Melboured

Quaint…yes. Charming…sure.  Touristy…definitely – but I’m not quite sure why.  When planning a trip to Australia, most people feel compelled to include Melbourne on their itinerary.  For Micah and I, we didn’t really have a specific reason why we were going there, other than…”Well, it’s Melbourne. You have to go there.”  (A bit of reading in the Lonely Planet Guidebook also played a role.)

As I’ve eluded to in earlier posts (and my not so subtle blog post title), Melbourne is Mel…boring!  It’s no Sydney…which is fine (why would you visit Sydney to just go and visit another Sydney again?)  But after a day walking around the city (like Sydney, the city is very walkable), there is not much else to do.  The museum offerings seemed desperate.  Luna Park (Melbourne’s “theme park”) was dirty, old, and looked dangerous.  Granted, if you love architecture, then you are in paradise – a city chock FULL of old Victorian Buildings.  I can appreciate that.  But beyond appreciation…now what?

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The best part of Melbourne: Hands down, it’s the Queen Victoria Market!  It’s a HUGE open market filled with endless fruit, veggies, cheese, meats, seafood, bakery, souvenirs stands and shops. 

This is where the locals come to do their daily shopping.  The prices for a HUGE array of fresh fruits and veggies are cheap.  Probably the only cheap food we encountered in our entire Aussie stay. 

It’s a fun place to just look around and kill a few hours.  We took advantage of the prices and bought a bunch of fresh fruit to eat for breakfasts and snacks. 

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Had we access to a kitchen or BBQ, we would have been in heaven – the steak selection looked so good!  But we did chow down on some of the yummy food offerings.  I heard on a tv show that Bratwurst is Melbourne’s most popular street food to eat…so naturally, I HAD to get one 🙂

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Here’s some other stuff we did:

  • St. Kilda’s Beach: A short-tram ride away on a beautiful sunny Saturday.  We get there and…the beach is basically empty.  (I think the locals have some other really nice beach hidden away from the tourists.)  There was nothing special about this beach.  We spent at least an hour walking around trying to figure out what to do.  It should have been an easy decision – lay on the beach! but it didn’t feel right.  It lacked that “beach” vibe.  For some reason, this beach came across as being dirty.  I like sunny beaches…and I should have liked it here…but I didn’t. 

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  • Costco: It’s weird. But Micah and I love Costco. And we like visiting Costco’s in different places – just interesting to see how they change it up (or what’s left the same).  Of course, we didn’t buy anything.  However…this was tempting.  Scrabble! The edible chocolate edition! (Also available was edible Pictionary).

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  • Lounging and working out at parks:  There are a lot of nice, grassy, shady parks all over the city.  So some days we just brought our lunches and ate and relaxed in the park.  We played lots of Scrabble against each other on our Nintendo DSs too :-).  In the evenings, a couple nights we went to the park by our hotel and actually worked out. 

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The most disappointing part of Melbourne:  Our over-hyped dinner at the “famous” Dainty Szechuan restaurant in Chinatown. 

-Background: Prior to leaving for Aussie, Micah and I did a bit of reconnaissance (phew, that’s a hard word to spell) work to scout out the good and “cheap” (ha! ha!) eats in our cities.  I stumbled on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s tv show “No Reservations” – where he highlighted the culinary exploits of Melbourne.  He was practically swooning over everything he put in his mouth.  He ate at Dainty Szechuan, and pretty much made it out to be one of the best meals ever.  I was hooked.  I noted the address, recorded the dishes he ate, and was determined to eat here.

-The meal: Before I begin, let me offer this full disclosure: I did see many things on the menu that looked really delicious, but, they weren’t what Anthony Bourdain ate…so they weren’t up for consideration. 

In hindsight, I really really wish we went in with no prior knowledge of what he ate.  We ended up ordering two of the dishes highlighted on the show: mouthwatering chicken and spicy cumin pork spare ribs.  The chicken was just ok.  Since it’s szechuan-style, the food is really spicy…but that wasn’t the problem for us.  It was just WAY too salty.  And then the pork spare ribs came out looking all delectable…but again, we could barely stomach more than a few bites.  It really was an awful meal.  The highlight of the meal…plain, steamed white rice.

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Despite having tons of food left on our plates (a rarity for us), we had to just suck it up, pay the bill, and decline the offer for a doggy bag.

FYI: Korean food is salty.  We are used to salty.  We like salty.  This food was beyond salty.  What a let down.

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