Travel Log: Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne was the first city I chose to visit in Australia. Most people usually choose Sydney as their landing point and spend a few nights in Melbourne. I preferred to focus on Melbourne. Since I was a wine student, I wanted to visit and discover the wineries at Yarra Valley. I am also a coffee lover and wanted to check out if Melbourne really lived up to its coffee capital status. Also, Melbourne seem to be a quieter, less crowded city than Sydney.
Grand Hyatt at Collins Street
Since this was my first visit to Australia and I was traveling alone, I decided to stay in a hotel that was safe and central to all the attractions in the city. Before I came to Melbourne, I was surprised to hear about organized gangs operating in the city and my friends warned me to stay away from certain areas at night. Fortunately, I did not encounter any incidents during my stay and I walked confidently at night around the city.
My stay at the Grand Hyatt was very good and the staff, especially the concierge, were very helpful. I soon found out that the lady at the concierge desk was a Singaporean who migrated to Australia many years ago! She was key in organizing my day trips out of Melbourne. On my last night, I had the unpleasant experience of smelling cigarette smoke in my room. The smoke had permeated into my room from one of the neighboring rooms. The hotel staff helped to move me into a large suite!
Yarra River & Flinders Street Station
As with my other travels, I rarely plan my itinerary before I land at a place. After unpacking my bags and having a delicious sandwich at the Hyatt, I headed out to see a daughter of my friend. It is always nice to know someone at a new city to contact in case of any emergencies.
The center of Melbourne is like a grid with well-defined roads, tramlines, and neatly spaced buildings. It was well organized. The Flinders Street Station and the Yarra River are the first attractions that came within sight. The Yarra is a picturesque river that is perfect for relaxing. It is a common sight to see rowers and canoers along the Yarra. It is also noteworthy that the Yarra area was inhabited by aboriginal people before it was developed. Flinders Station is a super busy place where commuters arrive by train and bus. I think the Flinders Station is the icon of Melbourne.
Royal Botanic Gardens
I have an allegy to shopping malls, so I headed down to where nature was! Close to the Yarra River is the Royal Botanic Gardens which is a treasure house of botany. I really enjoyed the grounds and went there a couple of times to have a closer look at some plants and trees. The herbarium houses up to 1.5 million types of plant, algae and fungi. It is also noteworthy that Gustav Weindorfer, the botanist who promoted the Cradle Mountains at Tasmania, used to stroll through the gardens regularly.
The Royal Botanic Gardens should be on every visitor's itinerary. I was surprised to see so few tourists during my time there.
Food & Coffee
I love good food, wine, and coffee! Having read that Melbourne is a culinary city, I decided to have breakfast, not at the hotel but to venture out it into the town and have it at a cafe. My hungry, growling stomach brought me to an Italian cafe called Cafe Segovia located at the Block Arcade. I ordered some cappuccino at once and asked for a salmon and scrambled eggs sandwich. It was sumptuous and the coffee was excellent.
Melbourne has diverse cuisines thanks to the multicultural fabric of its population. Another restaurant I particularly liked was Sezar which is hidden from the main street and tucked inside Melbourne Place. To be honest, I chanced upon this restaurant purely by accident and not through Google Maps or some fancy app. When I travel, I go by instincts. The food at Sezar was excellent and I particularly like the pairing of the lamb kebabs with the Syrah wine. Highly recommended!
As a Southeast Asian, it is hard to go through the week of travel without rice. At Flinder's Lane, I discovered a restaurant called Chin Chin which satisfied my Asian palate. Chin Chin, which is located near the Grand Hyatt, is always crowded and it is advisable to make a reservation.
However, I was quite disappointed by Melbourne's coffee and found nothing special at its cafes. In fact, the best coffee I had, was not at Melbourne, but at a Spanish restaurant at Lorne during my Great Ocean Tour which was totally unexpected.
While walking around Melbourne, I noticed that there were many churches and interesting architecture. St Paul's Cathedral which is located near the Flinders Station has an imposing stance and has some beautiful gothic architecture. Another church worthy of mention is St Patrick's Cathedral which has ornate stained glasses and inspiring spires. These churches show the significant influence of Christianity in Melbourne.
The Forum Theatre
Another unique building which is located near Flinders Street is the Forum Theatre. The Forum was built in 1929 and has intricate Victorian and Moorish influences. It is my favorite building in Melbourne.
Melbourne has several war memorials and the most striking memorial is the Shrine of Remembrance. This impressive shrine was built to commemorate the extensive loss of lives in the First World War. There are numerous war memorials erected around Melbourne and this shows the utmost respect accorded by Australians to the many lives lost in the world wars.
Even though not part of Melbourne, a holiday in Melbourne won't be complete without a day trip to the Twelve Apostles which is known as The Great Ocean Tour. The Twelve Apostles is located 275 kilometers west of Melbourne. I booked a coach from Melbourne to do this trip which took around four hours.
One of the most striking parts of the tour was that the coach driver was also doing the explanation of the various sites as he was driving. This was remarkable and unseen in Singapore where I come from. I was also impressed with the knowledge and passion of the driver.
The Twelve Apostles are eroded limestone cliffs formed around 10 to 20 million years ago. The strong waves and winds have eroded the rocks so badly that we can only see around eight rocks instead of twelve.
Overall, I was happy with my travel experience in Melbourne. The visit was a great introduction to Australia and I am also thankful to the people at Melbourne who made my stay a good one. I will definitely come by again to Melbourne to have a few days of quiet time to myself.
© 2020 Sivakumar Sathiamoorthy