TRAVELING to places broadens one’s horizon and creates new experiences. I just did that for four days (from Nov. 1 to 4, 2019) in Melbourne, Victoria in Australia. Organized by the law office where I work in New Zealand, the trip was primarily aimed at boosting employees’ morale.
Melbourne is such a gorgeous place where the old structures blend beautifully with the new edifices and diverse cultures amalgamate. One can travel around the city via the Free Tram ride that extends from Queen Victoria Market to Docklands, Spring Street, Flinders Street Station and Federation Square, or the City Circle Tram that is likewise free. I walked twice during early morning, as the city was just waking up. There are specialty cafes that treat customers with authentic menus. I had breakfast at Peregrino’s with its well-made toast and warm coffee and settled in McDonald’s on another day.
I heard mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, an architectural Gothic European style beauty. The celebration was solemn, made more uplifting with the hymns sung by a Gregorian-inspired choir. Another grandiose church, St Paul’s Cathedral, is the seat of the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne. One must not miss going up the 975-feet skyscraper Eureka Tower, one of the world’s tallest residential towers, that gives a 360-degree panorama of Australia’s hipster capital.
Anthony Nolan, the senior partner of the firm, who lived most of his life in Melbourne, brought us to the Puffing Billy Railway, a heritage railway in the Dandenong Ranges. We rode on a train that dates back to the 1900s, manned by volunteers. The service is run by the Puffing Billy Preservation Society, and operates all year long except on Christmas Day.
The four-day break also allowed some of us to visit family and friends. On my part, I spent an afternoon with Ruben Wong, a college buddy, and cancer survivor Imma with her husband, Danny Medalle, a fellow musician. We reminisced old times. Then, we talked about illness, death and family. All four of us had had brushes with death, with Ruben still fighting the big C. Imma agreed with Ruben that acceptance is one of the best steps in dealing with a health situation. The exchanges included positive thoughts: Death is inevitable, so why fear it? Be thankful for each waking day. Family is important. If able, help the vulnerable.
When it was time to leave, we prayed for each other. We thanked Ruben for his hospitality and hoped that we’d meet again. It made me realize that places like Melbourne have more meaning when we meet people, beautiful people.