Friday, 11 December 2015

South to Victoria

From Sydney it is a 14 hour bus journey to the Victorian capital of Melbourne. The route goes through the picturesque Australian capital of Canberra. A short break here enabled views across Lake Burley Griffin to Parliament House. It’s a destination that I’d love to visit again one day with more time and enjoy the treasures contained in the National Museum, Art Gallery and Mar Memorial. For now though, I was heading to Melbourne to house sit for my uncle, explore the sights and enjoy the various summer sporting events that the city hosts every year. 

Melbourne is a magnificent city that offers something for everyone. Whether you visit for the shopping, food, entertainment, sport, history or culture you are sure to feel a great sense of satisfaction here! As many people do, I started my exploration in the grid of streets that make up the central business district. Bourke street is the heart of this commercial precinct and this pedestrian mall was thick with trams, shoppers and the sounds of Peruvian bands busking in the spring sunshine.

Flinders Street Station

Just a few blocks away is the famous corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets. It’s here that the grand old St Paul’s Cathedral overlooks the flamboyant modern architecture of Federation Square. Just opposite the square is distinctive shape and colour of Flinders St Station which is the city’s major transport hub. And between them is the beginning of the Princes Bridge which traverses south of the muddy brown Yarra River.

Federation Square

There’s so much to see in Melbourne that it could literally keep you busy for weeks. Immediately southeast of the CBD is the vast Royal Botanic Gardens that includes Government House and the Shrine of Remembrance. I continued south from the gardens to Albert Park where the Formula 1 motor race speeds around the pretty lake in March each year. From there, it’s not far to the iconic suburb of St Kilda.

St Kilda is probably the best place in Melbourne if you like people watching. It always seems to attract an interesting cross section of locals and is also a popular place for backpackers. The palm-lined stroll along the foreshore offers wonderful vistas of Port Philip Bay and almost perennial briny sea breezes. The Luna Park amusement park was opened here in 1912 and contains the heritage-listed scenic railway which is in fact the oldest operating roller coaster in the world.

St Kilda foreshore

I took a day to explore the suburbs of Fitzroy and Carlton just north of the inner city. I started at the lovely Parliament House which offers free half hour tours and overlooks the pretty Fitzroy Gardens. The highlight here is Cook’s Cottage that is set amid English elm trees, flower beds, fountains and expansive lawns. This cottage belonged to Captain Cook’s parents and was shipped from Yorkshire in packing cases and carefully reconstructed in 1934. Nearly is the ornately carved Fairies Tree.

Yarra River and Melbourne Cricket Ground
From the Gardens, it’s only a short walk to the sporting precinct which contains the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground. This huge stadium is one of the world’s great sporting venues and hosts both cricket and Australian Rules football matches. I’m planning on going to a couple of cricket matches over the summer while I’m here and especially looking forward to the Boxing Day test match. Just over the railway line is Melbourne Park which is where the Australian Open tennis is played each summer. 

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