It is hard to credit now, but I actually arrived in Melbourne for the first time ten years ago this month. We were living in Hong Kong at the time, which needs some explaining but that will have to wait another day.

My wife had been invited to teach an intensive ten day course at the law school where she is now employed on a permanent basis. We decided to make a fortnight of our trip and squeeze in a little sightseeing at the end.

For my daughter and I, the whole trip was a holiday. I can no longer remember how it transpired, but we convinced the parents of my daughter’s best friend to let her come along. Her name was Leesa and she was a fine companion for my daughter, the absolute opposite of the spoiled, expat child one sees so often in Hong Kong.

While my wife was on her feet lecturing, we were at the zoo or down along the Yarra or in a museum or at the Aquarium. I remember renting bicycles and going for a ride along the river. It is hard to believe I was only ten years younger then than I am now. During certain decades, age no longer creeps, it takes big leaps instead. The sixties (my sixties), fall into that category.

The furnished apartment was modern and roomy and it was located on a charming, Italian-oriented avenue two blocks from the University of Melbourne. Lygon Street.

If I had done my homework, I would have realized that Lygon Street was a mecca for tourists and locals. The tree-lined street is absolutely packed with all things Italian, from pasta to gelato, vino to the latest Italian shoes and clothing. And restaurants! There are far too many to mention. It has the best selection of movies in the City, and quite possibly the best book store, in addition to a theatre company.

It was the dire threat of the Japanese invasion during World War II that convinced Australians they needed more people to protect the land. The slogan “Populate or Perish” gained credibility, and there were large numbers of displaced Europeans to chose from. Along with the “ten pound” poms whose lives had been devastated by battle and the blitz, boatloads of Greeks and Italians were eager to escape poverty and destruction in their own homelands.

They settled anywhere cheap and where their countrymen had previously put stakes in the ground. The area to the east of Melbourne University was not the posh destination it is today. Italians settled in and built their homes, started their restaurants and introduced two new concepts to the City on the Yarra– brewing good coffee, and eating outside, al fresco.

The legacy of Lygon Street was born, and it has never looked back. Stay tuned.

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