Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | October 15, 2014

Adventures on the Other Side of the World #5

Our tour included a look at some of Melbourne's street art, which is allowed and even encouraged in certain areas.

Our tour included a look at some of Melbourne’s street art, which is allowed and even encouraged in certain areas.

Well, I’ve returned back to Alexander’s after a day exploring, much of it spent on my feet.  As a result, I’m a bit stiff and getting off the couch has become a bit comical, as it takes a few minutes for me to stop hobbling. I’ll sleep well tonight, I’m sure.

I woke up rather early this morning (at about five) for no reason whatsoever, and I couldn’t seem to get back to sleep.  So I stayed in bed and tried not to wake up Alexander until he got up for work, choosing instead to curl up to bed to check my email and my Facebook.  Once he’d headed out for the day, I pried myself from the covers, showered and dressed and headed out for the day. I picked up a cappuccino and a pastry then made my way to Federation Square by tram, since I’d arranged to sign up for a walking tour at 9:30. There was a bit of a hiccup (somehow my name didn’t get in) but they managed to find a spot for me, so it worked out.

The tours, called Greeters Tours, are volunteer run and are completely free. They are offered through the Visitors Centre at Federation Square, and take no more than four people per group.  It was 3.5 hours with a knowledgable member of the Melbourne Community (ours was named John Doolan) and I highly recommend it.The tour ranged from looking at Indigenous Art in one of the galleries, to learning about the arcades in the city (which are covered shops, a precursor to modern malls, and not video game central like this North American thought when people kept recommending I check out this or that arcade), to seeing street art, and even drinking coffee in the city’s smallest cafe.  It’s literally a shop display window converted into the seating, across from the kiosk in a former hole in the wall.

Melbourne's very first escalator, it was the talk of the town in it's day, even though it only goes up one floor and there wasn't a matching one down.

Melbourne’s very first escalator, it was the talk of the town in it’s day, even though it only goes up one floor and there wasn’t a matching one down.

I am very impressed with Melbourne for organizing this kind of thing for visitors. It helped me get a better idea of where I might want to go. For example, between streets there are little lanes converted to small cafes, and I would likely have missed them as I don’t generally wander in alleys when I’m travelling alone.

After that, I did a little more exploring in the area, backtracking into some of the cool places John had shown our little group (me, plus one German tourist and two young Irish women up to work for a year so they can explore Australia).  I even managed to find some of the arcades again (though I couldn’t dig out the bookshop we’d passed so I’ll have to try, try again).

Next, I made my way to the botanical gardens. I was pretty hungry by the time I got there, so I chose the pathway that pointed toward the public washrooms and a cafe.  The place was called Jardin Tam, and it served Vietnamese food. It was very good, and not too spicy (though definitely had some kick to it). I had a Banana Blossom Salad, which was sprouts and veggies and mango served in a banana leaf. I had a glass of the house red with it, then finished with a pineapple frangipani and a coffee. I also had a lovely conversation with the customer next to me, a Chicago woman who had just moved to Melbourne from Toronto with her husband (who was from Melbourne originally) and her beautiful dog (who prompted the conversation).

A walk in the lovely Royal Botanical Gardens.

A walk in the lovely Royal Botanical Gardens.

After my late lunch and dessert, I wandered the gardens a bit more, and decided I definitely want to come back. I think I’ll need to find a soft spot on the grass to read. It is really peaceful and beautiful in the gardens, and I love that it is open to the public for free. Melbourne is not an inexpensive city to visit!  I was pretty tired after all my walking around and didn’t want to deal with too much post-work traffic, so made my way back to a tram stop via the Shrine of Remembrance (which I didn’t have time to stop in, as it closes at five and it was not long before). I even managed to navigate my way to the correct one on the first go (unless you count my multiple map checks). Then it was in for the evening, to drink wine, eat dinner, and hopefully stiffen up only temporarily. Tomorrow’s adventure includes a planned day tour to Phillips Island with a group.  I’m looking forward to the penguins! It’s a shame I won’t be able to take any home.  I’m very, very excited.

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