Oh, hello again Australia. We’re very exci……Let’s be honest. At this point of the trip, all of the traveling was starting to wear on us a little bit – some more than others.
We loved New Zealand and were sad to leave. Just about everywhere else we went we were going someplace completely new, so you weren’t sad to leave because you had something new and exciting to look forward to. Not here, we were back to Australia…Not to say we didn’t enjoy Australia the first go around – we loved it too. I think we had just hit a travel lull.
Still, the show must go on. Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia (4.25 Million people) and is the capital of the state of Victoria. It was the biggest/most prominent city for most of Australia’s history, but only in the last 40-50 years has Sydney surpassed it.
The cities are similar in many ways, though I think Melbourne has a more “hip” vibe (for lack of a better term). Melbourne also lacks the iconic landmarks that Sydney possesses. Basically, Melbourne plays a Chicago or San Francisco to Sydney’s New York.
We didn’t rely on Melbourne’s public transportation too much because we were able to walk to most places, and the city now requires that you buy a card for something like $10 (per person) just to use public transportation. No thanks…maybe if the card came with $10 of value on it. The one time we did need to go a little further away, cabs were easy to come by and not too expensive.
Weatherwise, it was the height of Melbourne’s summer, and we had some of the warmest days of the trip here. That said, we had yet another stop without rain, so I can’t complain too much about the heat.
I had originally planned to spend 4 nights in Melbourne, but I ended up cutting one night off and adding it to the driving portion of the trip. That worked out for the best. So here is how we spent our time in Melbourne.
We weren’t in a huge rush this morning, since our flight did not leave until mid-afternoon. Thankfully, that gave us time to iron out all of our weight/baggage issues – or atleast attempt to. I was able to get three bottles of wine in my checked luggage (in wine skins wrapped in t-shirts then tied inside two garbage bags – I did not want wine in my luggage) and stay just under the required weight by like a half a pound.
The carry-on bags were not compliant, and there was no way to make them compliant either (weight wise – not size), so I was nervous about this flight.
Once packed, we snuck in a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant before checking out and heading to the airport. Dropping the car off was uneventful, outside of being thankful for the couple additional hours Apex had given us. Time to check in.
I always preach to Alyce (who has been known to be overly dramatic when she is not happy about something – e.g. carrying a heavy bag) to make her carry-on bag look light when checking in and to face forward so that the airline employee can’t even see the bag.. She thinks I’m crazy; I think it works
Well we check in, and things go without issue. I even get a fragile sticker on my bag with the wine. As we go to walk away, the lady catches a glimpse of Alyce’s bag and says she’s sorry she missed it earlier – but she needs to weigh it (all while being very friendly).
Unsurprisingly, it is over the allotted 15# with my camera bag in it. The lady asks if we can take something out, and we say it is pretty much just a camera bag inside. Thankfully, she weighs the two bags separately with both now falling under the 15# limit. This was against the strict definition of their rules (as you are only allowed one carry on), but she suggested it so I wasn’t about to question her. She did not ask to weight my bag, but I would have been ok too under the relaxed two bag rule.
After breathing a deep sigh of relief, we went to the Air New Zealand lounge, which we had access to through a credit card. As per usual, the lounge had much more options than the US domestic lounges – though it was not quite up to the standards of some of the nicer Asian lounges. We were glad to have lounge access, as we had nearly 3 hours to kill.
The flight itself was pretty uneventful. It was about 3 hours. I can’t remember if we were served food, but I do think that the seats had a built in entertainment system. It didn’t matter to me much either way, as I edited pictures on my laptop. Our bags made it without issue (including still intact wine). Catching a cab to the hotel was equally uneventful.
We were back at a Park Hyatt for this stay. Unfortunately, my diamond status had lapsed so we were leaving some of the perks that we had grown used to up to chance. I had used a confirmed suit upgrade here, so we had that going for us. But I warned Alyce that the base suites here wouldn’t be as nice as the previous ones we stayed in.
We had also really grown to like lounge access (including the free breakfast), which was no longer guaranteed. We had an outside shot, as most (but not all) international properties give suite access with suites. Unfortunately, Alyce said she had found a review that said the Park Hyatt Melbourne was not one of those. So we went in to this stay with tempered expectations.
Surprise #1: our suite includes lounge access. Alright, we’re already coming out of our travel funk. We get to the suite and surprise #2: it’s named. That means its going to be nice. Our room was the absurdly large Ambassador suite, coming in at about 1880 square feet.
Think about that for a second…A 3 bedroom, 2 bath 1800 square foot house with a full kitchen, laundry room, etc. is a pretty good sized house. This was a 1BR, 1.5 Bath hotel room with only a kitchenette. Again, it was absurdly large. And to be honest – a lot of the space was wasted. Still, it was pretty cool to get a taste of lifestyles of the rich and famous.
After Alyce finished running and doing cartwheels through the place, we made our way up to the lounge for evening drinks and snacks. The lounge was very nice. The “snacks” could easily serve as dinner (it did for us this night), and the drink selection had a lot of options. At this point, we were definitely out of our momentary funk and reenergized for the rest of the trip.
We spent the next couple hours relaxing in the lounge and having some drinks. It was nice to just stay in the hotel. When the evening service was over, we made our way back to the room and watched some Sopranos before going to bed.
Thanks to the lounge access, we got free breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Only continental breakfast was included, but you could upgrade to the full breakfast for $8. It was definitely more worth it here than it was in Queenstown, so we decided to try out the full breakfast.
The breakfast was very good with a wide selection of fruits, smoothies, meats, and cheeses. As part of the full breakfast upgrade, we also got eggs, bacon, sausages, and omelets among other things. They also served very good cappuccinos here.
The plan for the day was just to walk around and explore some different areas. We started walking downtown through the shopping arcades and little alley ways. The alleys were neat little crowded areas with lots of restaurants/boutiques on either side with tables in the middle. There were a couple spots with these shopping alleys.
We also walked through Federation Square, which is kind of central area in downtown Melbourne. And we checked out St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was a very nice catholic church located nearby our hotel. We also caught Melbourne Chinatown on the way back to the hotel.
It was pretty warm this day, so we took a break at the hotel before heading back out for round two of walking. The afternoon was spent walking through a park to get to a more residential area with lots of old style residential homes/apartments that actually reminded me of the French Quarter.
Back at the hotel, we got ready and went to the lounge for drinks/appetizers before our dinner at Movida. As usual, we really enjoyed hanging out in the lounge before dinner.
Movida is a tapas style restaurant that seemed to be pretty highly thought of by most people. We had reservations and were sat down after a brief wait and a snug table for two. Alyce pointed out a couple tables down that she thought she saw Curtis Stone, a celebrity chef. I googled him, and – sure enough – he was from Melbourne. Plus it looked like him, so we’ll go ahead and mark that down as our lone celebrity sighting of the trip.
Dinner was very good. We love small plate/tapas style places where you get to try a lot of different things. They did screw up one of our orders, but it wasn’t a big deal. I’d definitely recommend Movida for a good, but semi-casual dinner in Melbourne.
We walked back from the restaurant and got a little blogging/internet/TV time in before bed.
We slept in and ate a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Today’s agenda included more walking.
My initial plan was to take the free trolley to Queen Victoria Market. It supposedly ran every 5-10 minutes, but we were still standing there in the 25 minutes after arriving at the spot. Finally a trolley showed up…But the driver was taking a 15 minute break.
Pretty annoyed at this point, I said forget it – we’re walking around. So, we set off to the Botanical Gardens. It was a pretty good walk to get there (through another park). It was pretty hot outside, and Alyce said she was getting sunburnt…So we eventually just cut our losses and turned around. Not the most productive day, but we did get to see more of the city (and walked off some of the meals we had been eating).
Back at the hotel, we decided to cool down in the hotel pool (which was located indoors). We took a nice relaxing dip, then went to the room to get ready for dinner and drinks in the lounge.
We thoroughly enjoyed our last night of lounge access. I think the food options included sushi, which we can’t resist.
Our dinner plans were at Vue de Monde, one of Melbourne’s nicest restaurants. It would have been a lengthy walk from the Park Hyatt, so we just caught a cab.
The restaurant was in very nice location; we had a great view of sun setting over Melbourne. The food was very good too; it was a modern/creative styled restaurant. That said, my lasting impression of this place is that they nickel and dimed you…which is a shame because the food was interesting and good and location was neat.
Some examples…Water was something like $15 a bottle – outrageous at any level of restaurant. Further, we had only gone through one and – without asking if we wanted a second bottle – the server brought one out at the end of the meal…that was annoying. Glasses of wine (while always ridiculously priced and something we skimp on at nice restaurants) started at $30 a glass. The waiter asked if we’d like tea before our deserts, I thought why not – it was probably included (like at many places) or reasonably priced…Nope $15 for a single cup of tea. And to top it all off the portions were some of the smallest we’d ever had at a restaurant.
We’ve been to plenty of high end restaurants and know what to expect; this was not normal. The costs were exorbitant even in an ultra-high end restaurant setting, and we might have left hungry had we not had some appetizers at the lounge prior to the meal.
So, I don’t know that I could recommend this place…maybe for a special occasion, where cost is not of any concern. But that’s it. Melbourne has plenty of more casual restaurants with excellent food (like Movida).
We caught a taxi back to the hotel and started gathering our things. It’s back on the road tomorrow.
Melbourne was a quick stop. We lucked out with the hotel, which was exactly what we needed after getting in a little travel funk leaving New Zealand.
The city is great for just walking around and exploring. We did a lot of walking, and there were plenty of suggested walking paths left to do. I always enjoy good walking cities because I think walking around is the best way to get a feel for a place…Plus it’s free.
Melbourne seemed to have a very good dining scene with lots of more casual (but still very good food) places. We enjoyed Movida, and there were several other restaurants along those lines that I was considering. I also saw numerous places in those shopping alleys that I would have loved to try.
The problem with Melbourne, like Sydney, is that it’s a long ways away. And – unlike Tokyo or Hong Kong – it’s not all that different than US cities. If Melbourne were located in the US, I’d probably make several long weekend trips there. But it’s not.
So, I’d be happy to return, but I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to get there the next time we’re in Australia. And if so, it would probably only be for 3 days again because that’s time that would be taken away from other more unique areas.
All that said, we really liked Melbourne and were off to a good start to Australia round 2.