Monday, October 25, 2010

24 hours in Melbourne ...

There has always been a friendly rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne.   I must say that my allegiance lies with Sydney, the town of my birth.   I love the beaches, great restaurants, beautiful weather, strolling around the quirky streets of Paddington, Surrey Hills, The Rocks, and nothing beats a ferry ride on the sparkling waters of our harbour on a Summer’s day.  I never tire of capturing these places with my Nikon. Melbourne, on the other hand, offers the visitor a certain sophistication that Sydney (supposedly) lacks.  Melbourne’s architecture, public art, restaurants & theatre make it an exciting to visit.  To VISIT I say!   It is, seriously, a beautiful city and so my decision as to how to spend a brief 24-hour stopover was a challenge – the pressure!
The Yarra (nice day for a stroll along Southbank)
The last time I touched down in Melbourne was on a girls’ shopping weekend.   One of the highlights of that particular visit was doing a ‘Chocoholic Tour’ of the CBD – I do not jest!   So with my two slim chocoholic friends we were guided around Melbourne town by a woman whose life revolved around that rich, brown, creamy delight that tends to touch my lips and go straight to my hips!   I must admit that it was an interesting and delicious way to explore the many arcades that would have perhaps remained hidden except for this tour. I also enjoyed learning more about the history of the CBD in between visiting chocolate institutions like Lindt Chocolat Café, Haigh's Chocolates, The Chocolate Box , Kennedy & Wilson Chocolates and Koko Black.  $35 for a 2 hour tour, numerous tastings and afternoon tea.  With another 9 days of restaurant food I decided that chocolate was off the list this time.

Melbourne greeted us with clear blue skies and warm weather.  I kept remembering that Melbourne has a reputation for 4 seasons in one day however today was Spring through and through.

Our hotel, the Hilton on the Park is located next to the MCG and opposite Fitzroy Gardens.   After a drink in the Park Lounge we decided to stroll through the Gardens into the centre of the city.   Firtzroy Gardens were set aside as a public reserve in 1848 and contains the historic Cook's Cottage.   We decided to take a closer look at the childhood home of the famous explorer Captain James Cook.

Cook's Cottage
The cottage was originally built in the village of Great Ayton, in Yorkshire Great Britain.  It was purchased for the sum of 800 pounds.  To move the cottage, it had to be dismantled and then each brick numbered, put into 253 cases and 40 barrels/crates and shipped to Melbourne, where it arrived in April 1934. The cottage was then rebuilt in the heritage-listed Fitzroy Gardens and opened to the public on 15 October 1934.
One of the bedrooms complete with Gazunda (the green thing that 'Goes Under' the bed)
Whilst the rooms were small I can imagine it was quite a good-sized home in it's day.  Expectations in  England back then were far different from today.

Only meters away is The Conservatory built in 1930 and home to the most stunning floral display.  
From there we walked to the famous Lygon Street in Carlton for dinner.    So many restaurants to choose from - mostly Italian.    As you walk along the street Italian gentlemen try to entice you with their descriptions of food and explaining why their pasta, pizza, steaks are far superior to the one next door.  We finally settled on a restaurant that first opened its doors in 1985, La Notte.    This one was the most popular so we thought it must be good!    With such beautiful weather we decided to dine al fresco.    We started with the antipasti - a platter laden with marinated vegetables, meats, cheeses - delicious!
I enjoyed the mushrooms and frittata - well, I actually enjoyed it all to be honest.   David chose a very different main described as: Fresh asparagus wrapped in prosciutto  with grilled prawns, mango, caramelised onion and a poached egg salad with a balsamic emulsion.    So many of his favourite things on one plate!   Whilst it seemed a bit of an eclectic mix he said it worked very well.
I chose the risotto - if you can't get a good risotto in Lygon Street, there's something wrong.    My risotto was tossed in a creamy sauce with feta, chicken, leeks, toasted pine nuts and roasted pumpkin. 
This is a great restaurant if you're looking for good, honest Italian food.  

We caught a taxi back to the hotel and started talking to the maintenance man in the lift.  He invited us up to the roof to take some photos.  Breathtaking view and totally wasted on an air conditioning plant!
The next morning we skipped breakfast and ate brunch in a little Asian restaurant called CoCo Rice.  Nothing like a curry to get you up and going in the morning.  From there we walked through the city to Federation Square (still not a fan of the architecture - will keep giving it a go) and on to the National Gallery of Victoria (without too many groans from TBG).

I'd missed the Masters' Exhibition however the Gallery has an amazing permanent collection that can captivate for hours.

Our next stop was Southbank and some cold drinks before returning to the Hilton and a snooze before call.    Such a short trip but we managed to enjoy every moment.   Thank you Melbourne for the beautiful weather.   Shame you don't have a magnificent harbour - the brown waters of the Yarra don't quite cut it (Sorry, had to get that last friendly dig in xxx). 

The Bear Brass - Southbank
Around midnight we bid adieu to the beautiful city of Melbourne and an 8 hour flight north.

Why not join me in Hong Kong for 24 hours!




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