Carolina: Cruising Past 70: 4+ More Hidden Gems of Melbourne, on our 4th Deeper Look

Friday, August 25, 2017

4+ More Hidden Gems of Melbourne, on our 4th Deeper Look

Melbourne Museum, largest in the Southern Hemisphere
Bill and I were just going to sample more of the great cuisine available in Melbourne. But between lunch and dinner, we found more hidden gems in the city that you must include when you visit.

Little Italy

Little Italy is also referred to as the "Italian Precinct"(just like another area known as the Greek Precinct) where the city’s Italian community is centered. Victoria has the largest Italian-Australian population (around 200,000) and most of them in the suburbs of Carlton where the precinct occupies a number of blocks. Towards the center, on the corner of Lygon Street and Argyle Place, there is a small Italian-inspired plaza named Piazza Italia,  a joint project of Melbourne and its sister city, Milan, in Italy.
Little Italy on Lygon Street

And the large concentration of Italian restaurants is on Lygon Street. After going around and “analyzing menus, Bill and I chose the one where almost every seat was taken, Universal Italian Restaurant and ordered a combo of spaghetti and meatballs paired with red wine (a Shiraz) for just $13.99. For such a reasonable price (in Melbourne) we had a heck of a great Italian meal!

Carlton Gardens

The major landmark in the Carlton suburb, however, is the Gardens, a few blocks away. That is where Bill and I went after our hearty Italian meal. The Carlton Gardens is a World Heritage Site located to the north of the Central Business District whereas the Royal Botanic Gardens and King’s Domain are to the south. The 64-acre site contains the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Museum and Imax Cinema, an award-winning children's playground, and tennis courts.

Carlton Gardens, Royal Exhibition Building,
children's playground, largest IMAX, and the first computer
The Melbourne Museum is the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere. The post-modernist building is designed both as a single building and as a network of buildings. An IMAX Theatre with the world’s largest 3D-screen is part of the complex. Aligned with the Italianate Royal Exhibition Building next door, two long high sloping blades rise up from the central entrance opposite the north door of the Royal Exhibition Building. A larger blade-like roof, like its neighbor’s Florentine dome, is a landmark.

Melbourne Gaol

Also a few blocks away from the Carlton Gardens and Little Italy is the Old Melbourne Gaol on Russell Street. It consists of a bluestone building and courtyard and is located next to the old City Police Watch House and City Courts buildings. First constructed in 1839, it was a prison between 1842 and 1929, holding and executing Australia's most notorious criminals, 133 of them by hanging.
Old Melbourne Gaol

Though it was used briefly during World War II, it formally ceased operating as a prison in 1924; with parts of the jail being incorporated into the RMIT University, and the rest becoming a museum. Paranormal enthusiasts claim the museum is haunted, with claims of ghostly apparitions and unexplained voices near cells. At its completion, the prison occupied an entire city block and included exercise yards, a hospital in one of the yards, a chapel, bath house and staff accommodation.

Several blocks to the west of the Carlton Gardens stands the Queen Victoria Market. On the way to the market, we encountered several interesting places which I will mention here but not discuss at length since we did not stop at any one for a long time. We were in a hurry to get to the Winter Night Market for its opening and our dinner! There was another street full of graffiti and art, a Christmas store, a fish and reptiles store, and a public bath!
street art, Christmas store, fish, and reptiles store, and a public bath
Queen Victoria Market

With 17 acres, the Queen Victoria Market is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. It has been listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as the only surviving 19th century market in the Melbourne central business district and is on its way to being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Eastern and Western Markets, both opened before the Queen Victoria Market, closed in the 1960s. Another two Victorian markets have survived, however: the inner suburban Prahran Market and the South Melbourne Market that is near April’s apartment.

Today, the Market is a major Melbourne tourist destination, offering a variety of fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood, gourmet and delicatessen foods as well as specialty delicacies. It also has a large non-food related market, selling a diverse range of clothing, shoes, jewelry and handmade arts and crafts. The doughnut van, known for its hot jam donuts, has become part of its tradition

Queen Victoria Market and the Winter Night Market, inside and out
On Wednesday evenings in summer, there is a night market which offers dining, bars, live entertainment and a variety of other stalls. Last June 7, a Winter Night Market opened (up to August 30) with “an exciting new lighting concept, quirky entertainers, live music, 30 global food traders, 50 specialty and design stalls, warm drinks, cold beers and raging open fires” all under one huge tent. 
Bill fell in love with the Sri Lankan chicken curry. I, on the other hand, could not resist ordering the porchetta. It is the Italian version of the Filipino Lechon and the Scottish hog roast!

It is at this night market where Bill and I chose to end our walking day with special fast food that titillated our palates. We began it with Italian food in Little Italy. Melbourne is truly a food lover's delight. 

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