Starring reappearing Chris
If you live in Europe, every Australian you meet (*) will tell you to go to Melbourne because it is exactly like Europe. This and the fact that people in Perth had informed me repeatedly that the coffee would be cheaper, were my only expectations of Australia’s (southern most city?).
And the coffee is cheaper. By at least a dollar on average. My extensive sampling of flat whites across the continent can confirm this. Also it is a lot like Europe – the morning I arrived it was cool, overcast and drizzling. Everyone was under their umbrellas and looking a bit glum. I felt very much at home.
My cousin came to meet me and we had a great morning strolling through the narrow lanes jammed with cafes and restaurants and wandering in and out of beautifully restored old gallerias and arcades that had stained glass ceilings and mosaiced floors. There’s an enormous cathedral, a suitably antique tram that trundles around the city in a very Circle Line like manner (but with much better views) and lots of great independent little boutiques and quirky stores. We went into old department stores, food halls and an utterly beautiful vintage fabric shop hidden up a dingy staircase in a somewhat crumbly art nouveau building.
I came back to the lanes on Sunday for brunch with Chris (the very same one who kept mysteriously reappearing in Borneo) – apparently a very Melbourne thing to do. He shared another great fact - Melbourne apparently has the best graffiti in the world – though how this dubious honour is officiated I’m not sure. Two Banksies were accidentally painted over before the City Council embraced the City’s destiny and created ‘wall space’ along the lanes to encourage creative expression.
We also squeezed in an early morning trip to Victoria Market to stock up on groceries. This was where comparisons to Europe start to wear a little thin as, unlike in Europe, shopping at this fresh food markets is actually cheaper than going to the supermarket and the range and quality of the food is quite astounding.
On Saturday the sun was out and it was a balmy 27 degrees so we set off one of the beaches out along the coast called Mornington. It’s an absolutely lovely stretch of sand with a nice shallow bay, perfect for a last swim in a warm sea. The beach is lined with brightly coloured beach huts that change hands for around $AUS 300 000! That is quite a lot of money for a garden shed with a view in which you are forbidden from installing any kind of electricity or plumbing. Even on a baking hot Saturday afternoon it’s hardly crowded and the very nice lifesavers will lend you a sun umbrella if you don’t happen to have one of your own. So I suppose it is about here that the comparisons to Europe must draw to a close.
(*) slight exaggeration – excludes Australians who live in Sydney