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Melbourne: A touch of Paris in the South


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The weekend the round-ball game chased Aussie Rules out of the MCG…

Real Football at The MCG! Melbourne, Australia.

Real Football at The MCG! Melbourne, Vic, Australia.

We have not visited Melbourne since the mid-nineties. Have we missed much? Popular scuttlebutt in arch-rival Sydney suggests not, but…

The chance to watch Real Madrid play AS Roma in the preseason International Champions Cup convinced us to book flights and a couple of nights in the city.

The start of a trip is always exciting and frantic, and you never really relax until you are on the plane. Naturally our Friday night flight into Melbourne was delayed, but our trusty travel apps (WorldMate Gold & TripIt) kept us informed. Better informed than the Jetstar staff in fact, who don’t get push notifications or even timely updates…!

The up to date info allowed us to reorganise our Melbourne restaurant booking and begin Friday evening early with drinks and tapas at Movida – a new and very welcome arrival at Sydney Airport T2. Genuinely good food at an airport, what a shocking concept!

We had arranged Yarra Valley Limousine Service to meet us at Melbourne airport and whisk us into Melbourne – at $20 more than a taxi, a brilliant investment when you’re running late on a Friday night. Easy, stress free, and only 25 minutes from the luggage carousel to the check-in counter at our hotel, The Langham in Southbank.

The Langham, Southbank, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.

The Langham, Southbank, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.

Quick check-in, throw on the glad rags, and off to the Casino to start our party weekend.

The Crown Casino in Melbourne is a city in and of itself. It has a glitz, glam, bars, up market shops, and of course acres of gaming tables and poker machines. It boasts twenty-nine restaurants including names such as Rockpool Bar and Grill, Bistro Guillaume, the Spice Temple and many more, as well as more casual options. The Casino is in Southbank (close to the Langham) along the Yarra, with multiple venues having balconies and views of the river.

This massive venue is fantastic when you’re out for an evening with no plans, it’s a tad less fun when you’re trying to get to your already-twice-postponed dinner without further delays, but we made it to Number 8 by John Lawson just after 9:00 PM – a very Continental dinner hour – and were relieved to find the place still humming.

Dinner was lovely, and worth the wait. The cured Kingfish was to die for.

Afterwards, we found a bar with live music and a balcony overlooking the Yarra and the bursts of flame they mark the hours with.

A great party venue, and we had a great night.

Our room at the Langham was on level 22, comfortable and lovely with a distant view of the ocean. The breakfast buffet was good, the pool and spa were lovely – the Langham gets full marks from me. (Note:  AS Roma also chose it, so we had a good game of guess-the-player’s-name throughout the weekend.  Real Madrid chose the Park Hyatt.) See our review of  The Langham for more details. Review: The Langham, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.

Narrow laneways filled with enticing cafes, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.

Narrow laneways filled with enticing cafes, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.

In the morning (well, it was almost afternoon by the time we emerged after our lovely buffet brekkie) we wandered into central Melbourne in search of coffee – and found a city with much in common with Paris. Narrow laneways, tiny cafes with outdoor seating under high power gas heaters in defiance of the climate. There were great shops, wine bars, boutique beer, food, queues for fancy pastries…  Very much our kind of place!

Delightful Treats on offer at the Cafe, Melbourne Vic.

Delightful Treats on offer at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms, Melbourne Vic.

Several hours later we arrived back at The Langham laden with shopping and had a swim and spa before heading out to dinner.

For our pre-game dinner we chose the Waterfront Restaurant on the banks of the Yarra, and sat outside despite the rapidly plunging temperature. Great location, amazing heater, lovely food.

The Waterfront Restaurant, Southbank, Melbourne, Vic.

The Waterfront Restaurant, Southbank, Melbourne, Vic.

As we ate, we watched the water flowing down the Yarra to the sea, and the stream of people flowing up-river to the MCG, and soon we joined them – impossible to get lost!

Eighty thousand fans gathered at the MCG on a Saturday night in the middle of the AFL (Aussie Rules) season for a round ball game.  We were there to watch Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Francesco Totti etc, and we were treated to some of the magic that has made these players household names around the world. It was a great experience.

Christiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid, MCG, Melbourne, Vic Australia.

Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid, MCG, Melbourne, Vic Australia.

However, a crowd raised on AFL has high expectations, and as the nil-all scoreline stretched out and the superstars were subbed off at half-time, the crowd became more engrossed in the paper plane flying competition developing in the upper levels… The cheers for the plane floating past the goal as the game stretched towards the inevitable penalty shootout seemed deafening…

Can you spot the paper airplane? Waiting for action at the MCG, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.

Can you spot the paper airplane? Waiting for action at the MCG, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.

The penalty shootout was won by AS Roma, and the sea of people reversed its flow, dispersing out into the bars and nightclubs of Melbourne. We felt that a grungy bar was called for – and the one we found was just as Parisian as we hoped in the middle of Flinders Lane.

It was on the first floor, and open at the front.  We sat there wearing all the layers we had, sampling a wide range of excellent southern (and a few northern!) craft beers, listening to the worst busker I have ever heard (did he hope to get paid to shut up!?!) and watching the people parade as the mercury plummeted to zero and below.  (Note:  Women don’t wear any more on a winter’s evening in Melbourne than they do on a summer’s evening in Sydney, they just run fast in their heels on the uneven streets…)

An Angel in the City, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.

An Angel in the City, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.

Melbourne, we have clearly missed out all these years. Our stay was way too short. We will back! Maybe we will even try an Aussie Rules game next time…

 


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