Warning: This blog post is going to feature a shameless dose of Aussie slang.
When I used to work at AOL, from 2007 to 2010, I was a producer for the Australia and New Zealand web portals AOL had in the respective markets. And while www.aol.com.au may no longer exist, during that time I learned quite a bit about Australia, its way of life, its natural beauty and what made it a popular country (for a variety of reasons). I even nearly had the chance to visit Sydney for work (AOL had an office there), even bought a new big suitcase and began getting my visa papers in order… only to be told the following week the recession meant all international travel plans have been put on hold.
_Insert sad face_
I was disappointed I never got the chance to visit Australia and had to say hooroo to that dream. Until this contest on Indiblogger came up!
How much do I know about Melbourne – the proclaimed “most livable city in the world”? Well, the first thing my AOL Sydney counterparts told me back then was there is this steadfast competition between Sydney and Melbourne as to which city is better. Then there are the sporting events like the Melbourne Cup, where we spent more time creating feature galleries on all the outrageous hats on display more than the actual horse race! Then there is the Melbourne F1, the first race on the calendar. Other than that, much of what I heard or know about Melbourne just comes from the fact it gets mentioned a lot in lists that rank “best places to live” in the world and is a city where quality of life ranks higher.
For the uninitiated, Melbourne is the capital city of the coastal state of Victoria. Being close to the sea brings with it its fair share of pleasantries. The first being the amazing Great Ocean Road, considered to be the most scenic drives in the world. If I could go for a ride with an obvious stopover at the ’12 apostles’ limestone cliffs — this alone would make the Australia experience for me. Taking the Gibsons Steps down to the beach would definitely be an experience I would not want to miss out on.
I’d also love to witness the Penguin Parade on Philips island. Visitors to the nature reserve get to build wooden ‘homes’ for the penguins of Phillips island and later watch as the penguins make a return to the shore in the evening (although photography is prohibited disappointingly). Check out this video featuring Tamnay and… that other guy from the popular comedy troupe AIB.
Back in Melbourne city, Royal Botanic Gardens seems like a place I’d go for a nice stroll post lunch. Close by is the Shrine of Remembrance, a war memorial, also a free attraction.
Being a foodie, I know I’ll enjoy Queen Victoria market. I mean, where else can I try out fresh kangaroo meat and an assortment of cheese and amazing seafood? For some nice laid back cafe experience, I would veg out at the narrow Degraves Street one morning before take a stroll down Collins Street, the premier street lined with high end shops where the cashed up spend their money. I, on the other, would much rather spend my money at Harbour Town and the many restaurants at Docklands. The area is also where visitors can find the Melbourne Star, a 120 metre high ferris wheel. Although I’d go even higher at the Eureka Skydeck 88, for a panoramic view of Melbourne’s skyline.
I know it’s a bit far out from the city, but if I had the time, I would definitely take a ride on the Puffing Billy train in the Dandenong Ranges. It’s the oldest steam train in Australia, and the journey takes passengers through the renowned mountainous landscape of Mt. Dandenong, which looking at the photos just comes up a cropper. (Not even sure I used that expression right)
If I were to think about buying a special gift from Melbourne, it would have to be an opal pendant (for my mother). I came across Lightning Ridge Opal Mines when browsing Tripadvisor. Named after Lightening Ridge region in Black Opal county, north of Melbourne, the store offers a free educational tour on opal stones and at the end of it, there is no pressure to buy anything. Although I do wish I could experience the real outback, but Lightning Ridge seems really far from Melbourne city.
I’m not the biggest cricket fan out there but I guess I have to drop by the Melbourne Cricket Ground when in the city — because if I didn’t, friends back in India will act puzzled and ask why I didn’t. Ugh.
Sure I’ll ride the tram and drop by Block Arcade, but I’m a larrikin, so much of what I wish to experience on a personal visit to Melbourne is what I mentioned above. These are my top picks. Which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why? Leave your answer in the comments below and you could win a shopping voucher worth Rs. 500!