First of all, you need to be aware that Melbourne is a long way away. Setting off from London I prepare myself for 24 hours in the airplane and a time difference of 11 hours upon arrival in Melbourne.
The airplane doesn’t fly directly from London to Melbourne, a change is needed and I choose Singapore quite simply because the people are kind, welcoming and the One World lounge is very clean for a freshen up.
On to Melbourne and the most livable city in the world doesn’t disappoint. I have concerns as to why this place is classed as the most livable city and am keen to find out more. I set my targets as:
- Eating, Drinking and Culture
- Road Trips
The city is wonderful, the trams rattle through the streets and offer free rides the the central area, the parks are large and offer a feel of the countryside, the beaches are clean and the waters blue and sports stadiums, well I have never seen so many in such a concentrated area.
Melbourne and the Melburnians are sports mad. As soon as I check into my hotel, I am out again walking towards the Melbourne Cricket Ground or MCG. This is a huge stadium and the home of both Aussie Rules Football and Australian Cricket. I am not disappointed as I approach this magnificent stadium, around the outside are statues to the great players of these two sports, I immediately think of what it must be like to play in this arena when full to the brim with 100,000 fans watching on. I also think about what it must be like as an England cricketer standing at the crease waiting for the Aussie bowler to bowl a ball down the wicket and every single person in the stadium wishing for a call of “out” by the umpire.
I go inside and walk around the Sport Museum and see memorabilia for all the great Australian sports stars and achievements
I take a closer look at the stadium and see that it is open. The stands are huge and they have a stream of joggers running up and down from front to back known as the Stadium Stomp. What a way to blow away the jet lag. Instead I watch on in amazement at these athletes completing the course for their own cause.
I already like these people.
I walk away from this coliseum and I can already see the Melbourne Park which holds the Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena. The first is home to the tennis grand slam event with many courts and a central stadium with a retractable roof and the latter is home to the netball and basket ball team. I look from the outside and see the AAMI Arena which is home to the rugby and soccer teams. It looks funky with its bubble outer frame.
I look a little further and there is an Etihad Stadium for more football, rugby and soccer.
I head south towards Albert Park, home of the Australian grand prix and numerous other sport such as the Aquatic Centre, Bob Jane Stadium and the State Netball Hockey Centre. I can see this city is sport mad and I like it. Not only watching but also doing.
As I walk by the Yarra River I find myself looking at The Botanical Gardens. It has people running circuits and there are plaques showing best times. I give it a go as a preparation for the Melbourne Park Run. I learn that this is called The Tan and am beginning to feel part of this city already.
This is the best location for a park run I have had the privilege to complete. A one lap of the lake in Albert Park with a backdrop of the city skyscrapers. I imagine I am racing a car around the Grand Prix circuit as I struggle to catch my breath, am no where near my PB and put it down to jet lag and the fact that I jogged there from the Central Business District (CBD).
Eating, Drinking and Culture
The obvious place to start is down to Federation Square (Fed Square). I raise my eyebrow at this strange looking set of modern buildings and open space, but soon am wooed by the charm. It is a place where the locals come to eat and drink as well as watch sports on the gigantic outdoor screens. To remind me of the history, over the road is the magnificent Flinders Station.
My next port of call is for a coffee, Melbourne is big on coffee so I try a long black in a place just off Lonsdale Street. I like the fact that the coffee shops are on the whole unique and not just another American chain. I am served by a hipster and his assistants. Although there seems to be too many people working and generally looking cool, I don’t complain as my coffee tastes good. Am now ready to see what the night life has to offer.
I meet up with an old friend for some beers and work out quickly that the bars are found in lanes off the main streets. Friday night and the bars are full. I make sure that I understand the difference between a Pint and a Pot and stick to the pint option. The bars are cool and relaxed. There is no shortage of options with plenty of music and lively chat.
As for eating, there is a multicultural feel to the main streets of the neighbourhoods.Brunswick Street in Fitzroy and Smith Street in Collingwood offered great choice.
On top of all of this, going back to my hotel at midnight was a very safe experience by foot.
What is a trip to Melbourne without a ride along the Great Ocean Road. It didn’t disappoint. Extending 285km between Torquay and Warrnambool, the GOR was conceived as a scenic road of world repute to commemorate the fallen soldiers of World War 1.
I hire a motorbike and travel in style, travelling past surf breaks, rain forests, and calm seaside towns. Lorne, Wongarra and Apollo Bay etched into my mind. The ride along the twisty’s has a rhythmic feel to it and eventually I arrive at the jewel or by the real name The Twelve Apostles. These are rock stacks in the sea, just off the cliff face. There are not twelve, more like seven . The best view is by a short helicopter ride, which I recommend.
If you want to visit the apostles and get back to Melbourne by nightfall, get up early and press on the accelerator. It is a long way.