Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
It is okay if you just want touristy stuff like T-shirts with DOWN UNDER emblazoned on them, or plastic road signs with KANGAROOS NEXT 5KM or even clip on koalas. But in general most of us would prefer to leave such fodder for foraging tourists. Although why you would want to take something made in China, back to China, beats me.
Which is why I was drawn to the brand new tour - Insider Shopping Tour - which helps visitors navigate past the dross to the secret gems in the merchandising area.
We meet our tour guide the lovely and warm Carmel McNally. Fittingly she is dressed from head to toe, in garb she has bought from the market.
Just as you don't take cooking tips from a skinny chef, unless they are diet related, it is hard to take shopping tips from someone for whom shopping is an anathema.
It soon became clear that Carmel is a kindred shopaholic, she can smell a bargain from across the street and is soon regaling us with stories of what she bought for whom and for how much. "A scarf for an uncle, cost just $10 and my teenage niece loves this roll on perfume." Or as she puts it "all my wages get recycled at the Market."
At every shop she sniffs and fondle goods with obvious - almost cooing delight.
We spend quite some time in a shop called Madame Pompodaur. This is a pink flummery, a visual feast for the senses selling French and vintage inspired fashion, accessories and home wares. No-one really wants to leave, except the young man who has come along with his girlfriend and is a bit of a ring-in on this otherwise all female tour.
That said, the tour changes depending on the dynamics of the group. For example, we do go to the sports shop, we just don't get caught up there. Like some blokes and I guess some women might.
We also spend quite some time in Parlour, which sells perfumes, powders and exquisite candles. Carmel delights in telling us how the two girls who started this business, as a small market stand, developed it into this heavenly scented shop. Their goods now retail in both London and New York.
At Koori Connections, we meet owner Julie Pierce. She sells authentic Aboriginal products including artwork, pottery, books, clothing and didgeridoos. Before the shop opened she had a traditional smoking ceremony of the premises. She is passionate about giving back royalties to the Aboriginal artists and her son Daniel often plays the didgerdoo for customers. "He has been playing since he was three" she tells us.
We have a few tastings at Rewine – an innovative merchant that sells great wine straight from barrels. You simply bring your own bottle. One customer has had the same bottle refilled over 300 times. The refills only cost around 6 to 8 dollars.
While Suga is a chain, it is great to go to their market shop where the music blares and the guys really get into the rock and roll of it as they mould the huge mounds of candy down to the tiny sweets they have for sale. You can also buy sweets that have the words "I LOVE MELBOURNE" embedded in the centre.
These are just a few of the places we stop on this tour. To tell you them all would be to give away all Carmel's secrets - especially her fascinating stories about Green Bean Alley which is the latest Market precinct and a hive of human creativity. The best part was visiting the artisans here and talking to them about their handmade items. This area is so worthy I will be devoting a separate article to it. See links below.
As Carmel says "Most people run out of puff after their food shopping and they don't get up this far."
So glad to have done this tour with Carmel and to have so many wonderful finds to go back to over and over again.