29 MAY 2019: This year my daughter and I went on a Mother and Daughter getaway, to Melbourne. I've been wanting to go for 25 years. I've always had a feeling I'd like it. Well, I was wrong, I didn't like it, I loved it and so will your clients. Next time we go to Oz, we'll try Air Canada's flight from Vancouver to Melbourne. It is direct just 14 hours. We'll stay a few days and then head for Sydney.

Melbourne and Sydney have always had rivalry going. When I'm in Sydney, and I admire this gorgeous city. Sydneysiders say "Yes, but it is hard to live in, the highways are jammed, and public transportation leaves a lot to be desired. The Melbourne crowd says, "Thank you, we love it."

To solve one rivalry problem years ago, Canberra was selected as the capital of Australia in 1908, located in between the two cities.

Melbourne was settled during the gold rush of 1850 when gold was found. This, believe it or not was the second biggest gold rush in the world. British residents settled here, and it became a very wealthy city. No the streets aren't paved with gold, but some have beautiful ceramics due to the next wave of immigrants from Southern Europe who arrived after World War II.

Like all your clients, we didn't have endless time in a new city, so I chose a tour. A Laneway Tour called Hidden Secrets is a 3-hour tour that runs at 10am and 2pm. for AU$99 ($92). It was fabulous. In the centre of the blocks in the CBD (we call it downtown) are laneways - some covered, some not. The laneways began in the 1980's and there are 40 some of them, still some filled with garbage.

Jayne had been to Melbourne a number of times but didn't know the laneways and arcades existed. We were both fascinated. If we lived there, we'd be there a lot.

On Collins St., the Block Arcade was designed after the one in Milan. It is considered to be one of Melbourne's most famous destinations, showing off 19th century Melbourne. There aren't enough adjectives in my vocabulary to describe it.

Alan and Shelley Greenfield had arrived from Calgary that morning and felt a walking tour would be perfect to start their visit, and ward off wanting to sleep. Both engineers, they loved it.

There are restaurants, take-aways, and little holes in the wall that serve food. The smallest one, Union Kiosk a take-away was so small it was going to be a problem for the owner shortly, as she was six months pregnant and barely fit in the kitchen now. Didn't bother the customers, they were lined up to order from the completely vegan menu.

There are quirky bars, and intimate cafes. Your client's biggest problems will be deciding, and not falling over something as they're gawking.

And the ever-changing street art in the Lanes, means you need to visit often. Midway through our 3-plus-hour tour, upstairs in the Royal Arcade one of the oldest, eight of us stopped at KOKO BLACK lounge to rest our feet, enjoy a hot drink, and taste their famous chocolates. We ended with a tour of the wall art in AC/DC Lane, which is a short, narrow street running off Flinders Lane, between Russell and Exhibition. It was named as a tribute to the famous Australian rock and roll band AC/DC. This lane has fabulous art painted on the walls and is perhaps most known for housing the Cherry Bar, a famous rock music bar and nightclub.

A tip for your clients! Stay late at the Cherry, and you never know who might pop in for a nightcap after they've finished their own set. Paul and Harriet were our guides, and they were friendly, interesting and knowledgeable. They tipped us off on the free tourists Shuttle Service that has 15 stops.

When visiting, be sure to roam through Hosier Lane. We had wonderful meals everywhere including our own kitchen, but my all-time favourite was brunch at the Back Pocket, on Little Lonsdale St. The chai latte was delicious. I had pumpkin and Feta fritters with Smokey tomato chutney, Jayne had an omelette.

And speaking of food, we joined a friend of Jayne's who had just moved to Melbourne from Sydney. Yes, she loves it. She recommended ShanDong MaMa rated one of the top ten restaurants in Melbourne. Don't dress up, and don't go for the décor, the freezer is in the window of the restaurant. Do go for the pot stickers. The place was packed for this second-floor place.

Also full were the streets around it. There were buskers, window shoppers, and it seemed as though everyone was having a great time. Home for three nights was Melbourne Short Stay, on Lonsdale, a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment AU$96 (CA$90).

At night, it was beautiful fitted out, with the bedrooms at either end of the apartment so we didn't disturb each other while working. It was perfect, even came equipped with a washer and dryer AND soap. It was also within walking distance of everywhere we wanted to go. We didn't have time, but the pool was stunning.

Next time we'll head for Sherbrooke Forest, about 45 minutes away. Great place for a stroll through the forest to catch a glimpse of the elusive lyebird, see a wombat or swamp wallaby. I'll be back!

MELBOURNE
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Sam Ion

The expert on All Inclusives, Sam delivers up-to-date info on alternate Wednesdays in her column Not Just All Inclusives.

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