Love is fickle. I have experienced this myself, so I speak with authority. For years, I believed that Manhattan was my ‘The One’; that I would love it for eternity. And then I went to Melbourne, and discovered that love is fickle. Melbourne is my ‘One True Love’.
I first visited this Australian city five years ago. Since then, I’ve been back at least once every year, and the more I explore it, the more I feel like Romeo with his Juliet. Here’s why.
River of people
The city is stunning in every way. I make it a point to stroll by the riverside – and it doesn’t matter which bank I pick, as both sides of the river are packed with cosy cafes, fancy restaurants, street exhibitions and little riverside parks, where the vibe is amazing. You can spend hours taking a stroll, and observing people. When you need a break, then go for hot chocolate at the Lindt Café.
People-watching can be a major pastime in Melbourne, and after the riverside, the place to meet a friend or just chill on your own is Federation Square – the meeting place for all of Melbourne. Take it from me, all plans between pals in Melbourne begin with “So let’s meet at Federation Square and then...”
For me, the “and then” part of the sentence invariably leads to the exhibitions at Acmi next door. This is a magical little place that hosts the most fascinating exhibitions from all over the world. Every time I visit, there’s something amazing to see. This year, I watched six different short films created to have Cate Blanchett play the central character. It was mind-blowing.
When I need to see the city as well as have a good meal, I take the tramcar restaurant tour. This is a brilliant concept, where you enjoy a four course meal in the tram as it traverses the beautiful city, and it’s totally romantic.
If you want to do some sightseeing, such as visit the zoo, the botanical garden, the war memorial, the shrine of remembrance and the totally awesome aquarium, then take the red hop-on-hop-off bus. I admit it’s a touristy stereotype, but this is my favourite thing to do anywhere I go.
However, you must climb up the Eureka Tower for a 360-degree view of magnificent Melbourne, and then grab some grub at the Queen Victoria Market – a pop-up market with a great vibe and even better food!
Speaking of food, Melbourne’s Chinatown has the most awesome street food stalls, which I discovered thanks to my homie Ling Ang. In fact, Chinatown is also the best place if you’re looking for late-night meals, because most of Melbourne’s eateries shut early.
Take a chance
You could, if you want, grab a bite at the Crown Casino by the riverside. It has restaurants at several levels, each giving you a different angle of the river view. The casino functions Vegas style, so it’s super fun and I highly recommend it.
But I suggest that after a night at the casino, you take the next day off and chill at St Kilda beach. Do nothing but lie about, eat great food at the Beachcomber restaurant, get drunk on Aussie beer and then spend the evening wondering if you’re seeing spots in front of your eyes, or if there are actually penguins among the rocks. And if you’re feeling sprightly enough after all that, stroll about Fitzroy Street, buying knick-knacks and snacking at a cafe.
Out and about
A must-do when you’re in Melbourne is the Great Ocean Road trip via the lighthouse, which ends at the 12 Apostles – 12 magnificent rock stacks that rise out of the ocean. This is truly one of the most amazing drives in the world. For a spectacular view of the 12 Apostles, walk down the Gibson Steps to the isolated beach below, and just revel in the might of nature.
You could also take a trip to a gorgeous lavender farm called Lavendula, just out of the city at Daylesford. Spend a day there with friends, lying around, eating amazing home-made cheese and drinking lavender lemonade. The fields of lavender will stay in your memory forever.
And don’t forget to do a Yarra Valley wine tour, even if you prefer spirits to the juice of fermented grapes. Yarra Valley produces some of the most amazing wine in the world, and though the rule book says you should just sip the wine when you’re on a tasting trip and not drink it, go right ahead and knock it all back. Because Melbourne is all about being on a high.
Rick Roy is a travel enthusiast, who is also a designer and stylist to actor Vidya Balan. His latest work on her costumes for Begum Jaan is being hugely appreciated
From HT Brunch, April 2
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