Melbourne | a city with 4 seasons in a day, endless coffee shops and fixed gear bicycles
If some of the first things that come to mind when you think of Australia are its amazing beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, lifeguards, Crocodile Dundee or every one of the world’s most dangerous animals, then you are clearly going to be disappointed if you visit Melbourne. Instead, think of gray skies with a mist of rain in the air, nondescript coffee shops that are often found in alleyways and the least flashy people you could ever imagine, I don’t mean in any way to make this sound bad. This is what makes Melbourne so unique and awesome.
Since moving to Singapore, I have met people from all over the world, but mainly from Australia. They are generally the nicest, most sincere people who are just out to have fun and love life. When one of my friends recently moved back to Australia I made it a point to make plans to visit. So over a long weekend my husband, Steve, and I took the 7 1/2 hour flight to Melbourne. If you can sleep on planes without a problem, then you should absolutely go for the overnight flight, arriving in to Melbourne by early morning. Naturally, as we are driving out of the airport heading to my friend’s house, we see a huge kangaroo get hit by a car. Apparently that is extremely rare where we were, but of course Australia wanted to live up to some of its stereotypes! No word of the condition of the kangaroo.
I knew when packing for this trip the weather would be very unpredictable. And Melbourne lived up to its reputation. The evening we arrived it was chilly, but felt so good! It felt like a crisp Fall day in New England. The next day it was warm with the bluest sky I have seen in a long time. It was perfect weather for jeans and a light sweater. That evening it got pretty cold, but again I absolutely loved it. I got to wear a jacket and scarf! The next day the sky was gray and it was particularly chilly with no sun. I was told this is your typical “Melbourne day”. Throughout the day however, it went from gray spitting rain to blue sky and sun back to gray. So all in all, when visiting Melbourne pack for rain, sun and chill.
Melbourne is known for some pretty good farmer’s markets. So you can only imagine how excited I was when waking up on Saturday morning. I couldn’t wait to stroll through all of the vendors and look at and smell all the colorful and delicious fruits, veggies, breads, honeys, jams, flowers and pastries. I loved this local farmer’s market because it was so far from a tourist trap. The people there were the people who lived in the neighborhood, just out enjoying the fresh air and picking up their produce and fresh flowers for the week.
Australia has some great wines, and being a wine lover, I had to visit a vineyard. We took an hour long drive to the Yarra Valley to visit a few vineyards and drive through some of the most beautiful countryside, or as the Aussies call it, bush, I have ever seen. Before the vineyards we stopped by the Healesville Sanctuary to visit a few of Australia’s well known animals. The highlight of this detour was visiting the hospital on site where we met an orphaned baby wombat. We then proceeded to have lunch and taste wines at Innocent Bystander. A delicious Pinot Noir that only set us back $24 at the table with our delicious pizzas, it was a perfect afternoon. Up the road a bit we stopped at Yering Station to taste a few more higher end wines. The winery was beautiful and the tastings took place in the gorgeous old winery building, which also had its own little indoor farmer’s market.
Our final day was spent in downtown Melbourne where we got to experience the city’s coffee, pub and shopping culture. After taking the somewhat efficient tram into the city, we strolled down Collins Street which had a very New York feel, and turned off onto Degraves Street to sit and have a flat white and, because it was cold, a warm hearty breakfast. Degraves Street was perfect; an alley filled with cafes and coffee shops where you sit in the alley at tables set up to cater to everyone and all the different cafes. On a Monday morning around 10:00, the place was packed! We just took the first table we could find in front of a random cafe. We then strolled the streets of downtown poking into little shops here and there. Heading down Bourke Street we stopped into FutureBrand, Steve’s Melbourne office, to say hello and meet his fellow colleagues. It was after continuing on down Bourke Street where we found Lululemon! Yes, we spent a fair amount of time there, not just trying on everything I wanted to buy, but chatting it up and having fun with the Lululemon educators! They were a super friendly group, and they made it hard to finally leave.
We were then told to try an actual factual Aussie pub for lunch. We only had the name of this place, the Napier Hotel, so you can imagine how hard it was to find. When we got a bit frustrated and lost, we just took a moment and had a quick pint! All is well when you just take a break and enjoy a nice drink on a Monday afternoon. After finally realizing where the Napier Hotel was, we had an awesome lunch. Fun helpful trivia: “hotel” in Napier Hotel actually means “pub”.
It was a short weekend, but a great one. Melbourne had some interesting bars, restaurants and shops that made it one of the most unique places I have been to. I definitely spoiled myself with good food, drink and shopping which you just have to sometimes do. Visiting Melbourne only made me want to spend more time in Australia.