"Meet me under the clocks": Flinders Street Station
She just sort of worked her way through row after row.
Cool town, Melbourne. It’s a clean, cosmopolitan city of nearly 4 million, and routinely lands on those lists of the most livable cities in the world, usually second to Vancouver. The skyline glitters at night, and everywhere we go are these sort of half-indoor, half-outdoor malls and cafés. Even the alleys are cool-looking.
One problem. Everyone pronounces Melbourne "MEL-bin," which makes me think of Melba toast, which makes me thirsty. So I’m always drinking water here, which means I’m always in the bathroom. It’s a real issue. I’m working on it.
Meanwhile, the chocolate orgy continues. Rhain took us to a place called Max Brenner’s, which is of a chain of chocolate emporiums that offer chocolate soup, chocolate fondue, chocolate wafer balls, Choctails, et cetera. Sort of like Willy Wonka gone retail. "Chocolate is a symbol of contradicting emotions and sensations," its web site gushes, which tells you everything you need to know about the place. When you order hot chocolate, they tell you where the cacao beans came from. Mine originated in Trinidad; Sarah’s were Venezuelan. You add your own cacao nibs to mugs "specially designed for the chocolate drinking ceremony." Hannah tried a little, and her eyes almost popped out of her head. In a good way; she has begun to associate Australia with chocolate, and so have I. (Editor’s note: Two Max Brenners have since opened in New York. . . . Editor’s note #2: Chicago, please.)
Coops Shot Tower: So cool they built a mall around it
After a trip to Victoria Market—an endless maze of fresh food stalls, tchotchke barkers, clothes, hats, meats, fish, and wasabi peas—we ended up at the Immigration Museum. Sounds like a snooze, but it was actually fascinating. After learning the ins and outs of how the immigration process works, you get to sit in on "real" immigration interviews, and make the ultimate judgment: Let them into Australia, or not?
After listening to the story of a Greek family of three, I denied them entry. There was something about the father that seemed shifty. My next test was a young, single Iraqi man, who said he just wanted a better life for himself, and I believed him. Come on in, I said. Australia’s waiting for you.
I was wrong on both. The Greek family was welcomed to Victoria, and the Iraqi was not. Apparently, I have a lot to learn about immigration. Good museum, though.
That night, we were invited to Dashiell’s 18th birthday party at a pub downtown. The kid’s entire family was in attendance: parents, grandparents, three sisters, their boyfriends/husbands—and us. He must have wondered what the hell we were doing there. I certainly was. But everyone welcomed us, continually filling our glasses with sangría and wine and asking our thoughts on sports and politics and competitive eating. The more sangría I drank, the more opinions I had. Hannah, passed from person to person, managed to entertain three generations of Australians simultaneously. Even Dashiell.
That night, a bit drunk, Sarah and I slept in a large, soft bed in our own room with a view of the skyline. Hannah nestled in between massive pillows on the floor. The Rees family, God bless them, owned a shower with good water pressure, and we were free to use it and dry ourselves with real, non-youth hostel towels. After two weeks on the road, this qualified as heaven.