Short winter days in Melbourne

I’m entirely unused to spending just a few days in a place that will probably take years to know inside out. Having been to Melbourne several times over the past two decades (nothing like the passing of the years to show how much mileage you’ve gotten along with it), this has by far, been the longest gap in which I’ve eschewed one of the world’s most liveable and coolest city in favour of other far-flung places.

With four days, there was just too much to see, too much to eat, so little time. The rich, cultural diversity of this place can’t make it any swankier honestly, and the inner-city ethnic enclaves or neighbourhoods are probably what I prize most about this city, which is its greatest strength and possibly, weakness considering the unrest that happens from time to time.

That said, head to the small, unassuming place of Oakleigh and get lost in the numerous Greek offerings there; enter Springvale and Richmond (now a gentrified area) and inhale some Vietnamese pho; head to Glenferrie road and buy Indonesian grub; go for a molecular gastronomic fusion-type dinner…and the list goes on and on.

Renting a car helped immensely considering we were staying entirely out of the city centre in Heidelberg – the best cafes are tucked in odd corners and in various suburbs after all, and experiencing the winter quiet is one of the oddest but fondest of my memories. Going around without using toll roads was an exercise in patience but with the help of a 16-year-old Melways (a bulky street directory that the travel companion actually once owned and never threw out) and a very useful, pommy-sounding app called Waze, we managed.

Sometimes, getting around is like revisiting old haunts, which was what TC and I did. I insisted on going down the Mornington Peninsula, taking the scenic route past the freeway from Mt. Martha to Dromana to Rosebug and onward to Sorento, just to get away from the city. There wasn’t time to go to the Grampians or to do several vineyards as we tend to do in previous trips down under.

Not all sunshine and roses, obviously. The glitz is weighed down by junkies in gritty corners of the city, the property squeeze and the influx of immigrants that all my friends and relatives talk about and well, the horrors of traffic that TC attempts to regale me with, especially the dreaded hook-turns and driving with trams breathing down your neck. I couldn’t get over how expensive Melbourne had gotten nonetheless; the amount of snootiness with food is overwhelming at times (the food of the millennial – a fancy avocado toast – quite literally costs AUD $19-$20) and simply wished we had time to see the northern Victorian country towns.

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