Saturday, October 15, 2011


It would be fair to say that Montreal is far from a pretty city. The Ste-Catherine St. shopping promenade and Old Montreal & the port are cool and St. Laurent and St. Denis streets have their appeal, but decades of corruption in city hall has left Montreal a broken city that, at face value, looks like it is emerging from half a century of communist rule.

Nevertheless, Montreal has a reputation as being the New Orleans of Canada. Not bright and shiny, but packed with spirit and FUN! People come to Montreal to party! This works to Montreal's benefit because Toronto resembles Washington - lots of culture and corporate bigwigs but very boring. Toronto is a Lexus sedan. Montreal is a corvette. Visitors that want to wine & dine and then shake it until the wee hours of the morning tend to converge on Montreal as other party cities like Miami, Las Vegas and even Chicago are beyond driving distance from the northeast for a weekend away.

Flinders Street Station
Melbourne is similar to Montreal in this respect. My second visit to Melbourne left me with the same impression as the first time I visited in 1995. It is not a pretty city, although boardwalks along the either side of the Yarra river are nice. However, the place comes alive after dark and I remember from my first visit that if you're traveling with a local, the nightlife is great!

St. Paul's Cathedral
As a visitor during the middle of the winter with a family in tow, I could not recommend a visit to Melbourne unless you had plans to visit other parts of Victoria. Playing the role as the used but fun city doesn't work for Melbourne as it pales beside Sydney that has absolutely everything and is arguably the best city in the world.

Federation Square
But the real reason we came to Melbourne was to visit our old friends Will & Soph and their family. I met Sophie while backpacking around Europe in 1991. We met again in 1995 when I visited her in Melbourne and I met Will for the first time. During a visit to North America before having a family, Will & Soph came to our wedding in 1998. We hadn't seen them since then and had never met any of their three children.

The Baldry's & the Dobbyn's
It was interesting to remark that despite living 17,000 km away from us, their lives have evolved in a similar fashion to ours. Their lives revolve around their kids. They spend the weekends at different sports fields, although have substituted footie (Aussie rules football) for hockey, and spend Friday and Saturday nights with friends, wine and take out food. They tinker with their house and talk about making sacrifices for their kids' education. They sound exactly like us!

The itinerary of our trip to Melbourne was neither exhaustive nor exciting, but the point wasn't to see Melbourne. It was to visit with Will & Soph.

On Friday night, we stayed in and wiled away the evening over a few bottles of wine and take out Szechuan food. Our guests were busy shuttling between different sports matches for most of Saturday so we set out to see some of Melbourne. The weather was uncooperative, the kids were not in the mood to walk around another city in the rain and Trish was under the weather, so after a brief walk around the CBD and lunch at Southgate, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Melbourne Aquarium. Reunited for supper, the Dobbyn's took us to one of their favorite local eateries, La Porchetta.

My favorite part of our visit was going to see their son Nick's footie game on a crisp sunny Sunday morning. It was cool to learn about the game that dominates the sporting scene in southern Australia and watch the parents cheering from the sidelines. With our flight back home to Canada less than a week away, it felt very much like home, although they have better coffee.

After a BBQ lunch, we said our goodbyes and I think both sides wondered how many years would roll by before the Baldry's and the Dobbyn's were reunited again.

No comments:

Post a Comment