06.02.2014 - 09.02.2014 38 °C
As cities go, Melbourne is up there and, in our opinion, is Australia's finest city.
But... before we got to the centre, we had a little 'errand' to run - to find a suburb of Melbourne called Toorak. Before leaving for our trip, we used to live in a beautiful Victorian block called Toorak, which was named after the Australian one... so we just had to pay a visit. Turns out it's a fairly swanky inner suburb with boutique shops, cafés and spas and the name is plastered everywhere! Ahhhhh...
We stayed in a cool airbnb pad right in the centre of South Bank, close to the river and the action. Melbourne has a thriving arts scene, probably the most alternative edge of all Australia's cities and city suits happily co-exist with a grungier crowd. There are hip bars, quirky coffee shops, stunning Victorian arcades, breezy parks and restaurants for every taste and budget.
Buildings showing the quirky side to Melbourne
The arts centre
We had a fabulous few days exploring all it has to offer. We love wandering around a new city, unfortunately for us there was a poorly timed hot spell (38c) for most of our stay which meant we had to resort to buses and crawling into air conditioned spaces, red-faced and panting!
On the upshot, there's plenty to do in Melbourne inside and we checked out all the old arcades, some art galleries and... of course a bar or two...
Melbourne is famed for its laneways, offering cute and diverse drinking and dining options... some little more than a tiny shop with a few chairs spilling onto the street.
The one thing we were a little disappointed with was street art. The various sculptures you spot around town are great, but the streets famed for their art were a bit of a let down. They were so condensed with graffitti art, the lanes just looked shabby and run down.
Some were better than others...
We browsed the Queen Victoria Market which has a great selection of produce, in particular mouth-watering delicatessans and fresh fish and meat stalls.
A great thing about Australian summers are the open-air cinemas they put on in the city parks. We took the chance to try one out in Melbourne seeing as they were screening something we wanted to see - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. We took a bottle of red and enjoyed the experience... it was especially weird, beyond the large screen, to see large fruit bats circling a distant lit tower, like a surreal Gotham City...
A highlight was the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) which was interactive and a worthwhile hour or two.
We also checked out the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) which had some good stuff on display. A brilliantly executed piece was 'don't worry', with each letter painstakingly carved with details depicting key events from the artist's journey into adulthood. It wasn't always clear what those events were as each letter seemed to tell of a non-descript epic struggle... but a collison with drugs at some point was an obvious one.
Testing Grounds - a kooky art/drinking space. Very Melbourne.
We were hoping to meet up with Charlotte but unfortunately she did her Scarlet Pimpernel thing and, despite a few excited emails back and forth about meeting up, she didn't surface. We put it down to the heatwave, but we were left in the dark about her reasons for not making an appearance. That, coupled with the intense city heat, left us feeling a bit flat on our last night in the city... but we stumbled upon the Italian quarter and after a great pizza and a few vinos, the evening improved no end.
We were really sad to be leaving Australia. After a few early disappointments, we've experienced some great highs. It's an amazing, epic country and we've had an absolute ball travelling around its different states.
However, we couldn't stay sad for long as New Zealand was up next, and one of the most anticipated parts of our entire trip!