Wow - Melbourne! What a place, what a place. There are many cities/landmarks I've visited that have been talked up that I haven't been into - Venice, Italy comes to mind - its a hazard of traveling, that your expectations get off the charts or warped by National Geographic photos. Not only does Melbourne live up to all of the expectations placed on her, I think she exceeds them. (Pictured: Flinders street station, built in the early 1900s during Melbourne's gold boom, surrounded by modern downtown skyline, including the Eureka Building, which is the second tallest building in Oz) What I heard before coming to Melbourne is: 'everyone says it's amazing, the food is great, it's easy to get around, the people are warm and the street art is out of control.' My favorite moments about Melbourne have been spending time with the people that I know here. I love being able to spend lazy mornings with Darren before he goes to work, making 'porridge' (oatmeal) and evenings with Liam where he shows me all sorts of wonders of Australia, hidden pockets around the country that people don't typically visit. And then one of them cooks something amazing for dinner and we eat like a little family. I get to meet many of their friends and hear their stories, all of them are so kind and have been so welcoming to me, and those things mean as much to me as seeing incredible art on the street, which says a lot because I pretty much knock everyone over taking it all in.
Public Transportation- so easy, so efficient, so clean! It's expensive but everything in Aus is so that doesn't really count. The kind of crazy thing to me is all of the RULES - everyone talks about how the officers working public transportation are not to be messed with and that they are super super strict and the fine is around $300! It's also a law to wear a bike helmet. You have to buy a Myki card to use the metro and the trams, but that's the amazing part about this place, unlike Denver where there are gaps that the light rail leaves, Melbourne covers all the bases with the tram/train combo. There are also tons of bike paths, some that go along a scenic creek area and some that run along the road. It's so easy to figure out and all of the stations are outdoors so they don't smell like the NYC subway.
Architecture & Street Art - All of the modern work contrasted with the old Victorian elements makes for a sort of grungy, arty, classic feel throughout the city. I love how the street art is everywhere - unlike other cities, it finds it's way downtown as well as the hipper parts of town. It just pops out from every lane (alley) and I find myself stumbling over other people/myself just taking it all in. I love how you have to walk down the same street four times - both sides of the street both directions - to take it all in. I think it makes everyone's day a little brighter, especially since Melbourne is much, much rainier and overcast than I had anticipated.
CBD: Central Business District, or what I would call 'downtown' – all trains converge here, this is where the major arts and sporting events take place just like any other city. It's busy for sure and people are always on the move. This is where all of the 'lanes' are – the alleyways that hold lots of cafes and shops that just keep branching off one another. I really like the downtown area but just feel a little overwhelmed by so many people so I didn't really go here unless I had a reason. I also checked out a pilates/yoga studio here and I thought it was just ok, the funniest bit is how a guy tried to deal me weed after class after he found out I lived in Colorado.
Fitzroy: This is the ultra trendy, hip and happening part of Melbourne, it gives Brooklyn and SF and other hipster nation capitols a run for their money. So many thrift stores, great restaurants and tons of street art. Every place you look is street art, but the majority of it comes from the Fitzroy area. This is also where I found a great yoga studio – Power Living yoga.
Abbostford/Collingwood Abbostford has loads of Asian restaurants, mostly Vietnamese and Thai. One night Liam and Darren took me to get incredible food at a Thai restaurant in this neighborhood and it was out of this world, the most authentic Thai I've had. I heard this before coming and it's true, the food in Melbourne is just unparalleled. It's proximity to Asia really helps with the fusion of cultures and authenticity.
Brunswick I spent some jet lagged hours here on my first days in Melbourne, and it was a great jolt straight to the heart of the city. Sydney Road speaks to what really makes Melbourne so fascinating – there are tons of Arabic shops, authentic and affordable Lebanese cuisine, and lots of really weird Italian and Greek furniture stores and dress shops with really swanky, weird dresses.
Burnley Bouldering Wall Felt pretty lucky that I had a friend who took me here, there are three free walls that people have constructed under an overpass, and so it's this really interesting urban setting for bouldering. There were quite a few people there in the dead of winter so I'm sure it's packed and a fun place to meet new friends in summer. After my friend Willow took me here we went to Lentil As Anything, which is a delicious veggie place that's donation based.
Vic Market Stands for Victoria Market, and it's where you can go to get 'fruit n veg' as all the Aussies say, basically to get your fresh groceries. It's a popular thing to do on the weekends and then grab some food there, I guess kinda like our farmers market. I ended up going to Vic Market with my friend Paulina and some of her friends one night. There are many food stands serving up dishes from all types of cuisine and it's relatively affordable. It's a lively thing to do on winter's night. I also had to try the "American" kettle corn at the night market and yes, it was legit.
You need at least a good 4 days in Melbourne to take in the cafes, meander through the lanes, ogle the street art!