Melbourne Stories and Tips

All roads and tramtracks lead to high tech Federation Square

The facade of Flinders Street station Photo, Melbourne, Australia

"Please do not feed the possums..."

This is a sign in Fitzroy Gardens. For sheer novelty value, you can't beat wild possums infesting your local park, and it is one of those exotic touches which make Australia, well, Australia I suppose.

Fitzroy Gardens is one the edge of the CBD. Your main point of arrival in the Central Business District will be Flinders Street Station and Federation Square. Flinders Street Station, I would say, is the most distinctive building in Melbourne. A major rail termini dating from Victorian times and the expression of meeting "under the clocks" is a Melbourne legend. The frontage of the railway station itself overlooks where Flinders and Swanston streets meet. Its facade is neoclassical and topped with a dome, but the entire thing is a mixture of light brown and yellow--it shouldn't work, but it does (see photo). It's a very impressive building.

Snapping on its heels is the young whippersnapper across the St Kilda Road--Federation Square.

It's an ambitious set of buildings designed to give Melbourne a focus. I liked it, in fact I would say it was my favourite thing in Melbourne. It is modern architecture at its most adventurous. A whole city block between Flinders Street itself, the station and the Yarra river has been transformed. It resembles a puzzle made out of titanium housing buildings with weird angles covered in zinc or sandstone. The floor is actually covered in ochre or iron and rises into a horseshoe-shaped space hemmed in by buildings. A huge television screen oversees everything and people mill about trying to decide whether they like it or not. I think it is a real distinctive hodgepodge of everything: strange angles, glass facades and zinc coverings. The place actually glistens in the rain.

A nice walk is along posh Collins Street to Fitzroy Gardens. From Federation Square, cross Flinders Street and head north on Swanston Street; Collins is the first on the right. Collins is the smart address in Melbourne. Where it collides with Spring Street is called the "the Paris End," and while I didn't notice any plane trees, cafes or Citroen "2CV's" dotted about, it is undeniably stylish. This is where Gucci and Chanel hold court, the trees are bedecked in fairy lights and the whole street reeks of old money.

At the end of Collins is Spring Street and several heavy Victorian-era buildings. St Andrews Cathedral overlooks a delightful square with a gushing fountain. Fitzroy Gardens begin here. Melbourne is very proud of its numerous parks. It gives credence to the tag of it being "the most livable city in the world." This one is very English, with great sweeping lawns being broken up by lines of trees. But as you get closer, you notice the trees are palms and cycads and the bird songs--cockatoos and lorikeets inhabit the park. The main attraction is Captain Cooks cottage, the boyhood home of the "discoverer" of Australia. It was imported brick by brick from Yorkshire and I must say looking very at home on a rainy Melbourne day.

And where were the possums? Shopping down Collins Street I expect, the "Paris End" of course.

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