Monday, September 10, 2012


It was goodbye Brisbane, goodbye Queensland hello Melbourne, hello Victoria. Well, it was supposed to be hello Sydney, hello New South Wales, but mum had already been to Sydney and didn't need to spend her time revisiting places she had already seen, and I had decided I didn't want to live in Brisbane or Sydney, but instead in Melbourne, so it would be another part of Australia for mum to see before she left and hopefully I could find a new home there. 
Everyone kept telling me how much I would love Melbourne, how it's very European, highly cultural, a big foodie scene with lots of restaurants and hip cafes but that the weather just sucked compared to the rest of Australia. Everyone kept telling me to wait until November or December when the weather was better to go, but compared to Perth's "winter" I couldn't imagine how cold it could possibly be. Nothing compared to a Donegal or New England winter. And plus, if I arrived before everyone else said to go, I would be beating the rest of the crowds listening to everyone else and have a better chance of scoring a job and a home without the summertime competitiveness. So, hello sweaters, hello rain coats, hello shoes with socks, hello umbrella, hello jeans. 

Despite the bad rep Melbourne gets for it's weather compared to the rest of the Australia, it is a must-see on anyone's trip. It's way bigger than Perth so I still feel a bit lost and overwhelmed, but it is made up of so many different neighbourhoods, or precincts, each with their own quirky personality. Immediately after mum left, I got a mild anxiety attack wanting to scream, "you have to come back! we haven't seen the half of it! you'll love it even more! come explore with me!" Unfortunately, a pending trip to Donegal and a 28 hour trip would not make that happen anytime soon.

There's Fitzroy and Collingwood, destinations for Gertrude Street running east-west and the perpendicular Brunswick Street crossing north-south. International restaurants, brunch hot spots, wine bars, hipster hangouts, dive bars, hole-in-the-walls, and artsy designer shops from knitted home goods, unique clothing, recycleables, second hand stores, vintage boutiques, one dollar stores, to antique markets. You name it, it makes you want to eat it, wear it, and be cool. 
Melbourne CBD is laid out basically in a rectangular grid system with the river front Flinders Street followed by Little Flinders Street, then Collin Street followed by Little Collin Street then Bourke Street followed by Little Bourke Street get it. Vertically off of these streets are little alley ways with apparent secret local gems to find. Even though there is a Chinatown comprising of about two blocks, the abundance of Asian foods dominate the city: Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Nepalese (does that count?), Malaysian. It almost feels as though you could be in Asia sometimes. 

The South Bank across the Yarra River (to the left in the picture above) seems a bit more upscale and touristy in the sense that it's a place to be to be seen and people watch. Although in saying upscale, there is a Wagamama on the second story with fantastic views over looking the river and city skyline :) Diners can sit outside (warm or cold) and watch the action along the promenade: the energetic street performers, the loud school groups, the photographing visitors, the hot shot business suits, the fit runners on their way to the adjacent park, and the prosperous/unfortunate ones coming to/from the glorious complex that is the Crown Casino. 

You can even have a drink in the middle of the river.
The CBD has its own collection of restaurants, hotels, cafes, shops, department stores, bars, university buildings and public institutions that are all easily accessible by Melbourne's tram system. Along with the pretty efficient tram system, there is a circle line tram that borders the city for riders to hop on and off for free. There's also buses, taxis, trains, cars, and pedestrian walk ways to get around Melbourne, but they all give way to the trams. For example, if a car wants to turn right onto a street, (mind you, Americans they are driving on the opposite side of the road) the car must go into a special lane all the way on the left hand side - the furthest away from where it wants to go - in order to wait until its able to turn right. This is so passing trams can still go through, continuing its transporting flow of traffic, and will not get held up behind waiting blinking cars. This is called a Hook Turn.
To the east of Melbourne, there are funky neighbourhoods such as Prahran, Toorak, South Yarra, and St Kilda which are not only home to some of the most abundant shopping on Chapel Street and popular nightlife, but also the most impressive homes. Melbourne in general I find astonishingly architecturally-stimulating: so many little attentions to detail blow my mind away. I can't even describe it, but I am constantly in awe of the artistic elements, the shapes of the buildings, the covers over the windows that can block or attract sunlight, the ornamental add-on's that seem to prove no functional purpose let alone be obviously aesthetically pleasing, or the thoughts that went through the architect's head that said "yes, this is peculiarly distinct and obscure, it's perfect." It's an eccentric city with so many international flares and edifying elements that although it makes me feel overwhelmed in the sense that I can't get a grip on it, it all somehow comes together to create what is Melbourne. One day, I'll get it. Until then, I'll keep walking around with my head tilted and my jaw dropped. 

nice lil' photo of mummy dearest.

We passed through the Carlton Gardens, home to the Melbourne Museum, IMAX, and the Royal Exhibition Building, a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it is the only 19thC great hall that is still mostly intact.
Queen Victoria Market.
This place will have to have it's own post once I have more pictures of it, but so far, it may be one of my favourite, if not definitely the most visited places of mine in Melbourne. It's not open on Mondays or Wednesdays which cause bouts of panic in case you're starving and Have to go to Coles or Woolie's (ok there's so many restaurants I doubt that would be the case) but because of the market, the only reason you would have to go there would be to get some kitchen staples. The market has everything else. It has a food court for those who cannot wait to eat; delicatessens selling cheeses galore, dips and crackers, marinated seafood and vegetables; a wine stall selling local wines with daily tastings; fresh pasta; more cured meat than you've ever seen (unless you are a UNISG alumni); butchers ranging from organic only, African dried specialties, and specialties in poultry; a baker's dozen selling fresh breads, baguettes, bagels, and sandwiches....
Then there's the produce section: stall after stall of fruits and vegetables all competing with prices and freshness for customers.
Then there's the meat section: all types of cuts of beef on offer that you've never heard of or don't even like the look of with marinades and leftovers saved for the dogs; seafood that you can smell before you see it; and the guys screaming deals to get you to come have a look.
In the back of the market, past the donut van that constantly has a line of at least 30 people in it, no joke, there's the other market that sells goods and crap from souvenir gimmicks, to leather jackets, UGG boots, and jewellery....Even though I could spend hours wandering up and down the rows of the market, bumping into people and eyeing which places have the best deals and freshest looking stuff, it is all a bit repetitive after awhile. 

for jess.
The tourist information centre in Federation Square is an informational hub with a plethora of brouchures, pamphlets, maps, walking tours, excursions, and souvenirs. I left with handfuls of to-do's and to-see's. 
it's not always cold....spring is coming!! There are lots of parks in Melbourne as well, keeping it a fresh and beautiful city but I have yet to explore those...I'm waiting for the wind to die down and the warmth to pick up. 
I suppose I should stop writing and go out and explore the rest of Melbourne, huh?


Tiago said...

I love Melbourne, it is a quiet city with a great quality life. And when I spoke to the best real estate agents in town I found out that is not an expensive city at all.

Haley Griffin said...

We spent time by the river where you were and saw a snake and reptile display that was really good as well. Not what you'd expect to entertain the kids on a cold winter's morning. Having said that the reptile show was something really different.