There’s something truly liberating when you walk through a city feeling elated with a sense of adventure and wanderlust. For me, the liberation comes from the joyful curiosity of exploring some place new and discovering little intricacies with wide-eye bewilderment. It’s a liberation that’s become a rarity after living the mundane 9-5.
But sometimes a weekend is all you need to inject yourself with that burning curiosity for adventure. And that’s exactly what I did. During the 3-day Queen’s Birthday weekend, Mattias and I went for a trip down-down under to Melbourne. It was short, but super sweet.
We arrived in Melbourne on a Friday night and managed to navigate our way from the airport, through the busy bustling city night life and to our reasonably priced and modest room at the Space Hotel. It was just after midnight and I was utterly exhausted. I was also super grumpy that day, but let’s not get into that (hooray for Borderline Personality Disorders…).
On the Saturday morning, after a satisfying snooze, we made our way down Lygon Street in the hopes of finding the infamous Brunetti Café. Apparently this café is all the rage, however, we got side-tracked by all the other quaint cafés by the street. Melbourne is good at getting us side-tracked, we found. We settled for one of many Italian cafés (La Notte, to be precise) on the street and had a hefty breakfast.
Alas, Brunetti’s will just have to be done on our next Melbourne adventure (whenever that may be).
Bellies full, we recommenced our stroll down Lygon street but again got side-tracked by a small little park. Here are a few cliché photos.
After we spent a good half hour taking crispy autumn photos, we continued our stroll down Lygon Street without much of a goal. Mattias looked at his GPS and was all, “Hey, there’s a nice park up ahead,” so we continued walking for another 10 minutes. Turns out the nice park he was talking about was a cemetery. Good call, Mattias.
Anyway, we turned back and made our way to the city center. I had bookmarked a place that a familiar name on Twitter had recommended and Mattias and I headed there. 1000 ₤ Bend – a nice hidden chai café that’s so industrial-hipster I almost puked rainbows and mustard cardigans.
They make a mean toastie, so if you’re ever in Melbourne and you’re looking for a nice place to chill and eat toasties, you know where to go.
Mattias and I decided it was going to be way too tight to fit in all the cafés we wanted to try out (since they all closed at 4pm and we wanted to do some sight-seeing while it was still light out).
We walked through small lanes of Melbourne, taking in the small cultural details.
There were people wrapped up tight in their winter puffer jackets and knitted scarves, packing up the warm and inviting cafés in the narrow laneways. It started drizzling and there was a cold breeze, but despite the chill, I was in awe of the activity and atmosphere around me… except for a brief moment when we almost got pummeled by a homeless man who thought we were filming him.
The thing that really struck me the most was how un-Australian the city felt to me. Every street we turned into reminded me of another European city.
There were times when I felt like I was in Zurich, other times when I was bang in the middle of London, other times when I felt like I was re-living my winter trip to Helsinki.
Eventually we found ourselves in Federation Square – for me, the only icon that I knew of before arriving. We went to the Tourist Information Centre and booked ourselves a day trip for the next day on the infamous Puffing Billy Railway in the mountains. Originally we had wanted to do the Great Ocean Road tour to the 12 Apostles but we were short on time (again, another thing that will just have to be done on our next Melbourne adventure).
Tickets booked, we were on our way to our next destination – The Royal Botanical Gardens. We walked across the Princes Bridge across the Yarra River, cameras in hand to take some happy snaps of the towering buildings amongst the gloomy sky.
It’s kind of surreal to be walking in a city that you think you know beforehand, but once you get there, it completely trumps your expectations – and in the best possible way. I watched bicyclists zoom past in their bike lanes. I watched horse-drawn carriages carrying smiling tourists. I watched the way small little birds interacted with perfectly primmed gardens.
We approached an overbearing building – The Shrine of Remembrance.
We were just in time for a 3-minute service where we stood in silence to remember the past soldiers who had served patriotically and courageously in the past wars.
After, we made our way to the top of the shrine to take in the magnificent city skyline.
It was as we were up there that the sun started to peek out amongst the foggy grey sky, illuminating the skyline and putting a glimmer across the horizon. I fell in love with Melbourne.
We descended the Shrine and began our leisurely stroll through the Royal Botanical Gardens. A vibrant rainbow appeared in the sky which really put an extra air of magic into the day.
It was a tranquil walk. We sat for a few moments by one of the ponds and watched the ducks and swans glide across the water. Our leisurely stroll ended up on the other side of Melbourne in South Yarra, 50 minutes away by foot from the main city center – totally my bad as I have terrible navigational skills. Also, Google Maps trolled me.
Night had descended and we made our way to South Yarra train station. We purchased a Myki Card so we could get back to the city and finally feast on some good food as by that point, our stomachs were grumbling.
We had Korean BBQ. I love kimchi.
Our feet exhausted and our eyes droopy from the meat feast, we headed back to our hotel and slumbered.
Sunday morning. We arose at 6:30am to pack our bags, check out of the hotel and make our way to our Puffing Billy tour bus.
I watched the urban city drift to elongated highways, and elongated highways disappear into rolling hills and lush greenery. The bus driver made his way through narrow forest roads, explaining the wonders of life in Melbourne. We took a brief morning breakfast break near a bird-feeding sanctuary. The driver made us all a cup of Bush Billy Tea along with lamingtons and Vegemite crackers.
We then fed some of the birds in the area. Look at this little Crimson Rosella! Isn’t he gorgeous?
After being feeding the wildlife, we got back on the bus and headed to the Puffing Billy train.
Being on the platform was like waiting for the Hogwarts Express on platform 9 ¾. The train ride itself was pretty amazing – we had our legs dangling from the train and the cold air gushing against our thighs.
I definitely recommend going for a day trip if you’re ever in Melbourne.
After our trip ended, we were back in the city. We still had some time to kill before our flight back home to Sydney, so we went to the Queen Victoria Markets and snacked on some street food.
Our wandering feet took us to the Royal Exhibition Hall which really is a stunning piece of architecture.
The rest of the day was a bit mundane as we ate dinner at Southern Cross Station and took a SkyBus back to the airport. But as mundane as it may have been, it was a nice conclusion to the trip.
There were so many things to do in Melbourne and though a weekend is definitely not enough, I’m grateful for the little memories that were made. It reignited my love for travelling and experiencing new things once again.
Until next time,