Tag Archives: tram

Blue On Blue in Melbourne, Australia

The thin blue light of a cold and wintery day matches the tonality of these blue Yarra Trams on Swanston Street right in the heart of the CBD (Central Business District) in Melbourne, Australia.


Blue trams in Melbourne, Australia on a cold winter day

Blue trams in Melbourne, Australia on a cold winter day


©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Moving Masses At Melbourne Central

Decided to take a break from unpacking boxes and listing things on Ebay today. First stop — the tram stop RIGHT outside our front door!


Blue tram travelling down St. Kilda Road

Blue tram travelling down St. Kilda Road


Down to the shopping precincts on Bourke Street Mall and Melbourne Central to try on clothes amongst the (literally!) thousands of other people milling around. Mixed success, but after living in rural France, Melbourne can be a bit of a jolt to the senses when there are so MANY people swirling around!


Moving masses of people at Melbourne Central shopping centre

Moving masses of people at Melbourne Central shopping centre


More soon!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the words and images on this page.
All rights reserved.

A Visit With Vincent

The morning weather report had a forecast of snow and the startling cold air against my cheeks as I left the apartment made me believe that smiling weatherman. He was wrong — and I was relieved. There was already enough residual ice on the pavement all over Amsterdam to make the simple act of walking require alertness, concentration, and good balance.

Appropriately bundled up and laughing about the fact that a mere four days ago we had been at the beach in Australia, we caught the #3 tram and headed for the area known as Museumplein and the Van Gogh Museum at Paulus Potterstraat 7, trying to arrive right at the opening time of of 10 AM. The visitors were quite sparse and, feeling rather smug about that, we headed into the first of four floors of artwork. But by the time we emerged from the last gallery into the museum shop, we were walking in stops and starts due to the sheer number of people who entered the building in the two hour period since our arrival.

Van Gogh Museum exterior side view

This is a moving collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s work that clearly shows his evolution through various stages as an artist. The mental struggles that he endured are evident as you see the colour palette and brushwork change over the years. The pieces produced during his lighter and more upbeat years are a startling contrast to the heavier-hearted and more frantic works of art. I highly recommend this museum if you have at least a two hour window in your own visit to Amsterdam.

We are travelling now — finally — after planning this life change and free-fall adventure for over two years. So we have no place to call home right now, no walls to hang artwork on, no shelves to stack books on, no cabinets to place things within.

Books on display in the shop at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

I looked at the posters, opened the books, touched the scarves and t-shirts, and walked away from them. In the end my sole purchase was a handful of postcards. And Mark had quite a surprised expression on his face when he heard me say aloud, “I have no desire to acquire.” And I meant it!

Posters and prints in the Van Gogh Museum Shop

This is a beautiful museum inside — light and airy and contemporary. But there is no photography allowed inside, so I can only assure you that it is lovely and urge you to go and see it for yourself. Although the artwork is spread out over four levels, there are both stairways and elevators for easy access. And there is one of the nicest self-serve restaurants on the ground floor that I have seen in any museum. We took a break for a coffee and a pastry at 11:30 and were quite impressed with the food that was available.

After leaving the Van Gogh Museum, our plan was to walk next door to the Stedelijk Museum — the modern art museum — but it is closed on Mondays, so we will have to try again later this week.

Realizing that the crowds at the Rijksmuseum would be considerable so late after the morning opening time, we decided to spend the rest of the day gently meandering through the park area in Museumplein and then take a tram into the Central District for some window shopping.

Here are some of the sights that I spotted along the way. Enjoy!

Lunch Kiosk Microvan (made by same company that manufactures Vespa scooters in Italy)

Wooden clog holding sunflower on cafe table in Museumplein

© Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the copyright of all text and photos on this website. All rights reserved.

Frugal Travel in Expensive Melbourne – Part 2

Now that we have the where-to-sleep question handled, let’s move on to how to get around Melbourne quickly and easily without hailing a taxi and paying heart-stopping fares for that ‘privilege.’ The cost of parking in Melbourne can also be prohibitively high, so it’s best to avoid driving your rental car or personal car in the city and being forced to pay $10 or more per hour in parking fees.

Visitor Information Booth on Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne, Australia

Start your trip off right by getting a good map of the inner city since most of the sights and museums are within that area. Consider printing out a map of the CBD prior to arrival and an easy to read version is found online at the only Melbourne website. The map is downloadable in pdf and prints out beautifully.

For a comprehensive range of tourism maps and brochures, the two easiest to find Visitor Information Centres are (1) located inside their own building on Federation Square – corner of Swanston St. & Flinders St. – and (2) in a booth right on the main shopping street, the Bourke Street Mall.

Yellow Yarra Tram on Bourke Street, Melbourne, Australia

For the ultimate in ease and convenience, the extensive tram network in Melbourne is hard to beat. The trams themselves range in ‘vintage’ and size from the lovely and modern ones such as the yellow tram pictured to the right to the last of the old “Red Rattlers” which run on the City Circle route around the fringes of the CBD (Central Business District).

City Circle Tram in Melbourne, Australia

You will need to purchase a METCARD to use any of the trams other than the City Circle which is seen on the left. That one tram route is completely free and is offered as a tourism incentive. For that reason, it is always quite crowded — so just be aware of that.

For all other trams, you will need a valid ticket and signs for the METCARD are found everywhere from the trains stations to the local convenience stores such as 7-11. Although they can be purchased at the coin-operated machines on some of the trams, it is always safer to have a METCARD in hand before you board.

There are quite a variety of fares depending on the time of day that you travel, your age, and several other classifications. The full range of fares are listed online at Metlink’s METCARD page.

An easy to read map of the tram network can be found online at Metlink Melbourne

Now let’s discuss what to eat while you are in the city. Even if you have chosen a budget friendly option like the Cube Serviced Apartment that was mentioned in yesterday’s post, no one arrives in Melbourne with the idea of eating all of their meals in their apartment-hotel, so finding reasonably priced food choices for lunches is the next challenge.

Yes, fast food is available everywhere in Melbourne, but it is almost never a healthy option. For a mere few dollars more you can eat at places like Basic Bites at 26-28 Hardware Lane between Bourke Street and Little Bourke Street. The “Crazed Hen” salad that I had there was actually the most enjoyable lunch that I ate on this trip. And there was so much premium quality chicken breast squeezed into that bowl with all of the salad greens that I couldn’t finish it! Cafe lunches in Melbourne can cost as much as dinners in some other Australian cities, so this small but lovely little cafe is a perfect example of finding good value for money when you do choose to eat out.

Basic Bites cafe on Hardware Lane, Melbourne, Australia

Other budget options for healthy eating include the large Riverside Food Court at Southgate where you can eat inside on gloomy days or outside facing the river and the Melbourne skyline on pleasant days.

If a delicious and filling curry at a rock-bottom price and served with a smile is what you are craving, then head up Bourke Street past the retail district to Funky Curry at 164 Bourke Street. The decor is basic and plastic — but oh — the food. I have eaten there many times and never, ever been disappointed by any of the options which can be fine-tuned to your own idea of how-hot-is-enough.

In our next segment we will look at the visual delights of Melbourne and sources for finding out prior to arrival what’s happening in the arts and entertainment world, sports, special events, and more.

***NOTE*** The author received no compensation during the research for this article from any of the sources which are cited.

Travel Is More Fun On A Train Than A Plane

Ah travel — it sets my brain alight in the planning stages and sets my heart afire as it unfolds.

There are so many ways to make travel viable, enjoyable, and relaxing — but for me personally, rather none of that involves travelling via airplanes nowadays since I am not one of those gilded creatures with access to a private jet and Business Class is not an option for our budget. From overcrowded planes to overzealous ‘security’ measures to unexpected volcanic eruptions, for many of us travel by air has become either drudgery or dreaded or both.

During the week of Christmas, my husband and I took a much needed 5 days away from our normal life in a small village in Central Victoria in Australia. We travelled back to Melbourne, a marvelous city that we formerly lived in until we moved up here for a ‘tree change’ (in contrast to the oft-desired Australian dream of a ‘sea change’) and the entire trip was an exercise in relaxation and ease.

After driving for a half an hour, we parked in the free parking lot, took our 2 pieces of small rolling luggage plus one tote bag, and entered the gorgeous old 1800s-era Ballarat train station.

Within 15 minutes of our arrival and ticket purchase, one of the clean and very new V-Line trains pulled up and we walked quietly aboard in an unhurried manner and found our seats. We each pulled out the book that we planned to read on the short journey and a mere 10 minutes later we were pulling away from the station.

Our part of Victoria is perched up on the Great Dividing Range and Melbourne is hundreds of metres lower, right at the edge of the harbour which faces Tasmania, so the descent via train is an interesting contrast in landscapes — interesting, that is, until you get to the flat, flat, dead-boring-flat western edges of the Melbourne metro area. Things perk up a bit visually once you get to the outside rim of Melbourne and begin to enter via the suburbs and the gritty but tantalising old industrial district.

One and a half hours from Ballarat to Melbourne in complete comfort and we arrived right on time at the Southern Cross Station.

If you are even remotely a fan of contemporary architecture, this is a stunning building with swooping waves for a roofline and it definitely has the ‘Melbourne vibe.’ There were lots of grumbles when it was under construction about how well it would fit into the cityscape, but it has certainly succeeded beautifully.

Strolling straight out of the station on that summer afternoon and into the surprisingly mild temperatures outside, we walked a mere 2 blocks before we crossed onto Collins Street and hopped aboard one of the Metlink trams. Minutes later we stepped off and walked the 1 and 1/2 blocks to the loft apartment that I had reserved for the holidays.

For 5 wonderful days we lived a very urban lifestyle — walking everywhere we needed to go most of the time, catching the occasional tram for longer distances, and never once missing our car. We felt happier, healthier, and more alive and it was actually quite hard to come back home.

Not once did we feel pressured or rushed or harrassed and that certainly is a stark contrast to the unfolding news from the USA that their TSA employees are making conditions nightmarish for anyone trying to fly in or out of the USA. For us there was no standing in long lines to check in luggage, no security folks rifling through our cases, no walking through scanners or being bodily frisked, and NO being made to feel like a criminal when all you are trying to do is get from Point A to Point B.

There is a growing movement in Europe away from taking bare bones and cheap airlines to and from various countries and there is a huge surge in train travel once again. Much of this is due to the stresses of air travel and the absurd overreaction to every single security ‘incident’ that provides spurious justification for treating each passenger on a plane as if they were a potential terrorist. The other pressing concern is that it is now acknowledged that all of those cheap flights have contributed to the destruction of the global environment and train travel produces a much lower carbon footprint.

I consider this embrace of the slower, more scenic, and less stress-producing options to be an enlightened approach to travel and, disasters like the snow-related Eurostar fiasco notwithstanding, rail travel still retains the more gentle and civilised feel of times gone by.

Now — if they would just bring back inexpensive around-the-world passenger ships. Those lovely old-fashioned things had scheduled meals and gentle entertainment, but rather a lot of time was spent sitting in a deck chair quietly observing the ocean or tucked away in some cozy spot reading a book. About the only way to find that sort of travel today is in the scaled down comfort of the handful of cabins available on freighter ships that deliver containers full of goods to global ports.

Still dreaming though — still planning.

(NOTE: All photos courtesy of wikipedia except for the V-line photo from www.vline.com.au)
(NOTE: This article was originally posted on the 21st of December 2009 on my other blog, Multiversal Musing under the title “Travel Can Be Fun If You Stay OFF The Planes!”)