A couple of highlights when visiting THE MOST LIVEABLE CITY ON EARTH:Brunswick St Fitzroy – Melbournians are very proud of their café culture, this street is full of an amazing assortment and lots of interesting folk!St Kilda's Beach – this time of year this part of town down by the water is beautiful; on the weekends there will be markets and a lot of activity.South Bank – in the heart of the City, this is a great spot to eat at night; it’s a large development along the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra River; walking further down the River connects to Crown Casino, one of the largest casinos in the world (by night this is a really cool walk).Williamstown – a very different part of the city; great to get to by ferry.Royal Botanical Gardens – really nice views of the city, they do evening cinema here too during the summer that is a lot of fun.Aussie Rules Football (AFL) – the greatest sport in the world! It’s pre-season right now, but come April the season proper starts! You HAVE TO go to the MCG to see a game!That’s a good start….Those were the tips given to me by my son's business partner who knows Melbourne well. In the few days we visited we only did three items on the list above. Naturally we experienced the café culture, one can not avoid it. We traveled down to St. Kilda's Beach and we took the hop on/off bus to take a quick look at the south side of the Yarra river. I guess we have to come back. It just is impossible to see this city and the surrounding areas in the three days we had to explore it.One of these days was spent visiting Carol's nephew Tyler and his young family who immigrated from Canada about 5 years ago and who love Melbourne. Tyler's job in Australia gets him to see almost every city, small and large. By now Tyler knows Australia in detail. He maintains, repairs and installs underground utilities and in order to bid on municipal contracts he needs to see the lay of the land, visit the town his company might work for. He might not get every job the firm bits on, but he and his team need to look before they can bid. Tyler knows Australia from the bottom up. His wife Michelle, a travel agent by trade, was a huge help when it came to details on what to see in Australia. We also had help from Cliff McEwen, who rode his bike with this Australian guy, Wally, throughout Europe. Then Cliff visited Wally in Australia and had a great time. We had Wally's email address, we tried to contact him too, but could not get to meet him while in Melbourne.For Melbourne lots of people offered us help but still, with 4.5 million people living here it is a huge area to discover. Melbourne is a very, very modern city that tries hard to keep the old mixed in with the new. While the new overwhelmingly wins, there are pockets of charm. Little Italy is one of those areas, we had dinner in this small enclave. Not a big area but everybody is proud of their Italian roots. We found a hotel for our stay way north in Coburg, at the end of the trolley line 19. It took us 43 minutes one way via tram to go from the hotel to downtown Melbourne. The distances are huge. Even though Melbourne is ultra modern, public transportation is mainly by trams. Melbourne has the largest trolley network worldwide. While automobiles probably hate the dominance of the tracks and giving up the right of way on each stop, etc., I must say, the system works. We never waited for transportation longer than about five minutes. A constant flow of trolleys criss-cross the city and a lot of people use this way of transport. Most of the time our trolley cars were filled to capacity. All the trains were new, modern and fitted with an electronic payment system. We caught on fast, the logic behind it, made it easy.Within the downtown area are small alleys, covered in graffiti art. Art seems to dominate Melbourne. Federal square, is a newly installed urban experiment, blending public space with tourist and local venues as the new town center. Developed with Avant guard buildings surrounding it, right next to the old city train station, it is an odd blend and I am not sure of its appeal. But then so is everybody else debating this newness to urban living. Packing millions of people along the waterfront of the Yarra river and along the harbour and beaches and making it look good, yet still functional, sure is a challenge. Melbourne took on this challenge by modernizing most, if not all of it. The debates about its success fill the local newspapers. The sections of the city mentioned above are worthwhile to see and experience. As a 3 day visitor I don't rightly know what to say. Yet people that live here proclaim it loudly:The most livable city on Earth !!!!!!
Wednesday, March 05, 2014