Melbourne has an incredible transit system of buses, trains, trams. It even has a free ‘hop on, hop off’ tram that makes a loop around the city to central destinations. Our second day, we took all three transit systems like locals and didn’t walk more than three blocks before jumping on the next one. Melbourne’s busiest intersection is at Flinder’s Street Stationacross from Federation Square at St. Kilda’s bridge where cars, busses, trams crossed.
Flinders Street Station
Flinders Street Station stretches a block down Flinders street. It’s the color of burnt ocher that seems to draw your eyes to it. Not a bland background color at all, but one that screams out, ‘Look at me! I’m special and very classy!’
And it’s true. Every time we got near Flinders Street Station, I’d glance at the gothic station, wondering why more cities don’t chose designs and colors that attract attention instead of blend into the background. The station has become a cultural symbol for Melbourne and every day more than 100,000 commuters travel through. Locals will agree to meet “under the clocks,” meaning in front of the station where the next departure times of each train is displayed in a row of clocks.
A local legend is that when designers in London were drawing up plans for the Melbourne’s and Bombay’s main train stations, they mixed up plans and Bombay got Melbourne’s plans and vice versa. Across St. Kilda bridge are three city parks along the waterfront that ran contiguous: Alexandra, Remembrance, and Royal Botanic. They follow along the Yarra river front where river boats take tourists for short cruises.
Federation Square (Fed Square)
Federation Square across from Flinders Street Station is a complex of theaters, museums, shops, kiosks, and open plaza where buskers and street entertainers perform. It’s a very lively place with music, art, cultural events held year around.
During the Australian Open that began when we were in Melbourne, large screens showed matches. Hundreds of tennis fans watched sitting on steps, enjoying a beer and lunch at outdoor restaurants, or inside with air conditioning. The Open was being played a short distance away at Rod Laver Stadium.
Central Place Corridor
On Saturday morning we took Tram # 8 from Toorak Road downtown for lunch. We walked down the narrow central place corridor packed with cafes, coffee shops, kebab shops, bakeries, and wine bars. Customers sat at tables and chairs in the middle of the corridor under umbrellas sipping tea or enjoying lunch with a glass of wine or beer. The packed corridor seemed to make everyone social, enjoying the good weather and ambiance.
At the end of Collins street we came across buskers playing a fusion of jazz and spanish tango. They were very good, putting strollers in a festive mood. The music was upbeat and percussive; a three-year old girl in a pink dress and wearing sun glasses was bouncing and spinning around to the catchy beat. After a set, her mother gave her coins to drop in the guitar case.
Here is a You Tube video of the buskers. They’re terrific!
We were fortunate to stay at the Claremont Hotel on the Toorak Road, about a ten minute tram ride from downtown. The Toorak neighborhood was much livelier than other urban neighborhoods where we’ve usually stayed.
Toorak crossed Chapel Street two blocks from our hotel. Both streets are packed with retail shops, trendy clothing stores, cafes, restaurants, pubs and fun people. The neighborhood has a flavor of Georgetown, Santa Monica, Fifth Avenue, and Piccadilly.
I get a sense people from Sydney come to Mel-bun to have fun. We certainly did.
Aussie’s call Melbourne ‘Mel-bun’, dropping the ‘r’ like they do when the letter is in the second or third syllable in all words. Harbor is ‘ha-bah,’ car is ‘caah,’ Darwin is ‘Da-win.’ Sounds a little Bostonian, but Aussies add a cute, sing songy vibrato. We adopted their pronunciation, and soon were saying things like ‘fa-tha’ for farther and ‘cen-tah’ for center. Kinda cute, don’t you think?
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Next: Cook’s Cottage
As many of you know, I also write mysteries and romantic suspense novels.
I recently published my first international thriller, Thirteen Days in Milan, which is available on Kindle as well as other ereaders, tablets, and smartphones.
I’m back in Europe for the summer to hire a translator and to research my next book which will also be a thriller based in Milan. I’ll be posting along the way from Milan, Stresa, Zurich and other locations.
I have a few posts on another blog, Anatomy of a Thriller, where I write about the process of researching and writing an international thriller. I’ll add more posts there as well.
Please share these links with writers or readers who might be interested.