Melbourne, Australia – Ned Kelly’s Armor and 15,000 Steps

Melbourne, AustraliaI’m loving these many miles of walking early each morning. The neighborhood we live in, in Hawaii isn’t a great walking neighborhood. It’s surrounded by freeways and military bases as well as military housing so there isn’t anything in the way of interesting people watching, architecture, or even natural beauty around us.

Melbourne, on the other hand, this city is made for walking. I walked along the river and through the narrow alleyways and shop corridors of Little Collins – I found a closet that had been turned into a cafe and an alley that was turned into a micro-gallery.

I walked through Chinatown and through several shopping malls that ran between streets. I walked through the gardens, around the Melbourne Museum and along the streets with great delight. Melbourne has a busy cafe culture and I’m amazed that every other city doesn’t. Why is this so hard? In America we are forced to drink burnt Starbucks in paper cups and no one has a chance to sit down – but the same space we use for two parking stalls in the USA is used for two cafes and seating for fifty.

I went into the beautiful Victoria Library and saw the bullet ridden armor of Ned Kelly.

Ned Kelly (December 1854 – 11 November 1880) was an Australian bushranger, outlaw, gang leader and convicted police murderer. One of the last bushrangers, and by far the most famous, he is best known for wearing a suit of bulletproof armour during his final shootout with the police.

I was led to it by a beautiful Sri Lankan librarian who greeted me when I walked in, asked what I was there for, and then offered to walk me to it. Australia is far more multi-cultural than the USA, both Melbourne and Sydney are even more multi-cultural than Hawaii or San Francisco. I know there are problems here, just as there are in every country – but I freely admit that Australians do life better than Americans do. If we lived in a world where you could simply pack up and go where you want regardless of visas, working permits, or nationality – I feel fairly certain that I would pack my family up and bring us here. Alas, nation states don’t allow humans to move so freely, it’s a wonder they don’t make birds get passports.

Ned Kelly's ArmorI took the free trolley tour around the city – it was crowded with tourists, most of whom seemed to have come off of cruise ships – in any event, they were remarkably like the tourists we have in Hawaii who come off of cruise ships. Several of them complained about the crowd on the bus – I reminded them it was free with a laugh and said “You really do get what you pay for”. One older woman turned to me and said “Have you been to the jail here?” I was a bit taken aback – she saw the surprise on my face and clarified ‘The Old Melbourne Gaol’ – I laughed and admitted that I had not been there. I knew I looked a bit rough in my black t-shirt and two days of beard growth, but I hadn’t expected that.

My friend Gaye let me know that she was driving out towards Avalon Airport (which is about an hour outside of Melbourne) and offered me a ride with she and her friend Pete. This was a way better option than catching the Skybus again and having to ride it for an hour and a half. I’m one of those people who likes to be three hours early though.

I took the free tram down to South Melbourne where Gaye suggested I grab some quick Turkish food from the market there. Again, Australians do things better than we do in the states. The market wasn’t dirty old food trucks, it was great fresh food. Gaye suggested we grab a pint at the pub before we left. I liked the idea, but it made me nervous because I’m one of those people that likes to be very early for flights.

Melbourne, AustraliaWhen Pete mentioned there was some traffic – I suggested we skip getting the beer Gaye had suggested – which, in hindsight was a mistake – but to be fair, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it because I would have been sitting there thinking that I was going to be late – so skipping it was the right move after all.

The traffic was light and so I find myself here at Avalon with nearly three hours before my flight. The check in took about a minute and though there is an earlier flight, the agent told me it would be $50 to change my fare to the earlier flight – frankly I can use the time here to use the internet and catch up on my planning…

Also, my bag was definitely weighed this time so I’m glad I kept it under 7 kilos. The first internal flight where they didn’t weigh the bag may have just been an anomoly.

 

Melbourne, Australia – First Impressions and a Tiki-Bar!

Melbourne, AustraliaI 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.Melbourne, Australia

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.

MelbourneI 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 Lu Wowstreet was a tiki-bar.

LuWow
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
www.theluwow.com

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!

%d bloggers like this: