Thursday, February 17, 2011

Back to the city . . . and back out again

A laundromat in the strangely appealing mining town of Broken Hill—it’s as good a place as any to write a post! Tonight our group is staying at the fabulous Palace Hotel, whose walls are covered in an eclectic assortment of murals that include a depiction of an Aboriginal warrior and a copy of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Philip and I are excited to stay here because it was featured in one of our favorite films, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (if you haven’t seen it, do so). In fact, we introduced the students to this classic on our loooooooong bus ride from Adelaide, where the group reconvened this morning after a week of independent travel.

After our intense experience at Aboriginal camp, Philip and I decided to head back to the city—this time Melbourne. Sydney may have the more beautiful natural setting (its harbor can’t be beat), but when it comes to style, Melbourne wins hands down. Imagine a sophisticated metropolis crisscrossed by trams and filled with talented street performers, innovative architecture, and charming cafés. We enjoyed a few leisurely days wandering the avenues and lanes, and one afternoon took the tram to the bayside suburb of St. Kilda, where we marveled at the impressive (and fattening!) array of cake shops. If you ever happen to find yourself in St. Kilda, make sure to go to Monarch Cake Shop and order the chocolate-and-almond-filled deliciousness that is the “Kugelhoupf”—yum. We also spent an evening at a quirky cabaret called The Butterfly Club, where we enjoyed the comedic musical talents of two women who regaled us in pseudo-German accents and at one point sang a polka version of Right Said Fred’s early 90s tune “I’m Too Sexy” with an accordion.

Our time in Melbourne was followed by two nights in Adelaide. We were fortunate to arrive during the city’s Fringe Festival, which each year gathers together a wonderfully bizarre assortment of performers into a section of a park cordoned off as the “Garden of Unearthly Delights.” Inside, performers ranging from “The Half-naked Chef” to “Le Gateau Chocolat” (a Nigerian-born, British drag queen with an operatic voice and a lycra-rich wardrobe) lured passersby into gaudy circus tents to enjoy their shows. Our first night in Adelaide we decided to partake of Gateau—and loved every minute. The next day we took a tour of the nearby Barossa Valley, one of the world’s great wine regions, where we enjoyed tastings at four different wineries, stopped in quaint towns, and ate kangaroo for lunch (well, I did; Philip had the chicken). We also stopped at a toy factory and saw what’s supposedly the world’s biggest rocking horse—can now check that off the list of things I have to see before I die! That evening we took in another drag performance (yes, it seems gay boys can’t get enough of that stuff) and readied ourselves to rejoin the students the following morning.

That brings us to today, which mainly consisted of a bus ride from Adelaide up to Broken Hill. The highlight was spotting wild Emus by the side of the road.

A miner just came in to do his wash and shook a small colony of crickets out of his dirty clothes before starting a load. I can’t understand a word he’s saying except the four-letter variety.

Here are pictures from Adelaide's Fringe Festival, the Barossa Valley, and our digs in Broken Hill.


Entrance to Fringe Festival venue

In the garden

Le Gateau Chocolat

Wine tasting at Wolf Blass

Tasting at Simpatico

World's largest rocking horse!

With a very tame kangaroo

Overlooking the Barossa Valley

Palace Hotel in Broken Hill

Inside the Palace Hotel

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