Melbourne is our kind of town. It’s an amazing vibrant city, best explored on foot or using the excellent public tramway system, the largest in the world. Melbourne is Australia’s cultural capital, with large parks and gardens. It’s very multi-cultural with a large Chinese community, which reminded us of Vancouver.
We left Larnaca Airport in Cyprus at 1930 on Wednesday and were in Dubai three and a half hours later, gaining a full half hour with tail winds. At Dubai Airport, we had a quick dash to catch our connecting flight to Melbourne – the scheduled transfer time was of one hour thirty minutes but fortunately we had two hours. The walk from arrival in Dubai to our departure gate was about thirty minutes and we made it with little spare time before boarding. Both flights were with Emirates. The second leg was a comfortable flight that took approximately fourteen hours. We arrived on schedule at Melbourne Airport at 23.30 local time on Thursday.
A cab whisked us to our city centre hotel in about thirty minutes. Upon arrival in our room, we had tea, showered and unpacked – by this stage, we had absolutely no concept of time, except that it was showing 3 AM in Melbourne. We were up by 9 AM, had breakfast and out by 10.30 armed with a city map. We wandered around, gazing at some beautiful Victorian architecture, had lunch with the locals in a mall and found the State Library of Victoria, where we started our three-hour guided city walk. This was to be the best value of our Melbourne stay, as it was free! Sponsored by the city, the guides are local students doing a very good job with the help of a script that they learn parrot fashion and include their own local knowledge wherever possible. This gave us some excellent insight into this beautiful city and we earmarked places for return. We saw many alleyways with their famous Street Art, rather lovely Victorian arcades with their domed glass ceilings and mosaic floors, trendy upmarket boutiques, and the Old Melbourne Jail where Ned Kelly was imprisoned and hanged. The grand architecture of the Victorian era included the Old Parliament Building, The Royal Exhibition Centre, The Hotel Windsor, the grand hotel of Melbourne, with its sophistication and charm – it has hosted the wealthy and famous, including Sir Winston Churchill. We passed the Princess Theatre with its Art Deco interior, and after visiting Federation Square, a famous meeting place and cultural center, we crossed the Yarra River and saw the grand panorama of the modern Melbourne skyline (see photo above).
Our guide was aged twenty-five and studying electrical engineering. He asked where we were from and we answered ‘Bath, England’. He had never heard of Bath and commented that it was a strange name for a city – we went on to explain that it was originally a Roman City and still has the original Roman Baths – at this, he yawned and said ‘Oh, I see’.
Melbourne is a very young city and the wide streets were full of people in their twenties and thirties. For sure, we were the oldest people walking the streets. After the tour, we walked back to our hotel and were pleased to put our feet up for a while – it was tiring walking through the city for three hours in temperatures of 34 degrees C. In the evening, we had dinner in one of the trendy alleys off Flinders Lane – the area was exploding with life, with restaurants and bars full to capacity on Friday night.
All in all, we had a very pleasant first impression of downtown, Melbourne.
[We’ll share our best photos in a separate blog]