I absolutely am NOT doing an Eat, Pray, Love tour; however my cousins did ensure that I ate very well while in Melbourne, and I did go and find a yoga class I could drop into. And then I may have caused a thunderstorm.
A few foodie highlights include Le Bon Ton if you want some tasty American cuisine, good burgers, and the least healthy salad you've ever devoured; The Napier for tender and delicious kangaroo steak, to really get your outback on; and Doc's for Italian by Italians for everyone, particularly lovers of fresh buffalo mozzarella.
On the bar front, The Black Pearl is my pick for original hand crafted cocktails, expertly made and easily knocked back. Here is my awesome cousin mixing me up his signature Empire of Dreams.
And Bad Frankie is a treat as a bar that only deals in Austrlian made (including Tasmania) wine and spirits, some really great stuff, like the surprisingly good 666 Butter Vodka, which they mix up into something called a Golden Flip to taste like you're licking the cake batter left in the bowl, but not too sweet, very vanilla, and just a wonderful liquid dessert.
Ok, enough with the food and drink. Melbourne has a good sized central business district (CBD as downtown areas are called all over down here), really easy to get around by tram, or even on foot (it's a grid layout, so easy to navigate for a New Yorker). And even if you do have some trouble, the incredibly friendly people are likely to see you on a corner pouring over a map and ask if you need help finding your way, then pull up directions if they don't know off the top of their heads. Really, it happened to me twice in different parts of the city. Getting around without using the limited data plan on my phone is definitely a challenge, but I'm bringing back the lost art of map reading.
It worked well enough for me to visit the zoo, the Royal Botanical Gardens, both halves of the National Gallery of Victioria (there are separate buildings on either side of the Yarra River, with the collection of Australian art on the North Bank and the international collection on the South Bank), the Queen Victoria Market (a huge outdoor marketplace of vender stalls and fresh produce/meats with somewhat confusing hours, that led me to go by twice when it was closed and twice when it was open), and the Eurika building, the tallest building in Melbourne. I covered the tourist highlights.
I was lucky enough to have really great guides to the city in my two cousins, and it was great to hang out with them again after many years on opposite sides of the world. They introduced me to the northern districts of Carlton and Fitroy, sort of a Brooklyn-ish area of hipsters, fancy cocktail lounges, and gelato places with lines out the door. After mainly sticking to the CBD in Auckland and Wellington, it was nice to be shown into the heart of where people actually live and eat and drink, not just the touristy spots.
Aside from the loss of my camera (totally stupid absent mindedness on my part, and so aggravating) it was a great week in Australia's southeast city. And my second to last night in town, the skies broke open and a thunder storm struck the city, torrents of rain, cracks of thunder and lightening, a great show to watch from under an awning on a balcony with a glass of wine.
And now across the country to West Australia for some less urban adventures!