Tag Archives: Melbourne

Show me some Melbourne street art

www.travelola.orgI first became aware of street art tours when a fellow blogger posted photos of a trip that they’d been on in Buenos Aires. Street art seems to be growing in popularity and gaining acceptance; it’s been associated with enhancing community cohesion and giving disenchanted youths an outlet to express their frustrations. Of course there’s far more to it all, but I’m not the one to talk about this sub-culture. What do I know? I just like looking at some of the stuff. Little more.

With the rise of street art acceptance, street art tours were always an inevitable progression, and they’re too gaining in popularity. Go to London, San Franscisco, Bangkok or Melbourne and you can find a tour that promises to give you a taste of the latest contemporary art trend.

Whilst I have some questions about how such an underground scene sits within a commercial and mainstream context, I do lean towards street art over concept art, and so, following a tip off from a local, I skipped the tour and just went to the art direct.

This is easy enough for anyone to do as Melbourne’s laneways are infamous and printed up guides tell you exactly where to go. You’d struggle NOT to see any street art. But there is a good chance that without a guide you might miss the really good stuff, just like I probably did.

I’m also pretty sure, though, that there are walls of undiscovered street art away from the tourist eye, and like with any industry, what the mainstream get access to is hardly representative of the overall scene.

For now, this was all I was getting.


www.travelola.org www.travelola.org www.travelola.org www.travelola.org www.travelola.org

Do you reckon they’d let me buy the Ganesh spray job from Hosier Lane (see top pic)? Would anyone really notice if I bought those bricks, say for $1000,000? I’m just going to hunt down a Monopoly set.


Filed under art, australia, cities, culture, europe, oceania, travel, uk

Melbourne in a day

Image from wikipedia.org

Image from wikipedia.org

I’d never really rated city tours, but then I’d never really rated cities, and yet the times that I’ve merged these two personal indifferences, things have changed and I’ve changed my mind.

Would it work for Melbourne?

Back during my travels to Peru in 2011, I had bussed into Cusco full of apprehension, excited to immerse myself in the oft reported beauty of this Incan-colonial UNESCO World Heritage city, but Cusco just confused me. With a scruffy exterior that seemed no different to other South American cities, dingy hostels and streets of competing touts and tour agencies, it took Yonathan from Free Walking Tour Peru to show me the snippets of the other Cusco before I started to even like the place. I ended up staying for nearly two weeks.

Then, when I first arrived in Australia and had only one day in Sydney, Max from one of Sydney’s free walking tours gave me my city bearings, a condensed (yet relatively comprehensive) history lesson of the city and an introduction to an end-of-day-glass-of-wine buddy from Sweden. Sydney suddenly seemed to make sense and I was comfortable and ready for the city

So Melbourne. Should I do a tour? Wander around by myself? How would I get to see snippets of Melbourne that would show me why the city is so popular?

It’s really European’, said a friend, ‘there are all these cafés, and the music scene is great. The creative scene is great’. Push. Pull. Why would I chase Europe when I was in Australia? I love Europe in Europe. I want to see Aussie in Australia. But a vibrant creative scene? Music? Art? Yes, please.

I was staying at the Pullman on the edge of Albert Park, a twenty-minute tram ride from the city centre up the wide, tree-lined grandeur of St Kilda Road. Crammed in amongst tourists and sharp suited and booted business types, I watched how people scanned in and out with myki cards, I listened to an English couple tell their young boy that his grandparents would soon be visiting. And then I was there: Federation Square.


Arriving into the city


Federation square entertainment

I skirted a group watching a contortionist climb into a small glass box and made my way downstairs into The Melbourne Visitor Centre, an underground hive that swarmed with adults and teenagers and children, with Spanish and German and English, with leaflets on the Comedy Festival, on city eats, on tourist buses. It was almost too much. I took a ticket and waited to talk to an actual person and shut out the hum of confusion, indecision and excitement that was going on around me.

Twenty minutes later I was on board the free Melbourne Visitor Shuttle. Relative calm returned.

But there is only so much sitting and looking through a smeared window that a girl can do, so it wasn’t long – maybe two or three stops – before I stepped off the bus and walked through the Carlton Gardens towards Fitzroy. A couple posed for wedding photos in amongst the elm and English oak trees. Virgin whites against lush leafiness. It definitely was a visual contrast to the dry, barren browns of Far North Queensland scrub, or the eucalypts and pandanus of tropical northern New South Wales.


Carlton Gardens, Melbourne

In Fitzroy itself, I ambled along terraced residential roads and down boutique-lined streets, feasting my eyes on textiles and crafts and arts carefully arranged in window displays and drinking in the smell of freshly ground coffee rising from the cups of cool cats sitting outside indie cafés.


Terraced Fitzroy life

And then I seemed to go wrong because somewhere along Smith Street it all stopped being cute and cool, and signs and shops started to sprawl into a bit more of a chaos (or maybe it was just normality, but I wasn’t chasing normal-anywhere life in Melbourne).

I headed back towards Gertrude Street. Despite feeling a little intimidated by the trend on display, I took a seat inside Sonido, only to realise that – even in Australia – I had again been drawn back to South America. I ordered a black bean and feta arepa, and it was beautifully simple. And filling.


South American dining @ Sonido, Fitzroy

After handing over the solo experience baton to another female traveller I got back on and off the tourist bus a couple more times. I looped through the areas surrounding Lygon Street, up past shoe stores and pizza and gelati parlours, and then on through the grounds of the University of Melbourne .

In an effort to keep the day cheap I didn’t get out at the Queen Victoria Markets nor the harbour area but instead watched women, men and children clamber back on board laden down with bags and bags and bags of new purchases. Sculptures down the Harbour Esplanade distracted me from any further thoughts of retail therapy, particularly the upside down Cow up a tree sculpture said to draw attention to the issue of flooding and droughts in Australia.


Ready for some modern art?

Ending my Melbourne day tour down in the Arts Precinct was possibly a bad idea. I wandered around the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and I stood and stared, tried to make sense, to understand obscure splodges and installations, but clearly my creative evolution has some way to go as I remained baffled about what constitutes art in a modern world.

It seemed, although at times beautiful, to be a party of concept driven madness, and I wasn’t cool enough to get an invite to that party. Nope.


Capturing the sound of crystals. Interesting and thought provoking, but art? Okay, maybe.

And so I got back on a tram with a fair idea of where I’d head the next day for a follow up snoop around. I fumbled with my myki card, held it up against the scanner. This time it beeped, and I saw a load of credit disappear in a flash. As we trundled back down St Kilda Road, past the Royal Botanic Gardens and La Trobe’s cottage, I felt that end-of-city-day weariness and then, there it was, a teeny bit of homesickness, of longing for my family and friends.

Had Melbourne – with its café culture and the leafy façade, with its spacious layout and cultural buzz, with its European association – gotten under my skin and reminded me of a world I once loved? Or, was it showing me that I could maybe love a city, after all?

I stepped back off the tram into late afternoon sunshine and wrapped myself up in a scarf to fend off the fresh autumn breeze. Back at the hotel I took the lift up to the eighth floor, flung myself and my aching feet onto the bed and into the simple luxury of a nondescript hotel room. This, I thought, could be pretty much anywhere. It’s nice, sure, but nothing special. That, out there, however, is Melbourne. And Melbourne is, well Melbourne. Not England or a Euro blend, but Melbourne, familiar yet unique.

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An outsider’s view of St Kilda, Melbourne

I nearly applied for a job in St Kilda, back at the end of 2011. It was a job that would have merged my  experience in media, education and writing, but the timing wasn’t right. I’d only just taken voluntary redundancy from my teaching job in the UK and set off on some South American and Oceanic adventuring, and so I deleted the job from my saved list and pushed that idea (and St Kilda, whatever and wherever St Kilda was) into a later space.

And now, a year and half later, I find myself sitting in a fairly plush hotel room overlooking Albert Park in Melbourne, just around the corner from St Kilda. I have paper and pens, a fridge full of overpriced drinks, thousand threader sheets on the bed, fresh towels to wrap myself up in, and a bathroom full of pampering potential. But as much as I could sink into this room of contained comfort, my travel devil won’t let me. Go see stuff! Go do things!

I’m here with D-man who is speaking at an international conference, so the days are mine to do as I please, an opportunity for some solo travel snippets. But the nights, they are for sharing.

D-man, having lived for a time in Melbourne, knows where to take me, and we stride through Albert Park in a dizzy state of handholding and holidaying, down Fitzroy Street and to the top part of St Kilda. And I’m a little underwhelmed. I mean, it’s okay, nice enough, but just a nice enough street in a any city precinct.

We walk around the beachside, Luna Park with its gaping clown mouth glowing out in the dimming light. A man walks towards us, an awkward mess of long, straggly greying hair and missing teeth. I look at D-man, avoiding eye contact with the other. ‘How long you been married?’ he shouts after us. ‘16 years’ humours D-man. ‘You should see how she looks at you’, adds the stranger, and I’m amused at the reading of my eye contact avoidance. I’m also surprised at my discomfort, at my taking on of cautionary tales, and how I tonight seek reassurance from D-man. Where is my head at?

Acland Street Precinct is a whole lot more buzzy with lights and people and places to eat. We duck off to find Lentils As Anything and I’m back in my comfort zone surrounded by leaflets advertising meditation and yoga classes. I flick through a collection of creativity from a local writing group, and D-man and I chat life and eat wholesome food.

And I realise over the next few days of wandering in and out and around St Kilda that, despite some uppity potential that I’d been warned had started to tar the soul of place, it is still a place with some heart, creative intention and choice. Sure, I can eat at the expensive Italian or I can get a cheaper pizza from the neon-signed takeaway next door. I can posh shop it or just look for deals and the low-key options. It doesn’t have to be excessive. And there is still a creative spirit, from what I can see.

If I had applied for that job back in 2011 and been selected for what would have undoubtedly been a competitive position (St Kilda, I can see, is totally up there in terms of city living desirable), it would have been no bad thing. I could still have lived modestly, gone for morning runs in the park and beach strolls at sunset. I could even have paid off a good chunk of my annual rent by sub-leasing a room during the Grand Prix every March.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda. So often the case. And really, I’m pretty okay with just visiting.

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