This time, I spent six days in the wonderful city of Melbourne. Prior to my trip, I spent hours researching about the culture, weather, transport, cafes and best places to go. A few days before my flight, I had my planned itinerary written down in my little travel notebook, complete with the instructions on how to get there and approximate travel times. But, unfortunately (or fortunately, as I discovered later on), I left my notebook behind. I still had work the day of my flight. So after our whole-day training, I rushed home to gather all my things and made it to the airport on time, with my notebook left waiting on my desk.
Life has a way of making me stop and gather my bearings.
When I realised that I did not have my travel itinerary with me, I just shrugged it off and decided to…relax. Yes, relax. For the first time in my all my travelling adventures, I spent my first day at a new place being spontaneous (oh, the horror!). Perhaps the relaxed vibe of Melbourne quickly rubbed off on me. Maybe I was too tired to think and organise my schedule (once again). Or I am getting old and just want to relax more. Possibly all of the above.
Whatever it was, I chucked my first-day plans out the window and went with the flow. Or rather, wherever the tram and my feet took me. And what a liberating experience that was!
Speaking of trams, I booked a room at a hotel away from the city because I wanted to experience getting around Melbourne through the different transport systems. I was most looking forward to travelling via tram, being my first time to do so. Reading about it was so different from actually experiencing it. Even if I researched how to get to the city, I did not anticipate that each station going either way (at one area) has the same tram stop number. The difference was in the fine print – the station name under the number. So when I wanted to transfer to the next tram, I actually took the wrong one! Under normal circumstances, I would have panicked. But, since I was already on the “go-with-the-flow” mindset, I just charged it to experience and ended up walking the streets to wherever I felt like going to.
My first stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a beautiful church both inside and out. It was a great and solid way to begin my travels. After praying for blessings on my trip, I meandered down the side streets until I reached Chinatown. Yay, food!!! I forgot how large the portions are and ended up taking away half of my meal. Eventually, I ended up in Melbourne Central Station. By this time, I had figured out the tram system and was looking forward to going to more places.
Flinders Street Station
Flinders Street Station, located right in the heart of the city, is an iconic landmark. Those vintage clocks used long ago for the station timings definitely add to its charm. It was bustling with activity – people rushing to work or school, people waiting, lovers meeting, friends chatting, buskers performing. My highlight at that station, though, was not the energy. It was the coffee!! I bought an Irish flat white from one of the coffee stalls and it was delicious! (more on my coffee quest later…)
Just across Flinders Street Station is Federation Square. It was a place that always had something going on. At the time I went, there was a free film (documentary, I think). But because it was freaking hot then, nobody attempted to sit by the outdoor theatre.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
And right at the other intersection was St. Paul’s Cathedral. Initially I thought it was a Catholic church and went inside to check the Saturday mass timings. Realised it’s actually an Anglican church. Also, because of its location, this place has become a landmark for different bus tours as well.
Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance is a war memorial to the men and women of Victoria, Australia who served in WWI. During that war, 18,000 of these Victorians did not return to their homeland. Thousands more were wounded. The Shrine represents the virtues SACRIFICE, PATRIOTISM, JUSTICE, PEACE, and GOODWILL. The architects who designed the Shrine of Remembrance were WWI veterans themselves. Inside the sanctuary lies the marble Stone of Remembrance engraved with the words “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN.” And once a year, on 11 November 11 AM (Remembrance Day), a ray of sunlight shines through to light up the word “LOVE”.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Of course, the Royal Botanic Gardens was another stop that I looked forward to. Because it was huge, I did not have enough time to traverse through the whole area.
It was a great pit stop to cool down and have a snack. I bought this at Woolworths on my first day in Melbourne and I was hooked! I only wished I stocked up on more of it and brought them back with me.
Luna Park is a historic amusement park located near St. Kilda Beach. And it’s still operational!
St. Kilda Beach
Australia is known for their lovely beaches (as I have experienced in Sydney). St. Kilda Beach is no exception. People in Melbourne are really lucky to have beaches so accessible to them – and free!
Getting lost, learning the tram system, free city tram rides, touring the city (and outskirts), meeting friendly locals, eating great food, and the coffee…ooooohhh the coffee!!!! This deserves its own post, for sure!
My exploration around Melbourne was definitely an unforgettable one.