I’d be stating the obvious if I told you that I don’t have to rush around Melbourne to see everything that I want. You can see that I’ve been in the fairly excellent position of being a long-term temporary resident in the city with the luxury to explore at my own pace. After my trip to Mornington Peninsula I was blessed to find that I’d be spending time showing one of my friends from back home around the city.
J-Low is on a bit of a whirlwind tour of Australia with his dad, Michael. They’d been in Hong Kong and then Sydney before coming to Melbourne and with only two days in the city I had my work cut out to make sure they both came away with great impressions. Fortunately, Melbourne had done a lot of the hard work for me by simply being itself and after a day to themselves J-Low and Michael had covered a good chunk of the city’s attractions.
What’s the best way to spend 36 hours in Melbourne? Now, before I crack on with our itinerary, I just want you to know I don’t believe this is the only way to see the city. You gotta do what’s right for you! Firstly, consider your own hobbies and interests. J-Low is a sports journalist which had a big influence on what we’d end up doing.
With Essendon playing Carlton at the MCG it seemed that an introduction to the AFL was a good a place as any to start our tour of the city. Buying tickets for games at the MCG can be a little confusing for a first timer, in this case myself. With different categories of seats and varying prices depending on the location it’s not as simple as just booking a set number of seats. When it comes down to it, you can follow the action well from the top tier of seats and these are often the cheapest and for this match counted as category 6.
Hyped by the media to be a closely fought blockbuster of a contest, I was pretty confident that we’d been in for a good match. Unfortunately, it seemed that nobody had bothered to inform Carlton of the media expectations. Essendon ran away with the game from the start and won by an impressive 81 points. Still, with a match at the ‘G and a limited education of AFL in the bag we were off to a good start.
The following day was set to be a long one; an early start would give us the best chance of covering as much of the city as possible. As it would happen, Monday was also my birthday so I also had evening plans to hit up a couple of Melbourne institutions which I hoped would add a little bit of local flair to our tour. Now I know I literally just said that you have to do what’s right for you, but the only way to begin a day in Melbourne is with brunch somewhere in the city’s lane ways.
We stopped at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms for our breakfast. After glances at the mouth-watering window display Michael decided that this looked to the kind of place that he’d like to have breakfast and as, for the first time ever, there was no queue we headed straight in. With a tea-list to rival the menus of some of my beloved beer cafes I was in another personal heaven and our breakfasts were quite delicious.
Once we’d eaten we finished up with the lanes and arcades and headed over to the town hall. Michael had clearly been doing his own research and informed us that there was a free-tour at 11 and as it was 10 to, we might as well check it out. On arrival we got booked in and would soon discover that we’d be the only people in the group ensuring an essentially private tour.
With the comedy festival in town, much of the building is given over to host performances which meant that some of the grander rooms were covered with lighting rigs and curtains but that’d didn’t take anything away from the experience. Our tour included a spattering of history, an extensive view of the main hall’s organ, a trip to the reception room which has hosted the British Royal Family and the Beatles, and a stop on the balcony over looking Swanston Street. It was just over an hour long and well worth a look.
After the town hall, Michael decided he’d quite like to head back to the arcades to find a spot of lunch and J-Low and I were more than happy to follow through with this plan. I give my thanks to Michael who, in light of my birthday, treated me to both meals we’d had so far. After lunch Michael decided he wanted to look around the parliament buildings and left J-Low and I as we headed across the river to tackle the Shrine of Remembrance.
The shrine is, without a doubt, one of my favourite spots to head to for a great view of the city. It’s a great vantage point from which to point out city attractions and attempt to talk through Melbourne’s location and suburbs. It’s also on the way to the Royal Botanical Gardens which was on J-Low’s list of things to see. We took a stroll through the gardens before coming out in Olympic Park where we would be able to walk past the cities famous stadiums.
AAMI Park and the Rod Laver arena were ticked off the list, with a glimpse of Collingwood players in training by the Westpac Centre coming as an added bonus. We then headed back to the MCG to spend a bit of time in the National Sports Museum. I don’t think anyone would doubt Austalia’s pride when it comes to their sporting achievements and the museum was more than happy to remind us about how great Australia have been at the Olympics and the cricket over the years. There was also a large exhibit on the history of the AFL. In the end, there was simply too much for us to take in before they kicked us out and closed the doors.
I decided that it was high time for a beer and it wouldn’t be right to come to Melbourne and not have a drink or three at the rooftop bar at Curtin house. We were joined here by my good pals Sarah and Matt who, knowing me so well, arrived with birthday gifts in the form of some Australian craft beers. I was left wondering if the day could get any better; it did. The plan was to head to Mamasita’s; a restaurant so popular they refuse to take bookings and people happily queue out the door for up to an hour.
Fortunately, as it was a Monday there wasn’t much of a queue and the kindly staff offered to hold a table for us while we headed to a trendy Melbourne bar for another quick drink. Mamasita’s is a mexican tequileria which, based on my experience, may be home to some of the best food I’ve had in Melbourne. We ate until we could eat no more after which I decided it would we’d be best to put the night to bed with a cheeky whisky. Unfortunately, J-Low had an early start ahead of him as he and Michael headed off to the Great Ocean Road and so he declined to join us.
I had initially hoped to head to personal favourite Whisky + Alement but Matt informed me that for some reason (probably due to the fact that people don’t usually go for a whisky on a school night) they didn’t open on a Monday, but Matt was not about to drop such huge negative news without a back up and he did not disappoint. It was a real shame that J-Low couldn’t join us simply for the experience of finding the Eau De Vie. A black door with a brass handle was all that we had to go on, no sign, just a faint hope that we were in the right place. How very Melbourne.
Behind the door was a colossal selection and I handed responsibility to Matt as my professional whisky drinker to recommend something that I’d enjoy and he maintained his top form with a delicious 16 year old Lagaluvin.
As the night came to an end, it dawned on me quite how much had been achieved, I’d managed to catch up with a good friend and our city tour had merged perfectly with my own celebrations. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Well, I could have, but that ruins the cliché somewhat. In a short space of time you can cover a great number of Melbourne’s attractions. Swapping out the National Sports Museum and Town Hall for something more to your taste and you’ve got yourself a solid base for a speedy tour of the city.