Quintessential Melbourne, the city with its soaring streamlined skyscrapers mixing seamlessly with the Victorian era architecture of buildings from the early days of urbanisation. Meandering through the city is the sparkling, yet distinctively umber hued water of the lower Yarra. Its gentrified banks welcome thousands of promenaders enjoying developments that have appeared along its reaches since urban renewal programmes of the 70's (as well as a range of waterside bars and bike paths).
Yet the second largest city in Australia is also unique in so many ways with a seemingly perfect mix of multicultural diversity, sport mania and artistic and creative flair. AFL mad, Melbourne is also home to big events like the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Open and the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Supporters jerseys can often be spotted in the numerous cafes that spill out onto pavements on almost every street, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee is enticing to say the least. Vibrant and inviting they are perfect meeting points for a pre match rendevouz. Various streets reflect the 140 cultures that make up Melbourne’s cosmopolitan population with areas such as the Greek precinct, Chinatown and Italian Lygon St heralding restaurants with tastes and sensations from around the world.
Having the chance to just wander is a treat and I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to admire the creativity of the distinctive street art adorning public spaces and lane ways. Colourful buildings, park walls and even derelict factories have become public galleries where every passer-by can become an art critic. Officially appearing on approved outdoor locations only, these flamboyant murals contribute immensely to the urban environment and have helped Melbourne gain the reputation as being one of the world’s great street art capitals.
There is no end to the possibilities for filling in your day. Tree lined boulevards and parks lead into the heart of the city yet an efficient tram system takes you to the outskirts where trendy neighbourhoods entice you with cafes, galleries, bookshops and stores that are beguiling in their content (I know Lodestars is particularly fond of Happy Valley Shop, who now stock the magazine). Fitzroy and Collingwood have become known as the Bohemian quarter of the Yarra, and nearby Brunswick, Smith and Gertrude Streets are all vying as having the trendiest shops and boutiques to explore.
After such wanderings though it is always so important to find somewhere to rest your head and ponder your peregrinations. The White Room in the heart of North Fitzroy is the perfect oasis and its understated elegance and restrained luxury is the consummate juxtaposition to the outrageous colour of the street art outside. The converted, utterly original room is a rustic delight, full of well selected design treats - a bed covered in crisp French linen, a wall of framed vintage art, leather chairs you can disappear into and a leaf-covered garden that makes you feel very far away from the rest of the world. Full of character and curiosities (and with a fridge stocked with seasonal breakfast goodies), this is an immaculately curated, utterly white space created to make you feel at home. It's also only a 20 min walk or direct tram to city. Having said that, if you prefer to stay closer to the Yarra, or the National Gallery of Victoria, why not book a night at the iconic Langham Hotel. Decadent yet refined (and incredibly friendly), this elegant venue offers everything you'd expect from a luxury, inner-city escape - we were smitten the moment we saw the orchid-rich floral arrangements of the entrance, the family friendly themed afternoon tea and the panoramic view found in the top floor Club Lounge. Sinking into out cloud-like beds as the city lit up beyond our window was a dream. Of course, you could always stay at both venues - any excuse for an extra night in Melbourne.