This weekend I’m headed back to Vegas to photograph the finished kitchen and master bathroom in the flip house, both are finally done and I can’t wait to share them with you, hopefully next week once I edit the photos. :)
I was going through my memory photos on my phone and up popped the fact that at this exact time last year, I was visiting my cousin in Melbourne, Australia. Then I remembered OMG I totally forgot to share about my experience there. Bad blogger!
I’d been to Australia before, but hadn’t visited the city of Melbourne yet, so it was at top of my list. I envisioned it would be balmy and warm like Gold Coast but since it’s much farther south, Melbourne experiences more dramatic seasons, especially cold winters. I was there in February of 2017 (the height of summer) so I was lucky to have blue skies during my visit.
Melbourne impressed me right away as a very cultural city, it’s quite sophisticated. It reminded me so much of San Francisco, with its medley of classic architecture and modern high rise buildings in a vibrant downtown.
Here are the highlights from my visit, through the eyes of me, the willing and happy tourist, and my cousin, the local know-it-all:
Queen Victoria Market
My cousin Andrew was an excellent tour guide and our first stop was the famous Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne’s biggest attraction and for good reason. On Tuesday, and also Thursday through Sunday, you’ll find outdoor stalls that sell Australian made goods and produce, it’s an energetic place filled with locals who are tasting, shopping, and enjoying life and every week there are cultural festivals happening.
My cousin insisted we get donuts and coffee first. (No objection). We stood in a brief line at the the donut van to grab a paper bag of sweets before we headed to the market stalls.
above image via: queen victoria market
I had a belt made but I do regret not buying authentic Ugg boots… oh well, another excuse to go back :)
Indoors, you’ll find many purveyors of fine foods inside a light filled brass trimmed interior. We browsed the stalls, just so I could get a feel for it.
Markets are always a favorite place to linger, so I soaked it all in. Spice and cheese shops and savory goods galore. We stopped for lunch at The Bratwurst Shop despite its exceptionally long line, but my cousin guaranteed it was worth the wait to so I chose a spicy one with mustard, wow so good.
Coffee is King
The coffee scene is huge in Melbourne, and my cousin is a connoisseur. He took me on tasting tour to several coffee shops just to show me how very much into coffee they are in that town, and how many ways they prepare it.
Micro roasters are around every corner, selling their distinctive blends. I tried so many I got a crazy caffeine high. In Melbourne, they describe the flavors of coffee in a similar (obsessive) way like we do in wine country. Hints of spice, fruit, caramel, etc. This article describes just how seriously the Australians take coffee.
I spent one full day on my own, walking in a loop around Melbourne, starting at Flagstaff Gardens, heading north into Carlton, cruising over to East Melbourne on foot, then headed through Fitzroy Gardens to Southbank and back up to the downtown area. It was about ten miles total but it was a perfect day to meander, so I stretched it out and I took all day to do it.
For those less ambitious, note Melbourne has a great public transportation system and there is a Free Tram Zone that will take you all over the inner city, a great advantage for tourists who are lodging downtown and don’t want to walk to see all the sights. Just hop on and hop off!
The State Library was a beautiful building inside and out, and a popular spot, with lots of people hanging out on the front lawn, sunning themselves. I was charmed by the men playing chess outside the front doors. Inside, the interior is cool and quiet, all marble hallways with a grand staircase, and rotating exhibits and a giant room where a few hundred people are doing concentrated research.
I walked over to Carlton Gardens where I watched a bride getting her photograph taken in front of the beautiful Exhibition building.
Next, I walked down Spring Street past Parliament, it was a grand building that you have to stop and admire for a few minutes because of its amazing architecture.
Fitzroy Gardens was just down the street, it’s a large beautiful park that’s lovely to stroll around. It also houses a conservatory of flowers where I was surrounded by the most beautiful begonias I’ve ever seen.
Maybe it was just because I was enchanted by my location or perhaps it was the contrasting liner on the edge of the petals that I found so captivating. I just remember in that moment thinking they were the most perfect flowers I’d ever seen.
My next stop took me to a place everyone should visit: Flinders Street Station, one of the most recognizable buildings in Melbourne, it’s next to Federation Square, a modern abstract building that is a stark contrast to the old world design of the train station.
By afternoon, my feet were tired but I crossed over the Yarra River to Southbank where a festival was happening along the promenade.
It was hot and crowded, so I ducked into a restaurant to talk to the bartender, they always have the best insight on things to see. I ordered a local beer while we chatted, and I had to take a picture of this label, it cracked me up, so Aussie.
My cousin recommended Shanghai Street for dinner, a popular place downtown (I could tell because of the line) but I got a single seat by the window and ordered kung pao chicken with a side of dumplings and they were amazing, maybe the best I’ve ever had.
While I ate my dinner, I had a 20 minute conversation with a local businessman who sat next to me, he had visited San Francisco on business several times and we engaged in a great conversation about the similarities between our cities.
This is one of my favorite things about traveling, when I go out, 9 times out of 10 I end up striking up a conversation with a new person sitting next to me and by the end of our time together, I’m reminded that we’re all human, and deep down we really want the same things: to be connected, to share good food, a few stories, and to be surrounded with good friends and loving family.
In pockets of Melbourne, you’ll find streets where artist have coated the walls with murals, caricatures, and graffiti. Melbourne is famous for it, so keep your eyes open, or consult this list that pinpoints the streets where it can be seen.
If you like to shop, there’s a district for it downtown. There is also a Chinatown to visit, another reason Melbourne reminded me very much of San Francisco.
If you like Italian food, go to Hardware Lane for the cafe scene. One night, we dined at a great South American restaurant called Mamasita. Another hidden gem I really loved was was Berlin Bar where inside, you travel back in time to the Cold War. At Berlin Bar, they have the most innovative cocktails and a magician entertained us at our table while we waited for our drinks. Definitely worth the visit if you seek someplace eclectic and cool.
I have no fear of traveling alone, but I was lucky to meet up with my American born (now Aussie) cousin, who I see so rarely because we live continents apart. He welcomed me to his home, shared all his knowledge of the area, and we spent hours having great conversation and laughing about so many memories from our childhood. How fun it was to look back on it twenty years later. It reminded me that connection and being present in the moment are so important, and how essential it is to cherish your times spent with special people you’re lucky to have in your life.
This picture makes me smile so much because in the States, Pabst is the cheapest beer ever, but in a bistro in his suburb of Geelong, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is a big deal and he has to pay extra for it. We both thought that was so funny! Yet another thing I love about travel, those unexpected details that reveal themselves to you when you get out and explore the world.
I was lucky to spend one full day with my cousin out at the coast. He strapped three bikes to the back of his car and took me on a drive to the ocean where he and his wife showed me some the surf spots in Jan Juc and Torquay. We went on a long bike ride from Winkipop and Bells Beach all along this breathtaking coastline. That was an amazing day, what a view!
(I should note these images in this post were taken with my iPhone, but now I use this Canon Powershot camera to shoot better quality images. I love that camera so much for travel for taking amazing pictures and video!)
I left Melbourne having experienced great scenery, food, and company and having fallen in love with yet another amazing city. Have you been to Melbourne, or do you live there? I’m thinking of returning at the end of the year so I can hop over to Tasmania and explore that island. What did I miss? What are your favorite places?