Melbourne and Her Markets

We missed out in Sydney, arriving too late and leaving too early to experience the city’s markets. Kirsten and I were determined not to miss out again. The moment we arrived at the hostel in Melbourne after our delayed flight, we sat down and did intensive research. We ended up constructing a game plan for tomorrow, intending to hit as many Sunday markets as possible.

Taking the morning slow, we started with the Arts Center Melbourne Sunday Market near the center of town. The stalls were artsy and few, crafty and beautiful, cute but mostly out of my price range. Standing under the shadow of the modernist iron peak that forms the roof of the Arts Center and in view of downtown, what struck me most was the city itself.

The architecture had a different flavor. The sleek, blue lines common in other cities were present in the skyscrapers but that style was also interspersed with sparks of color and unusual shapes. And in between these often ultra-modern designs were the remnants of the city’s gold rush past. Victorian brick sat between or was even incorporated into newer buildings. Melbourne seems to embrace its past as well as look for the unusual in the present. The artsy-ness was refreshing after the carefully crafted, borderline generic-ness of Sydney.

We then made our way along a typically urban street, watching it transform from office buildings to warehouses. After about an hour, we reached our next stop: South Melbourne Market. More established and open five days a week, this massive marketplace was located under a sprawling warehouse and surrounded by a sizable parking lot.

As we approached, people zoomed about during the lunch time rush. When we entered, we were struck by masses of people and smells — glowing display cases of meats and cheese, stacks of grains and bottles of beer, Asian tourists snapping pictures at everything, locals trying to do their weekly shopping…

We eventually escaped the food section and stumbled into the household goods and clothing. A mixture of overprized hipster fair and wholesale Chinese knockoffs, we wandered along the isles occasionally wishing we had more money or more room in our suitcase.

It took us a while to see everything, but once we did we left for other sights. The tram took us to the beach, a cold and atmospheric place in the clouded sky and windy air. It reminded me of the Atlantic beaches I’d seen in Maryland, completely different to the Pacific-like sands of Sydney. We sat at a bench on the boardwalk, watching other people walk along the shore in coats and shoes. We drank the cheap cider we bought at the South Melbourne Market and talked about our past and present.

After we finished our bottles, we managed to make it to the St. Kilda market along the esplanade just as they were closing up. Besides some cool jewelry we weren’t missing much, but nevertheless we felt accomplished having made it to three markets in one day.

Luna Park was located right next to the market, and since entry was free and we were unable to go to the one in Sydney, we’d thought we go in and see what all the fuss was about. This small amusement park was established 1912 (23 years before the one in Sydney) and remnants of the carnival-like, old-timey fun were still present the simplistic nature of the rides and the colorful, jokey nature of the decorations. Kids ran everywhere — in strollers with snotty noses, or on their own feet jumping up and down at the lights and sounds. It was no Disney World or even Six Flags, but it was well established and we could see how little kids would be enamored.

As we sat down and ate some French fries, we could feel the day catching up to us. We had intended to take Melbourne at a slower pace, but that wasn’t working out as we planned. There was just too much to see…

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