We started the day with a short walk over to La Trobe St. Mall for breakfast at a chocolate cafe I'd spotted the night before. I mean, it said breakfast, and what could be wrong with a chocolate cafe? Weirdly, Melbourne is full of them—the city is kind of known for its artisan chocolate. Breakfast (non-chocolate) was scrumptious and I had a particularly good flat white in an ergonomically designed cup.
From there, we walked back to Federation Square to meet up with Ben at ACMI (Australian Center for the Moving Image.) David and I had been there before and found it really cool. We hadn't remembered that the exhibitions are free, which was even cooler. We saw some interesting video installations by a famous skateboarder dude, where Jarrah was particularly fascinated by a wall of video combined with dry ice. “Hey!” she summoned a little girl near her, “Wanna air bend with me?” “No, thank you,” said the girl. Hey, her loss. We also saw some sort of video in culture time line with lots of fun stuff, including one of Cate Blanchett's Oscars and some costumes from Moulin Rouge. It was also just really fun to catch up with Ben, whom I haven't seen in eight years. He's a sweet guy, which is no surprise—look who his brother is.
Ben dashed off to pick up the other Newmans at the airport (they'd decided to join us for the Melbourne leg of the trip) and we proceeded down Federation Wharf to the big white tent, current home of Circus Oz. Now, this was a very spontaneous addition to our plans—David heard the waitress mention it the night before, and he remembered loving it as a child. I was skeptical, since I'm not a Cirque de Soleil fan (kind of cold and slick) but neither is he, so I went along.
Well, I'm glad I did, because I was mesmerized and enchanted, as was Jarrah. There was nothing cold about it—the performers are very earthy and bawdy and told jokes throughout, and while there were amazing acrobatics and stunts, there was also good old-fashioned magic and juggling, and the whole thing was set to a huge live band (all the performers play an instrument) and occasionally narrated-sung by “Boss Lady,” the ring leader. And they served hot, homemade donuts. What's not to like? If you ever get a chance to see Circus Oz, I guarantee you'll have a blast.
After, we followed the exiting crowd along the Yarra, and Jarrah wanted to ride on the giant Ferris Wheel, After the 50 dollar pricetag in Sydney, I automatically said no, but this one was much cheaper, and we did have a splendid view of the city from up there. By now it was after 4:00 and we were starving, but Jarrah wanted to stop at the playground (once again pursuing those standoffish Melburninian children) and right after that we ran into Joan and John, because apparently there is no coincidence too unlikely for this trip, or else Australia only has a few people and the rest is done with mirrors.
Jarrah took off with them, and David and I wandered slowly along Swanston looking for our tea. (Not that either of us drink tea—it's just an expression.) We sat in one cafe holding menus for around 20 minutes until I'd had enough, and we ended up getting a snack at Pie Face and eating at an outside table as the sun went down. It seemed a bit silly to be eating at 5:30 when we had a dinner res for 7:00, but as it happened, it was actually prescient.
After a brief stop at the hotel to change, we walked out again to Hardware Lane, where Ben had booked a restaurant called The Mill for all of us. I just loved Hardware Lane, which was a narrow cobblestone alley, softly lit, no cars allowed, and lined with restaurants on both sides, so that little tables and umbrellas were crammed in next to each other. I was so pleased our booked table was outside, though we did have our backs leaning on the backs of people at the next table, since we were all on picnic benches. The heat lamps were warm, and there was something delightful about hundreds of people stuffed into a little alley together for dinner. The wine was flowing and everyone was feeling good.
Until we had to wait two hours to eat, and then most of the food was wrong or odd. For instance, I ordered “vegetable pie” (here, that means it's baked in puff pastry crust with “cauliflower, corn and cheese,” and I'd eaten half of it in the dark before noticing it was actually stuffed with ratatouille and tomato sauce.) Still, it was a great time—it was the first reunion of all the Newmans (Ben's girlfriend Stephanie, whom I adored, and I were the only non-Newmans) in many years, and everyone was in gleeful spirits. If only it hadn't been close to eleven when we finished, and poor Jarrah was ready to tip over.
Still, we walked (around and around for a while) until we found the San Churro Chocolate cafe (hey, we started and ended the day at a chocolate cafe!) and we all pigged on homemade churros with chocolate dipping sauces and mugs of pure drinking chocolate. Yummmmmm. I don't know if it was the wine or the chocolate or the long walks in the cold, but soon I was ready to nod off, too. Still, we didn't get back to the hotel midnight. A great day, and one that made me fall in love with Melbourne after wondering what all the fuss was the last time.