Friday, August 29, 2014

Melbourne Day 6 (Friday): Writers Festival & Laundry Festival

Up very early, had breakfast and hung out for a while before heading out to the first of my sessions at the Melbourne Writers Festival, a free session featuring Lauren Beukes. She is a South African writer of offbeat science fiction; I've enjoyed her books Zoo City and Moxyland, and will choose which of her books to read next after hearing her read! The session was held in a cafe at Federation Square, and was an intimate gathering of about 20 people. There were 4 authors who each read from their latest books. I enjoyed Lauren Beukes' reading (and learned that her surname is pronounced "Byoo-kess", not "Byooks"). She introduced it by saying it was a bit of a strange book, which I found funny, given that both of her books that I have read so far are quite strange, and I figured that was her style. One of the other books - The Glass Kingdom by Chris Flynn also sounded good: about a meth lab in a traveling carnival - sort of a comedic mashup of Breaking Bad and Water for Elephants maybe? Chris Flynn also told us that he shares an affliction with a character in the book, in which his episodic memory fades away after a few years, so he can only remember the last few years of his life.

I popped into another free session that featured 3 first-time novelists, hearing them read from their debut novels and discuss their experiences finding their way to getting published, which was pretty interesting.

Had some lunch and then back to the hotel to gather my laundry. Took a tram to the Soap Bar, a very nice coin laundry where I managed to get everything done in less than 2 hours, including the round-trip tram ride. With a little bit of hand-washing of a few pairs of socks and a T shirt or two, I should now be able to make it to Wellington before I need to do another full load of laundry.

Relaxed and read for a bit, and then headed back to Fed Square for another free session: a book launch of Favel Parrett's new book: When The Night Comes. I knew nothing of the author (it's her second novel) but it sounds pretty good, and the launch event was delightful, with a couple of nice introductions, a little talk and reading by the author, and champagne and dim sum appetizers for all. Very classy. I chatted with a Kiwi woman who gave me an idea of things to do in New Zealand.

After the launch event I walked over to the Bourke St Mall, found a nice garlicky lamb kebab wrap, and then got a tram back to the hotel. Fun day.

More Aussie/English Vocabulary:
alight (which I always thought meant to get on a transport vehicle) = to get off (e.g. a tram, a train)
pants = underpants; trousers are what we call long pants

How I'm finding my way around

I brought my iPhone along mainly as my camera for this trip. I've turned off roaming to avoid the high fees from Rogers. It turns out though that I can still use the iPhone for navigation. I found some good offline maps in an app called City2Go. For three bucks I've been able to download detailed maps of every city I'm visiting throughout my trip, in Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, and much of the areas in between, and my iPhone's GPS works without needing any online data. Other apps give me the local transit networks so I can figure out how to get where I want to go, and in Melbourne every tram stop is shown on the City2Go map. That means I don't need the driver to call out the stops (which doesn't always happen) or to be able to recognize local landmarks or see the street signs. I just follow my little dot until I'm where I want to be and then get off. It's working really well.

Each city's transit network is different of course. I found Sydney's the hardest to get my head around, and the least comprehensive in terms of getting me where I wanted to go. Melbourne is the best, with trams and trains that seem to take me within a couple blocks of anywhere I want to go, with very little waiting. I was told by friends that I would enjoy Melbourne more than Sydney, and planned more time here accordingly, and those friends were correct!

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