"Give you all of Sydney Harbour - all that land, all that water - for that one sweet promenade." - Paul Kelly 'From St Kilda to Kings Cross'.
Now that I am no longer a Sydneysider, I am no longer geographically obliged to be rude about Melbourne. I am free to be impartial. Possibly even complimentary.
Seriously though, Melbourne is a wonderful city. A lot of people have likened Sydney and Melbourne to two sisters. Sydney is the more attractive sister, while Melbourne, being a lot plainer, has had to become interesting. This could be one reason. It could also be that Sydney has better weather and that Sydneysiders have a lot more outdoor options (including real beaches) and have not developed an indoor, café/restaurant culture. It could also be decades of corrupt Labor government in NSW in the pockets of developers having no vision and very little care for Sydney's progression. There is also the NSW Hotelier's Association who seem to think that New South Welshmen like to drink in giant beer barns with loud, offensive music, 360˚ televisions, TABs and wall-to-wall pokies. Their chairman recently suggested (and I'm paraphrasing here) that Sydneysiders wouldn't want poofy little winebars.
So yes, Melbourne does seem to have a superior eating and drinking culture. It's okay to be a reasonably priced, excellent food restaurant. It doesn't have to be in fashion, or the place to be seen, or even in the right suburb. Could I live in Melbourne? Well, if they could only do something about the weather...
After nearly a month out of a big city, it was both exciting and annoying to be back in one. Exciting in that there were lot of new things to see and do (and flashy shiny things), annoying in that there were lots of people. And city people are not as friendly as the country folk. Especially old Mediterranean women who seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to bump, push, poke and generally jostle anyone in their immediate vicinity.
Sunday was market day. There was a local car boot markets at the railway station carpark near David. It was a real mix of utter rubbish and some genuinely interesting stuff. I bought an old Champion Ruby tobacco tin for Yvette. From there we caught a train into the city. One of the odd things about Melbourne for a Sydneysider is that there are level crossings everywhere. Cars and trains run on the same level throughout the city. This also means at some stations you walk over the train lines. To someone from Sydney and previously London, this was just plain weird. And a little bit freaky quite honestly.
Bentleigh is not very far from the city and we were in the city in no time and walking up towards the Queen Victoria Markets. I stopped along the way as David pointed out and explained a hook turn to me which is what Melbournians do when they want to turn right in front of trams. Sometimes. It sounds confusing if anyone explains it to you, but when you see it in practice, it's actually quite straightforward.
The Queen Vic Markets are absolutely amazing. The first part we walked into was the deli section which was like streets and streets of tiny deli shops all joined together. Imagine if there was a little town whose only income derived from delicatessens and you have some idea. Cheeses I'd never heard of, salamis hanging everywhere - to tell the truth it was almost overwhelming. Almost. After a quick, head-spinning look around we decided to come back to delitown and grab some stuff before we left. The rest of the markets has fresh food (meats, seafoods, vegetables and fruit) and then a general merchandise area which is massive. If you can imagine Paddy's Markets in Sydney, only less shit, you'll have some idea. After a very entertaining look around and a Spanish doughnut (which is more like a fried dough stick sprinkled with icing sugar) we actually didn't buy a thing. I was tempted but some not-very-genuine Arsenal and Mets clothing, but decided against it. Yvette wanted some Ugg boots but it was hard to tell which were real and which weren't. The stallholders were unhelpful to the point of rudeness. After a quick lunch we popped back into the deli section and grabbed some salami and cheese, grabbed a few veges and headed back into the city. We decided to try and make the Southbank Arts and Crafts markets before they closed and headed over the bridge near Flinders St Station and down into a large collection of stalls. The Southbank markets are quite well run in that stall holders are allowed a stall only once a month. That way, every weekend is different. The quality of things for sale vary from arts to well, crafts of a dubious nature. A lot more polished and certainly less chaotic than the Queen Vic Markets, it was still an interesting look-round. After the markets, we had had quite enough of walking around and headed back to David's and made some pizzas with the goodies from delitown.
Monday we decided we'd go and see the Dali exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. Quite a comprehensive look at Dali, it features his work not only in drawing and painting, but in film-making, jewelry design and set design. The only real disappointment was that 'Christ of Saint John of the Cross' and 'Persistence of Memory' weren't there. Oh, and that the Gallery had decided to let two groups of school children and a woman with a crying child through at the same time as us. I felt like asking for a refund or at least a discount. Seriously, the larger a group of schoolchildren, the further down the evolutionary ladder they slip. Either that or they'd learnt their crowd manners from the aforementioned old ladies. Still, the art was amazing - the hordes and the noise could not spoil that.
That night we headed down the Espy in St Kilda for dinner and for a look at the pub, famous for being the venue for RockWiz (and the opening credits of Secret Life Of Us). The pub is fantastic and is now one of my all-time favourite pubs ever. For one thing, it has Hoegardden on tap, for another it has been mostly untouched. No asshat interior designer has fucked it up with blonde wood, chrome and glass.* After a huge meal, some beers (they have Fat Yak on tap too!) we sat around until the band came in and threatened to play. It seemed that setting up and showing off in front of the WAGs was to take as long as their actual set. We never found out however and left before they managed to play a note. I wasn't particularly upset. David then took us a bit of a night drive around the St Kilda area before heading back to Bentleigh.
*Seriously - have interior designers never been into a real pub? They are not meant to look like they belong in a magazine. They should look and feel like a drunkard's living room. If you are an interior designer and are reading this, please punch yourself in the head until you pass out.