Catch-up time. Blog has fallen a month behind.

We arrived in Melbourne in the middle of December on a Sunday morning. It was one of those days when you arrive too early to check-in so you need to kill a few hours. But we’d woken up early in Fremantle, driven to Perth, and spent three hours on an airplane so we weren’t super chipper either. It was hard to find parking in downtown Melbourne, and driving wasn’t straightforward either because cars have to share the roads with trams (we don’t encourage that sort of behavior in Texas). We eventually parked and Jo found us the hippest breakfast joint – a place called Operator 25 in an old phone switchboard building but we had to wait a bit for a table. While the fam waited on a bench outside the restaurant I went for a short walk and discovered Queen Victoria market.

It is one of the biggest and busiest markets I’ve seen. I took Jo and the kids back there after breakfast. We strolled through the fresh food section and bought armloads of books at the used book stalls and realized that we had explored just a small fraction of the market.

A bustling market filled with all kinds a people is a good sign that a city is doing well. We still had plenty of time so we took our books and walked over to Flagstaff park. The park was full too. Families were grilling and celebrating birthdays. Kids swarmed the playground and Evan had to wait his turn at the swings. Vivian found an enormous tree to sit under and read. Eventually we drove to Brighton to our Airbnb but by then I had a good feeling about Melbourne.

Brighton looks like an old upscale neighborhood by the sea that had reached its prime a couple of decades ago. We walked from the Airbnb on a pleasant path along the beaches to the famous Brighton bathing boxes, a collection of beach huts from the 1900s.

But the sand was coarser and though we didn’t mind the beach a bit further down in Sandringham, we thought we liked our Western Australia beaches better. Yes, we are beach snobs.

A few days later Jen arrived. Our wine consumption promptly shot up. One day we drove up through the Yara valley to a very fancy winery for some nice wine and very overpriced terrible food.

Another thing we did in Brighton involved watching a lot of Netflix. Specifically, “Avatar, the Last Airbender”. Even if you aren’t into animated shows for kids you may have had the misfortune of seeing M Night Shyamalan’s really bad movie, The Last Airbender. Avatar is an animated show that inspired the movie and is a much better version of the movie. It ran for 3 seasons and is consistently rated among the top ten series ever. But why were we sitting in beautiful Brighton and watching it on Netflix ?

Back in Athens in late Fall we stayed at an Airbnb where the owner or previous resident had a Netflix account that was still accessible on the TV. Starting with Vivian we were all sick for 4 days. So we stayed in and started binge watching the Avatar. But then we left. At the next place in Greece we used our US based Netflix account but the Avatar wasn’t on it. Netflix pulled it from the US market some time back because it’s working on a live action version of the show to be released soon and probably doesn’t want to lose its potential audience to the older animated show.

So we’ve been on the prowl for a foreign Netflix app/login and found it in Brighton. To put the numbers in perspective, between 4 days in Athens and a week in Brighton, we watched about 60 forty-five minute long episodes. The kids loved it and Jo and I also thoroughly enjoyed it. Now family conversations are peppered with Avatar references. Don’t sulk like Prince Zuko. You’re as mean as Azula. Evan should get a haircut like Sokka. We left Brighton with all but the final four episodes left to watch.

Speaking of shows here’s a VR animation of Evan from the great science museum in Melbourne.

We enjoyed our time in the Melbourne area. Just like little old Austin consistently tops the list of cities to live in the US, Melbourne is often on top of the list of the most livable cities of the world. We can see why. Observation – there were zero homeless people (that we saw) and no one was panhandling at street corners. Question – how did they manage that ? It could be that Australia takes care of its destitute and mentally ill. Or they could just be better at hiding the problem. Either way, with the rising problem of homelessness in cities like San Francisco and Austin, it is worth asking. We did find little decals in public places where Melburnians apparently ask themselves how they want to live.

We didn’t spend enough time there to find out. A few days before Christmas we were at the airport in our way to another great Australian city, Brisbane.

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