Some things I noticed on my travels:
The highway is killing small towns.
I must say, I am very happy that many of the towns along the Hume Highway are bypassed (do you know at the moment you can drive all the way from the NSW/Victoria border to Melbourne without passing through a single town?). It turned the 10 hour/two day trip of my youth to a fairly manageable 6 (ish) hour drive. But in the couple of towns I turned off into (or passed through - there are still three towns in NSW that haven't been bypassed yet), there is a common theme: a slightly shabby look to the shopfronts, as well as quite a few closed ones. Tarcutta was looking the worst by a long way - lots of boarded-up shops and barely a parked car to be seen. I remember stopping there a few times as a kid, and I definitely remember it as more vibrant. Holbrook is quieter than I remember, but the little craft/antique shops still seemed to be getting a few customers. I wonder how both towns will fare as they are bypassed. I wonder how Albury/Wodonga is going? Although they are probably big enough to sustain themselves.
Many people are completely oblivious to everything around them.
One thing I've been trying to do, especially in crowded streets/shopping centres, is to get Oliver to be more aware of his surroundings. He often walks out in front of people or gets in the way of people with prams etc. He's certainly not the only one! There were so many times when I had to stop walking to avoid fully grown adults that stepped straight out in front of me. And then there are those that walk straight into your photo, or viewpoint (the Tutankhamen Exhibition and the Skydeck being prime examples.
Melbourne drivers are much easier to work with.
In Melbourne, there is heaps of traffic. And the roads are, in places, pretty crappy. And in the city they share the roads with trams. All of which makes the drivers assertive and sometimes impatient, but on the whole, very considerate. Apart from the very quick 'beep' if you stay at the green light too long, I've always found Melbourne drivers most likely to merge well, let you into their lane, and obey the speed limits, even in road works! In contrast, the last 40 minutes of my trip yesterday was almost harrowing, with traffic flowing at least 20km above the speed limit, and aggressive tailgaters all the way through the roadworks (I can't wait for the GDE to finally be finished!). Canberra drivers are spectacularly awful!
You never break down in a convenient place
As I was driving with a cold, my head was a little woolly. After about 2 hours, I was getting very drowsy, and decided to stop for a little nap. Silly me though, I left the lights on, and when I went to start the car again the battery was flat. So there we were stuck at the Lake Mokoan rest stop. Nothing but a toilet and a picnic table. Luckily, the lovely RACV guy got there in about an hour, and we were on our way, but you'd think I could break down in Glen Rowan or somewhere slightly interesting, or with a cafe at least!
It's happened before too. A couple of years ago, we broke down when coming back from Merimbula. Halfway up Brown Mountain. And then there was the time that Anthony and I broke down about 30 minutes out of Cooma. And the time I lost a trailer tire halfway between Cooma and Canberra. I must have the worst breakdown timing ever!
The world isn't easy - but we can't help everyone.
One thing that Oliver noticed and commented on frequently were the homeless people in Melbourne. There were lots of them - mainly older men, begging for change. It was a good opportunity for a talk about the reasons this can happen, and how we can't help all of them (although I try and do my bit, with a donation to Mission Australia each month- they do good things for young homeless people). There was a time when I probably would have put change in each hat that I passed, but I'm a little more cynical these days. I'd be happier taking them to a shop and buying them a sandwich than giving them money for 'food'. It;s amazing how many people step over them though, like they're invisible.
Great architecture and artwork really does make a city better
There's been a lot of controversy here in Canberra about public artworks. But after spending a few days in Melbourne, I firmly believe that the more there is, the better. Melbourne is a beautiful city (I think), and part of that is because of the way it looks. There are some amazing old buildings that have retained their heritage value, but there are also lots of amazing quirky, interesting looking buildings:
and lots of cool sculpture and street art.
It really does make the place look interesting. There were so many people (including me) taking photos of artworks and buildings, surely it's good for tourism too. We need a few of them in Canberra...