The last few days were upon us. We were back in Melbourne, but this time around, we had left to explore the city proper, rather than St Kilda. And while the skies were grey, the city was just as cool as I remember.
And just like my first big odyssey, it was the final stop before going home. We took the Skybus into city, but unlike in St Kilda, there was no stop just outside our accommodation. Luckily, we travel light.
We got a bit of a sleep-in (much needed, seeing that our hostel lacked soundproofing, meaning that the guests chatting in the common area just outside our room kept us awake until 2-ish) we ventured on a free walking tour at 10:30. The light rain kept the group size small, and our guide had received some training in carrying her voice.
Taking the fabled free tram, we started out at Gordon Reserve and checked out Old Treasury, Flinders Lane, the Myer christmas window exhibit on Collins, the Library and Melbourne University, among others. We were advised to check out the back lanes, which differ significantly from back lanes in other cities: In Melbourne, the coolest bars, restaurants, galleries and so forth can often be found, with little to no advertising, in the back lanes. Safe and adventurous at the same time.
The lanes are also where the Street Art is. Similar to some European cities, Melbourne boasts a thriving art scene, and street art is not frowned upon, or dismissed as vandalism as in some countries. Although lacking some of the bigger murals and pieces that interact with existing objects, Melbourne’s street art can almost rival that of Berlin. There is a lane that now officially has changed name to AC/DC Lane, in honour of the local legendary band*, and the artwork there all follow the musical theme.
There are tours you can take that guide you through the labyrinth** that is inner city lanes and their art and/or hidden gems, but they are quite pricey. Spending an entire day, unraveling these things in your own pace, is something I highly recommend, although since we never took a back lane bar tour OR street art tour, it’s tough to tell if they compare. Spending time in the lanes definitely is worth it, though.
Spending an entire day, unraveling these things in your own pace, is something I highly recommend
At special request, we had dinner at Young And Jackson’s, just opposite Flinders Street Station**, before which we promptly asked the bar staff: “Where is she?”.
Our journey was coming to an end. Our departure flight was at 1:00, so we had the entire day to explore Melbourne further. Storing our luggage in a locker at the bus station, we set out on foot to take in the last sights before leaving the Land Down Under.
Two of the most culturally significant details in Australian history are the life and deeds of Ned Kelly, and the Ashes. The former; a bush ranger, a bank robber, a freedom fighter, a trouble maker, a Robin Hood-esque hero, a murderer, depending on whom you ask, and the latter; the ashes of one of the bails from the wicket at the game where Australia first beat England in cricket on English ground. Both the in-/famous armour Ned Kelly wore and an urn containing the fabled ashes can be found at Melbourne University Library, which also holds exhibitions of art, photography, and more.
After lunching some Australian hams, cheeses and sausages by Yarra river, we crossed it and followed its banks to the Royal Botanical Garden, via Olympic Park, past Rod Laver Arena (some two weeks too early for Australian Open, my favourite tennis tournament), where I re-fell in love with the city: Many cities have bike pumps placed here and there, but the ones in Melbourne are also equipped with all sorts of tools to repair a flat tyre, reattach a chain, alter saddle, and so forth. Awesome! Following the other bank of Yarra, we eventually found our way back to Federation Square for the last taste paddle of beer of the trip.
Hoping against hope that google wouldn’t let us down, we had planned to bookend the tour by having our last supper at one of the reputedly excellent Sri Lankan restaurants in Melbourne. We eventually found the one Maps suggested, but as seems to be more often than not, it was closed, despite google’s assurance it wasn’t. And so, we bookended by going as Aussie as you can (without vegemite): Hungry Jack’s.
A big but friendly city. That was not my impression when we came to Melbourne the first time on the day before Christmas eve. It felt like a hard and rough city so I were happy to stay in St Kilda those two days. But back in Melbourne we would start our last part of this journey. A long walk with a lovely guide Lucy from walks101 made me a bit more positive to Melbourne. Although the barista who gave me full milk in my flat white instead of lactose free/non dairy made me very suspicious of Melbournian baristas. We had to cut our day short to….recuperate….
But the moment I fell in love with Melbourne was the next day. When we spent an entire day exploring street art and small pubs/eaterys in the laneways of Melbourne. In other cities one is discouraged to leave the big streets and avenues but in Melbourne all small laneways are safe. They are either equipped with cctv or filled with activities such as small businesses, speakeasys or coffeeshops. So they are safe. We walked and talked and took an obscene amount of pictures. What a lovely but smokey day. The winds had turned so the smoke from all the bushfires filled the city. A rather scary feeling of vulnerability. We had managed to just miss all the fires and only seen a few in the far distance but now the smoke was thick and heavy.
Our last day in Melbourne. With the combination of smoke and a lousy hostel (unhygienic kitchen, loud noise until wee hours of the morning) had led to my mancold. A slow walk to the Melbourne library to check out, amongst other things, the armour Ned Kelly wore and a slow but loong walk to the botanical garden concluded our last day in Melbourne. A nice day albeit a snotty day.
The 34 hours it took us to get home were not fun at all. It could have been nice since I got to do the entire return trip with my favourite person but my cold made the journey back rather uncomfortable. But a skip and a hop later and then several repeats of the skip and the hop we got back home. And promptly started to plan our next walk about.
PS. And yes I asked where she was and there she were and she was. And the barramundi at Young & Jackson was just as lovely as her.
*) not the types of current
**) or possibly maze
***) you know, under the clocks