Welcome to Melbourne! We land, are chauffeured to the hotel and one of the first things I did was check my emails to see if anything had changed in respect to the meetings that I had setup for tomorrow. I grab my laptop, open it, connect to the wireless ... and get the shock of my life. $26 for 2 hours of wi-fi connection. Are they crazy!!!!! I'm totally in the wrong business. I was peeved for that is a blatant rip-off. But public wi-fi is something that's not easy to come across Melbourne (or Sydney for that matter!!)
Whining aside, Melbourne is a wonderfully European city located thousands of miles from Europe. As much as Sydney has the geographical beauty, Melbourne is a much more thriving city. Colourful people on the streets, a vibrant culture, very multi-cultural ... the city has a buzz. It actually reminds me a lot of Vancouver! Not the geography but the ambiance.
Did I mention there are some crazy taxi drivers in this metropolis? I'm going to a meeting from my hotel ... of course I have no idea where I was going! I was writing an SMS when I suddenly hear honking ... as I lift my head up, I realize they're honking at us. It took me 5 secs to realize that the cab was going down a one-way street the wrong way. I said to him, 'Mr, aren't we going the wrong way?' He said 'yes, but I don't feel like going around ... it's too far'.
Told you there were a lot of colourful people in town!
HOW TO GET THERE:
> although Melbourne's international airport is not that big, you can still pretty much find direct connections from any major global city. Don't forget to get a visa prior to arrival ... your travel agent should be able to assist you with that. They've made it very easy nowadays to get an Ozzie visa.
WHAT TO DO:
> National Gallery of Victoria: I was driving to my meeting (later found out that I was going the wrong direction!!) when we past the National Gallery of Victoria and I saw that there was a Dali exhibition on. I made a mental note and said I have to come back after my meeting. Come back I did ... and saw a wonderful exhibition of Dali's surrealism. Found out that he was more than just a painter. He also dabbled in movies, photography, fashion, jewelry design, etc ... a true 'renaissance' artiste.
> Eureka Skydeck 88: I simply love finding the tallest building in town and checking to see if it has an observatory. And the Eureka building at 300 metres does! Take a ride up to the 88th floor to have a magnificent 360 view of Melbourne. The city is surprisingly flat ... with traces of hills in the distance. For an extra $12 you can also step out onto The Edge ... a glass cube that projects 3 metres out of the building.
> shopping on Chapel Street (start on the intersection with High Street): a not to miss shopping street. Small boutique stores, one after the other, carrying local as well as international designers. From cheap to deluxe all on one street. And when you get hungry, there's no lack of small street-side cafes and restaurants.
All I can say is that Melbourne has no shortage of great dining. You can't go wrong with food and coffee in this city!
> coffee: Melbourne is renowned for its coffee. Although I did look for a Starbucks, just for the sake of comfort and easy wi-fi, I did have fantastic coffee everywhere I stopped. And I LOVE coffee!
> Lunch on Degraves Street: Very close to Flinders Street Station, this narrow street is full of funky little lunch and coffee joints. Packed at lunch, I had a delicious organic pumpkin and lentil pie, with an organic salad. Follow the narrow lanes to Centre Point, and you will find more colourful lunch joints.
> Misuzu's Japanese Restaurant (3-7 Victoria Avenue Albert Park): another beautifully quaint Victorian neighbourhood on Victoria Avenue by Albert Park. This is a terrific Japanese restaurant ... very cozy, great sushi ... only the california rolls were a tad too huge ... hard to dip them into the wasabi and soya sauce :-) And if you're not into Japanese, there were several other great restaurants around.
> Punch Lane: great wine bar restaurant for a late night meal.
> Siglo Rooftop Bar (161 Spring Street): Overlooking the parliament and cathedral, and right next to the theatre, this place was happening. And tres, tres chic. The espresso martini is a must!
> Hilton South Wharf Hotel: a brand new hotel right adjacent to the brand new extension of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. The lobby is a weird futuristic version of a Swiss chalet, however, the Relaxation Suites are beautiful. Stunning views of the city skyline from all the rooms and a fantastic bathroom. Best of all, in the morning when you wake up, you press a button and all the window shades start to lift ... and in front of you appears the skyline of Melbourne ... right at the bottom of your bed.