Travelling to somewhere half way around the world, on the back of a suggestion by an astrologer that your perfect home might be found in Melbourne would be a bit loopy, wouldn’t it?
Yeah. That’s totally not why I’m here.
But if it had been, boy was that a good call on his part.
Actually, you could recommend Melbourne to almost anyone you care to meet and be fairly certain to be able to say, with smug satisfaction, ‘I told you so’ on their return.
Humour me two minutes whilst I do that annoying thing that ‘travellers’ do, which is to attempt to compare a place with another place rather than just describing it. It’s an exercise in irritating others we love with a passion. Almost as much as prefacing the name of a country or city with the verb ‘to do’.
And Melbourne is ripe comparator-fest feeding ground. Its street art and edgy vibe had me right back in Berlin. The laneways, with their unique little cafés and independent shops, are just so very European – the cool bits, of course. Though promisingly the streets are not coated in dog shit – unlike Paris. Fed Square, with its independent cinema and exciting modern architecture, conjures up London’s South Bank. And yet the city is also unmistakably Australian, with excessively friendly people and an outdoors culture that has us Brits salivating.
Then there’s Queen Victoria Market’s night market, which runs every Wednesday in summer, and has food stalls from all over the globe, each one selling the mouth-watering best their country can prepare. If I live here I never have to travel again.
Hurrah! No more sharing a room with strangers, racing to the one shower for ten people at some ungodly hour (before 9am!) to avoid the queue, packing my bag every morning and unpacking it somewhere new, but eerily the same, that night.
Don’t get me wrong, I have loved every single minute of my travels so far. Even the bits I thought at the time I wasn’t enjoying (like the Burmese up-chucking and the day I learnt never to fly United again). But the stuff that goes with travel, at least travel on a limited budget and to a pretty tight time schedule, I could now – after nearly 11 months – happily surrender. For a while, anyway.
I long for a wardrobe, in which I can, you know, hang stuff. And to not feel like that drunk girl in the bar, waking up hungover in a stranger’s bed the following morning, wondering where the hell she, and her knickers, are.
And I could move to Melbourne for the street art alone.
Oh and the AMAZING food. Seriously! Where else in the world is a vegetarian restaurant heavingly busy on a Tuesday night? Taken round my now favourite bit of Melbourne – Brunswick Street – by a friend made in Burma (the one I was showing off my lack of India vomiting to – mere hours before karma bit my ass – which actually makes it his fault I reckon), we stopped at the legendary Vegie Bar.
And then I realised why everyone else takes so much longer to order in a restaurant than I do. It’s because they have a whole menu to read. And so many possibilities to consider. It’s somewhat overwhelming.
In the end I went for a curry, which was yum. Mark’s risotto was tasty but perhaps a little too wholesome – I’ve never come across one made with brown rice before and I missed the decadence of a ‘proper’ risotto made with half a pound of butter and cheese.
Other meals deserving of superlatives were my plates of tapas at Melbourne institution Movida and another meal eaten at a restaurant’s bar, in the fab Hellenic Republic (what is it with them sticking single women at the bar??).
Indulge me a quick dip into my food memories, I’m feeling the longing for a decent meal just now, after tonight’s dinner of a very bland pasta dish with hostel cuisine trouvé ingredients of oil spray, dried herbs, table salt and powdered black pepper. Here’s hoping nobody put laxative powder into those little left behind pots, in a bid to teach miserly backpackers a lesson.
Movida is probably a little too big for its boots these days. You can tell that in its hay day its tapas were the stuff of legend. But really, one single baby corn for $4?
The rest of my dinner was more deserving of the price tag – juicy heirloom tomatoes with a delicate chickpea foam that looked deceptively solid and a crispy little fried fish dish sat on a spoonful of creamy mash. Plus a lovely, lovely, chilled glass of wine.
I hadn’t realised two things when I wandered into the near-empty Hellenic Republic at the ridiculously early time of 6pm (I had to get away early to catch some live bands and my first ever game of pool later than night with the wonderful Sally, owner of the house I was staying in).
One – the owner is someone related to the insanely popular Masterchef (the judge George Calombaris – means nothing to me mind you). Two – it was Valentine’s Day. No wonder, then, that the maitre’d said the only space he had left was at the bar. And here was me thinking he was trying to be funny.
Egged on by the up-selling waitress, I ordered far too much food. A platter of fried cheese, that tasted remarkably like a salted sock, but made curiously delicious by the addition of poached baby figs.
Plus a heap of fried greens, and a grilled corn on the cob, and a plate of chargrilled veggies, covered in creme fraiche and pomegranite seeds. Washed down with a farewell to Australia glass of sparkling wine.
Oh but I mustn’t forget the cafés, and the op shops, and the florists, and the street musicians, and the vodka bars, and the micro brewery, and the… I think my search for a new home is concluded. Melbourne it is.
If only it were that easy. If only I hadn’t already given my heart away to Sydney, and to a particular person deserving a whole list of superlatives all of his very own.
Could I remember any Shakespeare, I’d quote it. The Bard always had something pertinent to say about the folly of love. Sadly I zoned out for pretty much every single English class, much to the chagrin of my lovely teacher – who distractingly looked just like Jessica Fletcher and happened to be married to one of the guys that owned the company that made cartoon classic Danger Mouse.
I am, however, reading Pride and Prejudice (something I never thought I’d do, until a particular person’s daughter came on the scene), and this line – from a paragraph that finds Elizabeth contemplating the joy of travel – caught my eye: ‘What are men to rocks and mountains?’
You make a fair point Miss Bennet, but actually, in my specific case, I don’t see why I shan’t have both. So a home base in Sydney, with weekends away in Melbourne, it shall be.
If anyone is good at Photoshop do let me know, as there’s just that small matter of a visa to sort out first…