The sun's coming up in Melbourne, and I'm getting an early start. The goal for the day is to take in as much of the city as I can, by foot or tram. There is a lot of ground to cover, so I have my running shoes tied tightly, some Australian dollars in my wallet, and my phone with Google Maps in its holster. I'm ready to roll.
This city is bustling, the second-most populous metropolis in Australia. With over 4 million inhabitants, Melbourne is situated in the large bay of Port Phillip, and spreads out towards the Dandenong and Macedon mountain ranges.
The first stop on today's itinerary is the Queen Victoria Market, a major landmark in Melbourne. Covering 17 acres, this is the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. Known locally as Vic Market or Queen Vic, this occupies 2 city blocks and has historical, architectural and social significance.
My first impression, as I enter the market from the entrance to the Meat Hall on Victoria Street, is that this is a major tourist destination. I immediately get the feeling that I've been transported in time to the 19th century when the Meat Hall commenced operating as a retail center. Evolving over time, the Victoria Square shops and the first-night market opened in the latter part of the 20th century.
There are an incredible number of things to do and see here. A long queue is forming along Queens Street where dough-makers are assembling jam-filled doughnuts at the American Doughnut Kitchen. The doughnuts are actually being concocted in the original 1950's van.
Entering the market from Elizabeth Street, I'm now in the fresh produce section, the most colorful part of the market. An Asian lady is selling Sweet Mildura Navels that look delectable. The Bongiorno Brothers have a large stall, selling quality fruit and vegetables.
Heading toward the Peel Street entrance, I come across the B.B. Jewellery stall, with a large assortment of opals, Sterling silver, and Stainless steel rings. The sights, smells and sounds of this place are incredible!
The time is ticking away, and I'm ready to hit Hosier Lane for a look at Melbourne's world famous street art. This is the nerve center for a unique movement that takes graffiti to a stratospheric level.
The genesis of this movement can be traced to the 1970s and 1980s when much of Melbourne's disaffected youth were seeing photos, and hearing about graffiti, on the streets of New York. Then, around 2000, a myriad of art projects began to appear publicly on Hosier Lane, including wood blocking, sticker art, poster art, wheat pasting, and graphs. Many of the artists were also activists, concerned with making the public aware of their societal concerns, through their work.
Now, as I cruise through this area, I have 64 lane-ways with paintings sprayed on building walls to choose from. This is the street art capital of the world! I see visitors from many different countries taking in the colors, ideas, and energy, displaying Melbourne at its best.
It is now getting later in the day. I've hopped the tram down to the Alexandra Gardens, and my plan is to walk along the Yarra River to take in the Melbourne skyline. This place is young and vibrant, with restaurants and outdoor pubs everywhere. Throngs of 30 somethings are sitting at tables on patios, drinking beer, and enjoying the waterfront cityscape. I pass the Fatto Bar & Cantina, Mr. Hobson's and the Pilgrim Bar, stopping periodically to snap photos. There are cultural landmarks within view, as well, including the Immigration Museum and Federation Square. There is no lack of tourists around here, with City River Cruises floating from the Rod Laver Arena, past St. Paul's Cathedral, towards the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel. My guess is that the activity I see here will be similar to what is happening at midnight.
It is starting to get dark, and the time has come to wrap it up, as I head back to my hotel. This is going to be a fair sized walk on my already tired feet, carting my camera bag along the way. Feeling quite satisfied that I now have a good sense of the city of Melbourne, it occurs to me that this is an area that I could live in. The demographics here are consistent with an upwardly mobile work force with explosive population growth since 2000. A lot of people, apparently, have a similar idea.