No, I didn’t go down to Melbourne for a Mike Oldfield performance or a tour of the many churches. I was there for a work conference held at the Bell City complex, once a hospital, now a collection of hotel rooms and serviced apartments.
I have previously waxed lyrical over the “isolated hotel”, that accommodation away from the sights where an occupant is forced to relax within the confines of the complex. Well, Bell City was like that, stuck out in suburban/industrial Preston. Apart from a couple of restaurants onsite and a pub a short walk away there was nothing to do within easy walking distance.
That was okay in the context of the conference, as all meals were provided for and the three days taken up with a full program. My room was nice too, with views across to the west and the Melbourne central business district. I would watch the sunset silhouetting construction sites and chimneys through the row of panoramic windows in my room. It’s just a pity that the bed was so uncomfortable and the room too cold, so much so that I had poor sleeps.
On the second night I forsook the organised dinner and decided to see something of the city. The tram line is only a block away and the services quite frequent. Fortunately, you can still purchase tickets onboard, although this will soon change as the network becomes prepurchased Myki smart card only. A silly decision for casual visitors. I had left my Myki card from the previous Melbourne trip back in Sydney.
As we trundled along we soon entered some hipper areas, with interesting looking cafes, art and mystical shops in between boarded up sections. It reminded me a little of Newtown in Sydney, only more extensive. Melbourne really does have a more cultural feel than Sydney and there was more sign of heritage preserved, from old ornate rows of shops to the blue stone churches.
I spotted a Thai/Burmese restaurant and quickly said goodbye to my colleague in the tram. Buub-Bub, as the restaurant was called, was empty of customers, despite it being past 6pm. Burmese restaurants aren’t common in Australia and I enjoyed my previous experiences with the cuisine, though limited to a single dish. This time I ordered a mo hin ga, a fish stew with noodles. Quite enjoyable, though too much coriander for my liking. The accompanying dried chilli was more sweet than hot.
I asked the waiter if it was always this quiet. They replied that the shop was only new, but lunches were busy.
With all the shops closed I returned to my hotel room to enjoy a night of comedy on television. It is so rare for me to be able to watch shows on television as they are screened, rather than catching up on recordings or iView later.
Outside god beams illuminated the suburban landscape that seemed so vast and static, a melancholy silhouette highlighting our isolation.