I'm Jan. I'm passionate about writing and all things creative. I love exploring Melbourne and am settling into my new life here. I look forward to sharing my adventures. Visit my blog at www.janijans.com or follow my colourful instagram @janijans
Published June 7th 2017
Sunday 4th June was a most glorious Melbourne winter's day and mine started with having to be at the clock on Flinders Street Station for a date....not that kind of date, but a date to see the city through someone else's eyes. If you are going to meet someone in Melbourne, then under the clock is the place that first comes to mind when you decide to sync watches for a planned adventure.
I'm coming up to my second year anniversary of being in Melbourne, so I think I can take on the title of now being a Melburnian- even though I haven't adopted the much loved black clothing, I think I am fitting in and bringing my own flavour to this city and starting to sprinkle my "Janergy" around. I've done a lot of walking, but no walking tours since moving here, although the chocolate walking tour really really appeals to me. Yum.
When I saw this one come up in my social media feed, I literally jumped at the chance to get my shoes on, grab my camera and join in. This was no ordinary walking tour (I'm sure none of them are ordinary), because this one was being done by Chris Cincotta, who most people know as the face behind the faces of Humans in Melbourne and Melbourne I Love You, both of which bring me and thousands of others joy when we see his photos and get inspired and behind the stories he shares, which we all then share to spread the love. These were some of the first accounts I started following when I moved here as they really made me feel connected to the city.
As someone who loves wandering the laneways and arcades of Melbourne looking out for great coffee and new and quirky things, I knew that Chris would be able to share some great history and stories of the city, especially the artists whose works take residence. Chris also does many great things for the community and is involved in paving the way to make change on a real genuine level for so many people and his creative thinking, enthusiasm and care for others is beautiful to watch and to now be a part of, as I was lucky enough to be on his first ever Melbourne tour. Yep, he is doing walking tours.
Of course, I don't want to give too much away in case you decide to go, but I loved every minute of it. The group was small and ranged from a guy who had been in Melbourne for only two months, to people who had a history with Chris and wanted to be part of his new history. The weather was chilly, so he even lent a jacket to someone who was feeling the cold as we were waiting to start. That's the kind of guy he is.
First stop was Degraves St, which is part of my usual route to the city. I am a city dweller, so I love to stroll up Flinders, turn the corner and see what awaits. It's also home to the well-known orange Vespa at Clementines, a place that sells locally crafted products. We dropped in to say hi and were given a little gift that was specific to the city postcode of 3000. It created quite a buzz with the group.
We then headed to Centre Place which is a laneway full of energy and a hive of activity. Here Chris shouted us all coffee at 3 Little Monkeys, (the second place in on the right) and the caffeine flowed, as did the friendliness of the group and the coffee shop. I'm keen to go back and enjoy a coffee there and just enjoy the laneway vista because I hear from a good source that this is where the locals hang out during the week and guess who is a local?
Next stop was a few doors up at The Soup Place where the pay it forward mantra is alive and very very real. Pick up your lunch, buy some for someone else in need and leave a post it on the wall so it can be claimed. The place is jam packed with post-its containing messages from those who are being so giving. There are a couple of big containers on the counter where the post its get put once someone has enjoyed the meal given by another and those bowls were at overflowing. Having a roof over my head, water, warmth and food are things I don't take for granted, so for people to have access to this basic need without judgement or questioning is just fantastic. It would be awesome if these post its made their way into a giant art installation somewhere as a reminder of how generous the people who live and visit the city are.
Onward we strolled, coffee in hand hearing stories and learning more about Melbourne's people, history and culture. We also got to see where Chris has taken some of his amazing photos which he sells in his booth on the corner of Bourke and Swanston.
There's something to be said about finding out where the best public amenities are as well...and not being in a group of people where an umbrella is held up to ensure that no one loses the guide. Chris ensured we were always in sight but without the pressure of feeling like we had to stick close by. We could wander, observe, take photos at leisure, stop, chat and enjoy as we just moved and flowed without feeling rushed. Buildings new and old were points of discussion.
We walked through the Block and Royal Arcade's past some Melbourne favourites, as we headed towards the Bourke Street Mall and made our way to Elizabeth Street, where we were entertained, and I was in awe of the violinist who was busking. He was amazing and has been asked to play with Mumford and Sons and that's a pretty big honour. Chris also shared with us the story of the Golden Purse at the bottom end of the mall and the enormity that is the busking scene in Melbourne.
After this little sit-down, chat and a musical intermission, we were ready to explore the street art and Union Lane was the first spray can off the shelf. It was given another rather unpleasant name and the smell might just give that one away. Let your five senses be guided by sight not smell and enjoy the walk through.
We then headed towards Swanston St, where the film clip for the AC/DC hit 'It's a long way to the top' was made in 1976. Oh my god, I was 10 but I can just imagine standing there watching it happen. Such a great song and that was a perfect segue for our next laneway, which was in fact AC/DC Lane.
I got to window shop as we walked through the Paris end towards the lane. AC/DC Lane was one of the first places I went to when I arrived in Melbourne, as I had to go to a work dinner at Pastuso. My first visit to the laneway was dark and cold and I did the necessary work thing and then went home not really having my bearings, given everything in Melbourne was so new to me at the time. I didn't realise the significance of this lane as it's more than just a namesake after one of our greatest bands. It's home to the Cherry Bar and it's a lane that I am putting on my to do list again for next week, as there was just so much to see ranging from art that took up whole walls to tiny pieces that you would catch out of the corner of your eye as you strolled past. I can't believe I haven't wandered up there again since arriving. My Melbourne to do list is going to need its own personal assistant soon.
Not sure if the latest installation was a hit with everyone, but I loved it. It took me back to the 80's when I made a pair of pants with fabric that was inspired by this style of art. I think I could have a sewing project on my hands, as another pair of pants with some crazy artwork would be a fun addition to my wardrobe. I'd be walking graffiti. Wouldn't that be cool!
It's in this laneway that there are a lot of pieces of art that are both highly respected and a bit controversial in terms of the styles and that's the beauty of this city. It's a thinking city. It changes, it moves, it's alive and I'm in love with it.
Oh god, there is just so much to photograph that I need to remind myself that my passion is writing, I think... but with so much beautiful work to look at, each piece with its own appeal, I hope it's possible to find a balance between the written and the visual and that they complement each other.
More information kept coming forth about the artworks and the artists, some of who have incredible stories behind them and I was happy to be an information sponge. Chris knows his stuff and apart from his street knowledge, has built great relationships with many people and this forms a beautiful circle of giving, receiving and giving back. It was then a short stroll to Hosier Lane, which is probably the first name that comes to mind when you think of street art in Melbourne, but keep your eyes open because great stuff is everywhere. Up, down, around unexpected corners and in nooks and crannies. Eyes must be peeled at all times.
Hosier Lane became the backdrop of my fashion style photo for the day. Who would have thought that my outfit would have blended in so well with the artwork ... Me I guess, cause sometimes, I feel like I am a piece of art. The style challenge for the day was double denim and I assure you there is only so many times you can wear jeans and a denim jacket before it is no longer interesting, so I used my chambray shirred strapless top that I designed, as a little skirt over my jeans and posed my big happy double denim heart out.
If you love fashion and want a great backdrop for your daily Instagram photo, then you would be hard pressed not to find a backdrop here to make your outfit pop.
From here we walked back to his photo booth where we took some selfies, a group photo and were given one of his beautiful prints which we were asked to choose when we made the booking for the tour. The tour can be booked on his website and included getting to meet some new people, having a strolling coffee, getting some exercise, learning about the city laneway's, and taking away some mementoes from the day. What's not to love. I'd recommend this to anyone who has moved or is visiting Melbourne, or if you would love a relaxed laid back wander around the city with someone who has spent part of their life being a tour guide overseas but whose heart is all about Melbourne. For $70, the return on investment was worth every cent. Check his website for dates and more information.
I'm so pleased I got to be part of Chris's journey as he branches out his incredible skills for all things people. For me, it was the perfect thing to really cement my roots in this city I now call home.