We arrived in Melbourne (pronounced "Mel-bin") at 9:30 AM on Monday, November 9th. No, the flight wasn't two days long, we crossed the International Date Line. Melbourne is actually 17 hours AHEAD of Chicago!
We collected our bags, found a lady who had a sign with our names on it, jumped into a large van, and took off into the city.
It was about an hours drive from the airport to our hotel. While driving around the city, our driver pointed out special sites and told us about Australian culture. I asked him a lot of questions and he was very kind and had no problem answering them. He did get a little too excited when he pointed out the McDonalds, Hungry Jacks (which is like Burger King), and Subway to us. Since all us Americans love Fast Food, you know?! :-P
We arrived at our hotel, Crown Metropol, around noon and were told that we couldn't check in yet but that they would upgrade our room (Honeymoon perks!) and watch our bags if we wanted to explore the city.
So off we went!
[Our hotel with some of the Melbourne skyline]
Melbourne is considered the nation's artistic heartland. The city is full of art, music, theatre, architecture, and coffee (the locals LOVE their coffee!).
We walked down the road and found the Yarra River. We walked along the Yarra Promenade where we found shops, restaurants, and a lot of cafes.
I met a few Aussies and Kiwis when I was backpacking in Great Britain about eight years ago. When I posted on Facebook that we were coming to Australia, my friends told me that I HAD TO eat meat pies while we were down under.
So I did! And it was delicious!
After our walk we headed back to the hotel so that we could check in, shower, and take naps before our Colonial Tramcar Dinner.
[Our Luxe King Room on the 26th floor]
[View from our room - the tall building on the right with the gold square on it is the Eureka Tower]
At 8:30 PM we walked down the street where this adorable tram car picked us up.
We were escorted into a tram car (with about 30 other people) and shown our seats. While we enjoyed a five course meal the tram car cruised the scenic streets of Melbourne.
All of the food was delicious and we had a blast! It was a great way to see the city and enjoy the local cuisine!
The next morning, November 10th, we got up and walked over to Federation Square so we could go on our Hidden Secrets Tour.
[Art along the Yarra Promenade]
This beautiful skyscraper (below) is the Eureka Tower. It is named after the Eureka Stockade, a rebellion during the Victorian gold rush in 1854. The tower was completed and opened in 2006. Much like the Sears Tower, there is a skydeck feature which is on the 88th floor. The Eureka Stockade happened in 1845 when the government wanted to start taxing the gold miners. There was a disagreement and 27 people were killed. This has been incorporated into the design, with the building's gold crown representing the gold rush and a red stripe representing the blood spilt during the revolt. The blue glass cladding that covers most of the building represents the blue background of the stockade's flag and the white lines also represent the Eureka Stockade flag. The white horizontal stripes represent markings on a surveyor's measuring staff. (sourcing thanks Wikipedia and my memory)
We arrived early at Federation Square ("Courtney Standard Time") so we walked into a Cafe to see if we could grabbed a quick snack. We walked in and one of the guys said, "You alright?" I was a little shocked. Did I not look alright? Um... I said I was good and then another guy greeted us the same way. It took me only a few seconds to figure out that this is an Aussie greeting!
We bought a yogurt and a few drinks and then headed back into the busy square.
[St. Paul's Cathedral next to Federation Square]
While we waited for 10:00 AM, we noticed that there were a ton of news cameras and people around. It turns out that Melbourne was unveiling their new Monopoly pieces and apparently this is a big deal!
[Visitor Center at Federation Square with Flinders Street Station in the background]
At 10:00 our adorable tour guide, Caity, showed up. She passed out these maps and a list of places we would be seeing. She also gave us umbrellas and cute little bags to carry all of our treasures in.
We then headed off across the street where we listened to the history of St Paul's Cathedral, the Eureka Tower, Federation Square, Chole's Room, and the Flinders Street Station.
[St. Paul's Cathedral]
We then walked across the street and headed into the first of many arcades.
This arcade was built underground next to the subway. It has a ton of little local shops (most were not open yet). Caity told us that 85% of businesses in Melbourne are small and locally owned.
We then walked through Degraves St, Campbell arcade, Centre Place, the Block arcade, and the Royal arcade. Each arcade was narrow and full of small shops.
[An old bank that was converted into shops]
[The banks original doors]
At the Royal arcade we stopped and had a snack at the KOKO Black Chocolate shop! YUM!
Their hot chocolate is made with Belgium chocolate and it is the best I have ever had! It really hit the spot on this cold rainy day!
And Josh got the Affogato which is hot chocolate poured over ice cream!
After our snack we continued our walking tour through Howey Place, Nicholas Blvd, and the City Square.
We arrived at Bourke St and found that most of the street was closed off. Every Christmas Myer's picks a Christmas book and makes a window display for it. It's a huge deal and tons of people come to the unveiling. We watched the party for a little bit before moving on.
[People singing on the roof]
Street art is really popular in Melbourne. It is technically illegal but there are a few alleys that are set aside for it and as long as the artist stay in these areas the cops will leave them alone.
After seeing the art we went and saw the smallest display case which is outside the smallest bar (12 people can fit inside at once).
Next, we went into the Manchester Unity Building and saw the first escalator that was installed in Melbourne. Caity told us that when it first opened people would wait for hours just to ride it!
[Outside of the Manchester Unity Building]
The tour ended with a delicious lunch at a local cafe. Our tour ended up being around four hours long and it was such a fun way to see the city (and get some exercise)!
After lunch we went to the Lightning Ridge Opal Mines shop. The owners daughter showed us how the opals are found, brought back, polished, graded, and sold.
The shop also had some local reptiles (which I love!) and spiders (which I hate!).
[Super awesome natural opal]
I ended up buying two opals: a small black opal and a larger boulder opal. Black opals (they are not actually black) are the rarest. The my little black opal cost almost four times what the boulder opal cost. They are both gorgeous!
Since it was still raining after we finished our opal shopping, we decided to jump on the hop-on-hop-off red bus tour.
[Another view of Federation Square]
We hopped off the bus at the Melbourne Museum. We arrived only an hour before closing so we went to the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
I loved seeing all of the artifacts and learning more about the First Australians.
When the museum closed we jumped back on the bus which ended it's route at Federation Square.
We walked across the street and went into Chloe's Room to find Chloe. She is a huge, old, beautiful, oil painting which is located on the second floor of an old bar. After taking our photos we went back to some of the arcades to find some cupcakes that Caity said were the best.
Well, we found them and they were delicious!
After that we went back to Myer where we saw the window display for the "Little Dog and the Christmas Wish." It was super cute!
Exhausted after a long day, we wondered back to our hotel and grabbed a burger from a local restaurant.
[View from our hotel room]
Melbourne was such a great city! Even though there is a ton of free public transportation (trams within the city limit are free), we ended up walking to most places. The local people are so nice and they have a lot of pride in their city. This was a perfect start to our amazing trip!