A Melbourne, Australia Primer

Well, well, well.

Melbourne is an entirely different city from Adelaide, and that is evident firstly in its size. Melbourne has over 3.5 million people in it and reminds us of Toronto. The water, the beach proximity and their inner city transportation—it is all street cars or as they call them here, trams. The sound of the tram rolling down the street, its metal wheels catching the section breaks of tracks as it rolls over them, reminds us of home. The Australian Open tennis match is still playing out here, and there is a huge 3-week gay festival going on right now. Lovely tree lined avenues, lots of public space and art and monuments everywhere. It is a happening place.

An Influx of Immigrants

Melbourne’s rapid growth was helped in the 1850’s by a massive influx of immigrants seeking their fortunes in the gold fields of the state of Victoria. This wealth led to the construction of the grand public buildings that predominate in Melbourne. In fact, it has the most elaborate Victorian architecture in all of Australia. And it is everywhere.

We arrive late afternoon on Australia Day (which is like our Canada Day) and the airport is busy with families heading home before school starts. We check into our hotel in the area called South Yarra. We are about a 20- 25-minute tram ride from downtown and about 15 minutes from St. Kilda Beach, a popular beach area for Melbournians. We are also a block away from the fashionable Chapel Street shopping area, much like Toronto’s Queen Street West area. We are staying at a more scaled down hotel in Melbourne than we did in Adelaide, but the difference is immediately evident in the service we receive. Here, they know our names, our key is always out when we arrive, and the staff is friendly and helpful. And we have an excellent view of the city from our balcony.

We drop our bags and head up to Chapel Street for a bite of dinner. It is a holiday weekend, so most places are closed. When we finish up, stop for a quick drink at a local watering hole and are in bed early.

Welcome to Melbourne! I think we are going to like it here!

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