Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From Sublime Sydney to Marvellous Melbourne

As Rohinton Mistry would say ...'Such a long journey'! Even if the two cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are divided by just an hour and a half of flying time, they are worlds apart! Melbourne is more celebral and snob. Sydney, sexy and frisky. Take your pick. I enjoy both, so I refuse to take sides. But to quote a die -hard Melbourne lover, who shall go nameless, "Sydney is like a beautiful woman, a seductress, who cannot possibly hold anybody's interest once her looks fade!" Oh dear, oh dear. Cutting edge comparison? Or just cutting?
I have been in and around Melbourne for the past three days. The reason you didn't find me here was because of a techno hiccup - no internet access! I'll be leaving Amazing Australia and Marvellous Melbourne a few hours from now. But somehow, I know in my heart it is a temporary goodbye. Please note, nobody pays me to say any of this! Put simply, Australia remains one of my top destinations. I have never had anything but the best time here. I find the people disarmingly casual and appealingly unfussy about everything they enjoy in such abundance. The word I keep hearing over and over again is "lucky". Nearly every Australian one meets uses that word after a short conversation - " Aren't we lucky to have all this?" they exclaim , almost incredulously. Indeed , they are. Australia has managed to ride the global economic breakdown better than most other countries, and one sees happy faces despite the recession and loss of jobs, since people have faith in their government and realise it could have been a lot worse.
Melanie de Souza is a Mumbai girl who has made Melbourne her home. Talking to her and Greg Hywood at 'Gingerboy' ,a high concept restaurant featuring robust street flavours of South East Asian cuisine, I got the impression the Premier is tackling the racial attacks on a war footing, and ensuring our Indian students feel safe and welcome. Just as well.... it has been a two way arrangement that was working for both parties till the 'incidents' took place. I have to say this, there was a much more visible cop presence in Melbourne on a busy saturday night than I'd observed in Sydney. The crackdown on binge drinking is underway and I hope we can enforce it as effectively in Mumbai, too.
I have kept the best for last - The Great Ocean Road! The hands down , piece de resistance of our Australian trip has to be this magnificent stretch. It is nothing short of a miracle. I saw it as a touching poem to the pioneering spirit of Australia, that says so much about those World War 1 servicemen who built this 250- odd kms road, starting in 1919 and completing it in 1932. It is as much a moving memorial to those who lost their lives in the war, as an unbelievable engineering feat that was achieved by men labouring with nothing more elaborate than picks and shovels. Today, it rates as one of the most scenic routes in the world, with good reason. The sprawling National Park through which The Great Ocean Road winds its way, is treated as a precious treasure by all Australians, and you won't find a single empty bottle or scrap of paper anywhere. We were 'lucky' - yes, just like the Aussies - Tony Poletto had organised a glorious day, with fluffy , white clouds and mild temperatures.Which was perfect chopper weather for a scenic spin along the coastline in a dazzling yellow helicopter. We took off and hit 1,000 feet above sea level within minutes with Grant Braban,the English copter pilot ( who drives a James Bond style Jaguar on the ground). He pointed out all the main features of the spectacular Twelve Apostles - the world famous limestone formations along the Shipwreck Coast in the South Seas. Unfortunately, the white whales had left for cooler waters after calving here, but that did not take away from our excitement as the chopper soared over the crystal clear, turquoise blue ocean below us.
Earlier, we had driven to what is rapidly becoming a very upmarket, chic destination for well heeled tourists in search of serious pampering. Daylesford is at the heart of Victoria's Spa Country. I was enchanted by the art on the walls of the gourmet paradise, Lake House. Turned out the satirical and witty canvases were painted by the owner Allan Wolf Tasker. His chef-wife Alla is featured on the menu card, and that work is titled 'Rousseau's Sleeping Chef'' - an obvious tribute to the original - Henri Rousseau's ' The Sleeping Gypsy'. This Russian emigre couple is credited with having carved out and created this special destination which is now renowned for its superlative cuisine and also for attracting an artistic community from around the world.
The person I most wanted to kidnap was the gorgeous Tina Binitska, whose Greek parents came to Australia when she was a little girl. The story of how Tina bid for and finally bought an abandoned convent to set up an arts complex aptly called 'The Convent', that is also a top rated wedding venue in Australia, is a story by itself. All I can tell you is with her dancing eyes and dynamic managerial skills, Tina, a Piscean, rules!
Aah well... some good things in life do come to an end.
I bid 'Adieu' to Melbourne and Australia.... but like Napoleon famously boasted, I shall be back.
I have still to sip the Sparkling Chandon. Reason enough!


Shachi said...

One of my friends also just visited the Twelve Apostles - I saw the pictures and was amazed! I love visiting National Parks here in US - each one is so different and has so much for us to learn and marvel at! Really hoping I can go to Australia sometime next year :)

Great write-up, as usual!

Another Kiran In NYC said...

You make Austrialia sound just like I always imagine it.

Unknown said...

a dream come true..
Kudos madam..
Luvd it..


Johan Donald said...

Great post..Sydney always a top destinations in the world..I am just thinking now, when can I see all these Sydney attractions.

Unknown said...

Good post......i too wish if i cud visit Australia in my lifetime...mayb only once!!!

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Chandni (Chanz) said...

Do the australians really use the word "lucky" in their conversations.

Wow.. Thats something I would love to do. "Ain't I lucky?". thats all I want to say..

Maria said...

Wow! Seems wonderful. Have friends in Perth. Must check them out!

चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...

"arnt we lucky to have all this"

Are they trying convince themselves of what they are missing :)

Pooja Rathore said...

The reason people in Australia live life in abundance, are cheerful , positive by nature and consider themselves lucky , The sun sign of Australia is saggitarius (yes like people , countries also have Sun Sign ) saggitarius - positive sun sign cheerfulness is one of the positive trait of saggitarians, they are also casual(think of sagi friends) and in astrology saggitarians are considered lucky because Jupiter the ruler of sagi is planet of luck may be the reason they use the word lucky and jupiter is a big planet therefore they live in abundance.

Mukesh Bhatia said...

It was pleasing to read your travelogue. I enjoyed as much as you did. Would definitely love to visit once. But unfortunately, I was not pampered with ur rendezvous with cricket celebs there. No matter, it was truly refreshing.

goodluck said...

Australia may be using you to spread good word on Australia whose reputation has gone down considerably. Very fishy.
A country may be beautiful but beauty without culture is like a plastic flower.

luvtoblog said...

Would love to read your comments on racism against Indians in Australia

A Mahratta said...

Please read this


Anonymous said...

mz de! welcome back. you are too late for a few events, the most amazing one being the great AB endorsing his film in his own inimitable adenoidal way during - wait for it, drumrolls please - a cricket match!! what next? rahul mahajan promoting his swayamwar during the next telengana elections? i holding my breath onlee.

Harish said...

i know australia is beautiful and i love reading about your anecdotes...

but i am scared that you will become australia ki completely. now that you are extremely fidaa there.

but De, abhi bahut ho gaya... aa jaao na vaapas.. missing you.

desh ki dharti is pukaaaring you re..

Deepika said...

Your Australia agenda I thought , was to address the racism against Indian students. Correct me if wrong but I never found anything related to it except for exotic Australia and the gourmet.

What is with the Indian Students there Shobhaa? R they fine now?

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