Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

by Andrea Clarke

The Chinese scholar and writer Lin Yutang once wrote, “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”

Along with other sacred belongings, my pillow is gathering dust in the attic of an airport hangar at Melbourne Airport. I reluctantly abandoned it moments before tearing through duty free to make my flight to Washington, D.C. (via Los Angeles) last May, a five-year U.S. visa stamped in my passport.

The truth is, I was devastated to leave. Melbourne is my first love—and returning home from my adopted home of Washington, D.C. is virtually impossible. As a freelance news producer, I’m obligated to be “available” the half of the month that I don’t have scheduled work. Sometimes I stare resentfully at my agenda, cursing the thirty-hour journey it takes to get from Washington to Australia.

I often think, if I had just three days in Melbourne, this is what I would do:

Friday evening

Dinner at Thanh Phong

240 Victoria St, Richmond 3121, t 03.9427.7429

Navigating the chaotic Vietnam-meets-Victoria Street is worth the almost 180 items on this hot little menu. Try the crispy spring rolls wrapped in fresh iceberg lettuce and mint or (my favorite) the giant garlic prawns with chilli oil on the side.

Friday night

Melbourne Wine Room at the George Hotel

125 Fitzroy St, St Kilda 3182 t 03.9525.5599

A favorite with classy urban singles, this St. Kilda hotspot always has a lively vibe. It’s a great place to unwind, especially on a Friday night.

Saturday morning

Brunch at Caffe e Cucina

581 Chapel Street, South Yarra 3141 t 03.9827.4139

An espresso and fresh bowel of bircher muesli at Caffe e Cucina will provide ample energy to pound the vast shopping pavement that stretches five miles to the left of this café. First stop: Scanlon and Theodore—followed by Alannah Hill, Witchery, Country Road, Third Millennium, and the very sexy Wayne Cooper.

Saturday afternoon

Sanctuary Day Spa, Grand Hyatt Hotel

123 Collins St, Melbourne 3000 t 03.9657.1234

Take it from a woman who knows: a facial at the Sanctuary Day Spa (preceded by a steam and a swim) is one quality treatment and an hour of sheer bliss.

Saturday evening

Dinner at Italy 1

27 George Parade, Melbourne 300 t 03.9654.4430 www.italy1.com.au

Located on a narrow lane off Collins Street, this favorite of the culinary elite is intimate, dimly, and warm. In a true testament to Italy 1’s quality—and longevity—I have only good memories of the locale, despite having dined there with a variety of ex-boyfriends.

Sunday morning

Power Walk at the Royal Botanic Gardens (“the Tan”)

This three-kilometer circuit—home to sweeping lakes and lawns, heritage walks, and more than 350 species of plants—covers Melbourne’s most precious environment.

Sunday at noon

Brunch at the Botanical

169 Domain Rd, South Yarra 3141 t 03.9820.7888

Running almost parallel to the Royal Botanic Gardens is a très slick restaurant of the same name. The Botanical—winner of the prestigious Best Wine List 2005 award—offers a charming brunch menu, including fresh juices and hot rhubarb porridge.

Sunday afternoon

Federation Square

Federation Square, located in the heart of Melbourne, is a tribute to one hundred years of Australian history. Standing proud between the Yarra River and Spencer Street Station, you can’t miss it. Check out the Ian Potter Center, which houses a comprehensive collection of Australian art; the square is also home to twenty restaurants, cafés, and bars. You can find more good shops and restaurants in Southbank, just across the bridge.

Museum buffs should make time for the nearby National Gallery of Victoria, which routinely exhibits major works (www.ngv.vic.gov.au). If sport is more you’re thing, well, Melbourne has it all! The city hosts the Australian Tennis Open every January, the Australian Football final in September, and in October 2009 the World Masters Games.

* * * *

General Information

Arriving

Quantas Airways flies daily from major hubs, including Los Angeles, London, and Hong Kong.

Getting Around

Melbourne is easy to navigate. The tram system runs through the city, from South Yarra to St Kilda. Taxis are easy to flag down, and are reasonably priced. (Although compared to London and Washington, D.C., I guess any cab is reasonable!)

Hotels

Hotel Royce

379 St Kilda Road

Melbourne 3000

t 03.9677.9900

The Prince Hotel

2 Acland St

St Kilda 3182

t 03.9536.1111

Hotel Lindrum

26 Flinders St

Melbourne 3000

t 03.9668.1111

Useful Websites

www.visitvictoria.com.au

www.citysearch.com.au

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