Have you ever stepped into a new city and felt several other cities staring back at you? This is what happened to me during my first week in Melbourne and, this time, the city I felt the strongest connection with was a city I call home, my New Orleans.
Now, to be fair, there are numerous aspects of Melbourne that are nothing like New Orleans, and maybe – just maybe – I’ve been feeling a little homesick, but allow me to make a case for why I think Melbourne is New Orleans’ secret sister city.
1. Both cities offer a strong arts & culture scene.
The Great Australian Rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney runs deep and with only one week in the Victorian city, I have developed a few opinions of my own, most of which I will not delve into now. I will say though, where Sydney is rich with natural beauty, Melbourne is beautifully designed.
Melbourne is a city that was well-planned with artistic structural achievements and creative usage of spaces. Here you’ll find lane ways filled with urban art, small bars, and cafes as well as parks and colorfully designed buildings on every block. While living in Sydney, I asked Sydney-siders how they would compare the two cities. And while Sydney reminded me of the big city life like you’d find in New York or San Francisco, Melbourne sounded like the cultural hub that is New Orleans. Yes, I arrived with preconceived notions, but the arts & cultural vibes you in New Orleans are what I’ve felt here in Melbourne, too.
2. Both cities allow you to drink while you shop!
Browsing local artist stalls, sampling tasty foods from all around the city, purchasing fresh produce, and sipping some wine – yes please! New Orleans knows how to do this best but I was pleasantly surprised that Melbourne has this down, too.
Day one, I stopped by the Queen Victoria Night Market and instantly fell in love. The market was bustling with young people who were there to browse, shop, eat, and drink. It was my kind of scene and, of course, reminded me of many a market back in NOLA.
3. Both cities are known for hosting major national and international sporting events.
Without much foresight, I planned my move to Melbourne during the Australian Open and on my first full day in the city, I ventured over to the tournament’s grounds. Assuming that I wouldn’t be able to afford a pass, I admired from the gates and continued on my way. A few days later though, I was back. Granted, I was there late and caught the last 10 minutes of a match but I was in!
Melbourne is the annual host for the Australian Open as well as numerous other major sporting events just as New Orleans hosts Superbowls and National Championships in the Superdome. Both cities are nationally and internationally known for their welcoming venues and sporting arenas as well as world-class attractions around the city for visitors.
4. Both cities offer horse-drawn carriage rides as a way of touring the city.
Sure, other cities have this tourist attraction, too but I couldn’t leave it off the list! I’ve enjoyed seeing these carriages around Melbourne, especially because the horses are trotting along with feather headbands!
5. Both cities feature street artists, many of which are actually good!
Every major city has street performers but does every city have good performers?! This is where NOLA and Melbourne shine. I’ve walked down various streets in Melbourne to find musicians playing and singing on multiple corners, some even with a CD for sale and most with large crowds standing to listen. A breath of fresh air, if you ask me.
6. Both cities use street cars (or city circle trams, if you’re in Melb) as a form of public transportation.
Not only that, both cities also prominently feature the street car images on t-shirts, magnets, tote bags, stickers, mugs, you name it! They’re an iconic part of the city and one of my favorite sights in Melbourne*. Ahhh, it feels like home.
*I will say that Melbourne has a bit of an edge on this one though as their “city trams” are free to ride! They stay within the city center and take you to all the top spots for nothin’. Gotta love free!
7. Both cities were built on the banks of an important river.
The Yarra River and the Mississippi River are vital water sources in their respective countries and have helped shape the cities in which they flow. Both rivers are essential for their ports and are the busiest in their countries. Melbourne and New Orleans were built up along these rivers and offer excellent river-side views and water activities for their locals.
8. Both cities are foodie-meccas.
While New Orleans is a popular foodie destination for creole and southern delights, Melbourne is a culinary hot spot in Australia. It’s hard to find a bad meal in either of these cities.
9. Both cities love their cocktails.
Melbourne’s cocktail bars are constantly on the short list for best in the country, and boy, do they know their drinks. Watching these bartenders mix up a cocktail is like watching an artist at work. It’s no wonder these bartenders have been given the name of mixologist and New Orleans is no stranger to the perfect drink.
Home to the annual Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans hosts mixologists and cocktail lovers from around the world for this week-long spirit industry event. Melbourne mixologists are likely to be in attendance (or really want to go!).
New Orleans and Melbourne have much in common but there are also many key differences between the two cities. More on Melbourne soon…but for now, Ali in Oz is off to New Zealand for 3 weeks!! Ciao for now!