Friday, September 14, 2012

Merry Melbournian Christmas!

Like every conversation we had, this one too ended with “So when are you coming here?” I laughed it off and coyly replied, “Well, soon!” and we hung up the phone.
This was a typical conversation between me and my sis. She had settled in Australia long enough and she wished I came down to meet her. Of course you know that staying in Mumbai diminishes all your time and money for you to be able to think of taking a vacation to Matheran; let alone Melbourne. How I wish I could take a weekend to just land up in the Victorian city! This weekend though, I decided to take an afternoon nap.
When I had fallen in deep slumber, I heard the doorbell ring. It was a courier and I quickly signed for it wondering what my sister had surprised me with now. I ripped open the envelope and was astounded when I found an air ticket. A note she attached said ‘Merry Christmas! It's your time to visit Melbourne NOW!’
A month later, here I was, in cultural capital of Australia; grinning from ear to ear. My tour guide (a.k.a. my sibling) knew exactly what I wanted- shopping, eating and relaxing. But mostly, shopping! I had heard her speak endless number of times about her everyday experiences there- what she eats and she shops. In a way, I felt like I know what to expect, like I had experienced all these things too.
The entire city dazzled in Christmas lights and just about everyone had shopping bags in their hand. I love summers and it was great to see a not-frigid Christmas. Though I found out later that Melbourne can have up to four seasons in a single day. Talk about variety!
I’m sure I looked like a kid high on sugar when I skipped from one shop to another in the Victoria Market. I picked up some really awesome knick knacks, souvenirs to take back home and even a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many well-known brands at great discounts there. The organic fruits and veggies section looked and smelled so great; I wished we had something like this back home. The one thing that resembled Mumbai though was the Flinders Street railway station. It was as grand as our CST station. It was clearly the same British influence. There is a giant screen there where I’m told many sporting events are broadcasted. Can you imagine how much fun it would be to watch the World Cup there? In fact last year’s 20-20 match was in the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The other place that reminded me of Mumbai was the city skyline from the Waterfront City. It reminded me a tad about the Queen’s necklace in Mumbai.
There were loads of tourists like me who seemed to be shopping, though I’m quite sure they even went sight-seeing. More tourists plus the festival season made parking seem a hassle, so on my first day there, we went cycling for a while.
I am a total bookworm, and as it turns out, Melbourne has the most number of bookstores in all of Australia. I even got a chance to visit the State Library. It was massive and I immediately fell in love with its reading room- La Trobe. So I paid a visit to the Fed Square Book Market and picked up a couple of magazines and a novel from my favourite author. The Books for Cooks place got me drooling and I knew it was time to eat!
That’s when we headed to China Town. It had an amazing spread of Asian restaurants and shops. We decided to go to one of the more well-known one:  Shark Fin. The menu showcased some amazing food but also some dishes that I wouldn’t dare taste.
If you are going there, you will be bedazzled at first at the amazing line up of stores like Myer, David Jones, Zara, Duty Free, Tag Heuer, Gucci and what not. Besides, there are several malls which were really cool too, Chadstone being one of them. It literally extends as far as the eyes can go and the best part is that it is still expanding. Pure bliss for a shopaholic like me! I could spend hours in the Apple showroom and other cool shops like Tiffany and Oakley.
If you had to mention a landmark here, you would have multiple choices. One landmark that I fell in love with was the Crown Hotel. It was beautiful! You may recall that it is the same place where Preity Zinta had her ‘Ben n Jerry’ ice cream in the movie Salaam Namaste. I’ m told that the richest of the rich come here to stay in the Crown; including Tom Cruise. The top-most floors of the hotel are about $40000 a night, so I decided to give it a skip this time!  The Christmas decorations at the Crown were a sight! It had shows every few minutes which had kids in frenzy and adults like me mesmerised.
I wasn’t here only for the shopping, you know! We also visited the zoo and the aquarium. The Melbourne Zoo was a great expanse. The best thing I enjoyed there was the seal exhibit and the Australian Outback. We then headed to the banks of the Yarra River to the Aquarium. Four levels and the variety of sea inhabitants will be forever engraved in my memory as beautiful. We ended the day with going to the Eureka Tower which made me happily dizzy. It has 91 floors and is more than 950 feet high. The Skydeck on the 88th floor really amazes you and gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire city.
Christmas Day was a day out and lunch with my sister’s friends. They are Aussies and were so welcoming! Their home was beautifully decorated and they even had a huge Xmas tree. The food was delicious. I can still taste the sumptuous stuffed chicken salad and the mouth-watering pavlova.  I don’t think I had ever enjoyed a Christmas meal as awesome as this!
That day when I was speaking to a local, I realised that by now I had begun to use the words ‘mate’ and ‘no worries’. I really did feel like one of them. I looked at my shopping list and mentioned some really expensive stuff to my sister and she nudged me and said, “Hold on to your horses for Boxing Day!” I sighed, but I knew that the next I had to wake bright and early for the amazing sales and discounts!
A few seconds later I heard my phone buzz, only to realise that I was back in my bed. Was it all just a dream then? Did I really not be a part of the thrilling and elegant cosmopolitan? I had yet so much to see and do!
That evening I went online and visited to relive what I dreamt. It was now time to make this dream come true!

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