A City of Gardens: Melbourne

The `Garden City’ is what they call Melbourne- and very appropriately too, for green is the dominant colour here. But gardens are not all there is to Melbourne; there’s more to it- beautiful old buildings; charming ethnic quarters; friendly people- and lots to see and do.

A City of Gardens: Melbourne

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by phileasfogg on September 3, 2002

The sights to see in and around Melbourne are many. The Shrine of Remembrance , Melbourne’s tribute to those who served in the First World War, is among the must-sees, as are the stunning Royal Botanic Gardens . Wander down some of Melbourne’s interesting streets: packed-with-sights St Kilda ; very oriental Chinatown ; distinctly Italian Lygon Street - and spend some time exploring the antique shops which crowd the Banana Alley Vaults .

And that isn’t all: go kangaroo-photographing at the Melbourne Zoo (and don’t miss out a walk through the Butterfly House here: it’s spectacular); spend some time shopping at Victoria Market , or get a ticket to an Aussie Rules football match- great fun to watch. And further afield: see the sun set over Melbourne from Dandenong , take a wildlife walk through the delightful Healesville Sanctuary , or check out the Dame Nelly Melba Museum in Lillydale.

Melbourne, as you’ll see, is definitely not a place you’ll find yourself running short of things to see and do!${QuickSuggestions} Melbourne’s such a perfectly lovely city that it’s very easy to like- but if there’s one thing you should watch out for, it’s the weather. Melbourne is notorious for the utter unpredictability of its weather (a cousin of mine, a long-time Melbourne resident, once explained with the help of an atlas, how winds blowing north all the way from Antarctica contribute to the city’s climate). Whether that’s strictly accurate or not, one thing is true: that Melbourne can be sunny in the morning and drippy half an hour later. Go armed with an umbrella or a mac- you never know when it’s going to start raining.

And yes, even if you aren’t very fond of walking, do spend at least some time roaming around Melbourne- this city merits it!${BestWay} Melbourne’s transport system covers buses, trains and trams, with the latter- some of them historic old 1930s’ trams- being by far and away my favourite way of getting around! The trains are definitely choice #1 when it comes to long distances- for instance, if you need to get to the city from the suburbs- but over shorter distances and within the city, they aren’t as convenient, as they cover less ground than trams or buses.

All of Melbourne’s metropolitan area is divided into 3 concentric zones, and when you buy a ticket, it’ll be issued for a particular zone(s) and for a specified time period, during which you can travel in any train, bus or tram within that zone. If you plan to be travelling a lot, a day-long ticket can be bought in the first bus or tram you get into- really helps save a lot of money and bother.

The other option is to walk or cycle- and that is a good way to see Melbourne: some of the city’s best sights are within easy walking distance of each other- like the Royal Botanic Gardens-the Shrine of Remembrance-Cook’s Cottage-Government House, or Victoria Market-Collins’ Street- Chinatown.

Shrine of Remembrance

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by phileasfogg on September 3, 2002

The Shrine’s one of Melbourne’s most recognisable monuments- an imposing granite structure atop a hillock, dedicated to the memory of the men and women of Victoria who served during the First World War. Built during the years of the depression- the 1920s and 30s- the Shrine was modelled on the ultimate mausoleum, the legendary tomb of Mausolus. Green lawns, a quiet garden and low pine trees surround the Shrine, and to one side is a water garden which commemorates the wartime conflicts in Asia.

To get to the Shrine, you walk up the broad paved pathway of Anzac Avenue ; at the end of it is a flight of broad stone steps. Climb up it, and you’ll enter the main hall, its walls decorated with beautifully carved stone friezes depicting scenes of battle. All around the periphery of the main hall are Ionic columns of black marble- very old marble at that, with fossils imbedded in places.

The focal point of the Shrine is the Stone of Remembrance - a polished slab in the centre of the hall on which are inscribed the words "Greater love hath no man". Above the Stone is a carefully-positioned aperture in the roof of the hall, through which a single ray of light shines, only on November 11, at 11am every year, to light up the word `love’ in the verse engraved below. November 11, for those who missed the significance, is the anniversary of the Armistice; the complete verse reads: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13) .

It does give you gooseflesh, even if you aren’t Aussie; and for the benefit of tourists who can’t make it on November 11, a ray of artificial light does a dry run every day at 11 am.

The Shrine’s open every day of the year (except on Good Friday and Christmas) from 10 am to 5 pm.

Shrine of Remembrance
St. Kilda Road
Melbourne, Australia

Royal Botanic Gardens

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by phileasfogg on September 3, 2002

Every Australian city worth its salt has a botanic garden, and the capital of the Garden State is no different. Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens are considered (and not just by me) one of the best gardens anywhere in the world- and they’re definitely worth a visit, whether you’re genuinely interested in flowers and trees, want to spend a relaxing afternoon snoozing on the greenest grass around, or just need to stretch your legs.

The Royal Botanic Gardens spread over an expanse of 39 hectares of grassy lawns, flowerbeds, shrubs, trees and ornamental lakes. There were laid out in 1846, and are divided into a number of sections: the Flagstaff Gardens , the Treasury Gardens , the Alexandra Gardens (check out the lovely floral clock here!) and the Fitzroy Gardens among them. In all, there are about 13 hectares of lawn- cool, green and perfect for an afternoon nap or a picnic- through which bitumen-tarred paths meander, past stands of banksia, wattle, bottle-brush palms, willow, box and azalea trees- and flowers in every colour imaginable. The gardens boast of an almost unbelievable 12,000 species of plants, some of which are pretty rare. Many of them bloom in the flowerbeds along the paths, while some of the more delicate ones are in special shrubberies and in a special conservatory. The conservatory, in particular, has an excellent collection of cinerarias, cyclamens and hydrangeas.

Scattered across the gardens are some other important sights- Government House (the white tower-topped residence of the Victorian Premier) and the Shrine of Remembrance in the area known as King’s Domain; the Sidney Myer Music Bowl (a popular venue for summer concerts), and Captain Cook’s Cottage , which was actually dismantled brick-by-brick in England and brought to Melbourne. There’s plenty here to keep you occupied!

We visited the gardens on a wonderfully balmy spring day, beginning at the Shrine of Remembrance (where we parked the car and walked down through the gardens), past Myer Music Bowl and along the Yarra River. It took us all of half a day- from the morning till after lunch- to do our tour of the gardens, but those hours were amongst the most rewarding I spent in Melbourne!

Entry to the gardens is free.

Royal Botanic Gardens & National Herbarium
South Bank of the Yarra River
Melbourne, Victoria, 3141
+61 (0)3 9252 2300

Queen Victoria Market

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by phileasfogg on September 3, 2002

Victoria Market- or to give it its full name, Queen Victoria Market- is one of those Melbourne institutions you can’t not visit if you’re in town. From the day I reached Melbourne, I’d been bombarded with stories of what a fun place Victoria Market was, so when I finally got off the tram on Elizabeth Street and walked till the turn (the market begins at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Victoria Street) I was expecting something pretty royal. Which was why, when I first saw Victoria Market, it came as a bit of a shock- because more than anything else, Victoria Market looks like a giant aircraft hangar. No posh glass-fronted Cartier and Chanel shops, no big stores- just loads of rather rough stalls which sell everything under the sun.

Victoria Market dates back officially to 1878, when it was formally inaugurated, although certain sections of the market are older- the meat market, for instance, opened in 1869. Many of the sections are classified as Historic Buildings, so there’s more to this market than just shopping. But if, like thousands of other visitors, you’re here for shopping, you’ll find plenty to choose from- DVDs, video cassettes, music CDs, T-shirts, sweaters and other clothing, food, electronic equipment, souvenirs- and more. There’s plenty here to keep you occupied for a few hours, and you pick up some great bargains.

Queen Victoria Market
513 Elizabeth St
Melbourne, Australia, 3000
+61 (0)3 9320 5822

Melbourne: Memorable and Magical

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by phileasfogg on September 3, 2002

We’re driving down West Gate Bridge. It’s past 12.30, and Melbourne is more or less asleep (as is a friend who’s lying in the back seat of the car, having downed five glasses of good Aussie wine). My pal Mathew, who’s driving, is an Australian- and a brilliant advertisement for the country: extremely generous, very friendly, and the type who’s willing to go way out of his way to be nice. Well, this is nice enough- he’s taking us on a tour of the city, past midnight- and he has to drive home 3 hours out into the countryside after this.

We’ve been shown the sights of Melbourne- from the seclusion of Mathew’s somewhat decrepit old jalopy. The Victorian Parliament, a staid building in beige stone with very classic lines (Mathew, who doesn’t seem to have planned this circuit too well, goes past Parliament three times in the space of half an hour); the majestic Shrine of Remembrance; the Royal Botanic Gardens and Myer Music Bowl, and the Yarra River.

Mathew calmly admits that the Yarra looks nicest at night, when you can’t see all the mud. But he admits that the stream isn’t too bad during the day either- as long as you plonk a clothespin onto your nose. "This city isn’t called `Smell-bourne’ for nothing".

Well, maybe Mathew’s prejudiced. He’s a Ballarat boy, and people from Ballarat tend to think no place is better than Ballarat. But, really- jokes apart. Melbourne is not smelly. And the Yarra, even though it’s muddy, is actually a rather nice river. Melbourne’s a rather nice city. Period. Addictive, even. I’ve spent a few days here, and I, like thousands of tourists, never want to leave.

The people with whom I’m staying are, fortunately for me, more or less a 5/5 guide match- they rate history, nature and culture as high as I do, so deciding on where we should go is not too much a battle of wills. This is the first week of September, and the lovely Royal Botanic Gardens are at their best- already ablaze with azaleas, wattle, flowering peach and tulips. We begin with a short walk up to the majestic Shrine of Remembrance , then stroll down the low hill on which it stands, into the Gardens below. We wander around, admire the flowers, eat cucumber-and-cheese sandwiches, watch black swans floating on shimmering ponds and get a taste of paradise…

A walk along the river (the Yarra- yes, muddy is the word for it), and we step across Princes’ Bridge , down the road and into China Town , where a beautifully-cooked Oriental meal is really the best way to end the day.

That isn’t, of course, the end to the trip; other days follow, with more discoveries: the type of discoveries you can make only in Australia. A gnarled old tree with a huge gash in its side is pointed out as a `canoe tree’- a tree from whose wood the aborigines had once carved out a canoe. A drive down from the City into the suburbs, and we pass car after car with gold-and-chocolate scarves: fans returning from a major aerial pingpong (a.k.a. Aussie Rules Football) game, sporting the colours of the team they’ve been supporting. Above, on an electric wire, sit two yellow-crested cockatoos, and on a fence is perched a plump kookaburra, looking for all the world like a somewhat cheeky bandit.

Another day is devoted to a tour of the City: to a leisurely saunter past the wonderfully old-fashioned Banana Alley Vaults . The vaults, on the bank of the Yarra, were once used to store ripening bananas which had been shipped down from Queensland; today they’re minus the fruit, but the shops here are interesting enough. We meander down the street, admiring a prettily crafted silver koala pendant in one shop, a large oil painting of the Outback in another.

One evening, after a ride out to the tree-fern and gum-tree environs of Healesville Sanctuary , we go up to the top of Dandenong , the nearest of the Blue Mountain Ranges. More by chance than by design, we reach Dandenong at sunset, when nightfall turns Melbourne into a shimmering sea of lights. Melbourne harbour, beyond the city, adds its own lights to the panorama. It’s gorgeous; the setting sun as a background, the city lights in the foreground. And the Yarra, sparkling, romantic- and too dark to look muddy.

This, feel many, is the best view there is of Melbourne. Other diehard fans of the Garden City- including my pal Mathew- have an alternative to offer: the men’s toilet on the 35th floor of the Regent Hotel. The view, say those who’ve been in this celebrated lavatory, is stupendous. Ladies: the women’s is right next door, and photos taken from either of the two toilets are exactly the same. So much for the men’s.

But on one point few disagree: that Melbourne’s a lovely city. A warm, friendly city- a completely Aussie city.


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