As keen walkers, we like to explore a new city on foot and Melbourne is ideal. It has a mix of wide, tree-lined boulevards and narrow alleyways, which are very trendy and crowded with colorful young people. We were slowed up a bit this trip, both having had heavy colds and coughs, picked up on the flight over.
Planning a trip to Tasmania, it was a natural gateway opportunity to visit and explore Melbourne, a first for both of us. We both know Australia quite well, with a number of visits, and Alf spent some time working in Australia whilst with Amex in his younger days. We are great admirers of both the country and the people. The last time we were here was in Sydney in 2008 when the financial crisis was breaking. But we have noticed changes. Importantly, Australia has become very expensive for most foreign visitors, for example eating out where the prices are high but the quality and service are poor.
Perhaps the first thing that you notice in Melbourne on the busy downtown streets is the age of the people – everybody seems to be in their twenties or possible thirties. It’s like telling the over-forties, ‘keep out and stick to the suburbs’. So approaching three score years and ten, we stood out, especially with a map in hand. We were constantly stopped and asked if we needed directions, where were we from etc. We were reminded that typically Australians are extremely polite and caring people; it was pleasant to hear the respect given by this generation of Australians.
So the city center is full of young people and it’s extremely cosmopolitan too. Noticeably, the Chinese in Melbourne seem quite integrated, unlike other cities with a large Chinese population. But venture out of the center into the suburbs or into Victoria and its remarkably different. Obesity is widespread, especially for older people and children. And like so many places around the World, junk food is popular here, big time!
Remembering wonderful fish restaurants in Sydney, Melbourne was a bit of an anticlimax for food. Also service is a problem in modern Australia – staff are scripted and follow their processes.
Constrained for time, on our last day, we took a twelve-hour, Greyline Tour to the Great Ocean Road. This was our only organized trip in the week – the quality was excellent. We were in a double-decker coach and we had the front-seat upstairs. The Great Ocean Road is supposed to be one of the world’s greatest drives. Some of the highlights, like the Twelve Apostles, Gibsons Steps and Loch Ard Gorge provide outstanding photo opportunities and that day seemed like a United Nations gathering with their cameras. If you’re in the area, the Great Ocean Road is strongly recommended but for us it didn’t quite match up to the hype. We’ll publish our photos as a separate blog.
So on balance, Melbourne is outstanding for history and architecture, a great place for entertainment and culture, but doesn’t quite match Sydney for quality offerings, but that is just our opinion based on our experiencs.
Next stop is Tasmania which promises a complete contrast.