Saturday, March 01, 2008


I'm in Melbourne now. And I like it

Understated, quaint and.....well....just more pleasant. Where Sydney is a bustling metropolis, Melbourne feels more provincial, more steeped in cafe culture, more friendly.

And it's cheap. Much cheaper, in fact, than it's New South Wales rival. Here the same money buys me a good Geoff Capes-sized portion of pasta as opposed to the petri-dish of microwaved slop found on The Cross

I am staying in a hostel called The Nunnery, formerly a convent, now a home to backpacker-based vice and inequity. The staff appears jolly pleased with the number of puns they've managed to wring out of this: the chief receptionist is called Mother Superior, the hostel's cat is called Brother Francis and backpackers must abide by the 10 Commandments, including "cleanliness is next to Godliness". Judging by the state of some rooms, then, we are lucky that Satan himself hasn't tried to book a room for the night

The first person I bumped into was bear-like Quebecois and my former Pink House bunkbed buddy, Etienne, who I last saw in my room at 4.30 that morning. "What the fuck are you doing here?" I asked slack-jawed. "No. What the fuck are YOU doing here?" he asked with equal incredulity. I can't believe we shared a room for the best part of 6 months (and a bed - not like that, though) and didn't even discuss our respective future travel plans

My room is home to two Aussies and a French bloke called Quentin, who upon finding I could play guitar, and convinced of his own singing ability, made me thrash out Coldplay songs whilst he crooned at excessive volume

At times his voice did a carry a Chris Martin-esque oaky tone, but more frequently sounded like Arthur "Good Moaning" Bostrom from 'Allo 'Allo

After extricating myself from the Gallic jamming session, I made my way over the Eureka Skytower, because I am a sucker for observation decks. Easily one of the best towers I’ve visited, the windows were floor to ceiling and tinted to give a clear view of the city and small, cushioned footstools were liberally scattered around allowing visitors to take in the panoramic view.

For an extra $12, tourists could ride The Edge. Not, as some might hope, the opportunity to saddle up U2’s guitarist and ride him into the sunset, but rather frosted-glass box-like contraption which steadily extends out from the skyscraper, until suspended 287 feet over the ground, at which point the frosted glass instantly clears, leaving you to peer down through the glass floor at the ground. It makes you feel a bit funny in your willy. Not in a rude way. In a “where’s the handrail?” way.

The older trams are like the troop transport from Empire Strikes Back. They are very, very noisy and look likely to fall apart at any point.

View from the Eureka Tower....

"The Edge" from the side. It's a 287 feet drop straight down. Unfortunately, you're not allowed to take photographs whilst in it. Tight bastards

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