Posted by: asprockett | July 31, 2013

Going on Holiday: Marvellous Melbourne

Dan and I decided to take a short holiday before the start of second semester classes. In a week-long trip, we planned to visit Melbourne, Australia and two cities in New Zealand, Auckland and Rotorua.

The first thing you ought to know when traveling to Melbourne is that there are two airports: Avalon (about an hour south of the city and closer to the coast) and Tellamurine (closest to the city). This may or may not factor into your travel plans, depending on how much time and financial flexibility you have. But when you see $35 flights to Melbourne, you jump on them and don’t think twice about which airport you’re flying to.  Hey, we’ll count it as a bonus tour of the Melbourne countryside.

When we arrived from our scenic tour at the Southern Cross Train Station, we  checked into our hostel and set off exploring the city.

An evening view of Southern Cross Station.

An evening view of Southern Cross Station trains and Melbourne.

To get our bearings, we decided to follow a free walking tour I downloaded online. We started our exploration at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, which is near the center of downtown directly across from Federation Square.

Federation Square.

Federation Square.

Flinders Street Train Station, across from Federation Square, the starting point for our walking tour.

Flinders Street Train Station, across from Federation Square, the starting point for our walking tour.

While it’s a beautiful church, we will return with no pictures, as St. Paul’s charges $5.00 for a “license” to take photos. We were met at the door of the church by a sweet, elderly woman who offered us a pamphlet for a free, self-guided tour of the church.

After our trip from narthex to alter and back, we returned the pamphlet since, let’s face it, we would have thrown it away. She politely asked us where we were from, which is now a question I can no longer properly answer without also offering the asker a cup of coffee and scone as I explain how I now identify home. Dan saved the poor women and answered, “We stay in Sydney, but we’re from the United States.” To which she promptly replied, “Oh, well Melbourne is better.” We must have given her a curious look because she pressed us further, “Melbourne is better than Sydney.” Not knowing what to do with that, we simply offered polite smiles headed to the next stop on the tour.

I found it a bit ironic that the first place we were officially confronted with the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry was in a church – the very place parishioners are instructed not to judge. Sydney and Melbourne each have great things going for them, but after visiting, both Dan and I remain a bit partial to Sydney. Although it is clear that Melbourne blows Sydney out of the water in one aspect: rubbish bin density. No. Seriously. I’m not being sarcastic. Sydney’s CBD seems to feel that one rubbish bin per square 5 km is sufficient. I really don’t know how they manage to keep the city so clean, because several times I’ve found myself having to walk several blocks just to throw something away. Sydney could definitely use more rubbish bins.

Our walking tour took us up Hosier Lane, an ever changing graffiti artist paradise, into the Treasury Gardens (which have a memorial to President John F. Kennedy of all things), and across to the Fitzroy Gardens.

Graffiti in Hosier Lane, one of the many sanctioned graffiti laneways in Melbourne.

Graffiti in Hosier Lane, one of the many sanctioned graffiti laneways in Melbourne.

An artist creating new art in the laneway.

An artist creating new art in the laneway.

Can you find me?

Can you find me?

I enjoyed the cozy plant conservatory (and respite from the wind), the model Tudor village (that even grown-up me wanted to play in), and the carved fairies’ tree (as long as I didn’t look too hard and get scared by the gnomes caught in the spider web).

Model Tudor Village where I would have played, if not for the fence.

Model Tudor Village where I would have played, if not for the fence.

Dan at the fairy tree,

Dan at the fairy tree. Scary spiderweb not pictured.

From the Fitzroy Garden we headed to St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral. It, like St. Paul’s, is beautifully ornate and serene. We met no judgmental seniors at this church. (But man, that would have made a better story!)

St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The walking tour took us past the Treasury Reserve where we saw a newly married couple emerge. (I guess you get married at the Treasury instead of Town Hall here? Is that a message about marriage?) We trekked back to Federation Square and turned up Swanston Street, where we saw about 72 places we’d like to eat, passing Chinatown and Greektown on our way back to our hostel.

Our second day in Melbourne was rainy and chilly – A.K.A., a perfect museum day. We spent the entire day at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).

Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

I would highly recommend this free museum for anyone travelling to Melbourne! The museum covers moving pictures from shadow puppet productions that are 1000s of years old up to present digital media personas (including film and TV, video games, digital animation, and viral videos). We saw Cate Blanchett’s gown from Elizabeth, as well as her Oscar from The Aviator. My friends will know that I love the Oscars, and even though I’d never seen Oscar or Cate in person before moving to Australia, I feel an affinity for both.

Cate Blanchett's dress from Elizabeth and Oscar from The Aviator.

Cate Blanchett’s dress from Elizabeth and Oscar from The Aviator.

My favorite part of the museum was the sensation section. While the entire museum is highly interactive, this section was flat out playtime. Dan and I made our own flipbook showing off our highly polished dance moves, played with shadow in special effects, laughed at the “Wilhelm scream” (it really comes out quite hilarious when it’s repeated over and over in several types of movies), and watched the zoetrope three times. We also made several Matrix-style 360-degree movie shots.  Andy and Lana Wachowski, you give me a call when you’re ready for Matrix IV.

ACMI also has a movie viewing room with hours and hours of film – documentaries, shorts, animated films, feature films, and many more genres I’m unfamiliar with. We spent some time enjoying the wide variety of films we could watch, and would definitely return to this museum.

Dan in the movie viewing booth,

Dan in the movie viewing booth.

The rainy and cold weather also gave us a good excuse to use the free city circle trolley system. Although it’s a slow ride that stops at each intersection, it provides excellent tourist information…and it keeps you warm and dry. Double bonus.

For our last day in Melbourne, we started out by visiting the Queen Victoria Markets.

Honestly, we probably should have hit these markets on the first day. We were less interested in the cheap clothes and touristy trinkets, but fully taken in by the enormous food markets. We bought enough food for a large lunch, which included generous portions of brie, blue cheese and award-winning cheddar that we bought from a very passionate and persuasive cheesemonger.

Dan with the cheesemonger who sold us some of the most delicious blue, brie and cheddar cheese we've ever had!

Dan with the cheesemonger who sold us some of the most delicious blue, brie and cheddar cheese we’ve ever had!

We then checked out the State Library of Victoria, which is really a dual library and museum.

"No! I love libraries! I will save you!"

“No! I love libraries! I will save you!”

It’s core is an enormous dome, surrounded by several art and historical galleries that span the history of Melbourne, Victoria, and Australia.

Dome of the State Library of Victoria.

Dome of the State Library of Victoria.

State Library of Victoria.

State Library of Victoria.

It described how Melbourne was founded after a colony was moved from Tasmania, and how they formed a separate colony after being fed up with paying taxes to the New South Wales colonial government in far off Sydney. They specifically chose the name “Victoria” for their new colony, in a bid to win Queen Victoria’s approval. Melbourne was at one point the richest city in the world, after experiencing a gold rush in the 1850’s. The library also had a great exhibit about Ned Kelly, an infamous Victorian bushranger (the Aussie version of an outlaw or desperado), who became famous after having a shootout with the police while wearing armor made from the blades of plows.

Ned Kelly's Armor.

Ned Kelly’s Armor.

The weather was still relatively chilly, so we kept warm by wandering through Melbourne’s many famous laneways and ornate arcades before spending time in the National Gallery of Victoria.

One of the beautiful arcades.

One of the beautiful arcades.

We ended the day with coffee and tea at DeGraves Coffee in one of the little laneways where we happened to run into a friend through Rotary. Now, let me stress that I ran into someone I know “out and about” in Cleveland one time. After living there for 2 ½ years. We’ve lived in Sydney for only a few months and yet it happens quite frequently here – and now in Melbourne?! It was a fun coincidence and goes to show the power of connections!

Enjoying coffee and tea at DeGraves Espresso.

Enjoying coffee and tea at DeGraves Espresso.

So our final opinion of Melbourne? For those familiar with Sydney neighborhoods, I equate it to a large Newtown – funky, arty, anything goes-y. (With the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry, I may have just made some enemies by saying that…) Melbourne is an eclectic city filled with interesting places to explore and I’d certainly encourage people to visit.

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Responses

  1. This post has some incredible photographs. There were four that I particularly liked: the train station HDR, looking down on the library floor, the arcade ceiling, and the inside of the cathedral. That last one could be a postcard, wow.


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