Exploring hidden Melbourne on foot

Blog on 18 Mar , 2015
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Why take the tram when there’s so much to see on foot?

Ah Melbourne. Bulging with activity, breathless with action and beguiling with gorgeous art and architecture. If you need reminding why Melbourne has been voted the World’s Most Liveable City for four years running, maybe it’s time you stepped off the tram and took a good long constitutional. I did so recently, and here’s what I discovered.

After an early morning meeting at Melbourne Central’s popular Plantation Specialty Coffee, I decided to turn right and do the town instead of turning left and catching my tram home. Pleasantly caffeinated and pastried-up, I found the allure of dappled morning sunlight and my Instagram addiction too much to resist and spent the next few hours being a human rendition of Stumbleupon, pinging between streets and laneways, tram stops and rooftops.

First up, I wandered into the State Library of Victoria to savour its towering reading rooms, gorgeous artwork and its ever popular chess lounge …

State Library of Victoria  State Library entrance  Dudes doing chess, State Library

The stand out exhibit was Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library, which showcased the debonair fashionistas who over the last 150 years have shaped Melbourne’s vibrant counter-culture. Who knew there had always been an alternative culture? I thought my friends and I invented it in the 80s!

Consorting in opium dens and cigar lounges, brothels and lofts, these erstwhile city workers, artistés, writers and communists, collectively known as Bohemians, multi-handedly sowed the seeds for the future “world’s most liveable city”. The stitches of their work may be invisible to the naked eye, but we can wave our fingers in the general direction of these one-time wastrels and say hallelujah, your idle lives produced something magical. And for that we salute you.

Bohemian Melbourne exhibition, State Library  I am an anarchist. So what?

As a final treat, the exhibition closed with a fabulous homage to alternative rockers Died Pretty, whose legendary song Stoneage Cinderella, which I saw them perform live at a raucous gig at the University of WA in 1986, was playing on rotation. Oh the joy of hearing it once again, while also gazing upon the actual vinyl single which had been nailed to the wall. Such simple pleasures.

Died Pretty - Stoneage Cinderella

Alas, I feel almost cruel to have mentioned the Bohemian Melbourne exhibition because it has now closed (I admit I’ve been a tad tardy in posting this blog, sorry!). Never mind though because a visit to the State Library is always guaranteed to please so try not to feel too bad.

Then I wandered up to the National Gallery of Victoria, known to most as the NGV, to soak up some world class art in photogenic gallery spaces that could easily double as film sets.

National Gallery of Victoria water wall

NGV foyer bathed in light

Another must-do summer attraction is the Night Market at the Queen Victoria Market. This lavish tapestry of live music, giant dragons, buzzy atmosphere and 60 head-spinningly delicious food traders serving up a world of street food, is hard to put into words. Shown below are the maestros at Hoy Pinoy whipping up the best dang Philippino street food outside Manila; delicious chargrilled peaches with caramel crunch, cream and mint from Mr Peach; and a divine Polish pork slider from the slider dude who’s name totally escapes me (sorry, slider dude!). YUMMO! (5pm-10pm every Wednesday until 25 March).

Hoy Pinoy, Philippino street food  Mr Peach, yes please  Pork slider

Then, back in my local hood in the industrial dockside suburb of Footscray, a random stroll can beget all manner of artistic delights. Earnest scratchings from unknown poets turn walls into fonts of all knowledge. Classy murals make me wonder if Banksy is in town. Ethnically-inspired streetscapes that resemble Addis Ababa or Saigon give me complete wanderlust, and funky eateries like the Footscray Milking Station and Guerilla Espresso keep peckishness and caffeine addictions at bay.

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If you haven’t checked out your local burb or meandered through the streets of our city lately, what are you waiting for?

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