The process of leaving a place is an experience very different to when you arrive. Especially when you’ve spent a few years there and flirted with the prospect of staying long-term. We’re busy with finalities at the moment, eager to toss away the cloak of security we’ve been huddling under here and embark on something new. It is easy to get lost in that, busied with an endless checklist of errands and obligations, wishing your time away. This is not the first time I’ve moved away from somewhere I’ve lived for more than a few years. But it is the first time I’m thinking about what I’ll miss well before I go.
As I write this, I’m shivering away in a winter that's completely un-Australian. It's rainy, windy and dark outside in the middle of the afternoon and I’m wondering why we didn’t find our way up to Queensland. If I wanted to be cold, I could have stayed in New York. But Melbourne is a city whose charms lie not in its evident erratic weather. What you can depend on here is the plethora of hidden delights.
So these are the things that I’ll miss most about Melbourne. Many of them are food related, which can’t be helped given the gastro-paradise we live in (and my foodie tendencies). If you get the chance to visit, be sure to try a few of my favourites:
1. Breakfast at Café Sweethearts: This cute café in South Melbourne has such delicious pancakes and other morning fare that it’s packed every weekend day. Lunch is excellent as well. Be sure to book in advance for Saturday and Sunday mornings. 263 Coventry St, South Melbourne
2. Cocktails at Berlin: A themed bar that manages not to be gimmicky nor the least bit uncool, Berlin offers a cheeky take on the once divided city. Ring the bell and wait for one of the friendly staff to let you in, where you’ll be seated in either East or West Berlin. The clever menu and excellent table service, even on busy nights, add an element of care and hospitality not found in other establishments. Last time we were there the manager was introducing memberships and special event nights, so we’re hoping to check that out before we leave. 16 Corrs Lane, Melbourne
3. Coffee: I read recently that Melburnian baristas were setting up shop in New York City and successfully introducing the quality and style of Melbourne coffees to the boroughs. I’m not surprised. Sit your bottom on any café chair around Melbourne, order something hot and caffeinated with a fancy Italian name, and you’ll be sipping some of the best coffee in the world. You’ll also be bouncing off the walls for the rest of the day.
4. Drinks at Misty: This low-key bar in an alley across from Fed Square gets props for never being too full that we can’t get a seat, having the perfect levels of light and noise, and that amazing paper chandelier at the entrance. We always stop in for a drink when we have time to kill at night.
5. Gelato: One of my favourite things to do in Italy is spend time in the piazzas enjoying giant cones of gelato. Here I can get an authentic stack of the full-flavoured scoops any time I want. My favourites are from Fritz, Trampoline and Il Dolce Freddo in Carlton.
6. Koko Black: If you’re looking to blow a couple of bucks on a single chocolate, this is the place to go. The good-looking chocolates here come in a variety of interesting flavours, which means that we spend more money here than we should.
7. Markets: The enormous Queen Victoria Market is the main one people know about, but I actually prefer poking around the suburban markets. We go to the South Melbourne Market every weekend for our fruit, veg, meats and breads. And kudos to Theo’s Deli for being the only place that stores d’Affinois cheese so it tastes the way I like it. Also check out the markets in Prahran, Footscray and Preston.
8. Melbourne International Comedy Festival: Melbourne does a lot of festivals but I’ll admit, we spent all our money on gelato, chocolate and cheese so we couldn’t afford to experience them all. But we always see a few shows at the MICF, including the new acts that only get a few people in a night. I love to laugh and the line-up here never disappoints.
9. Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG): Never mind the footy, I just love the look and size of it. Sure we go and yell our heads off from March to September, but I’m always sad that my AFL team has their home ground at Etihad Stadium. If Melbourne ever had an icon, I think the MCG is it. The cricket is fun to watch there too if you can stay awake.
10. Mornington Peninsula proximity: A lot of Melburnians head down the Great Ocean Road for their holidays, but I need look no further than the Peninsula for rest and relaxation. Pinots, produce and parkland make this a stimulating place to spend a few days or a few weeks. You can head to the beach or fritter away an entire day eating and drinking your way through the various towns along and inland from the coast.
11. Risotto at Tutto Bene: Don’t ask for pasta here. The specialty is risotto and it’s creamy, divine and comes in an array of flavours. Mid Level Southgate, Melbourne
12. Shrine of Remembrance: This is a spectacular monument and the way it is positioned so you can see it from Swanston Street and as you come up St. Kilda Road adds an element of beauty to central Melbourne. I enjoy just walking in the surrounding park, but the Shrine itself serves a nice memorial and vantage point.
13. Spring Racing Carnival: Okay, so John and I like betting on the horses. I’m not too keen on the dressing-up part and the crowds are maddening, but there’s nothing quite like the Spring Racing Carnival, which includes the famous Melbourne Cup day and race. If you can’t get into the spirit or don’t care for racing, at least you get the day off work.
14. Steak at Giuseppe Arnaldo and Sons: We love to go here and order a little smorgasbord of cheese, antipasto and cured meats for dinner. But one day I tried their steaks and fell in love. I know Rockpool is just down the way, but you really should give the steaks at GAS a try sometime. Crown Entertainment Complex, Ground Floor
15. Sushi at Shoya: I dream about the eel at this Japanese restaurant. My first experience here was for sushi by myself at lunchtime, but then I made John take me there for my birthday and I’m now hooked on the regular menu as well. There are several levels of dining, including a karaoke bar upstairs, though I’ve never gone that high. If you like any kind of Japanese food and are interested in a nice dinner out, this is my favourite of its kind in Melbourne. 25 Market Lane, Melbourne
To our friends reading this, of course we will miss you the most. But I will also have room in my memory for of all these facets of Melbourne and the time we spent here.
Do you live in or have you visited Melbourne? What are a few of your favourite things?