With so many things on offer, it's no wonder there's a continuous stream of tourists visiting all year round. There's something for everybody - sport, exhibitions, quality restaurants, shopping, museums, galleries and an incredible arts precinct. My attraction to Melbourne? The theatre.
Melbourne is like Broadway, the heart of theatre and arts in Australia. Opening nights are spectacular, and shows run all year round.
Visiting Melbourne often to review theatre shows, I remember spending hours online trying to find a property with space, balcony, and close to the theatre precinct. I discovered the Oaks Hotel Resorts Group about a year ago, and haven't looked back.
The one thing that keeps me coming back to the Oaks is the staff. Always welcoming and friendly, considering the overnight and early morning shifts they do, they're constantly smiling and happy to have a chat - and I can chat alright!
Oaks on William is located on William Street opposite the stunning Flagstaff Gardens. After a smooth check in as I made my way to the 17th floor, my eye caught something I'd never seen in a hotel lobby - a collection of commissioned wall murals by Australian artists, each depicting different suburbs of Melbourne on each floor. The room card used in the lift to gain access to floors is similar to 'payWave'. I can't begin to think how many times I've had to swipe magnetic cards over and over to gain access into a room. With the keyless 'payWave' system one wave and I was in.
Wall murals depicting suburbs of Melbourne on each floor
Entering the park view studio room reminded me of a hotel I stayed at while visiting Paris. The wall mural painted behind the queen bed replicated the outside balcony view. The prominent phone tower seen in the far distance, reminded me of the Eiffel Tower. The silver based bed lamp when switched on created mood and warmth through the lime coloured shade. The bold colour scheme of ivory, silver, grey and lime blended beautifully throughout the modern chic contemporary style furnishings.
Stunning colour scheme with wall mural of outside view
The queen mattress is so comfortable and of high quality, I woke in the middle of the night thinking I was in my own bed. Even the pillows selected will ensure you get a perfect night's rest. When I complimented the reception staff on my restful night's sleep, they said many guests return purely for the beds alone!
The kitchen has modern stainless steel appliances with tea, coffee and milk supplied. You can prepare your own meals, however with every type of food cuisine represented in Melbourne there's a strong culture of eating out. There are more bloggers in Melbourne who write about food than any other capital city. Next door you'll find Brother Thomas Cafe and believe me, the breakfast is exceptional.
I'm so fussy when it comes to my brekkie, it needs to be healthy - especially the bread and eggs. I ordered the big breakfast with poached free range eggs, roast field mushrooms, crispy bacon, chipolata, slow roast tomato, beetroot relish, and organic sour dough toast. My friend ordered smashed avocado with spinach, mint, lemon and Yarra Valley Persian feta on organic sour dough toast. It looked so delicious, I ordered some on the side.
Spending time away from home doesn't mean you have to let go of your exercise regime. The complex has a gymnasium, but if you're like me and like to get out for a walk or run, having the Flagstaff Gardens at your doorstep is a bonus.
Oaks on William is walking distance from the Queen Victoria Market, the largest open air market in the southern hemisphere that opened in the 1850's. With so much on offer it's no wonder it's always abuzz with people flocking to buy souvenirs, clothes, shoes, accessories, candles, handmade arts and crafts, fruit and veggies, bread, meat, poultry, seafood, and a variety of gourmet and deli food - just to name a few.
I took a stroll to the market around lunch time on a cold windy winter's day, with the sun shining I felt happy and energised walking through the busy streets of Melbourne. I ordered a delicious Tom Yum Seafood Soup at Canton in the food court. So tasty and coupled with the cosmopolitan atmosphere around me, I was content sitting solo while devouring it within five minutes.
After sampling the nuts at Chooh La La, I couldn't leave without buying almonds and macadamias - like Pringles, I couldn't stop at one!
The lovely ladies from Chooh La La nuts at Victoria Market let you sample the nuts before you buy
Melbourne also boasts many high end shopping precincts with world leading brands as well as factory outlets for those who enjoy finding a bargain. It's the fashion capital, with major fashion shows yearly and the home of high profile local designers.
With world class sporting facilities, Victorians are known to be 'sport crazy'. Tennis, cricket, polo, AFL, The Melbourne Cup, and The Formula 1 Grand Prix, are just the start of a list of sporting events they host all year round.
Melbourne Cup. Photo: AAP
Staying at Oaks on William gives you easy access to discover Melbourne's diverse laneways that feature restaurants, cafes, hole in the wall cafes, bars, street art, and historic buildings. These are the envy of other capital cities.
Flinders Street station completed in 1909, is a cultural icon of Melbourne with its prominent dome, arched entrance, tower and clocks. It's one of the city's most recognisable landmarks and listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. Photo: www.skyscrapercity.com
I met friends for dinner at modern authentic Italian restaurant Campari House in Hardware Lane, walking distance from the hotel. With a truly authentic Italian atmosphere, this felt like a real affair with Italy. Warmth from outdoor heaters created ambience, my prawn and chilli pasta went down well with a glass of red pinot, and crowds started to fill the laneway like a piazza in Italy.
There's such a multicultural vibe in Melbourne with many of the world's nations represented everywhere you look around. The transport system is easy to access and the free City Circle Tram can take you to all the attractions.
Where many old theatres have been torn down elsewhere, Melbourne has retained her grand classic heritage theatres. Every time I attend a show, I'm in complete awe at how beautiful and unique each one of them are.
Fortunate to attend the opening of Les Miserables, there were three other productions running at the same time - WICKED, the King and I and Rocky Horror. To commemorate the occasion, the cast and crew from each production gathered in full costume on the steps of Parliament House for a historic photographic record. The theatre precinct in the CBD was also named the East End Theatre District.
Cast and crew gather from Les Miserables, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Wicked and The King and I for a historic photo. Photo: www.stagewhispers.com.au
Opening nights in Melbourne in my opinion are the best in Australia and Les Miserables was no exception. With the red carpet rolled out, roads closed, lights beaming from Her Majesty's Theatre into the night sky, the paparazzi and public were out in force hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite celebrities, A-listers, and the who's who of Melbourne strutting the red carpet. The production did not disappoint, receiving rave reviews for its dynamic staging, costumes and stellar cast.
Invited guests kicked on at the historic Forum Theatre for an after party, enjoying French champagne and H'orderves. The famous barricade was replicated as a feature in the centre of the theatre, captivating everybody's attention who set eyes on it.
The famous barricade replicated in the centre of the theatre
Another wonderful feature of the property is a fireplace next door away from the reception area. With a lovely relaxing feel to it a group of us enjoyed our coffee while taking in the ambient surroundings - the perfect nightcap. The lounging area is ideal while waiting for a cab, shuttle or even do some winding down of your own after a long day.