Wednesday, 17 December 2008


Melbourne is one of those cities whose centre is so hard-edged, commercial-ised and tourist-ridden that your first reaction is totally negative and you think "What the hell did I come here for?"

Especially when it's pouring with rain - in Australia.

Then after a while you realise there's another city, a less visible city, that's actually full of unexpected delights and insights, and you set about discovering it through friends and acquaintances, through intuition, and through the less thumbed pages of your Lonely Planet guide.

You discover little precincts just outside the city centre that have a wonderful atmosphere to them - spacious, laid-back, slightly bohemian, full of interesting shops and people.

You discover the museums and galleries full of astonishing paintings, sculpture, historical relics and human stories. All the extraordinary individuals who've contributed to the life of the city. A wealth of aboriginal traditions and beliefs and artifacts.

You casually jump on and off the hundreds of trams that make up the biggest tram network in the world. You gawp at all the exotic plants in one of the world's greatest botanical gardens. And if you're a local, you can pick up mouth-watering delicacies at the massive central market.

And the sun's come out and it's just warm enough to feel nicely relaxed. Yes, it's Australia after all and not glacial Northern Ireland.

And finally I realise that the brash, hard-nosed city centre isn't the real Melbourne at all, just the unsightly carbuncle you notice first, the repulsive blemish that distracts you from the less obvious charms. Yes, there's a lot more to this place than meets the eye.


  1. Oh it sounds so great - I've only ever heard good things about Melbourne. Glad you're having a good time. Enjoy!

  2. I could easily live in Melbourne if the weather was less inclement and I had family down there. You're right, the centre of the city is just shops and offices but there's loads to offer on the preriphery! To me it has more soul than Sydney! Helps too when you have friends to point out the hidden treasures.

  3. I couldn't live in Melbourne, too many Greeks (I AM ONLY JOKING!)
    It is beautiful, but it gets too darn cold I think.
    Nick, did you get my text message?
    I will try e-mail.

  4. Conor - Some parts of the city are quite hideous but others are wonderful.

    Baino - Yes, Jenny has friends here who are giving us a lot of recommendations and taking us on little drives!

    Gaye - Yes, got message. Will reply shortly.

  5. I really liked Melbourne but was only there for a w/e staying with locals who knew where to go and what to show me - have a blast before returning to the cold weather!

  6. Quicky - As I thought, to see the city at its best you need some hard-bitten locals to point you in the right direction.

  7. Glad to hear you discovering the real Melbourne, it always takes the locals to know the real beneath the superficial.

  8. www - It's still a bit disappointing though when a place seems to have absolutely no charisma, no magic, no soul, nothing more than a sense of everyday functionality.

  9. I've heard that said about Melbourne by our family that lives in Sydney. I also have a friend from Melbourne that swears it is the best place on Earth. I guess it takes all kinds. Enjoy your holiday!

  10. FG - I think it's often the case that the longer you live in a place, the more attached you get to it, warts and all. And you find yourself defending it against all comers, despite all the flaws.

  11. Just in case I forget to message, still on for 1pm outside the MCA! I'm crossing my fingins for sunshine! Yeay!

  12. Sounds fab Nick! Glad you found some reality :)

  13. Enjoy yourself; it sounds wonderful. And take lots of pictures so I can live vicariously through you.

  14. More than meets the eye. Always good to have an inside track. It all sounds fantastic.

  15. I never take pics myself, I prefer just to enjoy! But Jenny's taken loads so I'll try and post some later.

    Now in Sydney and it's as sensational as last time. It just puts Melbourne and Adelaide totally in the shade. Have done some great walks and of course met the amazing Baino!

    Will do a proper piece on Sydney when I've had a chance to digest everything fully. Thankfully the weather is not scorching hot but comfortably warmish.

  16. Have a great holiday and Merry Christmas.

  17. "Not scorching hot but comfortably warmish" - I love British descriptions of the weather, they are so wonderfully understated.

    Have a wonderful holiday, my friend and enjoy Christmas in Sydney. Blog world is poorer without your regular input. Hurry back.


  18. :)
    You guys rock!

  19. Hulla, no understatement, the weather really has been less hot than usual. Not yesterday though - we were at Manley and the sweat was dripping off us!

    Gaye - You too!