South of the Boredom

Words by Dorian Mode and photography by Lydia Thorpe

Melbourne. It’s such a cool, arty city with killer restaurants, cafes, comedy and the best live music scene in Australia

For the past six years, The Economist has rated Melbourne as the most liveable city in the world, beating Vienna, Paris and even Syd-en-y. (Psst, don’t tell the Mexicans.)
My wife and I adore Melbourne. It’s such a cool, arty city with killer restaurants, cafes, comedy and the best live music scene in Australia. And with flights to Melbourne as little as $39 from Sydney, it’s become an affordable weekend getaway. 

Our thrifty accommodation is Punthill Apartments Northbank on Flinders St, right in the heart of the action. It’s a suite so you save by dining in one night to save money. Rated as one of the best value properties in Melbourne according to Trip-advisor, our digs have the wow factor because as soon as we walk in we, drop our bags, turn to each other, and say “wooow!”. With its high spec finish, outstanding décor and presentation and sweeping views across the Yarra, it’s a positive way to begin the holiday. Floor to ceiling windows, means there’s a squint-worthy amount of light in the rooms, too. And we loved the Chupa Chup on the bedside tables. Groovy. Very Melbourne.

View from Punthill Apartments Northbank on Flinders Street

One of the things we love about ‘Mexico’ is its laneways. Laneways you ask?? Yep. Here you’ll find a fascinating Parisian aesthetic as people dressed in black (Melbourne has more black than an undertaker’s underwear) hunkered over backless chairs, deep in veiled conversation. How hip is that? Speaking of hips. What is it with all of these stools in cafes? Helloooo. I’ve got a bad back. My wife a bad hip. If I wanted to sit on a repurposed petrol tin and eat soup off a skateboard, I’d holiday in the Third World. Are you with me, seniors?

Paris Cat Jazz Club in Goldie Place, in the heart of the CBD

Anyhoo, there are so many very cool music venues in Mexico. That night we visit Paris Cat Jazz Club in Goldie Place, in the heart of the CBD. Here they have two shows: upstairs and downstairs and downstairs and upstairs. They sell great food but, hey, we are in Melbourne: let’s push the boat out. Flanking Goldie Place is Melbourne’s famous Hardware Lane. This lane, with its unique red brick paving, is renowned for its chic restaurants and cafés and is a prime example of Melbourne’s fabulous laneway culture. There’s a distinctly European vibe. The laneway occasionally features night-time jazz performances, too. More jazz! Can you ever get enough jazz in your life? Here we dine at a little cafe and have the most killer meal. It’s not expensive but not cheap but not expensive. But the atmosphere is electric, with the alley a hive of excited boozy talk.

We love that the CBD tram is free - Yes - Free!

The following day we take a free (yes free!) tram right outside the hotel to the other end of the Yarra to visit the Botanical Gardens. We love that the CBD tram is free. We notice the older trams (which we adore) are quite a step up (literarily not metaphorically). So, seniors, if mobility is an issue, simply wait for the newer models which are lower to the ground for ewes. But if you do take the old tram, it may take some readers back to the old Sydney trams which the government ripped up and in their infinite wisdom are now replacing at great cost to the taxpayer.
Post gardens we stroll along the Yarra and experience the private-school gang rowing for the day. There is even an announcer, perched over the river. Here our announcer lauds one father who sent his son to two different private schools so he could hedge his bets with business contacts. This is where we part company (literally and metaphorically) and head upriver to Southgate. At Southgate, we have some great tucker. It’s cheap as chips. Mostly because we order a plate of chips. But you can purchase cheap meals at the food court and sit outside overlooking Melbourne’s famous mud-scented river. We noted that the economy is not something you would find at Circular Quay. But hey, the Yarra is a murky bathtub compared to Sydney Harbour (don’t tell the Mexicans – they are very touchy about it. By the way, we are building a wall. And we are making Victoria pay for it. That’s all I’ll say. We’re gonna make Sydney great again).

The private-school gang rowing along the famous Yarra river

Post chips, we visit Centre Place. This iconic laneway is peppered with wonderful hole-in-the-wall cafes, reminiscent of Paris or Rome. With its fantastic street art and performers, we are definitely in Melbourne. Suddenly we are entertained by a long-haired octogenarian belly-dancing in the street. Gotta love Melbourne!
That evening we dine at City Wine Shop – which makes us sound like alcoholics eating a kebab on the floor of Dan Murphys – but CWS has excellent food. And Trip-advisor says it is the cheapest bistro at which to drink high-end bottles of wine with reasonably priced food in the city. It’s a great location flanking the theatre and opposite Parliament House means it’s a ‘meal with a view’. Later we stroll around the city and get lost before finding one of the charming old pubs you find in the Melbourne CBD. They also have the best pubs methinks.
That evening we stay uptown (if there is indeed such a thing) at Punthill Apartment Manhattan. While not in the heart of the action, this smaller hotel with its charming Edward Hopper style art on the walls and its quiet location is ideal if you want something more subdued.

We loved this young man selling hats in the 100-year-old hat shop at Flinders St Station

We love that the CBD tram is free. We notice the older trams (which we adore) are quite a step up (literarily not metaphorically). So, seniors, if mobility is an issue, simply wait for the newer models which are lower to the ground for ewes.

Footnote:
PUNTHILL APARTMENTS

Punthill Northbank Melbourne provides the perfect base for senior travellers with close and easy access to the Docklands business precinct, and Melbourne CBD. It’s only a stroll (or free tram away) to great nightlife, restaurants, cafes and Melbourne’s famous shopping outlets. In the evening, guests can relax in the lounge bar. (We loved the ample breakfast in the lounge!) Moreover, Melbourne’s attractions, such as the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex, are within a 10-minute walk of the hotel. (This hotel really has the wow factor for the money we thought.)

Punthill Manhattan Melbourne is CBD accommodation at the top end of Flinders Lane, close to Parliament House and the charming Fitzroy Gardens. The MCG and Melbourne Tennis Centre are also within walking distance. Here you can explore the Victorian era buildings, prestigious boutiques and high-end retail stores. It’s close to the eastern end of Collins Street known as the ‘Paris end’ because of its architecture. Its unique and modern warehouse style 1, 2 and 3 bedroom Melbourne CBD accommodation has a distinct warehouse style reminiscent of New York living. (Seniors might like it for its quiet location.)