We stopped in Melbourne for a couple days before heading to Tasmania mainly because it was Easter and we didn’t really want to try to compete for campsites over the long weekend. Also I wanted to eat a lot of chocolate. They have chocolate bilbies here for Easter, which is pretty amazing.
Anyways, we stayed at an AirBnB in the suburb of Yarraville for the long weekend. The best part of the stay was the fact that there was both a very friendly dog and very friendly cat that lived on the property. We’re not actually sure if the cat lived there, but it kept wandering into our apartment so I made friends by feeding it some pizza. Chris just petted it a lot and let it inside our place instead of leaving it in the rain.
Since we were just there to regroup, we didn’t really do anything touristy. Yarraville is home to the historic Sun Theatre, where we went to see Zootopia and learned something fun: Apparently the news anchor is a different animal depending on what country you see the movie in. So we got a koala but apparently everyone back home saw a moose. Chris was sad because he was looking forward to seeing Peter Moosebridge. There was also a super cute froyo place next to the theatre that we checked out.
We also went for a pretty excellent brunch while in Yarraville. It is the most hipster district ever, so brunch had excellent coffee. We didn’t buy any GMO-free and pesticide-free organic fruit or veggies though.
When we arrived back in Melbourne after our visit to Tasmania, we stayed at an apartment close to the city centre. It was a short walk to the CBD, so we spent the first day wandering around seeing what the city was all about. Turns out Melbourne is a pretty busy place, and Chris spent the first half of the day wondering how there were so many people loitering around and why everyone wasn’t at school/work (“This is a city of loiterers!”). It was a weekday afternoon and the sidewalks and cafes were packed. In addition, much to Chris’s chagrin, Melbourne is a very trendy, hipster-y place. The kind of place where you can get an $6 designer donut, or biodynamic gluten-free organic vegan froyo with handpicked fruit toppings, and all the cool kids ride around on colourful single speed bikes. So suffice to say I thought it was pretty great (and turns out the organic vegan froyo is actually delicious).
Though busy, the downtown area is quite lovely, centring around the Yarra River with all the shops, restaurants, sporting arenas, parks, and galleries within walking distance. We spent most of the first day eating snacks, looking at the nice architecture, and watching the trams go by.
Of course possibly the thing I liked most about Melbourne was the amazing multi-use river trail system that runs through the city. It made for very picturesque morning runs, with nice views of the city, rowers in the Yarra river, and boys playing rugby. The botanic gardens also have a nice track that goes around them, complete with distance markers and clocks.
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
In the heart of the CBD is the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), which basically celebrates TV, movies, video games, and the like. They have a big permanent exhibit showcasing the evolution of the moving picture, from the invention of phantasmagoria (Chris’s new favourite word) and stereoscopes to today’s CGI-heavy films and video games. There were a lot of old movies and TV shows you could watch, and video games you could play, so it was a pretty entertaining time.
Also downtown is an alleyway called Hosier Lane, which seems to be a free-for-all graffiti permitted area. So there is always lots of cool street art to look at. One guy was painting a “Will you marry me?” message while we were there, which was super cute.
The concept of laneways is a big thing in metropolitan Melbourne. A laneway is basically a narrow pedestrian street that snakes its way through the buildings of downtown. Laneways are populated with trendy boutique stores and cafes, often with patios that spill out into the street. At any time of day the laneways seemed to be full of people drinking coffees and having brunch. It’s cute! But not practical for places with winter; if it ever snowed in Melbourne half the cafes would have to close as all their tables are outside.
The National Gallery of Victoria
The first Friday we were in the city it happened to be my birthday, so I decided we would spend the day visiting the National Gallery of Victoria because they had a big Andy Warhol + Ai Wei Wei exhibit on. Warhol and Wei Wei never met one another, but they both liked to be a bit subversive, photographed extensively in New York and China, and owned a lot of cats, which I guess is reason enough to group them together.
Wei Wei is an activist artist type who is very active on social media. His most recent claim to fame is that he was imprisoned without charge for 90 days by the Chinese government, believed by many to be due to government criticism found in his art and social media. The exhibit had some pretty fun and impressive pieces.
The best part in my opinion was the Andy Warhol cat-themed photobooth that was in the “For Kids” section of the exhibit. Photobooths never get old.
Also coincidentally happening during my birthday weekend was the SupaNova Pop Culture Expo, so we of course had to go to that. It was kind of sad to go to a comicon sans cosplay, but I made up for it by buying some amazingly nerdy clothing items. Chris was excited because we went and watched a makeup artist from Weta Workshop (Lord of the Rings), as well as a seminar on video game music, which was interesting.
While staying downtown we figured we had to go to Tim Ho Wan, a new dim sum restaurant we had seen in the paper here because of its Michelin star BBQ pork bun. While being pretty busy and more expensive than we’re used to, the place is “the paragon of efficiency”, as Chris would say, and having their baked BBQ pork bun is a spiritual experience. Like actually amazing.
South Yarra and Bouldering
For our second week in Melbourne we switched to an apartment in South Yarra. South Yarra is a bit of a more upscale area, and the building we were staying in was literally surrounded by adorable bakeries. To work off some of those tiny pastries and cakes we went bouldering on a Groupon. And then my arms hurt for the next two days. But I completed a route that Chris didn’t, so there!
AAMI Park Rugby
Melbourne (recently named the sporting capital of the world) has a whole bunch of sporting complexes that are located right next to the CBD. Since this was also next to our neighbourhood, we decided to take the opportunity to watch some Australian-type sports. We started off with rugby, which we saw at AAMI Park. I had to Wikipedia the rules as I ate my hot dog before the game started, and I still didn’t really understand what was going on. As far as I can tell, rugby is 90% boys jumping on top of one another. And the penalties all have funny names.
Across the street from all the arenas are the Royal Botanic Gardens. Based on our visit, this is where everyone in Melbourne gets their wedding photos taken. There is a nice big lake (with a gondola man!) and lots of picturesque foliage-lined pathways.
St. Kilda is a beachside suburb we walked to. It’s pretty cold for swimming at this time of year, but they have a little esplanade market, amusement park, and lots of good fish and chips down there. It’s also where fairy penguins come to shore at night to nest, but we didn’t stay around for sunset.
Back in the city we decided to get super touristy and go up to Eureka Skydeck, which is on the 88th floor of a really tall building downtown. We timed our visit for sunset so we could get some nice golden hour photos and see the night lights come one. It was pretty crowded up there but the views were pretty spectacular. There is a cafe on top and a balcony you can go onto through this little airlock-type door system (not sure why…otherwise a big gust of wind might blow everyone over?). There is also something called the Cube, which is basically a little glass room you can pay extra to go into. The Cube then moves on some fancy track system so it’s hanging off the side of the building, and you can see straight down to the ground. Chris didn’t want to go into it because looking down was too scary. Sadly he also refused to go into the green room, where you could get a cheesy photo made of you walking on a tightrope over Melbourne. He did wonder if he could get the job cleaning the windows because it looked like it had to be done daily.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground
One of our last days in Melbourne happened to be ANZAC Day. Since the military service and parade were at like 5am, we decided instead to go to the ANZAC Day AFL football game at the much more reasonable hour of 3pm. As this is Australia, football means Australian football a.k.a. Aussie Rules. We had no idea what that was, but the games are played in the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, which was reason enough to go. The place is ENORMOUS and we were tired by the time we managed to find our seats.
Since ANZAC Day is a holiday the game was pretty busy. Everyone was wearing black and red and white, and so were we, but only accidentally as we didn’t know anything about either of the teams. I think the winner was Collingwood? Anyways, we did a quick Google of the rules, and once the game started and we got the hang of it, we decided that Aussie Rules is a pretty good sport. It has a nice combination of flowing gameplay and violence, making it a fast and exciting game. Plus the round playing field makes it a great sport for watching in a huge arena. Whoever decided on the round field is a genius.
Our last morning in Melbourne we decided to visit the Melbourne Museum. The museum has the usual collection of taxidermied animals and indigenous artifacts, but is very well done. There is also a big exhibit on the history of Melbourne, including a section on Phar Lap, Australia’s greatest racehorse. They have the actual horse on display there, in a feat of pretty impressive taxidermy.
Next, it was time to head up to Canberra!