Let yourself be carried away by the effervescence of a city in all seasons

By on September 8, 2022 0

Food, theatre, football and more. SCN reporter Shirley Sinclair knows how to make the most of a quick escape in Melbourne.

You can’t help but be swept up in excitement when one of the world’s greatest cities celebrates all the good things in life on a daily basis.

After an exhilarating short break in the Victorian capital, I feel like I’ve starred in the Working Dog TV adverts for Visit Melbournecomplete with Taxiride get on soundtrack.

Major events?

How about being part of a crowd of almost 89,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for a blockbuster between two of the Australian Football League’s ultimate rivals.

The MCG at full throttle. Photo: Shirley Sinclair

The “nosebleed” second-row rear seats are the best I can find online for the Carlton-Collingwood clash, but well worth it.

The position offers glorious insight into on-pitch strategy and the sea of ​​fans, plus clear views of two big screens for action replays (although it’s a mission to climb all those steps without spilling the beer or skip the hot fries from the snack bar!)

With the nation now gripped by AFL Finals fever, there’s still time to show your true colors in crowded stadiums, a noisy sports bar or CBD’s Federation Square. Try your luck on all remaining tickets for the finals Ticketing.

Good shows?

After the airline delays, I barely have time to put the suitcase away in the room at the Courtyard by Marriott Melbourne Flagstaff Gardens in West Melbourne before hopping in a taxi and heading to the Princess Theatre, unless 3km.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plays at the Princess Theatre. Photo: Shirley Sinclair

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the most awarded production in the history of the UK Olivier Awards and I have a goofy smile on my face for its full three and a half hours – not just because it takes JK Rowling’s spectacularly popular Harry Potter wizarding franchise in the new generation of intrigues.

This production, live from Broadway, uses every trick in the book, and then some to entertain, hypnotize and confuse.

Like watching an illusionist show in the 1800s, the audience is left to guess in wonder how the special effects are accomplished.

One might have expected pyrotechnics at the end of magic wands. But huge Dementors flying overhead, figures appearing out of nowhere, furniture disappearing under the rustling of cloaks,time distortions” making the whole set chirp and actors emerging from a “lake” in front of the stage?

The magic really works.

If a modern history lesson is more your pace, hamilton performs at Her Majesty’s Theater in Exhibition Street, with a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway musical genres, woven around the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton.

Places to see?

World famous surfing mecca Bells Beach has topped my wish list to revisit after a 25 year absence.

Classic Bells Beach. Photo: Shirley Sinclair

In the hire car, I tick off Werribee Park Open Range Zoo and the Geelong turnoffs and follow fields of bright yellow canola for around 77km on the M1, to coastal moorland, dramatic limestone cliffs and sandy beaches bordering the east edge. of Greater Otway National Park.

The 48-hectare Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve lies two kilometers south-west of Torquay-Jan Juc in Victoria’s Great Ocean Road area.

Traditionally around Easter every year for over half a century, the world’s best surfers have battled the Southern Ocean’s biggest autumn/winter swells as they slowed and steepened on the shallows reef-studded Bells Beach at the Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition.

At the slightest sign of waves throughout the year, however, surfers hit the water to provide hours of entertainment for spectators in the natural amphitheater of cliffs, coastal boardwalk and wooden bridges.

Meanwhile, on the road around the calmer waters of Torquay, there is certainly a buzz in the air of the coastal shopping area as every cafe, bakery, bar or restaurant just begs visitors for a chair, to breathe in the fresh salty air, take in the views and join the party.

Where to eat or drink?

As one of the most diverse multicultural cities in the world, Melbourne offers a wide range of culinary influences.

The Newmarket, St Kilda. Photo: Shirley Sinclair

There’s always a food/wine/craft beer festival or event on the horizon. Every suburb, city lane, tourist strip and farmer’s market will satisfy your every taste bud. And a plethora of rooftop bars offer a number of colorful cocktails with your name on it.

The warm tones and spacious comfort of the Mail Exchange Hotel in Bourke Street are ideal for post-game aperitifs or relaxation, while the colorfully lit beer garden at Newmarket in St Kilda is hip and lively (although the 30 birthday parties can be loud!) with outstanding pumpkin gnocchi and arancini balls on an above-average pub menu.

Take a leisurely tram ride to discover new delights in areas such as Richmond, Fitzroy and Collingwood.

Or stay in time-tested foodie enclaves like Carlton’s “Little Italy”: Lygon Street.

A Melburnian recommended Tiamo Italian and even without a reservation the waiting time is only 15 minutes (the urge to eat grows with each meal the waiters bring to the outdoor dining area).

The staff miraculously manage to find us a table for eight near the kitchen “theater” inside the crowded restaurant.

From classic Margherita pizza and garlic focaccia to fettuccine carbonara with thin strips of lightly cooked bacon and an unexpected “slab” of tiramisu for the birthday girl in the group, the range of dishes does not disappoint.

Another suggestion from a recent visitor is also worth trying: the pho rice noodle soup at Pho Ba-Ga Mekong Vietnamese in Swanson Street.

Pho to Pho Ba-Ga Mekong. Photo: Shirley Sinclair

While I usually opt for dumplings or Thai in Chinatown along Little Bourke Street, this traditional, no-frills eatery is full at lunchtime on Saturdays – mostly locals “in the know” about the dishes’ fresh, nourishing ingredients. affordable.

The tasty beef pho ($17.50) and vegetable spring rolls ($9.90) are more than enough for two.

Later in the day, we drown our sorrows at Baci at Crown Melbourne, where the attentive staff shares a Genoese pizza (bocconcini, pesto, mushroom, garlic, cherry tomatoes, olives, parmesan and basil – $29) and a few drinks a little more bearable after a heartbreaking defeat at football.

Free ideas?

As you stroll along the Yarra River, Docklands and city streets, you’ll avoid any overly indulgent dessert or delicious three-course dinner.

The view from Flagstaff Gardens. Photo: Shirley Sinclair

Or better yet, try the leafy surroundings of Melbourne’s oldest public park.

You may never have heard of the 7.17-hectare Flagstaff Gardens, since Fitzroy Gardens, Kings Estate and the Royal Botanical Gardens of Victoria usually steal all the thunder from “the garden city”.

But in the 1840s, the first settlers came to the hilltop lookout for a bird’s eye view of the harbor and to share the latest news. Signal flags on the flagpole (or flagpole) were used to send messages between the port and the city, including news in 1850 that Victoria was officially separated from NSW.

Bordered by William, La Trobe, King and Dudley streets, the park leads directly to Queen Victoria Markets.

Queen Victoria Markets. Photo: Shirley Sinclair

The Queen Vic Markets have become my age-old Sunday breakfast tradition on any trip to Melbourne. A ricotta and spinach gozleme for breakfast from the Borek Shop and a “hot dog” from the nearby Bratwurst Shop & Co in the Dairy Produce Hall, washed down with a Market Espresso coffee (with maybe a croissant Cheeky Almond Cakes for later!) are great fuel buys for browsing the many varied stalls.

Hotels to recommend?

Melbourne’s ‘West Side History’ is just a walk in the park from the new Courtyard by Marriott Melbourne Flagstaff Gardens.

Courtyard by Marriott Melbourne Flagstaff Gardens. Photo: Shirley Sinclair

This 150-room, 4-star hotel on Batman Street is near some of the neighborhood’s impressive “big guns.”

Docklands, Marvel Stadium and the Spencer Outlet Center (not to mention our rental car drop-off point) are just a stone’s throw away.

Loads of public transport options by train and tram around Spencer Street and Southern Cross Station can bring you even closer to Melbourne (and the rest of Victoria, for that matter).

The hotel’s launch in March marked the arrival of Courtyard by Marriott in Melbourne and the third for Australia.

The Courtyard brand, founded in the United States in 1983, was a pioneer – considered the first hotel in the world to champion the needs of business travelers, identifying a gap in the market between high-end hotels and affordable accommodations of motel-style.

Sophistication and comfort are key, now with carefully considered design elements for business and leisure travelers – including an all-day restaurant, street-facing cafe/bar and large fitness center. form offering 24-hour access.

The seamless check-in is only topped by a final question from the efficient and friendly reception staff: “Would you like a complimentary glass of sparkling wine as a welcome drink?”

Having packed as much as humanly possible of each day on this jaunt, however, that’s not what impresses me the most.

Every evening, returning to the “sanctuary” of my hotel around midnight – sent on my way with a “good evening” from the duty manager at the 24 hour reception, I take the fast elevator 10 floors to the welcoming comfort of the Premium Guest The room and the layers of weariness of the day are peeling off.

The very comfortable king-size bed with selection of pillows and mattress topper even made me google “Mattress topper from Shop Courtyard by Marriott(yes, that’s a trick!) as a possible permanent reminder of my little adventure.

The attention to detail is also much appreciated – the full-length mirror, ample storage space and lights on each door, make-up mirror, iron and ironing board, slow-closing toilet lid , the shower bench and the Smart TV with Chromecast capability.

And whether it’s an a la carte menu on weekdays or a buffet on weekends, the choice of breakfast options is varied and plentiful, ready for another big day of sightseeing.

It all adds up to a short vacation that is the complete package.

Melbourne is truly its best advertisement.

  • The writer was invited to the Courtyard by Marriott Melbourne Flagstaff Gardens for two nights, but paid all other expenses.

A CITY FOR ALL SEASONS

Photos: Shirley Sinclair