(a page from my Travel Journal)
Melbourne is a city with aspirations and you can tell. It’s a large city with loads of character, a laid-back pace and a lifestyle that oozes quality. Magnificent Tudor and Victorian buildings graciously reflect the city’s colourful history while impressive skyscrapers and other buildings by world-renowed architects boast the city’s prosperous present. Upon arrival, the visitor might notice the car license plates which read: “Victoria: The place to be”. I wouldn’t disagree.
I arrived in Melbourne and made my way to my hotel in the heart of downtown Melbourne. After checking in, I went for a walk around the Central Business District (CBD) and discovered that there wasn’t a lot to do in the CBD on a Saturday night, except around the touristy areas along Swanston Street and Collins Street. The CBD is jam-packed during the day but it’s quiet during the evenings. I later discovered that most of the better restaurants and the café-scene are spread out around the inner suburbs like Carlton, South Yarra, Prahran and St. Kilda. Another thing that struck me: shopping here is fantastic! There are so many shopping areas, each with its own distinct character. The CBD itself is just bursting at the seams with shops. Then you have the various suburbs with more shopping streets, malls and markets.
Exploring Melbourne’s suburbs
The next day, friends of mine who live here picked me up and we went on a beautiful drive to St. Kilda, a beachside community just a few kilometers from Melbourne, where we walked around the Sunday crafts market and the pier. The views from the pier of the Melbourne skyline were stunning. We then moved on to the suburbs of South Yarra and Prahran. I loved the buzz in these two suburbs, especially along Chapel Street which is chockful of fashionable boutiques, cafés and restaurants.
I started the following day with a walkabout along the Yarra River. I really love the architecture in Melbourne: it’s a good blend of steel-and-glass skyscrapers and beautiful old Victorian buildings with gorgeous iron lace balconies, and wonderful Art Deco specimens. The Arts precinct is especially impressive with its ultra-modern, experimental architecture. I went up the 300m-high Eureka Tower and was treated to stunning views of the city and its surrounds. There was a separate section at one corner of the observation floor called The Edge. What happens is, you get into a glass cube, the glass is then tinted a dark grey so you don’t see anything. The cube is then projected outside the building proper and with no prior warning, the tinted glass changes to clear glass in a split second. The effect must be terrifying: suspended 300m up in the air, outside the building (but within the glass walls of the cube) and nothing to separate you from a free fall but a thick glass floor! I admit, I was too chicken to give it a try
A day in the Yarra Valley
The next day, I was up bright and early for my day tour to the Yarra Valley. We headed east towards the Dandenong Ranges where we stopped at the lovely Dandenong Ranges National Park. The forest looked stunning in the early morning light, with the tall slender mountain ash trees bathed in the morning sunshine. Saw lots of birds: brightly-coloured rozellas and different varieties of cockatoos.
We then continued our journey to Belgrave, where we boarded the Puffing Billy Steam Train. It’s Australia’s oldest steam train and it was quite an experience just hanging out the window and watching the forest pass by.
After the train ride, our journey continued to the Yarra Valley where we visited the Fergusson winery. Along the way, we passed some beautiful countryside: rolling green hills, vineyards, nurseries, quaint villages and patches of gum forests. Lots of Dutchies live in this area where they have their nurseries and fruit/vegetable farms. At the winery, we were treated to a delicious spit roast lunch accompanied by a fine Cabernet Sauvignon.
After lunch, we made our way through this very charming valley to the Healesville Sanctuary where we got to see some koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, the Tasmanian Devil, emus and other Australian animals. Check out the photos of the laid-back kangaroos below.
We then visited the Chandon Estate which is owned by LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet & Hennessy), a gorgeous estate perched on a hill and has sweeping views of the Yarra Valley. The bubbly was good as well as the Pinot Noir.
The weather was stunning – which is a bit of an anomaly in Melbourne. The sun shone throughout and it was perfect for four wonderful days in marvellous Melbourne!