Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Timeless Melbourne Keeps Up With the Times

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By Tom Morrow

Mature Life Features

MELBOURNE —- A visit to Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, is more than just a jaunt 600 miles south from its big brother, Sydney. It’s a leap back to the mid-20th-century of electric-powered trolley cars and a Victorian England ambience emanating from government buildings and churches that trumpet the town’s history from amidst its gleaming new high-rise complexes.

An age-old tradition in Melbourne is meeting with friends at the copper-domed Flinders Street Station for a day of shopping and dining. This Victorian/Edwardian-designed structure built in 1910 is the most popular gathering place in this city of 4 million. All of the city’s suburban and cross-country trains flow into this terminal overlooking the Yarra River that runs north-south through the city. The Victoria state government launched a $1 million international design competition that closes Aug. 1, 2012, to refresh and rejuvenate this iconic hub.

Melbourne is the capital of the state of Victoria and is to Sydney what San Francisco is to Los Angeles. Like the City by the Bay, it offers just about any type of cuisine to satisfy both gourmet and gourmand. You’ll seldom meet a stranger here. Nearly everyone is eager to visit with visitors and ask if they’re enjoying the city and country. Melbourne offers everything you can buy in Sydney at lower prices. A new downtown showpiece is the sprawling riverside Crown Entertainment Complex, which includes a large casino, luxury hotel, restaurants, and shopping center with such luxury labels as Gucci, Prada, and Versace.

While half of the Australian population of 20 million live in the Sydney and Melbourne metropolitan areas, there is an abundance of wild life and open spaces. The best place to see most of the fauna native to this continent is the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary 35 miles northeast of Melbourne. You can drive there, but beware of a traffic twist besides having to adjust to the left side of the road. There are toll roads in the freeway system but no toll booths. Maneuvering your way through this system even gives residents rashes so check online and with your rental-car agency to see about prepaid passes and other methods of payment.

Much of Australia is still what early America was like several decades ago — rugged with non-paved roads. Guide books caution about passing Outback “road trains.” These are huge trucks pulling three and four trailers. That’s how remote regions of the nation get their supplies.

It might take a while to learn about their games, which are mainly Old World — cricket, soccer and rugby. They also play and watch basketball, baseball, and football — they call it “gridiron” — but the national passion each fall and winter is Australian Rules Football. It’s a cross between rugby and soccer with just enough gridiron tossed in to create an exciting contact sport the locals call “Footy.”

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

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