Mel-bourne / It’s my city / And I love it / I love it / I was born and raised here / I’ve got it made here / And if I had my way I’m gonna stay here / For life / For Li-fffffe / For Life.
The theme tune above is to promote the news for channel 7 and is a perfect demonstation of how bad adverts really are in Australia. Isn’t it abysmal? Well, Melbourne has definitely been my city for four months, and greater Victoria my state for extended journeys. I have deliberately managed to keep people in the dark about my time here, admittedly it’s because I’ve barely had any internet time and the time I’ve had has been used up desperately trying to message people to keep abreast with their lives.
However, to start the story I’ll tell everyone briefly my first impressions of the city:
Stepping off around midday on the 4th of December to a blustery city grid, I realised Melbourne was a city that was clean, tidy and easy to navigate. It was also sprawling and revolved around those all important suburbs. So many parts of Melbourne are the perfect example of stiffling domesticity, and so many reflect the fact that Melbourne is the city rated on different indexes as the city people actively love living in. So I knew this was my opportunity to enter a cool area with a mix of colourful travelers and endearing Aussies. Hitting the Nomads hostel in Melbourne was easy, it was what to do after that. Within my two week stay at the hostel I continued to talk to anyone and everyone desperately trying to work out who I could myself having work lunches in the future with, and who I would fain interest in, only to forget them immediately.
As for the city of Melbourne, it is divided into the CBD and a variety of unique suburbs: the north of Melbourne is cheaper and more urbanised with Brunswick being the cooler kid’s home; the west is (from my limited knowledge) a combination of bogan hot spots and, towards the south, affluent yachting clubs; the east is the artists’ home as well as the hipsters’; and the south is about the money, the beach and the status. One of these areas was going to be my home – I just had to decide on one first. So it was on my first day I walked around with two German girls, who I never saw again, btw, in Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street. This street was my ideal place to see because it was the Brick Lane of Melbourne, a mix of cheap mixed with expensive, trashy blending firmly with trashy, crackheads strolling with wealthy fashionistas. Walking down that very long street, I felt there was so much here for me to grab, stuff to buy, vol-a-vons to sample, people to meet, places to drink, arty shops with rare teas and snazzy silver leaf notebooks. I felt like I was within my Melbourne postcode already.
But settling in Melbourne was a big challenge for me really. That first week I kept looking at any houses that hadn’t been snapped on Gumtree. I was also hemorrhaging countless hours scouring the internet for any jobs. I needed a deflection. So I continued my obsession with being a tourist. And luckily, Melbourne is the most stimulating city for arts and culture – seemingly – in the whole of Australia. I managed very early on to tick off the parks and places made famous in Melbourne. For bars and music I would frequent AC/DC lane (okay I went first) and Chapel Street, home of the (no doubt) world-famous bazaar. I also visited such gems as:
- The Immigration Museum.
- The Botanical Gardens in the city and St. Kilda.
- The old Melbourne Gaol.
- The Melbourne Museum (obviously)
- The Night Markets in St. Kilda and Queen Victoria.
- The Australian Film Museum and Federation Square.
On top of these places I was also grabbing a further bite out of Melbourne by taking on its cafe culture through regular visits to the tearooms, in particular the tea room in the centre of Melbourne – Collins Street, and the renowned Flinders laneways. I was drinking at rooftop bars and making impromptu visits to the cinemas. My leisure time had never felt so hectic.
And of course, I was spending large amounts of time at the beach which housed the ludicrously overpriced Luna Park, the overpriced cake shops of Acland Street, and the abysmal clubs of Fitzroy Street. St. Kilda beach may have been filthy, but it was by the beach, had a variety of crackheads and prostitutes you could happily spend a day merely and fulfilled one of my big Australian dreams: to have a home by the sea.
So, what were my thoughts of Australia and its people from those early days? It’s pretty easy off the bat to note that Australia’s weather is one of its strongest assets; why would you spend your evenings drinking tea ravenously whilst pouring over tv listings like you would in England when the weather is so balmy and the places to go are plentiful. The Australians themselves I originally described as ‘opinionated, friendly, brash and raring to talk,’ and this is still true. Australians have few pretensions and enjoy demonstrating this. They think what they say and this was most easily shown by a guy who started a conversation with me asking me where I hailed from, as I had an accent, when I replied ‘just outside London’ he replied quite without any tact or respect: “God, I hate your accent.”
For those people who say Australian people are loaded guns, it’s these comments that show they could indeed be close to the mark.
Having said that, Australians frequently use expressions like ‘no dramas’ to fully convey to people that they want to appear light and easy. Overall, when you meet the right bunch of Australians you are on easy street. And when you find the right suburb and the right groove in Australia, again you’re on easy street.
This is what I learnt in the first two weeks. And it was time to put it into practise. I got my place on the beach, wasn’t quite bankrupt and was ready to hit the ground running.