Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Edit: See additional photos.

Melbourne is Australia's second-largest city, falling behind Sydney, but most Melbournians will defend their town as the cultural Number 1. It has a hip reputation on the order of San Francisco or Portland, while Sydney's flashy, mainstream wealth is more like L.A. or Dallas.

Melbourne actually reminds me of Brooklyn. It's the first town I've seen in Australia that has what I would call grit. The buildings are old; cafes and storefronts are stuffed into sticky alleyways; graffiti and street-art are somewhere between tolerated and actively encouraged.

This is just a small sample of the street art I found within a block or two of the place where I'm staying.
Similar to visiting Brooklyn, a local guide is a must. Luckily, all of my contacts in Australia (mostly friends of friends) are in Melbourne. I got together with another AirBnB host, a really nice New Zealander named Geoffrey. His place is in Fitzroy, the coolest of the main suburbs (not really a "suburb," just a neighborhood outside the city center, like Somerville). My room has a balcony overlooking one of the busiest, coolest streets, which is awesome--I've walked to every amazing meal. Geoffrey has been at work for much of my stay, but he's a big foodie and enthusiastic traveler, so he gave me tips on where to go. Plus he's got cats.
My view up Brunswick Street in hip Fitzroy
 An Amherst/Planworld acquaintance, who also happens to be a chef, has walked me around and given me tons of tips on where to find the best coffee, tastiest gelato, and most authentic Thai food. Tomorrow, I'm meeting with a friend of a family friend, who also promises more hidden coffee spots and eateries.

Cool light fixtures and ironwork in a hidden alleyway shopping area
Some old municipal building converted into residential housing
Street art and flannel-clad citizens.
Many Australian buildings, including the place where I'm staying, have lovely ornate ironwork balconies.
There's lots of cool signage, too. I don't know if you can see the "Extreme Gelato" sign down the block. It's made with liquid nitrogen, and it is awesome.
You're noticing a theme by now. Australian food is having a renaissance after its meat-pie dark ages. In most of the cities, especially Melbourne, there's a familiar emphasis on local produce, craft brews, and slow, authentic techniques. "Local produce" happens to include incredible seafood, passionfruit, avocados, and the biggest, juiciest mangoes grown in an English-speaking nation. Massive Asian immigration has resulted in a wide range of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese spots in every town. Despite having access to a real kitchen and a real fridge, I'm happy to eat out for pretty much every meal.

I'm in town for one more full day, so I'll probably update this post with more photos, especially if I stop stuffing my face and go get a new camera.

No comments:

Post a Comment