Finally, am able to continue with my journal …

A cooler day, so we thought a good day to explore the beach. We hopped on a tram all the way to the end of it’s route … but there was little indication of which way to go and we walked about a kilometre in the wrong direction, before asking someone the way! It took us past a delightful botanic garden, on to one end of St Kilda beach …

What a lovely spot … soft, fine, clean sand, lined by walks, cafés, and on a cool day, quiet and undisturbed. We almost immediately spotted a Spoonbill, feeding on the shoreline alongside Silver Gulls, keeping company in order to pick up whatever the Spoonbill disturbed.

We walked past Surf Rescue, who were handing out frisbees and suncream, and food shacks, along to the St Kilda breakwater. We walked to the end of the Pier, and onto a walkway along the top of the breakwater itself, made of huge rocks (a bit like the extension at Lyme Regis, if you know it) … and on to the boardwalk, constructed to allow views of the Little Penguins, resting in the crevices … so lovely to see them in a more natural setting. As on Phillip Island, they come ashore at dusk, so we may try to return one evening.

There are also Rakali, possum-like creatures. Someone was feeding them to encourage them to come out for the visitors to see, otherwise we wouldn’t have noticed them at all.

We walked back onto, and further along, the beach … some lovely views of Melbourne along the way. At some point – I’ve lost track of exactly where – there is a tiny wildlife reserve, a green oasis fenced off from the beach. It’s only small, but we decided to explore and the first wildlife we saw was captivating … the gorgeous Sacred Kingfisher …

Australia has five varieties of Kingfisher and the Sacred is quite widespread … while our only UK Kingfisher, known as the Common Kingfisher, is quite rare … it’s all a little disorientating!

St Kilda fades into Middle Park beach, which looks like a wealthy area, no shacks, and only the occasional stylish restaurant. Hardly anyone on the beach on this cool day (not so cool to us, it was perfect), along miles of empty sand, until we came to South Melbourne beach and Kerferd Pier where there was a beach volleyball competition, spread across the width and length of the beach … about 40 courts in all.

By now my feet were troubling me, so we decided to come back another day to walk the remainder of the beach. We caught another tram back into the city, via the Southbank …

… heading home for a while, before setting out again to the Music Bowl at the Royal Botanic Gardens, for a free concert by the MSO (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra).

We were astonished at the crowds waiting to enter the amphitheatre … and discovered it ‘seats’ 10,000 … there is a covered area with fixed seating for reservations, but the general admission is to the open air grassy bank and surrounds. As we arrived, just after 5pm (for a 7:30pm concert), the queue was moving slowly on through the security checks, but there was plenty of space to chose from. We picked our spot, made camp, and watched as people kept on arriving, and the grass all around the stage filled up. Eventually, the gates were shut (there is a clever ticketing system, so they can easily tell when the Bowl has reached capacity) … but it’s evident that people simply picnicked on the grass around the fenced area … they would have heard the music just as well from there as it was simply the best open-air sound projection I’ve ever heard.

 

As we arrived, the Royal Australian Airforce band began to play a suite by Duke Ellington – just my kind of jazz! An added bonus.

Although it was a cooler day, I was still conscious of the sun as we waited … grateful for the occasional cloud cover, and even for the brief showers (first rainbow I’ve seen in Aus) … everyone was ready with their umbrellas and waterproofs – quite a sight. It was quite comfortable at around 25C: we missed the concert last Wednesday as we were on Phillip Island, but apparently it reached 39C … 43C on the stage under the lights!

We enjoyed people watching in the crowd, listening to conversations, stories of concerts past … people who have attended every year for decades.

The concert was delightful … though as darkness fell, so the noise from the crowd grew as people began to chat rather than listen. Everyone was annoyed by a drone that flew overhead, as drone is exactly what it sounds like … first time I’ve seen (heard) one in action. But it didn’t spoil the occasion. And there was encore after encore, especially the Sailors’ Dance from the ballet ‘The Red Poppy’ … Russian sailors certainly know how to have a good time!

The crowds were good natured throughout, including on the tram journey home. Once again we enjoyed eavesdropping conversations … Canadian, Columbian, New Zealander, French among others. A good day.

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