Curiosity kills breeds the cat. So all you curious ones, raise a toast! If you have landed on this blog page, I assure you to give an initiation into the life of a Melburnian in as bite sized pieces as possible (aren’t we all guilty!?). Melbourne has a distinctive charm, replete with art, a gourmet haven, a melting pot of cultures, also the most liveable city in the freaking world minus the lockdowns! So here’s a run down of the Melburnian way of life:

An artsy affair

If this city had another name, it would be art. The laneways, the conspicuous graffiti on streets, paintings, exhibitions, even the sky – all shout out ‘art’. My favourite picks by far (and I have just about scraped the surface!) are the exhibitions in NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) on French Impressionism, the Koorie Heritage Trust (aboriginal art) and the street art found not only in the many laneways in the city centre (Central Business District aka CBD) but across the city! In my neighbourhood, one of the many exploratory walks led me to the Chapel Street Bazar; a true vintage find.

At other times, I find myself lost in book stores, vinyl stores, street bazaar (markets), public libraries or the label stores selling house décor, candles or local brands of funky clothing. A rather interesting take on colorful knick knacks and even clothes are the Salvos, or Op Shops which house goods generously donated by you or me.

The myriad of options on any given day is enough to confound one. I am on a mission to fathom the many facets of this wonderous city, and each day poses tough choices – artsy painting exhibitions, comedy shows, music vault, exploring a new suburb or just getting lost in the many laneways of CBD.

Buzzing with events, the face of Melbourne changes as rapidly as day turns into night. What’s even remarkable is witnessing the stark difference in the city vibe during day time vs night life. A stone’s throw away, the uptown Chapel Street in my burb (short for suburb) South Yarra, is abuzz most of the times but comes to roaring life especially during the weekends.

From bars to eateries, you can take your pick from Japanese (think sake & sushi), Vietnamese (rice rolls & Bahn Mi), Chinese (traditional soupy preps dunked in tongue numbing sichuan pepper – Master Lanzhou), Greek (Souvlaki, gyros & Mythos) , Lebanese & Mediterranean, Mexican (Hecho En Mexico, Mamasitas & Hotel Jesus), Sri Lankan, Spanish (tapas), Italiano (read Merlot with carbonara) et al. – spoilt for choice!

Wading past its many burbs and streets, the bespoke street art caters to every taste. Abstract, graffiti, sculpture art, spray paint – there’s every kind to inspire the artist in you. My recent adventures led me to the Lume, at The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), which was a unique tête-à-tête with art. An immersive experience to witness and live a day in the life of Vincent Van Gogh seeping in his inner turmoil while admiring his widely celebrated works.

Nature natives: stroll in the park

Among the many Melburnian things to do, a stroll in the park is a must, ’cause who wouldn’t want to make the most of the lush green parks its blessed with!? The grid city is so well planned that every suburb has a green reserve or parks, albeit the layout, and expanse would obviously vary. We are lucky to have the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), Fawkner Park and Albert Park in close proximity owing to our location.

The charm of black swans & quacking ducks, the myriad species of blooms & plants (more than 8500 unique species), the oasis and Arid garden, calming lakes are hard to miss at RBG. I often find myself marooned there for hours on a sunny day, it has a cool inhouse cafe (Jardin Tan) where one can grab a cuppa and relax next to the lake. One could get lost in the dense greens, spend hours discovering, or admiring the city views from the floating islands (restored reservoir) or one of the strategically parked benches.

Any visit to the burbs or the parks or the city, is incomplete without the four legged furry friends (dogs duh!), I bet you there are all kinds of breeds here, groodle and broodle being pet lovers’ favorites. A stroll by the Yarra river, a walk in the circular greens at Como Park, or venturing in the hidden Victoria gardens, there’s enough to walk a mile and more.

The Melbourne weather is as elusive, warm and sunny in one moment, raining and cold the next. Despite the sudden drops in temperature to a freezing 5 or 6 degree in the evenings, it is not much of a deal breaker among Melburnians who are always in the best of ‘spirits’. The general norm here is to drive, but on days when that seems too much one can tram the traffic – the art painted trams ensure light speed connectivity across the city and beyond, through a network of trains and buses.

The burb life

My exploratory weekends have been replete with visit to the local breweries, hip cafes, breezy bars and the buzzing markets in the northern suburbs of Collingwood, Fitzroy and Northcote. A few among my favourites would be Buck Mulligan‘s for the hideout backside garden bar (also checkout Wesley Anne, Purple Emerald bars in Northcote), Hotel Jesus for the yum tacos and the delicious drinks tecate, dos equidas, the Fitz cafe‘ (1986) for a wholesome brunch, Welcome to Thornbury for a night of partying. A stroll past the funky Fitzroy market on a sunny Saturday was among my enthralling escapades.

I also enjoy my occasional visits to Bunnings warehouse for some healthy dose of plants therapy or browsing through shelves of Ikea, DFO Southwarf, or sometimes even Facebook marketplace (second hand market is big here!).

Meandering in my own burb uptownsy South Yarra, I would recommend the Hawker Hall for a palette full of street food, Patee Thai for lip-smacking Thai in authentic flavours and seating, Hecho En Mexico for oh-so-good Margaritas and hot-fiery Mexican delights. For a dumplings dinner, I usually order or dine at Tao Dumplings. For a caffeine high, head to Toby’s Estate, Oscar Cooper, Pardon cafe, Peppans, Acai bros (also yum acai bowls).

On days I am not gloating with food, I find refuge in doing up my house and cooking at home (err back to food!). But burb life is pretty cool if you are living right behind Chapel Street and Toorak is a stone’s throw away. And well, the Prahran market is my sweetest spot with all its cool options from the famed Baker & Monger’s cheese bites, Jasper & Market Lane coffees to Turkish goodies.

The feast meal, my first Thanksgiving dinner @ our American friends’ abode, presenting the Turkey, varied casseroles, the sweet potato casserole with pecans (delightful), and other finger licking food!

Get on with the lingo

Well, this would go down the “How to say you are an Aussie, without saying that you’re an Aussie?” trend. Slangs are the accepted norm in this part of the world. Aussie slangs go down memory lane, especially when you are out in the arvo (afternoon), sunnies out, in a pair of trackie dacks, stoked (happy) with barbie (barbecue), jaffles, snag (sausage), sanger (sandwich) and a slab (a carton of beers)! You’d need a serviette (not tissues) to wipe your face clean and a bin later to throw it in. 😀

If that’s not enough to confound you or leave you gobsmacked, you’ve got to be delusional and well, would very rightly fit (in a ute maybe?!) into this joyride part of the world in the Southern hemisphere. Yes mate, you belong here! 😉

Explore the outbacks and regional Victoria

A true blue Aussie will vouch for the plethora of options available to nature lovers (or not) with respect to wildlife, parks, hikes, bush hikes, vineyards, valleys, gorges or even picturesque drives. Though am yet to explore many such haunts, our day trips to the Philip Islands and the Weribee Gorge circuit hike rewarded us with many such finds.

From the famed kangaroos, sun baking and lazying around to the umpteen variety of birds, the most notable being cassowaries, it was sheer delight to be so up close with wildlife and truly embody “coexistence”. This is another reason why theoretically I dislike the concept of zoos, even though there is a huge Melbourne Zoo in the city. Philip island was a beautiful retreat away from the hullabaloo of the city centre, that’s usually packed and more so during the weekends. The Tasmanian devil, the sleepy koalas, the dingos were among other peculiar species I was acquainted with.

Soon after we headed to Cowes, and a drive around Noobies which pleasantly surprised me with surfers lining the coast – a mesmerising sight. I was tempted to wade the waters with them, a sight which aroused my drive to learn surfing, an idea parked for summer. At dawn, we retreated back to the city with a renewed vow to revisit for a stay and in better weather. The playful silhouettes that the sky put on display on our drive back was equally captivating.

Among my other border-regional ventures was the Weribee Gorge Circuit hike, where we trailed a winding circuit of approx 8.5 km past dense forest greens, rocks, alongside river beds – in one moment scary, in other triumphant but mostly serene.

The blue-hues @ Safety Beach, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Mentone beach – welcoming the quintessential Aussie summer – cooked and burnt both sides!

The iconic landmarks:

In the shake-up to the invigorating mix of ‘things to explore’, one cannot miss out on the iconic landmarks, most of them located right in the heart of the city. In the maze like lanes, this grid city offers many eclectic highlights like the iconic State Library, Queen Victoria market, Fed Square, National Gallery of Victoria, Shrine of Remembrance, MCG & the favorite Flinders Street station. The city circle tram 35 (free) takes one to all the top spots. Though I traced my way on foot to most of these destinations.

The State Vic Lib houses some very interesting galleries replete with modern art paintings which give a sneak peek into the intricate settings of the curious city, from the emotive scenes of the bushfire to the masked existence brought on by the pandemic. Replete with innumerable books spanning across genres, I enjoyed wading past its many dorms, each hall has a unique setting – the one on Ned Kelly piqued my interest.

The iconic heritage listed Young & Jackson across the Flinders street station, the numerous by lanes in the city center (hosier lane with street art walls, AC/DC lane et al.), Koorie heritage art center with the Aboriginal keepsakes, the glitzy and glimmering Southbank, all define a Melbourne that is so distinct yet so ubiquitous in its charm.

The heart of the city comes truly alive as one stands witness to the various sights and sounds, whether it be the faint street music by artists abound or the loud echo of public protests, somedays for refugees, on other days for the release of Julian Assange. Yet on another you’d find yourself caught in the middle of loud roaring of ‘Free Palestine’ making Melbourne thrilling ride of a kind.

Eat me good, but drinks first

Catching up over drinks is the norm here, and trumps all. It could be catching up during the day, arvo or eve, seeing Aussies out enjoying a good drink is a no brainer. When it comes to fuzzy beers – there’s a whole variety here from pale ales, sours, lager, stout, pilsner. You can source it right from the brewery like Moondog, or sip it with appetizers in a cozy bar – no rules rules.

My top 3 in South Yarra would be Temperance hotel and Hotel Jacksons for their vintage, old school English pub charm, Leonard’s house of love for its chatty-chilled out vibe (this was a brothel back in the day, now refurbished into a bar), and Katuk for the cosy-classy vibe. In the heart of CBD, I enjoyed my time at White Hart Lane for its yum cocktails and some sick tunes. For the best sangria with a delectable pairing of Spanish tapas, head to Movida!

Don’t be surprised to spot the ever growing trend of Aussies slurp on cold ice creams in delectable flavours from Messina or Pidapipo, yes even during peak winters! When it comes to multicultural cuisines, you can literally think of what you want to eat and head to that restaurant, often housed across the same suburb. Whether its Korean (Subi Q), Japanese (think sake & sushi), German (good ol’ currywurst or Brätwurst), its truly a melting pot. Never did I imagine celebrating 4th of July in Melbourne with a hearty gang of American friends!

The insane coffee culture

Melbourne and coffee go hand in hand. Whether it’s the caps or the dirty chais, you gotta try it all to figure which one appeals the best to your palette. Strong, weak, bitter, light, fluffy, frothy, or the peculiar variants like Magic- everything is possible but you gotta spell it out. The traditional makes without customizations would be my pick. And among the riot of options, I love dirty chai & skinny caps the most. Shops shut at 5 pm or earlier, sun down at 5.

For a caffeine high, head to Toby’s Estate, Oscar Cooper, Pardon cafe, Peppans, Acai bros (also yum acai bowls). The artisan Laurent is another one of my favorite bakeries which serves the best French bakes and lovely coffee of course, there are barely any places where one could ever go wrong with coffee in Melbourne. To spice up a morning before tuning into work calls, try dunking a Tim Tam into skinny caps with oat milk, or go the almond latte way, you’ll not regret it one bit.

In an exciting turn of events, I recently brought my birthday sundowner at the Republica, St Kilda with some stunning-magical beach views, with a heap of friends I made here. With family back home, one does get a bit homesick but if you are the kind who loves new adventures, make friends, devours food & art, enjoys soaking in the multicultural pleasures, then you’ll fit right in!

Well, if you have come this far to the very end of my blog, I bet you nod your head to why ‘Melbourne is the greatest city on this planet’.

Last but not the least, are you having a g’day mate! If you have been to this part of the world, tell me what you think? What’s your favorite Aussie thing to do? I’d love to know in the comments section, drop in!