A Tale of Two Cities

One again, I've been neglectful. Moving cities, job and flat hunting and having to write my column have taken up time. But here we go, I'm utilizing my lunch break well. I'm blogging.

Basically I've spent the last few weeks in two different cities. Rather than give you a run down of my daily activities, I'm going to reflect on how I feel about them. There's a huge rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne; I've definitely chosen my side.


Now this is a strange one. To explain I’ll take you back to 2006 when I was an excited A Level student doing the round of Uni open days.

I was utterly convinced that I wanted a city University, more specifically that I wanted Sheffield. Having gorged myself on their promotional material, heard stories from friends and relatives studying there, and done a fair bit of research myself I just knew that Sheffield University was where I wanted to be. Two of the six spots on my UCAS form were for courses there; I hardly bothered wondering about the others. Lancaster was number six, after a family friend recommended the place.

Pah, thought I, what need of other options when my heart belongs to the Steel City?

Hmm. That taught me to have opinions of a place before I visited. Mum and I (because of course I need my Mum’s input) stayed for little over an hour. From the moment we arrived I just didn’t…well, feel it I guess. Rather than feeling like I was coming home (as I later did when visiting Lancaster), I felt like a visitor. Someone staying for a day, not three years.

Fast forward to last summer, me planning my trip to Australia. It was a given that I would like Sydney, how could I not? It’s a city with a beach for God’s sake. With absolute certainty, a good chunk of my time would be spent there. Sydney would be my new home, the mistress to my London wife.

However, when it came to it, Sydney just didn’t do it for me. No offence to the city and its inhabitants (I get incensed when people slag off London) but, much like Sheffield seven years previously (seven? Christ.), I just didn’t ‘feel’ it. I felt like I could be anywhere, that there was no uniqueness about the place. It lacked soul. Yes, it has some nice buildings and a pretty awesome bridge, but it lacked the magic of other cities that I love. It’s hard to properly articulate something that feels intuitive, but Sydney and I just didn’t click.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time there, I had two great nights out and loved being a tourist. Who doesn’t get a thrill seeing a famous landmark in the flesh for the first time? I swear my spine still shivers at the view from Waterloo Bridge. But as for spending a considerable amount of time there? I don’t know if I could. Even the beaches didn’t draw me in. I’ve obviously been spoiled by the natural splendour of Cornwall; I hate sharing my waves with others and crossing concrete before I hit sand.

Verdict: Sydney is a great city, but I've been to better. A 'weekend away' location, not a home.


As for Melbourne? Pah, why would I go there? It’s the coldest place in Australia, and does it have a giant bridge and iconic Opera house? No, it doesn’t. When I heard about people staying there for months on end I shook my head and wondered.

I've really got to stop passing judgement places before I visit, because once again I've got it wrong.

By all rights I should hate Melbourne. Other than a few days the weather has been terrible, and the novelty of needing a jumper wore off after, ooo, about an hour. We've also had a nightmare finding accommodation; our plans of finding a flat to rent were given up on after seeing dump after dump, all with huge deposits. However hostel living hasn't been easy thanks to a combination of festivals, a bank holiday and the grand prix. Everywhere is booked up, even the huge seven floor hostels. So far we've stayed in Discovery (seven nights, one room move), Nomads (two nights, both in different rooms), Flinders Station backpackers (two nights, didn't have a record of our booking when we checked in) and Habitat HQ (require payment up front, meaning we either live on $70 for this week or risk being homeless/moving again after Sunday). The city is also unbelievably expensive, and I've torn through the last of my Mission Beach savings at an unbelievable rate.

Basically I'm in an abusive relationship with Melbourne. It's taken my money, rained on me and threatened me with living on the streets yet I want to stay here - I love this city. I really do.

There is culture hiding everywhere, bands busking on street corners and moving sculptures in squares. Tiny cafes serving beautiful coffee adorn every street and entire areas are filled with incredible 'uncommissioned art'. People smile, there is a sunken library in the street with no explanation whatsoever and you can go to a pub quiz and meet Karl Kennedy. Sure, St Kilda beach probably has more needles in it than is strictly healthy, but every night after dark you can walk to the end of the pier and watch the world's smallest penguins come home from a hard days fishing in the bay.

I have a sales job working for Pearson Education; even though I hate being back in a corporate environment the fact that today I got off the bus a few stops early to walk along the Esplanade in the pleasantly warm sun made everything better.

Melbourne is basically a miniature London with beaches; while I can't quite give my heart away (it will always belong to the UK capital) it's certainly softening the withdrawal symptoms.

Perhaps I'll feel differently in a week. If the weather turns worse and the office blues kick in I might like it a bit less. But right now? I can't wait to get paid and start exploring properly.

Verdict: The beginnings of a beautiful friendship.

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