View of the CBD and the Yarra River
We arrived in Melbourne exactly two weeks ago today and so far are incredibly impressed with this city. One of our most commonly exchanged thoughts has been, “Why aren’t more people talking about how great this city is?!” The parks, cafes, markets, interesting retail, music/art/food festivals, the beach, rivers, art-filled laneways, trams, flying foxes, parrots … all things we have seen or experienced in the past week!
We have been keeping a running list of our first impressions and have organized them into “things we love” and “things we (already) miss” about the U.S. and Washington, D.C. in particular.
THINGS WE LOVE
Tram on Brunswick Street
1. Trams — We have yet to decide if we will need to buy a car during our time here, but so far, a car seems unnecessary for around town trips because of the lovely trams! The tram network is set-up to primarily connect the surrounding suburbs (or, in U.S. terms, neighborhoods) to the CBD (central business district or, in U.S. terms, downtown). They run frequently and are pretty quick. There are also trains to access areas further away from the CBD, though we have yet to really experience them.
Public art in Fitzroy alley way
2. Art everywhere! — As we had heard so much about Melbourne’s laneways, we had a feeling that Melbourne would be a creative, art-filled city and have not been disappointed. There is public art everywhere, not just in the laneways but in every neighborhood. Melbourne’s love of art also extends to fashion. Melburnians generally dress well, and there are numerous, local fashion designers.
3. Endless, independent retail — This city is known (at least within Australia) to be a shopping mecca, and it certainly lives up to its reputation. The CBD and almost every suburb we have visited is packed with stores … retail streets that literally go on for miles! Granted we haven’t been here long enough to recognize the local chains, but they largely seem to be independent shops and boutiques. We don’t know how half of them afford to stay open (cheap rent?).
View of CBD from the Shrine of Remembrance
4. Parks — Botanical gardens, river walks, English gardens, sports fields. We can’t seem to walk more than a few blocks without finding another park!
5. No tax, no tips — Eating out in this city is expensive (entrées tend to be $20 and up), but at least the price you see in the menu is the price you pay … no tax is added and tips are never expected.
THINGS WE MISS
1. Internet — By far the thing we miss most about the United States is easy, fast, reliable internet access. We didn’t have internet for our first week (our hotel doesn’t have internet) until we finally bought a dongle, a portable wifi hotspot. It works okay for basic internet use, but it can be slow and unreliable. We hope to figure out another solution in the next month or so.
2. Capital Bikeshare — Washington, D.C.’s bikeshare system is awesome, and we had come to love having it as a transportation option while we were living in the District. Melbourne also has bikeshare, but it is limited to the downtown so can’t really be used as a means of commuting to work or exploring the neighborhoods (suburbs) surrounding the CBD. Fortunately, Melbourne does have an extensive system of bicycle lanes and trails and appears to be a very bikable city. We will be buying bicycles again very soon.
3. No smoking — Smoking is banned in bars, restaurants, and other public spaces in every U.S. city we have lived for the past six years. We’re pretty sure that this is the case in Melbourne as well but are still surprised by how many Melburnians smoke.
4. Inexpensive restaurants, ice cream, alcohol — While restaurants are expensive, it is pretty easy to find reasonably priced food in the grocery store and markets — that is unless you are buying ice cream or alcohol! Ice cream frequently costs at least $8 a pint, and a 6-pack of beer for under $20 seems to be rare.
5. Real bacon — It’s still summer in Melbourne and one of our favorite summertime sandwiches is the BLT (mmm … crispy bacon and fresh tomato and lettuce). BLTs are also common on lunch menus in this city, so we have tried a couple since arriving (not to mention bacon as a breakfast side dish). Unfortunately, each time we have been disappointed. The bacon is closer to fried, fatty ham or somewhat like Canadian bacon. We have heard it is possible to get American-style bacon, known as streaky bacon, here. I just need to find it before Justin tries to make his own!