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Published: February 9th 2016
Melbourne, a perennial top of the pops in the World’s Most Liveable City surveys. Well-grounded, chic, efficient and abuzz with the spark of urbane youth, its Bohemian vibe could make some of Europe’s finest blush. It may not have Sydney’s natural good looks but it addresses the imbalance with character. Sydney has the silicon but Melbourne has the substance.
Melbourne also pumps its chest with a self-proclamation as “Sporting Capital of the World”. Plenty of cities might justifiably dispute that claim but there’s enough sporting armoury for this to be more than mere hyperbole.
One of the premier dates on the calendar is the Australian Open Tennis, a fortnight of wham-bam-thank-you-mam action where it seems the entire city comes out to play. The Oz Open is the party everyone wants to say they’ve been to. Anyone for tennis?
The two weeks also comes with a side dish of peripheral events that makes this such a wonderful celebration. Even if you have zero interest in racket on ball, the second half of January is prime time to indulge in the hype of the “World’s Most Liveable City”.
If you do
have plans to call in and watch a few balls being tonked, then here’s a couple of my personal tips. Drum roll please.........
(1)Join the Australian Open Club. It may cost around $75 Australian but the goodies soon make up for the outlay. The 2 free ground pass tickets can be used any day and you have already covered that initial cost. You will also have pre-public access, usually early September, to purchase any other tickets that may tickle your fancy.
(2)Speaking of tickets, try and secure them behind the baseline. There’s a reason TV coverage uses this angle. From here you can visualise points infolding. Side-on and that 230kph serve may be nothing more than a blur. The other advantage of being behind the baseline in one of the 3 covered stadiums is it takes the sun out of play. You are shaded all day as opposed to the alternative where the unsuspecting pundits will pick up their annual vitamin D hit in 5 minutes. If you can’t secure end- on seats, try to at least be up high out of Melbourne’s ruthless sun.
(3)Which isn’t a bad segue to
the weather. The good judges of The World’s Most Liveable City must not have used climate as a criteria. The scales regularly tip the high 30s plus in January. That’s a ton for you Americans still living in the antiquated Fahrenheit system. Yet as soon as the sun goes down, just watch the mercury head south with a bullet. If you intend being around after dark then pack a layer. If you are still in shorts and t-shirt when a 5 set marathon winds up in the vampire hours then expect to shiver on the walk back into town.
(4)Whilst I’m on a segue roll, use your 2 feet to arrive at the less than creatively named Melbourne Park. The trams are free but they can be a right royal squeeze. From Federation Square smack in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, it’s but a casual 20 minute saunter. Even if you don’t feel like grappling with the masses at the tennis itself, grab a deck chair in Federation Square and watch the action unfold on the giant screen. This is a particularly attractive option around dusk.
(5)The best days I hear you ask? My
Is that Yarra Tram or Mart Array?
2 favourites are days 1 and 2. 128 singles matches. The box office value will be on Rod Laver and Margaret Court Arenas but while it may be fun to witness the sublime skills of Djokovic, Murray, Federer etc, they will probably just be dispatching with a whimper some struggling Aussie qualifier back to the boneyard of the satellite circuit. Basically it’s an observance of the due process of Week 1 atrophy. Why not wander to the badlands of the outside courts. There may not be a back page storyline attached but the fist pumps are still on tap. From point blank range you can see No.95 in the world v No.120 literally battling for their livelihoods. Whoever gets up will be off the 2 minute noodles and out of the dodgy hostel dormitory into some sort of room with stars. Another win means a guaranteed 100k, another star on the digs plus the chance of a date with the hot looking girl in the front row of Court 7. At ground zero you get a near hands-on ticket to this emotional roller coaster and feel the impressive power these players manage to generate from carbon fibre and natural gut.
(6)However, if you do only have day pass tickets and the temperature is tipped to be hotter than hell in Hell’s Kitchen, then arrive at opening time (10am) and make a beeline for Hisense Arena (still covered by your day pass). Grab your spot in the shade and guard it with your life. Not early enough? Most of the outside courts now have shaded seats but they are all side-on viewing.
(7)Try a night match. The best bait for prime TV airtime is played out at night. Thus your are more likely to see the absolute stars from 7.30pm onwards. The prices for these tickets will be more damaging to the credit card so the next couple of tips are how to save a buck or two.
(8)Sustenance. You have to eat and you have to drink. The food and beverage prices at the venue could bankrupt Bill Gates. Neither will the offerings have taste buds doing the Watusi – all the culinary joys of prison. Hello? Taste? Where are you? So pack some sushi or whatever else tickles your palate from any one of hundreds of hole-in-the-wall eateries in town.
Also throw in a water bottle and fill it up at readily available water fountains. Save your legitimate dining for the culinary theatre of Melbourne’s vaunted foodie landscape.
(9)Melbourne hotels roughly double their prices during any major sporting event. Airbnb don’t. We bagged a cosy little apartment for a week for $800. There are literally hundreds listed. If hotels are still your preferred option then I have a hit of skulduggery for your ears only. Listen carefully as I will be asking questions later. Most hotel booking sites (bookings.com for example) don’t require payment until a day or two before arrival. So book your room of choice early as a safety net. A few days before due arrival check again. Hotels that have not filled their rooms at the inflated rate will regularly reduce back to the original price. If so, cancel your original booking then jump on the new one. A little sneaky perhaps but I’m sure the hotels are still making more than you and I.
So that’s my Melbourne in January. I’m still a Sydney lad through and through – one address many beaches – but “How much do I love
Melbourne? Let me count the ways”. Come for the tennis, stay for party.
More images at www.colvinyeates.zenfolio.com
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