Carlton boasts a plethora of historic and cultural landmarks as well as many fantastic eateries.
Carlton boasts a plethora of historic and cultural landmarks as well as many fantastic eateries.

TRAVEL: The hidden treasures of Melbourne

AUSTRALIA’S warm summer weather can keep you locked in closely to the coastlines. But when you it comes to experiencing a little bit of our cool, cosy climes, Melbourne is the place to rug up and enjoy.

I was in Melbourne on the weekend and ready for single digit weather with jackets and jeans, scarves and socks; nevertheless the sharp nip of a frisky breeze whisking around a warm body is always a lovely surprise.

If you have a chosen a short getaway, this cosmopolitan city has so much to offer it’s wise to have your discovery agenda in order.  I’m a regular to the southern city and love all of it, but this time around I decided it was all about the inner city suburb of Carlton, in particular Lygon St and a certain section of shops in Rathdownie St.

Lygon St is renowned as Australia’s "Little Italy" with its huge amount of Italian history and restaurants, is no wonder.  But a quick google of the street’s history informs that before the Italians, Lygon St was a Jewish Ghetto. It seems that a neighbourhood war in 40s resulted in the Jews moving to south to the Balaclava/Caulfield/St Kilda and the Italians literally setting up shop in Lygon Street.

Since the 1970s Carlton has experience ongoing urban renewal clearly represented by the emergence of an eclectic range of quality eateries.  How do you decide where to go?  At night, menus and meal deals are touted by restaurant staff standing outside on the footpath. It’s all part of merry din that sends an exciting buzz through the street.  During the day some of the renowned dining venues includes Brunetti Carlton, Gelatissimo Carlton, The Lygon Food Store started in 1951 and the ToTo Pizza founded in 1961.

But Carlton is not all about food. It also boasts a plethora of historic and cultural landmarks including the historical Carlton Baths which celebrated its 100th birthday this year, the Trades Hall, LaMama Theatre. If you would like to take a Carlton Historical Walk please visit Heritage Victoria - http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/heritage.

My favourite modern-history landmark is Alice’s Bookshop in nearby Rathdowne St.  Luke Terbutt and Selina Braine took over the shop in June 2015 and this month (June) they are celebrating the shop’s 30 year history.  This tiny, four roomed bookstore houses a collection of around 18,000 books and is perfectly located amongst an eateries, boutiques and bakeries known as Rathdowne Village. As their website says: "Browsers, thinkers, readers, dreamers – all are welcome.

Alice’s Bookshop smells like a bookshop, acts like a bookshop and as a specialist in second handbooks with an emphasis on literature, music, the arts, history, philosophy, psychology, gardening and children’s book, it looks like the real deal among decreasing number of likeminded establishment.    

For me Alice’s bookstore is about surprises, I walk in there expecting anything and usually coming up with everything.  I pick up a favoured author on the outdoor stand and take it to counter.

"I’m surprised this book didn’t go sooner, it’s been outside for two weeks," owner Luke says.

"It was waiting for me," I dare to tell him.

And for me that’s what Alice’s Bookshop is made of – moments of pure serendipity.

I leave the bookshop with a bag of books, in a hurry to get home and review them.

But I cannot quite get past Kylie’s No Dough Bakery.  I slip in and point to the tomato and mozzarella pullapart.  Then I see the brown crusted fruit and nut loaf and extend my bakery buy.

"Would you like the loaf cooked in a tin or on the stone," the baker asks.

The organic quality of a stone lures me in and that’s the one I take home.

It return to the apartment’s snug environment, slice up the loaf, get out my books and since there is no temptation to go to the beach, I breath in the peace of a Saturday afternoon and I know that I have found my sweet place.


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