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Melbourne For The Young At Heart

Aug 17, 2007
If there is excitement associated with Australia, it has more to do with the crocs, snakes, and sharks, than it does with the hotel scene. That may be that the inhabitable percentage of total land mass is the equivalent of my entire family living in the Master Bath, while the living, dining, and bedrooms remain unused. Or it may be that Australia hasn't been acknowledged in the world media since the 2000 Olympics.

As I write this, the headline of Melbourne's primary newspaper THE AGE, is "Our Planet is Threatened by Monster Waves. This Isn't One of them. It's Time to Save the Wave," and the subject matter is a petition signed by 1200 cricket fans outraged that Cricket Australia has turned the nation into a "Nanny State" by prohibiting the exuberance of fans who use the "Mexican Wave" as a demonstration of support for their team. Now cricket itself is about as fascinating as the insect by the same name, so that in itself should tell you what the Aussie's are up against.

Having said that, Melbourne is a sweet town with a vibrant waterfront dining scene, a quaint, if not somewhat staid center, shopping that includes all of the world's fashion dynasties, and a surrounding natural environment of beaches and islands, just minutes away from town, that offers a pleasing alternative to urban life. The Park Hyatt on One Parliament is very centrally located and within walking distance of the free City Circle Tram, an antique version of the very efficient pay as you go tram system that dissects the city at every major intersection, soft as a whisper, frequent, and providing seamless travel throughout the city. The Central Business District (CBD) is infinitely walkable, and you can be from the Greek Precinct to China Town, to the "Italian" Lygon Street, to Queens Market in a matter of minutes, while the Aquarium is best seen by tram.

The Park Hyatt is the town's premier hotel, the Windsor being a plausible alternative if you want lunch among the Cricket Members in their ascots and suit coats. I enjoyed starting each day at the Park Hyatt with a swim in the 25 meter pool edgeless aquamarine pool, finishing up with a Jacuzzi that overlooks the Melbourne skyline, followed by a sauna or steam, in the Park Hyatt's elegant and less conservative ambiance. I could have played tennis had I been so inclined, or used the Day Spa which includes a myriad of treatments, featuring La Prairie and Elemis products, had I had the time to do so. Sadly, duty called far too often for me to avail myself of the number of opportunities for relaxation and so I am unable to report to you the details of a spa experience, except to say that it is small and unassuming and staffed by pleasant, accommodating faces.

There are a total of 240 rooms, 24 of them suites, and five levels of suites, all quite lovely, my favorite being the Presidential Suite. It has a commanding position on the 17th Floor of the Park Tower, and is literally nestled amongst the trees with views onto the historic buildings of the area and surrounding gardens and parklands. The master suite has two king beds, with gas fireplace, plasma television, extraordinary ensuite, master Italian marble bathroom, oversized custom spa bath with inset television, separate shower and double vanity. There is a separate guest bathroom near the a study and a dining room. The living area also features a gas fireplace. There is an executive area of the study that includes a facsimile, CD Player, four direct dial telephones and data ports.

In descending order from there, the Ambassador Suite is located in the Park Tower, with separate bedroom and living space, a study area, a dining table for six, gas fireplace, and views which in varying degrees overlook many of the botanic and historic features of the area. The average room size is 165 square meters, quite ample for most needs. The diplomatic suite, smaller at approximately 120 square meters, offers the same amenities, in smaller proportion and is also in the Tower. The Terrace Suite is located in the Cathedral residence and features king accommodation with separate bedroom and living room. There are large outdoor terraces that take in the view of St. Patrick's Cathedral. The average room size is 65 square meters. Lastly, the Park Executive Suites feature the same separation of living space with views of the historic precinct and are similar in size to the Terrace Suites.

For those of you interested in taking in the surrounding natural environment, Phillip Island, home of the Moto Grand Prix, is also home to the Little Penguins. A Nature Lover Tour, with a VIP Twist, includes an escape from the 1,500 to 3,000 tourists who view the "Penguin Parade," the nightly return of the penguins from the sea, up over the sand dunes when the sun sets. While absolutely fascinating, the crowds and flood lights to detract considerably from the experience.

A little known alternative is the "Ultimate Penguin Tour," available only on request and by reservation which includes sitting on a stunning, secluded beach, and viewing them in their natural environment, under the cover of darkness by night vision infra-red binoculars. The cost of the experience is nearly triple that of the en masse touring, 60 dollars AUS, but well worth the experience, particularly because all funds go to preserving this threatened environment for their rightful inhabitants, the Little Penguins.

For the young at heart, the Hidden Bar Tours is the only way to see Melbourne's wonderful back alley bars, if you don't know someone who lives or works in the city. The bars are so hidden, you wouldn't find them with a map, and they are often without signs indicating their identity, or even whether they are open to the public. Contact Gath Adams and he'll take you around to see the best of the best, introduce you to the owners if they're out and about, and even help you pick out an Austrian beer or cocktail suited to your tastes.

Melbourne is considered by many the cultural heart of Australia, and the many opportunities in this regard combined with a lovely multi-cultural environment, make a trip to Melbourne well worth the visit.
About the Author
Denise Hummel is an American, who moved to Italy with her husband and children for a one year cross-cultural experience that has expanded to three. Denise Hummel directs a communications business focused on tourism called Imagine Communications.
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