Melbourne: The Garden City.

Whenever I trip-plan we always try to get information from people we know that have either been to or live/lived where we’re going. Networking has always been a strong suit for rw2 and this has become an invaluable tool for planning our travels. Knowing someone on-the-ground gives us precious knowledge we may not have had otherwise. Having friends living in Melbourne, friends who have been there and another friend who lived there for 4 years, we had plenty of resources to work with.

We greatly enjoyed the heavy artistic atmosphere that Melbourne gave and could easily see why it is considered ‘the cultural capital of Australia’ . While there is much history in Sydney with the arrival of the First Fleet we found it a some what sterile environment with pockets of culture mixed in with much more big business and rushing about than Melbourne. We very much enjoyed the charm of the local trams in Melbourne and felt it gave the city a bit of european flair. The many parks and green spaces along the Yarra river also made for a more rural and laid-back feeling amidst the urban sprawl.

While in town, we caught a live show at Her Majesty’s Theatre with Geoffrey Rush in ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum’. The theater was small compared to what we’re used to in Chicago or New York, but we figured it would make for a nice, intimate performance. Intimate, indeed. I spent the entire first act straining my neck around the people in front of me to see the action on the stage and I noticed I wasn’t the only one. After the interval we moved (along with many others) to the open seats behind us. The play itself was funny and cute and we really did enjoy the performance.

We were told not to miss the Queen Victoria Market and so we didn’t. This is one of those places where you can buy absolutely anything you need all in one place. It was amazing! Fresh meat and seafood, dairy and bread as well as toys and clothing. If we had something like this in Chicago, I would never go to the grocery store. We’ve encountered the open-air market in many countries and I just don’t get why the states haven’t caught on. I realize that some climates may not always tolerate this set-up, but part of the market was inside (anything that needed refrigeration) thus upping the coolness factor of having something like this at home. I guess you always want what you don’t have.

Another item on the must-do list from several was a wine tour. There are about 2,500 wineries in Australia and the state of Victoria has the most at 750. Oh yes, we must do a wine tour! We’re not extremely knowledgable about wine but we know what we like, we buy what we can afford and we’re happy with that arrangement. Being on a thursday, right after a school holiday break, we had no fellow wine sippers with us. Just our guide, Steven and the two of us. Brilliant. We went to 4 vineyards/wineries and were happy to sample their wares. The countryside of the Macedon Ranges was beautiful with outcroppings of granite which made us think of Ireland. A quick lunch at the Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve cafe then led us to spying owls, emu and kangaroos.
For more information on the wineries we visited:
Granite Hills Winery
Cobaw Ridge Winery
Hanging Rock Winery
Curly Flat Winery

The main thing we loved about Melbourne was that it is truly a foodie town! While in Sydney, we often felt hard-pressed to find a quality meal without having to go the fine dining route but Melbourne more than made up for it. On our first walk-about we discovered that we were staying 2 blocks away from Chinatown. That would normally be game over in my book, but we soon discovered a tapas place across the street, a true classic cocktail bar in the alley, a Korean BBQ 2 streets over and an Irish pub down the block. And since Australia has their act together and allows B.Y.O to a restaurant, we found a home for our newly acquired 12 bottles of wine. We were in heaven.

I’ve heard that there’s a secret debate over which is the better city: Sydney vs Melbourne. I have to admit that there are aspects of both that I truly love. I could see us living in either place and really do find it difficult to have to pick one over the other, so I won’t. I’m going to go with the same thing people say about their kids: ‘I love them equally, but in different ways’. How’s that for non-committal?

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