Exploring Australia's most European feeling city.
05.02.2014 - 01.02.2014 35 °C
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
The final drive around the bay of Melbourne from Phillip Island to the centre of the CBD took just under two hours. Our car was to be returned with an empty fuel tank. As we approached the CBD, the fuel light came on to alert us there was 50km of fuel left, which was fine as we only had about 10km to do; however the digital fuel calculator disappeared to be replaced with a flashing last bar on the fuel gauge. Chris suggested we pulled off the freeway, but seeing as we were a matter of kilometres from the drop off and further from a petrol station, we continued. Fortunately we managed to drop off our bags at the apartment before taking the car back and running out of fuel. We would have been fine though, we were uphill from the car drop off point!
After returning the hire car, we headed down to Federation Square where we met up with my cousin, who I have not seen for 10 years. It was also lovely to meet up with my Aunty and Uncle, her parents, who were over visiting. We all had a coffee in the sun before heading across town to visit Cooke's Cottage.
Cooke's cottage is a small country cottage which was brought over from England and rebuilt here. It's a very small two up two down and is set amongst beautiful gardens.
After having lunch, we all went our separate ways and Chris and I began to explore the city and decided to sight see on the free circle route tram, which used an old fashioned tram car.
In the evening we visited Queen Victoria market, which holds a night market every Wednesday evening. This was a lot busier than we had anticipated and there was a good variety of food from all over the globe available. We feasted on some delicious Moroccan style lamb burgers.
The following morning, we visited the state library, which much be one of the best libraries I have ever visited. (Have yet to visit the British library.) this building from the outside is an imposing building with columns out the front. Leading up to the library is a pleasant little garden terrace area with plenty of benches and shady lawns to sit on. Inside the library, there are your relatively conventional square box rooms which 'do their job' of housing all the books, which are rather grand with their double height ceilings. The real reason for visiting though is to see the dome room, only recently restored after having the glass ceiling dome boarded over for the best part of a century. This room is truly magnificent. It retains its original charm with the reading tables from the turn of the 20th century. The room is set up in a circle, continuing the flow of the dome roof. Overlooking the great room are balconies which are home to yet more books. Around the edge of the ground floor there are bookshelves reaching high above your head. You can head up to the balconies, giving you an aerial view of this great room.
Around the edge of this room, on the balconies are various temporary exhibits, one of which explains more about the history of Victoria and how it came to be an independent state, separate from New South Wales in the middle of the 19th century.
In the afternoon, we visited the former gaol, which used to look after all of Melbourne's growing criminal population. Hundreds of executions were carried out within the gaol, where the original hanging platform can still be seen. Within the museum, you can explore the various different cells, which contain fact files on some of the gaol's residents. These include background information leading up to their crime and if they were executed or not.
Some of the cells contain death masks, which were made in order to establish if their was a link between skull shape and size and brain to the likelihood of someone leading a life of crime through the studying of phrenology. You can explore all three floors of the male cell block; the women's cell block has been demolished.
Alongside the gaol is the watch house, a remand and overnight cell block, which was used for short term stays, usually of a few nights, up until the 1990s. The gaol had been a free tour, this one was a guided experience tour. You were lined up outside before being arrested and given a character to play. As part of the tour, you are walked through the various parts of the station and shown to the cells. In Australia, they have wet and dry cells. Dry cells have wooden floors, wet cells are smoothed painted concrete with a drain in the middle so that they can easily be hosed down after a drunken guest or two.
On Friday, we wandered around the centre, stopping to look at the old treasury building and Parliament House. We walked along the river, and up along the South Bank.
In the afternoon, we visited an exhibition in Federation Square. The exhibition called Spectacle looked at how music videos have changed the way we listen to music and showing how sometimes the video can be more popular than the song itself. The exhibition looks at different techniques used over the years and documents those which, for their time, were deemed adventurous and daring. The exhibition went up to present day, with the latest craze of people remaking the music videos and posting them on YouTube.
In the evening, we took a tram down to the bay to visit the town of St. Kilda. This is a popular little seaside town, particularly with kite surfers. There are plenty of cafés along the streets and after a walk along the promenade, we stopped for dinner at a comical Italian restaurant. All the staff were foreign, and we didn't hear any native English speakers, most sounding European and a few were French. Anyway, boss man (potentially Italian?) didn't seem to have too much patience for his staff, who to be fair, were relatively incompetent. It was quite entertaining watching him become frustrated when they didn't understand or asked questions, from the customers, which he deemed irrelevant and pointless. For example, what's the house white. (It's dry white and $12 (£6) a litre, what more could you possibly want or need to know?) The food was good, even if the starter did come out sometime after my main.
At one end of the seafront, there is a Luna Park, which was relatively deserted, but at least everything was still lit up with brightly coloured lights. Just up from that there is a pier, which extends some way out into the sea with a beach section off to one side. Along the beach, meeting the pier are loads of large rocks and within the gaps of these rocks are various little penguin nests. As it was sunset, we sat and watched and saw about five different penguins coming in and wandering around. Chris was not impressed that we had paid to see this the other night, but you couldn't really compare it as at this time of year there are a lot fewer penguins.
The following day, Saturday, was our last day in Melbourne. We started the day by visiting the Eureka tower which has an observation deck on the 88th floor, considerably higher than any of the buildings around it. The views were great and you could see right down to the bay. There is also 'the edge' experience, which is a glass cube which extends three metres out from the side of the building and once fully extended, the frosted glass floor clears so that you are standing on a clear glass platform. The views were no better in the cube, and seeing as it extends over a car park, the view down is nothing special either. This is definitely one that is more for the novelty factor and the ability to say you had done it.
All around the observation deck were some forty viewfinders which you would look down to see a specific labelled building or monument. This was a really easy way to clearly know what you are actually looking at, compared to when we went up the Petronas Towers in KL, where the pictures showing the skyline were about 10 years old and incredibly outdated!
In the afternoon, we wandered around the shops, and sat in the park before heading back to our apartment to pack, have dinner and get an early night as we had to get up at 2.45am to catch the bus to the airport to fly to Sydney.