We departed New Zealand from Christchurch in the early hours of the morning; as we sped through the dark, silent streets we both felt strange. The city with its broken buildings, cordoned-off areas and sparsely populated streets had echoed so strongly with the memory of that final, devastating earthquake – it was impossible to stop imagining all that had happened there. We flew off from our wonderful first month of travel in New Zealand reminded of the terrible danger that lies beneath the beauty of this incredible country.
Arriving in Melbourne
What makes a place special? How is it that one person can be so mesmerised and besotted with somewhere while the next person can’t wait to leave? Who knows what the secret it, sometimes you just connect with a place – that’s how I felt about Melbourne.
The moment I stepped off the plane I felt it, a stirring of excitement in my gut. After the small, disappointing cities I’d encountered in New Zealand I was itching to feel the full force of the city again; to be hit smack in the face with a shot of pure, concentrated city – I’m talking about the kind of hit I’d get from standing in the middle of Piccadilly Circus in London – that was what I wanted.
I got my hit.
Stepping off the train at Southern Cross station it surrounded me, like a kind of homecoming; movement, people, great swirls of colour and noise; the smell of exhaust fumes and fast-food restaurants – the city, alive and pulsing in the early-evening darkness.
We joined a swarm of people crossing the road; swept along by a familiar tide as we walked the streets, my face craned up to glimpse a patch of sky squeezed between the spiky tops of tall buildings. The shine of glass and metal; lights of all kinds – neon signs, the harsh artificial glare of shops, the soft glow of streetlamps and searching car headlights.
There were people everywhere, the noise of their voices a constant murmur mingled with the rumbling of trains and traffic, footsteps and music. I couldn’t take the smile from my face as we stumbled upon Federation Square; we stood there in what felt like the very heart of the city and I knew I was in love.
Our Week Visiting Melbourne
My feelings for Melbourne only solidified throughout the week we spent exploring the laneways, wandering along the Southbank, lazing in the botanical gardens, visiting the museums and riding the tram. I began to realise the things I had most been missing about London; sitting on the train eavesdropping on the conversations of strangers, the anonymity of walking through the streets having endless new faces to watch, the sense of stories and lives unfolding all around me.
As you can see from our pictures of Melbourne, we kept discovering new things to love: the beach at St Kilda and the way the sun set over the water all orange and pink. Having lunch in the park, watching backpackers play Frisbee while office workers ate lunch and couples walked their dogs. Trawling through Queen Victoria Market, listening to the calls of the fruit and vegetable sellers.
One afternoon we visited Jen, an old school friend of Andrews who’s been living in Australia for years. We took the train out to her suburb to eat the delicious lunch she and her husband had prepared and to meet their new baby. As we sat and talked we couldn’t help but compare our old lives in London with theirs in Melbourne; the size and airiness of their rental property, the weather, the experience of living close to the beach and the city. Andrew and I both felt it rising – that bubble of possibility: we could have this life too – we could live in Melbourne.
The Window of Travel
I’m beginning to see that one of my favourite things about travel is getting to peek into the lives of other people, to look through all these other windows and see the differences and similarities in how we all live. None of us have time to experience all the billions of lives we could have lived had we been born in another country or at another time; but life is still too large to live it all in the same way – the best we can do is catch a glimpse and wonder at the possibilities. Travel is allowing us to do this. I don’t know whether, one day, we will decide to live a while in Melbourne, but if we don’t I’m glad to have felt for a moment what our lives there could have been like.
Top things to see in Melbourne
There are plenty of free things to do in Melbourne, as well as tons of sights to see and hundreds of restaurants and bars to visit – here are our top picks of things to do in Melbourne:
- Visit St Kilda
- Hang out in Federation Square
- Explore the Laneways
- Stroll through the botanic gardens
- Grab a drink on the Southbank
- Ride the free city circle tram
- Go to Queen Victoria Market
- Visit the Melbourne museum
- Go up the sky tower
Pin Me For Later!
Travelling in Australia doesn’t come cheap and as with any big city, searching for affordable places to stay can be frustrating and tedious. You can easily find places to stay in backpacker hostels, mid-range guesthouses or more luxurious hotels. Accommodation prices often depend on location; if you want to be in the heart of the city you’ll end up paying more to be close to the action while choosing to stay on the outskirts of the city or even in the suburbs will cost less but mean you’re a train journey away from the main sights. We had a brilliant time staying with Caz and Taryn in Spotswood. We found them through AirB&B and paid a lot less for our week there than we would have done at a hostel in central Melbourne.