Melbourne is on my mind these days. A lot.
You see, ever since Indiblogger announced its latest travel writing contest, I’ve been thrown into a bit of a tizzy because of the contest guidelines which say: “Tell us about the experiences you would love to bring back from Melbourne . . . . ” Normally, writing about my travels has never been a problem. But this time I’m stumped — how do I write about a place that I have never visited?
whined about told this to Neena, a friend, colleague and someone who’s been to Melbourne, she said, “So what if you have not been to Melbourne. Just use your imagination and let the anticipation of visiting a new travel destination shape your words; the rest will follow.” And that is just what I did. With some help from Google, Melbourne-specific websites, a couple of books, and chats with friends who have been to Melbourne.
This post is all about that perfect trip to Melbourne born out of my imagination and based on the activities I would love to do there keeping in mind my interests. Read on about what my trip to Melbourne will be like, the sights I will see, and the activities I will undertake to experience the history, heritage, art, architecture and contemporary culture that Melbourne has to offer, as well as its unique and famed natural history. So without further ado, presenting to you a no-holds barred account of how I want to experience Melbourne unhampered and unhindered by budgetary or tour itinerary constraints, but fuelled by my imagination
The perfect way to kick off my Melbourne experience will be with a balloon flight over the city at sunrise. I can’t think of a better way to begin my first visit to this city than combining it with an activity I am doing for the first time as well. Yes, I have never been up in a hot air balloon !
Walking, in my opinion, is the best way to explore a place. And Melbourne offers a range of exciting guided and self-guided walking tours from Melbourne’s famous alleys and lanes; its unique street art; and Aboriginal history and art. Since I love walking, this is one more activity that I will undertake and experience the city coming to life for me.
I am a great fan of public transport and friends who have visited Melbourne have said that the city’s tram services are really good. In fact, the best. And since I have never taken a tram ride, this is another first that I will be very happy to experience in Melbourne.
A city’s architecture not only indicates its character, but is also a historical record of its growth and development over the years. Though recent photographs of Melbourne only tend to promote its stunning modern and contemporary face, its older buildings showcasing evolving architectural styles are no less stunning. I look forward to visiting the architectural landmarks, thereby exploring the different architectural styles in the city, and getting to know the city in this manner as well.
One building that I am rather keen on seeing is the Flinders Street Station building. It is rumoured that the design of this station building and that of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) building in my city of Mumbai were switched accidentally (or deliberately?). I don’t know if this is true, but it surely makes for a fascinating story, and a reason to check out and compare the two buildings.
I want to experience Melbourne’s literary, creative and artistic side through its art galleries, museums, bookshops and libraries. I am particularly keen on visiting the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the Melbourne Museum, the Johnston Collection and the State Library of Victoria—the websites of all these organisations promise hours of delight in browsing through their collections for an art and culture junkie like me.
As for bookshops, I’m going to be spoiled for choice. Melbourne, declared as a city of literature by UNESCO, is reported to have at least 70 bookshops in its central business district area. Phew ! While it will not be possible to see all of them, I would definitely like to visit a few.
Recently, I finished reading a book by Victoria Finlay on Colour, which has the entire chapter on “Ochre” devoted to the aboriginal art of Australia. I must admit that till I read this book, I did not know about much about aboriginal art. Finlay’s book has kindled in me a fierce desire to see aboriginal rock sites and their sacred ochre art. The Grampians region would be a perfect place to see them, as would a visit to some Melbourne art galleries that showcase the contemporary interpretations of aboriginal art.
I was introduced to Australia’s rich and unique natural history through Gerald Durrell’s book, Two in the Bush. So I was quite thrilled to know about the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park, which has reportedly been inspired by the work of Durrell. Now, how can I miss the opportunity to “cuddle up to koalas, feed kangaroos and wallabies, meet other endangered species?” And how can I also miss seeing the Penguin Parade at the Philip Island Nature Park ? This will be another of those first and special experiences in Melbourne as I have never seen any of these animals before—not even in a zoo!
And, finally, I want to go on an exploration of the Great Ocean Road and see the 12 Apostles, the Gibsons Steps, London Bridge, etc., and feast my eyes on the various shades of blue and green of the ocean. The geologist in me can’t wait to see the various rock formations exposed along the road. To make this even more memorable, I will treat myself to a helicopter tour of the area for the ultimate experience.
No trip is complete without shopping, and I will prefer to pick up my souvenirs and gifts from local farmers and arts & crafts markets. The Queen Victoria Market, Rose Street Artists Market, Williamstown Craft Market and Maribyrnong Makers Market seem to be the interesting markets to visit. This will also give me a chance to interact with the artists and craftspersons and enable me to get an insight into local culture and customs.
I could just go on and on… There is so much more that I would love to experience in Melbourne—see the constellations in the southern hemisphere sky, listen to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra perform, watch a match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, catch up on an Australian Open Tennis match at the Rod Laver Arena, explore the vegetarian and vegan food scene in the city, shake hands with Gary, George and Matt of Masterchef Australia … the list is endless.
Every travel experience, every journey to a new place is special. Flying to Melbourne will be the first time I will cross the equator and visit a country in the southern hemisphere. It will also be the beginning of many extra special “firsts” that await me — a balloon flight, a tram ride, viewing rock art, seeing kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, penguins and many other animals, a helicopter ride…
I showed this post to Neena and asked her what she thought about my imagination of a perfect Melbourne trip. She said with a broad smile:
Sudha, …it’s your time to visit Melbourne NOW!
Imagination is a lovely thing and so are hopes and dreams. For you see, in dreams lie reality and that perfect trip to Melbourne holds the promise of being THE real trip of a lifetime.