Melbourne is being a very welcoming host. First off, she is promising to put on a beauty of a warm day and then when I went to check in early this morning (and by early, I mean 5.30am instead of 2.00pm), I was able to get a room straight away at no extra charge. Very thankful I had the opportunity to catch a few hours kip.
I’m staying at the Vibe Savoy Hotel in Little Collins Street for this trip, and whilst it won’t win any prizes for its stunning outlook (unless you are an admirer of architecture and then I suggest you ask for a room overlooking Southern Cross station, like I did), inside it’s a beautiful art deco hotel, formerly the Hotel Alexander, which was originally built in 1866. It was the first 20th century American style hotel built in Victoria. It claimed to be the first hotel with ensuite bathrooms and a temperature-controlled environment.
I’m here to do a bit of a reconnaissance mission to just get a better vibe of where the city streets lay and get the ball rolling. So after my snooze, the first thing I decided to do was head to the Melbourne Visitors Centre to grab some info and hopefully sort of a transport card. The MVC, on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets, is a one stop shop of information about Melbourne and its surrounds. There are self serve brochures, or you can take a number and speak to a representative. You can book tours, buy souvenirs, find out what’s on and what’s coming up and, as I wanted, purchase Myki cards. They also provide city ambassador and city greeter services should you require further one on one help.
Myki is a reuseable and easy to use tap on/tap off travel card for use on Melbourne’s public transport network. The card itself costs $6, then you add whatever funds you think you’ll need and off you go! It even came with a cool little plastic wallet and visitors receive a value pack full of discounts. For more info go to www.ptv.vic.gov.au.
Next I jumped on the (free) City Circle Tram to jog my memory of the layout of the streets. The brochures say that all first time visitors to Melbourne must visit the Melbourne Star. I’m no stranger to Melbourne because I have family here and have visited probably almost a dozen times since the age of twelve, but I haven’t visited yet, so today is the day.
An adult ticket to the Melbourne Star is $32, which is not cheap, but at 120m above ground, it does promise a pretty good view of the city of Melbourne. Originally sleighted to open in December 2008, the Southern Star, as it was originally named, was plagued with problems, which saw it’s opening delayed by five years and earnt it the title of the ‘$100m laughing stock of Melbourne’ and the ‘wheel of misfortune’. When it first opened in 2008, it was two years behind schedule. 40 days later, it was shut down due to cracks being found in the steel frame, which caused significant buckling to the wheel. In November 2011, strong winds caused the wheel to shatter its restraints and forced workers to flee the site. The opening was pushed back almost another six months.
It was mostly blamed on Melbourne’s weather, although there were also software glitches, but the onflowing effect to the Docklands area was pretty severe, with projected tourism dollars not realised as promised. Renamed Ghost-town instead of Harbourtown, the embattled wheel sat shielded by screens until it finally opened – well, most Melbournians would probably still be waiting for the next closure, but at present I can confirm it is actually open and functioning. Hopefully I haven’t jinxed it.
The ride takes about half an hour, though my ride, which was accompanied by somewhere between three and three hundred children, seemed to take forever. There is a commentary along the way of different viewpoints, but unfortunately due to the unrestrained children in my cabin, I couldn’t hear any of it, which made it a very expensive ride. Such a shame, as it was a remarkable day weather wise. Oh, and I nearly forgot – it lights up at night. Pretty.
After a bite of lunch at the Harbourtown Hotel, I got back on the City Circle Tram to continue the loop. Now this is a really busy tram, and not merely because of the amount of tourists on it, but also because it’s free so of course everyone jumps on, which is a little bit annoying if you want to again hear the commentary, or just want a seat, or even to be able to see where you want to hop off, but it is a good way to get around the outer limits of the city. And I would recommend getting on it earlier in the day for the best possible chance. There is also a free shuttle bus around the various city sights.
Apart from that there were intermittent calls from agents to set up appointments for apartment inspections over the next couple of days and quick drive (walk?)-bys to check out the areas. So I’m looking forward to the first one tomorrow, which is the apartment I really, really want. So cross your fingers all of you! Please!!!!