Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published February 12th 2013
For many people, Valentine's Day is the most terrifying day of the year. Whether you're single and looking to stave off the inevitable waves of loneliness, or in a relationship and searching for a romantic gift that won't bore your partner to tears, it's the pressure that hurts the most. Flowers and chocolate is a classic, but it's been done a thousand times (and says nothing about your unique qualities as a lover). However, there's no need to panic and buy your partner something as disastrous as a gym membership - Melbourne is here to help. In the bountiful alleyways and streets of our city exist enough options to please even the most jaded significant other.
Take a stroll down Swanston St and visit the rows of street artists. You can find anything from hand-made dinosaur figurines to cute fabric bracelets. It might be a bit more expensive, but you won't find gifts like this anywhere else. Artists often duplicate, too - if you think one stall's bracelets are too expensive or tacky, walk up to the next stall. It works the other way, too: sometimes quoting one stall's cheaper price can drive another artist to offer a discount. Be careful of being a haggling jerk, though. You might need the artist on-side next year.
Street artists and many places on the internet offer personalized gifts as well. Near the corner of Swanston and Bourke is a guy who bends wire into calligraphic representations of people's names, for instance. If you've got a cute nickname for your loved one, use it here. Sketch artists can work up a drawing of you two together from a photo in about thirty minutes. The price varies from twenty-five to thirty-five dollars - don't pay more than that, but be cautious about paying less. If your partner's face is unrecognizable, there's the potential for uncomfortable misunderstandings.
For a slightly more upmarket present, visit one of the little shops off Flinders Lane or Centre Place. From hipster clothes to leatherbound notebooks, there's something in here for everybody. Be prepared for high prices and standoffish service, as tourists feel cheated if they don't get to experience the rudeness of Melbourne hipsterdom. Retrostar and OTC, both near the corner of Flinders St and Swanston St, are cheaper second-hand options. Make sure your partner is okay with a second-hand gift first, though. It's the worst day of the year to come off as stingy.
Think outside the gift-wrapped box: who says that a Valentine's Day present has to be something tangible? Take your partner to visit one of Melbourne's buskers for a short musical date. Pay the musician a quick visit beforehand and request your partner's favourite songs - but remember to be generous. A disgruntled busker, upset at being dragooned into your romantic assistant, might play an impromptu set of breakup songs. When the chords of Somebody I Used To Know begin, you might be hard-pressed to convince your date that you didn't just stage the worst breakup ever.
Is there an art stall that you know about and like? Share your secret in the comments below. Who knows? Your partner might read it and be convinced.