I have spent a large portion of my adult life as the constant expat but after flying into Melbourne for the weekend I realised how much I still call Australia home. Though I know my life will be in Dubai for several years to come should I ever return to my big beautiful island, Melbourne will be my city of choice. Admittedly, they might not have the glorious harbour that Sydney boasts but the city is an artistic and cultural hub that reminds me of New York one moment and Europe the next.
Melbourne has always had a special place in my heart. You see I am an ex ballet dancer, though my days of intense training are a lifetime ago, my love for this classical craft will always be in my blood. From the age of 4 through to 17 all I wanted was to become a professional and the Australian Ballet Company was my own Olympic podium. Alas, as with many dancers, puberty happened. Mother Nature decided to gift me with curves unbecoming to the ballet aesthetic, so even at 47 kilograms I was haunted that my days were numbered. I knew my dream was over though when severe injury to my left hip in turn left me without ample rotation or lift in that leg. Despite endless physio, it was done.
My years as a dancer shaped my identity but most importantly cemented the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter. Mum was there for every competition, every concert, every moment of self doubt and lack of confidence, every heartache this art brings, every minor injury, every major injury. She was there through it all with me. She was my number one supporter and the only person on this earth who knows exactly what I went through every day, week, month, year of training. I am eternally grateful to God that he graced me with such a phenomenal mother and she is the most selfless human being I know. For all the dance mamas and daughters out there… I know you know exactly what I am talking about.
As a teenager, I spent precious time in Melbourne with Mum as a ballet student partaking in summer programs with the Australian Ballet School. Those memories are seared into my brain and 15 years later as I met my Mama again in Melbourne but this time as Emirates cabin crew it truly was a full circle moment. When injury ended my ballet career, I was entirely lost for a long time, years in fact. It has taken me most of my adult life to figure out what exactly I wanted to do, who I am outside of dance and to create to new dreams and hopes for myself.
I flew into Melbourne living my new dream and completely (finally) at peace with the direction my life was going. This layover with Emirates was particularly sacred to me as my beautiful Mama flew to Victoria to meet me. As I walked around exploring this enigma of a city with the most precious person in my life, I saw so many young ballet dancers (believe me, we are distinguishable) accompanied by their own mothers . I couldn’t help but smile at the unbreakable bonds being made before my eyes.
Mum, this post is for you.
Where to wander the alleys of art?
If there was anything I was keen on exploring during my Melbournian layover it was the myriad of decorated laneways found throughout the city centre. These colourful murals, the most famous of which can be found in Hosier Lane, are truly a sight to behold. Whether you’re a lover of art or a keen tourist wanting to photograph everything on offer in the capital you will find yourself immersed and at times lost in the street art found in almost 60 alleyways. Feel feel to discover on your own or partake in a three hour guided tour with Melbourne Street Art Tours for a more in depth experience.
Quick word of warning though. I know we live in the age of social media where we are all trying to compete for the best Instagram pic (myself included #noshame) but please be respectful of any artists you see at work as many do not want their photo taken. After seeing some tourists verbally threatened for continuing to photograph the artists against their wishes this became a personal safety issue for all involved… so don’t gamble with your camera being smashed. The Instagram pic really isn’t worth the damage. If you do find yourself in Hosier Lane and somewhat peckish drop into Movida for some Spanish delights.
A trip to Melbourne is not complete without…?
Sampling the array of cuisine on offer at the Queen Victoria Markets. This place is not just the ideal attraction for the foodies amongst us but given the markets are over a century old they offer a unique glimpse into Australian history. As a lover of all things market related I have visited many throughout the world. I can confidently say the Vic Markets are my favourite. Okay, okay I am an Aussie girl so admittedly slightly biased but this proclamation is based on energy, vibe, product diversity and quality of food on offer. When you enter the hustle and bustle of the Meat Hall and hear the banter amongst the fishmongers and butchers as they bid for business you will truly feel alive and in the moment.
The markets are a great place to buy souvenirs and gifts for loved ones and some sneaky favourites came home to Dubai with me too so that I always have a piece of Australia with me. If you’re an avid tea or coffee drinker be sure to visit McIver’s in the Art Deco inspired Deli Hall for organic cosmopolitan blends from every corner of the earth. I elected to purchase “Cate’s Sleepytime” not only because the product shared by beloved mother’s name but with a tea infused with chamomile and lime blossom combined with my line of work – it was a match made in tea heaven.
Another secret travel indulgence is purchasing local art (whether big or small) from the places I visit throughout my adventures. At risk of sounding like a snob, no matter the price I have to absolutely love the piece so unfortunately it is a travel tradition not always kept if I don’t find something that ‘speaks to me.’ Hallelujah, Melbourne came through, though I had a suspicion it would. Head outside to the general market to find a stall called Annie’s Creation & Collection. Her artwork is detailed, intricate and interactive as the black and white prints are encouraged to be coloured in. I love the idea of the artist and the collector/customer both inputting their styles so that the customer becomes collaborator. Personally, I am all about the monochrome so will be keeping mine just the way they are.
Melbourne is a very structured city in terms of layout, particularly when compared with the chaos of Australia’s premiere settlement, Sydney. So you wouldn’t expect such an organised city to be a disguise for the maze of secret laneways that lay awaiting to be discovered. As previously mentioned they are an attraction for art enthusiasts, painters and tourists alike. But these laneways are more than just street studios but a space abundant in trendy cafes, boutique shops and bars. Avoid mainstream malls and thoroughfares for a uniquely Melbournian experience.
The Soup Place located in Centre Place deserves special recognition for embodying the concept of paying it forward. When escaping winters chill or bad weather patrons can duck into The Soup Place and purchase a bowl for themselves and for an extra $3.50 purchase a bowl to feed the homeless. Patrons are also encouraged to leave a post-it-note with a message of love and support. This concept is truly inspiring and I encourage everyone who finds themselves in Melbourne to pay the cafe a visit, however, if you’re looking to participate in a truly noble cause pay it forward options are also available online by clicking here.
Where did you stay?
Melbourne Pullman On The Park is close enough to the city and given its proximity to the MCG ideal for travellers venturing to Victoria for sporting events. The staff are very hospitable and considerate and the rooms clean, secure and comfortable. I didn’t want to leave! Apart from the fantastic service and location the hotel boasts an outdoor swimming pool that is heated!!! The only con was the lack of free wifi, which will set customers back a further $15.00… but c’est la vie.
How to get there?
Emirates offers four daily flights to Melbourne through its codeshare with Qantas and upon arriving travellers can take the Skybus into the city centre and St Kilda area. A round trip will cost $37.00 and given the airport is roughly 24 kilometres outside of the city I would personally avoid taking a taxi as the price will be exorbidant. The Skybus operates 24 hours a day if venturing to the city and between the hours of 6.00am – 7.00pm if headed to St Kilda.
From where I now live, Melbourne is roughly a 15 hour flight away but entirely worth every hour spent on the plane. The more I spend away from Australia, the more I fall in love with my country and for anyone visiting Australia you will come to realise that every state and territory offers something unique. Australia is an incredible puzzle and leaving without including a trip to Victoria’s capital will leave a whole in your masterpiece.
Melbourne, Mummy, Mazes – much needed medicine.
*Disclaimer: My posts are my personal views. They do not represent the views of Emirates*