So I was flying from New Zealand home to England at the time. And, as is usually the way when you choose the cheapest route home, my journey involved a ridiculous stop over in a major airport; the airport in question this time was Tullamarine, in Melbourne. I had exactly 24 hours from the time when plane was scheduled to land and my next to take off. Being the independent woman I am I decided I would put my bags in a locker and take a look at Melbourne while I was there, rather than trying aimlessly to find a good spot to nap in the airport or buy a green tea at the Starbucks and use their WiFi for as long as possible…
It’s pretty easy to get to the CBD but there isn’t an underground rail as in most large airports, instead I took the “Skybus”. It costs about $18-20 and takes around 30 minutes. It dropped me at a station right in the city called Southern Cross Station (the Southern Cross is a famous constellation and an Australian icon that many Australians have tattooed on their bodies I found out). Once I got to Southern Cross everything was sort of just at my doorstep. The trams in the city are free and there are SO many trams.
So off I went, out into the afternoon sunshine and towards a tram stop. A tram appeared within minutes and I was pleasantly surprised to see that people in Melbourne wait next to the doors while people get off the tram before they get on. It was all very polite and nice. I got off on the corner of a Swanston Street and Collins Street, as did most of the people on the tram. I was rushed off the tram by busy corporates on their lunch break and began walking along Swanston Street with no real destination in mind.
As I walked through the masses I clung onto my bag with my hands. I needn’t have bothered really; no one took a second glace at me if they looked at me at all. As I struggled onwards the smell of freshly squeezed oranges reached my nostrils and my stomach did a little cartwheel. I looked around and saw a tiny nook of a store; the doorway was draped in oranges to the point where it was almost hidden. I walked into the store and was greeted with a cool rush of sweet, fragrant air and Jamaican drumming music. The walls of the store were covered in chalkboards with amazing, colourful hand drawn menus all over them.
I settled for the ‘pina colada’ smoothie ($6.80) and was not disappointed. I walked out of the store called Tropicana and continued on Swanston Street. I walked for about 10 minutes until the street ended and I was looking at a huge intersection. A church on one corner, a pub on another, Federation square on the third and huge, old, yellow Flinder’s Street Station on the last. I decided to avoid the masses and walked to the Federation square side of the intersection. I walked across to a bridge and down into the gardens on the banks of the Yarra River. It was here, sipping my smoothie, looking up at the cityscape and enjoying the feeling of sun on my shoulders that I began to fall asleep. I knew it was happening so before I completely passed out I set an alarm on my phone. I highly recommended you also take a nap on the banks of the Yarra River while you are visiting Melbourne. I woke 2 hours later and got to my feet again. My smoothie had melted into a warm mush with questionable hygienic standards so I decided I should just get something to eat.
I walked back the way I came along Swanston Street and after about 30 minutes I went into a complex called ‘QV’. It had so many levels and it had such a confusing lay out it took me about 15 minutes to find the escalator to go up to the next level. Lucky for me I had walked into the food court so I had lots of good distractions to help me on my way. I chose to have ‘Sumo Salad’ for lunch. It costs $8 and I found that food in Melbourne was quiet expensive, nothing below $7 and a bottle of water costs about $4.
Perhaps I had just walked into a fancy shopping mall but I doubt it given the ‘everyday Joe’ kinds of people that were walking around. I took it down to the escalator to the bottom and came across a bowling alley, laser tag and something called an escape room which sounds far more sinister than it is. If I had of been with a group of people I would have given it a shot but instead I took a brochure and kept on my way. I crossed the road from QV and found myself outside something conveniently called ‘Melbourne Central’. It’s a big shopping center with a train station underneath. I found a cinema and watched the new Jurassic Park movie (2.5 stars out of 10).
Afterwards I was feeling a little tired so I made my way back to Southern Cross using the trams again and wondered back to the Skybus terminal. The next bus wasn’t for another 20 minutes so I crossed the road to a pub to take a look. I met a man at the bar that had lived in Melbourne his whole life and I got the low down about what had changed in that time over a gin and tonic (which was $9!?). Before I knew it I had missed the bus I had planned on taking but when I made it back to the Skybus terminal I still had more than enough time to get back to Tullamarine.
Melbourne was so easy to get around, it felt really safe and the people were nice and. I recommend it to anyone with enough time to leave the airport but only those who have enough money at the end of their trip to be spending more than they expect of food and drinks.
Bio: April Lipson decided to return to Melbourne and study. She currently writes and posts random musings on her blog.When she's not studying or writing you can find her traveling the world.