Melbourne comes alive during the Melbourne Cup Carnival. And rightly so as the Melbourne Cup has defined the country's racing calendar and earned its claim as the social and sporting event of the year.
So why not make joining the 100,000 or more throng at the Cup, a part of a slightly longer stay in this international city with so much to eat, see and do.
I did just that, and even in three days ticked off a whole host of Melbourne’s must-dos.
I flew in the day before and was still missing the essential fascinator for my Race Day outfit, so my fellow race-goer and I headed to where the best edgy and high-end fashion is located - Melbourne’s Little Collins Street and Flinders Lane. My fascinator mission was successful but my partner in crime wanted to go vintage shopping on Chapel Street. So after wandering through a handful of eclectic stores, we managed to find the perfect 50’s inspired race day hat.
After pounding the pavement as part of our respective retail missions, a refreshment break was needed, and as the following day was destined to be so big, we decided on an early dinner. Fortunately as this thought struck, we came across MoVida a small graffiti-covered place in Hosier Lane that served the most amazing tapas, and had a huge range of Spanish wines.
Then into a cab for a short ride to our (and my favourite) hotel in St Kilda, The Blackman to get well rested before the big day. The Blackman is part of the Art Series Hotel Group that has a series of boutique hotels across Melbourne and Bendigo inspired by modern artists.
The Blackman named in recognition of its inspiration, the artist Charles Blackman, features his work throughout its design and decoration, with many walls showcasing the artist’s prolific work.
I love the lush yet laid back atmosphere of the Blackman, and was pleasantly surprised during breakfast served in the cute brasserie in the hotel foyer, to also see a beauty bar for race-goers to attend to those last minute nail and make-up crises. All the while being served champagne – well I guess it is never to early to enjoy a glass of bubbles - a great start to Cup Day!
Then off to Flemington, to enjoy all that is part of the Melbourne Cup spectacle - the fashion, the racing fever and of course more champagne. After the last race finished, spirits were still high, so we headed into the CBD and found tucked in one of Melbourne’s laneways, a wonderful bar called The Gin Palace. This little hidden gem served great cocktails that could be sipped whilst lounging in Parisienne-styled lush furnishings.
Demonstrating considerable foresight during the previous day, we had booked George Colombaris’ restaurant The Press Club. So we left the Gin Palace and finished our Melbourne Cup day with some wonderful Greek food that George so proudly serves at his restaurant.
The next day with a slightly sore head, I headed out along St Kilda Road into Acland Street, where I knew I could get an amazing coffee and piece of cake. It didn’t disappoint, and was just what I needed. I then took a leisurely walk out on the Pier and then along the very pretty Esplanade looking out onto Port Phillip Bay, before heading back to the hotel and to the airport.
In the almost three days I did squeeze in a lot around Race Day but I can’t wait to head back again this year to see more of Melbourne and its surrounding area. Next time, I want to head to the Yarra Valley, to taste some world-class wines, specialty cheeses and handmade chocolates. And I am keen to drive 90 minutes south-east to the stunning Mornington Peninsula, or west to the Bellarine Peninsula.
Also on my to-do list for my next trip is to include some of Melbourne’s cultural scene and get to visit the magnificent Arts Centre and the National Gallery of Victoria.
More shopping is always welcome and I am keen to go beyond my traditional forays of fashion, and head to some places like the Queen Victoria Markets or search out some bric-a-brac and vintage bargains at the Sunday Camberwell Markets.
All I can say is that the second Tuesday this November, can’t come soon enough.