An August 2001 trip
to Melbourne by reef2020
Quote: Laid back, yet still cosmopolitan, Melbourne is a great place to begin an adventure to the world's smallest continent. Lacking a lot of touristy options, Melbourne affords an opportunity to blend in and become one of the locals.
One of our finest meals in Australia was aboard the Colonial Tram Car Restaurant, a restored tram that rolls all over town for two hours while you enjoy a gourmet meal.
In one case, we weren't quite sure if we were on the right tram or not, so we asked a young woman with pink hair. She confirmed that we were on the right tram. Several stops later, an older woman got up to get off, but stopped to tell us that our stop was the fourth one after this. When our stop finally did come up, another woman all the way at the back of the tram yelled out "this is where you want to get off!" It seemed the entire tram was looking out for us, and I knew that I was really going to like this country!
Hotel | "Hilton on the Park"
The cost of the room ($260 AUD, or about $130 USD) was higher than we usually spend, but the "buy one night, get one night free" coupon that came in our American Airlines Frequent Flyer ticket packet gave us both nights for $130, and the added comfort and convenience of a well-trained and accommodating staff made it an even greater value. The concierge helped us with dinner and sightseeing suggestions, and made reservations on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant (see separate journal entry) for us.
If at all possible, I'd suggest not having a car while staying at the hotel, as the parking was a bit pricey. Again, the hotel is convenient to public transportation, and walking is a great way to reduce jetlag!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 28, 2002
Hilton On The Park Melbourne
192 Wellington Parade
Melbourne, Australia 3002
Restaurant | "The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 16, 2002
Colonial Tramcar Restaurants
Board at stop 125, Normanby Road
Melbourne, Australia 3205
+61 (0)3 9696 4000
What struck me most was the extreme sensory nature of the place: a riot of colors from fruits and vegetables, the sweet aromas of flowers mixed with pungent garlic and cheeses, the textures of meats arrayed in cases like artwork, and the bustle of shoppers combined with the frantic callings of vendors trying to sell off their goods before closing time. We bought fresh-baked bread, a chunk of herbed cheese and a container of fresh-stuffed olives. This was our lunch for the next two days. Free tastings were plentiful, too.
I don't like to cook, and in fact, I am a very poor cook. Seldom has a place motivated me to WANT to cook the way Prahran Market did.
So do yourself a favor when next you are in Melbourne: visit the Prahran Market. For once, the guide book got it right.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 15, 2002
163 Commercial Road
Melbourne, Australia 3141
+61 (0)3 9522 3301
Attraction | "Melbourne's Gardens"
Fitzroy Gardens is home to Captain Cook's Cottage, brought here piece by piece from England to honor the man who "discovered" this part of the world. Guided tours are available for a fee; ring (03)9419 4677 for details.
Our early-spring visit meant that daffodils and tulips were just beginning to poke out of the ground. Inside the Conservatory, the shades of purples and blues were amazing. Plenty of benches afford the opportunity to just sit and relax as you listen to the gentle sound of water flowing under the tiny bridge. Though we didn't stop by to look, Fitzroy is also supposed to be a good place to watch native possums in the evening. Melburnians encourage feeding the animals, but feeding wildlife anywhere I think just makes problems for the animals and the people.
Nearby Treasury Gardens offered us an interesting surprise. Seeing a memorial of some sort over in the distance, we walked over to see what great Australian person or event was being honored. Who was it? None other than John Fitzgerald Kennedy! It seems the Aussies, too, hold him in high regard, not only for his service to the world as President, but also for his role in Australia during World War II.
Carlton Gardens, Flagstaff Gardens and even private gardens at homes and churches visible through fences and hedges were all equally beautiful. I especially loved the way the Italian cypress trees mirrored the spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral on the church grounds.
Perhaps the nicest thing about these gardens is that they can be the destination, or just a part of the journey as you walk from place to place around the city.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 17, 2002
Royal Botanic Gardens & National Herbarium
South Bank of the Yarra River
Melbourne, Victoria 3141
+61 (0)3 9252 2300
Guidebooks say St. Kilda is Melbourne's Playground, and even on a gray and drizzly early spring day, there were lots of Melburnians out trying to put winter behind them. The spring flowers hadn't pushed up yet, but colorful pink and purple winter cabbage added color to flower beds, while brilliantly colored lorikeets worked on their nests in the neighborhood's many date palms.
We went in search of work by local artisans at the weekly craft market on the esplanade. Lots of beautiful work at great prices, especially considering the exchange rate to the US dollar. I found a great selection of Australian animals made from hand-dug local clay. I had admired this same artisan's work at a gallery near the Queen Victoria Market earlier in the day at twice the price. Getting to meet the artist and hear about her techniques made the treasures even more valuable to me. We also found a selection of hand-sewn wool toys shaped like wombats and koalas that were perfect gifts for the tiniest tots back home, and a beautiful lathe-turned peppermill made from the wood of a red gum tree made the ideal Australian addition to the mill collection.
Next, we went off to find lunch and, seeing the cafes so packed with people, we decided to get some take-away fish and chips and sit down near the water. St. Kilda Beach is lapped by the waves of Port Phillip Bay, and an unusual-looking lighthouse made for a nice backdrop to our quiet lunch.
Most people are familiar with the amusement park at Coney Island, New York, but did you know that the same folks also built a couple of parks in Australia too? Luna Park in St. Kilda was constructed in 1912, and was completely renovated and restored in 1999. Though it was closed for the season during our visit, the gaping clown mouth that forms the entrance to the park made for some great photos, and we enjoyed learning about the Coney Island and Sydney Luna Parks, too.
I wish we had had more than a couple of hours to spend in this area, as the architecture on neighborhood streets looked very appealing, as did some of the many restaurants and shops. Next time!
Wilton Manors, Florida