When the Europeans arrived in Australia, a land so far from their own, they brought pieces of their own country and replanted them here— perhaps to ease their life in a fairly harsh landscape. Especially since many of them came from the gentle English countryside with all its lacy comforts, and were flung into the deep end of the Southern Hemisphere. Australia was a wild land, teeming with snakes, crocodiles and an unforgiving sun that shone long and hard. So, it must come as no surprise that the European settlers sometimes strung along things that would make them feel at home—mostly their favourite tree saplings, horses and timber-made ‘kit houses.’
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Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
Neighbouring the Shrine of Rememberance are the Royal Botanical Gardens. Founded in 18th century, these green beds of sprawling lawns are pure delight for your mind and soul. Take a stroll in these amazingly curated peaceful gardens or just enjoy a leisurely picnic with friends/family along tranquil lake sides. These magnificent gardens offer a relaxing therapy. It is like a magical wonderland which doesn't disappoint you at all and has something to offer to everyone.
Right next door to the Hilton, where I was staying was one of Melbourne’s top sites and the temple for sports-mad Melbournians: the Melbourne Cricket Ground (also known as the MCG or just the “G”). Seating almost 100,000 fans, the G was the site of the first Australian Rules football game in 1858 and the first Test cricket match between Australia and England in 1877. It’s massive and I can only imagine what the atmosphere is like around here on a match day. From the G, I wound my way over to the Yarra River and walked along the water all the way to the Docklands area and Victoria Harbor. Along the way I passed several of Melbourne’s beautiful bridges. The most interesting of which was the Sandridge Bridge. From there, I cut over to the modern steel and glass wonderland that is Federation Square. This is Melbourne’s central meeting place and on a beautiful summer day like today it was overflowing with people. The square is home to the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI) and is the site for regular cultural events and sports telecasts.
Queen Victoria Market
Greeted by glorious fruit, handicraft and busking street opera singers (What a dream) belting out classics like Phantom of the Opera pieces was reinvigorating, especially since we were tired out from the flight there. With the large variety of delicacies and handicraft, Queen Victoria market reminded me of London's Borough market, except that the latter has more upmarket gourmet cuisine. If you want to know, the Market stalls are open everyday, other than Mondays and Wednesdays :) (During the summer months, a night market filled with live entertainment, bars and dining and such can be found on Wednesday evenings) We made a lunch pit stop for cheesy tortellini and smoked chicken sandwiches. Of all choices, my sister had to settle for prata...Asian cuisine is slightly more expensive there so I suggest you settle for local food if you ever visit.
We travelled down to Federation square the very next morning. Even though the temperatures reported comfortable levels of about 12 degrees, it was awfully cold in the morning (think icy cold gush) so we marched out in our winter overalls. The mist that shrouded the town that morning was hauntingly beautiful, as if the scene came out from a film set. While it was slightly tormenting to sacrifice my gloves for these shots, they were worth it. Federation Square has been international recognized for its award-winning architectural design since 2002, serving as a cultural and entertainment precinct which lies in the heart of Melbourne, there are an array of eateries and shops along the parameters for both locals and tourist alike. We also managed to bag some souvenirs in the gift shops around the area (not exactly the cheapest, but uniquely Aussie for sure) It's a very tourist friendly area, and if you ever lose your way or require any assistance or map, the Melbourne Visitor center is located at the corner Swanston and Flinders streets, opposite Flinders Street Station. I left my pair of gloves there and had to walk all the way back, thank goodness it was kept safe! You can also checkout ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) as they have occasional film festivals and exhibitions that may be worth the buck. They recently featured Woody Allen and Jazz on Film! While we were sitting on the amphitheater-shaped steps, we were entertained by a stand-up comedian who was busking around the area with the help of his crew. A crowd naturally formed, and I really love the light-heartedness of busking in the vicinity - the zest for which cannot be compared to the busking scene in Singapore so it was indeed a refreshing change of culture! We had a complimentary APT (Australia Pacific Touring) day tour to catch (to familiarize ourselves with the outskirts of the city), so we headed down to the other end of Federation square - most of Melbourne's tours depart daily from R
Eureka Skydeck 88
On the last day, we decided to head up the Eureka tower aka Skydeck88, a 297.3 metre skyscraper in the Southbank precinct of Melbourne. It's the 10th tallest residential building in the world, and the highest public vantage point in a building in the Southern hemipshere. The view wasn't fantastic, but it did give us a glimpse of the landmarks we have been visiting in the past week.....the outside portion of the viewing platform was freezing though.
After stepping out of the church, I roamed around the streets and gathered some information from the visitor's centre about the tourist attractions around the city. I walked down a little further and came across the Southbank bridge over Yarra river which is a picturesque sight. A lot of cafes surround the river and one can also spend some quality time on a cruise ride. Melbourne Arts centre is also located across the river which can be a soulful delight for art patrons. The best feel for me was to take a walk over the bridge sipping some hot latte. There I witnessed hundreds of locks with written messages hanging on the railings of the bridge. I was stunned and asked a few people around the story behind it. And when I got to know the answer, I just could not stop smiling. Those were love padlocks with scribbled initials and messages which signified the everlasting love of many Romeos and Juliets.
I always have a 'must watch' list with me whenever I visit any new destination. No hard and fast rules but I try to go with the flow and explore as much as possible. In short, few tourist attractions are planned before hand and few you just stumble upon getting mesmerized with a new discovery and a newly developed ecstatic wisdom. I stumbled upon the Hosier lane across the Federation square while walking out of a store and this quirky gleeful lane grabbed my attention within few seconds. One can spot professional/amateur photographers, tourists, kids and several art lovers admiring, photographing and posing with the artwork. This graffiti lane shouts out loud about its existence through its colorful contemporary social artistic commentary. Its an imaginative magical galore. The art keeps changing every time you take a visit to this street. It was then I got to know that why street art of Melbourne is internationally recognized. Let me not say anymore, let my photographs do the talking.It almost became a daily routine for me to get to Flinder's street and hop on to the burgandy and gold coloured City circle tram.This is a free service tram and it is an excellent way to explore the CBD area. This historical rail carriage takes you around the scenic circles between Latrobe street and Docklands and there is continuous commentary that goes on in the tram which describes the highlight locations to the tourists. This free bee becomes one of your favorite companions in Melbourne. Hop on, hop off, explore a location, do some shopping, get in again, meet travelers from across the world, share your experiences with them, make new friends or simply enjoy a round trip.In a span of few days,I delved into the depth of many attractions while circling around the City Circle like Parliamet house of Victoria, another marvellous piece of architecture- St. Patrick's Cathedral, State Library of Victoria, the eerie old Melbourne Gaol, docklands for a shopping spree, the giant Ferris wheel called Melbourne Observation Star or Melbourne eye which provides a spectacular bird's eye perspective of the city and the lush green stress buster gardens of Fitzroy and the serene Treasury Park.
Flinders Street Railway Station
Flinder's street station is a marvelous piece of architecture located in the heart of the city. It has an old world charm about it. The trains from Flinder crisscrosses the entire Melbourne. Get to this station from wherever you are staying and then roam around the trams which are spaciously and beautifully lined across the City Centre. If you want to get arrested under the vibrant aura of this place, just take a ride on the horse carts lined across the lane for an enthralling experience.
To get away from the hustle bustle of the city, to relax a bit and to munch on my veg roll peacefully, I decided to walk through Treasury park and then walked into the Fitzroy gardens across the road. It felt like a perfectly pleasant place to laze around and get soaked in the splendid aura of these scenic quaint green beds. One must also visit the colourful conservatory for amazing clicks. I also managed to get few stunning selfies.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------During my daily excursions over the week, I got to know about the fireworks that were being organised every Friday night at Docklands in winters. Trust me, I was eagerly waiting for Friday evening to arrive.With oodles of thrill and energy, I was at the Docklands by 6 in the evening. I was zealously waiting for it to start and when it did, my eyes got glued to the sky and I felt hypnotised. Diwali has always been my favorite festival and I relished that 1 hour Diwali in Melbourne with all the happy people around. Let me give you a little glimpse of what am I talking about.
The Night Market
Loaded fully with shopping bags, I had baggage full of energy to do some more local shopping and I decided to visit Queen Victoria night market to get the essence of local culture. That place was an amalgamation of endless fun, varieties of local handicrafts and assortment of divine flavours for the tastebuds. I picked up a lot of local stuff like bracelets, hand woven knitwears, paintings, photographs, postcards etc. as souvenirs for friends and family back home. I always prefer taking back with me unique tokens of remembrance with a special feel tag attached to it which are always better found at places like these than souvenir shops.
Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium
After you leave Melbourne Cricket ground, make your way in the state of Victoria to find yourself at The Melbourne Sea Aquarium. The bedazzling place has been featured in numerous movies and you need to feel the place yourself to understand why. During your time inside the tunnel that guides your way through the real aquatic habitat of Australia, you will actually realize the beauty and diversity of Australia.
CERES Community Environment Park
I took the 96 tram for a morning’s stroll around the CERES Environmental Park. This is something you won't do if you are not from Melbourne. It is too local to be featured on some quick city guides. i moved along the park's markets, workshops. Even discovered a plant nursery and an outdoor cafe. It is such an amazing atmosphere. If you plan to go to Melbourne, this should feature among your must halts.
Shrine of Remembrance
The next on our list for the day was the Shrine of Remembrance. It is considered to be Melbourne's most iconic landmark where the service and sacrifice of Australian men and women in war has been honored over the years. The Shrine is an elevated structure overlooking hectares of beautiful parkland.The Eternal Flame on the Second World War Forecourt symbolizes eternal life for those who have served.
When in the city one may catch a film or see a band perform but being in the capital of the most sports mad place on earth, you have to go to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Tell a local you are heading to 'The G' and they will scribble directions for you with a proud wide smile. Whichever season you decide to visit this city you can always catch a game here. Summers are for cricket while winters for Australian football. The supporters are so passionate about their players, umpires and opponents that is hard to not be a part of the screaming-cheering-crazy-loud crowd! The energy here is intense and so infectious!
Dandenong Ranges National Park
The unpredictable Melbourne weather always welcomes you with an all together unidentified thrill. The idea was to spend some time at the Dandenong Ranges National Park and feed few cockatoos but the uncertain rainfall pricked my bubbles of imagination and I had to return by clicking just few pictures of the exquisite place and some shopping from the souvenir shop.Moreover, sudden rainfall made it intolerable to stand the biting cold. We decided to take shelter at some cosy snack bar or tea shop.'Pie in the Sky' served as a delectably tempting rescue joint for us. It took us a while to get the table but it was definitely worth the wait. Had few delicious snacks and pies. And to suffice my sweet tooth, I tried on some scorns, kind of sugary buns with jam and cream. And the way it melted in my mouth. It was just so yummy.
Next day, my friends decided to take me over to this Turkish restaurant in the city called 'Achelya' for dinner. Everyone warned me about the cold and asked me to add on layers to my attire. Turning a deaf ear to everyone, I stepped out in my Indian avatar in that biting cold but it was such a warm feeling to experience what came to me as a complete surprise. This restaurant served some belly dancing along with its Turkish cuisine. I was very ecstatic to shake my belly with the belly dancers who were spreading their magic around our tables. And let me also mention, the starters, the hookah, the turkish drink (yeni raki), the food, everything was delicious.
Gellibrand Hill Summit
The park has several marked trails for horse riding, cycling, and hiking. I chose the trek to Gellibrand Hill, which was particularly rewarding as I was greeted by a dramatic view of the Melbourne skyline. I perched myself on the granite boulders and indulged in a bit of plane spotting, while the sun dipped behind the Great Dividing Range in the distance. I came to Australia dreaming of all the clichés— kangaroos, native birds, aboriginal culture, and its quintessential colonial heritage. I would have never guessed that I’d experience them all in a single day out in Melbourne—much before I’d even begun to nurse my jet lag.