On Saturday, I slept in a little, to get rid of the last vestiges of jet-lag, and got up at 9am, showered, dressed, grabbed a book and headed out to Lygon Street, half a block from my apartment. I spent a lovely leisurely morning in the university neighborhood, getting cappuccino and croissants at Thresherman’s Bakehouse, followed by a wander around the stores, and a second cappuccino at another cafe.
Then I dropped by a local wine merchant to pick out something for my apartment. I am very partial to Australian Shiraz, and here my choices were so varied that it took me forty minutes to pick out something, and even then, I felt that it was essentially a rather random choice, within my chosen price range. On the way back, I stuck my head into an internet cafe to check email and comments on Cosmic Variance, and then deposited the wine back at my apartment before heading out to meet my good friend and one of my hosts here – Ray Volkas – who treated me to a wonderful Saturday in Melbourne.
We started with a very nice lunch at Chocolate Buddha, a cute Japanese restaurant in Federation Square, across from the famous Flinders Street Station. After that, we took a long walk through town, stopping for an excellent espresso at one of the countless excellent coffee shops, and ending up at the Melbourne Observation Deck, from which we could see the ocean, the whole of downtown, Melbourne Cricket Ground, the roads along which the grand prix is held, and lots more.
Next stop was the Crown Casino. I only really had time to take a quick look at the poker room (where 2005 World Series of Poker winner Joseph Hachem played occasionally, I believe), but there is a distinct possibility that I will find time to go back and play for a while before leaving Melbourne. Ray and I had a nice drink in the atrium bar at the casino, before resuming our tour with a quick walk through the National Gallery of Victoria, which was hosting the final day of a wonderful Picasso exhibition.
We decided not to queue up to see the exhibit, opting instead to head to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, which is housed in a remarkable building, constructed from rusted metal (at least in appearance) and in which we strolled through a (mostly) thought-provoking exhibit of the work of Gillian Wearing.
Modern art is notorious for making one thirsty, and, since we had passed one of the most famous pubs in Melbourne – Young and Jackson’s – on our way into the city center, we walked back across town and stopped in for a couple of pints there. Pubs are something I miss a lot about my home country and it is fun to experience something very close, at least as far as ambience goes, so far away from home.
Before dinner we decided to drop in to The Gin Palace for a spectacularly good martini (OK, I know this is sounding like a boozy day, but it was the weekend, and some ways to see new cities are just so much more fun than others). This gave us just the kick required to get us over to Chinatown, for dinner at The Spicy Fish where we had the famous entree of the same name – a wonderfully prepared dish that is probably the best food I’ve had in Melbourne so far.
No “lads day about town” is complete without a nightcap, and so we headed to the Melbourne Supper Club, to finish off the evening with an after dinner drink (Madeira for me) and a Cuban cigar (that’s right America – a filthy communist cigar – aaaghhhh).
A truly wonderful day, full of culture, fine food, fine drinks, fine cigars, and great company. I’m already a fan of Melbourne, with two weeks left to enjoy its other pleasures.