Melbourne Travel Guide
Yesterday, we gave you a birds-eye view over Melbourne and today our feet are firmly planted on the ground. With only a day remaining, let's explore the little nooks of the city: the iconic laneways!
First, a little background. The city is considered the culture capital of Australia and with that comes the love of fashion, food and a general joie de vivre. The weather can get quite chilly here (the mercury, abnormally, hovered around 75 degrees for our visit), so the style is that of more Northern Hemisphere flare.
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Yesterday we filled our belly all around Melbourne and, at the end, hinted about getting high. Today we continue to explore while avoiding any hint of the Australian Open, since there's so much more to this city than tennis.
Our alarm went off earlier than we would like to admit, all in prep for a morning filled with flying high over the city via a hot air balloon. Since the balloons are very dependent on weather patterns, the early morning is the best time to head out and enjoy fresh air from in the air.
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This might be the world's largest group handle
Last week we headed down to Melbourne, Australia's second city, for a quick trip chock-full of revisiting old favorites and picking up new ones. Our trip can be considered a whirlwind tour as we were on the ground for just about 72 hours, keeping our explorations non stop.
Typically at this time of year, the city has one thing on its mind: tennis! You see, the Australian Open started this week and has quickly engulfed the city in a tennis fever that is hard to shake. Let's explore what the city has to offer besides tennis.
Dust off your fascinator or air out your seersucker suit, because it's Melbourne Cup time! The most prestigious horse race in Australia is just around the corner and this one is big. It's so big that Victoria, the state that hosts the cup, gets a public holiday to enjoy the races and maybe place a few bets.
In its 152 years, the Emirates Melbourne Cup has maintained its status as the Aussie horse race with most spectators, highest prize winnings, and most outrageous hats. Not everyone has their binoculars on the thoroughbreds; just like it's Kentucky counterpart, this is the event to see and be seen in your best spring fashion.
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Travelers flying through Melbourne on Virgin Australia will have a much more pleasurable experience when checking in and heading to their gate. Currently, the terminal is a bit tired and in definite need of a spruce up andhey!they're giving it one.
Virgin's Aussie airline has already commenced works on the shiny new terminal and hopes to have it completed by the end of the year. Of course, the redesign of the space will be a modern facelift to create a more contemporary and spacious feel. This is just part of the massive overhaul we have been witnessing with the Virgin Australia brand for the past 12 months.
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The whole of Australia is consumed with the Summer tennis circuit currently touring around the country, and the pinnacle of the tennis season down under is marked by the Australian Open played in Melbourne. As the only grand slam tennis tournament held in the Southern Hemisphere, the city is showcased not only as a sport capital, but the cultural capital of Australia.
Melbourne is located on the southeastern Aussie coast and it boasts a vibrant cafe society and an avant garde fashion scene. Originally established during the Australian gold rush, Melbourne's rich history and causes it to be called the "Paris of Down Under." If your plans bring you to the city for tennis, plan to soak up more experiences than just seeing top seeded Novak Djokovic or Caroline Wozniacki.
It might be fall in States, but spring has just sprung up Down Under and we're ready to get out and play at some of the continent's best seasonal festivals. The biggest event this season is definitely the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne. You might wonder that a bunch of horse races grabs the attention of so many Aussies and anyone visiting at the time, but the highlight of the carnivalthe Melbourne Cupis correctly dubbed "the race that stops a nation".
And you don't have to know the slightest thing about horses to get involved. Come next Tuesday afternoon, you won't be able to get service in any shop in Australia as everybody will have their eyes glued to the TV to watch the Melbourne Cup race. Over 100,000 people attend the race in person, and most of them get dressed up either in their best dress or a crazy costume; like at the Kentucky Derby, the most important thing is to have a great hat.
Director Spike Jonze chose to film "Where The Wild Things Are" on location with puppets, rather than in front of a blue screen; an expensive gamble that paid off, considering the movie brought in 32.5 million dollars this weekend. To get the location just right for his adaptation of the beloved children's book, Jonze considered locations in Argentina, Hawaii, New Zealand and California before settling on Melbourne, Australia. Here's a look at where you can go "wild" in Melbourne.
What to Do:
Jonze took full advantage of Melbourne's unique surroundings for the film. He used a burnt-out forest near Gembrook, just outside of Melbourne, as the movie's primary location. He also filmed scenes at the cliffs of Bushrangers Bay in Victoria and among the boulders of the You-Yangs. The You-Yangs are a series of granite peaks that rise dramatically in the Werribee lava plains and can be explored on foot or by bike. The You-Yangs Regional Park is perfect for a day of hiking, biking or picnicking off the beaten path. The park is open daily until sunset, mountain bikes can be rented via All About Mountain Bike Tours.
We wish every Friday began with a story like this: In a scene reminiscent of a not-too-distant Samuel L. Jackson movie, a Qantas plane had to be taken out of service after four baby pythons escaped from their secure location in the cargo hold.
Frighteningly, the carriers of these snakes didn't realize until two days after they landed in Melbourne from Alice Springs that one-third of the pythons were MIA. After making sure the Stinson's pythons, native to Australia, hadn't eaten their own kind, officials pulled the plane and fumigated it, causing delays and probably a number of nightmares.
Nicholas Cage’s latest fantasy flick, "Knowing", opens in theaters everywhere today. The movie, about a teacher who opens a time capsule and realizes that his family plays a role in some chilling predictions contained inside, is set in Boston but was filmed in Melbourne, Australia. Cage also filmed "Ghost Rider" in Melbourne in 2007. Here’s a guide to help you get to ‘know’ Melbourne.
What to Stay:
The Grand Hyatt Melbourne recently spent a fortune on renovations that include a trendy new lobby, restaurant, and bar. The hotel is also centrally located near shops, restaurants, and late night hotspots. Currently, rates start at US$219.
Remember that crazy/insane insane/crazy launch party for V Australia the other week when Sir Richard Branson popped champagne off the enormous wing of the V Australia 777 (in the rain!) and gave us a tour of the plane's interiors? Well, the event wasn't all USC cheerleaders, Ozzie accents and Outback hats, although those were aplenty. We actually learned some things too.
Like V Australia's plans for Melbourne. Starting September 15, Schedules, flights from LAX to Melbourne will begin and we were able to get our pudgy hands on some flight details.
· Flight No. VA 11: Departs Melbourne at 9:15am. Arrives in LA at 6:40am that same day. (And who says you can't go back in time?!?)
· Flight No. VA 12: Departs LA at 10:30pm. Arrives in Melbourne at 7:15am (two days later.)
Both flights will be departing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. V Australia also has plans for travel to Johannesburg from Sydney and Melbourne but no word on when that starts.
Summer tennis action has hit Australia this week with the start of the the 2009 Australian Open in Melbourne. The tournament is held in Melbourne Park, a ten-minute walk from the center of the city, or a five-minute trip on the tram.
Whether, like us, you still have a weird thing for #2 seed Roger Federer, or if Serbian beauty Jelena Jankovic gets your racket swinging, apparently there are still tickets available even for the second week of the tournament, starting at A$70 ($50) for early rounds and rising as the matches go on.
As for who's going to be holding the trophies come February 1, well, we can't really go past a Williams sister for the women's, although we're not willing to decide on Venus or Serena. On the men's court, we're hoping for Federer but have a suspicion it might be Novak Djokovic this time round. But don't place bets based on our intuition.