Scan above of my ticket stub to the sensational “We Will Rock You” musical set to the music of Queen performed in the heart of Melbourne.
After an amazing four days spent exploring Cairns, Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef, we hopped flight number three of our trip and headed the four-hour flight south to lovely, culturally alive Melbourne (pronounced “Mel-bun” by the Aussies). We didn’t land in Melbourne until well past nine at night thus besides collecting our luggage and taking a cab to our hotel, there wasn’t much time for much else except a few well-deserved and highly cherished glasses of Australian wine in the hotel bar.
We rose early for our English style breakfast in the hotel dining room and indulged in tea, coffee, fresh pastries, scones and jellies. We had yet another busy day ahead of us checking out Melbourne. Since my father had been there a few times before, we didn’t need a tour guide. I had him to show me around and bring me to all the latest and greatest spots.
Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia with a population close to four million. Melbourne is an interesting and exciting city because it is a huge cultural melting pot with one of the largest populations of Greeks outside of Athens and a sizable population of Chinese, Lebanese, Italian and Vietnamese immigrants. One in three Melburnians were born overseas or have parents who were born overseas, creating a largely diverse population awash with culture. I was excited to check it out as Melbourne sounded like my kind of place.
We spent the morning doing a lengthy jog through the lush Botanical Gardens. I always find seeing a place on foot via trekking or running to be extremely exciting because you can cover more ground than walking. It was a clear, perfect day– t-shirt and jeans weather of 60 degree F (felt like heaven after steamy, humid Cairns!). I enjoyed the cooler air and took advantage of the weather by spending the entire day outside, exploring Melbourne.
I found Melbourne to be quite different from Sydney. The entire mindset and feeling of the place felt like comparing apples to oranges. While Sydney is sexy, cosmopolitan and fast-moving, Melbourne felt more laid back, hippy and diverse. Melbourne reminded me more of Chicago (where I lived for five wonderful years) while Sydney seemed more like an Australian Paris or New York with all its chic and glamour. I adored both cities but felt more at ease in Melbourne. It was my kind of town.
Picture below of lovely Melbourne (called in Aussie accent “Melbun”).
Downtown Melbourne: Melbourne’s city center is built around the Yarra River which flows into Port Philip, a large natural bay that leads out to the sea.
The Yarra River
Restaurant district: Melbourne’s cultural diversity leads to an incredible variety of ethnic treats. You can find any kind of food you want in Melbourne. Plus the food like most I found in Australia, was wonderful.
The city center: The main part of town where businesses are located plus great shopping, restaurants, cafes and clubs.
Funky, fun and hip Fitzroy: About as bohemian as you can get with lots of great shopping for those retro vintage finds.
The fantastic Queen Victoria Market where you can buy anything and everything as fresh and wonderfully delicious as can be.
Unfortunately I was not in my thirdeyemom mindset when I went on this trip (remember it was in 2003! I’ve grown and matured since then…at least I hope so!) and probably missed tons of great photo opps that would illustrate the quirky, vitality and excitement of the various neighborhoods in Melbourne. There was St. Kilda which was bohemian and filled with outrageous cake shops, Carlton which had its own Aussie-style “Little Italy“, and Melbourne’s very own Chinatown. The far-stretching neighborhoods went on for miles and each one had its own unique and special charm. I would love to have the opportunity to revisit Melbourne someday and rediscover all the fabulous things it has to offer. It is a great city, in my humble opinion, that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The last highlight of our stay in Melbourne was our big night out on the town. It all began with a gourmet Italian meal nearby the theater where we started out with a $50 bottle of wine (the cheapest on the menu…thank God my dad was paying!). The tiny restaurant only had twenty tables and was fully booked. But per my dad who had eaten there a year before, the food was so good we chose to eat our four-course meal at the bar! It was amazing and I was so full afterwards that I thought I’d pass out during the musical. Yet, the loud, vibrant sounds of QUEEN singing “We will, we will ROCK YOU!” got me jumping off my chair and feeling like I was ready to pack my bags and move to Melbourne. The musical blasted my eardrums, raised my heart beat and excited my soul for I love QUEEN and there was nothing better than hearing it in lovely, lively “Mel-bun”! “We love ya Mel-bun” they cried and sang with all their might. What a fantastic send-off!
Stay tuned…my last post on Australia will be a day trip to the Yarra Valley wine regions for lots and lots of tasting and sipping yummy Australian wines.