I’ve been putting this post off for more than a little while. Why, I hear you ask?
Because I don’t know how to do Melbourne justice.
According to tales as old as time (Australian citizens. Backpackers. Expats. et al.), if you’re not a Sydneysider then you’re likely to be a Melburnian. Well…I hate to admit it ladies and gentlemen, but I have unwittingly conformed to a stereotype. As I’ve mentioned before I genuinely have nothing against Sydney and enjoy it as a place; there’s always something going on and therefore something to do. It’s just I wasn’t bowled over by it. There was no love, no instant spark for me. After arriving in Melbourne I knew after half an hour it was My Kind Of Place. I can’t put my finger on what it was exactly, but Melbourne has the ability to make an individual feel special. Like they matter. Like they’re unique, and different but accepted for just those very reasons.
Bit deep, maybe? Allow me to elaborate.
The place itself has an air of London about it – not the commercial, touristy side of London that springs to mind when thinking about the capital city. (Of course there is an element of that within any city, Melbourne included, but it’s less noticeable and overwhelming than it is in London for example.) No, Melbourne is more like the quirky, less mainstream and hidden parts of London you have to look for or hear about word-of-mouth from like-minded individuals in order to get involved. The good bits of London, if you will!
One thing Melbourne is renowned for is the street art, which is less an act of crime and rebellion and more a statement or work of art…
The scenery along Hosier Lane changes almost daily, which is something I was definitely not aware of! Naively, I thought that as it is easily Melbourne’s most famous laneway for street art it would remain untouched for decades to come, in an almost sacred act of respect. Well Kate, don’t be so daft you silly moo! It turns out one of the reasons it’s so amazing is because it is ever-changing! I even came across some artists at work on one of my trips down the alley…
The architecture is less city-like than Sydney’s. Part of my feelings about central Sydney is that someone has thought “oh, we need a business district… Let’s build a skyline!”. There are skyscrapers in Melbourne, but fewer and they are surrounded by churches, old museums and Flinders Street Station…
I think what epitomised Melbourne once and for all for me was the Queen Victoria Night Market. If you know me well you’ll know I love a good market! If truth be told I love a bad market as well, I love markets! They’re one of my favourite places to go alone, because you’re then given the freedom to browse, flit between stalls and there’s none of that awkward indecision between you and a partner about what you want to look at more and what you genuinely couldn’t give a monkeys about! I also find that market traders are some of the most interesting personalities you will ever come across, and they’re rarely anything but nice to you because their trade really does depend upon you, the customer.
I went to the Queen Victoria Night Market twice, and the second time remembered to take my camera! Both times it was so insanely busy, full to the brim with such a diverse range of people who all seemed to have had the same idea as me with regards to buying dinner from one of the many food stalls. The queues were so long! Being terribly British I am a master of queuing, and it was here I learned that if someone can get away with not queuing like the rest of us, then they will! (Just FYI, if I were to ever appear on Room 101 then ‘those who can’t queue’ would be the first thing I’d put in!) Besides that slight annoyance, this place was perfect.
The stalls sold such a variety of things, including unique Melbourne print tees and dresses, nineties crop tops, glowing coloured lanterns and quirky signs. Almost all of the stalls had incorporated fairy lights into their design one way or another, which was always going to go down well with me let’s face it!
Naturally, one place I was rather taken with was the trailer selling waffles, ice cream and a variety of sauces! I felt it would be rude if I didn’t indulge, quite frankly, plus they had some kitchen rules that I just loved!
Aside from all this, my favourite part of the Queen Victoria Night Market was actually the live music. There’s various bands and entertainment going on all around the venue, and I’m sorry to keep relating things to London but this took me back instantly to Covent Garden and the street theatre I have witnessed there over the years. I have a lot of time and respect for street artists, because as far as I am concerned they are the ones who embody passion and dedication more than most. To work for an unspecified income day in, day out, takes a lot of courage, guts and faith in your abilities as a performer and entertainer. On the night I remembered to bring my camera there was one particular band whose name I didn’t quite catch, but featured four men all playing guitars, bongos, maracas and various other percussion intstruments. The minute they started playing crowds began to draw closer, feet began to tap and hips began to wiggle. By the end of their set not one person wasn’t dancing! Dad dancing was accompanied by those proficient in salsa, there were toddlers bouncing up and down aided by their parents and older siblings, and then mere backpackers like myself dancing like no one was watching, wondering how on earth I could make this my life. I almost wanted to not take photos – partly because there was no way you could capture what was happening in one still image, but also because I wanted this to be a memory and not merely something I experienced through a screen.
I’ve already posted about my time at the Australian Open in Melbourne, but one thing I would like to talk about is the museums in Melbourne. Having barely worked in the three months I have been in this country it was fair to say I was getting to a point where funds were running low! I had enough to live on, but not enough to splurge if that makes sense? Therefore I set aside a day with my lovely new friend Phoebe (hostels are great places for meeting new people, just so you know!) to do a day of free stuff, starting with the ACMI Museum, otherwise known as the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
After initially getting a bit lost upon entry into the building (for future reference people, go downstairs first!) Phoebe and I found ourselves in an exhibition honouring the movies of China, by one director in particular. This was when I reconsidered the entire day, as it’s safe to say this exhibition was not aimed at people such as myself, especially when we came across a film about cannibalistic dogs! We left that exhibition rather swiftly, and then found ourselves in the centre’s Screen Worlds section – the main feature of the building, divided into five sections: emergence, voices, kids space, games lab and sensation. This whole space was really cool, telling the history of the moving image from the Australian perspective (one which, as a Brit, I’d never really considered. There was a lot of talk about Baz Luhrmann and Cate Blanchett!), highlighting just quite how defining films such as Toy Story really were, and offering interactive features to keep us all entertained along the way!
After our adventure to the ACMI we made our way to the National Gallery of Victoria. I’m not a big one for National Galleries, they’re normally full of old pieces of art that I just can’t appreciate. Actually, instead of marvelling at the artist’s talent I often find myself wondering how the world doesn’t run out of art, especially the historical stuff. However, I’d popped into the building once before as I needed to relieve myself whilst en route to another destination, and I’d spied a few things that had caught my eye and sparked my interest. The first being a wall of water…
It was here that Phoebe and I had a whale of a time! We avoided a lot of the fine and historical art, and did our best to steer clear from art around the world too! Instead we took a laid back ride on a gold fairground ride, got deep and philosophical at one of the exhibitions and even indulged in a bit of life art ourselves!
As you can see we were incredibly mature about the task in hand, and really acted our ages! 😉
Aside from the amazing life drawing my favourite feature of this gallery was a giant spiders-web-come-soft-climbing-frame. Apparently it was art, but we saw it more as an opportunity to rest our weary feet, take silly photos and to re-enact our childhoods a little by messing around!
To wrap up this traditionally huge post (becoming a bit of a habit, I know, I make no apologies!) I will just mention where I stayed. A lot of my friends from my time in Coffs Harbour are now all living together in a suburb of Melbourne called St. Kilda, so it was here that I chose to stay. As is so often with places that we stay in for any period of time, I forgot to take any photos! I am however going back in March for the Grand Prix, so I will be sure to take some photos then! I would wholeheartedly recommend staying in any suburb of Melbourne. Maybe I’m just not one for staying in the heart of a city, but I found I appreciated and enjoyed Melbourne so much more because I wasn’t in the constant hustle and bustle. St. Kilda itself is a really cool place, with a really cool retro vibe, a market every Sunday and some insanely cheap op shops! There’s even a beach, which as I found out very few Australians refer to as a proper beach and to be fair it is pretty small in comparison to some of Sydney’s beaches. But to a Brit like me, a beach is a beach, and when it’s 37 degrees I want nothing more than the opportunity to get my tan on and boast to my friends back home that I’m sunbathing in January! 😉
There is so much more to Melbourne than the stuff I’ve talked about. There is so much more to Melbourne than the things I’ve done. Which is why I have every intention of going back, and in all seriousness I would move there tomorrow if the opportunity presented itself. So, Melbourne, this is not goodbye and much more of a see you later! 🙂