Despite being Australia's second largest city, with 3.5 million inhabitants, it welcomes visitors with open arms. We were met at the dock by one of the free Melbourne City Tourist Shuttles which took us into the city centre and dropped us outside one of the National Gallery of Victoria's two buildings.
The very interesting modern building displayed a huge banner outside with promise of a Bugatti exhibition so in we popped. Occupying this new building since 2003, the gallery has a fine collection of art works but we had limited time so only took in three separate exhibits.
Photo uploading is a problem while I am on the road but hopefully I will be able to show post some later, on my return, although flash was not allowed except outside in the sculpture garden. I'll see what I can salvage from them.
We all know that Bugatti made cars and indeed there were two beauties on display, a 1926 blue roadster designed by Ettore, who began the car design/manufacturing business and a gorgeous black and red coupe from 1938 and designed by Jean Bugatti, his son. But the exhibit brought together an eclectic mix of the furniture of Carlo, father to Ettore and Rembrandt, whose animal sculptures were also included. A truly creative family, albeit in different media and a delightful little exhibition.
We then wandered outside into the charming sculpture garden at the rear of the building and which was beautifully laid out and included the obligatory Henry Moore and even a Rodin.
On our return indoors we were advised to visit another temporary exhibit, The Cricket and the Dragon, which highlighted animals in Asian Art and covered a wide variety of animal and insect life portrayed in a variety of media: pottery, painting, sculpture, embroidery, ceramics, etc.
Melbourne is known as the cultural capital of Australia and this gallery sits in the centre of an area which also has The Arts Centre, a very interesting contemporary building which houses a theatre, a playhouse and a gallery. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra also has it home nearby in Hamer Hall.
Crossing the bridge over the Yarra River, we entered the downtown area which still has a tram service there and to more outlying areas. There are some truly remarkable and interesting buildings, from the old Flinders Station to the very modern buildings in Federation Square, a more recent development area with some great buildings. Photos will come later I promise.
Melbourne is a truly welcoming city, with its Melbourne ambassadors, dressed in red shirts and straw hats are on almost every corner, ready to answer questions and help in whatever way they can. We also found the new Visitor Information Centre at Federation Square a mine of information and filled with helpful people only too willing to make your stay as smooth as possible.
We then hopped on the free Melbourne City Shuttle and took that tour. It makes thirteen stops where you can get on and off as you please and we got an overall look at what the city has to offer the visitor and the locals.
Sports mad Melbournians love their cricket and the Melbourne Cricket Ground holds 108,000 spectators, one of the largest in the the world. The football stadium, where Australian Rules football, a type of football unique to Australia, is played, holds a possible 63,000 spectators.
Our tour took us through Melbourne's famous tree lined boulevards, where stately elms still line the roadways since they have escaped the ravages of Dutch Elm disease so prevalent elsewhere. Of course they are under stress from the twelve year drought in this country and many of the trees have been given individual barrels of water which feed directly to the root system, in an effort to keep them healthy. It is obvious that they are not doing as well as they should and the city's many parks also feature large expanses of brown grass. It is rather a sad sight and Australia is moving away from the type of garden it once favoured into those using drought resistant plantings which can do with much less water.
While Melbourne does not have the wonderful beaches nearby that Sydney has, its inhabitants make good use of the Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River. A huge development of condominiums and shops and restaurants is being built on the banks of a widened part of the Yarra River at an area called Docklands.
Melbournians are very proud of their city and rightly so. It has often been called one of the most livable cities in the world and I do think one could find here lots of interesting places to explore for quite a few days.
It's fifty years or more since my last visit and I was quite impressed in many ways although I will always prefer Sydney and there has always been great rivalry between the two as each try to convince everyone that one is superior to the other. I'll leave it to you to decided which one is your favourite but you must be sure to visit both if you come to Australia.