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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Sandgate foreshore
Photography

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Illumination

“Rather light a candle rather than complain about the darkness”

pensive night river

This photo challenge is alternately hosted each Friday by the bloggers:
Something to Ponder About  and The Snow Melts Somewhere

The prompt for this Friday is:

Illumination

Everyone is welcome to join in with the Friendly Friday Photography challenge.

For me, illumination means sunsets, sunrises, candlelight, or nights with the moon.

The city can be illuminating, especially when there is Fireworks

You can also see some photos of Tokyo illuminating at night here

Instructions for Joining In:

  • Write a post including a URL link back to this Friendly Friday post.
  • Tag your post ‘Friendly Friday’
  • Once published, paste the link to your Friendly Friday ‘Illumination’ post, in the comments here, so we can find you and visit your blog.
  • Include the Friendly Friday logo, found below, in your post if you wish.
  • Please note there are no deadlines for participating. New prompts are posted each week alternately at the host blogs.
  • Be a part of the Friendly Friday Community and visit the links in the comments section. It can be quite interesting to see another interpretation of the prompt.

Find more Instructions on joining in with Friendly Friday here

Friendly Friday

Pingbacks – Do you help creating a link back or pingback to your post – click here

See you at Snow’s blog next week for the new prompt.

Amanda

Photography

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Alleys

Alley

This photo challenge is alternately hosted each Friday by the bloggers:
Something to Ponder About  and The Snow Melts Somewhere

The prompt for this Friday is:

Alleys

Everyone is welcome to join in with the Friendly Friday Photography challenge.

Here are some alleys in the lakes district of Italy.

Alleys are found not just in the old world. The ‘New’ world has its alleyways too.

Melbourne’s streets was created in a grid like pattern of both wide streets and narrow alleys, as the authorities couldn’t agree on the sort of town plan they initially wanted, for the city: whether to make it more European like, or with modern wider streets, so they hedged their bets and incorporated both.

In Sweden, we have some unique alleys to showcase to visitors.

Both on the West coast and in Stockholm.

I chuckle to think how Manja Mexi would caption this photo?

Instructions for Joining In:

  • Write and publish a post and include the URL link back to this Friendly Friday post.
  • Tag the post ‘Friendly Friday’
  • Include the Friendly Friday logo, found below, in your post if you wish.
  • Copy the link to your ‘Alleys‘ post, in the comments here, so we can find you.
  • Please note there are no deadlines for participating. New prompts each week.
  • Be a part of the Friendly Friday Community and visit the links in the comments section. It can be quite interesting to see another interpretation of the prompt.

Find more Instructions on joining in with Friendly Friday here

Friendly Friday

Pingbacks – Do you help creating a link back or pingback to your post – click here

See you at Snow’s blog next week for the new prompt.

Amanda

Photography

Monday Murals

Street Murals – Provocative, Clever, Creative but always interesting.


And another favourite mural here in Melbourne.

graffitiart (Small)

Street art makes the boring neighbourhood scene fun even if a little creepy.

Murals at a fish and chip shop and railway subway

I found Sami’s blog and her Monday Mural linky party via Suvi today – funny how I cyber travelled via Suvi in Finland to find another Australian blogger on the other side of my country.

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Something to Ponder about

korea
Community

WPC Challenge – Transmogrify

Transmogrify    

It means, “to change in appearance or form, especially strangely or grotesquely; transform.” 

The challenge is to express this in photos.

mailbox

A milk can with more than one life!

Zematt Cog Railway station

The strangest snowball/man I’ve seen – perhaps better suited to Halloween!

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Graffiti art in Melbourne- really espousing the Transmogrification theme.

Dog photo
What my dog wants me to transmogrify!

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A childs treat  (fairy floss), transmogrified into an inter-galaxial tornado type mass

Sciencentre

No legs!

head on a plate

Doesn’t stop her from smiling, though…..

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Watch out!

Image120A gigantic pygmy or a Pygmy Giant?

Something to ponder about this week

Save

Community

WPC = Treat

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Treat.”IMG_20150120_115233IMG_20150120_115250IMG_20150120_115256IMG_20150120_120521phone 13 jan melbournePhotos from a fabulous piece of Italy buried in the city of Melbourne – Brunetti. Opening at 4.30 am each day, the service is impeccable and the food extraordinarily delectable!

Just as well I don’t live in Melbourne, otherwise, my girth would be much expanded!!!

I can’t think of a better thing to ponder and perhaps salivate, about for this wordpress photography challenge.

Australia, Community

Why I Like Melbourne

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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 southernmost, largest city and I like it. A lot.

 So what’s to like?

1. The Climate

Yes, don’t faint.

Australians mercilessly tease anyone heading to Melbourne, taunting them with comments like: “you’ll need your umbrella or,  don’t forget your raincoat, (even in summer!). But in my experience, this is almost always wrong. Unless, of course, you visit in wintertime, which is, in Melbourne’s defense, their scheduled wet season!

Other Australian cities actually have a higher rainfall than Melbourne, but Melbourne does have more rainy days. This is most likely due to “fairy rain” or “Melbourne mist”- hardly worth worrying about, when compared to the drenching one might receive in northerly Brisbane (the so-called Sunshine state)! When the tropical thunderstorms unleash their fury in that city, nothing will protect you from being wet through. This is hardly likely in Melbourne.

Those coming from northerly parts of the globe will revel in the temperate climate with  30 + Celsius temps in summer and be relieved that there is no white stuff to shovel in winter, but if you want that, of course you can  travel to the snow fields of Falls Creek, (a mere five-hour drive), in the highlands of the Snowy Mountains. So, yes, the climate!!

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

2. The Arts Scene     

There is no shortage of exhibitions, events, displays to sink your teeth into. Jean Paul Gautier is currently on display at the National Gallery of Victoria, overlooking the river, with a “Home” exhibition outside. The Film Institute at Federation Square is also free to enter, [now closed for a revamp],and the Ian Potter Museum, next door, houses the biggest collection of native art and changing contemporary exhibitions of interest.

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Hosier Lane Graffiti Art

Opposite these iconic institutions, there’s an informal but fascinating street display of Graffiti in Hosier lane. Undiscovered talent abounds there!

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 1800’s.  Zürich, eat your heart out!!! 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, one that is completely interactive. I spent a few hours there, including several tense minutes being locked in a padded cell, (as a visitor), saw the flogging triangle, then was a “witness” in a mock courtroom trial of Ned Kelly: (the famous bush-ranger), stood under the gallows and trapdoor, where Ned Kelly and other notorious criminals were hung, saw their death masks, and even tried on a Ned Kelly style metal helmet. Great stuff and loads of fun!

Gallows at Melbourne Goal
Gallows at Melbourne Goal
Ned Kelly Mock Trial
Ned Kelly Mock Trial

On a more sombre note, the Shrine of Remembrance is a gargantuan memorial to the fallen veterans of war and 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.

shrinenexus4
The Shrine of Remembrance

The date 11th November is earmarked as Remembrance day, when all Australians observe a minute of silence to honor their veterans, and 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 many young men have made in support of war efforts in Allied countries. (N.B. not our own). This phenomenon is recreated, most days, on the hour, for visitors.

phone 13 jan melbourne3

You can also visit the Melbourne Museum for a chance to see the real “Phar Lap”, a revered Australian race horse (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

shot tower melbourne
The Shot Tower, Melbourne

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

gaslightonnexus4
Gas light on Yarra river bridge ( Sky is still blue!!!)

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. Visit Eureka 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.

nexus4archmelbourne
The Eureka Skydeck and "The Edge" glass cube. Sunny weather continues
The Eureka Skydeck and “The Edge” glass cube. Sunny weather continues

5. The Beach

Unless you are anywhere near the calibre of surfing legend Lane Beechley, the swell at St Kilda Beach is everything you need in a beach and its within a 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 am comfortable with low lapping waves, and white sand that goes on for miles, with swanky cafes nearby (offering free Wi-fi), grand federation era guesthouses and an old style picture theatre and amusement park. Coney Island: eat your heart out….

phone 13 jan melbourne1

6. The Shopping

Not really my scene, but I do have a teenage daughter, so it is 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 is 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 under $10.00

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.

phone 13 jan melbourne

For an alfresco dinner, there is nothing better than Hardware Lane, (where waiters entice customers in by offering 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.

Not only Italians, but a mix of cultures, live quite happily within Melbourne, be they Greek, Asian or Indian, indigenous, or white Australian. On the face of it, everyone co-exists happily enough.

8. Public Transport

bikealbertlake
Biking around Albert Lake

Melbourne is thanking its lucky stars that they kept their tram system, even after other Australian cities ditched theirs years ago. Trams will take you to a multitude of destination 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 city is a free transport zone, meaning any bus, train or tram is free within the city centre boundaries. ‘Win-win’ for tourists. N.B. You will need a ‘myki’ (electronic) card to access areas outside of the city centre on public transport. The airport bus runs every 10 minutes and is fast and extremely efficient.

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 when you arrive at St. Kilda beach.

9. Further Afield – Proximity to other Attractions

Melbourne is the starting place for those venturing on the Great Ocean Road, one of the World’s most Scenic journeys. Melbourne is also the departure point for the ferries to Tasmania. Don’t forget to spend some time in country Victoria in the cherry orchards, take a steam train through country villages, experience the history of Gold Rush towns like ‘Ballarat’ and ‘Bendigo’, or get a taste of Aussie wine at the many Yarra Valley wineries.

10. The Gardens

If you have  a green thumb, you will be in heaven in Melbourne city. With three botanic gardens and several parks all within a 3 kilometre radius of one another, everyone in the family will find something to like. Fitzroy Gardens has Cook’s cottage and a fabulous Victorian Conservatory; Carlton Gardens, the Queen Victoria building and Museum and the Botanical Gardens includes The Shrine, Government House and the Myer Music Bowl.

11. The Sport

If spectator sport is your thing, Melbourne offers viewing of the world’s top tennis players at tournaments, throughout the year, in the state of the art ‘Rod Laver’ Arena, cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the very Australian “Aussie Rules” Football  in almost every city suburb and is currently hosting the Asian cup in Soccer.

As my taxi driver advised me: There is never time to be bored in Melbourne

Something to Ponder About