Welcome to Melbourne

My flight from New Zealand got me into Australia fairly late in the evening, around 8pm or so. After clearing customs and retrieving my baggage, I made it to my hostel by 9pm (actually 11pm for me, on NZ time). So pretty much all I did that night was I found my room and jumped into bed.

The next day however, I was up and eager to explore. The morning rains cleared quickly and I found myself in the downtown core. The central spot would probably be Federation Square. It had the visitor’s center and several large convention/exhibition/gallery type places, and it was pretty neat looking to boot, so I figured it would be as good a spot as any to start at!

From Federation Square it was a short walk down to the Yarra River. The Yarra cuts through the downtown of Melbourne. It’s a fairly ugly brown river, but the city surrounding it was pretty.

But that walk would have to be for another day. At the Visitor’s Center there were a good 7 or 8 walks that take you around parts of the downtown. Each were given it’s own little pamphlet with a map, descriptions and everything! I was impressed and pleased. I picked up 4 of them and decided to tackle the one, in an attempt to orient myself with the street names and area.

The downtown core of Melbourne is simply laid out (wonderfully actually). It’s a grid pattern, so everything is nice and straight. Each East-West road will have a side street one block next to it – so Collins Street has Little Collins Street, Lonsdale / Little Lonsdale, etc. The sidestreets often would have alleys running North-South. This tour would take me along many of them. Normally, one wouldn’t find themselves wandering up and down numerous alleys of a downtown. Melbourne however, is known for it’s alleys.

A fairly auspicious start, but things were just getting going. As it was lunch time, it didn’t take me long to find myself amongst throngs of people. Most of the alleys are filled with small restaurants and cafes, catering to every type of appetite.

While many of the eateries spilled out onto alleys, more upscale shops and cafes hid amongst indoor arcades.

Overall, it gave a distinctly European flavour to the city. The architecture and the sheer density of shops and restaurants in such a small area was outstanding!

By the end of the walk, I had wandered back to the other central spot of the downtown, across from Federation Square. Flinder Street Station.

After the tour through the more historic, European-like downtown, I headed out to the Docklands. A brand new development area, the Docklands is going for much more upscale restaurants and big open views. It also has a very nice waterfront area.

This waterfront looks out towards what I assume is the gateway to the Ocean. This bridge design struck me as odd. I’m not entirely sure the purpose of the two middle beams being so high. There is nothing attached to them above the main span of the bridge, so I almost want to assume it’s for looks…but perhaps there is a structural reason?

Either way, it looks nice.

Foot-sore and with the light fading, I returned to my hostel and met up with a fellow Canadian, named Erin. We decided to head out for a beer on the town and to find a bite to eat for Erin (I had picked up sushi on my way home). Melbourne is known as the food capitol of Australia, so we both figured to sample a little. We wandered the streets and ended up at a small bar, stranglely named ‘Naked for Satan‘. Or, it looked small from the outside. Inside were several levels and a very unique (and busy) atmosphere. Primarily a vodka bar, they also served beers and some food. But rather than serve traditional food off a menu, they had numerous platters of bread arranged along the bar with various gourmet toppings, assembled on toothpicks. You picked up as much as you liked – each was $1. At the end, you count up the toothpicks. This might sound expensive, but it actually was very inexpensive by Australian standards. Dinner was enjoyed for under $10 by Erin, and naturally I sampled a few delicious pieces as well. Who doesn’t want to try calamari with octopus ink on bread? 😀

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