During our Australian adventure, Josh and I spent some time in Melbourne. Mind you, just days before I had fallen head over heels in love with Sydney, so Melbourne certainly had a hard act to follow. But I found it charming in its own unique way.
One of most memorable aspects of Melbourne in my opinion are the quaint, small pedestrian walkways that crisscross the heart of the city. Tables and umbrellas for outdoor sidewalk cafes fill the small alleys, also lined with shops and boutiques. I’ve been to Venice only once, but I remember the spider-like alleyways that are filled with shops and restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, Melbourne is not in any way like Venice in any other respect, but part of me was reminded of that Venetian feeling of pushing your way along a crowded Italian street that is so small and covered by umbrellas that it’s almost tunnel-like.
Josh and I enjoyed several brunches and lunches in this area and greatly admired one cafe’s artful “skim flat white” so much that we almost didn’t want to drink it:
Melbourne definitely feels more sophisticated than Sydney, or rather, that it feels like it wants to be more sophisticated than Sydney. I did notice that the inhabitants of Melbourne were generally well-dressed and fashionable, and that the shopping was superb (read: way too pricey for me). At the same time, Melbourne is still Australia, and everything in Australia has it’s own Australian twist. On one hand you have a city that seems to say that it wants to be serious about important work and a fashionable lifestyle, and on the other hand you’ve got a city that absolutely loves a good beer and a sporting event. Sure, those things are not mutually exclusive, but it’s just an interesting and seemingly Australian combination… that’s all I’m saying.
And Melbourne certainly does love sports (or sport, I should say). There were more sporting arenas and stadiums than I could count. I got to experience this first hand myself thanks to one of my colleagues who managed to get tickets to the Australian Open one evening to see Federer vs. Victor Hanescu and Casey Dellacqua vs. Katherine Sprem. I had never been to watch pro tennis, but as I enjoy playing myself (albeit terribly), I was really looking forward to it.
It ended up being a really memorable experience, and of course it was a great time to enjoy the lively company of my new coworkers and friends from our Australian office. Federer won his match, and the Aussie favorite, Dellacqua, also won hers. I’ll never forget the spirited chanting that erupted in between games from the otherwise silent and respectful Australian observers: “AUSSIE! AUSSIE! AUSSIE! OY! OY! OY!”
But something else happened at the Open that I won’t forget. While I was in Sydney the week before, several news stories had caught my attention. A couple had died in a riptide while saving their children, someone had horribly shot a baby koala out of a tree, and Prince William was on a sightseeing tour of Australia. Every evening when I’d get back to my hotel room in Sydney, curiously enough I’d hear on the news that the Prince had been sighted in quite a few of the locations that I had just been wandering – he went to Circular Quay the day I went to Circular Quay, he went out in Darling Harbour the night I went out in Darling Harbour – I mean, come on, he was really starting to look desperate, following me around like that.
So I was joking with my colleagues at the Australian Open in Melbourne about the Prince’s light stalking, and then suddenly in the middle of the Federer match, who showed up but the royal highness himself! It’s not every day that you find yourself in the same room as royalty, and stunned, we all stood in respect. I had forgotten my camera, but it didn’t matter anyway since all I could see was the back of his slightly balding head. You know, in all of the commotion, I can’t be sure, but I could have sworn that he turned around at one point during the match and winked at me. 🙂