I was going to write a blog post about my Reposit Power hardware, but time got away from me. So instead, I’ll give a quick run-down of our recent family trip to Melbourne, as a blow-by-blow account would get swiftly boring.
It had been over a year since we’d been away anywhere (to New Zealand – go if you ever get the opportunity because its magical), and we didn’t have time to go anywhere too distant. I had been to Melbourne a couple of times in the last decade for very brief work trips, but my wife had not been since her childhood, and the kids not at all.
Melbourne is a city of nearly 4.5 million people, only slightly smaller than Sydney in population. The two cities are rivals in almost everything, from sport, to politics, culture, coffee, events, finance, corporate HQ count … the list goes on.
I’m not really going into the comparisons here, because its an extremely difficult thing to be objective about. I’ve lived in Sydney’s suburbs for nearly two decades now, and only visited Melbourne. Its like test-driving a car you wouldn’t ordinarily consider, versus taking a road trip in the vehicle you have trusted for years.
On a technical note, I must say that being away from home is rampantly kick-arse for exporting electricity. I unplugged and switched off basically everything except the fridge, and we exported about 95kWh or nearly 16kWh / day, even with a bit of cloud.
Currently my energy bill looks like being around 43 cents per day after the connection fee is added. We’ll see how long that holds. But back to the topic at hand…
Melbourne has the SkyBus service to and from the airport. Reasonably priced, it gets you from the airport to the CBD or vice-versa, and then provides hotel door service transfers, which is excellent.
One of the advantages of staying in the Melbourne CBD is the Free Tram Zone, which is immeasurably helpful when you’re dragging a couple of kids around. The CBD of Melbourne is fairly expansive, and the free trams, including the city loop tram using the vintage models, is very handy.
We mostly stuck to the free trams, with one trip outside the CBD using the myki card system instituted a few years ago. You can buy a myki visitor pack at any 7-Eleven or appropriate transport hub.
The apartments we stayed in were at Mantra On the Park on the north-east corner of the CBD, just across from Carlton Gardens. While it cost a little more to get a room facing the park, it was well worth it, to wake up to that view every morning, and go to bed with it at night.
After arriving and getting settled in, the first item on the list was to establish what was nearby. As it turns out, in Melbourne, nearly everything is nearby!
I’ve stayed in some cities where your “centrally located” hotel is actually in part of town that shuts down for certain days or the week, or even entire weekends! Melbourne seems to just cruise right on through, with only small changes in the opening hours, if at all.
Our apartment complex was just off Chinatown, and Melbourne seems to have this thing with dumplings that I am completely down with. The issue was time: how to sample all available dumplings, given less than a week in town?
On the first night we decided to experience Lygon Street – its a real Little Italy of restaurants, sometimes aggressively! The signore are out on the street, looking for your business, and always with a story.
As my wife’s family has a strong Italian connection, we decided to stop at Pasta Rustica Ristorante to sample the gnocchi. Nobody left disappointed, though the waiter looked at me sideways when I only ordered a small portion. I did it knowing my kids wouldn’t eat all theirs.
Lygon Street is packed with restaurants, and if you like Italian food, its the place for you. Later in the week we returned and tried the more modern Copperwood Restaurant, who produced pork belly so delightful I can’t do it justice in words. The pizza crust was also excellent.
Back towards the city proper, it seems like there is a great bar every block, a Bourke Street packed with options, and tastes from across the world to delight even the fussiest gourmet.
The decision was made to break our trip up into the days we had available, with one day being spent on the north side, one on the south, one through the middle, and one left for other things we’d pick up on the way.
We also put in some time seeing the Australian production of Matilda, which was a slightly sneaky gift to my daughter who is a massive fan. It did not disappoint in any way. Superb writing, music, lyrics, and casting. Alone, this made the trip worth it.
We visited the Melbourne Museum, which in addition to all the natural history you’d expect (animal skeleons, taxidermy, biology, geology etc) was running the Jurassic World display for a little extra.
The multimedia displays were of high quality, and the animatronic dinosaurs were top notch and scared the hell out of my daughter.
The eggs above have a QR code on them that actually works. There was a charging T-Rex, an Indominus Rex and various others. I’ve uploaded videos to my YouTube Channel so you can see them there.
Melbourne features two hi-rise platforms for getting a bird’s eye view of the surrounds. The Melbourne Star Observation Wheel on the northwest end of the CBD is probably the lesser of the two, with a wide open view across the Yarra Valley, but not much in the way of city sights.
A better option is located on the very metropolitan Southbank, called Eureka Skydeck, and gives a great look into, and over, the CBD as well as the parklands surrounding Melbourne.
To the southeast of the city you can see the famous MCG and Rod Laver tennis arena, along with AAMI Park. These three venues show just some of Melbourne’s sporting heritage, and its claims as the sporting capital of Australia.
The MCG hosts over 90,000 people, with big attendances for traditional rivalries in the Australian Football League. It has also played host to rugby union, rugby league, and soccer (football) internationals, and is the pre-eminent stadium in the country.
Compared to Sydney, which grew up on a colonial sprawl around the world’s most beautiful harbour, Melbourne had the opportunity to consider and plan the city layout. It has resulted in a well-ordered city that, at one point, was the richest in the world during the Gold Rush in the 1800s. The planning of the city has resulted in delightful laneways and various books and crannies on every block.
Some of these are typical, dumpster-strewn loading zones, while others are a riot of street art. Some have bred cafe districts, with glass and wrought-iron ceilings to shelter the discerning bean-lover. Yet others have evolved into upmarket malls with expensive products, displayed on suitably sparse, elegant shelving.
It really is something a bit different around any corner.
Back on the tourist trail, we hit the Old Melbourne Gaol, where Australia’s most famous Bushranger, Ned Kelly, was hanged. We took a tour of one of the original buildings and did the “get arrested” experience at the old Watch House used by a prior generation of Victorian Police.
The Gaol is interesting in that it saw use from the 1800s right through until 1929, and then again for housing military personnel during World War II, including a serial killer by the name of Eddie Leonski, a US Army serviceman, and serial killer, who I’d never even heard about until that point. History, kids!
We also took some time out to visit ACMI (Australian Center for the Moving Image), which catalogues a rich history of Australian TV, film, and digital art. It is a really interesting series of displays and exhibits, including some famous Australian films like Mad Max.
There is so much more to talk about, but I’m probably getting to the point of wanging on a bit too much. I don’t feel like we even scratched the surface, having only spent four days on foot in the CBD. Short of winning the lottery and doing it at my leisure, I don’t feel like I’d ever get through it all, because it is constantly evolving.
Suffice to say Melbourne is a lovely city, and well worth a visit if ever you get the opportunity. It has a rich history, a vibrant modern culture, and more attractions than you can poke a stick at. It offers something for everyone, even if its just relaxing in the beautiful parklands on a lazy, sunny afternoon.