The second half of the mid-semester break included a weekend trip to Melbourne. As the title may imply, I had a good time, and settled the debate about which city I liked better between Melbourne and Sydney. Sydney is an awesome place, but it seemed a lot more crowded and internationally-oriented than Melbourne. Melbourne is more Australian since there’s way less tourists, and it prides itself on being a more “cultural” city. Or so say the kids from Melbourne. It really does have a trendy feel that Austinites would recognize though. I’d definitely recommend a visit if you’re ever down here. Optimally for more than a weekend!
Luckily, I went with a guy from Australia who’s been to Melbourne often, and he made sure I had a truly Australian experience while we were in town. Our first priority, then, was going to see a couple AFL games. Australian-rules Football, or “footy” as it’s affectionately referred to, is some crazy combination of rugby and soccer and football and basketball (but only really because you have to bounce the ball if you take more than 10 steps with it). Here’s some highlights if you’re curious about it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOCWrc1Si6g. During one of the games, I got a meat pie- these are like chicken pot pies, except with beef and gravy inside. And they were awesome, I don’t know why they’re not in the US. They’re pretty popular here. As for the outcomes, our teams won both times, providing for a great overall experience. One of the games was at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and held 84,000 people. It’s the biggest stadium in Australia and tenth-biggest in the world. Almost as cool an atmosphere as DKR…!
On the Saturday of that weekend, we went down to an oceanside suburb of Melbourne called St. Kilda. The beaches there aren’t too fancy… But the area was still a lot of fun. We walked around a fairly famous theme park and went down the long St. Kilda pier. James insisted on me getting fish and chips at one of the restaurants by the ocean, so I did, and it was one of the best meals I’ve had here so far. I’m hungry just thinking about it, and I even just ate dinner… I also enjoyed a Crown Lager there- the Crown brand is fairly popular in Australia and is the namesake of the hotel/casino that we actually visited later that night.
There’s not really any specific areas that kids our age hang out at in the central area of Melbourne, so we checked out a couple random pubs on Friday night, and on Saturday night we went to the Crown Hotel and Casino. We met up with some of our friends who live in Melbourne and hung out there for a while. We actually saw one of the guys from One Direction, too. Apparently he was a big deal. If you don’t know who One Direction is, please don’t think you’re missing anything. They’re a boy band who are big here and in the UK. But that strip of places by the hotel is a cool area to visit- there were also a couple restaurants (one was conveniently open 24 hours), and it’s all along a river which made things a bit more scenic.
Melbourne also has a really cool market area that rivaled the one I visited in Sydney. It was packed with cheap stuff, obviously. A lot of it could be deemed touristy, but there were more normal goods being sold there. People could buy food from a guy yelling “Strawberries! One dolla!” who only stopped yelling to make a sale. Or they could get rip-off versions of Ugg boots, which are insanely popular here. I’d suggest leaving some extra space in your suitcase on the way down to Melbourne cause you can definitely find stuff you’ll want to buy. Especially considering the relative expensiveness of everything in Australia compared to the US.
Now for the bittersweet part: the things I would have done in Melbourne if I’d had more time. These were highly recommended to me, but the problem was, I didn’t know about them until I was actually in Melbourne. Should have planned this one out a little more in advance! First: the Great Ocean Road. I have friends who were abroad here last semester and some of their favorite scenic pictures were taken along the Great Ocean Road, which is just a drive along the southern coast of Australia. Second is Philip Island, a bit southeast of Melbourne. This place is known for its penguins, and probably has some other pretty cool features you’d expect from an island. I’m not at all dissatisfied with my trip, but I figured it would be in the reader’s best interest for me to include the other places in Melbourne that should be seen.
Looking back, I’ll remember this weekend as the time I went to some big footy games, tried a meat pie, ate fish and chips by the ocean, and tried out a few awesome pubs while taking in the cultural vibes Melbourne had to offer. If I’m ever in Australia later on in life, Melbourne is one of the cities I’m going to have to come back to and spend some time in.