Sara was our tour guide today in Melbourne. Her accent was captivating and her understanding of what makes the city cool was evident in her first comments. We wandered about the city and she would offer an explanation about a landmark as we walked. She told us a bit of history including why the nude picture hung in the oldest bar in town, and how it was often the first naked woman a young soldier ever saw before leaving for the first World War. She knows this town.
It was when we entered the first “laneway” as they call them here in Australia, my perspective changed. We call them an alley in most North American cities and they might be filled with dumpsters and horrible smells. In Melbourne they have been converted to coffee bars and small boutique shops. As we entered Sara simply said, “Please look up.” I did, and saw what I never expected – an entirely new world. One that lives above the eyesight of the harried shopper and the casual tourist and is filled with detail I’d been missing. For the next three hours I kept my eyes upward as I indulged in another world.
First, I saw the glass ceiling of the Cole Alleyway. Cole, was an eccentric man who gained his riches in the 1850’s gold rush in Australia and shared it with people through books in this alley way. He had the unique glass ceiling designed to protect his alley and his books and a place children and adults could read.
Then I saw the GPO – Grand Post Office – a historical building that has been restored and converted to a magnificent shopping area without attaching anything to the original building. Glass walls installed to separate shops and to protect low railings. I was fascinated at the creativity and again Sara said, “Look up!” I saw the railing up the twisted stairway and then magnificent art work. I realized if I continued to look up I was seeing things I would have missed with my eyes down.
Oh yes, looking down I did see the magnificent mosaic floor work sprinkled through the promenade. I had to glance down from time to time to be sure of where I was walking. And yet, every time I looked up I saw another gift – a balcony of a building, a piece of art work hung high enough for only lifted eyes to see, artwork painted into the ceiling.
As the tour closed the guide asked, “What do you think of our city?” and I was quick to reply, “Which one?“ Today I had seen a second Melbourne, the one visible only with eyes turned upward – LOOKING UP!
……wait a minute, did that just seriously happen? Three hours passed and I had not LOOKED DOWN at my cell phone a single time!