Two New Years
It’s hard to believe how awful the weather was yesterday as we look out on the fresh blue sky with fluffy clouds and breath in the clean air. We are going into the centre to have a look around and make the most of New Year’s Eve.
Avoiding the tram stop around the corner we walk the 2km to Queen Victoria Market, passing small rows of two-storey Victorian terraces with wrought iron fencing along the way. We like this quaint city which has seemed to retained many of its historical street. The trams running down the centre of the streets keep trundling by and we have to keep reminding ourselves of their presence when crossing the road.
We get our first glance of the market of the market at the intersection of Queen Street and Victoria Street and what a beauty it is. The buildings are over 140 years old, albeit with some renovation of facilities over that time. The upper market is for fruit and vegetables and other goods and although covered is also outdoor. The lower market is under cover and houses meat, fish, dairy and bread.
The market is the largest open-air market in the Southern hemisphere with over 600 traders and attracts thousands of shoppers. The deli hall is art-deco and is lined with everything from cheeses, wines, cold meats, oils and kangaroo biltong.
It is noisy with traders booming cries to sell their wares and customers milling around all the counters and stalls. Around the edges there are restaurants and cafes where food of all types from every corner of the earth can be purchased. We wander round breathing in the atmosphere and devouring the colours, smells and sounds.
Outside the bottom entrance diagonally opposite where we entered, we bump into one of the city ambassadors who gives us information on getting about in the centre. Apparently, the tram in the centre is free to use and from 6 p.m. today until 5 a.m. tomorrow all public transport in Victoria is free. We should be fine for getting home wherever we decide to see the New Year in.
We hop on the city circle tram on La Trobe Street and prepare to listen to the audio commentary. The tram is a historic W-Class which you can hop on and hop off as often as you like at major attractions around the city centre. It is crowded but a great experience and we learn some of the geography of the city centre. We pass Victoria Harbour and the docklands, touch the Yarra River and get off at Flinders Street station.
The station, built in 1854 was Melbourne’s first railway station is a beautiful neoclassical building topped with an octagonal dome. The station backs onto the Yarra River and stretches for 2 blocks. What an impressive introduction to the city this must have been to railway passengers of the past.
We cross the river and follow a self-guided city walk of the arcades and laneways for which this city is famous. Central Melbourne is a warren of 19th-century arcades and cobbled streets featuring street art, basement restaurants, boutiques and bars.
The first arcade we come to is Block arcade, built in 1891 and based on Milan’s Vittorio Emanuele II arcade. There is a huge queue outside Hopetoun Tea Rooms, which is very reminiscent of Betty’s tea rooms, the windows full of cakes, breads, tarts and macarons. The Royal Arcade, built even earlier in 1869 in the Parisian-style has managed to retain much of its charming 19th-century detail. The tiled floor leads to the mythical figures of giant brothers Gog and Magog, perched within the domed exit.
The walk takes us past the grand neoclassical Melbourne Town Hall and the Manchester Unity Building where we go in to snoop around the impressive foyer. Mark insists we go up the wooden escalator but we end up in a dental practice with treatment room lining the corridors. We manage to find a lift and escape back to the lobby. The Scotts Church has a blue plaque for Dame Nellie Melba who was a member of the congregation.
Finally, we enter the lanes where the street art and graffiti can be found. Marcus really enjoys this area, taking plenty of photographs in Duckboard Place, AC/DC Lane and Hosier Lane. There are a number of artists working on the walls so the smell of spray paint is quite strong.
Crossing Flinders Street at St Patricks Cathedral we continue through Federation Square which has many areas fenced off for tonight’s celebrations, to the river bank. A drink in a bar overlooking the river is really appreciated in this heat.
Taking the bridge over the Yarra river we walk along the Southbank past the bars and restaurants which are all gearing up for tonight’s celebrations. Many tables are reserved, especially those with a prime view of the river. Deciding to eat before going home to get ready for tonight’s fireworks we return to the Lanes and settle on a bottle of red and Pizza in a restaurant on Degraves Street.
The packed tram ride back to north Melbourne is much quicker than the walk this morning. Once home the news is very alarming concerning the fires in Victoria and NSW on the south coast. Towns are completely cut off and the fires are out of control. Many are calling for fireworks to cancelled in respect for the firefighters and those suffering the effects of the bush fires and some displays have been cancelled over fears of spot fires. This is worse than anything else we have seen whilst in Australia and very sad.
I grab a couple of hours of shut eye before we get ready to venture back out. We have decided to go to the display in Flagstaff Gardens as this is the closest of the city displays and will be the easiest to get back from. We catch the tram to central station and then walk to the park. There are already large crowds in the Gardens, many families with children, parents and grandparents. What a fabulous atmosphere.
The female DJ is doing a good job of entertaining the crowds and there are large screens set up by the raised stage. People are either dancing or sat finishing picnics and chilling on the ground. A shriek suddenly grabs our attention and we see a possum. There are plenty of these in the park living in the Moreton Bay Figs and Eucalyptus trees. Another possum decides to climb a tree and watch us from the safety of a high branch.
As midnight approaches the tension increases and the countdown begins; 1 hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 5 minutes, 1 minute, 10 seconds and then the fireworks. These last for 10 minutes and are absolutely spectacular. They are on the top of skyscrapers all around us and in the sky above us, the crowd showing their appreciation enthusiastically. Mark pops the fizz and we toast 2020.
The crowd begins to disperse soon after and by 12.30 a.m. we are making our way home. We walk to Queen Victoria Market and squeeze our way onto a crowded number 57 tram.
A late night means we all sleep in but we are up in time for our next New Years Eve at 11 a.m. Mark pops another bottle of fizz and we toast the New Year in England. Two for the price of one!!