‘The Perfect Day: Melbourne’ by Simon Sellars, published in The Perfect Day, Lonely Planet Publications, September 2006.
Melbourne’s parks and gardens do the trick most times of the year, and the CBD is ringed by choice examples. I do a lot of work in the city, and on the walk in I like to procrastinate with a detour through the Fitzroy Gardens. These gardens are popular with wedding parties – with English elms and colonial flowerbeds lining the paths, it’s bliss, wedded or not. Despite the brides, grooms and preponderance of peach- and pink-coloured outfits, I still have the opportunity to hide from lovebirds and glory seekers, with trickling creeks and hidden walkways all about. I pull up a nook and take the opportunity to read the newspaper in peace; after all these years, I’m still amazed that the city is just 10 minutes away – you can’t see it; you can’t hear it; it doesn’t exist if you don’t want it to. Handy for flashers, admittedly, but also for solitude seekers; just pick your turf…very carefully.
Sadly, there’s not much in Melbourne’s papers these days so I throw the wretched tabloid away in disgust and make a snap decision to hit Chinatown for an early lunch. There are a lot of restaurants in this condensed neighbourhood and a lot of brazen touts – ignore their bleating and just follow your nose. Chilli-oil dumplings or any kind of Szechuan dish usually suffices for this little duck, but it’s not just the Chinese food that’s beyond reproach. Finally I settle for sizzling Mongolian beef, vacuuming it down before reflecting on how unbelievably bone idle I suddenly feel. Alright, that does it: work can get knotted for the day. I hit a bar, Rue Bebelons, just near the State Library, with its Latino decor, laconic staff, smart music policy and cheap spirits. I pull out a book, something by JG Ballard no doubt, sit at the bar with a scotch and a beer chaser, and watch the seething masses pass by the floor-length front windows. Only a few hours till dinner time – and the agony of being spoilt for choice (and of blowing yet another deadline) all over again.