Posted by Anura Samara, 9 September 2015
A long weekend in Melbourne to explore it’s sights, restaurants and museums.
With Juliane attending a conference in St Kilda, it was a good opportunity for me to spend some time exploring Melbourne. The best thing about my time there was the lack of any sense of needing to see or do anything in particular – I could just wander around as the inspiration took me.
As it turned out, on my last full day in the city my inspiration had to be mostly indoors due to the weather.
We stayed at the Pullman Hotel in Albert Park. While it looks like it’s in St Kilda, it’s not – just a little bit too far away to walk to the restaurants and bay. Albert Park is directly across the road, so once we navigated the traffic we walked around the small lake there – it’s an urban space that was well used by the locals.
We did eat out in St Kilda a couple of times. The first time we caught the tram into St Kilda we stepped off the tram in the pouring rain and walked straight in to the restaurant opposite the tram stop – Miss Fitzy’s – where we enjoyed a degustation
The second time we went into St Kilda we got off the tram on Carlisle Street and then walked for ages, eventually doubling back around to Acland Street where we ended up at the Vineyard. We once ate outside there many years ago – it’s funny how my memory for places seems to drag me back to the same place. This time, the meal was more basic and the venue was initially noisier.
I had a few days in Melbourne alone.
The public transport in Melbourne is fantastic. It’s easy to use, with the Myki cards able to be topped up at most tram stops, quick and a quiet ride. Even better is the free city loop which is a great way to traverse the central city area to save your legs, although it does tend to get crowded. Outside the central part of the city, there are so many tram routes that it feels like you’re never far away from a stop. This is what public transport should be like – frequent and close enough that it’s a real alternative to having a car (and yes, we did have the car with us but I only used it to drive to Pt Cook).
On my way into the city, I first stopped off at the Shrine of Remembrance. I can imagine that the Shrine would have been an imposing structure at the time it was built, with views across the Yarra to the city. Now it seems to be dwarfed by the structures around it although it still has great views from the top.
The Shrine is one of those peculiarly Australian things, like the Australian War Memorial – it’s part a memorial (almost religious in the descriptions and iconography) and part museum. But like the AWM, one of it’s greatest features is that it’s accessible – you can walk around it, inside it, underneath it and to the very top. The museum below ground level is larger than you expect, but having been to the World War One battlefields, the D-Day beaches and Gallipoli I sort of felt that I’d had enough of military history for a while.
I paid to see Masterpieces from the Hermitage at the National Gallery of Victoria, a sample of the artworks collected by Catherine the Great. The exhibition is well curated, with a wide range of styles and forms of art. The flow of the exhibition also explained how Catherine had come to the Russian throne, her life and her interest in art.
There was so much to see that I didn’t have time to explore the rest of the NGV.
I’ve never attended a rally in my life. It’s not because I don’t think there aren’t many causes worth a visible demonstration of public support, or because I haven’t known about them. I’m not really sure why I haven’t been – is it just my natural laziness?
But I saw the Light the Dark rallies pop up on Facebook so I thought it would be worth going alone to the one in Melbourne. The fact that I was already in the city anyway probably fixed my laziness or inertia.
The rally was held in the Treasury Gardens and there was already a crowd there as I arrived. Despite the lack of obvious organisation – just a temporary covered stage and people with candles for the crowd – it was well run and trouble-free. There were speeches – including from a former refugee and Father Bob at his rambling best – and that was about it. We could hear some yelling off in the distance somewhere, possibly a counter-protest but impossible to tell with the crowd. Despite some intermittent rain, everyone calmly listened to the speeches, voiced their support and then as quietly left again.
I ducked into the Melbourne Museum when the weather looked bad. Instead of paying to see their featured exhibition, I spent time in a small exhibition called WWI: Love and Sorrow. This exhibition focussed on the very personal stories of eight people. Unlike many war exhibitions which tell the story from the frontlines, this exhibition looks at the impact of the war away from the front. Sure, there are a couple of soldiers’ stories in here, but there are more stories from the people left behind. For example, stories about what it was like for families to farewell men, wait to hear news of them and to finally deal with the mental and physical wounds well after the war had ended. It also includes stories relating to two brothers who fought on the German side.
A great little exhibition – by the time I had finished it was closing time for the museum!
Melbourne has some great street art, the perfect opportunity for photography. It’s spread around a bit, but luckily their are plenty of online resources to help you find them.
By far and away the best is Hosier Lane. Every wall in the lane is covered with ever-changing graffiti. The vibrancy of the colours is almost overwhelming, and it pays to get up closer to the graffiti to really look at it – otherwise, everything seems to blend into walls of colour. Hoosier Lane is busy with plenty of other tourists stopping for a look, so finding a quieter period for some shots means hanging around for a break in the foot traffic.
There are too many good places to eat out in Melbourne.
My favourite was The Elephant and Wheelbarrow. Once you step inside, it’s like entering a real English pub from the décor, cosy tables, real English pub food (Ploughman’s lunch for me) and real English pub ales on tab. This is what I miss about living in Geneva!
The other place I enjoyed was eating Vietnamese street food in one of the small alleys. There was just enough room to sit on a small stool at a table under the awning and keep out of the rain. The food was basic but fresh and tasty, and if I had more time there would have been many more to choose from.
I also ate out one night at The World on Southbank. The eateries along here all seem to be the same – sure, they all aim for a different style but there’s not that much to differentiate them with large spaces, music, noisy groups and similar menus. But I did discover the very fine Stone & Wood pacific ale.
Melbourne is pretty stunning by night. As the central area down by the river is compact it’s easy to walk around with the tripod and camera to attempt different night shots. One of the benefits of the overcast conditions was fantastic clouds to reflect the city lights, and the river is so central to the city that it’s pretty easy to get shots with the lights reflected on the water.
Together with one of the other ‘handbags’ (my term for the male partners of women at the conferences), I set off to see the RAAF Museum at Point Cook. Despite having been to Avalon Airport many times, I’d never managed to actually go that little bit further to Point Cook.
Interestingly, RAAF Point Cook is still an operating air force base – the longest continuing operational base in the world – so it means getting a pass at the front gate.
The main part of the museum has a series of display taking you from the earliest days of the Australian Flying Corp up to the present, through both wars and peacetime operations. The displays have just the right balance between things to read and things to look at (uniforms, photos, models etc).
And then it’s on to the hangars that are crammed with aircraft. It’s always a pleasure to be able to walk around and underneath planes, rather than look at them from a viewing platform. There’s also the restoration hangar to visit where you can see planes in pieces (including a Mosquito) and watch the restoration work in action.
Of course, the real point of the day was to see the flying display. Today’s display was a Tiger Moth, flown by a former fighter pilot and current airline pilot (lucky guy!). A small crowd gathered at the appointed time and we were given a briefing about the handling characteristics of the plane both on the ground and in the air and about the start up sequence. With some modern technology, the pilot could talk to us from the air which meant we always knew what was coming up next – but being such a small and agile aircraft it was never really out of site. After the short display, the pilot then stayed on to answer questions.