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Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

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Berkeley, California
Destination Expert
for Berkeley
posts: 5,599
reviews: 60
Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

At long last, I am posting the trip report from my 2-week Australian vacation earlier this year. I started in Sydney and continued on to Canberra, Melbourne, Cairns, and Brisbane. Below is the Melbourne section of my trip. Note that any unfamiliar references probably refer to the San Francisco Bay Area, which is where I live. Enjoy!

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Saturday, May 2

Friend B and Husband B saw me off at the airport far too early this morning, and after a pleasant flight on Virgin Blue departing at 6:30, I arrived at the hotel in Melbourne by 8:45. After dropping a bag off, I ventured down a block for a muffin and caramelatte at Gloria Jean’s primarily because I was able to use the free wireless to catch up on things. I returned to the hotel to drop off my laptop and ventured out to explore the CBD. I came across the visitor centre in Federation Square and picked up some handy walking tracks. I followed the Arcades and Lanes and Cosmopolitan walks to see much of the central city. Along the way, I had lunch on Degraves Street at Aix Cafe Creperie Salon and dessert at Little Cupcakes, both recommended by Friend B, and checked into the hotel.

After a short break and the completion of the walks, I caught the City Circle Tram clockwise to see the city by rail. The tram was crowded and the operator didn’t even stay on route, but we eventually made it back to Federation Square. From there, I walked through the square, across the Yarra River, and back across another river. I stopped at Lord of the Fries for an evening snack (yum!) and walked up Swanston Street to Central Station and RMIT University. I was impressed by the number of pedestrians, including attractive female ones, around there.

Not particularly motivated by any of the dining options I could find, I wandered back to Southbank only to find many places already closed. I worked my way back to La Trobe Street, stopping for a cheap slice of pizza along the way, and then decided to head back to the hotel. I didn’t find anything noteworthy on the way back, and the nearby IGA was quite disappointing. I walked to another IGA and managed to find an egg salad sandwich, chips, and milk for dinner, which I ate with the Tim Tams provided to me by Husband B and Friend B.

Sunday, May 3

After a long night’s rest, which made up for the previous night, I ventured out rather late (after 11:00) for a quick bite to eat before heading off to St. Kilda. I ultimately found myself on the 55 tram to Queen Victoria Market, where I looked around for a couple minutes before stopping at Ripe @ the Market for a scone with jam and cream (delicious) and chai latte (underwhelming).

I set out on the 3a tram to St. Kilda around 12:30 and rode to Acland Street. I walked down then back up Acland Street, through Luna Park (not as impressive as Sydney’s), and along a small pier, the beach, and the St. Kilda Pier. Black swans were out in full force in the St. Kilda Pier area and proved a good source of entertainment and photos for myself and many more.

Once at Fitzroy Street, I ate a late lunch at Veg Out Time consisting of potato and pea korma, green curry vegetables, and brown rice with a Coca Cola Zero. Delicious food imbibed, I caught the 96 tram a little after 3:00 and rode to Clarendon Street, where I switched to the 112 tram to return to the beach. The walk along the beach took maybe 10 minutes and I was back on another tram, this time the 1. I alighted at Ferrars Street only to find the 96 doesn’t actually stop there, so I had to walk three blocks along Ferrars Street to reach the 96’s South Melbourne Station. The 96 picked me up at 5:00 and deposited me back at the hotel.

After a short break, I was back outside and on board the 112 tram a little after 6:00. I decided to experience a Melbourne bus and opted to detrain at Queen Street to catch the 6:22 Route 307. I alighted on Victoria Parade and walked along Brunswick Street to explore Fitzroy with the hope that, unlike other parts of town, the neighborhood didn’t shut down early. Many of the shops had already closed, but several restaurants and bars were open and doing good business.

I opted for Vegie Bar after a bit of reading-menu-in-window research and ended up seated at an anything-but-communal communal table. I ordered and ate a “Mexican burrito” made with kidney beans, veggies, rice, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and a sweet sauce. It tasted surprisingly good, which made the less-than-stellar customer service less of an issue. I bailed (after paying) and walked along part of Brunswick Street again before heading a few blocks east to walk along Smith Street.

The 86 tram arrived just as I reached Smith Street, so I took it a couple blocks north so I could reduce my need to walk to just one direction. Smith Street was much quieter and didn’t have too many restaurants or bars until further south. Nothing caught my fancy, so I took an arriving 86 tram back to Brunswick Street to check out a bustling bar I saw prior to dinner.

I arrived at the Black Cat around 8:30 and ordered a cider, which came in a bottle and was from some Australian company I didn’t recognize. I sipped the cider for the next hour both inside and out, settling toward the front window for much of the time because large cliques had most of the rest of the place occupied. I guess bars in Australia aren’t any better than those in the U.S.

I returned to the hotel on the 112 tram at 9:42, whereupon I witnessed a ticket inspector hassle an American because she could not provide them with an adequate level of address information for their report (citation?). I believe they were threatening to call the police by the time we all got off at the same stop, which seemed like overkill. I guess Australia doesn’t have quite the same crime issues to deal with as the U.S. I hung out in nearby Southern Cross Station later to catch up on the Internet then called it a night.

Monday, May 4

With a slightly earlier start than the day before, I walked over to the 86 tram stop and took it to the west end of La Trobe Street. I promptly switch to the City Circle tram and rode to Flinders Street to access the Webb Bridge, passing through the uninspired, sterile Docklands along the way. The Webb Bridge itself was not especially spectacular, and Yarra’s Edge on the other side was just as disappointing as Docklands. I returned to Flinders Street and caught the 48 tram to Degraves Street, where I finally had a light breakfast, consisting of a healthy muffin (acceptable) and organic hot chocolate (bad), at TOFWD (The Organic Food and Wine Deli) around 11:30.

From there, I set out to the Royal Botanic Gardens using the walking tour and Royal Botanic Gardens maps and my general navigational skills. The Royal Botanic Gardens was not as large or interesting as the botanical gardens in Sydney, but the premises were pleasant enough. I worked my way out and over to the Shrine of Remembrance for photos and an investigation of its inside and the upper deck. The setting reminded me of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Afterward, I caught the 72 tram and headed to the South Yarra and Prahran districts. I walked up Chapel Street, past higher end shops, and opted for Soda Rock for lunch. Soda Rock was an Australian version of a nostalgic American diner—a worn Johnny Rocket’s if you will. I ate a veggie burger with fries and a Dr. Pepper. I caught the 78 tram as soon as I finished and rode to the Richmond district, where I alighted and wandered around just a couple minutes before catching the 3:10 Connex train from the East Richmond Station to Flinders Street Station.

I walked through Birrarung Marr and across the William Barak Bridge to reach Fitzroy Gardens and the adjacent Treasury Gardens. Neither was noteworthy, so I didn’t spend a great deal of time in the area. I walked over to the Parliament House and caught the 112 tram to Swanston Street, where I transferred to the 6 tram to the University of Melbourne. The campus was not that interesting, so I quickly walked over to Lygon Street to see the Carlton district. The shops and restaurants here reminded me of those along Chapel Street. I made it to Carlton Gardens after a few minutes and was happily surprised to find the pleasant, understated urban garden setting I had expected at Fitzroy Gardens. Once through, I caught the 96 tram on Nicholson Street and traveled back to the hotel.

After a short break, I ventured out on the 112 tram back to Brunswick Street, where I stopped at My Beautiful Laundrette to do a load of laundry at 7:30. I hopped on the 112 tram back to the hotel, dropped of my clothes, and then caught the 112 tram yet again to get dinner on Lygon Street. I missed my stop at Swanston Street because the stop was named City Hall, so I opted to stay on board, get off at Victoria Parade, and walk through Carlton Gardens to reach Lygon Street.

I strolled along the street and decided on dinner at Café Noturrno, where I ate a pizza (better than the Darlinghurst variety), followed by a hazelnut gelato in a waffle cone at Al Monte Bar & Café. I returned back to the hotel on the 6 and 86 trams and called it a day.

Tuesday, May 5

I was up by 6 and out the door to catch the 6:15 Skybus for an uneventful trip to the airport. I checked in, dropped off my bag, and breezed through security only to find my plane close to an hour late. I ordered a smoothie with muesli for breakfast and eventually boarded my Jetstar flight around 8:15.

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Continued in the Cairns forum.

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 72
1. Re: Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

Hi

you seemed to have spent a huge amount of time travelling and eating!

was there any place you actually stopped in for more than 10 minutes and actually enjoyed/absorbed?

having been to california albeit 20 years ago and blown away by the smog/ pollution/traffic and incredibly bad/huge food we still appreciated being in another country and not comparing it constantly to "back home" and thought how lucky we were to be able to travel when soo many people never get the chance!

Berkeley, California
Destination Expert
for Berkeley
posts: 5,599
reviews: 60
2. Re: Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

What I really like about Melbourne is its organization. Unlike Sydney and Brisbane, it was very easy to get reasonably comprehensive maps of the tram/bus network, buy transport tickets, and get quality tourist information and brochures from a centralized location. Here at home, San Francisco has a long way to go before the same can be said!

I wouldn't say I spent a huge amount of time eating, but I definitely did my share of traveling around town! Alas, I like that sort of thing (see my other posts). Compared to my time in Sydney, though, I hardly traveled around Melbourne at all.

I spent a good amount of time in the CBD and St. Kilda. Definitely had a chance to soak them in! Overall, though, I'm sorry to say Melbourne probably isn't on my list for a return Australia trip. I'm sure others like Melbourne tons, so I your tourism industry is safe. ;)

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 272
reviews: 7
3. Re: Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

Not all cities are for everyone but I hope you enjoyed whatever you had a chance to see anyway. :)

I hope if you do return to Australia that you take a look outside of Melbourne and its metropolitan areas. Take a trip down the Great Ocean Road, visit the Yarra Valley Wineries (or any others), see the animals at Healesville Sanctuary, etc..

It's not as pretty as Sydney with it's harbour but I believe it still holds its own in other areas. Melbourne is famous for its arts/culture, food and sport. (Not to mention shopping which I love! ;-))

I hope you enjoyed the rest of your Australia visit and that you will be back for more at a later stage :)

Berkeley, California
Destination Expert
for Berkeley
posts: 5,599
reviews: 60
4. Re: Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

Thanks! I suspect I'll likely to Melbourne at some point in the future, but I'll definitely focus on getting out of town to see the Ocean Road, etc. I didn't have enough time to do such on my trip, so my opinions are based on the metropolitan areas of each stop and not the countryside offerings.

South Pole
posts: 15,408
reviews: 39
5. Re: Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

"The tram was crowded and the operator didn’t even stay on route"

huh?

what detours or shortcuts did he make?

Berkeley, California
Destination Expert
for Berkeley
posts: 5,599
reviews: 60
6. Re: Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

The operator decided to turn right and travel north on Spencer Street rather than stay on route and pass through the Docklands. He had trouble with the overhead wire at some point, and he didn't let anybody on or off along his detour either.

For a moment I felt like I was riding Muni Metro in San Francisco, which is the only other system I have ever used where train operators take such liberties with their job. I didn't have the proper information (train number, time, etc.) written down in order to notify Yarra Trams about the incident, and I'm not sure if anybody else did.

Melbourne
Destination Expert
for Melbourne
posts: 2,130
reviews: 24
7. Re: Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

what a shame you felt you had to compare everything in melbourne to sydney. i hope you managed to find something enjoyable during your time here...

Melboune
posts: 1,856
reviews: 114
8. Re: Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

I've heard stories about trams missing their turns and then following an alternative route with little regard to their passengers (in particular, not allowing them to get off while on the deviation). It seems most unsatisfactory. If it's any consolation, Yarra Trams have rather unexpectedly lost the contract to operate the trams after December. Here's hoping the new operator will improve customer relations (but I suspect only the staff at the very top will change).

-- G

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 72
9. Re: Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

we LOVED riding the cable cars in San Francisco

and didnt care where or which way they went- its the deviations twists and turns that make the journey INTERESTING and travelling to DIFFERENT countries

is what the EXPERIENCE is about!!!

Berkeley, California
Destination Expert
for Berkeley
posts: 5,599
reviews: 60
10. Re: Melbourne Trip Report (May 2009)

If I'm not mistaken, I only mentioned Sydney a couple times in this report--one good and one bad. It stands to reason, considering I had just come from there! But I suppose you can read anything into this, haha.

Going off route is definitely part of the adventure. But in this case my hotel was on Spencer Street, so I was already well acquainted with that street! Anyway, I made it over to Docklands the next day, so no big loss there. :)