coffee shops in center city. One block we passed, had three coffee shops in a row. And coffee is good here! The best I had since Italy! Also, food here looks much more appealing than in Sydney. I had a great sweet bun from a Chinese bakery and passed windows of a mouth-watering Greek bakery and, perhaps, a Jewish one, because it was called Babka.
This morning, we hit all the galleries carrying Aboriginal art. I love, love, love, LOVE Aboriginal art! The quality of the paintings varied from gallery to gallery, but two of the galleries, Dacou and Yarramunua, exhibited great stuff with prices to match.
There is no one single art gallery district, so we crisscrossed the city in search of them. En route, we gazed around. The architecture here is odd, to say the least. Some of the older buildings are ornate but in an unrefined manner. The ornamental architectural details are crude and seem to be slapped on in a sloppy manner. More modern buildings, seemingly, were erected with no consideration for already existing structures. And the facades of both old and new are way too busy and the taste level is highly questionable.
That said, this city has great energy, restaurants are inviting, and coffee is superb.
For lunch we went to Hu Tong Dumpling Bar on Jackie’s (Lisa’s friend”s) recommendation, and had superb dumplings in very tender, thin, hand rolled dough pockets filled with the freshest meat mixed with some green herbs. Never had better dumplings in my life!
After lunch, we walked to the hip neighborhood of Fitzroy. On the way, we passed a synagogue and walked in. This was the oldest continuously functioning synagogue in Melbourne, built by Anglo Jews in the late 1800’s. Typical of the times, it was build in the traditional Moorish style.
From the synagogue, it was only a short walk to the Fitzroy’s main artery, Brunswick Street. This neighborhood has got everything and the kitchen sink: hot modern eateries next to used clothing stores, a shop offering violas, violins and cellos next to a restaurant called Las Vegan and an Ethiopian restaurant. Vintage clothes, antiques, and modern boutiques nestle next to hip restaurants and ran down hardware stores. We were in the future (16 hours ahead of the US), but also in the past, stuck somewhere between 1952 and 1987.
All this mishmash retail is housed in buildings in dire need of renovation, fresh paint at the very least. The neighborhood looked hopelessly gritty, but there were no homeless, no bums, no beggars, just average-looking, predominantly caucasian people.
This is pretty typical for the whole city. It seems that Australia is more egalitarian than the US, and an egalitarian society can not make everybody rich, but it can make everybody poor. Rich people, if they exist here, are not visible. Even on the street lined with the likes of Prada and Hermes, there are no visibly rich people. Everybody looks low middle class at the very best.
But even though Melbournians do not dress well, they eat well. We had dinner at another of Jackie’s recommendations, a place called Seamstress. We had duck, pork, and eggplant dishes prepared in Asian fusion style, and for dessert, Rhubarb and mascarpone filled pancakes with crumbled rhubarb candy, Persian fairy floss and pistachio ice cream. I was anxiously waiting to discover what Persian fairly floss might be only to find out that that was another Australianism. Persian fairy floss is what they call cotton candy here :-).

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