Saturday, September 8, 2012

Melbourne here I come!

As each day goes past, the excitement just seems to rise exponentially. D-day is approaching fast - getting nearer by the minute. I can already picture myself roaming around the streets of Melbourne all by myself, lounging in one of the many coffee shops on the sidewalks or playing touristy with my camera. I can't believe my luck at having bagged such an opportunity so early on in my life. If only life were this good, all the time!

Okay, time to rewind a little. So I received this very surprising call last week that (almost) made my hair stand on end. I have been working as a freelance travel writer for quite some time now, so far only having reviewed places around the city though. But last Saturday, I got a call from the director of the travel website I'd been working for, and the first words he shouted into the phone were, "It's your time to visit Melbourne NOW!" Taking it to be just another of his lame jokes, I ignored the words and proceeded to start talking about the clearance of my remaining dues with them. But he did not give it up, Thank God. He explained to me how one of their partner international travel agencies was looking for a couple of good travel writers to send on an all-expenses-paid trip to Melbourne, Australia (and there I went wheeee!) as part of their campaign to rake up genuine travel reviews for their upcoming travel website on Australia. He had recommended my name for it, and to my utter surprise, they had SELECTED ME as one of the two lucky ones! I expressed my doubts on the same though, having read a lot of stories recently about unsuspecting writers having been left behind in faraway places by well-known global names in the industry to fend for themselves, in a clear breach of trust and contract without any later liability whatsoever. But he had had it all researched already and assured me that the whole 10-day trip itinerary had been put down in a legal contract, that he had read through each and every clause, and that I shall be given the freedom to do as I please throughout, with the expenses being borne as they came. Now what could be better than that? I happily assented, and went through the whole registration and orientation procedure yesterday. I'm finally going to Australia!!

The other guy accompanying me on the trip is a Malayali from Kerala. At first glance he seemed to be of a very serious sort, all grim and business-like, specific about every little detail. So I wonder how much fun (or not-fun) it would be if I had to take him along wherever I went. I guess I'll have to figure my way out with him - awesome people-skills are a real boon to those who have them. ;)

But up until about a week ago, I only thought of Melbourne as the city of the Australian Open Tennis Grand Slam. My bad - I couldn't have been more wrong. In the last few days I've exercised my Googling skills a lot and found out everything there was to be known about Melbourne. And you know what I realized as a result? There probably aren't more than about a dozen cities around the world that have such an exquisite combination of natural beauty, inherent culture and architecture as Melbourne boasts of. In particular the Tourism Victoria website had my eyes and mind glued to it for quite a while. To enjoy the sights and sounds of beautiful Melbourne by day, and to let one's hair down in cosmopolitan Melbourne by night, not to mention the lure of the hot-as-hell Australian men with that fabled seductive Australian accent - things certainly don't get better than this. Am I not raring to go Melbourne! :D

Although the travel agency has set down a fixed itinerary consisting of some great places for me to visit over the 10 day getaway, they've very generously left out a lot of time for me to do my own stuff too - shopping, detox, visiting bookstores, street-side cafes and other places that are not on the list. And so, I have my own plans to make each moment count. Here are some of the experiences I would love to indulge myself in -

A bird's eye view of Melbourne from Skydeck 88, atop Eureka Tower - the ninth tallest residential building in the world. I wonder how the city would look from such a grand height - the Yarra river, the immense cityscape, greenery, houses, tall buildings - wouldn't it all look like an intricately formed miniature model of Melbourne? I'd like to see it with my own eyes.

A visit to Melbourne Zoo and Melbourne Aquarium. I am an animal lover like no other. From a muddy little piglet to the creepy lizard on the wall, I just find every living creature so fascinating! A visit to the aquarium is definitely going to be topmost on my personal itinerary.

A full-day tour on board the City Circle Tram. Did you know that Melbourne is the only city in Australia where trams still ply? I've always dreamed about traveling on a real tram, having till date only heard about them and seen them in old films. I'm sure gonna live my little dream in Melbourne. The city circle tram is anyway free for all and takes you through most of the city's popular sites. Total win win!

Melbourne Park. I wouldn't do justice to my first ever visit to Australia if I gave the legendary sports venue a miss. After all, it is the venue where the annual Australian Open Tennis championship is held. I follow the game, especially this particular tournament, most religiously. Standing on the very ground that has seen the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and their predecessors and contemporaries play on it, is a mind-numbing thought. I wouldn't give it up for the world, no sir!

And to say that Melbourne looks spell-bindingly beautiful at night would be a gross understatement. Because the city actually shines. Bright lights sparkle from every building; warmth and life radiate from every nook and corner of the city; its narrow but lively lanes welcome you with open arms day and night. No wonder then that Melbourne remains the most livable city in the world for the second year in a row. It's totally worth the coveted title!

Before I sign off however, there is one place which this post would sadly be incomplete without. At just about a two-hour drive to the west of Melbourne city lay the 12 Apostles, a famous group of natural limestone rock formations rising out of the southern ocean on Victoria's breathtaking coastline. Driving down the Great Ocean Road in a yellow Mustang convertible, the cool coastal breeze tousling my hair, with the historic 12 Apostles in view even as the sun sets over the horizon in the distance - that's the kind of stuff my dreams are made of. Dreams that I shall not bury deep inside my heart for a change - dreams that shall be fulfilled in another three weeks. Bless the day I took up writing; little did I know it would take me places, quite literally too!

I cannot wait anymore for the Melbourne tour to kick off. Oh Lord, make the time fly for a change! Writing all this has me drooling already! (*_*)

(This post is my entry for a contest organized by Indiblogger in association with Tourism Victoria. For more details or to vote for my post, visit here.)
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