Melboure, Je T’aime.

Melbourne, restaurants
Did you ever fall in love with someone who was more attractive, mature, and warm than anyone you’ve ever known before? Someone who just got you more than anyone you know?
You want to tell everyone how you feel about this amazing person. But, there’s one problem. You’re in a relationship, already, and you two are trying very hard to work it out.
Also, your partner is the captain of the North High football team. And your clandestine love is the captain of the South High football team.
And thus, you have my dilemma with writing about Melbourne.
Sydney is North High and Melbourne is South High. Their rivalry is long-standing and legendary. I love them both, but dear Melbourne, as Judy Garland sang … you made me love you. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to do it. You know you made me love you.
And now, I swallow my pride and tell you about my time in the city that has unexpectedly captured my heart.
Partner-in-Crime had some business in Melbourne two weeks in a row, so I tagged along. The first trip was only one day. P-i-C was locked in boring meetings all day (I can only assume that they were boring), so I decided just to wander. I had not done any research, besides asking my friend Kim, who studied abroad in Melbourne a decade or so ago, for recommendations. I was essentially a blank slate.
It was a glorious fall day – the kind that makes you want to throw out your arms and dance with abandon through the city streets because you can hardly believe this day can really exist outside the realm of musical theatre.
In my aimless wandering, I ended up at Federation Square, which is a striking, bustling hub of art and culture. I picked up handfuls of brochures at the tourist information center, stared admiringly at the architecture of the film museum, dodged hundreds of uniformed schoolchildren, pondered upon the merits/dismerits of a place called ABBA World, and wandered down the marble stairs to look at the river.
PhotobucketAustralian Center for the Moving Image at Federation Square
I went down the street a block or so to the National Gallery of Victoria, which makes an impression before you even enter, with a rainwater wall (that a plaque told me is environmentally friendly). Their collections and special exhibits ranged from modern video installation to antique Asian art from China, Japan, India, and Malaysia. It is a grand space, and I think I only saw about half of it.
I’d picked up a flyer that advertised a weekly pipe organ recital at St. Michael’s Church, so I made my way out of the tourist hub and back into business district. I was one of about 30 or so guests at the informal, free recital, in which a resident organist played Bach, Handel, and a handful of others. It was a stirring and unexpected way to spend a lunch hour.
I spent the rest of the afternoon on a free hop on/hop off tourist bus that loops the city. It was a comfortable and efficient way to see the sights. I didn’t have much time for hopping off, so I stayed on for the loop, orienting myself for what we should see on our longer trip the following week.
The more that I saw, the more that I got a familiar feeling, and I realized that Melbourne bears a striking resemblance, in aesthetics and mood, to Paris. Allow me to demonstrate:

PhotobucketMelbourne (credit Partner-in-Crime for this photo)


PhotobucketMelbourne (also P-i-C’s photo)
Practically twins – only they speak English in Melbourne (well, anymore, I suppose they pretty much speak English in Paris, too).

We returned for a four day trip the following week, allowing for a much more involved exploration. I’ll spare you a continued blow-by-blow, and jump to the Cliff’s Notes.
-I shared with you Queen Victoria Market, which is certainly good for two or three hours of simply looking around.
-To complete my shopping fix, I spent half a day walking to and wandering up and down Bridge Street in East Melbourne, where there are loads of fun, inexpensive shops and cool coffee shops.
PhotobucketBridge Street
-I declared to P-i-C that I required some live music, and happenstance intervened by guiding us past one of Melbourne’s hidden gem alleyways, where the glorious Café Segovia featured a live band (and the most energetic, entertaining, eager to please group of young servers I’ve encountered).
-In addition to the hop on/hop off bus, Melbourne also has a trolley that serves the same function. It held great appeal to the small boy-child within Partner-in-Crime, so we hopped on. It took us through the middle of the city, rather than around, and we ended up hopping off near the Docklands district, which is a developing area of the city, full of shops and modern apartment buildings. I have to compliment Melbourne on its ability to create attractive modern architecture that does not look like it is trying to be a fakey version of the old buildings, but somehow integrates aesthetically on its own terms. This must take a lot of thought and planning, and it is inspiring to see the effort being put forth.
-As Melbourne is known for its arts and culture, we knew that we wanted to take advantage of the performing arts available on Saturday night. There is a great half-price ticket center where we spent considerable time picking which of the many offerings to take Melbourne up on. In the end, P-i-C and I could not agree, and decided to split up for the evening’s entertainment. We are simply that secure in our relationship. Turns out that I made a painfully poor choice by deciding to see the Chinese dance offering (it was such a bad choice that it may be an entry all to itself). P-i-C, however, had a much better experience (and also considerably less expensive) by attending an interesting new play by an up and coming theatre troupe at one of the Arts Center’s smaller theatres.
-Art truly is everywhere in Melbourne (even the lampposts are artistically painted, for heavens sake). So, we really shouldn’t have been that surprised when a curious performance art piece titled “Periscope” wandered past us on DeGraves Street. But, isn’t that the thing about art – at its best, it is a wonderful surprise that confounds and elevates those who happen to encounter it.
-Speaking of surprises, on Saturday as we were wandering around town, we started to notice people dressed as superheroes everywhere we went. It almost seemed to be an optical illusion … “did you just see that Superman?” “Was that … Batman?” This went on all day. It turns out that Melbourne was, that day, competing for the Guiness Book of World Records title of most people wearing superhero costumes in one place. They won, incidentally, with 1245 superheroes gathered at Federation Square.
-On Sunday, before heading back to the airport, we took the city trolley (different from the hop on/hop off trolley) to St. Kilda’s, a nearby beach town. Melbourne’s beach isn’t much to speak of, but the city itself is cute and folk-artsy. We did time our trip correctly to attend the Sunday artist’s market. We wandered into the small, but festive Luna Park where we managed to talk ourselves out of riding the roller coaster, but not out of playing with the fun house mirrors.
We also wandered the amazing St. Kilda’s artist’s community garden, where I could probably set up camp and stay for quite a long time, amongst the artwork, veggies, chickens, and rabbits. Stay tuned because I’m saving my tons of pictures for a photo post devoted to this spot.

I could go on for much longer about Melbourne, as one does when in the throes of new love. I suspect that you’ll see more about Melbourne here in the coming days, weeks, and onward. But please, whatever you do, don’t tell Sydney how I feel!
Oh, OooooKay! … just a few more photos and then I’ll stop talking about Melbourne
PhotobucketTrain Station
PhotobucketSouthern Cross Train Station
PhotobucketDeGraves Street
Photobucket St. Michael’s Church
PhotobucketShopping Mall
…for now.

8 thoughts on “Melboure, Je T’aime.

  1. C. In Oz

    It’s such a friendly city – I think you’d love it (obviously I think that!). It must be pretty easy to travel to from NZ.

  2. elsja

    Hey I just saw your comment on my blog!I just have to throw my 2 cents in and say Sydney all the way. Although… I’ve never been to Melbourne so I’m not sure my vote counts. 🙂

  3. C. In Oz

    Haha, Elsja! Well, I didn’t plan to fall in love with Melbourne … it just happened.
    Looking forward to reading more of your blog. 🙂

  4. Gina E.

    Hi Cristin,
    I found you on Mimi’s blog, and came over to say hi. I love read blogs by Americans living in Oz – it is such fun to see things from another perspective. I have been to the USA three times, and visited all 50 states. Loved the whole place, but glad to get back home! I’m purring with pride over your comments about my home town Melbourne. The old rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney is pointless really, they are like chalk and cheese, and both have unique attractions. But Melb. has been been the World’s Most Livable city, and Sydney hasn’t, so there! (LOL LOL)

  5. C. In Oz

    Hi Gina – thanks for the comment! You’re right (from what I can tell from my short visits, anyway) about Melbourne and Sydney being fundamentally different. I think I have a Melbourne spirit, more than a Sydney spirit, but I can see how different people would really attach to one or the other. In any case, we’re committed to Sydney for the next couple of years, so I’d better watch what I say!

    By the way, it is incredibly impressive that you managed all 50 states in three visits! I’ve traveled a lot around the country, but have definitely not been to all the states! Color me impressed! Did you have favorites?

Comments are closed.