Arrived in Melbourne around 9.30 p.m. on Tuesday 16 March 2010.
My brother kindly picked us up from the airport and drove us to our hotel, the Seasons Botanic Gardens Melbourne.
This hotel suited us perfectly:
- excellent location in St Kilda Road;
- clean, spacious, well-equipped room;
- helpful, courteous staff;
- nice little swimming pool with spa bath.
The weather in Melbourne was delightfully warm – a welcome change from the wintery conditions we’d left behind.
We stayed for a total of 7 nights but we didn’t get much sightseeing (or pie-eating) done. I still feel that Signor Lu hasn’t really seen Melbourne.
Family, friends and a wedding occupied most of our time. It was wonderful to see everyone again. I caught up with people I hadn’t seen for more than a decade!
In catching up with various people, we visited a range of suburbs, both inner and outer: Albert Park, South Melbourne, Elwood, Parkdale, Heidelberg and Warrandyte. Thus we got a taste of some different neighbourhoods, each in its own way cluttered with cafes.
In the course of 7 days we squeezed in visits to Federation Square, Southbank, the Arts Precinct, Degraves Street, the beautiful Botanic Gardens, the Shrine of Remembrance and the Albert Park Grand Prix racing circuit (one week before the race).
We also “went” to a Massive Attack concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. By “went” I mean we didn’t buy tickets but sat on the grass outside the Bowl with other non-ticket-buyers and listened to the concert for free. The music sounded good: trippy, vibey, cool.
We ate quite well. In particular we liked:
- Lezzet, a Turkish restaurant in Brighton Road where we dined with the pre-nuptial couple.
- The Italian in Collins Street/Flinders Lane where we dined with some friends who have visited us in Italy.
- La Venice in St Kilda Road, a few doors down from our hotel. We had a breakfast cappuccino here most mornings. Weeks have gone by since then, and I am still missing their organic brew.
Melburnians and their city
The people of Melbourne seem as relaxed and as casually friendly as ever (except when driving). They move to their own special rhythm which is neither slow nor particularly fast.
Melburnians are insatiable cappuccino and latte drinkers. Do adult humans really need that much milk?
The city streets are remarkably free of: (a) dog-walkers and as a consequence (b) dog excrement.
At all times of the day and night there are people walking, jogging, running and cycling. Are they trying to burn off all those milky coffee drinks? (Actually it’s the same in Mantua – but I’m not sure which fattening vice people are trying to burn off: risotto, pasta, gelato? )
Are olives cheap in Victoria? Some Melburnian eateries mistakenly think that large quantities of olives go with everything. And why so heavy-handed with the raw onion?
At tram stops and on trams, there is a frenzy of smartphone touch-screen activity.
I heard the phrase “work-life balance” several times.
The Official Visitors’ Guide to Melbourne (available at the airport) advises that “many of the best things to see and do are tucked down laneways, up creaky stairs and in some cases, below ground.”
The publication goes on to mention that there are many “exquisite boutiques” and unfathomably hip ” hidden bars” that are missed by visitors because they don’t have inside information. The booklet, although it appears to be published monthly and could easily be updated, doesn’t give names or addresses of any of these secret insider city gems. That’s very helpful! (To be fair, the guidebook does recommend booking a tour to discover the little-known hotspots.)
Melbourne has changed but it is still recognisable. The people are more positive about their city than they used to be and everyone seems to like Federation Square. At night, with all the buildings lit up, and with its image reflected in the river, Melbourne is prettier and more colourful than my memories of it.
We had to leave before we really wanted to. However, if we had stayed longer we would have upset our delicate work-life balance…
(Footnote: Some of the photos featured in this blog are from pleasetakemeto.com. )