Australia Part I: Melbourne

Melbourne is easily one of the most livable cities I have ever been to. The place is clean, green, and prosperous. The people are friendly and polite with just enough hip to keep the place from feeling provincial or square. Neighborhoods are beautiful, well connected, and chock a block with cafes, bookstores, and small shops. The central business district is lively, the river front is lined with arts, entertainment, food, shopping, and recreation, and the Docklands area is coming to life with glossy offices, condos, and restaurants. And there is not a Gap or Banana Republic in sight.

The city is like an amalgam of the best of the best of North America and Europe. A lot that is shiny and new integrated with a lot that is quaint and old. But it has its own distinctive style. The language, cultural references, flora and fauna, and temporal and geographic isolation from North America and Europe make it seem like some odd, wonderful, parallel universe. Things seem very familiar yet very different at the same time.

Parks in Melbourne

Seeing all of the green on maps of Melbourne really doesn’t prepare one for what the city looks like on the ground. I have never seen a city with as much park space as Melbourne. It seemed like every time we turned around there was some lovely green spot woven into the fabric of the city. We were able to make the half hour walk from our hotel to the central business district almost entirely in green space.

Even in winter these are really lovely places to be. Many trees were leafless but there was still plenty of green, plenty of blue sky, and plenty of sun. With high temperatures in the low 60s it was definitely jacket and scarf weather but perfect for finding a nice bench in the sun.

In the early evening as we would walk back to our hotel we were amazed by the number of joggers out and about. It was as if every Melbournian hurried home from the office, changed into running gear, and hit the trails. And these weren’t really casual jogs either, these people really keep up the pace.

Transit in Melbourne

The trams, trains, and buses in Melbourne are really a thing to behold—or better yet, to use. The tram system alone is a marvel. Creating a comprehensive grid across the central business district and the inner suburb neighborhoods, this is not some anemic North American attempt at light rail transit. Instead of one or two lines connecting the airport and the convention center like most modern American systems, the system in Melbourne really makes it easy to get around the entire city. (This is like the kind of streetcar systems that used to be a part of most American cities before General Motors and the petroleum industry set out to systematically destroy those systems in favor of bus service.) And where the tram doesn’t go, there is commuter rail and buses to fill in the gaps.

The Melbourne system uses a variety of rolling stock that includes quaint old street cars to the most modern tram cars and everything in between. Not only is the tram system far quieter than buses, but they emit no exhaust, and, well, they just look pretty.

Australia Here I Come

Hey everyone. The porch will be empty for the next few weeks. We are headed off to Australia. We will spend time in Melbourne and Sydney as well as five days on Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Sigh.
We managed to snag first class seats using frequent flyer awards (ah, the joy of planning vacation 331 days in advance). I can’t wait to sack out in my lie-flat seat on the 14-hour Pacific crossing.
So, a perfect time for all of you to catch up on previous posts. If you scroll through the archives there is a little something for every one.
For my birthday the other Mr. MyPorch had 12 of Sue’s world famous Whoopie Pies air shipped from Monhegan Island, Maine. As I note in this post from last year, Sue makes the best Whoopie Pies on the planet.