After visiting Sydney and Canberra the previous year, the itch to return to Australia was permanent and strong (and admittedly, still present). The many, many times I had heard “oh, so you liked Sydney? No. Try Melbourne.” were quick to convince, especially when a bout of it came from some good high school friends who are living and studying there.
Broke but Enthusiastic (Lol)
One’s experience in a foreign place is always shaped by who you’re with. You could be alone, you could be going with people who have never been; you could be visiting locals or – as in this particular case – you could be visiting non-local residents.
Whatever the situation, your company affects the lens through which you view the city. For me, the lens I saw Melbourne through was perhaps my favourite one: the all too familiar university students on a budget lens.
University students are best at making their own fun (and I’m not just talking about the college parties – although these were quite fun in Melbourne!). When you’re a student and haven’t got much money at your disposal, little side lanes and hidden coffee shops suddenly become that much more interesting. You find new and lowkey ways of connecting to a place.
Uber, Uber Everywhere
Melbourne has been ranked the most liveable city in the world for seven years in a row – a feat that nearly all the Melburnian Uber drivers felt the need to reiterate. It might be interesting to mention that in this particular week, Uber had just launched its Pool service in the city and so there was a promotional 3 free UberPool rides. Granted, we took advantage of it (imagine 3-5 friends, that was like 15 free rides between us).
But while Uber was helpful that week, the tram system was also efficient and easy to use – almost too easy, as you can get away with not paying for the ride. Even still, the tram is actually also free within the CBD and the Docklands (a heavily debated albeit convenient system), which meant that it was easy to move around without spending a cent. (I’m sure you’re starting to get why it’s one of the most liveable cities!)
I Survived The Edge!
As seen in my previous post about viewing cities from above, the Eureka Skydeck offered a holistic view of Melbourne from 285 metres up. The building has an experience called ‘the edge’, a glass cube which extends out of the building so that you’re looking at Melbourne through the glass floor! Part of the experiences is that, once you’re suspended over the city, the glass ‘pretends’ to break. (It was lowkey scary even though you can tell it’s fake). We got a cool rubber wristband declaring that ‘I survived the edge‘ so I guess it worked out.
The City’s Architecture
Melburnian architecture seems to draw from all sorts of influences from French Renaissance to Neoclassical. In additional to more traditional European architecture, there were little pockets of interesting shapes and colour on buildings.
Wall of Fame
If you’ve been following my Instagram for a while, you’re bound to know how much I adore Street Art – it’s one of the most democratic forms of artistic expression and as a result is perhaps the most honest reflection of the spirit and times of a place. Melbourne had street art all over.
Hosier Lane, one of Melbourne’s most famous side streets, was especially remarkable. It was perhaps a 5-minute walk through streets of art on the walls. Interesting fact is that the street artists continue to paint on and over the walls such that no two days are the same!
Sight-Seeing and Learning
Because I went during Australia’s winter, it was a relatively stress-free time to check out things like the Sea Life Aquarium and the Melbourne Museum. The National Gallery of Victoria comes in heavily recommended, although we didn’t get the chance to pay it a visit.
The Melbourne Museum had your typical dinosaur bones and stuffed animals, but also the artworks and rich, diverse histories of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. As I’d mentioned in my post on Sydney/Canberra, the stories of these the oldest civilisation in history have been overwritten by decades of genocide and continued discrimination, and so the museum offered a chance to learn more about the different groups and their lives in Australia both in the past and also today.
In addition to the sight-seeing, part of the experience was to also see how my friends typically live as they study. Their semester was still going on, so I got to visit their university buildings and see their accommodation. University life across different countries can be so similar, yet so different.
The Artist’s Soul
Overall, it’s not difficult to see how exciting and vibrant Melbourne is as a city. The reason I say it’s really for the artist’s soul is because anyone who believes themselves to be a creator – of music, of dance, of paintings, of stories – will no doubt be inspired by walking the streets of this city.
Visiting friends who mean the world to me also made my stay there super, super special, and there are so many memories I’ve been able to revisit in my mind – from sneaking in and out of university dorms to downloading random apps to ‘win’ free bubble tea to my getting scolded on the tram (for paying the fare when I could’ve gotten away without doing so).
Despite my being there for one week, Melbourne quickly became a favourite city of mine. It didn’t seem to take itself too seriously, allowing equally spaces of green and places to boast memorable buildings. But it’s the art and activity is what captured my heart the most: I wouldn’t mind living in Melbourne. I guess it makes a lot of sense why it’s been crowned the most liveable city in the world for seven years then – those Uber drivers knew what they were on about.
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