The Quiet Traveller: Day 7 – Melbourne

Today was a bit of a rest day, as surfing had broken my body in the most rewarding way possible. I surfaced at 8am, which going by the timings of recent surfacings could be considered an almighty lie in.

It was Day 7 of my adventures, and so far I was loving life. It helped a great deal that I could retreat to my cousin’s apartment to recharge whenever I had had enough of the city. The only living being I had to interact with there was the cat, and we had some fantastic rapport during the next day which ended up with my food being stolen. If I wasn’t mildly allergic to fluffy animals, I probably would get myself a small mammal to kick back and relax with.  The great thing about pets is that they provide a kind of companionship that doesn’t drain the social energy reserves of an introvert. Obviously it can be taken too far in the form of the crazy cat lady stereotype, and it doesn’t replace human connection, but it’s an useful add-on to the life of an introvert. And yes, I know a dog is for life and not just for Christmas. If anything, a dog is probably at its least useful at Christmas. Have you ever seen a dog help out with the washing up or carve a turkey?

My mission this morning was to find a McDonald’s, because I was just interested to see if it was any different down under (not really), and also because my cousin is a vegan, so his cupboards are full of interesting foods which taste of questionable flavours. But I still appreciated him granting me the freedom to the kitchen. It was simply time to indulge a little.

On the way into the city centre, I decided to have a browse of the NGV, also known as the National Gallery of Victoria. The current collection in this art gallery was some Warhol and Al Wei-Wei, so I thought it was worth a visit whilst I was here. However, I found out you had to pay a fair amount to actually get into their exhibit rooms, so I contented myself with wandering around what I seem to remember was medieval art and religious artefacts.

And then the security guard found me. Because I still had my bag on back, he informed me that I had to return to reception to drop it off, as bags were not allowed into the gallery. This was despite me already walking past him several times, including one time with eye contact, yet he had only just noticed the bag. Worst. Security. Ever.

I said I would visit reception to drop it off, but instead left the building and continued into the city centre. I realised how sinister the British accent can be at this point, as I don’t think he trusted me. But then again I was a lone individual wandering around a public gathering place with a backpack on, so I don’t blame him. I also noticed this when I went up to the Skydeck; I got searched but families with children or medium sized groups did not.

Wandering the Melbourne city centre, I decided to try and find some of the alleyways that intertwine its streets. My cousin had given a piece of advice that ‘if you see a dodgy alley, go down it, because there’s probably a great coffee or doughnut shop at the end of it’. Advice that only applies to Melbourne really – many cities around the world have dodgy alleys that mostly do not end in sugar coated deliciousness, but instead the removal of one’s wallet from their person.

It didn’t take me long to find an alley or doughnut shop. Both sides of the alley were lined with interesting shop fronts and people sitting outside, enjoying life in the world’s most liveable city. The narrow streets and tall buildings really reminded me of Diagon Alley from Harry Potter.

The doughnut chooses the wizard, Harry.

As you’d expect, it gets very hot in these alleyways. And it didn’t help that my hair was getting to its longer stages. It was time for the luscious locks to be trimmed, but the only probably was that my regular hairdresser was 10,000 miles away. Did I want to entrust my flowing mane to an Ozzie barber?

I came across a barber that took walk-ins and walked past it, contemplating my course of action. I then walked past it again. And once more. Part of this contemplation was the decision to actually get my hair cut, and part of it was thinking of conversation topics for the inevitable barbershop smalltalk, which I think is universally detested by a lot of people, not just introverts. Small talk is so ingrained into our society, that you just have to grin and bare it. I would rather have a conversation about the origins of the universe with a stranger than talk about the weather or where I’m going holiday. Although, that’s a lie, I do like the weather chat.

Having finally made a decision, I opened the door of the barbershop and took a seat. I felt like I was taking a big gamble, but I was interested to see if it paid off.

At first, things were going well. The barber seemed to have understood what I told him and had gone about preparing his tools. But then stood there one handed, shaving the back of my head like I was some kind of sheep being made into a woolly jumper. To make matters worse, I didn’t have my glasses on, so I had no idea what it looked like.

He eventually asked what I was up to, as I was obviously a foreigner. Things got mildly awkward when I revealed I was a Tottenham fan, and then he revealed he was a Gooner. You don’t want your hairdresser to support your rival team do you? Especially when they’re entrusted with how you look for the next few months.

Nevertheless, the hair cut actually turned out to be pretty good, and I stepped back into the alley a few degrees cooler and lot of Australian dollars shorter. Inner city haircuts are expensive.

Having completed a frankly intense yet successful social encounter, I hunted down a coffee shop chain called Hudson’s for some quiet. The cafe was fairly empty, and I seated myself upstairs to people watch the customers below. There’s quite an excitement to finding a quiet place in a city. It’s a bit like hunting an elusive prey, gorging yourself on the silence, taking it all in, and then setting off again until the next time. Bodies of water are good hunting grounds, as are parks. Coffee shops tend to be 50/50 – either really busy or really quiet. Bookshops are usually a dead certain.

To cap the day off, we went and sat at a rooftop bar in the evening sun. I liked Melbourne.

Track of Day 7 – Sitting, Waiting, Wishing // Jack Johnson



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