After spending three non-stop months in the city of Sydney (my, how that’s gone fast!!), the hipster in me was tiring of glass crafted buildings and craving exposure to culture. Though Sydney can indeed be considered rich in many things, rich in culture it is not. So, when I was given four days’ leave from work, I decided to spend it on a whimsical visit to the cultural capital of Australia: Melbourne.
In spite of receiving only four hours of sleep the night before departure, I spent my first day wandering around as much of the city as I could manage; starting out from my hostel in the “hipster” hub of Fitzroy, and looping through Brunswick and Gertrude Streets all the way into the city – past Flinders Street Station, St Paul’s and Degraves Street – before returning through the beautiful Carlton Gardens.
The Nunnery is, arguably, the most wonderful hostel in the world. Boasting beautifully quirky interiors and perhaps the friendliest staff you’ll ever meet (dubbed “The Nuns” for added kitsch), this hostel feels a bit like a stay with your multicultural cousins at your grandparents’ house. Offering a free breakfast every morning (including a special, “gourmet” breakfast on Tuesdays with tea, jams and scones, amongst others), a weekly spring clean to ALL rooms, a well-planned social calendar AND a homely living room – with chess sets, vintage leather sofas and wooden furniture – the ex-convent offers accommodation in 4, 6-8 or 12 bed dorm rooms as well as single, double/twin or family rooms in a private guest house next door, and won’t put a hole in your pocket in the meantime. Usually, I am only really a “clean-room-comfy-bed-and-hot-shower-no-frills” kind of girl when it comes to accommodation, I fell in love with The Nunnery. So much so, that on Day One, I could quite happily have stayed there all day.
However, I am glad I didn’t. After dumping my bags and checking in (at the unusually early time of 12pm – go figure!), I set out for a wander. Knowing that Brunswick Street – known locally as THE place for all your one-off, boutique and vintage finds – was just around the corner, I set off for a shop. And was I impressed? Very much so. With op shops playing Johnny Cash and Pink Floyd, old warehouses having been converted into alternative brand discount stores, and independent coffee shops on every corner (not a Starbucks in sight!!), I knew this would be my kind of place. I stopped in the Brunswick St Bookstore, Swan Emporium, Zetta Florence and Madame Sou Sou (the best for books, boutique clothing, stationery and lunch, respectively), and really found it a wonder how I didn’t come out of Fitzroy penniless (and dripping with independent/boutique brand names).
Though there are plentiful trams in Melbourne, I then decided to take the 20 minute walk from Fitzroy into the city – past St Patrick’s Cathedral, Gordon Reserve and the Old Treasury Building to the premium designer mecca of Collins Street. With Prada, Chanel and Hermes adorning this street, I (in my $20 vintage dress) felt a little out of place. Okay, so it turns out not ALL of Melbourne is quirky and bohemian! Taking a left onto Swanston Street, however, brought me into the centre of Melbourne City as I was faced with Flinders Street Station – Federation Square, the Yarra River and the gorgeous St Paul’s Cathedral just a stone’s throw away – and therefore heaps of opportunity to take some great photos. Dinner was found at a Japanese/British takeaway restaurant serving sushi alongside fish & chips (you can find Sea Salt at 13 Degraves Street), by which time it had – in true Melbourne tradition – started to rain. A quick cappuccino at noteworthy Degraves Espresso Bar was followed by a tram ride back towards Fitzroy and a brisk walk through the stunning (and Imeanstunning) Carlton Gardens, before I arrived, soggy and cold, back at The Nunnery.
If there’s one thing I learned from my first day in Melbourne, it’s to be prepared for any weather. The city is known for it’s unpredictability and that you can have the weather of four seasons in one day. I’ll definitely be bringing my gum boots and raincoat next time! However, I look forward to seeing more of this city in the coming days. If the amazing architecture and culture I’ve already been exposed to is anything to go by, it’s only set to get better.