Melbourne is the perfect weekend trip from Sydney. Itâ€™s only just over an hourâ€™s flight, although make sure you donâ€™t fly to Avalon! (more on that later). Some say its cooler/edgier and more artsy than Sydney. Itâ€™s like the whole cityâ€™s population is like the crowd you see on Queen Street in Toronto. Some also compare it to Montreal. I think they say that it is a city of extremes but very liveable and one of the best food cities in the world I think.
One of the things that make it cooler is that the state of Victoria has different liquor licensing than New South Wales â€“ it is very easy for any mom and pop shop with 5 tables to open up a bar, so you have all these lanes and alleyways lined with tiny pubs and cafes.
(The licensing laws for NSW just changed though, so that will eventually be a moot point.) Still though, Sydney has the harbour, great weather and all the beautiful beaches which you just donâ€™t get in Melbourne.
I thought this was a good weekend to make my first trip because it was right in the middle of the Australian Tennis Open. Melbourne hosts a lot of great sporting events and I wish I had been there for the Melbourne Cup (horse racing) which is probably their most famous event. Rohan and I bought ground passes for Saturday for the Open and I took Monday off, so I had three full days.
When I arrived Friday night, I met Rohan at the house of a friendâ€™s parents in St. Kilda Beach. I couldnâ€™t have asked for a better part of the city to stay in.
Acland Street is lined with lots of interesting bars, restaurants, cafes and shops. (There are sooo many cafes â€“ in Sydney too). Plus the famous Luna Park (older than Sydneyâ€™s) and the Esplanade Hotel are also in St. Kilda. The Esplanade Hotel (aka bar/pub/club) has been around for decades and holds lots of concerts.
Train station - plans were meant for India but mistakes happen
It was raining lightly on Saturday but we made our way to the Tennis Grounds anyway stopping on Degraves lane for breakfast. Even though it was raining the lane was almost fully covered by table umbrellas and it was packed. When we got to the tennis they told us there was no play going on in the outdoor courts due to the rain. (There are 2 arenas, 3 outdoor show courts and a dozen or more other outdoor courts â€“ ground passes entitle you to all outdoor courts.)
So we walked around a lot of the city â€“ Federation Square, along the river, saw the train station that was originally meant to be build in India, the Arts Centre, the Melbourne Museum, the gardens and Exhibition Square, some of the shopping areas and we went to the National Gallery of Victoria.
There was a Krishna exhibit on so that was interesting. Since play still hadnâ€™t started at this point we made sure that we could transfer our tickets to Sunday and then we went to Brunswick street to do some shopping. There are tons of â€śoutletâ€ť stores here â€“ I use quotations because Iâ€™m not sure about the designers, but anyways there was a lot on sale and no shortage of clothing shops. We also stopped at this cool bar that was something like a beer garden/ 70â€™s basement/ old world pub.
Later that evening we went to this trendy restaurant, Gingerboy. I had read about it in Wallpaper. It had really cool design. The theme is south east Asian street food hawker style. But the food was really of fine dining quality, and I had never had anything like it. The best dish is the son in law eggs. They also have amazing cocktails. Anyway Iâ€™ll just put the link so you can look for yourself.
www.gingerboy.com.au. Stopped at a late night bookshop which was right next door, and then went to a bar back in St. Kilda.
On Sunday we went to this amazing bakery/cafĂ© for breakfast in St Kilda called Il Fornaio. Australia definitely knows how to do breakfast! (As well as the usual bacon, egg, omelette dishes, you always have toasted bircher muesli, yogurt, things with avocado, fresh passionfruit or mango, sourdough, artisanal toast etc. plus all coffee is espresso based). We spent most of the day watching different courts at the Open. The one we saw in the Margaret Show court was Niemenen and Kohlschreiber.
We also went back to Federation Square and visited the Horse Racing Museum which was great.
Australia loves their racing and their gambling. Federation Square is a great development. I think it was only build in the last few years but it acts as a central meeting point for the city and there is lots there â€“ a couple of museums, shops, galleries, restaurants and visitors centre. Later on we went to Lygon Street. We went into a couple of shops around here and caught a movie â€“ Juno. I donâ€™t know if its already over in North America but I thought it was really funny.
The architecture is really a sight in Melbourne. There are a lot of older English Victorian style buildings but then it is juxtaposed with all this very modern looking stuff â€“ best example is Federation Square, right next to St.
Paulâ€™s Cathedral and the train station. Transportation is great in this city. There are trams (street cars) for which paying is basically optional; there is also a free bus that loops around most of the main destinations in the city. Most of the tram stops also have a screen which tells you â€“ accurately- how many minutes until the next one!
National Gallery of Victoria
On Monday, Rohan and I went out for a late brunch on Fitzroy Street near St. Kilda before he had to catch his flight. Then I met up with Ali and we shopped on Richmond Street and had an early dinner because I had a flight at 9pm and I needed to catch a shuttle to the Avalon airport which takes an hour! When I arrived at the Southern Cross station where the shuttle departs I saw Rohan â€“ he had missed the shuttle he needed to take to get to his flight at Avalon so he had to buy another ticket leaving from the main airport. As we were discussing this I went to buy my shuttle pass and they said I had missed the shuttle for my flight! It was only 7pm though and seeing as how there werenâ€™t anymore flights that night and Jetstar was really unhelpful I just risked it and took the next shuttle leaving at 7:25pm.
I ended up making it to Avalon on time â€“ considering it is basically just a landing strip on a farm, you wouldnâ€™t expect to need much check in time. So all was fine and I was back in Sydney that night.
National Gallery of Victoria
I really loved the city, but still not sure if I could part with sunny weather and beautiful beaches.