Art, Architecture & Adventure in Melbourne
About Melbourne, a friend said to me that Sydney is like a person who’s born beautiful, with it’s natural harbor and scenic attributes, and that Melbourne has had to create itself. And what a great job it’s done!
My adventure in cosmopolitan Melbourne started as soon as I got off the tram at Clare’s adorable little apartment on Flinder’s Street, right in the heart of the city. (I met Clare on a tour to Uluru a few weeks before and she invited me to visit her). She whisked me off to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the Jean Paul Gaultier show. He’s designed for the likes of Madonna (think cone bras), Kylie Minogue, Beyonce, and Nicole Kidman. The show included over 140 garments, as well as photos, drawings, and even his little teddy bear, which he designed a cone bra for when he was just a small child. Feathers & leather, jewels & sequins, lace & fun abound. His creativity is endless!
Later in the week I came back to peruse the permanent collection, which is stellar, and I even stumbled on a Herman Miller Panton chair, manufactured back in my home state of Michigan. From ancient to cutting edge contemporary, this museum has an extensive and entertaining collection. But if a picture speaks a thousand words, I’ll just show you a few samples…
Clare is a chef and had to work at noon, and having just arrived after an all night bus ride with little sleep, I decided to hop on the red tour bus and let it show me an overview of what Melbourne has to offer, which is a lot. There are, in fact, 2 tours that the bus will take you on, a city tour as well as on a beach tour. Both are worthwhile, and so, after a midnight to 8am bus trip from Canberra to Melbourne, I found myself enjoying another 4 hours of bus seats. Have to say, the architecture in Melbourne is amazing!! Just be ready for any kind of weather – it rained, the sun came out, it rained, the sun came out, and it rained and the sun came out again, about 6 times in as many hours. My advice? Always bring sunglasses and an umbrella!
Once off the bus, I wandered the streets all evening, discovering fantastic alleyways full of graffiti, and buildings all lit up at night. Federation square is a central hangout, full of restaurants, buskers, a giant TV which people gather to watch, as well as free wifi. I spent several evenings just hanging out there, working on my computer and watching the people pass by.
On another day lunch or high tea in Block Arcade’s Hopetoun Tea Room is delightful, just be prepared to make a hard decision when it comes to the desserts! We shared tea and scones with cream & jam, yum!
After Clare headed to work that day, I hopped the bus to Lygon Street in the Italian part of town, and wandered up and down admiring the shop windows full of wine, cheese, pastries, and designer clothes. For some reason, I was craving pizza, and asked a local for the best spot. I wasn’t disappointed.
Another great thing to do is take a trip along the Great Ocean Road. It’s spectacular. Views of sea green ocean studded with the Twelve Apostles, giant limestone rock formations with waves crashing and spraying white foam. I took a bus tour, since I was on my own, but my advice here is that if you don’t mind driving on the left side of the road, and if you’ve a travel companion, rent a car instead and take a picnic.
On Sunday, Clare invited me to Pastuso, the restaurant where she works, for lunch. It was epic! Beautifully presented, delicious, and best of all, I know and got to watch the chef!
After that, a visit to Victoria Market was a must. It’s huge, goes on and on, full of produce vendors, cheese shops, wine, candy, meat & fish, pasta, pastries, you name it, they sell it here. A bit overwhelming, but fascinating and fun.
My last day in Melbourne was spent just outside of the city, in the Yarra Valley, wine tasting with Clare and her boyfriend James. Reminded me a lot of the Napa Valley, rolling golden hills striped with rows of green vines, and interesting looking tasting rooms. One difference is that a lot of the wineries here also have restaurants, whereas in Napa they are usually separate. We enjoyed lunch at de Bortoli, tasted some of their wines (that’s another difference, wine tastings are usually free in Australia, or refunded with a bottle purchase). And there are plenty of other things to do if you’re not wanting to overdose on fermented grape juice, like visit the chocolate factory, where you can also taste free samples, and eat ice-cream (mine was honeycomb!) Then there’s also the cheese tasting…oh my!
I missed the botanical gardens, the zoo, the aquarium & many other museums & restaurants & shopping areas, there’s only so much time and money. But I made the most out of my visit to Melbourne (thanks Clare!) and it’s a definite stop on your bucket list if you’re going to Australia.