It’s fair to say we definitely have a favourite city of the trip so far. We spent a total of 5 days exploring Melbourne and the surrounding area, but could have happily stayed for much longer, and we are looking forward to returning over Christmas.
We could tell soon after arriving that we were going to like it. We started with a walk along the banks of the Yarra river, which flows through the centre of the city. You are immediately struck by the imposing skyline, with buildings towering over you on both sides of the river.
The tallest of these buildings has a public viewing platform on the 88th floor, the Eureka sky deck. We purchased tickets for $15.50 (£10) each, and made the extremely short elevator journey to the top.We were greeted with panoramic views across the city, and the clear sky meant we could see for miles into the distance. The majority of the viewing platform is indoors making photography difficult, especially with the windows covered in finger prints. However, there is a small section where you can go outside and brave the strong winds, with my camera lens just about fitting through the wire fence.
With no time limit at the top, we stayed to watch the sunset, and views were just as incredible afterwards, with the Arts Centre spire lighting up the night sky.
For a city with such a great skyline, it is helpful there are so many good places to view it from. Another of these was from the Shrine of Remembrance war memorial, the centrepiece of the huge Kings Domain park, which is also the residence of the Governor of Victoria. We had a short look around the crypt before climbing to the Terrace where again the views were brilliant.
Melbourne is also famous for its small laneways, which can be found throughout the CBD area, and are full of cafes, bars and lots of street art. Many of these are hidden away, and you only stumble across them by chance. We had great fun spotting them as we wondered round the city, and made sure to try out a few of the cafes and bars.
Coffee is hugely important in Melbourne, and this was demonstrated by the quality of drinks on offer. With most places only charging around $4 it also seemed great value. Our favourite was at Manchester Press, where I changed from my usual flat white to a very enjoyable long macchiato. Just don’t ask me to explain the difference between the two!
Down another of the laneways, we joined the after work drinks crowd at Whitehart, which is constructed from shipping containers in a converted carpark. There was a lively atmosphere and a DJ playing, although the drinks were a tad expensive given that we are currently unemployed.
There was plenty more food and drink to be found at the weekend markets. We spent our Saturday and Sunday mornings at the two biggest, the Queen Victoria market and South Melbourne market.
I would challenge anyone to walk through either of these without buying anything. There is an unbelievable variety of fresh local produce to choose from, and it is clear why they are so popular with the locals. Our highlight was a freshly baked pistachio swirl pastry, from one of the stalls at the Queen Victoria market.
We also found time to go and watch our first ever game of Aussie Rules, or ‘footy’ as they wrongly call it here. Although it is good to see they enjoy a Sunday afternoon filled with sport here as well. The game was at the huge MCG stadium, which is located in the Sports Precinct along with several other stadiums, including the home of the Australian Open tennis tournament.
Although the stadium has a total capacity of just over 100,000, there was only around 50,000 in attendance. There was still a great atmosphere, and clearly some local rivalry with both teams being from Melbourne. Just to explain the pink hats are not some sort of fashion statement, we joined the majority of the crowd in wearing them in support of Breast Cancer Network Australia.
We managed to grasp most of the rules and the point scoring fairly quickly. This was helped by the angry Melbourne fan behind us shouting whenever a player or the one of the officials did something wrong. Whilst enjoyable to watch, it did seem like a bit of a free for all at times, with the ball and players rolling around all over the place. The oval pitch is also huge, and even with 18 players on each side they seem very spread out.
As for the game itself we were in luck, it was a classic (I think). After Hawthorn raced into a 35 point lead it looked all over, but Melbourne fought back to draw level late in the fourth quarter. However to the delight of their fans, Hawthorn scored a late winner to take the points. We will definitely be going to watch some more games before the season finishes in October, although the Brisbane Lions are currently languishing at the bottom of the AFL table, with just one win from eight games.