We all know the cliché saying - you don't know what you have until it's gone. After 26 and a half years of living in Melbourne, I need a change, badly. Let's just say - I wasn't overly appreciative of all that Melbourne had to offer. So I packed up everything and moved myself to London.
Now here I am, finding myself back in Melbourne after 3 years of living abroad. They say things never change when you come home. The streets haven't drastically changed. People haven't changed. I still know how to get myself around without thinking about it. Everything has just kept on going, as it was 3 years ago.
I had a lot of people warn me that the first time I came home would be the hardest. I definitely felt this when I came to visit over Christmas in 2014. I had changed so much, and the people around me had changed too, but in a different way to me. I guess our lifestyles weren't as matched anymore. I left Melbourne after this first trip certain that London was the right place for me, and that I'd possibly never move back home.
Something inside of me has changed this time. It's my second visit home, and I am appreciating my surroundings again - the familiarity of life here, the ease of getting around, the joy of being able to drive a car! The football, the weather (4 seasons in one day!), and my family and friends. I feel ready, for the first time in 3 years, to move back. A frightening, yet terrifying feeling.
So get ready Melbourne...we just might be seeing some more of each other soon.
In 2015, Melbourne was named the most liveable city for the fifth consecutive year. That in itself makes me pretty proud to be a born and raised Melburnian.
Here's a few 'must do' experiences in, and around, Melbourne.
1. Take a tram ride
Melbourne is famous for its' trams. As a local, trams are a fairly big nuisance. They hold up traffic, and they can be difficult to overtake. As learner drivers in Melbourne, we have to perfect the art of not only learning how to drive a car, but also learning how to respond when the tyres get caught in the tram tracks. Even though they can be a slow and frustrating form of transport, a tram ride is an absolute essential when visiting Melbourne.
Suggested routes to take for best scenic views of Melbourne:
Number 75 - take this tram for a trip down Bridge Road and hop off for markets and plenty of shopping. The tram then continues past the MCG and into Flinders Street
Number 70 - this tram will take you into Docklands, where you can go shopping at DFO for factory outlet priced clothing. You'll also get a nice view of the city from here
Number 112 - if a trip to St. Kilda tickles your fancy, this is the tram for you!
City Circle (free) - everyone loves free transport, so take advantage of this free city tram. It will pass by all of the major sites that the CBD has to offer
To ride a tram (or any public transport in Melbourne), you need to buy a Myki from a newsagent or train station. Top your Myki up, jump on a tram, and don't forget to tap in and out to be charged the correct amount. *Take note* - from January 1st, 2015, tram travel within the CBD and Docklands area became free - good move Melbourne!
Photo Source: @pat_eckersall
2. Watch the footy
You cannot come to Melbourne and not go to an AFL match - here we are football obsessed. It's more than a sport to us - it's our culture, our lifestyle, our main topic of conversation. We grow up on football - learning how to kick as soon as we start walking. Yes, the ball has a funny shape, and yes, we kick it in between two of four long sticks to score a goal. But, who can say no to watching toned, attractive men running around in tiny white shorts. Certainly not me.
The MCG is the best place in Melbourne to watch a game of footy. You'll experience the true atmosphere of a game here - the yelling, the shouting, the abuse! Those bloody umps! All standard for a match of footy. Don't take it too seriously - it's all in good fun.
Get online and visit www.ticketek.com.au and pre-purchase your tickets online. You can buy them at the gate, but you need to get in really early for the big games. Pay a little extra to reserve your seat - my brother and I went just recently, and found out that general admission seats are only available right up the back, so take your binoculars if you're game enough to take this option!
3. Drive the Great Ocean Road
Hire a car, and take a drive down Victoria's most scenic road - The Great Ocean Road. Twisty and bendy, and offering stunning views of the coastline, this is one drive that you don't want to miss. You can pass through some iconic Victorian beach towns such as Lorne, Aireys Inlet, and Anglesea.
4. ...and while you're there, visit the famous 12 Apostles
Make sure you get to all the apostles, not just the picture perfect postcard famous ones. My new favourite is 'The Grotto' - a little further down than the others.
5. Drink Melbourne Coffee
I'm definitely not being biased when I say Melbourne coffee is the best in the world. I'm sure it's scientifically proven somewhere. Step into any local café and savour the flavour of an excellent brew of coffee. Just delicious.
6. Drink wine in the Yarra Valley
Just an hour drive out of Melbourne to the east, you'll find the beautiful Yarra Valley region of Victoria. Here you can stroll around the vineyards, indulge in wine tastings, and eat delicious food matched with local wine. A day trip worth investing in. There are tours which run from the city if you don't want to drive, and that way you can fully enjoy the experience.
7. Visit the Dandenong Ranges
Just 35km east of Melbourne is the Dandenong Ranges - where you can explore forests, villages, and rainforests. The drive up the mountains in itself is beautiful, and you can make regular stops along the way for walks through the jungle. At the base of the mountain, you will find the entrance for the '1000 Steps' - a walk uphill that is sure to get the heart pumping. Make sure you top off your visit (and reward yourself for your 1000 step walk) with a calorie heavy stop for scones with jam and cream in one of the tiny villages up the mountain. An absolute must do.
Victoria - certainly the place to be!