Friday, 19 December 2008


“All cities are mad: but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful: but the beauty is grim.” - Christopher Morley

Every morning as I go to work, I try and walk as much as possible (weather permitting). I usually get off at Flinders St Station and then make my way to work, winding my way through the early morning hustle and bustle across the city. I go through the many alleys and laneways that like a labyrinth criss-cross the CBD. I walk through the maze and every morning I uncover hidden treasures and a charming atmosphere. Melbourne is very much a city of the Victorian era and many of the original 19th century buildings are still very much in evidence. The main city streets are grand and capacious, but behind them and between them, Melbourne's north-south laneways are renowned for their intimacy, sense of intrigue, convenience and visual charm. They weave an eccentric and chaotic pattern across a city better known for its wide streets and regular grid pattern. Many of the laneways have been upgraded with new bluestone paving and street furniture, but they are all a living, wonderful part of my home city.

Usually by 7:00 a.m. as I walk through, there are many cafés, bakeries, eateries and small restaurants that are open for the breakfast trade. I enjoy smelling the aroma of the freshly roasted and ground coffee, the lovely rich smell of toast and fresh bread, the pungency of bacon and eggs and the occasional musty whiff of an open cellar door leading to gloomy depths below street level. The delicious scent of vanilla and hot waffles is a particular favourite of mine as I walk by one the little Belgian eateries on Desgraves St. Melbourne’s coffee culture surrounds one in the laneways and arcades with street cafés and funky coffee shops around every other corner. Expensive art work in shop windows mixes with public art on the streets and further along, great swathes of graffiti on the walls.

The arcades are also another wonderful feature of the city and these range from the magnificent Royal Arcade and Block Arcade (the latter housing the historic Hopetoun Tea Rooms, dating back to 1893, where one may enjoy scrumptious tea and cake) to the more modern shopping arcades filled with every manner of shop. One of the best ways to take in Melbourne’s laneways is to lunch alfresco at one of the many delightful eateries. Hardware Lane, Centre Place, Block Place, The Causeway, Desgraves Street and lanes either side of the Chinatown strip all offer a great outdoor experience. Melbourne rightfully has the reputation of being the home of the best restaurants in Australia and if you are a foodie and visiting Australia, Melbourne should be high on your list of places to see.

Later, in the evening one may have dinner at one these wonderful restaurants and if you would merely drink, tucked away in many of Melbourne’s laneways are also numerous bars. You can find them on Meyers Place, Bennetts Lane, Bullens Lane, Sniders Lane and Market Lane. However, Melbourne’s laneways wouldn’t be complete without the opportunity to shop, but the shops in the laneways and alleys are one-of-a-kind. No K-marts and department stores here, just tiny shops that sell anything and everything, stocked with unique items, be they clothes, shoes, gifts, art, or simply zany, crazy objects.

Here is a YouTube video on Melbourne’s laneways, especially so discussing the Public Arts projects involving the city’s laneways.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know how I missed your post on the lanes... I always check other peoples' blogs first, before I write my own. In any case, you have captured the sense of the inner city very well, especially its coffee culture and public art.

    Thanks for the link.