Friday, July 15, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities (Melbourne)

It is a thrill for me that Gryphon wants me to see him fit and handsome when he comes to Australia. I can assure him that I will love him no matter what and we will eat healthier food when he comes over.

For close to two years now, I have lived in Melbourne which is in the state of Victoria in the Land Down Under. I must confess that before I visited Australia, my concept of the country was largely formed by Crocodile Dundee, Thorn Birds and the Australian mining companies my father has worked under. So I thought of a huge desert, kangaroos and beer-drinking adventurers. It was a huge surprise to find that most Australians live near the coastal areas and in sophisticated cities.

Australia's famous city internationally is Sydney with its gorgeous harbour, iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The other showcase city is Melbourne and for many years past and until the present, these two cities have been rivals for the title of THE CITY of Australia. (Pictured is a famous Melbourne landmark, the Flinders Street train station).

We are constantly reminded that we are in the most "liveable city" in the world. This was after Melbourne was rated the best city to call home by international newspaper The Economist in 2002 and 2oo4. Anyway, Melbourne is known in Australia as being the country's fashion and restaurant capital. I'm not really into sports but the tennis grand slam Australian Open is held here as well the Australian Grand Prix (Formula 1 racing).

As a tourist, I enjoyed going to the zoos, parks and art galleries. Now there really isn't much time (or money) to do the touristy sort of things. However, I've made it my mission to still seek out the interesting places and restaurants in Melbourne without breaking the bank and to enjoy what the city has to offer. I look forward to having family and friends visit and show them the sights.

One good thing about Melbourne is the multiculturalism. You really do find people who come from around the world living here. Just the other night at class, I found that my classmates come from Malaysia, China, England, America, India, Columbia, Japan and different parts of Australia. One Aussie classmate even lived in the Philippines for five years. Consequently, the restaurants and eateries showcase different cuisine. One block away from our flat, along Burgundy Street (pictured), you can find Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, Greek, Italian and Aussie food on offer.

I borrowed a book from the library entitled 'Cheap Eats 2005' which catalogues good but cheap restaurants. My flatmate and I went to one of the restaurants, Pizza Espresso in Doncaster. Upon entering this cozy restaurant, you see a big igloo-looking oven. This is where they cook the Italian thin-crust pizzas. The cooks and everyone kept talking in Italian and the music kept pace. We loved the feel of being there but we loved the cheap price even better. Next time we have something to celebrate, we'll try a Japanese restaurant that features authentic okinomiyaki (Japanese pancake). For now, we're staying away from restaurants so we could save. One more word on the food - the coffee is great! Anywhere you go, you get the real brewed thing in standard formats of cappuccino, latte, flat white, black and mochaccino.