We slept in, getting up about 7:00. We had been eating cold continental breakfasts, but on this day we opted for the hot breakfast. We felt like we needed the extra zip from the protein. We skipped our workout for the second straight day, not wanting to lose much more time before we ventured out to see Central Melbourne.
The Lonely Planet guide suggested a walking tour of this area, starting just a block away, so we stocked our backpacks and headed out. My clip-on sunglasses were apparently somewhere in Watsons Bay or a Sydney water taxi. We couldn’t find them. I would need shades for the rest of the trip, so we checked a couple of optical shops. The second one had a pair that fit my glasses OK, if not perfectly. We bought them and headed on.
The walking tour starts at Flinders Street Station, a large, ornate train station on the southern edge of Central Melbourne, just north of the Yarra River. Just across the street is an ancient pub called Young & Jackson that is known for Chloe, a painting that was judged indecent at the Melbourne exhibition of 1890. It’s been hanging in the upstairs bar ever since. The upstairs bar wasn’t open yet when we arrived at Y&J at 10:40, but the downstairs bar was already doing business. There were about half a dozen people already — or still — there having beer.
The tour took us up Swanston Street, a major north-south street. Swanston has been turned into a pedestrian mall, and traffic on the street is restricted to trams, taxis, and delivery vehicles. Those restrictions don’t make much difference; we still had to be very careful stepping out into the street. Swanston is very busy, with sidewalks full of shoppers, cafes, and kiosks and the streets full of shoppers, trams, horse-drawn carriages, and a surprising number of cars. At one corner we saw a rack of small shoulder bags. While Chris looked through them, another couple stopped by. As the woman browsed the small bags, the man tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to the large bag she had over her shoulder. She looked at him in confusion, then with realization. She laughed, said “Oh. Too small!” and they walked on, giggling.
We ducked into the Royal Arcade off Bourke Street to check out it’s claim to fame: a clock guarded by the giants Gog and Magog. We arrived right at 11:00 and got to see the giants strike the hour by hitting a bell with their fists. Back on Swanston, we bought a tee-shirt to give as a gift when we get home. I don’t want to spoil the surprise by saying what’s on the shirt or who it’s for. [Update: The shirt was for our friend Heath. It is black with a Victoria Bitters label emblazoned on the front.]
While Chris had been shopping the day before, she had seen a vest she really liked at a store called Country Roads, but the store didn’t have it in her size. The salesgirl had called another Country Roads location and found out they did have other sizes. The store was near our route, so we went by. Sure enough, they had the vest in Chris’s size, and we bought it.
We continued north to Lygon Street, which is lined with cafes serving a wide variety of foods — mostly Italian, but also Thai, Indian, French, Malaysian, and Japanese. We stopped at a very nice-looking Italian café with tables on the sidewalk and an extensive pasta menu. Chris got a veggie pizza and I had Ravioli Carbonara. As we were waiting for our meals, I got out the camera to take a picture of Chris.
The restaurant manager asked if he could take our picture, and suggested we do it by a column of pasta in the restaurant lobby. We agreed, and he took the picture. As he handed the camera back, he said “All the Americans want their picture there!” Probably because it’s the place he suggests.
After lunch we continued around the east side of Central Melbourne, past the Houses of Parliament. We stopped into the Hotel Windsor, which dates back to the gold rush of the 1850’s. It is an elegant old place, and we felt out of place in our shorts and sneakers. Nearby, we visited the Hotel Sofitel. It is much newer than the Windsor, but every bit as elegant. It has hand-blown glass in the huge lobby chandelier and a wonderful set of paintings around the perimeter of the 35th-floor restaurant area.
However, the attraction that drew us to the Sofitel is the floor-to-ceiling wall-sized windows in the toilets on that floor. From there, you can see all of eastern Melbourne and all the way to the beach at St. Kilda. Chris exited the ladies’ toilet before I finished taking in the view and snapping pictures from the men’s. As she emerged, a group of elderly women and one old man asked if she knew where they could get a look at the Melbourne skyline. She just pointed to the toilet door. When they looked at her funny, she said “There’s a big window in there.” The women walked toward the ladies’ toilet, but the man just looked lost. Chris then pointed to the men’s toilet and said, “You go in there”, which he did just as I was leaving.
We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon on the beach at St. Kilda, south of Melbourne. On our way out of the hotel, we stopped by a photo processing store in the adjoining arcade to drop off our film from Sydney. The young lady behind the counter said that we had to pick them up by 4:30, since she is closed on Sunday. It was already 2:00, and we didn’t think we’d get back in time, so I asked if there was a way we could get them if we were late. She asked where we were staying, then volunteered to drop the pictures off at reception for us on her way home from the store. I pre-paid for the processing and we left for the beach.
We were too far from the beach to walk there (about 4 miles), but a tram from right outside the hotel runs all the way there. We waited for a tram for about 20 minutes before the right one came by. Once onboard, we discovered that the ticket machine takes only change, and we had nothing but bills. We got off at the next stop, bought two day passes at a newsstand, and waited for another tram. This one came in less than five minutes and was much less crowded than the first one. We validated our tickets, found a seat, and were at the beach in 20 minutes.
The beach was windy! The temperature was only about 25C (75F) and the wind off the water made it cool. We headed down to the nearly empty beach, lay down on our towels and soaked up the sun for 20 minutes or so. Then we decided it was just too cold and went for a walk up the beach. There wasn’t really very much to see, so we walked down to the other end of the beach — into the wind, this time — then back to the tram stop. We got back to the photo store right at 4:30, and our pictures were waiting for us. It turns out the store doesn’t close until 6:00, but the lady behind the counter didn’t want us to cut it too close. Many of the pictures turned out well. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to scan them during the trip or if I’ll have to wait until we’re home to post them.
I returned to the room while Chris stopped for a manicure at a store in the arcade. I wrote up the journal for the day before. I was still doing that when Chris returned with fresh nails. We didn’t have dinner plans yet, so Chris called down to the concierge for guidance. The two places he recommended for seafood were already booked, though. We decided to head to Southgate, just across the Yarra River from the hotel and try our luck as walk-ins. Our luck wasn’t too good.
We walked to Southgate using a footbridge that crosses the river just behind Flinders Street Station. We stopped by one of the restaurants we had called just to see if anything had opened up. It hadn’t. We looked around for a cafe that we would like, but none of the menus thrilled us. We finally settled on an Irish pub called P. J. O’Brian’s. As we were headed into the door we discovered that we had come across perhaps the only Irish pub in the world that enforced a dress code that doesn’t allow sneakers! I was flabbergasted. Since I was wearing sneakers, we had to find somewhere else.
As we looked for a cafe with less rigid requirements for attire, we passed street performers and a sidewalk artist making chalk drawings of Melbourne landmarks. Just past him, we saw a cafe named Othello with a Greek seafood menu. We asked if they had a table and were seated right away, right next to a set of tables arranged for about 20 people. As we looked at the menu and ordered, that table started to fill with women, most of them in their 20’s. As more of them arrived, they got louder and louder. Even though that sounds like we weren’t enjoying ourselves, we were. The food was terrific and the service was quite good, considering the demands placed on the wait staff by dealing with the 20 women next to us.
We returned to the hotel after dinner for an early evening to bed. We were both still tired from Thursday night and Friday and wanted to catch up on our sleep. On the way back to the hotel, we discovered a shortcut under Flinders Street Station. The walkway there has tile walls, and every 15 feet or so there is a phrase painted on the wall. There were two phrases that alternated: “DO NOT SPIT” and “KEEP TO THE RIGHT”. At one place, someone had erased “KEEP” so that reading the prases together produced “DO NOT SPIT TO THE RIGHT”. The exit was plainly visible as a set of steps up to the street level. Despite it’s obviousness, there was another directional phase on the wall: “WAY OUT” followed by a finger pointing up the stairs.