Tag Archives: Australia

Today is a nice day to be in Melbourne (apart from the weather!)

After spending the weekend in Sydney, then teaching a class in Adelaide this morning, this afternoon I am jumping on a plane to Melbourne to speak at a conference for the next few days. I’m trying not to compare these three cities, because I love them all, and I just want to enjoy each one for what it is! Growing up in Sydney, there was often an implicit attitude that Melbourne was second-best. Now I live in Adelaide, where some people still view Melbourne as the enemy, mostly due to our seeming inferiority complex, football enmity and the “stealing” of the Grand Prix (we need to let it go Adelaide, it’s been 20 years).

Looking down the Yarra river toward the MCG
Looking down the Yarra river toward the MCG

But I’m not ashamed to say that I am a fan of Melbourne. I’ve spent quite a bit of time there over the last few years due to work and study, and it has really grown on me. The city is well laid out and easy to navigate, the public transport system is reliable and extensive, and the range of food, art, sporting and other cultural options continues to grow every year.  The weather is even beautiful some of the time (and not so nice other times, usually both within the same day). But even in the rain, Melbourne has plenty of charm.

Full house at the MCG for the 2006 Commonwealth Games
Full house at the MCG for the 2006 Commonwealth Games
What do I love about Melbourne?

Melbourne has some great little laneways and arcades filled with quirky shops and hidden culinary delights. Some recent favourites for dinner include 11 Inch Pizza tucked away on Equitable Lane and the Hutong Dumpling Bar on Market Lane, and for dessert, macarons from La Belle Miette, Hardware Lane or Little Cupcakes on Degraves Street.

The old shot tower inside a modern shopping mall in the Melbourne CBD
The old shot tower inside a modern shopping mall in the Melbourne CBD

The Queen Vic markets are always worth a weekend wander, as is the Rose St artists market in Fitzroy, which is just around the corner from the excellent Veggie Bar on Brunswick Street (I’ve taken staunch carnivores there and even they have loved it.)

Part of the Melbourne skyline
Part of the Melbourne skyline

Melbourne has some gems of museums, and there are often visiting exhibitions of all kinds. The modern Melbourne Museum, right next to the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building in the beautiful Carlton gardens, is a lovely spot with plenty to see and learn from.

Early morning fog at the Royal Exhibition Building
Early morning fog at the Royal Exhibition Building

At night, strolling along the Southbank precinct provides a great atmosphere for people watching with buskers and street artists, lots of places to eat and drink, and the strangely mesmerising “Gas Brigade” of timed fireballs along the river outside the Crown Casino.

The Australian Open
The Australian Open

And of course, Melbourne is famous for its sport. I’ve loved dropping in to the Tennis at the Australian Open, the F1 Grand Prix at Albert Park, and both AFL games and cricket matches at the MCG  – they are all well worth attending if you get the chance. I’d also highly recommend the MCG tour during the day, with time to look and play in the National Sports Museum. Even for a non-sporting-fanatic, this was good fun.

Near empty MCG tour, with some of the Australian cricket team training
Near empty MCG tour, with some of the Australian cricket team training
What have I learned from Melbourne?

Most of all, spending time in Melbourne has reminded me (as a Sydney/Adelaide person) not to judge a book by what other people say about its cover! Every place has its beauty, its charms, its lessons and its challenges. There is always something to enjoy and something to discover, wherever you go, if you are willing to look, listen and learn.

Bridge over the Yarra
Bridge over the Yarra

I’ve also learned that Australians will always compete with each other, and pay each other out, particularly about their home towns. We have that luxury because they are all pretty great, because we live in a country that is rich materially, as well as rich culturally due to those who have chosen to make their home here from all over the world. So it’s no surprise to me that Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne consistently rank in lists of the world’s most liveable cities. I’m grateful that I have had the privilege of exploring and enjoying all three of them. I pray that the people of my nation might grow in gratefulness for all that we have, and in generosity to share it with all those who might wish to join us in the future.

Today would be a good day to be in Canberra

Parliament House
Parliament House

It’s the Australia Day long weekend, and while there are some challenges celebrating all of our history and all of what is happening here at the moment, it’s still a good opportunity to appreciate this wonderful country. And so if I could spend today anywhere, I’m thinking our nation’s capital would be a good choice.

View of Canberra from Mt Ainslie
View of Canberra from Mt Ainslie

I think sometimes Canberra gets a bad rap … or it just gets forgotten. Perhaps it suffers the most from Australia’s cultural cringe. While most people wouldn’t dream of visiting England without London, or France without Paris, even many Australians don’t have much time for Canberra. Perhaps it is because our media insists on using the name of the city as a synonym for our federal government … and not usually in a positive light. Or because we think it’s not quite as ______ (insert adjective here) as Sydney or Melbourne or London or New York. But I’m a fan of Canberra and I think it is well worth a visit.

Heading out onto the Hume Hwy
Heading out onto the Hume Hwy

I’ve been to Canberra many, many times, including as a young child on holidays with the family and on a school trip in Grade 6. The year I was 18 I lived about an hour away and it was the nearest city and since moving to Adelaide it’s become a good stopover when driving to Sydney. Some good friends have lived there for the last few years so a longer visit is always nice too.

The view from Parliament House
The view from Parliament House

But preparing this blog made me realise that I don’t really have many good photos of Canberra! That’s partly because the first few times I visited I had a film camera! 🙂 But could it also be due to that old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt?” Have I not thought it important to take photos, or have I just always assumed I would be back so there is no urgency?

This is the kind of photo I used my film on when I was in Grade 6 - lining up to enter the Mint
This is the kind of photo I used my film on when I was in Grade 6 – our class lining up to enter the Royal Australian Mint
What do I love about Canberra?
Black Mountain Tower
Black Mountain Tower

I actually quite like its location – chosen as a compromise city, neither Sydney nor Melbourne, it’s in some ways in the middle of nowhere, but I’ve had some good times driving the Hume and Federal Highways. If you take the time to stop and look it can be quite pretty and peaceful.

Somewhere on the road to Gundagai
Somewhere on the road to Gundagai 

It’s also one of the few areas of Australia where you might see snow in the winter.

Snow between Canberra and Goulburn
Snow between Canberra and Goulburn

I love visiting Parliament House and seeing what our politicians are up to. There’s usually something interesting going on somewhere if you look.

The Australian Girls Choir performing in the Great Hall
The Australian Girls Choir performing in the Great Hall

Old Parliament House has a great exhibit on our political history and also a nice café for lunch. I’m a bit of a legal geek, so a visit to the High Court is always on my list, to see our nation’s top judges in action.

Old Parliament House
Old Parliament House

Lake Burley Griffin is pretty and the Carillon on Aspen Island is a great spot. One of my Canberran friends planned her wedding there, although the afore-mentioned snow made for a last minute change of plans.

The 55 bell-Carillon on Aspen Island
The 55 bell-Carillon on Aspen Island

As a kid, Questacon was always a favourite stop with plenty of hands on science exhibits. We also loved just driving around the various embassies, trying to guess which was which.

Corrugated iron cows on the NZ embassy lawn
Corrugated iron cows on the NZ embassy lawn

As an adult, my favourite places include the War Memorial, National Gallery, National Library, Portrait Gallery and the new Museum – these all really are world-class treasures.

Looking out from the tomb of the unknown soldier, Australian War Memorial
Looking out from the tomb of the unknown soldier, Australian War Memorial
What have I learned from Canberra?

As I child I think Canberra was probably the place that started my interest in law and politics.

The Prime Minister is currently being updated … (Taken the day after Julia Gillard's ascent to the office)
The Prime Minister is currently being updated … (Taken the day after Julia Gillard’s ascent to the office)

As an adult, particularly after visiting many other national capitals around the world, I think Canberra holds its own and Australians should be proud of our democracy. There is much about my country that I take for granted, including the opportunity I have to freely critique it (which I’m sure I will continue to do). And if I’m honest, Canberra is probably a place I have taken for granted too. Next time I visit I will make sure to take some better photos! There is plenty there to enjoy and also much to reflect on as we continue our national journey.