Today provided me with evidence, yet again, that overdoing one thing is sometimes necessary to become intersted in the previously overdone task. All I’ve wanted to do is STOP travelling and sight-seeing to sit down with my computer for more than five minutes to send some emails. So, this morning I did just that while I waited to message with Courtney at the appointed time. I e-mailed, blogged, searched maps and weather, and finally talked with Courtney.
By the time Courtney had other plans she had to continue with, I was ITCHING to pack away the laptop and get out to see Melbourne. Perfect. It’s, of course, after 12:30 pm by now, but I wasn’t worried, as I’ve learned my “whole day excursions” never last more than a few hours. Plenty of time to fit in a “full day.” I successfully caught the tram (from St. Kilda Rd and Inkerman St [for those of you who are mapping]) to the City Centre, got off at the right stop (Federation Square), and was face-to-face with the most incredible Visitor Centre anyone could ever hope for. Forget falling in love with Conceirge Alfred – I just fell in love with a whole damn city in an instant. Canadian cities need to get their tourist game face on and take some hints from Melbourne (well, maybe I should “visit” a few more giant Canadian cities before I judge their “visit”-or centres too harshly, but still…). Huge visitor centre where you take a number in the language of your choice for help – or get information about the two free bus/tram options for tourists. Or self-guided walking tours for every interesting corner of the city. Or bike tours, or paid tours, or places to visit outside Melbourne. Needless to say, there is no longer any need to plan what to do in Melbourne. It’s all there for me to just choose which trip I’ll take!
First, the Tourist Shuttle (I’m going to attempt to photograph the map and post it as it was SO amazing). I hoped on at Stop 2, listened to the commentary about all the places we passed (check a few off the list of places to see – the bus provided a superb view!), and hopped off at Stop 8 – Queen Victoria Market (on Victoria, Peel, and Queen Streets). I figured it would be a mall of some sort where I could sit, eat lunch, and plan my day after the bus. Ooooohhhhhhhh nooooooooo. As we drove by the “seven hectares” of trinket/clothing booths, fruit/veggie stalls I had a fleeting (very fleeting) moment of relief that Courtney wasn’t with me – we’d have been hours looking at each booth, price comparing, trying on, bartering. Then we’d move onto the fruits and veggies, cross the street to the part of the market (that I couldn’t see from the bus) with meats, cheeses, breads, etc, and shop for materials needed for ‘sidewalk-made sandwiches’ for lunches for the next few days. Haha. I can’t be too critical, I’d totally be behind the ‘sidewalk-made sandwiches’ that Courtney and I made all through Europe and especially when the ingredients came from a market as fresh, vibrant, and varied as one like the one we visited in Barcelona daily. This one had NOTHING on Barecelona for fruit or seafood, but the deli area was gorgeous and the smells enticed my food-searching nostrils like nothin’ else! Borek’s were my lunch (some sort of lamb, spices, onion or potato and spice in pastry) as I got a free sample that was delish and they were only $2.50 each! Cheapest “out” food I’ve seen so far. Thought ALL my “out” meals would be cheaper if I didn’t splurge for the $2 can of coke each time. But I’ve learned in my travels that if seemingly silly and “wasteful” and not “special” cultural things make you happy – then they are worth every penny to make travelling smooth and enjoyable. Coke always seems to be my expensive indulgence that brightens every travel day. Shocking that a product more widespread than probably ANY other in this world, can be so expensive. Oooookay, enough rambling, back to the point… I made my way back through the market and hopped back on the Tourist Shuttle to enjoy the commentary from stops 9 through 13 and back to stop 1. EVERYwhere should have free buses like that.
Highlight of the day (aside from EVERY part of the day): having half my lunch leftover, realizing it was time for it to hit the garbage can as it was stinking up my bag and I knew, realistically, that I wouldn’t eat it later, and then, moments before starting to actively search out a garbage can, I walked past one of only about three homeless people I’ve seen in Australia so far, and asked if he’d like some food. He seemed genuinely appreciative to have it and I was relieved not to have to toss it. It WAS delicious.
Next, I followed a self-guided walking tour through “Alleys and Laneways” of the City Centre and, WOW, was it a good one to choose. Very European with little cafes, restaurants, and shops crammed into alleys with the best ambience ever considering what alleys are in Canada. Garbage dumps. Bleh. Also, the Arcades and Gallery’s/Galleria’s – no, I did not play pinball machines or look at art – they are, of course, malls. Fancy schmancy ones with mosaic tile floors and elaborate roof structures, but malls, nonetheless (and not nearly comparable to the Galleria in Milan!). And then the best part, a beautiful giant bookstore calling my name. I skimmed a book about my 40 year horoscope (2011-2012 says I have big changes in my job!!! How did they know?!?!!?) and carried on to tram back to my hostel just in time for the FREE BBQ! What a day of free! I beat out my cheap day in Sydney, this one was only $7!
So, Melbourne is definitely winning so far. Perhaps if I’d found and visited Sydney Visitor Centre I’d love it just as much, but for someone arriving after a zillion hour flight and wanting an easy tourist experience, I’d highly recommend Melbourne as your first destination. And it’s dry. Even thought the pavement was wet this morning from last night’s rain, the sun was out-ish at noon and it wans’t muggy for a second. Love love love. Yup, love Melbourne.
Butttttt……………. Sydney isn’t over yet, so tomorrow I’ll get back to day four in Sydney – it was a good one despite my first – and last – encounter with Vegemite. EEEEWWWWWWW. (Thought of you as SOON as I saw it, Pamela, and took a photo for proof just for you!)