Belgrave by commuter train: an hour and ten minutes (southeast-ish) from Melbourne's CBD. Towards the end of the line, close to the Dandenong Ranges, the stations begin to have fairy tale names like Lilydale and Upper Ferntree Gully. (I imagine that the Catskills or the Berkshires (which I still hope to see some day) might have a similar feel: low mountain ranges with scenic lookouts and a scattering of hillside villages, small inns and family restaurants and throwback tearooms all offering scones (Devonshire cream teas, the prevalence of which here (like the abundance of fish and chip shops) is part of the British legacy I never fail to find enchanting about Australia); hiking trails and picnic grounds through swathes of state parkland; timber trestle bridges for the vintage steam train that runs through the forest; an arboretum, several wildlife sanctuary and preserves, a rhododendron garden.

I have taken to train riding of late because I wanted an air-conditioned, well lit, public place to read, of course. And of course, a stifling 95F day was no one's ideal for tromping about in the shadeless open. Still, when riding a train to its terminus one would feel rather an incurious and unenterprising dolt not to make an inspection of the environs before boarding the return train. I had in fact a small excursion in mind on arrival at Belgrave: to visit thePuffing Billy. Not to ride it, you understand; I just like watching old steam trains pull in and out of stations. (Also, waving at trains from railway embankments: for what else did I spent my years reading The Railway Children?) The urge satisfied, further exploration of the nearby Belgrave village (its directory boasted a used book barn) was abruptly aborted at the door of the ice-cream parlour (burnt caramel swirled through pear sorbet = v.g.): the temperature, we've said, was 95 and rising.

(On that note: cafes are overrated for reading in public; trains afford much the same opportunities for observing people and up cafes one with two image reels of fast-spooling scenery, there is comfortable (and in some cities, lightly-cushioned) seating in a lit, temperature-controlled, space. There is a soothing hum of ambient white noise from train and track and whistle, and light rocking motion that lulls one into light sleep, and of course one can doze on trains (no unseemliness there) without the speculation and disapprobation one would attract in a coffee shop -- a seat paid for on a train is occupied till journey's end: a daily fare cap at $8.20 on the Victorian train network (unlimited rides) comes to less than 2 cups of time-extender coffee and avoids hogger's bad conscience altogether.)

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