01.06.2012 – 04.06.2012 Sunny 10°C
To say the eight hours we spent on the Greyhound travelling overnight to Melbourne were uncomfortable is a massive understatement. Although this particular driver was a nice bloke, which makes a change from the regimental, power crazy old retards that usually drive, he had the heating on and didn’t make too much noise when stopping for a break. To counter that though, the bus was packed meaning B and I had to sit together instead of having two seats each to stretch out on. About 4am a guy got off though so I jumped across to take his double, which made the remaining few hours a little more comfortable.
The temperature in Melbourne was freezing, we were shivering in the bus station as we waited for our bags to be chucked out of the hold. I say freezing, its freezing to us. After spending so long in warm climates now, we are not used to the chilly 10°C Melbourne was experiencing that morning.
We’d planned to find lockers to stuff our gear in just like we had in Canberra, have a day around Melbourne and then meet up with Rachel, the girl we met at Surfers who said we could crash at her house. Getting off that bus though we desperately needed a shower so decided to find a hostel for a night. It wasn’t long before we found Greenhouse Backpackers. Located next to a Police Station round the corner from Federation Square, it looked promising. It was a big place, the reception was on floor six. We checked in for the night for $32 (£21) each but did get free Wi-Fi and free breakfast for that price. Not bad. The guy who sorted us out told us about a free walking tour leaving at 10am and asked us if we wanted to go. Brilliant, we could get our bearings and knock out Melbourne’s major sights out all within our first few hours. If I hadn’t of dropped our phone in the shower which broke into four pieces and ceased to work again, it would have been the perfect morning.
Melbourne Walking Tour. We met in reception and our guide introduced himself as Shannon, (I had to ask twice too). He didn’t tell us where we were going but just to follow.
Cathedral Arcade and Federation Square. First up was Cathedral Arcade, an old arcade of shops which still had lifts operated by attendants, although they weren’t there while we were visiting. Walking out we hit Federation Square, a kind of arty paved area full of steps and slopes. It has the visitor information centre the ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image), a load of cafés, bars and free Wi-Fi. Nice.
St. Paul’s Cathedral. Adjacent to Federation Square was St. Paul’s, a grand cathedral that didn’t look out-of-place opposite Flinders Street Station which is a really old building (well old for Australia, being built about 150 years ago) that was supposed to be erected in Mumbai, apparently the blueprints were mixed up somewhere along the line so the Melbourne building is in Mumbai and vice versa. We didn’t go in to the cathedral on the tour but did go back a few days later and the inside matches the outside for sheer amazement. (Religious stuff aside).
After these we walked up and down three alleyways professionally covered in graffiti, paid for by the government. Shannon explained that Melbourne is an arty city but for the commonwealth games a few years earlier, they painted over the previous artwork to tidy the place up. After the games had finished they paid for it to be put back. Unfortunately dickheads have scribbled their signatures over a lot of it which does spoil the impact.
Melbourne’s smallest coffee shop. Next was the Manchester Unity Building for a coffee from Melbourne’s smallest coffee shop. It was basically a window. The coffee was crap and overpriced.
We walked through Union Lane, another graffiti covered alley and to…
The Royal Arcade. Another arcade of shops. We stopped at a Rock shop to see the Rock being made but unfortunately the rock-atier was off sick. Good free sample though. (its name is rock, not ‘lollies’, take note Australians).
The Block Arcade. Another arcade of shops albeit, a lot posher than the previous. This contained Haiges Chocolate Shop where we were given more free samples. Shannon told us a story about Haiges and Lindt. Back in the day the Haige family and the Lindt family were friends. Lindt being Swiss, their English wasn’t good so the Haiges suggested teaching them how to make chocolate in exchange for help with their English. They’re now direct competitors with shops opposite each other but I can’t see Haiges being too much of a problem as I’d never heard of them before this.
Chinatown. By now it was lunch time (ish) so we went for good dumplings at Shanghai Dumpling House in Chinatown. We passed by Melbourne’s old red light district on the way, which is now home to loads of hip cafés and funky bars. On the way to our next stop we passed Croft Lane, an alley covered in graffiti with a club at the end. More on that later.
Sofitel. Next was ‘somewhere we weren’t supposed to go’. It turned out to be The Sofitel Hotel which has Melbourne’s best toilets located on one of the upper floors. They looked out onto the whole of Melbourne with glass head to toe. Smart.
Fitzroy Gardens and Cook Cottage. We made our decent and passed by Old Parliament House and The Treasury Building on our way into Fitzroy Gardens. Luckily although still chilly the sun was out and made for a great walk through the park, we even saw a possum asleep in a hole in the side of a tree. Shannon took us through a building with tropical flowers in it, past a fairy tree, a model village with loads of famous houses from the UK and finally to Cook Cottage, Captain Cooks house from Britain. It was transported brick by brick and put back together as a small museum.
Melbourne Cricket Ground. On the home strait was Melbourne Cricket Ground. We didn’t go in but tours were available for $15 each.
Well worth doing we found out where everything was, saw stuff we wanted to go back and see properly and it was free. Bargain, cheers Shannon.
Free city tour by bus. After our mammoth walking tour around Melbourne we went back to the hostel to refuel and decided to spend the afternoon circling the place using the free bus, but not before booking a trip to the Neighbours set for the following morning for $50 each.
We waited for the bus outside St. Paul’s Cathedral where it turned up bang on time. We then sat down for an hour and a half while it ferried us around the various sites Melbourne has to offer. Most, we had already seen thanks to the walking tour we completed earlier that day but there were a few additions we didn’t get to like the South Bank Promenade and all the places between that side of the river. We’d jumped on the last bus of the day so didn’t have time to jump on and off, actually looking at things but it’s a great way to see the city and it’s free. Can’t be bad.
Pubcrawl. After another rest stop we paid $10 each and signed up for a pubcrawl. Three free drinks in three different venues sounded good. It wasn’t. The first drink was goon in the lobby, the second, to their credit was fine in a decent bar but the third was in the basement of a rank hotel. This is where we bailed out and went to bed. What?! – Neighbours tour in the morning!
Neighbours Tour. You can’t come to Melbourne and not do the Neighbours tour can you? A mate of mine did it 10 years ago and I’ve wanted to do it ever since. We walked to the Neighbours shop and waited to be picked up. The journey was half an hour or so out to the sticks when we arrived at the studios where it’s filmed. We weren’t allowed inside but out the back Greasemonkey’s and the burger place was set outside. Queue pictures. Onto Pin Oak Court aka, Ramsey Street. Was really weird driving up the road. I don’t watch Neighbours but used to – hasn’t everyone at some point in their lives? Unbelievably the residents down the road now have their own security guard after repeated incidents of couples consummating their relationship on the grass outside the houses and students and tourists getting pissed up and knocking on their doors, expecting Karl Kennedy to answer. Worth $40 each. www.neighbourstour.com.au.
Clubbing, pubbing and drinking. We spent our last weekend in Melbourne hitting the city’s bars and clubs. I don’t remember any names but one in particular did stand out. Situated in Chinatown it’s down a long alley that bears left then right and is at the end on the right. The drinks are served with syringes and there is grass on the bar. Weird. Worth a piss up, Melbourne.