Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Melbourne's artists take to the streets -- and alleys!


The variety and caliber of Melbourne's graffiti varies greatly, but the center portrait especially caught our eye.
Bruce Keller poses with an enchanting mural painted on a Melbourne, Australia, alley
wall.  Above right, Cookie listens while a guide shares fascinating tidbits about her city. 

WE ALL know the sadness and frustration of seeing a beautiful wall, bridge or fence blighted by graffiti.
Tasteless, vulgar, even obscene sometimes.

The hallways and arcades of downtown Melbourne are
admired for beautiful mosaics, elegant arches. In Block
Arcade, Cellini Melbourne offers fine jewelry and silver.
Why would anyone mar something old, historic, beautiful?
But in Melbourne, Australia, graffiti is art. Okay. It's not all art -- it's not all beautiful, provocative, funny or moving. But often, it's one or more of those.
Entrepreneur Fiona Sweetman devised the idea for Hidden Secrets Tours. Her passion is to share the best of Melbourne with curious travelers.
SHE INTRODUCED us to a brilliant Israeli-born guide on our recent seven-week adventure Down Under and Beyond. We gave her a rousing ovation for our three hour adventure.
Our tour focused on "lanes and arcades" and took us on a lively four-kilometer stroll through Melbourne's heart -- the downtown.
We began at the beautiful Federation Square and finished a few blocks away, after looping up, down and around a seven-block area.  We popped into lovely hallways, alleys, candy shops, jewelers, bakeries, cafes, flower shops, clothing stores and art galleries -- even a store specializing in honey made from bees encouraged to visit Melbourne rooftops. The honey is some of the most delicious we've tasted anywhere. We sampled a half-dozen kinds, all rich and flavorful -- made by bees lured by savvy businessmen and women to the very roof above the honey shop!
AS WE EXPLORED the city, we learned about Melbourne's history -- it's a fascinating one -- with lots of money and competition for jobs involving gold and wool.  Building in the heart of the city didn't begin until about 1835, so Melbourne is also a relatively new city.
"The Fed," is Federation Square, right, in the heart of Melbourne, with
a historic cathedral and train station just steps away.
Chocolate is a huge draw in Melbourne,
and its gorgeous arcades sport many shops.
Below, a rooftop bee helps make the honey
that Melbourne is known for worldwide.
This very international metropolis is home to four million people from all over the world.  They brought their fondness for chocolate, coffee and spicy cuisine with them, so Melbourne remains a foodie's heaven, with chic new restaurants such as Collins Kitchen in the Grand Hyatt, and the Langham's venerable Melba, named after the famed opera singer Nellie Melba.
THE MELBA sets the standard for Melbourne's discriminating range of fine restaurants, serving up fresh veggies and meats with local flair. Victoria's fertile farmlands and the rich Tasman Sea provide freshness and quality.
Hard to believe that now sophisticated Melbourne began as a rag-tag collection of tents and huts on the banks of the beautiful Yarra River. The river was used for bathing and drinking water but by the 1850s become polluted.  It became, in fact, the cause of an epidemic of typhoid fever which hit the town resulting in many deaths.  Though the Melbourne City Council opened the first city baths on 9 January 1860, people continued to swim and drink the river water.
TODAY, THE RIVER is still enjoyed by water sports enthusiasts and after the formal tour ended, we crossed the Yarra and strolled past several rowing clubs. Melbourne's attractive landscape is dotted with interesting architecture, including statuesque Art Deco buildings, neoclassical facades and contemporary towers.

We climbed stairs, smelled curry and garlic butter, stopped into a fortune teller shop, sampled hot chocolate with cinnamon and subtle chili seasoning, then enjoyed a pick-me-up double shot of espresso over vanilla bean ice cream.
THE GRAFFITI was a constant in the walking tour.  Some times it nearly moved us to tears. Other times it made us smile.
Melbourne is a city of art and greenery.
The tour meets in Melbourne's exciting downtown, across from a vintage train depot and an imposing cathedral.
Princes Bridge is one of Melbourne's
several delightful bridges. 
The modern, sleek aspects of Melbourne are complemented by its old-fashioned pups and small, village-like shops.
THE INTERNATIONAL feel is provided by the enticing mix of immigrants from every corner of Earth, who flooded into what is now Australia's second largest city and picked it for "home."  

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