My mom asked me what we were going to do in Melbourne, and I realized that we hadn’t really made much of a plan.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Eat, probably.”
We stayed on Lygon Street, a strip of touristy restaurants, aka Little Italy, just north of the CBD. Also, everyone I mentioned Melbourne to immediately talked about food, so my taste buds were ready.
They were not disappointed.
Before your mouth starts watering at a post full of food photos, I have to warn you to lower your expectations. The thing about food is that when it’s in front of me, I think about little else besides eating it. That’s why most photos I take of food are towards the end, when there’s one bite left and I’m taking a break that’s just long enough to clear the plate.
I went to Melbourne once, in 2005, for three days. All I remember from that trip is that there were poles along the river that shot fire after dark; they went woosh and I was awed every time. Impressive, yes, but a comprehensive reflection of the city? Not so much.
We arrived as the sun was finishing its shift on Friday night and caught a tram to the Mountain Goat Brewery for a couple of beers and some pizza. It was one of those classic hipster breweries that never fails to reel me in: a cavernous warehouse, fairy lights, and cheap but effective decor in the form of empty beer boxes.
We got up late on Saturday, but the luxury of having no agenda and sleeping in quickly gave way to the urgency of finding breakfast. It is the best meal of the day and if you disagree I will not hesitate to fight you. Also, I get a little cranky if I miss it. We stopped at Sally’s Kitchen, where I ordered porridge – a close cousin to the oatmeal I regularly eat, but paired with a magnificent coffee. Jury’s still out on whether or not the coffee was actually that good or I was sweet-talked by Melbourne’s reputation.
Sufficiently feasted, we just walked. Melbourne’s good for that; it’s a grid system, easy to navigate, and there’s something interesting around every corner. There are so many unexpected buildings there; as much as I hate to compare new cities to familiar ones, it did remind me in an odd way of Chicago. We spent the most time at the State Library of Victoria, which I had pinpointed for its Les Misérables exhibition.
I have a little bit of an affection for Les Mis (the Russell Crowe-free stage show, that is), though I’ve never gotten past the first 100 pages of the book. Jared has been working his way through it for a couple of months, and didn’t want to see the musical before he’d made it to the end. (Also: Musicals are not his thing.)
Les Misérables: From Page to Stage was a rewarding compromise. We saw THE BOOK, the original handwritten first volume of Victor Hugo’s, which has left Paris for the first time. It lives in a solemn glass cage under the watchful eye of library security, but you are allowed to all but press your nose to the glass in an effort to read Hugo’s scrawl.
Then, you go into the room where photos are back on, and they give you costumes. It’s like they saw me coming.
The rest of the weekend was a series of events, meals, and coffees that tumbled into each other until suddenly it was Monday, and we had one breakfast left before boarding a plane back to Newcastle. And now I am at home, in my onesie, reflecting on three days of pho, baklava, falafel, dalkgalbi (!), gelato, donuts, St Kilda, the MCG, and a whole lot of happiness.
Thanks Melbourne. We’ll be back.