AME Info enjoyed the considerable advantage of a travel programme devised by Tourism Victoria, but Melbourne is a city where you can very easily do it yourself. The Central Business District has a compact grid layout of streets with many high-rise office and residential towers mingling with older buildings at lower levels.
There are also delightful original Victorian shopping arcades as well as large modern malls tucked away within these streets. Melbourne is a foodie heaven and its highly cosmopolitan population ensures that every conceivable variety of restaurant is available.
A novel way of dining in the city is at the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. Melbourne has an easy-to-use tram system running though its main streets and out into the inner suburbs, and you can have dinner while riding around the city on a specially fitted tramcar. This might be seen as a poor man’s Orient Express, but the menu was really tasty and cooked on the spot, and the beverage supply generous.
On our last night we headed down to the upmarket St Kilda’s district and dined at Donovan’s near to the yacht club, overlooking Port Phillip Bay. We both chose an imaginative pheasant dish and a French style apple tart and an impressive local wine. You could not fault the ambience or cuisine. Donovan’s like Melbourne is a class act.
But we found a lot of good food in Melbourne. The waves of Italian and Greek immigrants have had a considerable impact, and we discovered a narrow road full of open air Italian restaurants in the unlikely sounding Hardware Lane Precinct. Also well worth checking out is the Southgate complex on the Yarra River, home of numerous partly al fresco restaurants.
This area is also the home of the Arts Centre and the outstanding National Gallery of Victoria. We saw the Australian Impressionists exhibition, but there is always something special to see. Opposite on the Federation Square is another gallery built in an eclectic modern style and housing equally eccentric artworks and a touring exhibition from the Guggenheim.
In addition, Melbourne gets its fair share of global musicals. We went to see Miss Saigon at Her Majesty’s Theatre, but the Phantom of the Opera is due to start another season. Tickets are modestly priced compared with some cities around the world. Classical concerts, plays and ballet are frequently staged at the Arts Centre and very popular.
Sports fans have as many options in Melbourne. Victorians take their sport very seriously and have several huge stadiums within the inner city boundaries. Try Australian Rules Football for a completely new experience. There is also a casino.
But perhaps the nicest thing about Melbourne is its friendly and helpful people who were happy to stop and talk about just about anything. Visitors are made to feel welcome and in this cosmopolitan city, tolerance and understanding are largely second nature. The atmosphere isn’t threatening and visitors are safe.
However, if you feel the need for fear and exhilaration, head for the
Eureka Skydeck on the 88th floor of the tallest residential building in the southern hemisphere. Here you can be pushed out of the building in a glass box like a chest of draws for the Edge experience with a clear view down of the 300 metres below. The observation deck offers a slightly more conventional 360 degree panorama of Melbourne, with some innovative information guides flashing around you.
See Melbourne as a smaller version of London or New York if you like. There is plenty of variety and a vibrant urban culture, which is bound to become more popular with those living in the Middle East as airlines add additional flights there over the next couple of years.
Tuesday, July 24- 2007 @ 17:18 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.