Carolina: Cruising Past 70: 6 Engaging Finds on my 2nd Look at the City of Melbourne

Thursday, June 29, 2017

6 Engaging Finds on my 2nd Look at the City of Melbourne

The Courtyard of Federation Square in Melbourne
Flinders' at day and at night, full and half-covered
On Bill’s first weekend, we went on a road trip to the little mountain village of Sassafras and the Healesville Sanctuary on the Yarra Valley wine region. His second weekend coincided with Father’s Day in the US and the Philippines. Although it is celebrated on September 3 in the Land of Oz, I took Bill for an introduction to this “most livable city in the world” and took a deeper look myself!

Flinders’ Station

“Meet me under the clocks” used to mean the green domed Flinders Station with its iconic clock tower on its yellow façade. It was the favorite meeting place of Melburnians for a long time, being the oldest and busiest suburban railway station in Australia and the southern hemisphere. Over 1500 trains and 110,000 commuters pass through it every day. Its main platform is the fourth longest in the world. Unfortunately, its façade was under renovation, half-covered when we first saw it at night and already full-covered when we went back another day.
The  Square and The Atrium of Federation Square

Federation Square

What has become the Melburnians’ favorite meeting place stands right across the station. It is called Federation Square, a mixed-use area that includes the Melbourne Visitor’s Center on the St. Paul Cathedral’s Courtyard (the cathedral is across the other street). Then there is The Square where an exhibit extolling China-Australia relations was ongoing. The last public space on the Federation Square is The Atrium with its ultra-modern design. The whole area is built on a concrete deck above the railway lines. While taking photos, Bill and I chanced upon a good snack: some ice cream and pop from a stand!

street art in Hosier Lane
Melbourne Street Art 

Melbourne is known as one of the world’s great street art capitals, internationally renowned for offering vibrant color, blazing ideas and nervous energy on building walls of its streets.
There are fifteen locations where unique expressions of this art are on display.  We went to two, Hosier Lane, the most well-known, and nearby Union Lane. Although there are sections of stunning art, I felt most of it is graffiti. It was a little disappointing, especially since I have seen great street art elsewhere in the world.

the TownHall behind the  leaning tree
Melbourne Town Hall

The Melbourne Town Hall is at the heart of the city’s central business district. Today it hosts theater, weddings, receptions, exhibitions and other cultural activities. Actually, it was celebrating the Week of Elderly Abuse when we were there, Bill pointed out! Years ago, decisions that have helped shape Melbourne as a city were made within this Hall. The building is classically designed and features a clock tower and walls made of fine masonry from a mix of bluestone and Tasmanian freestone.

Around Melbourne Chinatown

On the way to the State Library, we passed by a vibrant section of international eateries surrounding Chinatown and a section called the Greek Precinct. We plan to go back to this part to sample the many flavors of the world available from Asian restaurants like Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Taiwanese, etc. and Meditteranean food shops like Turkish, Greek, Lebanese, etc. They all contribute to making Melbourne famous for good food. Sadly, Filipino food was nowhere to be found.

Melbourne Chinatown
State Library of Victoria

But if I were living in Melbourne, I would have to say it is Melbourne’s landmark and cultural icon, the State Library of Victoria, that I would treasure most. It is a magnificent 19th-century building, featuring a majestic dome which has the largest glass ceiling in the world. It is the roof, five floors up, of the La Trobe Reading Room, the library’s highlight. Each seat in the room is equipped with a desktop and lighted by green antique lights. Bill and I tried them! This is where I would probably spend hours most days.

There are other smaller reading rooms, two free permanent exhibitions, Ned Kelly’s “The Changing Face of Victoria” and the history of books in the “Mirror of the World,” three other free galleries and even a room called Experimedia.  Each table in the internet and computer room is equipped with state-of-the-art charging stations. The
reading room and dome of the State Library of Victoria
Library collections include over two million books, other media and digital material reflecting Victoria’s history and culture over the past 150 years. Outside, two giant chess sets were being busily played by men dwarfed by statues of Victoria’s great historical figures and other decorative art.

Rare Steakhouse and Environs

We capped the afternoon with a steak dinner at Rare Steakhouse-Downtown. The restaurant has two other branches, Midtown and Uptown. But this particular one is
Rare Steakhouse-Downtown
located where male exotic revues and “tramp”-filled cabarets are around! It was a surprise that the food was good and reasonably priced. We even had the best dessert ever, warm flourless chocolate cake with homemade vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, after some oysters Kilpatrick and porterhouse steaks with salad paired with bold Shiraz.

This was our own self-guided walking tour. In four hours, we walked even if they were all in the free tram zone area. The tram system may be another reason it is ‘the most livable city in the world.” If we used it, we would have needed it for only a stop or two anyway since all these finds were close to each other on either side of Swanston St, from Flinders’ Station to the State Library. But we used the tram on the way home,  about five stops from the Rare Steakhouse Downtown. Bill was happy. And so was I.