Monday, February 15, 2016

Marvelous Melbourne

I won't mince words here - Melbourne is fantastic and has become one of my favourite places in the world. It has everything I think great city should have: a vibrant arts community,  a busy central/downtown core, excellent public transit, sports events, and great coffee shops. The fact it has some nice beaches doesn't hurt either.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time here and could have easily stayed longer.

We explored the city. We lived in the city. And yes, those are two different things. By exploring, we got out and about and saw some of the sights. By living here we bought groceries, put the kids in camps, and found our own small, short-term community of people. 

Because of the summer holidays here, we thought we might find some camps for the kids, to give them a break from us, and each other. I'd like to take credit for this idea as my very own, but it was really the result of a sad night where one of the kids talked about missing friends. Eamon went to a sports camp and Meaghan went to a dance camp. The camps may not have been everything they wanted, or long enough, but it gave them a great dose of fun and some companionship outside the family. It also gave Kerry and I a chance to have lunch by ourselves.

Eamon batting while playing cricket at camp.

Meaghan excited to start another day of dance camp.

The camps have given the kids some great memories of Melbourne, and frankly, to Kerry and me as well. But Melbourne was so very much more than just a break from each other.

First, the arts. At the National Gallery of Victoria we founds a great kids program where Meaghan did some silk screen printing on a tea towel. 

For those of you who know that someone should be holding the screen, I did hold it for her, but posing for a photo took priority.

There was also an exhibit featuring Andy Warhol and Ai WeiWei. Surprisingly, both kids enjoyed the exhibit. But how can you not when there's so many very different and unique pieces to look at, and interact with. And, there was Lego.

I would love to do a Lego grayscale in the basement. Thanks for the idea WeiWei.

The simple things bring much joy at the Warhol/WeiWei exhibit.

I was quite stunned to see Gretzy appear, not once, but twice on Warhol's Polaroid wall.

The theatre community is also strong. We watched "The Wind in the Willows" outdoors  at the botanical gardens.  Such a fantastic show. Eamon, who started with a grumpy attitude, was keen to go again. With good actors, audience participation, and an outdoor setting, who wouldn't have loved the show. Plus, there were other shows in town we easily could have attended if not for a lack of time.

Second, the central business district (CBD) or what we would call the downtown. It was busy, and in a good way. Lots of fantastic architecture with new and old (that goes for a chunk of the city actually), shops, restaurants, tourists with a variety of things to see and do, such as the Old Melbourne Gaol that included a bit on the infamous outlaw Ned Kelly, Melbourne Museum, the tourist trolley, free tram rides, Chinatown, and so many little lanes that are now crammed with coffee shops and restaurants. There's also Federation Square, a great meeting and gathering spot to watch the Australian Open on the big screen, grab a coffee, or catch a tram.

Duplicate Ned Kelly armour to try on at the Old Melbourne Gaol.

Yup, that's me in the wig defending Ned Kelly. I did a bang up job too.
He was convicted and sentenced to hang by the neck until dead. 

There's lots of talk about the street art in Melbourne, and in particular, Hoosier Lane. I'll be honest, it's ok and a lot better than many cities, but it comes nowhere near a city like Rio where street art is really art. In my opinion, the street art would be vastly improved if there weren't some of the restrictions on where it can go and permit requirements. Also, I wish taggers would respect the work and leave it alone rather than muck it up.

Some pretty great art, but the tagging bugged me to no end.

Third, the sporting events.  It just so happened that we were in town at the start of the Australian Open - so of course, how do we not go. We got grounds tickets the first day. Hot and crowded, but wonderful. The atmosphere is very different from Wimbledon, but there's something quite wonderful about a facility so close to the central business district. Thanks to the kids' camps, Kerry and I also took in a second day of tennis, but splurged on tickets to the Rod Laver arena that day. We weren't able to see all the play that day, but it was still fantastic to catch Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, and then a bit of Roger Federer. It would have been tough to come up with a better schedule for us.

It just wasn't meant to be for poor Serena this year. But she easily defeated her opponent in the game we saw.

And let's not forget cricket. They city has two Big Bash League teams (see my post here about that terrific, exciting and affordable league), and while we didn't get to those games in Melbourne, we did see Australia play India at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds - well not the entire multi-hour game, but a good chunk of it.

The MCG: Melbourne Cricket Grounds that holds 100,000 people.

Fourth, let's not forget the coffee shops. They are on most every corner. When people fill cute coffee shops, a city can only have a great vibe.

Morning coffee/hot chocolate by the dance studio.
Not from a coffee shop, but the rolled ice cream at Scroll was awesome.

Fifth, the trams. They are adorable, well-used, and terrifically handy. The trams got us everywhere we needed to go, except Eamon's camp - we needed to throw in a bus for that. Plus, the trams are frequent, so there's no need to memorize a schedule and wait ages if you miss one. They pretty much run every 5-10 minutes. We all loved the trams.

Eventually I learned to breathe normally as we caught the trams in the middle of the road.

Sixth, Luna Park. There's still the old amusement park in St. Kilda. Though I'm not a fan of most rides - feeling nauseous after riding them does that to a person - how can you not ride an old wooden roller coaster that has a brakeman standing in the middle of it. A little bit of awesomeness like this just adds to an already full character.

Yes, the brakeman stands in the middle of the roller coaster.  Kerry and the kids are in the back two cars.

And finally, as if that isn't enough, there are the beaches. There is no better way to beat 40°C+ than a beach, which given that Melbourne is on a big bay, the water can be very calm and more like a large lake than a blustery ocean. No one in our group complained about cool and refreshing water the day the temperature topped out at 43°C.

Not than we're planning retirement anytime soon - especially after this year - but I certainly would never object to a suggestion from Kerry that we spend part of our winter down in Melbourne some year if that retirement date ever comes.

1 comment:

  1. Melbourne has the best brecky... well, just such great food. Fun to try out some camps and enjoy a break.