Travel is the gift that keeps on giving. The more you travel, the more at home you feel all over the world. So even though we were 10,000 miles from our domicile this Thanksgiving, we could still enjoy a traditional meal with friends in our home.
This trip is our fourth to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. We lived in this city for 8-week stints in 2016, 2017, & 2018, when I was lucky enough to direct my employer's foreign study program. Four years felt like a long gap, until we stepped off the train in Southern Cross Station. The following day, as we walked through the streets of the CBD (Central Business District), Paul said, "It feels like we've come home." I concurred. During our previous visits, we lived on the 18th story of a high-rise with a balcony overlooking the Yarra River near Docklands. This time, we're staying in a ground-level flat with a patio that opens onto a large park with a playground, diagonally opposite the Docklands in the inner suburb of Carlton. The neighborhood (or, neighbourhood) was once a working class enclave, home to Melbourne's Little Italy. Now, with its proximity to downtown, the old Victorian terrace homes are occupied by a higher-income lot. But, there are plenty of apartments and lots of students also live here to attend nearby universities. And in addition to wonderful Italian restaurants, there are many cuisines blocks away. There are beautiful parks nearby. And, there is a tram 2 blocks from our front door, only a few stops from the free tram zone downtown.
When we get to Melbourne, we make arrangements to host an American Thanksgiving feast. We go to the Queen Victoria Market to put our deposit on a turkey. We order from The Corner Chicken Shop, which sells free range fresh poultry. I ask, "Can we buy fresh cranberries?" and she says, "No," so I order their home-made cranberry sauce. We are happy to see the market is thriving, post-Pandemic. The food stalls are busy but the non-food wares are emptier than we remembered. Nevertheless, the delis and bakeries are bustling. We discover a wine shop and think about selections we might pick up for our Thanksgiving meal. We buy coffees at an Italian cafe.
After we put our refrigerator magnets up, we create a simple meal from the market deli and bread stalls, and the apartment begins to feel like home.
A few days later, we go to the South Melbourne Market, to pick up freshly made ravioli and sauce and a quiche for a few easy meals.
A few days before the meal, we head to Prahan Market, to look for produce we will need for the dinner. I'm told pearl onions are not in season, so I pick through onions at 3 different veggie stalls to find small ones for the creamed onion dish I have planned. We load up on potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes.
The day before, we clean the apartment and pull out the leaves on the table. One of the nice things about being in a small place for a relatively short time, it is easy to clean. We go to the local grocery store a couple of blocks away to buy milk, butter, dinner rolls, bamboo plates and utensils. We get some beer from a liquor store.
The morning of our dinner, I get up to start the stuffing. Using fresh bread and spices we purchased at VIctoria Market, I mix the stuffing. The extra large cooking bags I got are not as big as I expected, so I have to ease the stuffed turkey into the bag, then slip in the large carrots. It is a struggle but I get the turkey in the bag. There is no room for the potatoes, so they sit outside the bag, wrapped in foil. I'm anxious that the oven is not heating properly, and solicit Paul's analytical skills to figure out if the turkey is actually cooking. All is well, and as the guests arrive, we put on a spread of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, creamed onions, rolls, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Our guests bring salad, chocolates, and beautiful desserts - a gorgeous pavlova, cheesecake and two pies I've ordered locally, pumpkin and cherry. We enjoy the food, wine, and company for several hours. After dinner, the Aussies drink hot tea while we drink coffee with our dessert. We eat too much. We drink Baileys. Just like home. We begin to catch up after four years of long, Pandemic-infused isolation. The conversation is warm and relaxed.
Just like at home, the next morning I have leftover pumpkin pie and for supper we have turkey sandwiches and leftovers. We enjoy the box of chocolates.
When you're a nomad, it's hard to answer the question, "Where are you from?" or "Where do you live?" We live where we are in the moment and we're from the world. There is excitement in exploring someplace entirely new, but there are new layers of understanding offered when you re-visit a far-away place you have loved before. For now, Melbourne is home, and we are lucky to share it with some pretty interesting and wonderful people. We'll post more about Melbourne as we stay here for two more months.