After thirty hours of travelling time on a recent trip, we arrived in Melbourne; a city clean in appearance and from what we could see when we first arrived, with interesting areas to explore. After our welcome-to-the-city-and-meet-your-fellow-travellers dinner, we had an early night, excitedly looking forward to our tour of the city the following morning.
On our tour around Melbourne, we saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Michael’s Church and the Parliament buildings which were opened in 1901. They are now a world heritage site situated across from the Windsor Hotel. Inside the hotel, we took pictures of the unbelievable luxury of the interior – the lobby, the dining room and the banquet rooms. One could only imagine the luxury of the rooms and how deep in your pocket you’d have to reach to be able to stay there.
We drove by the Flinders Street Railway Station and the Clock Tower, both historical sites of interest to see. This railway station, completed in 1909, is the length of two city blocks and has a row of clocks above the entrance. We also drove past Federation Square, the old Melbourne Jail which at one time housed Ned Kelly who was considered to be like our Jessie James; the Christian Chapel which was build in 1865, past the University of Melbourne, the courts which go back to the 1850’s, the old post office, the Regent Theatre and the Treasury Building. We also saw the statue of Sister Mary McCullum, a well-known and respected nun in Australia; the magnificent stadium designed like a soccer ball, and the Shrine of Remembrance for the WWI veterans and later those Australians who fought in other wars who were also included.
We visited Fitzroy Park where we saw Cook’s cottage, the gardens and Conservatory, a tree with whimsical carvings on it and a memorial to John F. Kennedy. Some of us were then dropped off at the Queen Victoria Market where we browsed, had a lunch of pizza and people-watched. Some of the shops have been there since the 1870’s and it is rumoured there are still bones from a long-ago cemetery buried beneath some of the buildings. There you will find the cheapest souvenirs in all of Australia, with prices that can be negotiated. When it was almost time to meet our ride back to the hotel, we discovered there were several different entertainment venues and a more interesting selection of food than our choice of pizza was.
From the hotel a few of us walked to the Young & Jackson Hotel which is the oldest pub in all of Melbourne, built in 1860. As you enter through doors that people have been going through for over one hundred and fifty years, you can smell the accumulation of age and years that are the history of this landmark. Surrounded by dark wood panelling, beautifully renovated, we drank our first Australian beer. We later went upstairs to visit Chloe’s Rooms with her life-size painting gracing the wall as it has done for over a century.
And from there we hopped onto the famous green trams which we were told, because it was a weekend, would not be busy. Unfortunately, everyone else had been told the same thing because it was pretty much standing room only. Having just arrived, we were click-happy with our cameras and disappointed that we were able to see so little of the city from this mode of transportation.
Later eight of us met in the lobby of the hotel to go for dinner. We crossed a bridge over the Yarra River near our hotel and close to the entrance of the Flinders Street Railway Station. Walking along the river, we stopped to peruse the menus outside of the numerous restaurants. We discovered that meals in Australia are quite expensive. Having walked for some distance, four of our group decided they no longer wanted to continue and stopped where the meals were a minimum of $35 to $40 each, and didn’t include wine. The other four of us, no doubt more thrifty by nature, decided to continue walking beside the river. It was a beautiful evening and a lovely walk so we continued until we reached the Casino where we ended up eating at the food court. Not necessarily because it was the cheapest place we could find but because by this time we were ravenous and our stomachs would have been in revolt had we taken another step further.
With varying degrees of enjoyment for our dinners, we continued walking along the river, taking pictures as the sun set on this lovely city before finally crossing another of the many bridges. With some unintended detours, we finally arrived back at our hotel.
Our visit to Melbourne was to be short but most of us felt we had seen some of the high points, a few of the historical attractions and heard a condensed history of this attractive city. It is second only in size to Sydney with over four million people. Founded in 1835, it is considered the Garden City and cultural capital of Australia.