02 September 2009

melbourne , je t'aime

As I said in my Sydney post, Melbourne was my favorite city in Australia.

First disclaimer: I'm biased because we had amazing couchsurfing hosts in Melbourne.
Second disclaimer: we only spent one day and one night in Melbourne.
Third disclaimer: but bite me if that one day and one night weren't just awesome.

So, we flew into Melbourne in the morning, took an easy 20-minute bus ride downtown and then transferred to a tram to go to St. Kilda, the cool Bohemian part of Melbourne where our couchsurfing hosts lived.

It was like Berkeley transplanted in Vienna with trams gliding by. Okay, San Francisco has trams, too, but it felt like a more European version of divey vegan joints. My love for Melbourne has confirmed that I like small cities (à la Boston, San Francisco and now Melbourne) much more than larger ones (like New York, Chicago and Sydney). My cynical side would say it's because of my cheap side, that I'm just bitter we had to pay $60+ to take the metro to and from the airport in Sydney (compared to $1.70 per person on the T in Boston), but I think it's because smaller cities have more character.

Melbourne, for example, is like a jumble of Asia, Europe and the States, it has art bursting from every direction, and the architecture is compellingly diverse everywhere you go. Somehow, though, it forms a vibrant and cohesive whole, and if I were to go to Australia again, I'd just go to Melbourne and the west coast. And Tasmania.

Now, I don't know if Melbourne would be as wonderful without our lovely couchsurfing hosts, Carlo and Yvonne, who took us all over the city, showing us one beautiful thing after another, treated us to dinner and then brought us to a Aussie-rules footy match. But it (Melbourne, that is) is also the starting point for some lovely coastline drives (twelve apostles), Phillip (a.k.a. Penguin) Island, etc.

So, enough blab. Here are the photos, starting with Federation Square, where we first met Carlo and Yvonne and where we caught a free and very cool Len Lye exhibit.

Our first stop was the public library, which was gorgeous and had a mindblowing exhibit on books that changed the world, including an original Chaucer from 1545, a leaf from the Gutenburg bible (1450-1455) and a cuneiform tablet from 2050 BC. They even had a copy of Mao's Little Red Book.

After the library, we just went walking around the city, exploring one cool place after another with Carlo and Yvonne. It's a wonder we only met in person that afternoon because it felt like we were hanging out with old friends.

Here is a brick tower from an old lead pipe and shot factory. Instead of demolishing it, they simply built a glass cone above it (and a shopping area around it):

For dinner, we went to Funky Curry, a little Indian place with delicious (spicy) fare and hilarious quotes on the walls. Like "I wanted to kill the hottest person on earth. Then, I learned there were laws against suicide." And "I like work. It fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours." Not exactly what you'd expect with your curry dinner, but I think it made everything a tad tastier.

After dinner, we went to the famous MCG (Melbourne Cricket Grounds), where we watched our first Aussie rules footy match. With elements of soccer, football and volleyball and a referee who throws the oddly-shaped ball in from out of bounds backwards over his head, it's basically Calvinball. And the fans are just as dedicated and rowdy as the Red Sox fans at Fenway. I won't claim to be an avid follower of Aussie footy from now on, but it was one of the best games I've ever seen live. I was even excited approaching the stadium:

It was the only sports venue I'd been to where there was a dress code (collared shirts for men, no torn jeans, etc.), but once I entered the building, I could see why:

It was a full house, and our seats were amazing (thank you, Yvonne!):

It was a great game, and I even found the signs entertaining with their more formal English:

("Time to call your mum?") With a strangely matched photo of men armwrestling.

(Patrons Note: To report antisocial behavior, text the issue and the seating location...)

And finally, a toast to the little Carlton fan who was enjoying his ketchup-covered meat pie:

After the game, we walked back to the CBD and strolled along the Yarra River. It reminded me of walking along the Seine in Paris at night. We passed a band playing next to the river and this row of metal structures that randomly started spewing fire (lots of it, too), and it was all generally dreamy.

Yeah, I know. Lots of the fire photos, but that's because art + fire = mesmerizing.

And if you're still scrambling for something fun to do this Labor Day weekend, you can always try the 3-day novel contest. It's Canadian, but people from all nations are welcome to participate. Have fun!