I expected to like Melbourne, having been told it's a more cultural and arty city than any other in Australia. But I surprised myself in how much I liked it. I'd had a good feeling as I'd come in on the Sky bus. Not from a fellow passenger, of course.
My old mate Travis met me at the station. I'd worked with him at GT in London, and had got to know him and his missus, Kate, fairly well over a few drunken nights out. They'd been semi-regulars on our sofa at Cosy Towers in London Fields; they were returning the favour and letting me doss at their new flat in Fitzroy, East Melbourne.
Fitzroy's a lovely area, and they live right on the corner of the Gardens, through which you can walk into the city. First night out, we headed for Brunswick Street, the equivalent of Shoreditch. Nice funky little bars, friendly people and plenty of arty types about. It's got a great feel to it. By day, it's cafes and restaurants ensure your palate would never tire. There are plenty of second hand thrift shops and designer boutiques here, too.
The city seems better laid-out than Sydney. The architecture is easier on the eye, too. Drinking and eating in the centre is best done around the Laneways, a series of alleyways between the meain thoroughfares, full of small shops and tiny eateries. My favourite was Centre Way, where you could almost imagine you were in Spain or France. There's a positive attitude to graffiti, too. I saw a lot of good stuff, and had to laugh when I overheard a middle-aged woman telling her friend in one shop of a young man she knew who'd been arrested for it. She said "That's a real shame, I like his pictures...really nice colours."
The Yarra River flows through Melbourne, and you can while away a pleasant afternoon wandering along it; Anzac Memorial to the Botanical Gardens to the Docklands is a good walk. You also have the National Gallery of Victoria there. Plenty to see. At the Marina lies the Skydeck building, the tallest building in Australia. From here you get an amazing view of the city and it's suburbs. I called Jocky, who was waiting for me at the Riverside Bar (very good, near Federation Square) with Adele. Using one of the telescopes, I watched them and got them to wave at me. Very amusing.
Trav took me to see an Aussie Rules game at the Telstra Dome. I wasn't impressed. No chanting, no atmosphere, no fighting...what's that all about? Very dull. SorryMate...
Bruce came over to see me before I left, and Mum and Dad had headed over from Adelaide for a break away. So the four of us sat at Riverside and had several pints in quick succession. Folks off to the hotel to rest, myself and Bruce carried on. His mates turned up, and by the last count we ended up having 12 pints, and a couple of Pernods. The excellent Loop Bar was the last stop before I decided to meander home through the park. I ended up sitting on the grass playing with possums, little marsupials. Several of them came up, one with a baby on its back...a couple even grabbed my finger in their tiny claws and had an exploratory nibble. Kate was mortified the next day, said I could have lost a finger. I was very, very drunk...
Other things to do in Melbourne besides let rodents chew your fingers at night? The Australian Centre for the Moving Image is very good and worth a visit. And St Kilda is worth looking at, though the beach isn't up to much. Smith St and Brunswick St are essential, and Northcote has a very good pub (I'll ask Trav the name) where I had the best fish dish in a long while. Definitely worth a visit is the Rooftop Cinema, the view is great, and they show some off-beat indie flicks there. The Little Creatures beer isn't bad, either. Just don't have 12 pints of it and round it off with a couple of Pernods...you could lose a finger.
I'd certainly reccommend Melbourne. Kate and Trav want me to move there. I just might.