Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sunday, 11/03/13 Melbourne

Sunday, 11/03/13 Melbourne

Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city, with 4.4 million people.  It is the most multicultural city in Australia, with a large percentage of Asians.  Melbourne is Australia’s fashion capital, its arts and entertainment capital, and its sporting capital, with the biggest sporting event of all in Australia, the Melbourne Cup, “The Race That Stops the Nation.”  Melbourne is situated on the Yarrow River, and it became a large and important city as a result of the gold rush, in which more gold was discovered than in California.  Melbourne is a modern city, with numerous skyscrapers, including the Eureka Tower, the highest residential tower in the southern hemisphere, as well as the tallest office tower in the southern hemisphere.

Melbourne is the principal shopping city in Australia, with the Bourke Street Mall, a pedestrian street filled with shops and also street musicians; Collins Street, with an abundance of boutiques and antique shops; and Swanston Street, the long “main street” of Melbourne, with miles of shops of all kinds, including “Paris End”, fashion boutiques with Versace, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, and also Coogi of Australia.  Many beautiful shopping arcades lie hidden in the Central Business District area, filled with small shops of all kinds, along with small cafes.  Melbourne is Australia’s food capital, and many of the downtown streets are lined with outdoor restaurants and cafes.

The Queen Victoria Market is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere, and the site of more than 600 stalls selling everything from all types of food to clothing, flowers, jewelry, souvenirs, and numerous other items.  The Queen Victoria Market has been in operation since 1878.  One of the most popular sites in Queen Victoria Market is the “American Donut Van”, which sells hot, freshly made donuts from a van, and always has a long line waiting to buy a bag of five donuts for $5 Australian.  Although they are not the same as American donuts, they are very tasty and well worth the wait in line.

The Melbourne Cup is a horserace somewhat like the Kentucky Derby in America.  It is a two-mile handicap race run in the spring on turf of horses of all ages and gender from all over the world.  It is also a fashion event, in which both men and women go all-out with new fashions, including fancy hats.  The event is filled with pomp and ceremony and attracts visitors from all over the world.  The entire week is a huge party week in Melbourne.  The race is run on Tuesday, and the ship was in Melbourne on Sunday prior to the race.  The streets were filled already with happy visitors in advance of the race.  Like the rest of Australia, the ship celebrated the race by showing events leading up to the race, decorating the ship in celebration of the race, and selling “sweeps” tickets in the casino.  “Sweeps” tickets are lottery tickets with the numbers of the horses running in the race.  In this race, the Number 6 horse won, so the holder of the “sweeps” ticket with the number 6 won.  Alas, my ticket was number 14.

My day in Melbourne started with the purchase of a Myki ticket, a plastic card used in all forms of public transportation -- bus, train and tram.  Myki tickets can be “topped off” by adding fare to the card at special machines (the same as the Metro fare card in Washington).  The transfer bus from the ship dropped passengers at the arts center, on the south bank of the Yarrow River on Swanston Street.  My first destination was the Queen Victoria Market, located near the “top” of Swanston Street, and I began my long walk up Swanston Street toward the market.  On the west side of the street, Swanston Street is filled with shops.  An overhang covered almost the entire sidewalk on the west side of Swanston Street, and billboards of a uniform size hang down to identify the shops along the way.  On the east side of Swanston Street were churches, public buildings, and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, a prestigious university in Australia, much like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in America.  At the “top” of Swanston Street, I turned left on Franklin Street for a few blocks to the Queen Victoria Market, where I spent hours browsing the stalls and taking photographs.  During the time I was there, a sudden downpour lasting half an hour sent everyone inside, under that metal roofs of the sheds and provided an interesting sound of the rain on the rooftops.

After leaving the Queen Victoria Market, I took the tram back to Bourke Street and walked back to the Central Business District, where shoulder-to-shoulder crowds made their way along the Bourke Street Mall, the pedestrian shopping street.  When I spotted the Royal Arcade, I stepped inside to take photos of the elegant architecture, and then stopped at the Caffe e Torta café for a cup of minestrone soup and apple strudel.  Leaving the Royal Arcade, I continued along Collins to other pretty shopping arcades.  Eventually, it was time to return to the ship, and I boarded the tram that terminated at the pier.

Melbourne is a very elegant city that has everything, including very easy transportation.  Unless Sydney has more to offer, Melbourne is clearly the most complete city in Australia.  I loved my day there.

15,345 steps on my pedometer.

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