Distances in Australia are enormous and, perhaps, they feel more so because there are a lot of vast empty lands in the middle (as opposed to us in the US where we have Kansas in the middle!). Yet my trip to Melbourne from Sydney felt short indeed as it does not require traversing the country. I wanted to get a good feel for Melbourne and no better way than visiting people who actually live there.
My friends in Melbourne lived in a penthouse pretty much in the central business district of town, enjoying a view of the Yarra river and the Crown casino. I think my friend Matt chose this apartment for a reason…
The next morning after my arrival I made my first stop the information center in Federation Square, a relatively new and modern square next to the Flinders train station by the river. There I found way more information than I needed but that would have been very helpful had I decided to spend 2 months in Victoria, the state where Melbourne is… I wish I had had all that time!
The information office was very well organized and the folks there were extremely helpful. My first objective was to see the Great Ocean Road that heads out west from outside Melbourne by the ocean so I scheduled it for the following day.
The Great Ocean Road and my first helicopter ride to see the 12 Apostles
The tour on the Great Ocean Road ends at the Twelve Apostles which are remnants from the mainland that water has eroded over time so they look like massive columns of rock coming out of the water, no longer connected to land. The number 12 is just used ’cause it sounds cool but now there are <>12 (I don’t even remember how many they said). In fact, 2 days before I went, one collapsed so I missed ever seeing it – well, I saw it in a pile of rocks. Hence, it is safer to say <> 12 since the number could change any day!
I decided that a neat way to see the apostles was to get in a helicopter for a 15 minutes and fly around. I had NEVER been in a helicopter so the exhilaration went beyond seeing the Twelve Apostles. I soon found out how hard it was to admire the view and take pictures at the same time while trying to look around fellow passengers and also not blocking their own view!
Wildlife along the Great Ocean Road
An unexpected surprise in the drive along the Great Ocean Road was seeing kangaroos, koalas and birds.
Using the free city bus is a great idea
After booking the Great Ocean Road tour, I took advantage of the free bus the city has for tourists to hop on and hop off at the various important sights in the city. Taking a bus is a great way to orient oneself in a new city, to see some places that one may have decided “check, don’t need to come here”, and to actually get off and visit places that seem interesting or make a note to come back another time. With this, I discovered the Victoria Market which sold just about everything but, unfortunately, as closing right as I got there. I did manage to get a couple of souvenirs and fruits and made my way back to the city center proper.
I did not get to visit the art gallery in Federation Square which I was hoping to see but got to see the Immigration Museum where I gained a good understanding of the Australian immigrants’ story. What a long-ass and possibly horrible journey to make it to Oz through the roaring 40s!!
Some food was enjoyed too
Other things I did was enjoy chocolate at the chocolate stores in the Arcades (the city center has this beautiful arcades from early last century with shops and that’s where this chocolate shops are). I also, based on my friends’ recommendations, enjoyed great soup from a little chain store called Blue Bag – the red lentil soup was excellent.
Witnessing a sports match – with all that it entails…
On my final night in Melbourne (and Australia), I got to go to a football/soccer match at the MCG between Australia and Japan. It was great to be able to watch such a match with the local crowd though that required being careful on leaving as we had to walk through a minefield of a kind… Let’s just say, there seems to have been over-drinking during the match 🙂 I got to try one of the famous meat pies during the match which was good but by the time we were done with the match, I was hungry again – should have had 2! That’s when I tried vegemite – on the salty side but the butter made it better.
I can help but compare…
Anyway, I have struggled in my mind to compare the cities of Sydney and Melbourne but can’t find a way to properly explain how they felt. Sydney has the harbor right there which was more in your face than Melbourne‘s proximity to the ocean. Sydney felt fast-paced, Melbourne more laidback. I enjoyed them both and feel like I need to go back to keep studying what makes them different – how conveneeeeenient! 🙂