Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Street walking in Melbourne

"Omnis comparatio claudicate" (every comparison is to some extent flawed). This statement is more than appropriate when used in a travel context, yet impossible to restrain.

I had a chance to spend a couple of days among Melburnian, changing the rule of casual travel by having a long weekend on weekdays. My duty was to wonder in the street of Melbourne, Australia and to report my founding to head quarter for future investigation. I was a spy agent, undercover in the city, taking pictures, trying to pretend I was one of them while I was not at all. Before accepting my mission, I did my home work by locating the best ice cream shops and other corner stone of the local habits. But nothing prepared me what I saw on the field. Like one of my best inspire and role model used to say “Preparation is not ...” (John Rambo)

So as I said, my mission was to be alike in the city and notice everything and anything that could be used later on by HQ for a more mass scale invasion. Before dawn, on my first day, I decide that the best way of explore the city is to do the same as everybody else, and I decided to sleep in for at least 4 hours more. The red eye flight that I took was not comfortable enough to be able to rest and look fresh. The best way to spot a spy agent is to look at his/her eyes. I would be an easy target if I was walking around, asking question, starring at people with my red eyes. I did not want to take any risk, so I slept in and woke early in the afternoon (around 4PM or so)

During my homework, I discovered that Melbourne is the second most populous city in Australia, with population estimated at 4 million. My mission was going to be a very easy one, then. Being stationed already in a city of 4 millions people, I perfected the Art of Infiltration in foreign sovereignty without being spotted. In his book, “The 2 things a spy agent should know before crossing enemy’s line”, John Rambo mentioned that “Infiltration is the …” It took me a while to understand what John really wanted to say, but I realized later on during my stay in the capital of the Victoria state, what he meant. I guess he wanted to say that if you want to be in, you should not stay out.

Being a field agent for more that 15 years, I have to say that camouflage is probably the most difficult skill to acquire as a spy. Not enough, you’ll be recognized and too much, you’ll be spotted out; but the "four seasons in one day” proverb help me to choose my outfit for my first exploratory mission outside base camp number one (hotel room). I was the only one with a dawn jacket around my hips during the day and sweating like a pig at night. I guess that coming from a tropical island did not help me to easy the transition. I should write to John about this and ask him to update his online suitcase check list.

Anyway, my camera in one hand and my courage in the other, I decided to explore the city founded by free settlers in 1835, 47 years after the first European settlement of Australia, as a pastoral settlement situated around the Yarra River. On the way out, I put on my large Crocodile Dundee hat with the corks balancing around, but realized quickly that I should have done a bit more or research on the local habits.

I was the only one who had the bush outfit, and everyone on the block was tall, skinny and well dressed. I understood right away why the city is often referred to as Australia's sporting and cultural capital and it is home to many of the nation's most significant cultural and sporting events and institutions. At first, the locals are seeing as friendly and even non aggressive toward the tourist specie. At second, they are still seeing as friendly and even non aggressive toward the tourist specie. I am not used anymore to be the smallest in the street, but with was the case. I was immediately surrounded but a feeling of being at home.

Locals knew how to street walk.

I had to look up in the street and not be worried of one who cut throw your walking line, or one who suddenly change direction in front of you without noticing that you were behind, or one who not changing direction when going toward your direction playing the famous bluff game (You change! No YOU Change!), leading inevitably to improvised dance steps unheard at the “So You Think You Can Dance” competition.

In a not so recent article in the New York Time (Metro Matters; Urban Dance: Choreographing The City Streets), Sam Roberts ask himself which city has the best pedestrians. According to William H. Whyte, in his "Social Behavior in Public Places & Lessons for Urban Design: observations", the ones from New York City are the best. For 16 years William H. Whyte has been walking the streets and public spaces and watching how people use them. He started the "Street Life Project" with a number of social researchers and a band of observers.

According to William H. Whyte, New Yorker ''walk fast and they walk adroitly. They give and they take, at once aggressive and accommodating. With the subtlest of motions, they signal their intentions to one another - a shift of the eyes, a degree or so off axis, a slight move of the hand, a wave of a folded newspaper.''

This is what I rediscover, deep inside me was hidden this ability to handle the signals around me, and dance while walking without having to be or aggressive or accommodating, but both at once. My social street walker codes were all put back together and I was able to move around a city without having to fight against the flow of people and other ambush on my way. I was at home for 3 days, walking everywhere, jumping in and out the Free City Tourist Shuttle.

Now when you think that Melbourne is notable for its mix of Victorian and contemporary architecture, its extensive tram network and Victorian parks and gardens, as well as its diverse, multicultural society where food, restaurants and outdoor activities are ones of the finest in Australia…

Even thought I should not compare my current stationary camp with Melbourne, I have to say that street walking should be tough at school as a mandatory topic from the age of six to twelve and if you have consistent bad grades you should only be allowed to move around a city by taxi or in your own personal car. I am all for a street walking permit based on points and merit.

Melbournian passed the test, Singaporean did not.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Melbourne address


  • MoVida 1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne
    Telephone: +61 (0)3-9663-3038
    Cuisine: Spanish/Portuguese

    This 20 seats restaurant in a small tiny street in a back alley, downtown Melbourne is my favorite place in the city. All dishes come in small portion to share with your partner in crime for the night. Delicacies prepared in a surprising and delightful mixed of tastes and colors which offer to local passenger the best of what Iberian cuisine can offer in the south hemisphere of the planet. Simply a MUST try in Australia.

  • The Press Club
    72 Flinders StMelbourne, VIC 3000, Australia
    Telephone: +61 (0)3-9677-9677

    George Calombaris has an avant-garde chef reputation whose culinary creations have both raised eyebrows and prompted contentment. Traditional is not a word that you can used to associating with him. At The Press Club, Calombaris aims to recreate the traditional Greek food and inject it with a bit of modern tastes. Let Georges guide your Greek travel and choose the menu for you depending what your belly can handle

  • Brunetti
    194-204 Faraday St
    Carlton, VIC 3053, Australia
    Telephone: +61 (0)3-9347-2801

    This almost one block shop offer what the north Italian breakfast and pastries has on the planet. This mom and pap (and sis and bro, and unc and ant, and ...) shop is a must stop for start a good day in town. They also deliver if you are too far away from them or just in time addict.

  • Nobu
    Crown Complex - 8 Whiteman Street,
    Southbank, VIC 3006, Australia
    Telephone: +61 (0)3-9696-6566

    What to say about this impressive now around the worl Japanese chain restaurant. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa who partnered with actor Robert De Niro, has been seen as a pioneer for Japanese cuisine since 1994, and an early trip to Peru. The resulting dishes, including Tiradito Nobu Style, Yellowtail with Jalapeno, Squid Pasta, and Black Cod with Miso, make Nobu the innovator of new style Japanese food.


  • Original & Authentic Aboriginal Art
    90 Bourke St, Melbourne.
    Telephone: +61 (0)3-9663-5133

    A very pleasent atmosphere and a wonderful selection of works. The space is large with a large collection from different schools. If you're in Melbourne looking for some Aboriginal Art, definitely take the time to find this gallery, you'll be pleased that you did

  • Aboriginal Galleries of Australia
    35 Spring St Melbourne Victoria 3000
    Telephone: +61 (0)3-9654-2516

    This is an Aboriginal art gallery runs in a co-operative and presents some very original aboriginal art at a quite expensive price.

Melbourne is fortunate to enjoy absolutely fabulous restaurants as well as The Age Good Food Guide to rate them. The annual Age Good Food Guide rates the top Melbourne dining establishments with 1, 2 and 3 hats (chef hats of course), Restaurant of the Year, New, Country and Chef of the Year. The 2007 Top Melbourne Restaurants list:

Friday, May 16, 2008

End of the world

When Aldous Huxley was traveling in Belize back in the 1930s, he said that “If the end of the world had any ends, British Honduras (Belize at the time) would certainly be one of them.”

To me my end has always been Perth in Australia. Probably because in my mind, Australia is already on the tip of the map, and when you look at it Perth is even more difficult to reach from wherever you come from. So when I received an email from my friends asking me if I wanted to spend a long weekend in Perth, I jumped on the occasion to see what the end of the world looks like at least once in my lifetime.

Let me tell you that this end of the world is not that bad. It’s an end full of wineries, long white sand beaches and gorgeous food. Time is slow under a winter sun, close to the earth tempo blending get up, watch, eat, drink and go to bed.

Now I did not went to the end of the world by myself, maybe too scared of not coming back or maybe tempted to show what the end of the planet might be to other, I went to the end with 10 others wallabies wannabe. After a short flight away from Singapore to Perth on a Wednesday night, half of the end-of-the-world team drove to the nearest hostel.

The shock was not only temperature wise but also landscape wise. After a flying jump away from the red-dot, horizontal distance became larger than my usual. Long straight lines forced me to put my deep thinking look on and my brain started again imagining what could be far behind the horizon line.

Perth is not the real end of the world but much more the airport of the end of the world. If you want to experience you have to drive a but more down close to the south pole and loose some time on the road. At the end of the road you might find a lovely village called Margaret River where the local or tourist lost souls gather together and make this place a departure destination for exploring the wonderland around. To my surprise, this end of the world is also a land full of delirium plantum named wineries. Who would have thought that the end is such an heaven land. Wine needs to have a moderate weather with mild winter and moderate summer, almost a perfect weather for a small clothes closest aficionados like I am.

The main difference that I saw when compared to my middle of the world called home land of reference alcoholic liquidity (Bordeaux) was the color of the soil. All the pictures collected over my years of imaginary Australian dreams were true. The soil is bright red, granular and light. The flying dust over the horizon line gives you a constant blurry vision of the land. Almost if the land had decided to not be only the ground but wanted to be free. The end of the world is a mixing land where soil sticks to your shoes, socks and bottom of your pants. The closest experience that I could reckon was when I tried, unsuccessfully, a long time back pushing the ball with a giant racquet on a clay tennis court. My socks even after many washes, stayed the same red bright, red blood color which by the way impressed many of my soccer teammates.

That would be nice if this end of the world would be only winery based, but this place smell sea as well. The blue sky, white sand and green shores stripe along the border of the land proposing a continuum horizontal picture that no camera on the planet can capture in it entire spirit.

This end of the world had once in the past a pier for final departure for whose who were not afraid to fall behind the tip of the map. But since the return of some of them, no one uses it anymore, leaving the pier sinking in the sand to maybe one day disparate totally in the green sea.

If from that side you have no option, you might want to look inland to find the answer.On the other side of the shore, looking into the eyes of the outback, giant Tingle trees (up to 25 meters high) surrender the village of Margaret and its River.

Lake Cave

Around three hundred and fifty caves are hidden within the limestone ridge underneath the area of Margaret River that runs from north to south. Most of the caves are not suitable to be opened to the public. However, the four major caves are located off Caves Road, the country road that runs through the area from Dunsborough to Cape Leeuwin in the south, and are clearly signposted if you wish to stop by. If the decide to drop down one of them, you be surprise by the effect of the global warming on the caves at the end of world.

Barrel Race

No real Australian experience could be taken seriously without a stop at the pub, where you can enjoy local beers with local (giant) company. If suddenly your are place is the shadow it’s probably because a giant Australian has moved between you and the light. Don’t you worries, soon (s)he move to the washroom for a stop over recycling.

Margaret and its River do not offer a great deal of urban entertainments, except if, like us, you go off season for the annual wine festival. You will be taken from wineries to wineries in buses, tasting the best local red, white or pink wine for your own pleasure. You can also try to enjoy western delicacies for lunch in middle of wine grapes, or you can also enjoy the great view from your cottage, a comfortable bed, a large table full of food homemade cooked on the BBQ surrounded by your friends, a MindTrap game around the flaming chimney, a late poker in house tournament or a final pool competition.

Let me tell you "cobbe" that this end of the world is an "awesome" place to spend some time with friends, wine, food, beach under the sunshine.

I am now wondering what the other end of the world looks like.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Perth address


  • Pert
    Billabong Backpackers Resort Hotel Perth - 4/5 Stars
    381 Beaufort St, Perth, Wa 6000, Australia. This giant hostel is located 1km from the CBD and is close to the nightlife of Northbridge and the shopping area of Mt Lawley offering many stylish cafes, pubs and shops.
  • Margaret River
    Few kilometers away from the Margaret River downtown on the coast you will be able to find major properties to handle massive group of people. The Crows Nest is a substantial architect designed two storey residence perched high on the ridge overlooking Gnarabup Beach and the pristine coastline of Western Australia's south-west.
  • You can find some alternatives place to stay in Margaret River village at the MR Holiday Homes website or Margaret River's beachside playground which lists some of the best properties in the region for rent.

Download a map online or go to the tourism office to have a larger one with some advice, but out of the manies local wineries here are some of the must see or drink.

  • MossWood - Need to book in advance
  • Cullen
  • Pierro - Chardonnay
  • Gralyn - Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Vasse Felix - Great place for lunch
  • Cape Mentelle - Zinfandel
  • Leuwin Estate - another good place for lunch or dinner
  • Green Valley - they do OK, reasonably priced wines
  • Rockfield Estate
  • Voyager,
  • Redgate
  • and finally Sandalford

[[Eat Out]]
You should go into Margaret River town and do some shopping in the local supermarkets and load up on BBQ food and then chill out at your beach house in the evenings and drink wine. If you decide to eat out then check out

  • Leuwin Estate - for lunch or dinner
  • Vasse Felix - for lunch
  • Lamonts
  • VAT 107 in the town
  • The Berry Farm

[[What to do in Perth?]]
Check out the Lonely Planet Video for a quick ride