Melbourne or Sydney, there is always this battle when you think of which one to pick as your vacation destination.
I went to Melbourne after being to Sydney, so feels like I’m swaying between the two beauties. Both Cities are amazing, have a persona and charm of their own. I was told Melbourne is a Victorian beauty whereas Sydney is more sophisticated. One is a classic beauty rich in culture and the other offers a with a stunning skyline, captivating harbour.
The image of Melbourne that I had in mind was of the Flinders Station, with the yellow facade and green copper dome. Its Melbourne’s favourite meeting place, and the catchphrase ‘meet me under the clocks’. How I wish I could live that moment! There is no bigger pleasure in life than connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Journey to Melbourne turned out to be a culmination of both.
My new friend Alan Barrat who I met while cruising 40,000 feet above the planet earth on Quantas, had given me a full list of things to do in Melbourne. The 8 hr flight from Singapore felt like a short trip. It’s quite strange that you strike the frequency with someone whom you have never met and connect instantaneously at the most unexpected places. Having been worked in IT was so excited to meet someone who could narrate to me the intricacies of IBM ONE Machine to Neuro-Linguistic Program all in one breath. A life coach who charges a couple of thousands of dollars for hourly consultation to being a passionate photographer. Listening to his experiences, I felt more educated after the long flight instead of jet-lagged. He made me realise how limited my exposure has been, and how endless are the possibilities in life could be.
At Flinders Street Station – Australia’s oldest train station and one of the busiest and iconic spots in the city kept wondering Should I check In ? Free wi-fi is accessible on the station ( Metro Wi-Fi). And announce to the world or that would be too cheesy … Sense prevailed and so decided to take a walk. I’m starting to understand the true joy of travel, beyond the touristy sights and selfies. Making those real connections with real people.
Right Across the street is Federation Square. Remember reading somewhere that this is the most visited attraction. Home for cultural attractions, events etc, There is a Visitor Centre to help guide people like me walking aimlessly absorbing the vibe of the city. I don’t know what’s with the horse carriages and cobbled streets … It just takes us back to a royal sojourn. Makes me think of wanting to go on a romantic carriage ride with significant other some night through the laneways and arcades of Melbourne.
The fashion and culture capital of Australia draws you into its amazing street arts, exciting bars, cafés and restaurants, and just drift along in the sea of people.
If you are a fan of viewing cities from a vantage point, there are two options in Melbourne. Enjoy from the Skydeck of the Eureka Tower (https://www.eurekaskydeck.com.au/tickets-pricing/) for $20. And if you wanna experience the EDGE that’s another $12 extra. The Edge extends from Eureka Tower’s 88th floor and suspends you nearly 300 meters over Melbourne in a glass cube – glass walls, ceiling and floor – you can see through it all! Highly recommended, but I didn’t dare to try it. Instead went to The Shrine of Remembrance, a war memorial near St Kilda Road. The site is free to visit and open from the morning until late afternoon. It is around 1.6-kilometers walk from Flinders Street Railway Station (thanks for the recommendation, Adam). Most trams reach the memorial. Take photos of the panoramic views of the city from the site’s elevated position for free ! This one is definitely one of the highest points on the Southern Hemisphere, so expect some spectacular views – from the Yarra to the CBD and then the ocean on the other side.
My host in Melbourne was my friend Bhanu from school and we were meeting after 20 years! How time flies and then you meet one fine day half way across the world and pick up the conversations from where you left as if it was just yesterday. Our lives had changed completely, from being reckless teenagers to being toddler chasers and mortgage slaves. I didn’t know what the trip would be like or what would happen when I land up in his house and meet his family whom I had never met. I just knew that I’d regret it if I didn’t and be proud if I did, so I decided to go for it.
My local itinerary was drawn by his sweet wife, Devu who was almost 8 months pregnant and their lil toddler helped me hop on to The City Circle Tram. A heritage W class tram decorated in special maroon and green with yellow and gold trimmings. It provides a free and royal feel to the Melbourne city tour. The trip covers all of the check list items, Parliament Building, Star Ferris Wheel, Harbour view and everything else.
The route covers it all , Flinders Street > Spring Street > Nicholson Street > Victoria Parade > La Trobe Street > Docklands Drive > Harbour Esplanade > Flinders Street. And in one hour you get to see it all !!!
The adjacent suburb – St. Kilda is a nice beach town with amazing party ambience. How about some meat pie – A Melbourne favourite, the flaky crunch is filled with rich meat filling (usually lamb or beef) baked to golden brown perfection. These are available everywhere from the gourmet cafe’s to tiny local bakeries, Or maybe try some oysters. But before that take a walk along the Acland Street and Luna Park and at the Pier watch The Penguins On the Harbour At Sunset! A treat for adults and kids.
In case you don’t have time to go on a day trip to Phillip Island , this is the perfect alternative.
Coming from India , how could I miss “The G”. Hang On before you send your imagination wild. Affectionately known as ‘The G’ to locals and cricketing fans the world over, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is a cultural icon and one of the most important cricket grounds in the world. The MCG is in Yarra Park, between the suburbs of Richmond and East Melbourne.
We took stop at the National Gallery of Victoria, a cultural centre dedicated to film, television and gaming. The NGV offers an extraordinary visual arts experience with a diverse range of exhibitions and performances
Upriver you will find the Royal Botanic Gardens while downriver is SeaLife, the Crown Casino. Crown Towers is built tall to for those magnificent city views and the complex stretches along the Yarra River waterfront. A quick peek into the casino, and as you would expect there are many games to enjoy that are sure to keep the entertainment quotient high. In fact, there are over 2,000 the casino classic games such as poker, roulette and blackjack which means you would never run out of options.
Late evenings there is something that they call the Gas Brigade. Eight towers of the Crown along Southbank river shoot the world’s largest fireballs into the night’s sky, with jaw-dropping spectacle. An experience not to be missed !
Immersing in the magic and mystery of Melbourne is an exhilarating experience. Everywhere you turn there’s something special to see. Want to take another deep breath and inhale the goodness of this city and thank my friends who made it special.
Next on the cards, The Great Ocean Road Trip..now, that’s for another day.
Till then check out more about Aussie Adventure at Sail your way through the Heart Reef