A Travellerspoint blog

March 2014

Back to Aus - Melbourne

I was fortunate to stay with a friend in his beautifully restored Victorian villa which is like a museum piece in itself 79DB382A2219AC6817EF252426F5872C.jpg79DA34882219AC68175E980D25C3D2E1.jpg79D94DEE2219AC68177726530E6864AE.jpg976490F42219AC681761428CE985B8A7.jpgand after a multi course dinner, cooked by my host, and plenty of wine, I slept really well. It was wonderful to be in a private room with en suite bathroom after so many nights in dorms!
On Friday I took the bus into the city and as you drive down Lygon Street you pass the myriad restaurants and coffee bars that offer the culinary delights of almost every nation and make Melbourne famous for it's 'cafe culture'. I went straight to Federation Square, the civic and cultural heart of the city with it's cathedral like atrium and outdoor cinema screen. 3A8091682219AC681785FC9546CBA1DB.jpg3A7E8DF42219AC6817D2007480F2322F.jpg3A7F4EDA2219AC681751D3CF0E032D19.jpgAcross the road from the Square is Flinders Street Station, the busiest in the city and, for a traditionalist like me, much more architecturally pleasing.3A11DA4A2219AC6817DBBBD691761DCD.jpgInside the Square are exhibition buildings including the Ian Potter NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) and I spent a while wandering around this. The 'rug' in this picture is made entirely from cake icing 3A44F7D82219AC6817EB0A238D14CE64.jpgand this outfit is made from a combination of materials but predominately neoprene.3A4D1F672219AC6817080B675B4A3DCF.jpgThere were some other interesting exhibits3A4A292A2219AC681719ACE6B925983B.jpg3A4B28032219AC68171F4807BFE6DC1C.jpg3A4C44652219AC6817F547758F72D130.jpgbut nothing that really had 'the wow factor' for me. The Square backs onto the Yarra River with it's boathouses 3A1079FC2219AC6817F80056DEE92ACF.jpgand where the old wharves and vaults have been converted to bars and bistros.3A0FC2AA2219AC681795BB7AA70E3A28.jpgYou can walk along the promenade to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Rod Laver complex. I went out to the MCG with the intention of taking a tour round it but the queues were long so I decided to take a walk around the historic lanes and arcades of the main shopping district.3A816AD42219AC68178CAA54A218C1C9.jpgI expected to find the kind of little shops there are in the Brighton lanes in England but, unless I missed them, they were full of little cafes and bars all of which were very busy. Across the river to the South3A8817D62219AC68175B1318DEABC9DE.jpgis the Eureka Tower and 18.50AUS$ will buy you a ride to the Skydeck with 360 degree floor to ceiling views of the city.The Skydeck is 88 floors up and the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere. The lift travels at 9 metres per second and takes 38 seconds to reach the 88th floor. The views are, as you would expect, stunning3ABC3EA92219AC6817ECB2AC95F62C44.jpgwith this one looking towards the MCG and Rod Laver Stadium99F099372219AC6817002F2E39775FBB.jpgthis one down onto the Botanic Gardens and Government House3ABE527B2219AC6817E4756E94B915E0.jpgthis to the Arts Centre (with the Eiffel Tower mast on top) and the National Gallery.3ABD3FC72219AC6817389F49B2F7576F.jpgand here is a birds eye view of Federation Square.3ABF7D502219AC681702059C9F82A70E.jpgIf you hold onto your ticket you can come back in the evening and for another 3.50AUS$ you can go up again to see the city at night. There is an outdoor, caged, area that allows you to experience the elements at 300metres above the ground and 'The Edge' is a glass cube that projects three metres out from the Skydeck so that, for an extra 12AUS$ you can 'walk on air'.
The Arts Centre is a guided tour only experience and there was one tour a day which I had missed. There are three tour options covering different parts of the two theatres, backstage and dressing room areas and I'm sure they are worth considering. I had a coffee at the Tram Bar out front3AF3AC122219AC681714626BBD54BD92.jpgand then went next door to the National Art Gallery. Again some interesting exhibits3AF633A12219AC68176C54F50F237F31.jpg3AF7121D2219AC6817F48336AC46E7CC.jpg3AF8130F2219AC6817F413BE8D0A76F6.jpg3AF921E22219AC6817CCD6C2466828F1.jpgand the wall of water at the front entrance is lovely 3AF54B112219AC6817605AB48612A288.jpgbut again there was nothing there that really made me gasp. While I was waiting for my lift I sat in Federation Square and watched the news on the outdoor screen and then went into St Paul's Cathedral and listened to a male voice choir (men and boys) for a while. 3AFB783A2219AC68172F16F078AE2C3D.jpgThat was a haven of tranquility after the teeming crowds outside and the interior of the building is beautiful.
I must really be missing something here because everybody I met EVERYWHERE said 'Melbourne is the best city in Australia and you will love it'. No disrespect to Melburnians but actually I didn't. The city is certainly a delight for foodies of all tastes but I found the crowds overwhelming, (even more so than Sydney) the multi-track railway running right through the middle of the city very ugly, and the architecture of Federation Square brutal and garish. In mid 2012 the popuation of Melbourne was 4.25 million, I am told that this is expected to go to 10 million within the next ten years and it is hard to imagine how the city, it's infrastructure and environs, are going to cope with this. Melbourne has been voted top of the world's most liveable cities for the last three years running. You have to hope there is a grand plan in place to deal with this population explosion in order for it to keep that ranking.
Friend Tom is a biker and he picked me up for a drive around the bay to Williamstown for a view of the city from another angle and then we went to Lygon Street for a wonderful dish of pasta marinara and some fabulous ice cream ?
On Satuday we rode into the city again to go to Victoria Market which seems to be top of the most visited attractions of Melbourne. It really is incredible, huge and with every possible kind of fruit and vegetable you could want, and there are deli halls and meat halls and fish halls. The list goes on and this is not to mention the clothing and souvenirs etc. etc. It was packed and fragrant and amazing!
In the afternon we rode the bike up through the Dandenong ranges to Skyhigh at Mount Dandenong where there is a lookout point and restaurant.798BBDF22219AC6817B81AEBADD7A4FD.jpgand the wonderful 'Austaliana Tree' beautifully and intricately carved from an actual standing tree.798CE1A02219AC681784371B04D79C3A.jpgUnfortunately the weather did not allow us to see the spectacular views which were out there but the air on the drive up was full of the scent of eucalypts and the hill villages, each with it's little antique, gift shops and restaurants are well worth visiting. Just fifty minutes from the heart of the city this is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a big tourist draw.
Sunday morning we visited Abbotsford Convent which was home to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a Roman Catholic order, until 1975. It was also a refuge for destitute women and a home for orphaned girls. The women were able to come and go at will but the girls were not and it was the site of one of the many Magdalen Laundries. The nuns, it seems, were advocates of the performing arts, and there are two large performance halls either side of a courtyard within the 11 building convent complex. After falling into disrepair it was rescued and restored and is now an arts, education and cultural hub with live theatre, music, markets, a bakery, bar and cafe and a host of artisans working and doing business there. There is also a well stocked and visited Childrens Farm and a very pleasant walk down to the Yarra River.
On Sunday afternoon we drove through the Yarra Valley to visit a winery798DE1162219AC68178BFABDE08FFA75.jpg as you can see we were completely spoilt for choice but we settled on this one 798F04BD2219AC68174D04EC057398EE.jpg798FEC4C2219AC6817B527B9118F7D3E.jpgand had a very nice plate of cheese and a glass each of something quite delicius.
On Sunday evening Tom's parents were coming to dinner so we started as we meant to go on9D8C18D92219AC6817753E7166A101D7.jpgand enjoyed a wonderful dinner of salad and Ossobuco and some entertaining company. It was a good job I had a quiet few hours on Monday before packing for my return flight to Sydney!

Posted by busyboots 16:55 Comments (1)

There are still plenty of good reasons to go to Christchurch

As we drove into Christchurch my first reaction was one of shock at the devastation of the city three years on from the earthquakes. Everywhere you look there are huge gaps where buidings were and I later learned that almost 80% of the original city has been demolished including 200 heritage buildings.651486552219AC681708D5841A23C02A.jpg65153C912219AC6817414B4252E93602.jpg6515F16C2219AC681749C46CC93AF3CB.jpg65168BC32219AC68172601EE773081B0.jpg Entire sides of some of the remaining buildings are being held up by stacked containers filled with ballast and the entire city is ike a huge construction site. I stayed at the YHA hostel, which is a heritage buiding and although it suffered some damage it is now back up and running 3539CF822219AC681743506B09025FA9.jpgbut right across the street is the Arts Centre which currently looks like this 353AAD192219AC6817DDC9DB91919B5A.jpg The beautiful cathedral which stands at the heart of the city used to look like this 353C2A102219AC681723CAC72E1632F0.jpg353CE0502219AC681763B12DD69BC308.jpgbut now looks like this 353B8D6D2219AC68176E75714E80DE04.jpgand there is so much debate about the future of this iconic building that it has been the subject of a court case. Meanwhile a 'Cardboard Cathedral' has been built 357A99252219AC681705B1577D200F6E.jpgand has become a tourist attraction in itself. Despite the devastation some of the old buildings have survived 357B62E72219AC6817809FB3640CE817.jpg357C214C2219AC681784A9FFFACDDEE8.jpg and the 'Restart Mall', where shops and restaurants operate out of containers, is a symol of the spirit of the city and a big draw for tourists. 357CF28C2219AC681786BDF1417D5B6F.jpg357DA11F2219AC68179E9E2A5112F4CD.jpg357E42A82219AC6817BD67ABDD31759C.jpg There is still punting on the river and lots of little 'pop up' coffee bars have emerged to add colour to the area. 35B435E82219AC6817DBCE71B40DFB69.jpg35B316462219AC681789FB4FEAFFE9B5.jpg Street artists have taken advantage of blank walls 3623CD132219AC6817F353408D46265F.jpg and temporary 'gap fillers' have been erected. This outdoor entertainment space which has been constructed alongside the damaged concert hall is one example 35E83FD32219AC6817F743EE154CAE12.jpgIt has been put together by members of the local community and is made from folded packing crates with the names of those of have contributed to the effort painted on the sides of each one.
The museum is still standing 35B4EE242219AC68173917980924904C.jpgand I spent a couple of hours in here exploring the wonderful exhibitions including a reconstructed colonial dwelling 35B5B7042219AC6817E7D519B6028EBB.jpg an early Christchurch street 35B671182219AC68174E84344567EE08.jpgsome fascinating fossils 35B71AAD2219AC6817C7B5B2B5A31FC4.jpgand a gallery dedicated to Antarctic exploration35E4522D2219AC6817728536B8039ABA.jpg35E504F42219AC6817F3AC1B49750F83.jpg35E5D3782219AC6817D84F909215364A.jpgThere is also an entire gallery of street art including some examples of Banksy.35E693F62219AC681797EEDA34E71C40.jpgand many other galleries worth spending time in. It really is an excellent museum ?
The botanic gardens, which are right next door to the museum, are absolutely beautiful and play host to free outdoor entertainment. 362553782219AC6817FB3AFDF527B0B6.jpg36263A3D2219AC68177B52C8172E7836.jpg3627179D2219AC68174CE13F5B2D4CB4.jpg3627FBB72219AC6817C25AF5D4234D9B.jpg364DBA192219AC6817A0B5C6F741890F.jpg364EB2082219AC6817AF563C2234DADD.jpgI managed to capture the interest of one of the feathered inhabitants 364F75122219AC6817E1F03FF024F96C.jpgbut some of the others gave me 'the bird' 365010452219AC6817D1023AE2F575BB.jpgI had less than 48 hours in the city but 'Quake City' was recommended to me by one of the museum staff so I went there in the morning before I left to fly back to Australia. I had not intended to go to this as I didn't want to be ghoulishly voyeuristic about so much suffering but I was assured it was run by the museum and dealt sensitively with the earthquake experience. There is a NZ$10 entry fee to this but it is worth going to. There are photographs of the immediate aftermath, CCTV footage of a small area of street as it happened (thankfully nobody was injured in this sequence) and lots of information about how the local, and national community rallied, to assist the people affected by the disaster. There is also information about how the rebuild is going and the future plan for the city is on display.There are to be a many more open, green, spaces and squares encompassing entertainment, sports and hospital facilities. What has happened to this city is undoubtedly a huge tragedy but there is also a lot of potential for quality, life enhancing, re-development and apparently a lot of enthusiasm among architects and planners who have moved into the city in the aftermath of the earthquakes. It is going to take a very long time to make this city as beautiful as it was, and it will be very different to the old Christchurch, but if the planners and builders get it right they could put Christchurch right back on the map as a world class destination. Meanwhile there are plenty of tourists in evidence, although accommodation needs to be booked well in advance as much of it is taken up by construction workers, and the outdoor coffee bars and restaurants are still buzzing in the Christchurch sunshine.

Posted by busyboots 17:34 Comments (1)

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