Melbourne, Victoria – July 1999

This month’s submission is actually being sent from Jaipur in India. The thoughts of family and friends, and what they might be doing, gets a little more persistant after more than a month away from home. With this in mind, this month’s submission will tell you of the things that I like about Melbourne. I have abandoned the travelogue stuff and headed for “the sentimental zone”.

The city of Melbourne, and the sprawling suburbs that surround it, are

spread around Port Phillip Bay. This is a large circular shaped bay with a narrow opening at the southern most end. The bay has allowed for the evolution of an extensive string of beachside suburbs (I myself live near Frankston, about an hour and a half out train trip out of ‘town’ and still right near the beach).

It is a little cold at the moment to consider swimming and other water

activities, but walking or riding along many of the well developed paths is a great way to get out of the house and getting the blood circulating. With careful planning you can take advantage of the railway lines that run around the bay and plan a bike ride with a tail wind all the way!

The inner suburbs have a better developed network of paths and by-ways than the outer areas, and there is usually more happening, but don’t be discouraged from venturing out to places further out. That’s one of the great things about Melbourne. More than once I have ventured out with one purpose in mind, and stumbled across friends, a free concert, or a market, or some more interesting distraction. The original purpose becomes lost in a day of pleasant unplanned activity.

The inner suburbs have another advantage over the outer areas. They have a better network of Coffee shops and Cafes. Now tell me, what better way do you know to undo all those harmful effects of exercise than by filling up on chocolate cake and taking a shot of caffene? There are plenty of trendy places where the price is high and the purpose for being there is to be seen. Keep away from the posers and you will find plenty more places where the food is great and the java fine.

The weekend, and especially Sunday, is a good time for the small markets. There is a big one in St. Kilda for those into the crafts. There are also the ‘Trash-and-treasure’ markets that are held in various locations (My experiences of recent years suggest that the emphasis is on the trash).

Finally, there is the increasingly popular ‘garage sale’ where people try to sell of the junk they have accumulated over the years. Garage sales have lead to a spate of shoddy cardboard advertising signs posted to telephone poles on Saturday, and left there to rot. Bigger markets are usually advertised in local papers. Some weekend markets have been going on for so long that they are not advertised – they presume that everybody knows that they are on and you’ll just have to ask around or discover one by good fortune.

One popular sub-species of the market genre that has emerged in recent years is the ‘Computer Swap Meet‘. This is not much good for the visitor whose PC may be sitting at home 1000’s of miles away, but it’s a great place to buy your computer bits and pieces. Like any market, you need to know what you are buying, but you can be sure that the traders are generally honest. The best (worst?) part of the swap-meets is looking at components you paid high prices for only a few years ago being sold for almost nothing and sniggering at the highly-hyped gee-wiz high-techo stuff that you-would-have-sold-your-grandmother-for gathering dust.

So, we’ve snapped up few bargains, exercised, and quaffed coffee and cake. What can we do to wind down a great day. We could go to the “flicks”.

For a time it seemed that home video and cable TV would put an end to the picture theatre. Times and marketing strategies have changed and the movie house is doing well. Large 8 or 10 cinema complexes are to be found at most suburban shopping centers. Here you can see many of the current hit films. Each cinema is small and plays just the main feature. Most of the films are the latest release popular stuff.

Allow me to diverge for a moment- the BEST film environment I have ever experienced was at the old Halls Gap theatre. It was a small audience and a warm summer evening. You just grabbed a seat from the stack against the wall and sat where you liked. Intermission was when the reel ran out and it took a few minutes to thread the next one. I saw Monty Python’s “And now for something completely different”, if you must know. This kind of experience is great and I would love to know if this kind thing still happens.

Arthouse films and films outside the mainstream can also be seen at some specialist cinemas around town. You’ll need to keep your eye on the paper for these ones – any of the city newspapers are pretty good. You can even go to a drive-in if you want. These once popular places for teenage sexual experiences have mostly disappeared. The Coburg drive-in is pretty good – close to town and reasonably priced – and Dromana struggles along too. Most of early shows are populated by middle-aged families showing their kids what it used to be like. The late shows..well…I’m sure some of the more “traditional” activities still goes on.

Head to one of the many pubs and Hotels around the place if you need a feed. They all provide a good meal (like anywhere in the world, some are “gooder” than others) at a reasonable price. A ‘pot’ (or two) of Fosters or VB will serve you well…but that’s another story.

What a fabulous day out we’ve had.

I’m done. Kick back. Relax. Enjoy.

If you want to know more about Melbourne look at the following links:


City Info


Planet Map

And best of all …. a picture of my boots

Steve's Boots