Australia: Mwah Mwha Melbourne

December 14, 2011

Melbourne by Night, or is it Day ?

It has been three days since we arrived in Melbourne (it is now the evening of Wednesday 14th as I write this).   I am afraid we are having a right old battle with Jetlag.  I have yet to manage to keep awake beyond 8pm in the evening local time and I have been stalking the pavements outside the hotel smoking at three and four am in the morning. I do get to see another side of Melbourne life so it aint all bad!!.

However, we awoke this morning with  little spring in our step which may just mean we have beat the bugger in to submission.

We have tried not to let these small somnambulistic shenanigans get in the way of our enjoyment of what has to be one of the most tourist friendly cities I have ever visited. Why is this so?

Getting around

The city provide both a free tram and bus service which get you to virtually all of the main tourist areas with only a small walk between the tram/bus stop and the place in question.

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Also, the grid layout of the main central business district (CBD) means that you have to be severely cartographically challenged to get lost in the heart of the city.

The Little Touches

I am impressed at the drinking water fountains dotted about the city and those that are more prevalent within the open parks and green areas and surrounding the main CBD.

Unlike the ones you may occasionally see in a UK park, these all worked and you wouldnt risk your life in drinking from them.

The signage at street level not only points the way to the next interesting morsel of Melburnian interest but also tells you roughly how long it will take you to walk there, a nice touch. Yes I have tested their time estimates and they are about right.

The visitor tourist information centre, located at Federation Square, is one of the most well organised and friendly I have been in.  If I have a criticism it is that there is just too many information pamphlets with each of the Victorian (the Australian state not the period in our shared history)  attractions and sights producing their own set of colourful and interesting leaflets tempting you to visit them.  Not good for the trees.

All this has not happened by accident, so hats off to those at City Hall who have put all this in place, you have done a fantastic job.

The Things to See in Melbourne

Apart from wandering the CBD and the lanes, malls, cafes and restaurants (mostly off limits on our new flashpacking regime), there are some beautiful gardens and green spaces located next to some of the iconic sights of Melbourne.  Our favourite so far has been the War memorial which is located next to the botanical gardens and near to the Melbunrinan’s favourite jogging track, the Tan.  The current record holder for getting round it  is Craig Mottram (no relation).

There is no shortage of Victorian splendour and given the state name one would expect no less, an hours wander round the Carlton area was a fine way to while away some of our second afternoon here.

However, the new Melbourne is being bet on the development of the docklands and any tour guide worth his or her salt will tell you that it is expected to be complete in 2020. It looks to me  closer than that, but it is clear still in its development phase and reminds me a lot of London docklands in its early days and look at that place now.  Again a sign of a city council who has vision and drive as to where it wants to position Melbourne.

The People of Melbourne

While we have not had chance to speak to all of them, the ones we have encountered in shops, bars/restaurants or on public transport have been extremely friendly and welcoming.  I particularly like their efficient use of the English language.

There appears to be no need for flowery dressing up of sentiments or qualifications of the  message that needs to be delivered in the spoken word. They just use the bare minimum and get the point across.  We Poms are always afraid of saying the wrong thing in case we upset some sensibility or other.  Personally I am already rather fond of the Melbourne method.   Whether this is unique to Victoria or not will no doubt become apparent as we visit other states,  we shall see.

When is Manchester not a City?

When it is in fact a descriptive word for bedding, towels and curtains.  I kid you not, we were food shopping in Safeway (remember that supermarket) and in the aisle before us was a directional sign was the category “Manchester”.  We wandered up and down the aisle and couldn’t fathom what it was referring to.  In the end asked the nice checkout woman and she explained it referred to what we might call bedding and linens.  I guess the cotton trade was to blame for that catching on.

The Sport

Its a big thing and dominates advertising, news, TV and just about everything else.  I’m not the greatest sports fan in the world, but have to say after Australia’s Cricket defeat this week at the hands of New Zealand; it was satifying to see the Aussie team members getting hounded at the airport on their return home in the same way that ours do when we have a bad test series.

Although as above, the questions the journalists put to the returning team members are direct and to the point.  I had to turn over as it was too painful for my English (lets not kick a man when he is down) mentality.

*Gutted* that we’re flying out Saturday morning, and after visiting the Melbourne Cricket Ground, we’ll be unable to watch the 20:20 on Saturday night (thanks Glen for the kind offer of free tickets).

The Weather

It has been a bit too cloudy a bit too often for my liking and has dispelled my obviously mistaken impression that Australians bask in guaranteed sunshine all Christmas long.

Listening to local chit chat  though this has been a poor spell, although welcomed by locals, which is set to end as we leave…  Bugger.  Having said that the  sun is incredibly strong, both very pink.

The Hotels

We booked the Formule1 as it was the best value we could find in the centre when seraching a few weeks ago. While this served as a great base from which to start to get to grips with the city, it lacked that certain something (a table big enough to charge my gadgets on and anywhere to swing a cat) so we served our time (it did feel like that at times)and searched for something else.

A trawl of the hotel sites and we snapped a Best Western for virtually the same price for our last three nights which is much more pleasing – we have a view, a fridge and toiletries and a HD telly – whit woo.

Yet to Do

We have yet to get up the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, a few more gardens to get round and a trip down the Great Ocean Road…  more on those next time.  Then it will be off to the Gold Coast for a bit of sea, sand and surf  – that would be the water rather than the activity, I am not sure they do surfboards in my size.

In summary we have enjoyed Melbourne, it is a fine City  and we are looking forward to contrasting it with Sydney when we hit there in a couple of weeks. Sydney has a lot of work to do to beat this.

Finally a big thank you

We posted our packing list before we left and some of you were kind enough to suggest things we may have missed.  So a big thank you to Mary and Deborah who suggested a travel kettle and a universal plug as forgotten essentials.   You should be satisfyingly smug in the knowledge that we needed both the first night in the Formule1 so thanks for your suggestions.

Postscript  – I have just finished this first draft and it is 9.45pm, I am now going to attempt to add pictures, if this gets posted sans images, you know Jetlag won.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Karlie says:

    Hey craigy and John…. I’m following your blog and loving every minute!! It made me giggle when you were talking about the weather still making you pink….. It’s -2 here tonight and ready to snow any minute!!! Look forward to the next post, love you lots. Karlie xxxx

  2. Alex (Your Nephew) says:

    Sounds amazing Uncle Craig, I’m jealous as anything! Still working on my little challenge… I have one crazy idea and one not so crazy…

  3. Mary says:

    Hello you two, glad you found it useful and so quickly too – don’t leave it behind!

  4. Stuart says:

    OMG talk about terrible timing you guys, a 20/20 cricket match at the world famous MCG, the things that dreams are made of for me. xxx

  5. Terry says:

    Are you planning to go to Canberra? I liked it (very organised!)? Or to see the penguins?

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