Great Ocean Road, Australia
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Visiting Melbourne

Not just home to Victoria Bitter, or Tennis Australia’s epicentre, but every jar of Vegemite ever made and the largest Greek population outside of Athens, Melbourne is the world’s largest southernmost city.

As the city navigates its way out of Covid, it’s a good time to begin planning a trip there. Combine it with a self-drive tour of the Great Ocean Road and Tasmania. While many Australians are critical of Melbourne’s reputation for cold weather, I rather like the city – in fact, I’d say I like it a lot.

So what’s there to like about Melbourne?

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The Floral Clock, Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Note the blue sky!!

1. Yes, Melbourne’s Climate

Australians mercilessly tease anyone travelling to Melbourne, taunting them with comments like: “you’ll need your umbrella” or, “don’t forget your overcoat“, (even in summer)!

Yet, in my experience, this is almost always wrong. Unless, of course, you visit in the wintertime, which in Melbourne’s defence, is actually their scheduled wet season!

cold weather week meme

In fact, other Australian cities have higher average rainfall than Melbourne, but Melbourne does have more rainy days than most.

This is likely due to a phenomenon I call, “fairy rain” or my father called, “Melbourne mist”– soft rain showers hardly worth worrying about when you compare it to the drenching one of Queensland’s downpours might unleash. When the tropical thunderstorms unleash their fury in the north, nothing will protect you from being soaked through. (Ironically Queensland, being in the sub-tropical zone, called: the Sunshine state).

Those visitors from the North who think Australia is too hot will revel in the temperate climate Melbourne offers, with maximums of 30 C (86 degrees F), in summertime and there is that wonderful southern twilight that lasts until 10pm, in summer, allowing for extra sightseeing before dark.

There’s no white stuff to shovel in winter, but during June – September you have the option of travelling to the snow fields of Falls Creek, (a mere five-hour drive), nestled in the high country of the Snowy Mountains.

2. The Arts Scene     

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Melbourne has loads of artsy attractions to sink your tourist teeth into.

ACMI, the Museum of Film, TV, Videogames and Art and the adjacent Ian Potter Museum, which houses a collection of native art and contemporary exhibits, currently undergoing renovations, thus, is temporarily closed, (June 2021), so cross the road to an informal but fascinating street display of Graffiti Art in Hosier lane. Undiscovered artistic talent abounds there!

There’s usually a buzz of activity at Federation square, from buskers to street food stalls. If you’re there in January and missed out on tickets to the Australian Open Tennis, you can watch the players battle it out on the big live screen, perhaps reclining in a complimentary deck chair or bean bag.

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Hosier Lane Graffiti Art

After that, a short walk across the iconic Princess bridge will take you over the Yarra River and past the Gardens to find the National Gallery of Victoria which will soon re-open with an exhibition of Australian impressionists.

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Gas light on Princess bridge across the Yarra River (Note: Sky is blue!)

3. The History

Melbourne, touted as Australia’s capital city in the gold-rush era, was one of the wealthiest cities in the world in the 1800s. The Queen Victoria exhibition building, housing the World Expo of 1880, is but one example of the wealth and status of Melbourne, in years gone by.

1880 Fountain at Queen Victoria Exhibition Building  (Blue sky again!)
1880 Fountain at Queen Victoria Exhibition Building (Blue sky again!)

Unfortunately with all the wealth, comes crime, and the Old Melbourne Goal was built from blue-stone blocks to house the undesirables of society. Whilst no longer in active use, it makes a great sightseeing destination, to get in touch with history, and kids love the interactive element on offer.

Ned Kelly Mock Trial
Ned Kelly Mock Trial

I spent a few hours there, including several tense minutes experiencing what it might have been like being a prisoner locked in one of the goal’s padded cells; saw the flogging triangle used in colonial times; was a “witness” in a mock courtroom trial of Ned Kelly, (a famous Aussie bush-ranger), stood under the gallows and its infamous trapdoor where Ned Kelly and other notorious criminals were hung; saw slightly creepy death masks and even tried on a Ned Kelly style metal helmet, which he fashioned to repel the bullets of apprehending police.

Gallows at Melbourne Goal
Gallows at Melbourne Goal

On a more sombre note, the Shrine of Remembrance is a gargantuan memorial to the fallen veterans of war and worthy of a visit, not only because it gives an excellent vantage point of Melbourne, from the upper balcony. The structure is something like a cross between an Egyptian pyramid and Mayan temple. Impressive and grandiose are words that come to mind.

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The Shrine of Remembrance

The date 11th November is earmarked as Remembrance day when all Australians observe a minute of silence to honour the soldiers and veterans. The Shrine is constructed so that at 11am on 11th November, sunlight will cross a stone inside the Shrine to illuminate the word Love in the verse, “Greater Love Hath No Man,” in reference to the supreme sacrifice the young soldiers made in support of war efforts in Allied countries. This phenomenon is recreated, most days, on the hour, for visitors.

You may also enjoy the Melbourne Museum for a chance to see the real “Phar Lap”, a revered Australian racehorse, (the world’s fastest of its time), which died prematurely whilst competing in America. For someone like me who is not into horses at all, I found the exhibit surprisingly mesmerizing.

Don’t forget to check out the Fairy Tree and Captain James Cook’s cottage (transported brick by brick from England), in the ‘Fitzroy’ Gardens for some unusual features in Australian history.

4. The Architecture

Historic and beautiful examples of great architecture abound in Melbourne, like the Windsor hotel, the State Library’s Reading Room, the original gas lights outside the Parliament building, as well as the old Shot Tower, now protected by an awesome glass dome.

shot tower melbourne
shot tower

In addition, Art Deco is alive and kicking at Luna Park and the ‘Palais’ Theatre, in St. Kilda and both sit comfortably together with more innovative modern examples of architectural genius like the Rialto building and Eureka Towers, with it top 10 floors plated with 22 carat gold.

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Architecture in Melbourne

Time a visit to Eureka Skydeck at sunset for a fantastic view of the city lights, or “hang out” suspended in mid-air, 88 storeys above the ground, in the Edge glass cube.

The Eureka Skydeck and "The Edge" glass cube. Sunny weather continues
The Eureka Skydeck and “The Edge” glass cube.

5. The Beach

Unless you are anywhere near the calibre of surfing legend Lane Beechley, St Kilda Beach offers everything you’d want in a beach and it’s within a 5 km stone’s throw of the city. There may not be any ‘dumpers,’ (i.e. large waves that roll in and crash over your head, throwing you around and forcing you to swallow copious amounts of salty water), but hey, I’m pretty comfortable with low lapping waves, white sand, swanky cafes, grand Federation era guesthouses as well as an old-style picture theatre and amusement park. Think Coney Island ‘down under’, but on a smaller scale.

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6. The Shopping

Not really my scene, but at the time of visiting my teenage daughter was with me, so it was a must do. It seems there is a very good reason Swedish fashion giant H& M decided to open their first Australian store there. It’s Australia’s fashion capital, (also the former hub of cloth manufacturing), and the city is alive with shoppers and not too pricey shopping arcades with brand labels.

Check out the Spencer Street outlet centre for bargains, if you are a super keen shopper.

7. The People and Food

Australians are, by and large, a friendly, laid-back bunch. Melbourne has a lively and vibrant Italian community so that you can visit authentic Italian restaurants and coffee houses in Lygon Street, such as the fabulous “Brunetti,” to the north of the city centre, where the pasta, pastries and espresso are better than that served in the streets of Milan.

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Brunetti Cafe Delights

For an alfresco dinner, there is nothing better than the restaurants lining Hardware Lane, (where waiters entice customers in by spruiking extra deals) or, De Graves Street: a cosmopolitan alleyway of small street cafes, intimate restaurants and eateries that would feel more at home in France or the continent than in Australia. The food is pretty good too, with all cuisines catered for.

8. Public Transport in Melbourne

Melbourne must be thanking its lucky stars they kept the network of city trams, year after other Australian cities ditched them. Trams take you to a multitude of destinations and the free City Circle tram enables tourists to quickly access each end of the central business district without fuss, or tired legs! The whole inner city of Melbourne is a free transport zone, meaning any bus, train or tram is free within the city centre boundaries.

N.B. You will need a ‘myki’ (electronic) card to access areas outside of the city centre on public transport.

Grab a city bike, located at various stations around the city, and for a few dollars, you can have a pleasant 5km cycle along dedicated bike-ways along St. Kilda Road or around Albert Park Lake, dropping off the bike at various destinations or when you arrive at St. Kilda beach.

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Biking around Albert Lake

Getting to and from the main airport hub is simple with the Airport bus departing every 10 minutes.

9. Further Afield – Proximity to other Attractions

Melbourne is the starting place for those venturing to the Great Ocean Road, one of the World’s most scenic journeys. It is also the departure point for the ferries to the island state of Tasmania with its World heritage areas.

Don’t forget to spend some time in country Victoria in the cherry orchards, or take a steam train through country villages, experiencing more of the Gold Rush era in towns like ‘Ballarat’ and ‘Bendigo’, or if you prefer a kicking back with an alcoholic beverage, the many wineries in the Yarra Valley will delight.

10. The Gardens

If you have a green thumb, you’re not forgotten if you stay in Melbourne city. With three botanic gardens and several well-established parks within a 3-kilometre radius, visiting more than one in a day, is easily doable. Fitzroy Gardens features the cottage where British explorer Captain Cook grew up and a fabulous Victorian Conservatory; Carlton Gardens adjoins the glamourous Queen Victoria Building and neighbour to The Museum, whilst the Botanical Gardens on the far side of the river is in close proximity to The Shrine of Rememberance, Government House, Crown Casino and the Myer Music Bowl, a popular venue for open-air concerts.

11. The Sport

If sport is your thing, Melbourne offers tennis tournaments in the state of the art ‘Rod Laver’ Arena, cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and the iconic and very Australian, “Aussie Rules” Football, something that every international visitor has to experience at least once, preferably with a meat pie in hand!

As one Melbourne taxi driver advised me: There’s never time to be bored in Melbourne.

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91 thoughts on “Visiting Melbourne”

  1. I actually lived here from 1965 to early 1974 and had a whale of a time. In those days you could go from job to job without a hitch – or so it seemed to me. I first worked in the film & TV industry here .. I need scarcely add, I think, that Melbourne is like another country now: I’ve been into the CBD just once since I came down from Sydney in 2016 ! Too many people, and they’re destroyed all the charm of places like the blocks of Swanston between Flinders and Bourke: now they’re all fast food. Sighh ..

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    1. You knew Melbourne the way I remember it as a child, before I was cruelly taken away from the climate I love- to live in the tropics, which you also know, I hate!
      Sad to think that progress has taken away that charm. I feel it is still there, but it is changing rapidly. The fast food doesn’t have the same appeal at all. Too generic, would you say?

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  2. Thank you for taking us along on your trip to Melbourne. It’s a city I’ve always wanted to visit, especially after watching Miss Fisher Mysteries. I’d love to see it all and would adore riding on the trams. I’m not much for shopping either, but museums and monuments call to me.

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    1. I do hope to get to come one day, Ally. It has a magic that is palpable. Continental like with its mix of alleys and grand with its wider streets filled with trams. A deliberate plan to mix the two elements, I was told. I am slightly embarrassed to say I haven’t seen the Miss Fisher Mysteries – I might have to check them out.

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    1. I feel the same way about Melbourne, Peggy. A trip is long overdue, but the last twelve months have been problematic. Hopefully as vaccinations levels increase, the risk decreases. I wouldn’t mind it as a jumping off point to Tassie again. I do enjoy Launceston. How do feel about visiting Tassie?

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    1. Hey Aletta! Good to hear from you. Melbourne has a lot to offer as far as big cities go. It is very multicultural and the food scene is amazing – for Australian standards, anyway. How is the health situation in your corner of the world? Settling down?

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        1. Good to hear that you are safely vaccinated. No country could be slower than Australia at getting the vaccinations out there. The national government has been so incompetent at distribution and just blames the individual states.

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  3. You’re ‘selling’ Melbourne very well. The climate actually appeals to me – like the UK but a bit warmer 🙂 I love the look of that shot tower under its glass dome and all the graffiti. I have a Virtual Tourist friend living there so maybe one day …

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    1. Definitely add it to your list if you come to deep south! Lol! But allow time to take in Tasmania and the Great Ocean Road too. The climate is perfect! So you don’t like the real hot weather, Sarah?

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      1. I find really hot weather hard to take for any length of time. I’ll put up with it while travelling but I would find it hard to live somewhere with temperatures regularly above 30 degrees C. My happy place is around 24-27 degrees 🙂 Just to be awkward, I don’t like the cold either, especially the damp cold we tend to get in the UK!

        The Great Ocean Road is definitely on my radar should we visit Australia again btw 🙂

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        1. Don’t come to Queensland in the months of November to March, Sarah. Temps of 32 – 37 are the norm. February the humidity is so drippy you get kind of used to being sweaty, smelly and uncomfortable or hibernate in the air con.
          I remember seeing the thermometer in the main square in Copenhagen had a maximum temperature reading of 27! I was shocked. 24- 27 is comfortably warm.

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  4. Oh you have brought up many happy memories. I have been to most of those places you showed. My dad was from Melbourne, and we still have a lot of family over there. I have been many times. Thanks for taking me along a good trip down memory lane. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for visiting Jeanne and for the lovely comment. It is nice to hear that you are familiar with many of the sites mentioned here. I hope you get to re-visit one day. For the meantime, though, we have our memories. Did you hop over to Tasmania too?

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  5. Thank you for this. Great information to add to our to do list. We were supposed to travel there this summer, and realized it was too soon. In the next few years I hope we can visit. It looks fun, and the people we meet from there are always so friendly. In the US we are celebrating Father’s Day today. Happy Father’s Day to you.

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    1. Happy Fathers day to America! We celebrate Fathers day in Australia on the first Sunday in September. I wonder how the differences came about.
      Good to hear that you are looking forward to a trip down under. The word is the international borders may open up mid next year, but Victoria would like to do that earlier. If you can afford the flight and the two weeks quarantine in a hotel room, you can still come now. Not ideal though – who wants to spend two weeks in a hotel room?

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  6. What a splendid informative post Amanda. Although I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Australia numerous times I’m yet to visit Melbourne but hopefully that will change when we are eventually allowed back again! Hope your weekend went well. Marion

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    1. Hi Marion, Great to hear that you are keen for another visit down under but I am suprised that you haven’t been to Melbourne. It seems most internationals go to Sydney, Melbourne and perhaps Cairns to check out the Barrier Reef. I hope I have given you some ideas for when you do come. If you come to southern Queensland, you must let me know. We could arrange something.

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      1. That would be lovely Amanda! We’ve toured quite a bit of NSW, been to Noosa and driven up the coast to spend a few days on The Whitsundays, stayed at Port Douglas a few times and on one trip started off at Darwin and toured Kakadu and Katharine N. Parks but that’s about it (all ore-blogging days);so still lots more to see and re-visit. Great to hear from you. Take care, Marion x

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        1. Noosa is a very popular place with tourists, although there are lots of other lovely spots around the coast. You have seen a good bit though. I have not been to Darwin! So you are one up on me.

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  7. An awesome, informative post, Amanda. I have more Australian friends these past two years since I began blogging. I hear about Melbourne, yet I find I look up cities and areas on a map. Some of your descriptions remind me of Victoria, B.C. We often have a mixed bag of weather and the wait 10 minutes or drive 10 minutes rule. We are also an artsy community. We also have a similar Merry Go Round in our Butchart Gardens. Thank you for sharing an excellent article. Definitely not “bored.” I have bookmarked. 😀

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    1. You have blown my expectations out of the window, Eric/ka. I had imagined anywhere in Canada to be much colder than Australia. Good to know you have a more moderate climate. But you still get snow, yeh?

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    1. Thank you Dorothy. I am chuffed that you will take me idiom into your corner of the world! That is why language is a living, evolving thing. I have taken a few Norwegian terms into my little corner of Australia too.

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    1. I totally get why you would avoid cities, Graham, especially atm. I don’t usually find they are attractive which is why I featured Melbourne as it is one of the few cities I really enjoy, aside from most smaller cities in Scandinavia, of course!

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      1. Back in my youth, I used to love going up to London to the theater or for other events. But over time I’ve found I go to towns and cities with a list of what I want to do and after about two items I’m ready to leave. Just getting old I guess!

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        1. I can empathise with that feeling. Since moving to the house by the sea, I very rarely go back to the big smoke, even though I thought I would often go back. The more time I spend away the harder it is to find the motivation and reason to return even just for an errand! I must be getting old too.

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  8. I love Melbourne (probably more than Sydney) and have always liked my trips there. They have really expanded their offerings within the CBD over the years. I couldn’t believe how lively it was along the Yarra in the evenings! Something that Sydney really lacks. Can’t wait to go back once these sudden border closures and city lockdowns stop.

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    1. I agree! I always am a little lost in Sydney as the CBD seems so dull and empty. All the action happens around the water I guess.
      But Melbourne has the water in the CBD and despite the weather naysayers, there is a buzz of restaurants, outdoor activities and sights to attract people along the river.
      I am with you on going back!

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      1. It really is- and Melb is buzzing after work hours. Here, the restaurants around the water aren’t that great and are unusually expensive! Was planning to but too uncertain at the moment to cross borders 😦

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        1. The situation seems far too volatile, unless you have relatives that you can stay with for an extended period if there is a lockdown. I know the Moth would refuse to go under any kind of potential Covid cloud, and we are not vaccinated yet.

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  9. You’ve covered everything pretty well. Melbourne is a great city. We lived there for three years, 1987, 1988 and 1989 and have visited regularly since then to see family. You must have been lucky with the weather when you visited in summer because I can assure you that it can be freezing at any time of year, even in December. But we always carry warm layers so we know we’re well prepared.

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    1. Always carry (at the very least) an extra cardy! I suppose it is because it is on the edge of Bass Strait that the weather is volatile. I was lucky with the weather but have been so each time I visit! Funnily enough, the city seems to know when the Queenslander is coming! Lol.
      I do feel that there was other attractions that I did not cover, like the markets, immigration museum and kids centred activities like the Aquarium, but the post was already getting quite long.

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  10. Your description of Melbourne makes my feet itch to have a walk around there. In Cape Town, there are also the old prison cells from the 1500s. Scary place. You could go inside and they would switch off the light. Total darkness, no windows.

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  11. There is so much to see & do in Melbourne, my daughter studied at Deacon Uni for 4 yrs, she flew home, so we could drive 13hrs, back together to collect her things. I loved the architecture & artyness of the area, we went up a little street had a coffee at a gorgeous little café & checked out the second hand shops. We were only there for one night, before driving home she drove me around the Uni grounds, it was as big as our town. I was so proud of her to move from a little country to such a huge city. It’s so great you have wonderful photos to share of Melbourne.

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    1. Those little alleys are such as asset. Apparently this decision to keep them and mix them with the wider streets was made early on in the city’s life. They couldn’t decide whether to make it more American or European so they made all the Little streets one way narrow alleys and the cross streets wide and grandiose. Isn’t that the beauty of that city. Easy to remember the streets too – Little Bourke and Bourke street, Little Collins and Collins street, etc.

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  12. Highly unlikely that I will ever visit Australia, but if I do, you can be sure I’ll put Melbourne on the list. I doubt this Mainer would find the weather too cold. 😉 And yay for keeping those trams!

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    1. I think it was so clever of them to keep the trams. Mind you, there are some weird road rules due to the presence of trams: you have to turn right from the left hand lane. (Reverse that to imagine what it would be like for you guys!)
      I hope you do come down under, one day. Maybe for a book launch. We would have loads to chat about if we met up.

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  13. Wow Melbourne sounds like an interesting place! A place which can actually attract all types of visitors like nature lovers, sports lovers, history lovers etc.

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  14. I would t like to live in Melbourne, but it’s my favourite city to visit. You are right, it’s never boring. We’ve never been to the Dandenong – that’s on our list for our next visit.

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    1. I have not spent much time up in the Dandenongs, but like you, it is definitely somewhere I would like to explore. I would like to combine that with a trip to the high country, in winter, of course! What season would you prefer to travel there, Chris?

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  15. If I am ever down in your corner of the globe, Melbourne sounds like a great place to visit. In fact, if I ever lived on that continent, I might chose it over other cities… (I enjoy cooler weather.)

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    1. Lucky you, Parneet to live in the beautiful city of Melbourne for two years. Was that associated with work duties? Would you settle them given the chance, I wonder?

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      1. I was doing MBA at the Univ of Melbourne (Melbourne business school).
        I guess its too late now to shift there. Certainly its a lovely place.
        Raining most of the year😊😊

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          1. My fondest memories are of the Melbourne Business School. I call it a temple of learning.
            For two years I worked an average of 18 hours a day. Immense pressure. But my eyes would be moist as I could never thank the Divine enough for all the great people who would be ever willing to impart deeper knowledge.
            That changed my thought, which in turn helped me to transform much in my country.
            Four seasons in a day, nice people, penguins, beer etc were great.
            But MBS is a temple I would go to anytime. 😊

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            1. Many people work hard during their years of study and seem to lament exams and essays, but most of them still look back on those years with fondness. 18 hours a day doesn’t leave any time for play and not much sleep. But it sounds like it has been worth the journey. Funny that you mentioned penguins and beer in the one sentence, Parneet. That made me chuckle! VB?

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