I finally made it to Melbourne. After a crazy night on the aforementioned leopard rug, clinging to my stuff and not sleeping, I was one of the first people in line for my flight in the morning. Zombie keener. I couldn’t sleep on the flight either, so I caught up on season two of Nurse Jackie and ate (hopefully) my last pastry-type-item. New Zealand is chock full of beautiful scenery and wonderful people, but man do they love their pastries. Pies. Baked goods. Etc.
Of course, I got detained at customs. Chock that up to being too honest with those declaration forms, and Wheetabix and potentially dirty hiking boots added two hours to my arrival time. But finally, I got another stamp in my passport, and officially arrived in Australia. Whoop whoop!
I have wanted to visit Australia for over a decade, and was really excited to see Melbourne. It didn’t disappoint. I stayed in a hostel in St. Kilda, and just a hop, skip and a jump from my place was a district that should be called “cake row” – multiple bakeries. Windows full of macaroons, cakes, tarts, squares – so much for giving up pastry. I bought a delicious rhubarb tart as an appetizer for lunch, which was a HUMUNGOUS burger with chips. And a lemon squash. As I ate lunch, I kept repeating Fawlty Towers over and over. Full points if anyone gets that reference.
In a boneheaded move that I’ll chalk up to supreme overtiredness/exhaustion – I went shopping. I don’t have a ton of room in my pack, but I am so tired of wearing the same three shirts and one pair of shorts and I desperately needed a hat. Melbourne is a very fashionable city – I felt like a massive nerd in my Birks and backpack.
After finally getting over my envy of how great everyone looked, I decided to make myself look even better by sweating out a walk to the city centre (5 or 6 km). Seriously, Melbourne is the city that Toronto should be:
- Public transportation is a priority – the Yarras Trams have dedicated lanes and the city was built around transit. It’s efficient, and a fare gives you two hours to jump on and off. Plus after six, it turns into an unlimited pass. There’s also a free tourist shuttle and tourist tram that circles the city centre. Now I don’t know how the transit system is subsidized, but they do have tolls for the highways into and out of the city which seemed to help manage traffic and encourage transit use (it does work!).
- Graffiti is considered art, not a crime – laneways are open for artists to come and leave their mark, and it’s alsopart of an outreach program for youth. I picked up a map outlining several walking tours to explore the laneways and came across several amazing pieces, as well as tiny coffee shops, restaurants and pop-up shops.
- Proper urban planning – older buildings aren’t crowded out by new ones on the skyline. On every corner, there’s an interesting example of art, architecture or both. Parks are everywhere.
- Bike share program – Oh Bixi. I wish you’d taken off in T.O.
- Emphasis on arts and culture – galleries have free exhibitions, artists display all over the city, and art is accessible to all. No right-wing pinkos here.
So I was pretty jealous of Melbourne, and not just because of the cake shops. I’ll have to go back.