I flew from Sydney into Melbourne, Avalon – which is about an hour outside of Melbourne. I didn’t know that. In any event, I took the SkyBus for $23 AUD and made my way into the city. Melbourne has an impressive skyline. That was the first thing that struck me.
The next thing that struck me was the amount of graffiti – and not just the amount, but the size of the tags. Guys here are tagging their tag with 20 foot tall letters. The tags were everywhere on the drive in but as I got closer to the center, it started to feel much more like the wealthy urban capital that it is.
The next thing that struck me was that it was significantly cooler than Sydney – and by cooler, I mean that I was cold. I’m from Hawaii which can sometimes feel too hot – Sydney in February felt perfect to me, but Melbourne feels a bit chilly.
There was free wifi on the Skybus, so I found the best deal available on Priceline for that night – this is my trip hotel splurge night – Sheraton Melbourne. In hindsight, I think I could have done better with something a little more boutique-ish but the big soft bed, duvet, feather pillows and odd clear glass wall between the bed and bathtub feel pretty good. The drunk guys yelling in the alley outside – not so much but eventually they wandered to another alleyway.
I holed up in the room for a few hours, recharged my phone and laptop – connected with my wife and daughter back in Hawaii and did a little bit of reading up on where I am, where I’m going, and what I should consider doing – not much mind you, but a bit. I’d picked up a tourist guide at the airport.
Aussie tourist guides are much better than most places – in particular Hawaii’s tourist guides and magazines are really heavy on ads and throw in some information to keep you looking. The Aussie guides I picked up on Sydney and Melbourne didn’t feel like ad books at all. The ads were more subtle and the information was heavy.
I resisted the temptations of the mini-bar, knowing that anything from there was at least double the price of the same items at the 7-11 down the road. I’d arranged to meet up with my dear friend Gaye. She had given me the opportunity to work at and manage her beautiful hotel in Istanbul, back in 2011. Gaye is a Melbourne native but loved Turkey and stayed there for as long as she could after the chaos of the Syrian civil war and the subsequent destruction of the Turkish tourist economy. I was pleased as punch to be able to meet up with her. We set a time and since I had a few hours, I decided to wander around the neighborhood, maybe pick up a cheap sweater, and see what I could see.
Melbourne has some beautiful old architecture – both religious and civic. Very nice green spaces and my quest for a shop to buy a cheap sweater led me to exactly where I wouldn’t find what I was looking for – the Rodeo Drive of Melbourne – nothing but Fendi, Gucci, Feragamo – I finally found a cheap clothing shop and was debating a red cardigan that said Los Bandileros on the back of it, when Gaye called and saved me – she had turned up a bit early. We agreed to meet at the Victoria Hotel on Little Collins Street that was right between our locations – I got there first and while I was standing there, I noticed that right across the street was a tiki-bar.
Decked out in true Tiki style, LuWow offers an amazing adventure through the islands of the Pacific. You can sit back in individual huts and take in the exotic atmosphere.
62-70 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 5447
It turns out there are quite a few tiki-bars in Melbourne!
There has never been a Hawaii that was like tiki-bar culture, but if I’m honest, it was probably tiki-bar culture that got me to Hawaii in the first place. One of my favorite bars in the world is the last surviving tiki-bar in Hawaii, La Mariana – so, there was no way I was going to miss this. Gaye, it turned out, has never been to Hawaii, had never been in a tiki-bar, and had never had a mai-tai – she hadn’t even known this bar existed! It was the universe speaking – I’d wanted to bring her something from Hawaii but due to my light baggage restriction – hadn’t, so instead I was able to introduce her to tiki-bar culture, the mai-tai, and all that is connected. LuWow is an excellent tiki-bar.
After the mai-tai, Gaye introduced me to just a wonderful taste of what Melbourne has to offer. We caught the free tram down to the river walk, shared some seafood and sliders in one of the waterside restaurants, and then walked up the river to see some of the major sporting areas. Watching the river boats slowly cruising up and down the river, I was reminded of the Seine.
Gaye showed me where she had watched the Beatles play on a balcony at Melbourne City Hall back in the early 60s – and oddly, at that moment, a street performer began a very good rendition of ‘Come Together’.
Melbourne is a beautiful city. We didn’t make it a late night but the night time culture here truly shines. Walking back to my hotel, I passed a small dive bar that had amazing jazz coming out of it – I was tempted, but three drinks in an evening was enough -which never would have been the case a decade ago.
Back to my room where I was asleep in my big kingsize bed before 10pm. As usual, I woke up around 5 am, made some coffee and knowing that this would be my last opportunity for who knows how long – I drew a big hot bath and soaked for an hour before donning my fancy Sheraton robe and taking a bit of time to write this. What a way to start the day!