After traveling to the Great Barrier Reef, my friends and I had a serious case of the travel bug. We wanted to see every city, every state and every historical site in Australia. However, this was obviously unrealistic. For the sake of our grades and the for the sake of our wallets, we chose a state that we could tour within four days.
It is true that when completing an SDSU exchange program, all of your classes are credit no credit. However if you plan to attend graduate school (depending on the school you apply to), they may ask for a direct copy of your transcript from the university you attended abroad. So in my case, letter grades do matter, unfortunately. So when planning another trip, my friends and I wanted to make sure it was something that wouldn’t take a week to explore. Luckily, states in Australia are generally only a couple hour flights from each other, so this saves a lot of travel time. After asking locals and getting different options we chose to visit Melbourne, a city in Victoria.
The Beauty of Melbourne, Victoria
As I discussed in a previous blog, one of the few things that Sydney lacks is a strong African/black community. The most common ancestries in Sydney are Australian, English, Chinese, Irish, Scottish, Italian, Lebanese, Greek, Indian, and German. I have met other East African Australians, and they informed that Melbourne is where a vast majority of Africans reside in Melbourne. The diversity and African community in Melbourne was much stronger than Sydney’s. This was obvious as soon as I stepped off the plane. Melbourne is a prime example of what can be achieved when a melting pot works well as one. During the four days in Melbourne, I met new Australians from all backgrounds. And in the strangest way, meeting people who looked similar to me and had a similar background as myself, made me feel so at home.
Autumn in Melbourne
I love Autumn. The weather is just right, not too hot and not too cold. But Autumn in Australia takes things to a whole other level. The trees, bushes and flowers all provide a beautifully colorful fall season. The difference in ecology is probably why I was so in awe. Instead of pine trees and palm trees that don’t change colors, Australia is filled with trees that do, such as maple and oak trees.
Food and Transportation in Melbourne
I am definitely a foodie, and food determines about 80 percent of the places I visit. I have heard great things about the restaurant, bakeries and cafes in Melbourne. I follow all types of Australian food blogger accounts on Instagram, so I had a long list of places I wanted to try. One of the most amazing (and famous) places I found and tried was a cafe named Combi. It is 100% raw, organic and vegan. I know you’re like, ‘how is that possible?’ But it is, and it was GREAT. My friends were kind of hesitant as they thought it sounded too healthy. But they trusted my foodie instincts and agreed to come with me on the 2 hour train ride. Another reason we chose Melbourne is because the tram used in the city is free. We did not have to spend any money on transportation and saved so much money. After the meal we all agreed that the food was worth every second on the tram.
Melbourne is also really famous for their laneway cafes where we had breakfast every morning. They provided a large variety of breakfast and brunch food options, from French to African to Vietnamese.
Hoiser Lane and Great Ocean Road Tour
Melbourne is known as the international hub for street art. Hoiser Lane is a famous lane-way and landmark located in central city Melbourne. It is a pedestrian lane way with graffiti filled walls and urban art. Everyone is allowed to create art here, as long as you acquire a permit first.
Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is a road that stretches 151 miles long along the southeastern coast of Australia. It is similar to the Pacific Coast Highway in California. We were picked up by our tour company at 6 am sharp and returned around 10 pm. It was a long day touring the coast of Australia, filled with scenic views, lookouts, and tours along the way. We visited the The 12 Apostles, London Arch and Loch Ard Gorge.
- Starting point: Torquay, Victoria
The 12 Apostles formation
The 12 Apostles are a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park, by the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. They were created by constant erosion of the limestone cliffs of the mainland about 10–20 million years ago, forming caves in the cliffs. The caves eventually became arches and, once they collapsed, rock stacks up to 45 metres high were left isolated from the shore. This left The 12 Apostles.
Lod Arch George
Back in June 2009, the arch of the nearby Island Archway crumbled in on itself, leaving these two separate hunks of rock that run parallel to each other and formed the Lod Arch George that is present today.
London Arch: My favorite lookout
The story of the re-naming of London Arch is an interesting one. The London Arch was originally named the London Bridge until the day of its collapse in 1990. Two tourists where standing on the bridge and had to be rescued by a helicopter. Our tour guide also told us that the two tourists were not a couple, but were both cheating on their respective partners, and were caught once their faces surfaced national television. Now that’s a story.
Brighton Beach is a beach-side suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. It is a famous for its 82 bathing boxes lining the foreshore. These were built over a century ago and have become a popular tourist site.
Melbourne: ‘Australia’s culture capital’
I loved Melbourne and the cultural diversity it provided. I was drawn to the sincere people, the music, the food culture and the neighborhoods. Every street seemed to be something new and interesting. Melbourne’s night life was so alive, urban and vibrant. We were able to experience trendy bars and live performances, all in one night, and all on the same street. Art is very prevalent in Melbourne and contributes to the youthful feel. I now understand why my Australian friends frequently visit Melbourne, especially when they need a “get away” break after finals in Sydney. It just has a unique international influence and deserves the title as Australia’s culture capital.
Ruta Gebreyesus is earning a bachelor’s degree in Foods and Nutrition at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Sydney, Australia during spring semester 2016.