Sorry Sydney, Melbourne wins

When I started blogging, almost 10 years ago, I had the firm intention to write and post everyday. At that time, I used a platform called Fotolog and in the evening, upon finishing my homework for school,  I would use my parents desktop computer to upload a (horrible) grainy and heavily edited picture along with my day reportage, a poem, a story or a meaningful quote. Many years have passed, I have since closed that photoblog and opened two more, including the one you are currently reading and the only one I’ve designed from scratch. I barely manage to write more than 4 blog posts a month and sometimes (much) less than that. Sailing early days as freelancer since launching last year has been crazy scary,very intense, inspiring and extremely rewarding. Often, an enlightening (and painful) lesson on my own limits and skills. To be completely honest, I had the best intentions to keep you posted on my down under travels, but Life {aka adventures, hikes, new and old friends, explorations, lessons, realisations and my new job} took over and here I am with an overdue overview of my month in Melbourne and the beautiful state of Victoria. 

Like my other very popular Indian guides, here’s your CREED*, collecting all the most important things you need to do while visiting this wonderful part of the world.

Here’s your:

Melbourne & Victoria’s Creed

COFFEE

Market Lane Coffee
An Australian legend that must be visited (and tasted!) to be believed! Be prepared for long queues, but they are well worthy before or after your visit to Queen Victoria’s Market. 

Monk Bodhi Dharma
A very tiny and cute cafe with some seating indoors. It’s set in a very well hidden place just off Chapel St in an unassuming car park. The staff is cool, hipster and fun, the blend used beyond words.

 

Brother Baba Budan
Another very tiny and cute cafe in the CBD with a quirky ceiling filled by hanging chairs. The place is very small and baristas’ attitude a bit arrogant and rushed, but that’s – I learnt – is what happens when a city is named global capital of coffee (aka: most baristas in Melbourne have the superhero attitude and arrogance, while they are pouring milk on a flat white they put on the face a surgeon would while transplanting hearts.)

The St Kilda Dispensary
A very peculiar coffee-shop in the beautiful St Kilda settings. The interiors are designed with a pharmacy in mind and everything served with that concept in mind, including the caramel-injected muffins 🙂 

READ

Melbourne State Library
You should know by now that I’m addicted erm, in love with books, libraries, (some librarians) and bookshops, so you can imagine my face and emotion when my friend Toni Frazer took me here after our delicious lunch at Supernormal (more below). The State Library of Victoria is a wonderful example of Victorian architecture and hosts the state’s largest public reference and research library. Make sure to visit La Trobe Reading Room (in the pic) with it’s wonderful white and imposing domed roof.

Books for Cooks
Another favourite at the Vic market: I spent entire afternoon here browsing the many titles and reading about new and old recipes from around the world. I have to admit I also stole a few ideas for my hostel nights & friends 🙂

Grub Street Bookshop
Another cute bookshop that gives Melbourne that special hip vibe without turning hipster. I loved browsing around for a few hours and filling up my reading list for the next few months, erm..years!

Books

The Melbourne Design Guide
It is clear that architects of major (and minor) talent have played with Melbourne’s architecture in the last few decades. The result is a messy, beautiful mix of styles and ambitions. You can learn more with this quirky and fun guide.

The Underbelly 
An interesting look into Melbourne’s underground world of crime, police corruption, hitmen and dead people during the ‘80s and ‘90s. Not for the faint at heart.

EXPLORE

Philip Island
One of the must do while in Melbourne. The world’s famous destination – and one of the only places – where you can see many, sorry I mean thousands of tiny penguins roaming around like in a Disney cartoon. To see this natural wonder, I decided to book my day trip with the best providers in town: Go West Tours which not only offers a day long exploration of Island, but also a cheese and wine tasting around lunch time and one of the funniest drive through the day. The Little Penguins that will delight you in the evening, are the smallest in the world and are only found in Southern Australia. The Penguins Parade is quite commercial and the viewing platform isn’t the best (some people had a very close look at the little animals, while others sitting at the back could only catch a glimpse of one or two). It’s also quite an expensive experience, but fortunately, all the money made goes back into research. Please be aware that photography is not allowed, since the flash blinds the little penguins so put away your camera, phones and whatever else for the preservation of this delicate species. (footnote: it’s a shame, for a semi-professional photographer like me, that the growing number of people with big cameras who don’t know how to use them (aka turn off their flash) once again affected my experience – the pictures you see here are not mine but of Go West Tours – this happens more and more often in churches, libraries and other places, not because artworks could be affected by photography, but by the flash, so here’s my request people and amateur photographers: read your manual, learn how to switch off your flash or simply buy a much simpler camera 😃 thank you!

Mt Donna Buang
Another Melbourne surprise that I only discovered thanks to the fantastic @igersmelbourne and the Melbourne Crew communities who invited me to one of their exclusive photo events. Thanks to Ben, Mallory and @ktaztrofk @deecamino, @sharoo0n,@s.wei_, @elleidaujackiemaz94 and the rest of the gang for making me feel SO welcome and for showing me such an amazing part of your city!

Great Ocean Road
This was another top priority in my to-do list for Australia, along with surfing, Uluru and the Whitsundays (yes, I know some common expectations, sorry! :P) So, having been able to drive down one of the most scenic roads in a 1970s WV Kombi, was not just a dream come true, but the end of a lifetime obsession. With my friend Taherah we drove up and down the Victorian coast with the beautiful AppleJack and stopping in all the little towns on our way. I hadn’t seen my friend since 2010 when she left London where, back then, we were working together at posh weddings/events as waitresses, to relocate to Melbourne where she leads a very successful career in cancer research. It was emotional to see her again – I had my doubts I wouldn’t see her ever again – and it’s true sometimes that distance is just mental and we had a real blast during our time together. Taherah is also a keen and talented photographer, so our road trip was filled with impromptu stops along the way to take just-one-more picture.

So, a long-lost friend, a beautiful Kombi and one of the best roads in the world? What else you need? Well, the sun would have been sweet and a few stars also would have made everything perfect, but I’m not here to complain. It was just perfect. Thank you to @hireakombi for making my dream come true!

The Grampians
This beautiful National Park is better seen in autumn or spring, when the full shades of the trees and leaves are in full bloom. But, there are also impressive aboriginal artwork and more than 50 bush walks along 200km of tracks. In winter it can be very cold so remember to wrap up warm and bring an extra blanket. Along The Grampians, you must visit The Balconies, accessible via the Mount Victory Road northwest of Halls Gap. The walk to the lookout is 1.6km return and once there it offers one of the best views over the Victoria Valley.

Brighton
A day in Brighton, even in winter is another must do. Take a friend for a stroll on the beach and make sure to walk up to the little beach cabins: they are all different and colourful and a few shots here are a must! I went here with another good friend of mine, my dear Shifa, who I’ve first met in India during my travels there back in Autumn. Shifa is now studying in Melbourne and slowly adjusting to the (coooold) life down under. She’s another friend I wasn’t sure I was going to see again, but Melbourne you know, it’s just a melting pot where I got to gather with so many new and old friends that my heart was totally filled with love. 

Warrandyte State Park 5/04
An underrated park in the suburbs of Melbourne. It’s quite hard to get there by public transports, but I guess you could always hire a car instead. The walk goes along a nice creek, but the best surprise was actually seeing a few dozens of wild kangaroos jumping around and playing with each other. So cute!! 

EAT

Gelato Messina
Since opening in Darlinghurst in 2002, Gelato Messina has had one clear goal: to set the benchmark for gelato in Australia and, oh boy, as an Italian pure blood, I can tell you that they have clearly achieved their target: their gelato is to die for. Overprices (as many things in Australia), but well worth every now and then.

Supernormal
Chef Andrew McConnell’s new restaurant in Flinders Lane is a beautifully, minimalistic designed space that houses a large open kitchen and bar. With Asian inspired dishes and drinks, this is the perfect spot for lunch, dinner, events and even karaoke.

DREAM

YHA North Melbourne

I’ve never been a big fan of hostels, in particular those bed bugs filled backpackers that are very popular in Sydney and along the East Coast, but when I finally booked my stay at the YHA I understood why this chain is so popular and attracts so many people all around the world. The cleaning standards and the little details here at YHA, make all the difference since that what makes them stand them out from the competition. If you get the YHA membership, you can also take advantage of many interesting discounts and offers including the GreyHound bus and rental cars.

 

Thank you note

This article is partially sponsored – all views are my own.
First and foremost, Olympus Australia, Manfrotto and Lowepro for providing me with the best tools on the market and being a constant support and source of inspiration.
A huge thanks also to HireAKombi, Will & Bear, GoWestTours and Jeep Australia to allow me to experience and explore Melbourne and surroundings in the best way possible.