I can’t quite remember exactly how it all got arranged, but in August, I agreed to spend 6 days in Melbourne with two British friends of mine. They were both in Malaysia for holidays (a coincidence because they were there separately), and had decided to visit Australia because “while we’re over this side of the world, why not?” (despite Melbourne being anything but close to Malaysia).
Rachel and Deana are good friends of mine from university. Rachel was coming to Australia to visit another friend from Imperial named Teing, who had just arrived for a year abroad studying at the University of Melbourne. Deana was tagging along and then was thinking of popping by Sydney to see me. However, I had been looking for an excuse to visit Melbourne since I arrived in the country, so we agreed to all meet there instead. Unfortunately, August isn’t really the best time of year to go; they’re in the middle of winter. And it’s super cold! But the timing wasn’t negotiable so Melbourne in August it was.
I hadn’t seen the girls since my leaving party back in October, so it was awesome being able to catch up. We were talking non stop for the six days, and we crammed in a ton of activities and sightseeing, so we barely had an idle moment. Our week included walking tours, road trips, gallery visits, beach walks, rooftop bar hopping, street art spotting and lots of brunch eating… I think we all went a little over budget, but it’s difficult to be economical in a city with so much to offer. The city has a reputation for being artsy, cultured and full of hipsters. I envisioned second hand book stores, alleyways filled with graffiti, awesome architecture and wonderful food. And that’s exactly what it delivered.
The first day we spent walking aimlessly to get our bearings of the city. Melbourne is said to have a distinctive European feel, which is very evident in parts of the CBD where trams trundle through streets lined with grand old buildings and cathedrals, cafes spilling out down the laneways. However some streets had quite an American feel to them with cute little facades and awnings. I was frequently reminded of Sydney – many houses were characteristically Australian and could have belonged to either place. Plus, I was intrigued by the frequency of modern architecture in the city centre, which in parts reminded me of Brisbane. The overall effect was something distinctly unique and definitely alluring – a mixture of Brighton, Berlin, London, Sydney and Vancouver… I think I was halfway through the first day when I started saying “I wanna live here!”.
As we were in town for 6 days, we all liked the idea of taking a day trip or two out of the city to some of the nearby attractions. Together the four of us hired a car and on Saturday drove out to Phillip Island, famous for its wildlife, scenery and motogp racetrack. We hoped to spot some penguins… which we kind of did, poking their cautious beaks out of little bird boxes installed on the ground. We enjoyed lunch in the biggest town, Cowes, and viewing the Nobbies from the Western tip of the island.
The following day we ambitiously decided to check out the Great Ocean Road, which is famous the world over for the stunning views it offers of the southern coastline. The main attraction are the 12 Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks situated just off land. Obviously that description doesn’t do them any justice, but they were truly incredible to behold. Despite having seen hundreds of photos of them, I wasn’t prepared for their magnificence and couldn’t repress a “Wow!” when I first saw them. We arrived there just as the sun was setting, and despite being the windiest place in the entire world, it was absolutely stunning. Again, my photos hardly do them justice!!
For the last couple of days of our stay, we opted to leave our hostel in the city centre and stay in the nearby suburb of St Kilda. St Kilda is Melbourne’s beach district, with a theme park (another Luna Park), pier, and surprisingly enough, a beach. It’s also known as a rather bohemian area, with hipster cafes, thrift shops and some pretty decent nightlife on Chapel Street. It was nice to have a more laid back couple of days walking along the beach, spotting penguins at the end of the pier, sampling cakes on Acland Street, and perusing the amazing Chapel Street Bazaar!
Before too long though our stay was drawing to a close. We had experienced a great variety of things in Melbourne (the majority of which I haven’t even mentioned in this post) and I think left with a unanimously good impression of the city. I kept telling Teing I was jealous she got to live here for an entire year, although it really was much too cold to really feel like Australia. It was beyond incredible to get to share the experience with two of my closest friends from home (reminds me how I have some really special friendships with people back in the UK) and a new one of course 😉 but all good things must come to an end. I waved goodbye to the girls as I boarded the tram to the bus station… and goodbye to the city. Although I am 100% I will revisit Melbourne again. It’s simply too cool not to come back!