I went to Melbourne not for the Neighbours connection as many people do, but for the gymnastics. Whike I was working in Sydney, the 2005 World Championships was taking place at the Rod Laver Arena in the city, and I had a ticket to the Women's All Round Finals on Friday night so decided to make a weekend of it. Melbourne's a 70 - 90 minute flight from Sydney, and you can fly there and back for about $150 if you book at the right time, so many visitors over in the east make the trip either for a long weekend or on a stop over from or to Tasmania or Adelaide or Perth.
I liked Melbourne, and would go so far as to say I would choose to live there over Sydney if I ever come back to Australia
for a long stint. It's hard to pin down exactly why I prefer it, but I think the number of things to see
and do and explore in the city played a big part.
I started at the top of the city, with a trip to the observation deck where you can admire the city from 55 stories up. The Rialto Towers are located on Collins St, a main thoroughfare in the city, and offer great views from the viewing gallery both inside and out. Entry is $7.80 - $13.50, but if you collect a free visitor's guide from the airport
or tourist information offer, you'll find a discount
voucher for here that's valid on any ticket, including student concessions. Yay. Included in the price is your trip to the top (with access to the shop here and on the ground, and the café), free use of binoculars (a nice touch as most places charge for these) and a 20 minute "sight and sound extravaganza", or in simple terms, a film entitled, 'Melbourne the Living City,' that features shots of the city and events that have already / will take place here set to a positive, up-lifting soundtrack
that trills "Melbourne: A Great Place To Be". The film doesn't have a commentary of any kind, so is suitable for speakers of any language. It was a sweet little film, and less cringe worthy that the equivalent at Sydney's AMP tower. Worth knowing is that you can see this first - as I did - before you go up the tower, and if there's one starting just as you arrive I'd recommend this to save you a potential 20 minute wait when you come down from the tower.My next stop was the Art Gallery
on St Kilda Road, one of two sites in the city. This one is closed Tuesdays and the one at Federation Square
is closed Mondays, so try to allocate visits accordingly - I got muddled up and as a result didn't get to visit the latter yesterday as I'd hoped. The Art Gallery is huge and spread over several floors. Entry is free to general works, with a charge for visiting exhibitions, but since the current installation is Brit Art In The 60s, on loan from the Tate, I decided to skip it and see it in London if the need ever struck. Though the Art Gallery doesn't have too many major works, there are pieces from lots of people you might have heard of such as Manet
and Monet, and the gallery houses European
and Asian paintings and fine arts from various periods.