So its a big call, saying somewhere is “my favourite city” but in the vastness of Australia, and the little of it I have seen, I can hand on heart say Melbourne (so far) is my favourite city. I was lucky enough to go on a familiarization trip in 2013 , chosen out of our Auckland team to go and explore what the city had to throw at me, and BOY was I impressed!
Flying out of a mild 14 degrees in Auckland, to an almost Arctic 8 degrees (this is celsius by the way) seemed crazy. Australia is supposed to be hot isn’t it? Why is Auckland warmer? Not realising that 8 degrees, was probably an exaggeration. Crisp, bone-chilling winds blowing in straight from Antarctica a mere 5,000 kms away really shook the senses, but nothing an extra layer of clothing couldn’t resolve.
Ok I am getting ahead of myself, back to the beginning. I flew Emirates Business class (it has spoilt me) and realised at the end of the 4 hour flight that my chair actually completely flattened to a bed and the screen moved out in front. Call me blonde but I didn’t want to play around with the controls too much and look like a complete rookie. Landing at MEL airport and meeting the group, guess who’s bag was last off the plane? Oh that would be me… far too eager to check in obviously, a lesson I didn’t learn on my return flight.
Checked into the first hotel around 9pm and got to know my roomie a bit then completely crashed out on the bed since I had been awake for quite a while at that stage.
When we woke up the next day and went to get some breakfast, my feet were itching to explore everything. Passing some lesser known lanes with graffiti art covering every brick we sat down to eat at the first cafe. Now I have to say, we ate out every breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everything tickled the taste buds. Melbourne is known for its creativity and flare with food, this is not an understatement. Its heaven.
We then set off on our own with directions to the shops. Oh wow did we shop! I think my the end of it, my roomie and I had bought at least one thing from every store. How was I going to get this all home with me?? After we dropped our bags off, changed into some funky new clothes, we met up with everyone else and started a walking tour with Monique from Walk Melbourne. She led us through the lanes and arcades, stopping to tell us the history and stories that are etched into each grain. Devouring dumplings, tasting Melbourne’s hottest chilli and finishing up with a glass of bubbles on a rooftop bar. Yes! This was my first day! I was excited to see what else was to follow. Afterwards, we headed out to dinner, then we had our own time. I made use of this and caught up with friends and headed to a bar in a old shipping container. This is nothing like Auckland!!
The next day we paired off into teams, handed a map, a book and a tram pass. We were chucked into the deep end and had a Melbourne treasure hunt. This was great! We went from the CBD to St Kilda, got blown around by the wind, saw some (err) interesting people and made it back in time to quickly get changed for the AFL. If you don’t know AFL (Australian Aussie Rules), you will quickly find out that it is both confusing and exhilarating. We saw Hawthorne Hawks play Collingwood Magpies, being told that they’re two rival teams and one of the best matches to watch. The crowd was electric! Nothing like a rugby game, well maybe the finals. Now remember the arctic wind I told you about, this is where we felt it the most! It was freeeeezing! I had 5 layers on and still couldn’t get warm. Thankfully half time pies were bought to defrost us from the inside out. Hawthorne won and I still have the scarf to remind me of my intro game!
Right, moving on since this is getting very wordy. the next day we were handed tickets to the zoo. I turned into such a big kid. Auckland has a pretty amazing one, but nothing like Melbourne. It has gorillas! Oh wow I was beaming from ear to ear! I got a little snap happy when these guys were being fed, well should I say, feeding themselves. The keepers hide treats (carrots, lettuce, cabbage etc) around the enclosure and when the Gorillas are released back they go on the hunt. Really, you have to watch to realise that there’s not much difference between them and us. That night, carrying on the animal theme, we went and saw King Kong at the Regent theatre. A little fancy! Now, I must be the only person on earth that hasn’t seen any Kong movies, but it doesn’t matter now. Seeing it on stage has ruined whatever the movie would try to show me anyway. It was incredible! I highly recommend if its ever touring again!
Off out to Mornington Peninsula in the morning, I can’t tell you how much I fell in love with Mornington. With its quaint little seaside towns, to its rolling vineyards. It felt quite a bit like home, but much bigger. We started off with a guided bike ride to Point Nepean, haha I hadn’t been on a bike in years, and yes I felt every second of it, the scenery was beautiful and rugged. Afterwards, we went out the Enchanted Maze Garden and faced our fears. Now I am not good with heights, I wouldn’t go as far to say I am afraid of them, but I don’t like them too much. I was overwhelmed with the heights, I forgot to think about my other dislike… BUGS. I didn’t see one spider, snake or any other weird Australian creature. I know they were there though… I KNOW IT! Time to relax our tired muscles, off to the Peninsular hot springs. This is a must, energetic day or not. Its amazing!
The next day, we headed out to Main ridge, and did the Horseback winery tour, I had the sleepiest, slowest horse but I didn’t mind what so ever, I was terrified. I hadn’t been on a horse in years, so it suited me just fine! This was such an interesting way to so a wine tasting trail. I think it would have been very interesting in the afternoon session with a lot more drinking involved. We were behaved though, only small glasses for us kiwis. Alas, the end of the adventures. Time to go back to the hotel for a 3 day conference which I won’t go into. If you ever get the chance to visit Melbourne, do it! Surf, bush, shopping, food, wine. Its quite a package!