LOS ANGELES, CA, May 31, 2007 "“ Travelers who seek authentic cultural immersion when visiting foreign lands will have the opportunity to experience Melbourne, the food, wine, culture, and events capital of Australia, through the eyes of its locals.
From its sublime dining to its unique shopping, fabulous arts scene and great old-meets-new architecture, visitors will come to know and love Melbourne like its residents do. Discovering the essence of what makes Melbourne a city unlike all others is easy; all that's needed is a sense of adventure, and comfortable shoes. A very walk-able city, Melbourne is best seen by foot as many of its hidden treasures lie close together in the Central Business District.
Luckily, a new four-night "Hidden City Secrets" package steeps visitors in the best of Melbourne, as enthusiastic, knowledgeable local guides blaze personal trails through a maze of designer boutiques, quirky galleries, and historical laneways and arcades. Guests will also discover three of the city's hottest off-the-beaten-path restaurants, opened early exclusively for them during a Sommelier's City Walk.
"Hidden City Secrets"
After settling into the Crown Promenade Hotel in the heart of Melbourne's vibrant Southbank Entertainment Precinct on the picturesque Yarra River, guests (in a small group up to eight) will be informed and enlightened during an early evening Sommelier's City Walk. Led by wine connoisseur Ben Knight, guests learn of the sommelier's role in a restaurant and are escorted to three locally owned hidden gems with great interiors, extensive Victoria wine lists and appetizing nibbles specially paired to match the wines tasted. Featured venues, hidden behind modest exteriors, open early just for the group and include the warmly alluring Money Order Office, located underground in the basement of the original building of the same name built in 1886, and The Deanery Wine Reserve, Melbourne's first wine bar, well hidden at the end of a laneway.
Next, guests enjoy a three-hour locally guided walk through Melbourne’s labyrinth of beautiful lanes and arcades, a number of which are tucked away and hard to find on one's own. Along with hearing about the history and architecture of sites visited, guests will see over 50 Melburnian designer and specialty retailers. Highlights of the tour include the elaborate 19th century Block Arcade, renowned for its impressive etched glass roof with decorative wrought iron and mosaic tiled floor; its name is derived from the tradition of “doing the block,” or parading around Melbourne’s fashionable shopping streets. A hidden secret here is the ceiling of the clothing shop Chelsea, which boasts an enormous fresco painted in 1907 for the Singer Sewing Machine Company store at this spot.
The Royal Arcade is the oldest retail arcade in Australia. Built in 1869, it was also home to a Turkish bath house until the 1930s. The Campbell Arcade is a subterranean railway tunnel built before the 1956 Olympics. Today it features Platform, a city-supported space used for contemporary art installations. The narrow Degraves Street is well known for its coffee shops and crammed al fresco tables that turn the pedestrian laneway into one giant outdoor cafÃ©. A must-eat here is Waffle On, a delicious Belgian waffle cart.
Other finds highlighted on the Hidden Secrets tour include Scott Alley, a little pedestrian strip that is home to some quirky shops, chief among them Bobby's Cuts, a menswear store fashioned to look like a butcher's shop. Down tiny Presgrave Place "“ which looks more like a derelict alleyway than a destination "“ is the wonderful Pushka CafÃ©, which serves great coffee, sandwiches and custard tarts from a hole-in-the-wall space. Even more interesting is what decorates the cafÃ©'s exterior walls, the so-called twentybythirty gallery (its sides measure 20cm by 30cm), which is possibly Melbourne's smallest art space. As visitors continue through Presgrave Place to the back of the Manchester Unity Building arcade, they will stumble upon Switchboard, a miniscule cafÃ© that reputedly sells Melbourne's best muffins. Carved out of an old broom closet and an old Art Deco display case, it takes orders from one hole in the wall and offers tables in another tiny space that looks like a zany art installation.
After the tour, when visitors are in the know, they are free to revisit any of the alternative, unusual and cutting edge boutiques that caught their eye for an afternoon shopping spree, or instead relax as Melburnians do in this cafÃ© society and grab a "long black" or "skinny latte" coffee.
The price for the "Hidden City Secrets" package by Down Under Answers is $2,299 per person, double, for travel through September 27, 2007. This includes round-trip international economy class airfare on Qantas from Los Angeles to Melbourne, four nights at the Crown Promenade, Sommelier's City Walk with wine tastings, Hidden Secrets Lanes and Arcades Tour, round-trip private car transfer between the airport and hotel.
For more information on Melbourne visit Tourism Victoria's website www.visitmelbourne.com. For more information or to book the "Hidden City Secrets" package, please visit Down Under Answers' website www.duatravel.com or call toll-free (800) 788-6685.