The best place to spend your Sunday in Melbourne.

If you are in Melbourne and want to shop, have a leisurely lunch and want to watch a good performance all on the same day, Queen Victoria Market or Vic market as locals call it, is the place to be.

It is one of the major landmarks of the city right in the heart of the Central Building District. It is the largest open air market in Australia,  established in 1878 and is one of the oldest Victorian era market in Southern Hemisphere.

It is spread over 17 acres and bears the Melbourne Coat of Arms on its facade, fleece, bull, ship and whale. Each of them representing the major activities on which the city’s economy is based, wool, livestock, shipping and whaling.

Interestingly, though it bears the name of Queen Victoria, it is not named after her but derives its name from its location, i.e. it is on the corner of Queen and Victoria Street.

Melbourne initially had three big markets but two of them, opened before Queen Victoria, were closed before 1960 and only this one remains. It has a very colourful and varied history as this forms part of the Prahan suburb and South Melbourne market.

This site had a cemetery, a livestock market and a wholesale fruit and vegetable market with each one having a history of its own.

A Fromager helping his father sell their cheese,

It opens 5 days a week and remains closed on Monday and Wednesday. You could either visit it on your own or take a 2 hour guided tour through the Meat market; oldest building with live butchers and fish mongers both being here for generations.

There is Deli for tribal flavours of Kangaroo meat; you could buy fresh meat, live oysters, local cheese, handmade chocolate, clothes, luggage and so many other interesting wares. It is an experience to shop here and interestingly one of the shop signs reads “We do not yell to sell”.

Once you are done with shopping you could enjoy a live performance of magic or music while having lunch. However, do not forget to drop a few spare coins in the bowl place in front of the performer in appreciation.

It is indeed rare to find a place which allows partaking so many activities at the same time. No wonder it is major tourist attraction in the city.

 

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I love my cycle

I recently had a chance to visit an exhibition on cycling in Canberra, Australia, called Freewheeling which explored the history of the sport in the country for the past 157 years.

I thought of sharing my experience with my friends who enjoy the sport like I do, though not really in the same sense. I mean, I am neither a long distance cyclist nor a mountain biker but I do enjoy being on my bike and I cycle for fun.

The History

Cycling in Australia dates back to 1860, when the cycles first arrived in British colonies. By 1890, the cycle craze had set in when people realized that it was a safe and cheap mode of transport. Cycle Clubs and Riding Clubs were formed across the country.

Arthur Richardson was the first person to go around Australia on his cycle. He left his home in Perth on 5 June 1899, with 2 kgs of luggage including a pistol and returned home on 4 February 1900 after cycling for 18507 kms.

Women also took to this sport and the pioneer in this field is Marion Sutherland, who rode her cycle designed by her husband, in 1900 both for pleasure and for running errands. Another name worth mentioning here is of Olympic sprint champion Anna Meares.

Marion Sutherland’s cycle.

Children on bikes

Children too rode but their cycles were not mass produced till up to 1950. They rode on their tricycles and some even on adult bikes.

Andrew Gibson’s tricycle, 1933.

 

Mountain bikes

People in Australia love exploring the wild side of their country, so in came the mountain bikes. After the number of cars increased on the roads in 1950 people pushed their bikes “off road” and mountain bikes appeared in 1980. Cadel Evans made a big name for riding cross country and he was known as “the Lung” due to his exceptional lung capacity. He later turned professional.

BMX

Bicycle Motocross (BMX) started in 1920, when people started modifying their cycles to follow their heroes of speedway motorcycling racing. In 1980 it got a further boost when a film called BMX bandits was released.

Long Distance Cycling

One prominent name in this branch of the sport is Hubert Opperman, Australia’s most successful long distance cyclist of international fame, for his performance in Tour de France of 1928.

The exhibition also tells of a story of how after the World War II,  people started using cars more and cycling became a little less popular. However after 1980 when cross country cycling became popular, there has been no looking back.

 

 

They are Melbourne’s lifeline.

City circle Tram.

Trams are Melbourne’s lifeline. You cannot imagine life in Melbourne without them.  While the residents of Melbourne may not use them daily but as a tourist it is a big bonus, specially the City Circle Trams, which not only take you to major city attractions but are free to use too.

This major lifeline of the city is in fact the world’s largest operating tram network servicing more than 210 million passengers daily. On any given week day there are over 400 trams on road during the peak hours.

The Government takes the upgrade of the tram network very seriously by regularly upgrading the network and maintaining it as a world class system.  It is second most used form of public transport and is way ahead of some of the major cities in the world, like St Petersburg, Moscow and Berlin.

Trams covers more than 250 kms of double track and have 25 routes of which one is the free City Circle route. There are more than 1700 trams stops on roads of which 75 percent is shared with other vehicles. The trams run at an average speed of 16 kmph but once they enter the Central Business District their speed drops to 11 kmph.

Trams share space with Cyclist, cars and buses.

The story of trams began in 1884 when on 20 December a horse tram ran from Fairfield station to a real estate development in Thornbury. However it was closed in 1890. There were three lines and seven horse trams. Slowly these were replaced by electric trams with the first one starting on 14 October 1889 between Box Hill and Doncaster.  However this too was closed after seven years when a new private service began in October 1906.

Inside a new tram.

In 1983 the entire Victoria public system was reorganized and in January 2015 the trams in Central Business District was made free. It is surely a big boost to Melbourne tourism as well.

 

 

 

Why I simply love Melbourne’s streets and lanes.

Like Delhi and Varanasi in India, I am fascinated with the streets and lanes of Melbourne, particularly in the Central Business District. Like the two cities in India they too date back to history.

A number of them evolved due to the use of horses and horse driven carriages in those times, while some like, Little Lonsdale evolved due to the gold rush when there were slums there.

Melbourne has come a long way since then and is now a modern, throbbing city with numerous specialty stores, shopping malls and countless eating places, some of them world-renowned.

Another remarkable thing about the streets is, how over time they have been totally pedestarianised. Some are now, known for their urban art, like the Hoiser Lane and a number of festivals are held in the city to celebrate this aspect of Melbourne’s life.

Major streets among others, are Bourke Street, Collins Street, Elizabeth Street, Exhibition Street, Flinders Street, La Trobe Street, Queen Street, Russell Street, Spencer Street, Swanson Street, Corporation Street and William Street.

Collins Street is the main street of Melbourne and is named after Lt Governor David Collins and houses high-end retailers. Elizabeth Street was named after the wife of Richard Bourke and houses many retailers of Cameras and Motorcycles.

Flinders Street is one mile long and runs parallel to Yarra River. It was named after the great explorer, Mathew Flinders. It is also home to Tram and Flinders Street Rail station. Among the major landmarks of the city on this street are Federation Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and Melbourne Aquarium.

La Trobe Street runs along the northern boundary of the Central Business District. Swanston Street vertically bisects the city center and is famous as the world’s busiest Tram corridor.

The Corporation street between Exhibition Street and Russell street is now called ACDC Lane in the honour of the famous Aussie band, AC/DC. The name has with no (/) slash sign to avoid being in contravention of local regulations covering street names. There is a famous Cherry Bar on this street.

Another famous lane is Centre Place which houses several well-known cafes, bars and restaurants. The lane running between Queen and Elizabeth Street is called Flinders Lane. It was the center of the city’s rag trade earlier but now is famous for its designer boutiques.

There is never a dull moment in these lanes and streets and no matter how long you visit Melbourne, while leaving you have a mental list of things you missed out, be it a musical performance, a play, comedy theatre or a painting exhibition.

 

 

 

Why Melbourne loves their parks?

Melbourne is not only a city of art and culture but of parks too and all of them are beautifully maintained.

Not only the locals but the World is now taking cognizance this fact as two of Melbourne’s parks, Royal Park and Fitzroy Park were awarded the prestigious Green Flag Award placing them among the world’s best parks.

The Scarred tree.
The scar on this tree was created when Aboriginal people removed bark to make canoes, shields, food and water containers, string, baby carriers and other items. Please respect this site. It is important to the Wurundjeri people as traditional custodians of the land and is part of the heritage of all Australians. All Aboriginal cultural sites are protected by law.

The Green Flag Award is managed by the Keep England Tidy organization, which judges the parks over eight criteria like “horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability, community involvement and providing a warm welcome”.

The Fitzroy Park in east Melbourne is spread over 26 hectares and boasts of city’s largest water harvesting facility. It is also one of the major Victorian era landscaped gardens in Australia.

Cook’s Cottage.
Model Tudor Village.

Among the various attractions inside the park are an ornamental lake, a scarred tree, Cook’s cottage (James Cook’s parents lived here), model Tudor village and a fairies’ tree. The park is also home to wild life like possums, ducks and small insect eating bats.

The Royal Park is spread over 170 hectares with a diverse landscape including wetlands and grasslands. It is next to Melbourne Zoo and houses a Golf Course and a huge Tennis Club.

The grassland between the Royal Children’s hospital and the Native Garden is used by kids to fly kites during the summer months. It was also used during the World War for troop housing.

This park is home to possums and a number of birds, like Black duck, white faced heron and collared sparrow hawk among others.

If you are in Melbourne do not miss these parks.

 

 

 

 

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A scarred tree in the gardens has been preserved. The plaque at the bottom of the tree reads:

The scar on this tree was created when Aboriginal people removed bark to make canoes, shields, food and water containers, string, baby carriers and other items.

Please respect this site. It is important to the Wurundjeri people as traditional custodians of the land and is part of the heritage of all Australians.

All Aboriginal cultural sites are protected by law.

Why Melbourne is the Coffee capital of Australia?

A Gaggia Coffee Machine. (Pic from the internet).
Mr and Mrs Giovanni Achille Gaggia. He was born in 1895 in Milan. (Pic from the internet).
A Gaggia Coffee machine in Club Astoria, a legendary night club of ’50s in Milan. (Pic from the internet).

Australia really knows it’s Coffee, whatever your style is, black, espresso or flat, only a good brew would make an Australian happy. His day starts with a cup of Coffee and it better be good.

The World, specially the Americans swoon over Starbucks but here in Australia all Starbucks has managed to do is to manage its losses for the last 14 years. While the brand grows around the World, in Australia they had to close down a total of 60 of its stores and are now down to 22 stores across Australia. One of the biggest mistake Starbucks made was to introduce the Coffee they serve in America which Australians found it weak and tasteless.

According to Paul Patterson, a marketing guru, the road ahead of Starbucks is a difficult one.

(Pic from the internet).

The story of Coffee in Australia started in mid 20th century when after the World War II a number of Italians and Greek made Australia their home, particularly Melbourne.  Around this time, another thing happened which helped this cause more. Achilles Gaggio, a bartender in Milan, patented his piston driven espresso Coffee machine in 1945. Italians bought this machine to Australia.

Immediately after this, happened the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 and like they say, rest is history.

Hotel Windsor, the 1st Coffee Palace in Australia.

The Windsor Hotel on Bourke Hill on Spring Street in Melbourne has also played a key role in the history of Coffee in Australia. Today it is the only surviving hotel of the 19th century. It was built by George Nipper, in 1883 and was later sold it to James Munro, a politician and leader of the temperance movement. After acquiring the hotel he tore the hotel’s liquor license in public and started a Coffee Palace here.

On an average an Australian drink 3-4 cups of Coffee every day and they are spoilt for choices as far as the availability of Coffee is concerned with shops all round the city. The standard of Coffee is really high and no wonder the American Coffee found it difficult to make its mark in the country.

Some of the well known names in Coffee are Brother Baba Budan on Little Bourke Street, Proud Mary on Oxford Street, Manchester Street on Rankins lane, Everyday Coffee on Johnston Street and market Lane Coffee on Collins Street.

So next time you are in Melbourne you know where to head the moment you think of Coffee.

 

 

 

Street performers of Melbourne.

For people who love art and culture, Melbourne is the place to be. Not a single day passes without a performance be it comedy, music, play or even a street performance. The people of Melbourne will promote any act which provides them entertainment.

While in many cities you may not be given permission to perform on the streets for one reason or other, in Melbourne Busking is recognised as part of their Activity Policy. Any performer (Busker) can obtain a license and go on and perform.

 

In the official policy, Busking is defined as “sounding or playing a musical instrument, singing, reciting or performing conjuring, juggling, puppetry, miming, dancing or other entertainment or doing any of those things concurrently. It also includes the activity of drawing any message, picture or representation on a pavement, paper or canvas”.

No wonder in Melbourne, days are defined for busking in the city and its suburbs.

 

You can choose what and where you would like to enjoy it.

  • Southbank – on weekends below Princess Bridge.
  • Southgate – on weekends, pavement art and performers along the river towards the Casino Entertainment Complex.
  • Princess Bridge – On weekends, the guitar man.
  • Swanston Street Walk – On various spots, see Dog and his Man, Bucket Drummer, Lone Bagpiper.
  • Federation Square – On Saturday.
  • Bourke Street Mall – On most days at various locations including outside Myer.
  • Flinders St Station – Under the clocks entrance on Saturday.
  • Bourke Street Mall – Outside Target most days, the twisting Balloon Man.
  • Queen Victoria Market – On Saturday, in Queen St annex for live music.
  • South Melbourne Market – On weekends, for all buskers of all sorts…
  • St Kilda Beach – On Saturday near the baths.
  • Brunswick Street – On Saturday near the Brunswick Street man statue.

Over my many visits to Melbourne, I have seen a numerous busking performances but the best was a Magical performance on Federation Square, I saw last weekend.

The Magician himself.

Whenever you are in Melbourne choose a location and an act, grab a coffee and enjoy. Do not however, forget to carry some loose change or small notes to give to the Busker as a token of your appreciation.

 

 

Best Fish n Chips

We were in Mornington Peninsula and found this real Gem of a place to eat, David Prosser Seafoods. In fact when you next to the seashore what can be better than eating the fresh catch from the sea.

David Prosser uses best fresh fish and thin batter as a result the final Fish n Chips are delicious tasting, light and non greasy even though they are fried.

Calamari rings
Fresh salad and dips.

Their Calamari rings are awesome too. My wife tried the Fish Burger and fresh Salads too and found them to be really tasty as well.

Fish Burger

My only regret is that since we were returning the same day, I could not have it again. May be some other time on my next visit to Australia.

The last of Bathing Boxes of Australia

Brighton Beach with Bathing Boxes.
Evening Sky @Brighton Beach.

If you are looking for some quiet moments on one of the Melbourne’s beautiful beaches head straight to Brighton. It is 11 kms from the CBD and is one of the most exclusive suburbs named after Brighton, England. It has a very beautiful beach and 82 colourful unique, historical Bathing Boxes.

The story goes that in 1840, Henry Dendy purchased 5120 acres of Port Phililip at 1 Pound per acre, to develop housing along the sea. However, as this area was really short on drinking water his plans failed miserably and he died a pauper. His agent, Binns Were, who purchased this land from him, was lucky.

After the depression, this are became the third most populated town in Port Phillip. It attracted a lot of wealthy residents who wanted to build beautiful homes along the sea. After the area was connected by train to Melbourne the area really boomed and like they say, the rest is history.

The now famous Bathing Boxes on the beach were first put up here in 1862 along the edge of water as in those days mixed bathing was strictly prohibited. Separate sections of the beach were earmarked for men and women.

It is not clear if there were 100 or 200 such boxes were put up to enable women to enter them straight from water but 82 of them survived in their present site. These are now the only ones surviving caged water baths in Australia and are owned by Melbourne’s who’s who.

Kids collecting his and his kid sister’s bike.
Master Craftsman @work before the Sunset.
Kid swimming in the sea.
An evening walk along the beach.
Sunset at the beach.

Brighton is serviced by a diverse selection of shopping precincts and attractions. The most famous spot here is the bicycle and pedestrian path running along the foreshore line with palm trees, gardens and lawns called the Dendy’ Street Beach.

We were lucky when we visited this beach one late afternoon, with a clear day with perfect temperature and a low tide. We witnessed a lot of activity on the beach including a photo shoot and it was the perfect time to enjoy this beautiful beach.

 

Street Art in Hosier Lane

Any writing or drawing an image on any property without permission is called Graffiti. Street Art on the other hand is more elaborate than Graffiti and is usually done with the required permission of the owner to beautify the dull spaces.

While some people find it offensive, for others it is inspirational and a thing of beauty. Some street art get lost as it is ephemeral in nature but some always remains to inspire people like Werner Herzog,

who obtained special permission to shoot inside the Chauvet Caves of South France. He made a film about the world’s oldest pictorial creations, preserved for over 20,000 years, and called it Caves of Forgotten Dreams (2010).

The City of Melbourne acknowledges that public spaces provide a gallery for artists and has approved permits for street arts.

Legal Street art contributes not only for beatification of some parts of the city, it also encourages tourism into the city.

Walk down Hosier Lane in Melbourne to understand this and of being right in the middle of an art gallery. No wonder Melbourne is one of the World’s great Street Art Capitals.