…ain’t all country…

Flinders St. Station
Flinders St. Station

A great deal can be said for spending time away from civilization and enjoying clean air, rigorous hikes, and the chance to see some amazing wildlife, but there’s at least something to be said for the conveniences of the city. Arriving in Melbourne after an incredible road trip from Sydney, I finally had the chance to experience a bit of the café culture I heard so much about. Even better, it meant a bed. A mattress. Warmth. The things we did without during the previous 7 nights. MelbsAfter dropping off our bags at the hostel, we were slapped by the realities of city driving: one-way streets, thousands of pedestrians, construction detours…and one-way streets. Returning the car was an adventure in and of itself.

Our very first gig in Melbourne was a confrontation.” – Santiago Durango

Chris and me pimpin' bottles and change
Chris and me pimpin’ bottles and change at Mana Bar

That evening, I had the chance to hang out with Chris Avellone (designed some games like Planescape: Torment, Alpha Protocol, and most recently turning heads with the Kickstarted Project Eternity), Christy Dena (UniverseCreation101), Matt Kelly (Cyber Medic), and Meg Betteridge (dealer of delightful spirits). It was an amazing evening and a big tip of the hat to Guy ‘Yug’ Blomberg for opening a gamer haven called Mana Bar (attention City of Austin: Do This! Make a Mana Bar!) and best of luck to him on coordinating the upcoming PAX-AUS!

Oh boy. Voldemort and cauldrons.
Oh boy. Voldemort and cauldrons.

But Melbourne has more to offer than just an amazing bar scene. The cafés are real! I’ve seen them! Every few feet, literally. It doesn’t matter what style of food joint you’re running there, you have a couple of tables outside (and an umbrella, if you have the means). An alley way that looks like the perfect spot for dirty deeds by night is a bustling food court during the day with everything from sandwich to sushi shops crammed in next to each other. And coffee.

Oh, it tastes alright, but...
Oh, it tastes alright, but…

I’d like to stop the music here for a second to properly address the topic of coffee in Australia. It’s espresso coffee everywhere you go. They call it short black, long black, flat white or whatever else, but it’s espresso and espresso is hard on a North American system. I’m not going into details, but you’ve been warned. The good news is Melbourne is equipped with plenty of Starbuck’s and they serve good ol’ drip coffee at a much cheaper price point! “America! <beep>, yeah!”

Pretty decent imitation, if you ask me
Pretty decent imitation, if you ask me

Cue the music again. The Botanical Gardens are great, but I found the ANZAC War Memorial really powerful. Unfortunately, I didn’t take my camera on that run, so…well, this is awkward.  Umm…Federation Square is chock full of interesting street acts and art displays and just across the road is an alley devoted to some really incredible graffiti art. Oh, and after singing my hit country single, “I left my heart in Texas but my jeans on Bondi Beach” for the past couple of weeks, I was able to acquire some decent denim without breaking the bank. Choices and savings: that’s what makes a town!

Even the police get into it! And that is a raven he's munching on.
Even the police get into it! And that is a raven he’s munching on.

All in all, Melbourne’s a pretty nice place if you’re into city living. It welcomes events like the Zombie Shuffle and a Spanish Fiesta in the streets, has a massive Queen Victoria Market, a first-class National Gallery of Victoria, and places like the Charles Dickens Pub to meet up with newly acquired mates (cheers, Peter, err, Steven). If I’m ever back that way, I’ll have to look into St. Kilda and maybe even catch some Footy.

Next up, the blog post you’ve all been waiting for: Drew Deeper Down Unda: A Truly Tasmanian Tale!

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