At its best, this is our nation's diamond city
Three words to delight travellers looking for a slick city fix: Melbourne. Spring. Sunshine.
Melbourne can put on glorious sunshine in September, October, November. It can also put on the bad stuff. A spring day could be anything from a pleasurable 28C to a dismal 8C. Let's say no more.
During our late September four-day visit the weather showed us its good, bad and ugly sides. We went from rugging up against the chill of a winter that should have been left behind to donning swimmers the next day and frolicking in the pool.
On good spring days Melbourne shines like a diamond in one of the Queen's many tiaras. We were lucky to have two tiara days.
Everything about the city sparkled, from the grandeur of St Paul's Cathedral to the quirkiness of Flinders Street Railway Station, all gleaming as though fresh from a day at a luxury spa.
The cafes, bars and restaurants had thrown open doors to garden and footpath spaces and the crowds had shucked sweaters and jackets to sip the latest wine trend beneath blue skies, eating everything from spring salads to spring rolls.
Shrubs, plants, flowers and trees in Melbourne's many parks and green spaces seemed to have grown and flourished overnight. Buildings, from the architecturally splendid to the old and ordinary, had more pizazz than usual. Even the upside-down Yarra River looked clearer.
The rest of the world seemed to shrink before the overall loveliness of one of the world's great cities.
If that sounds a bit fanciful, it is. But we loved our September visit and barely strayed from the CBD. There is just too much going on in Melbourne in the spring, you could drive yourself to distraction trying to fit in even a small sample of it.
At the National Gallery of Victoria artworks on loan from New York's iconic Museum of Modern Art were on display, including works by Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso. Unfortunately, that exhibition has just wound up but there is much coming up at the NGV to excite, as your own research will show.
Running until March 3 at the Melbourne Museum is Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition curated from the collection at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. It alone is worth a trip to Melbourne. Rare personal artefacts, film footage, documents and audiovisual pieces include many that have not been displayed outside South Africa before.
Shopping ... where to start? From the legendary Myer and David Jones to the edgy boutiques in Collins St and the tempting small shops in lanes and arcades, everything is available. No need for Fifth Avenue, Bond St or the Champs-Elysees. You'll find it in Melbourne.
New and exciting cafes and restaurants appear overnight in Melbourne, some offering cuisines you may never have heard of, all offering either the latest in modern and international dining or the reassuring comfort of the tried and true. We can't resist rushing to MoVida for a Spanish fix. Hidden in Hosier Lane, we reckon MoVida's Manchego croquettes are better than anything you'd find in Madrid.
Another gem hidden in a lane is Lucy Liu (Oliver Lane) where the sticky pork belly with coconut salad only just beats the big flavours of the Peking duck dumplings.
A Melbourne trip must include a market visit. Best is the historic and much-loved Queen Victoria Market where everything, from gourmet food stalls to leather products, is all under one roof.
As much as we love spring in Melbourne, every season has its merits, even winter when log fires and red wine call from gastropubs and cosy cafes all over the city.
All you need to do for the perfect Melbourne visit is watch the long-range weather forecast, research for your type of food, accommodation, entertainment and culture, plan well and - this is the biggie - take a wardrobe for all seasons.
More at www.visitmelbourne.com