The Qantas flight was long and, fortunately, uneventful. But let me tell you, business class was worth the extra bucks. Service was top of the line, the “lie flat” seats allowed us to get about five hours of “dead to the world” sleep and then another three or so of snoozing, the food was good with real flatware and glasses, and we even received Qantas jammies with the kangaroo logo. We breezed through customs (although the electronic eye, for whatever reason, could not reconcile Janelle with her passport photo), picked up our bags, and were leaving the airport 45 minutes after arriving at the gate. Nice when it works out.
Although it is still summer here, the weather was cool and rainy when we arrived. At least the fires were almost all out. The Crown Metropol hotel is beautiful and connected to a casino. While we strolled through to view the action, this casino is pretty indistinguishable from US venues. And I bet, so to speak, that I could lose Aussie dollars even more quickly than US dollars, since the exchange rate is so favorable.
After a shower and almost feeling human, we took to the streets. We crossed the Yarra River and picked up the City Circle tram that makes a circuit around downtown Melbourne, just like a hop-on, hop-off bus. Even better, it is free. We rode about half the circuit, then made our way to the renowned Victoria Market. Although we had been told it was big, we were stunned at its size: at least two square city blocks with every sort of merchandise, produce, foods, clothing, shoes, leather goods, and gizmos of all types and sizes. We could spend all our Melbourne time there and not get through the whole market.
Melbourne’s architecture is eclectic and varied. In addition to numerous modern skyscrapers, many older, more classically designed structures are mixed in. It is a potpourri of old, new, reflective glass, color, odd angles, and walls covered with plants. The economy is booming as evidenced by many cranes dotting the skyline. Throw in a lot of park land, neat sculptures, “wall art” (what we call “graffiti”), and art work, and it is easy to see why Melbourne is one of the world’s most livable cities.
Ostensibly, Melbourne is the “coffee capital” of the world, plus we found a ton of neat restaurants along the Yarra Riverwalk: expensive, reasonably priced, upscale, casual, Italian, German, Asian, you name it. Almost all have outdoor dining and were within a ten-minute walk from our hotel We will not starve while in Melbourne.