The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Posts Tagged ‘Melbourne’

Melbourne – The Cultural Capital of Australia

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on March 24, 2010

IMG_6487After landing in Melbourne at 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon, we knew we wouldn’t have much time to explore the city.  Sunday, like in the States, establishments generally close early, or don’t open at all.  Indeed, during the entire week, most retail establishments close at 5 or 6 pm, with the weekly exception of Thursdays.  Don’t ask us why, but at first we didn’t believe it, until my brother took us to the mall on our way from the Hunter Valley at about 6:10 pm on a Tuesday (I think, the days have all run together for us), and everything was, indeed, closed.  We weren’t sure what to expect in Melbourne when we didn’t even get off the plane until 3.

We collected our luggage, which took longer than we expected, got our rental car, and headed into the city.  The airport isn’t in the city, really, but more out in the populated suburbs. If you’ve ever been to the Baltimore-Washington International or Dallas-Fort Worth airports, you’ll know what I mean.  After 25 minute, we arrived at our hotel in the city.  We stayed at the Travelodge South Bank.

When I first saw that we were staying at a Travelodge, I was a little concerned.  I’ve stayed in Travelodges in the States, and its generally an economy hotel line.  We have no problems staying in economy hotels, and in general, some of the most interesting hotels are boutique hotels that have branded themselves as economy hotels (I think of the Hotel Seattle as one of the most interesting hotels I have ever stayed in, but no frills to say the least.), but the Travelodge we were thinking of simply wasn’t commensurate with the quality of accommodation we had enjoyed to this point on our trip.

Travelodge in Australia is simply something different from what it is in the U.S.  An 11-story hotel a block off the Yarra River, tucked right into the South Bank shopping and dining district of Melbourne, the Travelodge was yet another fantastic hotel our travel agent had found for us.

We checked into our hotel room, and scored a room on the tenth floor “overlooking” the river.  It was small, but we were generally very impressed.  We were, in fact, a block from the river, in a big city.

IMG_2225It turned out to be a wonderful room.

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IMG_2228 The shower, also (not pictured), was nice and spacious.

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Our room even had a little kitchenette.  We moved our stuff in and, wanting to take advantage of every minute we had while the city was still awake, headed out to check out what Melbourne was all about.

We knew the the 2010 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival would be going on while we were there, but we weren’t really sure what that would entail.  Fortunately, the Festival was having an event RIGHT outside our hotel, right on the river.  It was a wine tasting event, with Wineries from all over the Yarra Valley.  Unfortunately, when we got there at 4:30, they weren’t selling anymore tickets, as the event closed at 5 pm.  Bummer, indeed.

So we took the opportunity to go hike around the city.  We knew we didn’t have much time before the sun went down, so we made the decision to walk up and down the river for the sites, and then catch the free city tram to see where all it took us.  We walked up the river, and found that Melbourne was clearly more into modern architecture than other cities we’d visited in Australia.

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This is a pedestrian bridge that crosses the river, right by our hotel.  As we crossed the first bridge, we were able to see the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (known affectionately as “the MCG”).  Widely regarded as the Mecca of all sports in Australia, it is home to cricket, rugby, and “Aussie rules” football games alike (“footie”).  It seats nearly 100,000 fans.  They had tours, but we figured tours probably didn’t run on Sundays at 6 pm.  I would have liked to have toured it, to be honest.  My father is a HUGE footie fan, and my brother is a big cricket fan.  I also would have liked to have seen a footie game, but I didn’t think we had enough time to get through a whole sporting event on such short notice, although they probably did have some kind of test going on Sunday night.

IMG_6441Cricket matches are a whole different ballgame (literally and figuratively) in terms of time, since some games go on for days.  I’ll never forget when one of my brother’s friends came to the States, and they went to a baseball game.  In the middle of it she asked, “So, when do they stop for tea?”  THAT statement embodies fully one-third of what cricket is all about, as far as I can tell.

IMG_6444 We never did figure out what this building was, but it was pretty cool.

IMG_6449And the spire in the background of this photo looks like an antenna of some sort (maybe a local TV or radio broadcast), but besides that, we never got a good look a the spire from the ground-level.

While Melbourne has some pretty cool architecture, we did find that it still had some “heritage listed” things to be seen.  Right next to the “cool” building above, was this church.  We didn’t see how old it was, but it was really well-kept, and just looked fantastic. IMG_6447

IMG_6480 Here is the local train station (Flinders Station, after Matthew Flinders the explorer, and captain of the HMS Investigator).

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IMG_6478 From the train station, we jumped on the free city tram.  This particular tram loop, which runs around the downtown area, is free and runs everyday from 9 am – 6 pm.  Some days it runs a little later, too (Thursday and Saturday, maybe?).

IMG_6477 The whole tram loop took about 45 minutes.  We would have taken the time to get off and look around a little more, but we knew we didn’t have the time before the tram stopped running.  It did show us some interesting sites around town, though.

IMG_6450 In addition to the Food and Wine Festival, there was a Flower and Garden Festival, and the Thai Culture and Food Festival.  It was a festival-ridden city!

IMG_6462 We saw a handful of horse-drawn carriages, but we didn’t see where to GET them, otherwise, we might have indulged in a carriage ride together.

IMG_6471 A gilded light pole in front of some gorgeous building.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name or function of the building, nor could I get a good picture of it because the tram was moving!  A similar light pole was on one of the bridges.

IMG_6440 Once we got off the tram, we headed back to the hotel.  The city was generally rolling it’s welcome mats up, except several of the restaurants.  We went looking for a bite, as we didn’t have much of a lunch, since we were flying.  Before we found somewhere to eat, though, we saw a couple nice vistas of the downtown area.

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IMG_6486We found a couple places to eat that just didn’t speak to us, but then we found the Blue Train Cafe.  We stopped in and had a fabulous dinner, overlooking the beautiful Yarra River.

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Melbourne’s Blue Train Cafe

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on March 23, 2010

On Sunday, after flying from Cairns to Melbourne, checking into our hotel and meandering through the city for a bit (city post to come soon!) the Husband and I were hungry! We had had breakfast at the Cairns airport and I got a fruit smoothie before our wandering through Melbourne – other than that, we’d had nothing to eat during the day.  We decided to check out what restaurants were available in South Bank overlooking the Yarra River, right near our hotel.  We came upon Blue Train Cafe, were drawn in by the Specials board, and were hooked by the menu.

IMG_2247 Upon entering the restaurant, we saw funky colors and a good looking dessert display case so we knew to plan accordingly through our dinner.

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We flipped through the menu, although I knew I was going to have one of the specials.

IMG_2231 We had hoped to sit outside but it was pretty full from the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.  Luckily, we were seated almost as if we were outside 🙂

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To start, the Husband and I were intrigued by the name of one of the beers – the Mountain Goat (I think from Victoria).  I ordered a “pot” while he ordered a “pint.”  We didn’t know how big a pot would be, but I knew it would be smaller which made me happy (I often have difficulty getting through one glass of beer or wine, forgetting about it as I eat my meal).

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We were impressed with the Mountain Goat and would definitely order it again.

I was excited to see reasonably priced salads on the menu and got one to start.  It was a rocket, beetroot, goat cheese, and pine nut salad.  Yum!

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The Husband saw Bread and Dukkah on the menu and remembering how he enjoyed it at the Capricorn Resort he decided to try it again.  This time the olive oil was already mixed in.  (It’s hiding there at the bottom.)

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My entree was amazing.  I ordered the special – Gnocchi with Duck and Spinach Ragu.  The gnocchi was as good as the dish we had at Romano’s on Hamilton Island.  The duck and spinach ragu was to die for.

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The Husband ordered the Singapore Noodles.  It had chicken, pork, bean sprouts, scallions, and capsicum mixed with noodles.  He thought it was fine, but compared to the gnocchi, he wished he had ordered the same as me.

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As we mentioned earlier, we knew we had to have dessert after seeing the display case.  The Husband went back to double check, but I knew exactly what I was having… chocolate mousse! Even the dish it was in was edible chocolate.  A bit spongey but still quite good!

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The Husband ordered a flourless chocolate cake which he adored.

IMG_2243 Overall, this was an excellent meal and well priced (in Australian metropolitan standards at least).  The service was quick and friendly and how to pay was much easier to figure out (there was a sign!).  The restaurant also offers breakfast and lunch which we imagine would be good.  Two thumbs up from these Americans!




Blue Train Café on Urbanspoon

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