Immerse In The Magic Of Melbourne
Sales & Marketing Manager of Ascott International’s Australian office, Joanne Gallpen, introduces the city that engages your senses
Issue: Jul 2011
Melbourne has many activities that let you experience the city with all your senses Photo credit: www.redbubble.com
I was born and bred in Melbourne. This is my city. As The Ascott Limited’s Marketing Manager in Australia, I do on occasion travel to various cities nationally like Sydney, Perth and Hobart to work with all our serviced residences there. But, personally, Melbourne always remains my favourite.
Melbourne is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city that is not short of choices when it comes to entertainment, shopping and dining. It is also a city that has not forgotten its past. Centuries old historical landmarks sit alongside modern attractions. While it is, no doubt, a big city, what adds to its charm is its secret laneways that are known mostly only to the locals. Here, a separate Melbourne culture different from the usual tourist hangouts can be experienced. But what I love most about the city is the fact that it continually reaches out to engage visitors and residents with hands-on experiences. When you come to Melbourne, you don’t simply visit it, you are immersed it in.
Engage the Wildlife
I am a city girl. But I have always loved animals, been actively educating myself about them and engaging in activities to support their quality of life. I am lucky enough to always have had dear family pets - mainly Fred and Calloway, two beautiful dogs - whilst growing up. It always seems to be of interest to people that at the moment I have a pet rabbit named, The Magnificent Mr Bernard. But his friends call him Boo for short! I find Melbourne a great place to interact with animals big and small.
For an interactive experience, start with Healesville Sanctuary, an hour’s drive from any of Ascott’s properties in Melbourne’s city centre. It is a place I have enjoyed going to since I was a child. One of Australia’s most acclaimed wildlife sanctuaries, it has more than 200 species of local wildlife on 30 hectares of bushland at the foothills of the famous Yarra Valley. Unlike traditional zoos where the animals are kept in enclosures, at Healesville, you can come up-close to koalas, kangaroos, wombats, emus, dingoes, birds of prey and platypuses in their natural habitat. You literally venture into their world.
(Left) The lions and Joanne get cosy at the Werribee Open Range Zoo; (Right) Touching such a majestic animal was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Joanne
If you are up for a dare, I recommend the Werribee Open Range Zoo. I recently visited it for a personal encounter with the king of animals at its Rip Roaring Feed programme. Werribee, a 45-minute drive from our serviced residences, spans 225 hectares of open savannah. Begin with a safari experience on the Open Vehicle Adventure where you travel across the zoo’s open plains to see an array of African wildlife – lions, hippopotamuses, primates, rhinoceroses, giraffes, zebras and antelopes - as they would live in their natural homes.
The Rip Roaring Feed programme lets you come face-to-face with the pride of lions of the Lions on the Edge exhibit. I had the chance to go behind-the-scenes to see how the lions were being cared for and fed. I even went into their enclosure where I had the chance to run my hands over their sleeping quarters and leave my scent there. Apparently, this is an important part of their enrichment and they like nothing better than to return to their enclosures at night to find out who has been there. I have to say, at close range, these lions are truly magnificent. A lion’s roar just a foot away is a sound you will never forget. It vibrates through your every being and is truly amazing.
Another even closer encounter at this zoo is the Slumber Safari. You get to camp overnight in safari tents out in the wild surrounded by the animals, dine under the stars and awake with the African wildlife.
Melbourne Zoo, which is only 20 minutes from the CBD, offers unforgettable interactive experiences as well. I had the chance to meet Mali and Ongard two of the resident Asian Elephants at the Zoo. Being able to give Ongard a pat and a special banana was an experience I will never forget, all 2500 tonnes of it!
Melbourne Zoo is one of the best in the world and should be on everyone’s itinerary when visiting Melbourne.
Engage in Australian History
Joanne at Sovereign Hill panning for gold
In the 1850s and 60s, the state of Victoria was swept up in the Gold Rush. People came from all over, fuelled by dreams of discovering gold in the goldfields around. The road from Melbourne to Bendigo was so heavily used that by the 1880s Melbourne earned the nickname “Marvellous Melbourne”. It was to mark the start of the city’s cosmopolitan culture.
An hour and a half away from the Ascott properties is a place called Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. Sovereign Hill was one of the largest gold mining sites of its days. An 1850s town has been recreated there so that you can travel back in time and experience the heady days when gold fever was all the rage. You can mingle with the townsfolk who are all dressed in the clothes of the era, dress up as one of them yourself, ride on a horse-drawn cart, shop at the stores from the good old days along Main Street, watch craftsmen at work and even visit a factory to see how lollies, hard candy popular then, were made. The raspberry boiled lollies are always my favourite.
The best part is the chance to pan for gold yourself. I recently visited Sovereign Hill again and tried my hand at sifting through muddy water in an attempt to salvage specks of gold. The prospects are slim but it is still a lot of fun.
For a darker side of Australian life, The Old Melbourne Gaol, a defunct jail on Russell Street, lets you have a taste of what the life of a committed criminal was like in 19th century Melbourne. You can take part in an interactive guided tour called the “Watch House Experience” where you can role play and get firsthand experience at being arrested and incarcerated in the prison. Or you can join one of the ghost walks of Melbourne. The Old Melbourne Goal, in fact, is rumoured to be haunted.
Engage in Science and Technology
Melbourne has many museums with interactive displays. If you have children, or have the healthy curiosity of a child, Scienceworks is one place you should not miss. This is where science and technology is made fun and interactive with hands-on exhibits, participation in live demonstrations and specially designed activities. For example, you can hop on a ride that simulates the flight of a bumble bee, see the backyard through the eyes of a dog, pit your strength against the jaw strength of a T-Rex or be a palaeontologist for a day.
It is just 25 minutes from our properties and as a child, I loved to visit the digital planetarium there where astronomy shows let you see distant stars and planets as if you were actually in space.
For a top-of-the-world experience, step into The Edge at the Eureka Skydeck 88
For a spectacular view of the city, and a chance to challenge your senses, go to the Eureka Skydeck 88, the Southern Hemisphere’s highest viewing platform. It is the only observatory deck that has a glass cube protruding three metres out of the building, 300 metres in the air. Aptly named, The Edge, this cube is suspended 88 floors up. Once you enter The Edge, the frosted glass around you clears and you will be able to see through the floor to the city below. Once I got over the initial nervousness of feeling like I am floating on thin air, The Edge is quite a breath-taking yet surreal experience. It is like being part of the city and yet apart from it.
So, if you have the chance, come to Melbourne and let my home city draw you into its embrace.
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