Sunday, August 2, 2015

Melbourne City Tour: Next Stop - Arcades & Lanes

We got off the tour bus close to the Bourke Street Mall (Hahahaha, I really thought that it is a real shopping mall building!) and went with a different tour guide who specialises in the Arcades tour. We were told it would be a walking tour around the arcades and lanes. Oh well, no arguments from me.....I love window shopping!

First on the list was the beautifully maintained "Royal Arcade", built in 1869 but recently refurbished but made to ensure it remains authentic with its Victoria era past. The arcade has been a fixture in the Golden Mile Heritage Walk. 

I love the high ceilings which gives off natural lighting, the shops as well are very understated and elegant. The guide stopped at the Gaunt Clock which chimes every hour and these 2 mythical figures are, Gog and Magog placed on both sides. I really don't know the story (as I was busy with my window shopping) about these two coz I heard only the last bit of the guide's explanation. 

With the most tempting (and a popular "second look") --- the pastry display from the Hopetoun Tea Rooms at the next Block Arcade, which really looks yummy!

We continued on to another arcade and then several small alleyways/laneways which is typically crammed with small cafes (some are literally, hole-in-the-wall type of cafes that I really love), chairs and tables strewn outside, the smell of coffee wafting through the air with groups of friends lazily chatting through as if they don't have jobs or classes to go back to. The cafe culture here in Melbourne is taken really seriously, judging from the packed seats in all the cafes we passed by.

I just love it! The atmosphere is so great!

The walls are covered in artsy graffiti, there was an occasional singer or artist either playing a flute or a violin. I wish I can just stay here and have my cup of cappuccino and just soak in the vibe!

We stopped off in Degraves Street, since we opted for the Grand Tour which is a full day tour we have to go back again to the Grayline office in Federation Square after lunch to continue with our tour.

Melbourne City Tour : Next Stop - Queen Victoria Market

Downtown Melbourne, especially the CBD area is a great place to walk around. Old and new buildings stood next to each other, the trams, cars, even the pedestrians create such a unique  and striking blend of being old world albeit a little cosmopolitan and hip. I am in love with my first Australian city!

Our tour guide told us we have an hour and a half to roam around the Queen Victoria Market. The market's name just drove home the point of the country's membership in the Commonwealth and that it is a territory that used to be a part of the British empire (my head just couldn't get around the fact that in Europe where the cradle of modern civilization is from, most of the countries there still practice monarchy even in the 21st century --- a bit antiquated and out of date). 

Too much over-thinking on a holiday hehehehe, so off we went........I so love markets!

Again, there is a little bit of history in this place. This open air market has been in existence since the late 1800s, and has continued to be the source of fresh produce and meats for the Melbournians for decades.

The first place we went to is a huge covered hall full of clothing items, reminded me of the "ukay-ukay"stalls back home. I'm sure most of the items displayed there either came from China or just are plain brand rip-offs (or maybe both).
This would not have been out of place in any Asian country --- parang ukay ukay lang! lol
We went inside the different zones (the market is divided into several zones, there is a deli hall, a meat & fish hall, the seafood section, etc) while munching on the beef jerky we purchased from one of the shops. 

The covered food arcades are definitely a delight! Shops selling different varieties of meats, cheeses, breads. Here, they are so big into the fresh and organic farm produce so everywhere you turn there are shops selling organic this and that.

There are also a few cafes where people were lining up for a cup of espresso or cappuccino (must be very popular). We also lined up for ours --- as we haven't had any breakfast at all. 

Loved the vibe.....loved the colorful graffiti in the walls outside!

This food truck selling doughnuts is so popular that the line snakes out all over the place. I would have wanted to also try how tasty it might be, but we just don't have the time to queue up.

Melbourne City Tour : Next Stop - Fitzroy Garden + Captain Cook's Cottage

Just close to the St. Patrick's Cathedral is the beautifully laid out, Fitzroy Gardens. Named after the previous Governor-General, Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy, the park has enjoyed a long history of being one of the most important parklands in the state of Victoria since it was first laid out in the late 19th century.
Statue near the Conservatory

Despite coming over during winter time when the beauty of its surroundings is not at its peak, the park still manages to exude tranquility and perfection with its soaring elm trees lining its paths. 

My niece in her best jump shot.....I also tried but.....

Don't really know much about the reasons why Captain Cook's cottage was transported all the way from England to Melbourne, and had it shipped in hundreds of crates to ensure all the pieces can be put back together in the Fitzroy Gardens. Or maybe because, Captain James Cook is considered the discoverer of the Australian East Coast (must be that!).

Anyhow, it does look picturesque with its old bricks style building complete with volunteers wearing 18th century outfits designed to make the visitor feel as if transported back to the time when Captain Cook's must have been residing in the cottage. 

The old lady behind us is one of the 18th century-garbed volunteers
For me though I prefer the Sinclair's Cottage, built for the head gardener of Fitzroy Gardens back in the 1800s. James Sinclair and his family used to live in this house also.

Melbourne City Tour: First Stop - St. Patrick's Cathedral

We braved the cold morning, walked the streets of Melbourne coz of an early pick-up time of 7:00am. Winter can really dampen one's spirits with all the cold, dreary atmosphere, and gloomy skies. You really have to shake yourself up just to get alive and interactive. 

One thing I hate about city tours is that you have to sit in the bus for a long time (especially if you are the first pick-up) while the driver stop in at least a dozen other places to pick up the other day-trippers  booked for that tour. We finally arrived at the Grayline office near Flinders Street at around 7:50am, we still have another 30 minutes to wait before its our turn to go.

I loved our tour guide, full of local lore and a fount of information about local history and culture. She made all the places we passed by sort of come to life with her anecdotes about the history of the place or the famous people associated with it.

The sun started to come out a bit late in the day, winter can really be depressing with all the lifeless trees without leaves and grey skies as if perennially threatening to dump heavy rain all over you. 

It was already closer to 9:00am when we cruised towards our first stop, the St. Patrick's Cathedral. The cathedral is a picturesque Gothic style Catholic church built in 1858 and is currently the seat of the Archbishop of Melbourne. It was very unfortunate that there was an ongoing mass and it is not allowed for outsiders to go in while the mass is on (its nice to know that they are very respectful and will not allow admittance, in the Philippines even while the mass is on, the church doors will remain open to visitors). 

Although a bit small for a cathedral, its surroundings and architecture more than made up for the lack of size. From the obelisk - river flow, to the old garbled trees surrounding the church, to the pointed spires that somehow conveys a very romantic, medieval picture reminiscent of 19th century Europe.

My niece, Eiesha, throwing a coin (for luck, accdg to her)