Sunday, 17 May 2009

A day out in Melbourne

Melbourne is the capital of Victoria. Victoria is the smallest mainland state and makes up about 3% of the Australian continental land mass. However with 5 million people, it makes up 25% of the Australian population.

St Francis’ church
We spent a day enjoying the sights of this vibrant and cosmopolitan city. We wandered along the streets of the CBD and tried out a cafe in Federation Square – a social hub bustling with life and a mix of attractions which includes the visitors centre.

Window shopping. We walked the historic arcades, passed some fine boutiques, and looped around the main streets for a glimpse of Chinatown. Some of the streetscape is no different to any big city CBD commercial street- souvenir shops and food outlets mixing with huge retail shops and fashionable brand product stores and financial buildings.

Horse carriage
Other streets are home to banking institutions, five-star hotels, while still others are tree-lined, grand government buildings and the ever-present street cafe. Some of the city’s architecture are 1930s architecture (facade-oriented) in some buildings. There is indeed a wide array of shopping in Melbourne.
Now if I can only find some money...

Flinders St station
Old buildings such as the Flinders St station dot the city.

Trams are a feature of Melbourne’s transport system and it’s a unique mode of transport experience.

There are hundreds of Trams operating up to 20km from the city centre. Cars are obliged to yield to Trams. The ‘hook turn’ road rule in Melbourne is notorious in Oz, but this helps Trams through their routes without cars getting in the way.

Tram and railway lines were built in the 19th century linking the city to the outer suburbs. Nowadays these termina are actually inner suburbs, all part of the necessary urban sprawl of a major cosmopolite.

Mornington peninsula.
There are other attractions around Melbourne worth checking out. South of Melbourne is the Mornington Peninsula which has great coastal scenery, historic country retreats and smaller hotels. One afternoon we decided to drive to Mornington Peninsula. This Italy-like boot-shaped peninsula is about an hour’s drive from Melbourne. So leaving the skyscrapers behind us, we go on a clockwise drive along the busy coastal road past a string of seaside suburbs that extend all the way around port phillip bay. This 50km drive from Melbourne to mornington is non-stop suburbia, a manifestation of urban sprawl. On the bay side road, we take in some of the wonderful views of port phillip bay, local shops, pretty gardens, art and antique shops. We stopped in Mornington for a meal. We then got on the foreshore road, passing holiday houses on the waterfront promenades and pretty little beaches along the sandy bay. From Mornington we drive past Mount Martha, Safety Beach, Dromana, McRae, Rosebud and Tootgarook.

Further down the road we saw a sign to the ‘peninsula hotsprings’ in the back beach village of Rye. We followed directions and eventually came to a busy health centre based on thermal spa and relaxation pools. I wasn’t expecting to find anything as hot as the Mainit hotsprings, but even Asin hotsprings would be scalding hot compared to the water temps in this place, a mildly feverish 36-42 degrees Celsius, and they call this a hot spring? Where i come from, this would be ice-age temperature. Prices range from $25-$90 per person for various baths, with packages costing up to $470/person for 5.5 hours. We got out of there as fast as we could before we froze (either from the temps or stick-up), actually to catch the ferry, but you know what i mean. The pricing in Mainit is a steal!

Sorrento-geelong ferry.
To complete our circumnavigation of Port Phillip Bay, we hasten down the highway, took a wrong turn near Blairgowrie, and just managed to catch the car ferry in Sorrento just as it was about to leave (we would have had to wait 2 hours for the next trip). This ferry crosses the southern end of port phillip bay everyday in all weather conditions. The 50-minute trip allows passengers to view the bay and coastline and watch dolphins. So from the ferry we view the sights around the bay. There are some luxury cliff-top mansions in Portsea (playground of the wealthy) overlooking the bay. We also saw dolphins frolicking. On first sighting of a dolphin’s fin on the surface, young Mr C thought it was a shark and yelled out excitedly. The ferry docked in charming Queenscliff with its historic old fort and grand hotels.
Thence it was back on the Bellarine highway of the peninsula of the same name, to Geelong, victoria’s 2nd biggest city built on sheep farming and wool and situated in a busy waterfront. I believe there are cats in this city- cats that play football! They’re a weird mob those Victorians. But from Geelong we get on the freeway for the 70km trek back to Melbourne.
To top the day, the boys caught a musical "wicked" at the Regent Theatre. Me i caught a tram to docklands for more sight-seeing. Pa ra! Near the docklands are Waterfront city and harbourtown. These are great shoppers destinations but also offer lots of fine dining with fine pricing. My pocket is not that deep so I quickly got another tram away from that cold and windy place.

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