Mel-bin, Australia

If we’re talking about cities I’d live in, add Melbourne to the list. Multiculturalism infuses every aspect of life in Melbourne, from its eclectic food to its energetic creative scene, making Melbourne feel less like an Australian city and more like a microcosm of the entire world—reminding me of my life in New York City (the availability of pizza and bagels also helped). It also offers plenty of open-air cafés, a serious coffee culture, tree-lined boulevards, and a greenbelt of parks with a distinctly European feel—reminding me of my life in Madrid. It truly is one of the world’s most livable cities (and has been cited as such many times).

We checked into our accommodation, the Brady Hotel, located in the middle of the Central Business District. Nearby shops, eateries and bars (important), and the comfiest beds Mom and I have ever slept in. Perfect!

First thing was first—I needed a haircut. Badly. It had been almost seven months since my last one back home in the States, and I was starting to look like a bit of a Deadhead. After some extensive Google research, I found a nice salon a few minutes walking from our hotel, and stepped in to get my locks chopped while Mom perused the shops nearby.

Not having eaten since our early morning flight, we were getting quite hungry, and Mom asked me what I had in mind for dinner. One word came to mind: PIZZA. A personal favourite and food item that you simply cannot find in high abundance or quality in Singapore. Very elusive.

We headed to a cute cafe near the salon that my stylist recommended to us, and I dined on (scarfed down) the most delicious pizza and Italian wine I had had in months, followed by espressos to power us through the rest of the evening.

Melbourne is a city known for its street art, and what better place to see it than at Hosier Lane, a small lane way and much celebrated landmark known for its sophisticated urban art. We admired the art and even got to see two street artist hooligans putting up some new work on one of the walls. We even saw an excellent piece along AC/DC Lane (real name) signed by an artist named Michael Hayden, which had us wondering if Dad has been moonlighting as a street artist/graffiti savant all these years (he has neither confirmed nor denied the allegation). Also, Mom had the opportunity to take roughly 500 photos of me for my Instagram account. Thanks, Mom.

It was early to bed for us the first night, as the next morning we were up and at ’em before 7AM. It was Sunday, the day of our trip to Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles! We met our small group and hit the road before sunrise, which was lovely once the coffee kicked in. After about an hour’s drive (narrated by our wonderful tour guide whose name I cannot remember but who looked identical to Hagrid from Harry Potter so let’s go with Hagrid), we hopped out at Urquhart Bluff to watch the final moments of sunrise, see surfers watch some morning waves, and enjoy some breakfast and tea on the water. As it is currently winter in Australia, we were bundled up and stayed for just enough time to enjoy the freshness of the air. Then, onward.

We made quite a few stops along the way to the 12 Apostles, which included but were not limited to:

  • Visiting the historic Memorial Arch along Great Ocean Road
  • Passing through the quaint coastal resort towns of Lorne and Anglesea
  • Spotting koalas, parrots, lorikeets, and kookaburra in the wild along Kennett River, where I almost passed out from the cuteness of these animals
  • Stopping for lunch and quick shopping in the nice town of Apollo Bay
  • Taking a guided walk and admiring some of the world’s tallest eucalyptus trees at Otway Rainforest
  • Being surrounded by towering limestone cliffs at Loch Ard Gorge

Around sunset we arrived at the 12 Apostles, a magnificent collection of limestone stacks on the Southern Ocean about 275 kilometres west of Melbourne, or about a four-hour drive along the Great Ocean Road. A storm had just rolled in, which meant it was rainy and freezing (!), but it did provide for some incredibly dramatic and beautiful photos. We were disappointed that it was raining for the climax of our day trip on Great Ocean Road, but it was very cool to see a storm pass over such a dramatic coastline.

After hitting Target to grab some warmer clothes (sometimes a woman who travels from Singapore and hasn’t felt anything below 85 Fahrenheit doesn’t pack appropriately for cold weather in other places….sometimes), it was time for more exploration at St Kilda’s Beach! Melbourne’s most famous beach, St Kilda’s is home to a wonderful mix of music venues, shops, beachside restaurants and cafes, and even an amusement park called Luna Park, all within a short tram ride from the CBD.

We started off by walking the town’s most famous attraction: the St Kilda Pier. It is a beautiful stroll on the water, that leads to a breakwater where we could and did see a resident population of little penguins burrowing in the rocks. THIS WAS THE MOST EXCITED I HAVE EVER BEEN ABOUT AN ANIMAL INTERACTION. Please see photos below, and behold the cuteness.

We stopped for lunch at the West Beach Bathers Pavilion, located next to the breakwater. Honestly, I needed a break after my heart went into palpitations from seeing the penguins. We enjoyed a yummy lunch while we dangled our feet above the Port Phillip Bay, then headed down Robe Street to admire the iconic and lovely Edwardian houses, followed by Acland Street, one of Melbourne’s food and shopping precincts. With quick stops to check out the St Kilda Botanical Gardens (beautiful and quirky, like Melbourne) and Luna Park, it was time to head back into the CBD and relax for a bit.

That night we ate dinner at our favourite place in Melbourne: Cookie. “Beer Hall, Eating House and Disco.” “Eclectic cocktails, beers and Thai dishes.” “Part Thai restaurant, part beer barn, all set against a whimsical fairy-tale backdrop.” However you describe Cookie, Cookie was and is awesome. Melbourne is full of fantastic bars and restaurants, but we really hit the jackpot with this one. It’s a cool, bustling bar with murals on the walls and a DJ spinning dinner-perfect music all night. The Thai-ish dishes were unique and truly interesting, and the menu provided a fun read that’s half food items and half life wisdom. It’s also housed in a six-story building that’s home to Toff in Town, a cocktail bar one of the best live music venues in Melbourne, and where we decided to wrap up our evening. If you couldn’t tell by the subtle notes above, we recommend this place. And, to make a wonderful night even more magical, we caught a live street performance on our way back to the hotel, which turned out to be concert level. We ended up tipping the guys—they were fantastic. We took a seat on a sidewalk bench to watch as they started performing, and by the time they were down 30 minutes later, a crowd of almost 25 people had gathered! Pretty atypical for street performers if you ask me.

For our last morning in Melbourne, we (experienced extreme sadness and also) went to the Queen Victoria Market for breakfast before our early afternoon flight to Sydney. The “heart and soul of Melbourne” and largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere, we knew we were bound to find some good eats. And we were not disappointed! Queen Vic Market is a true melting pot for all the flavors that are Melbourne, we were stunned by the array of fresh produce, meats, fish, delicatessen items, clothes, souvenirs, manchester, arts and more. It was a unique, fun, and tasty experience, and I’m glad we got to see it (even if only briefly) before we headed to the airport.

We loved Melbourne. We think Melbourne loved us. We spent close to a full hour over the course of our four-day visit devising a plan to get Dad to move there, so we could live there forever and experience all that this weird and wonderful city has to offer. So many hip neighbourhoods, fun and funky cafes and restaurants, friendly and laid-back people, beautiful beaches, bars with great cocktails and hyped-up DJs, so many live music venues, a robust art scene, neon lights, free city trams—I’ll stop. The point I’m trying to make here is we were bummed to leave Melbourne and head to Sydney, which we had heard was a city with “more to see, less to do.” But we decided to open up our minds and our hearts to Sydney, and give it a go!

(This is where I want to end my blog post, however I should note that, aside from my organised day-by-day itinerary, printed boarding passes and converted cash ready to go, I did lead Mom and I to the wrong airport. Turns out there are two airports in Melbourne, one just outside the city that was built to lessen the load on Tullamarine Airport. Who knew? Not me. Anyway, we ended up finding an adorable cafe in our terminal and spending some time there, chatting and relaxing before our rescheduled flight. It was one of the most fun few hours we had, just catching up over coffee).

Some photos from Melbourne:

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Penguins!

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