Melbourne: The most liveable city in the world

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August 16th 2012
Published: August 22nd 2012
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Oh Melbourne, why does it have to be so far away from the UK and so cold for us?! We were very excited to visit the big city and all that stood between us was a direct train, 36 minutes and warm clothing. This was starting to lack as we only had a pair of trousers each and a jumper that was seriously over worn! However nothing was gonna stop us now as we heard the night before that Melbourne had just been named the most liveable city in the world for the second time. Well we had to know what the fuss was about! We caught the train and arrived at the simply stunning old building that houses one of the two overland stations, Flinders street station. It was the old style that has clocks displaying the next departing trains and flower stalls and distinct architecture. This led out to the famous picture of Federation square and St Paul's Cathedral. The scene that unfolded before our eyes was incredible, a fairly bustling intersection of streets, interweaving old school trams and a mixed collection of people chilling out eating breakfast and not seeming to have a care on their shoulders. After obligatory shots we took in the cathedral and was surprised to see two elephants standing outside. Not real of course and we were to find out that there were fifty fibre glass elephants dotted about the city to represent 150years of Melbourne zoo and their elephant Mali. We did recall hearing this on the news and excited that we knew there was a self portrait by the beast herself, challenge accepted! We shall find said elephant!

We walked around the corner and luckily saw and caught a free tourist bus that takes you around the sights on a ninety minute circuit. Fantastic! Lauren and Ben 1 - cold weather 0. We saw the sights of Melbourne cricket ground for the second time, plus lots of other treats most of which we also went to on foot to get a better look. These included Parliament House a very grand building flanked by other official buildings in a great setting close to Fitzroy gardens. These were also impressive housing a Tudor Village, a gift for helping in WWII and dolphins fountains and fairy tree. This led on to a street showcasing another beautiful cathedral and of course led us to more elephants! We passed several other gardens including the stunning serene Botanical Gardens, a firm favourite for us. The mournful memorial building and round to the Museum and theatre district. Museums are in abundance here and claimed to be the best in Victoria and Australia, one showcasing Napoleon but we didn't have the time or cash to go in, instead we marvelled at the interesting architecture. To be honest, most buildings had us staring up not looking where we were going, which was lucky as the streets weren't that busy. It was such a contrast to other big cities visited previously, it reminded Lauren of New York so much with the grid system layout but without the huge concentration of folk. Our eyes were always peeled to ground level though too as the city was decorated with outdoor sculptures of weird and wonderful things, it was a pleasure to be walking the main streets but also the side streets. Our guide told us about a particular street famed for people watching and drinking coffee. Not being coffee drinkers we didn't feel necessity to go but we wanted to see the fuss anyway. The street was busy as it was fairly narrow and the middle covered in seating areas but we were intoxicated by the atmosphere and sad to say that at 3pm most places had stopped serving sandwiches so we didn't actually stop to people watch. Onwards to the next sights it was!

We marvelled in the CBD the buildings not looming over us in an imposing way as they had in Hong Kong but more in a friendly way, "we are a great city celebrating tourism but we also have business to do!" and they did celebrate tourism well, not only the free tour where we felt we saw a huge amount of the city but also a free old style tram as well as free guided walks and the most organised tourist information office we had ever seen with as many free maps as you could carry! We headed down to Docklands a refurbished area of town and noted another sports arena this time of ice. For this surely seems like sporting capital of the world. Here they play host to the Grand Prix, Australian Tennis Open, they have the famed cricket ground also home to several Aussie Rules Football Teams, plus the Etihad stadium with the same and now the ice arena home to ice hockey and skating. Along with the gazillions of open park land in and around the city, Melbourne people must be amongst the fittest in the world!

More sights were consumed greedily by us for it was so easy to see the city and a joy to be in, we headed to the river, the Yarra River which we had driven past in previous days and hastily snapped away shots of the CBD towering in the background and facing it, the Eureka tower, the tallest building in Melbourne. It was residential but the opportunity to go to 88th floor. Although we had done many tall sights so far on this trip and we were reluctant to pass this up but the burdens of a travellers budget shouted at us as there was another activity we wanted to do more, and Ben was only too relieved his fear of heights coming up from his belly to say hello. He has become very good in beating this fear when he can see that the building is structurally sound. The rocks we clamoured up in Railay Beach didn't beat his fear for instance and neither did this as although it is obvious the structure is fine it was very thin and looked as though it was curved, the pictures probably show this better than can be described! So instead we moved back along the river front to the activity Lauren had read about excitedly.

The Melbourne ice bar. At was now 5pm so the perfect time for a drink for the first time in several weeks. We paid our very expensive entrance and got kitted up. This particular bar is "better" than others in the same sector as the bar is kept at -10 degrees, competitors around the world are -5. And boy I'm sure it made all the difference. Even with our huge hooded fur cloaks and two sets of gloves we were freezing! We struggled to hold our ice glasses with almost freezing delicious vodka cocktails! The reason it was not frozen and the Russians love it, vodka can't freeze! We had fun amongst the ice built structures featuring a not to scale Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and Egyptian folk. Behind the bar was a huge octopus sculpture that protected the non frozen drinks! We struggled sitting down as it was freezing on our butt but had fun sneaking pictures as personal cameras weren't allowed but also using their free cameras. When it was time to leave 30 minutes later we were pretty glad! We checked out the pictures we took which were rather good but they only gave a digital copy if bought hard copy and this seemed pointless and waste of money so we took memories instead!

We had stopped for lunch when the sandwich shops had been closing and for those that were sad to hear Nando's were not opening in Lancaster we have words for you- move to Melbourne! The play at restaurant had a shop on every corner, never with those terrifyingly long queues and still with every nationality of staff! The food was as ok as usual, we still don't get the fascination of this place but it was quick and easy and filled our boots enough to keep going. But as the day wore on and our feet grew weary we circled back around to the station. Our time in the centre had been sweet but short and we decided we would come back early when we leave on Friday. We had a great time we felt like we consumed a lot of to offer, from the outside, as we say we didn't go into any of the museums but we felt so much from the outside with the art and graffiti which was actually awesome! We can see why it's so loved, they cater to everyone, the suited businessman who needs a quick lunch to ladies that lunch and the high population of visitors. With that you aren't too far from the coast for your summer break nor too far from suburbs to live more modestly and the transport system was as good and reliable as the best we had seen, and although we are cold it not actually that cold for winter. At 10 degrees average we could easily put up considering the snow and ice in the UK at an average winter!

Things of note:

Buying stamps is ridiculously hard, a convenience store like 7Eleven does not sell them, they thought I was talking a foreign language, and the queue at the Post Office, well let's say we found something to rival the UK!

We found about twenty five of the fifty elephants and it is a shame they aren't a permanent feature, but we did find the self portrait!

Every other shop on main roads is a restaurant, cafe or fast food chain, Melbourne is renowned for its culinary food and coffee and with such choice it's not hard to see why.

If you buy a day ticket to get from the outer suburbs it's also included to use all public transport on that day, making it the most reasonably priced thing we have found in Melbourne apart from one other thing, but as our parents read this we shall save embarrassment!

Federation square is a great place to grab a sandwich and sit and eat and chat with many other people doing the same, although it isn't a square but steps surrounded by cool buildings!

Lauren's sweet tooth is not being helped, all 7Elevens, and there are a lot of them, sell Krispy Kreme doughnuts!

There is a huge campaign to make people watch out for trams likening it to being hit by fifty rhinos on skateboards which although serious was a funny ad campaign!

What would we do differently:

Again it comes down to money it would have been great to go into some attractions but we don't feel we have missed out. We would spend an evening in Melbourne and dress up to head to the huge Crown Casino development on the river home to high end fashion labels also!


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