Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hotel to Hotel

The miserable weather in Melbourne wasn't a major surprise.  After all, Melbourne is a city with the deserved reputation of often having "four seasons in a day".  Arriving late in the night in the awful weather had added my feeling of exhaustion, so I was happy to collapse into the hotel room.  Work had decided to put me up at the Stamford, which was nice of them, and I was given another nice surprise by the suite they gave me.
I hadn't realised it immediately, but this was actually the same hotel that I had first stayed in when I had begun my working life.
The suite I had been given also looked identical to the suite I had stayed in previously as well (probably because it was indeed identical....)
Sitting in the room gave me a sense of nostalgia for my earlier working days.  I couldn't help but think of how much I had developed professionally and personally in that relatively short space of time.

I had also clearly lost some of my sense for adventure and fun as when I checked out of the hotel, I decided to move a few streets over into another hotel for the weekend instead of into a hostel as I had once done.
I wasn't even completely sure why I had made this decision.

As I have noted in the past, there was much of the same sameness to everything.  The location of the place was convenient, but I am certain that there would be hostels in the area that would offer similar convenience.

The biggest problem I find with the higher level of comfort would have to be that it creates a draw on you to stay in.
Why go traipsing off into the cold and uncertain world when you have your own warm and private space with satellite television?  If I'm going to be somewhere different, my aim should always be to explore, to see something different.
Looking out the window of the hotel really doesn't suffice.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Hidden in the laneways

Australia is a small country and yet there are still distinct cultural differences between the regions.  Going to Melbourne provides a nice change from the superficial obsessions of Sydney.  It's by no means innocent of being superficial, but the mood is definitely more alternative.  There is a darker approach to dress and far less skin on show than in Sydney.

Melbourne is also far more well known for its cafes than Sydney.  To be more specific, Melbourne is more famous for both its cafes and the unique locations of these cafes.

Melbourne has "laneways" that have become one of the greatest selling points of the city.  The unique design of the city provided its CBD with numerous small alleys and streets that have been utilised by city planners as perfect locations for small shops, restaurants and cafes.  These laneways are intimate settings full of life and a busy atmosphere that belies the more relaxed impression that Australia generally gives.

They are kind of fantastic.
I was sitting with a friend on Degraves St, one of the more famous of the laneways having breakfast on a cold and wet winter's morning in Melbourne.  It was busy and noisy.  There was a constant flow of people moving through the street which I love.
These streets reinforced my firm view that Melbourne is a better winter city than Sydney.  In Sydney, winter often feels like a time that is merely spent waiting for summer.  In Melbourne, there is a real culture that is made for social life in the colder months.

The life of these streets is hard to pass up.  They are one of the best parts of Melbourne and of Australia as a whole.  I only wish that there was something comparable in Sydney (particularly when it gets cold).

Undercover football

Visiting Melbourne is something I don't do anywhere near enough.  For me, going to Melbourne for work meant being able to get a fix Australian football that doesn't involve the Sydney Swans (something that is a rarity for me).

So after work on a cold winter's night, my friends and I from work all made our way on the tram down towards Etihad Stadium down at Melbourne's docklands.  It was still relatively early, so we went into a pub next to the stadium for a beer and a dinner of chicken parmigiana (I was trying to keep things nice and Victorian after all).

The atmosphere was good.  This was a standard Friday night in Melbourne, and the crowd was slowly gathering for the game. At the pub, supporters from both teams as well as the non-partisan like myself were laughing and talking.  I was surprised by the mix of the crowd.  There were the usual groups of men engaging in the light hearted banter, but there were also groups of women having dinner all decked out in their supporters' apparel, families, couples as well as people from all different ethnic groups.  It was a refreshing thing to see and once again reaffirmed my view that sport (at its best) can play a truly uniting role in a community.

As game time approached, we made our way with the crowds through the cold winds and into the stadium.  This was the first time I had ever been to Etihad Stadium, so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like for myself.  Aussie Rules fans love the MCG, but are generally ambivalent about Etihad.  One of the common criticisms of the stadium being that it lacked the atmosphere of its more illustrious older brother.
Personally I thought it was great.

I was watching Carlton play Geelong, so I had no vested interest in the match and I was able to sit in the perfect climate controlled stadium without feeling the least bit cold.

Looking around the stands, it was also perfectly clear to me that this stadium offered excellent views to the crowd no matter where they were seated.
The modern touch of this stadium is a far cry from my childhood spent shivering in the miserable wet and cold of Waverley.  It is more clinical and sterile than the football I remember, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  My memories are probably seen through rose coloured glasses as I don't seem to remember the painful trials involved in watching football such as trying to find your car after the game at Waverley.  Still, it was nice to be able to reconnect with some things that don't seem to change as one of my mates and I grabbed a bag of hot jam donuts to eat while we watched the game.