March 8, 2005

This morning we got to meet Keith, the owner of the motel. We met his wife last night when we checked in. Keith was one of those great characters that we love to meet at motels. Keith gave us lots of great advice about driving out in the outback. It turns out that he is a country singer and he gave us his CD about Ned Kelly. Ned Kelly is this country's last big outlaw, much like Wyatt Erp or Billie the Kid. The only difference is that here, he has been turned into a hero for standing up to authority and not giving in. We said g'day to Keith promising to listen to the CD and let him know what we thought. But, before we did, we stopped off at the next town Glenrowan where Ned Kelly's big shootout took place. Keith compared it to the shootout at the OK Corral, only that one lasted about three minutes and the one with Ned Kelly lasted about 12 hours. Glenrowan was the highlight of the day. We thoroughly enjoyed the roadside museum, gift shop and the spots in the town marked off where different events of the shootout occured. It was great to learn a part of Australian history.
Of course, true to Wood-family fashion, we took a special liking to some white cockatoos being kept behind the museum. We spent more time trying to get them to say "Hello" and "See ya Mate" than doing anything else at the museum. One of them did say "hello" back.

On our way out of town we ate lunch at a little café across the street. It was here that I had my first taste of Vegemite. It must be an acquired taste, because I just didn’t get it. It is a black paste that is very salty. It’s supposed to be very healthy but I can’t see how, given that it is made from the leftovers of the beer making process, mostly yeast.

Heading toward Melbourne, we listened to Keith's (stage name, Eureka Smith). It was a lot of fun. It felt just like the stories we hear of our own "old west." I had to wonder why a country would idolize an outlaw, though. Andy explained that many Australians believe that Ned, despite his criminal acts, was hassled by the police beyond what was deserved, and that Ned refused to roll over for them. The Aussies idolize the spirit of standing your ground and not giving in to authority when it's taking advantage. I can understand that.

After hearing the Ned Kelly story so eloquently retold by Eureka Smith, it was a smooth ride into Melbourne, broken up by a constant lookout for koalas as the signs were very explicit in their warnings of koala crossings. No luck, though.

We found a nice cheap motel in West Melbourne called the West City Motel. The charm of the place comes from decks that run along the front doors of the rooms and flowers planted on the railings and other spots on the grounds. The room is scented very nicely, too.

We spent the afternoon in Fitzroy, along Brunswick Street. Our Fodor's Guide described this area as Bohemian, so we set out to see if that was true. It did have lots of artsy stores, a large variety of cuisines from around the world and quite a bit of "urban art." We enjoyed strolling the street and browsing the stores. Andy found some architecture to photograph. And, we ate at an authentic Spanish tapas restaurant, which was much better than we anticipated. Vienna ordered prawns that turned out to be whole prawns, complete with legs and eyes. She did a lot better than I would have done with them. We topped the afternoon off with some delicious gelato. That was probably the best part. We have simple tastes that way.

This evening we took in a film at a local theater. We were, of course hoping for an Australian picture but no luck on that. However, we did see a DVD for Ned Kelly, the movie that we will be researching when we get home (Note: We saw it upon our return. It's a great flick!). But, for tonight we saw a purely American movie: Ray. Film is one of our weaknesses and we tend to see at least one move per vacation, even if it is completely off topic of the trip.

Tomorrow we will visit the Melbourne Temple, just for pictures, have some lunch in St. Kilda, just south of the city center and then we're off to Geelong and the Great Ocean Road. It looks to be a bit of a hairy drive along the coast but should be beautiful.