I wasn’t planning on writing another Monday travel post quite so soon, but I’m thinking of and praying for all my friends and family in Melbourne as they start a new stage of lockdown, with curfews and restrictions that are hard for me to imagine. And so they and their beautiful city are on my heart today.
I’ve visited Melbourne many times. So much that it’s been strange to now have had six months without a visit. It was the last place I visited, in late February when it was starting to become apparent that we’d all be travelling a lot less this year.
But I don’t have a huge number of photos from Melbourne, and certainly none that come anywhere close to capturing all its beauty and diversity. Perhaps because it is so familiar and doesn’t need recording for me to remember. Perhaps because I’m usually there to connect with people and work, not as a tourist. Or perhaps because I’ve always assumed I’d be back soon.
What do I love about Melbourne?
Growing up in Sydney, there’s a deep-seated inter-city rivalry with our country’s second largest city. Iconic globally recognised landmarks or quirky cosmopolitan laneways? 2000 or 1956? NRL or AFL? Traffic or trams? Harbour or River? Most well known or most livable? Less rainy days or less rain? There’s a good reason our politicians needed to find a compromise and build the capital somewhere in between!
And living in Adelaide for my adult life, there is a different kind of rivalry. Perhaps more of a one-sided younger sibling vibe that may at time verge on an inferiority complex in our side. Yes, we know that lots of things we do you have already done first, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t cool in our own way. (And most of us have almost forgiven you for the Grand Prix).
But spending a fair bit of time in Melbourne for work, study, and collaboration with various people over the last decade has truly developed my love for this city!
Melbourne has a great cosmopolitan vibe. From street art to high fashion, relaxed river walks to bustling nightlife. And plenty of amazing food! Delights from all over the world, not to mention everything artisanal from chocolate to coffee, dumplings to dessert.
(It was Melbourne, rather than Paris, where I had my first macaron)
I love the markets, large and small, with their fun and funky vibes.
The city views from up high are spectacular, whether from a ritzy event at the Eureka SkyDeck …
… or from a sneaky visit to the bathroom in a hotel on Collins St.
Melbourne also has a great arts scene.
(My second to last visit, late last year, was a crazy 18 hour whirlwind with an equally crazy friend to see a stunning musical whose themes resonate in the current season)
Melbourne loves its sport and does its sporting events so well.
Even for someone who is less “devoted fan” and more “casual spectator”, the atmosphere can’t be beat.
(Put 80,000 Aussies into the MCG for the Commonwealth Games and we all become instant aficionados of shot put, pole vault, and long jump)
What have I learned from Melbourne?
I hope it doesn’t seem unkind to reflect on all these great things about a city when its people can’t currently enjoy them. But I think part of lamenting includes naming what we appreciate (and therefore miss). All these things make Melbourne a great place to visit and we know they will again, hopefully in the not too distant future.
But even more than all the city has to offer, what I love most about Melbourne are the people I know there. And they are the ones who have much to teach me, as they have in the time I’ve spent there with them. Melburnians know what they like, they love who they are, and they lead in so many innovative ways. Even in this last week, I have been challenged, encouraged, and inspired by many Melbourne friends as they respond to the situation they find themselves in with courage, grace, ingenuity, and good humour.
We Aussies love a good inter-state rivalry. But one danger we currently face is that our usually good-natured competitiveness, comparison, and ribbing can too easily turn into compassionless judgment, fear, or disdain. I hope that reflecting on this beautiful city invites all of us to stand with our neighbours in Melbourne today, praying for them, and looking in hope to how this challenging time will draw out their strength, community, innovation, and sense of fun in all kinds of new ways.
You’ve got this Melbourne. We love you.
And we’re cheering you on.