Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Four reasons why I prefer Melbourne to Sydney

The average tourist doesn't know what he/she is missing. When visitors come from the U.S.A. to Australia, they generally pounce on Sydney, spreading so much hype about Oz's unofficial epicenter. When I told people I was planning a month-long adventure down under, with an emphasis on Sydney, those who'd been to the city told me I'd fall fast and furiously in love so overpowering that I'd want to stay for longer than a month, if not forever.

But what do they know? I've never been quite in sync with popular opinion when it comes to cities. Paris, arguably the most overrated city on the planet, bores me. I prefer Madrid to Barcelona, Sao Paulo to Rio, Munich to Berlin. And how I despise Florence! Once again, I'm challenging popular opinion by declaring Melbourne the far superior Australian metropolis, so much so that four days in it was not enough. Neither were two weeks. When I depart on October 13, I will have spent a total of five weeks falling deeper and deeper for its charms.

The weather can be capricious, and it's been more often cloudy and/or rainy than sunny, but London is my favorite city in the world, so clearly sunshine is not my priority.

My friend Lori, via her colorist, just made the perfect comparison of the two not-so-twin cities: "I talked to Bryan my colorist about it on Saturday, and he says Sydney is the lifestyle (i.e. beach, chill-out) city; think Orange County, Calif. Explains why you don't love it. Meanwhile, he says Melbourne is very European -- which explains why you love it."

Here are four more reasons.

Melbourne's got soul.
Consider "Ain't That a Shame," a 1955 hit co-written by Fats Domino and later turned into a No. 1 pop single by Pat Boone, who, laughably, wanted to retitle it "Isn't That a Shame" in order to appeal to a larger (i.e. Caucasian) audience. Wouldn't that have been the shame? Boone's version is white, clean and neat, so perfect for mainstream consumption that at the time of its release, it overshadowed Domino's version on the charts. It's Sydney. Domino's rendition is darker and grittier. It may not be as pretty on the outside, but there are far more layers underneath. It's the version people with good taste in music think of when they think of the song today. That's Melbourne. It may not grab you as immediately as Sydney (though it did me), but it leaves more of a trace.

Melbourne boys are hotter.
When Marcus compared Sydney's Los Angeles to Melbourne's New York City, he was talking about the overall feel of the two cities, and he nailed it. But that comparison would also apply to the guys in both cities. The boys of summer in Sydney are bronzed, polished, styled to within an inch of their work- and image-obsessed lives. They're a dime a dozen, and with one tall, blond exception, I honestly can't recall a single one I saw the entire seven days I was there. That's so L.A. There's definitely the overly bronzed, overly polished, overly styled element to the Melbourne boy scene, but for someone like me, who likes his lovers artsier, messier, with a bit more rock & roll, Melbourne delivers. Just like NewYork City.

Melbourne looks cooler.
Take away the Opera House, which is far more spectacular in photos than in reality, and the harbours, and Sydney is like any other city. Well, actually, like five or six other cities. It becomes wholly generic. Melbourne doesn't have that one landmark to reel visitors in, but look around. There's beauty everywhere -- in all the glass facades and glass balconies, in the various light displays that break the night with color, in the undulating terrain, which makes it challenging for runners but won't leave pedestrians as breathless as Sydney's frustratingly steep inclines. Melbourne is that stunningly beautiful girl who's still stunningly beautiful without a stitch of make up and nary a nip nor a tuck.

Kylie Minogue
Yes, the lady is from Melbourne. Could it get any better than that? And to quote la Kylie on Aphrodite's closing track, can't beat the feeling of strolling through St. Kilda (my adopted neighborhood), or Fitzroy, or down Chapel Street, or Hardware Lane. At least not with anything in Sydney. So why bother trying?
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