Melbourne, mi amor!
I finally understand what people meant when they say you will know when love comes. Melbourne, you are like my love at first sight. Within 10 minutes of strolling down this city the night I landed, I was in love. The short walk around the hostel gave me a nostalgic feeling of home. Melbourne reminded me of New York City with a European touch to it – a city filled with art, culture, and cozy cafes!
As recommended by backpackers I met in Sydney, I stayed at the United Backpackers which is conveniently situated next to the famous Degraves Street. Although I am normally not in favor of dwelling in touristy spots, Degraves Street is an exception. It is a narrow street sandwiched between Melbourne’s main roads. This long alleyway is populated with cafes, coffee shops, and little eateries attracting locals and foreigners. If you cannot tell already, I am a sucker for local coffee shops. Melbourne is like heaven for coffee lovers; they have a strong coffee culture like Seattle in the U.S. I think on average I drank 2 to 3 cups of different coffees every day for the duration of my stay there. No wonder I had trouble falling asleep! Besides coffee, I discovered my love for chai latte and banana bread. It is one of those things when you realize that it is not because you do not like the taste, it is because you never tried it made right. The Australian banana bread has a much darker color than what I am used to seeing elsewhere. I am not sure how the recipes differ, but the I think the ones I have tried here are more moist and dense.
I walked for hours non stop with invigorating excitement and a thirst for urban adventure. It is like the slug in me grew wings for the first time funneling limitless energy (or maybe it is the high caffeine intake). I must admit, my love for Melbourne maybe a bit infatuated because it is the first big city I have been to after 3 wearisome weeks of exploring the coastal towns of the east. Silly enough to admit, I isolated myself from forming connections with people in Melbourne because I was afraid I would become too attached for the city to leave. If I had found the perfect city with the perfect people, my next visit would be to the immigration office!
I decided to join a free walking tour around the city before doing my own exploration so I can get an overview of the city’s history, main attractions, and some advice from the locals. Roughly two centuries ago, the city was known as the Marvelous Melbourne. The city flourished in a very short amount of time because of the gold rush. When deciding on a name for the city, it was a toss up between Batmania (borrowing the city’s founder, John Batman’s last name) or Melbourne. Although the name Batmania was not selected in the end, you can identify references to the founder’s name throughout the city with streets, parks, and hills named after Batman (pronounced as bate-man). Now you know that it is not because of any references to Marvel’s Batman.
Besides being known for coffee, Melbourne’s street art (or graffiti) is another big draw of the city. Famously, Croft Street and Hoiser Street are exhibitions of the vibrant artworks. While I did not formally visit any art museums or galleries, the tasteful architecture of the surrounding is enough to keep my camera battery on low. I am always torn between whether I like the cosmopolitan cityscape or the old europe atmosphere more. Somehow, the urban planners of Melbourne combined both concepts and made it work. From Victorian styled buildings, old train stations, to bohemian neighborhoods such as Fitzroy (like Sydney’s Newtown), to the modern developments like Federation Square, the financial district, to St. Kilda’s beach which embraces the Australian coast beach culture, Melbourne has it all (except for the year round sunny weather).