No trip down under is a quick trip. But spending just 6 days in country is a quickie. I may be crazy but flights were super cheap and it cost me less to go to Melbourne than my annual spa trip to Mexico, so why not? You only live once, right?
It’s no secret that I love Melbourne. I’ve been 3 times in the last 18 months and every time I go I treat it as if it might be my last. Let’s face it, there are lots of other places to go in the world. My obsession with this city is bound to end soon.
So that begs the question, do you go back to places you have loved or try new ones with each trip? This time, I did a little bit of both. From eating in my favorite restaurant 3 times to staying in a new neighborhood. It was a glorious 6 days even with a bit of rain. Ahhh, Springtime in Melbourne . . .
I opted to stay downtown (in Aussie English that’s the Central Business District or CBD for short — everything has a shortened name, brekkie for breakfast, Chrissy for Christmas, etc . . . ) Always full of great restaurants and shopping, in recent years the residential side of the CBD has really picked up making it not just for tourists and not just lively on weekdays. However, not particularly enamored with the CBD hotel options, I crossed my fingers and had my first AirBnB experience — confirming for me yet again, that the internet is the best thing ever!
I found the absolutely perfect 2BR apartment on the Paris end (the eastern end where all the high end shopping is) of famous Flinders Lane just 2 doors down from my favorite restaurant. It was spacious, lovely, modern, quiet and despite typical city views of the neighboring buildings’ granite walls, full of natural light.
My hosts, too, were as charming as can be. Super fast on the communications, I never waited more than a few minutes for a response despite the time difference. When I arrived earlier than their previous guests had checked out, I parked myself, suitcase in tow, at the bar of my favorite restaurant for lunch (meal 1 of 3) and they met me there to hand off the keys once the place was cleaned and ready to go.
Even more accommodating, there were kitchen staples left for me including, a bottle of wine, bread, OJ in the fridge, along with a typed overview of the house rules — no partying, careful not to spill on their new B&B Italia sofa — and a list of recommended places in the neighborhood. After a quick text to let them know I was in safely and very much appreciated the goodies, I was completely on my own as if it were my home — cool art, comfortable beds, Aesop hand soap and all.
Just one more text on my way to the airport to say I was gone. It couldn’t have been simpler and more wonderful. I think I may be spoiled for future AirBnB experiences but I am game to find out.
My New First Day Ritual:
Because my first full day in Melbourne was a public holiday — Melbourne Cup Day, the horse race that stops the nation and unfortunately for me, completely closes down the city — and because I’m not into the spectacle of wearing silly hats (I can’t tell you how happy I am we Americans don’t barely know what a fascinator is) I opted to do the only thing I could think of, hunker down at a spa in a chic hotel for the day . . . the full day. And I have since decided, this is going to be my first day activity of choice from here on out. It is the perfect way to recover from the 15+ hour flight (plus the extra 5.5 hour flight cross country and full day in LA beforehand).
Only next time, I won’t be limited to the only open spa in the city on Cup Day — Isika Spa atop the Crown Metropol hotel. Not that it was horrible, it just wasn’t fantastic, especially for the amount of money it cost. At first I felt bad to book myself in on a holiday until I found out the staff was being paid triple time and there was a $70 non-predisclosed holiday service fee added to my bill. Thankfully, gratuities are not expected in Australia.
The spa was lovely I’ll give them that. I booked the Isika Ultimate Renewal package. 5+ hours including a luxurious tub soak, a steam shower, a relaxation massage, facial, manicure, pedicure and a hair blow out. After filling out the requisite paperwork, I was ushered to my own suite and left alone for 30 minutes to enjoy the freshly drawn bath in a giant egg shaped tub and the 27th floor city views from the steam shower in my ensuite bathroom while dual massage tables, large comfy chairs and a big puffy robe awaited me.
Maybe my expectations were high but those first 30 minutes were the best bits actually. The massage was fair. The facial, about on par. The mani & pedi, lets just say the view and the huge choice of colors were the highlights. Although I did enjoy the scalp massaging hair wash and blow out. Moral of the story, big hotel spa — not really my cup of tea.
But all that said i left more relaxed than when I came in, my skin was sufficiently re-hydrated, my nails polished, my hair straightened and even the outrageous bill didn’t phase me. I decided right then and there, next trip same type of first day at a more boutique establishment. My research is already done and I simply can’t wait.
Eat & Drink:
Cumulus — oh Cumulus how I love thee. Literally two doors down from the apartment, you already know this was my first stop in the city. I always come prepared with a list of restaurants a mile long (Melbourne is a great food town) and while I never expect to get through my ambitious list, eating again and again at the same restaurant takes away any hope of doing so. But I couldn’t help myself.
Just two days after my lunch of perfectly cooked skirt steak with spring onions, mint tea and 2 lemon curd filled, baked-to-order madeleines, I was eager to try more on the menu so steered a friend here for dinner under the guise of convenience to the apartment. A burrata appetizer, whole roasted lamb shoulder (the specialty of the house) with two salads, gave us a fantastic meal and me, leftovers to take home (the joys of staying in an apartment vs. a hotel). Enough you would think. But I just couldn’t get the freshness of the food off my mind and knew I would have to go back one more time.
About 4PM on Friday afternoon, I cozied up to the bar facing the open kitchen for a late lunch/early dinner. Here’s the best part of dining alone at Cumulus: So that you can have more variety in your meal, solo diners are allowed to order half portions of nearly anything on the menu. Although, not the burrata which I enjoyed down to the last creamy drop without fail. But I did have a half order of both the tuna tartare and their version of a Caesar salad. I really didn’t need to order the $16 tiny cannelle shaped portion of green apple sorbet with cucumber relish and a smear of vanilla yogurt for dessert but I did. I had watched the man next to me at dinner a couple of nights earlier order two servings of this — that’s $32 spent on dessert for one person. I figured it had to be good and it was pretty amazing. I won’t tell you how much money I dropped at Cumulus for my 3 meals. It was a lot. But worth every single cent and the leftovers fed me for a couple of more meals yet.
Little King Cafe, 4/209 Flinders Lane, CBD — the cutest, smallest little cafe you have ever seen. Actually come to think of it, Melbourne has even smaller places — coffee joints tucked into old ticket booths and broom closets if you can believe it. The LK Cafe tucked under St. Paul’s Cathedral, sports 2 small tables inside and a handful of makeshift tables and stools outside, and serves up mostly vegetarian fare, tea and coffee until 3:30 PM each weekday. I felt like a true Melbournian stopping here for tea one afternoon. I promise you nobody but locals know about this place.
Pressed Juices, 15 Collins Street, CBD — I started off most of my days with fresh pressed juice from the local outpost of this new chain. Just across the street and an escalator away from the apartment (a short cut up to Collins Street), the combinations were most interesting and plentiful — from chocolate concoctions, to fruit smoothies, to a plethora of green juices.
Hammer & Tong, 412 Brunswick Street (rear), Fitzroy— another repeat restaurant from my previous trip. I can’t help but share the gorgeous soft shell crab sandwich and house made Turkish Delight Fizz as they call it — subtly rose flavored in the most luscious shade of pink, garnished with a contrasting sprig of mint. The red and white striped straw simply makes it, don’t you think?
Captains of Industry, 2 Somerset Place, CBD — this place is much more than a cafe, it is a multi-business hipster joint including a custom shoemaker, a barber, a denim store, a tattoo parlor, cafe & bar, all in one. But because I ate breakfast here eat & drink is where goes. Like all the best Melbourne finds, this place is in a laneway you would only happen down if you were in the know, past the garbage, up a flight of sticky stairs and as groovy as groovy gets. Meals are simple fare like breakfast or “brekky” sandwiches, granola, eggs & such. For me, the barber is the most appealing business — a young guy bringing back the art of the shave. But beware boys, he books up way in advance so an appointment is absolutely necessary.
And lest you think this is all I ate during six days, you would be sadly mistaken. More eating was part of other activities and I will bring you those in subsequent posts . . .