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If I showed your clients a picture of Melbourne, Australia, they probably wouldn’t be able to place it. There’s no curvaceous opera house, no timeless ruins or giant red suspension bridge. Unlike many of the world’s most visited locales, Victoria’s capital city cannot be easily identified nor defined by a single icon or characteristic. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Melbourne’s Central Business District at night// © 2009 Hai Linh Truong
On a map, Melbourne’s Central Business District appears to be a well-balanced eight-by-eight block grid. However, stepping into the heart of this Australian metropolis reveals a complex network of alleyways (home to some of Australia’s best-kept secrets) and is best navigated with the help of an organized tour.
Hidden Secrets Tours, a Melbourne-based tour company, helps tourists discover the lesser-known parts of the city, bringing the real Melbourne to light with its signature Lanes and Arcades tour. The three-hour walking tour employs local guides who navigate small groups through Melbourne’s back roads. The tour winds its way through artists’ studios and alleyways layered with graffiti to find hidden boutique clothing stores and trendy knick knacks.
While there is ample time to ogle and shop, the tour is meant to be a foundation for further, independent exploration. Each client on the tour is given a Hidden Secrets tote bag for carrying goodies acquired along the way, a shopping guide and a detailed map of the route taken, so that they can easily return.
Melbourne may come off as a low-profile city. However, beginning in November, Melbourne will take center stage as a number of prestigious events bring the gliterati (and just about everyone else) out for a peek.
The festivities kick off on in early November with Melbourne’s famous festival and thoroughbred horse race, the Melbourne Cup Carnival 2009. This week of celebrations includes a colorful city parade of Melbourne Cup jockeys and winning horses, as well as parties, a kids’ concert and gala events.
Although the horse races (and subsequent betting) are the main event, the festival atmosphere, including the latest race-day fashions, food and libations can, at times, become the focal point of the Melbourne Cup.
A little more than a week later, on Nov. 12-15, Tiger Woods will make his first Australian appearance since 1997 at the Australian Masters held at Kingston Heath Golf Club, a short drive from the city center. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend but, at press time, tickets are still available for the remaining spots at approximately $44 per person. Tickets are also available for the Practice Day and Pro-Am events preceding the tournament for $30 and $10 per person, respectively.
Kicking off the New Year is the Australian Open, the first of four international tennis Grand Slam events. Matches will be held from Jan. 18-31, 2010, at the famed Rod Laver Arena where Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are expected to be among the tournament regulars.
Tennis play will be supplemented with free outdoor concerts from Australian entertainers and singers, including Vanessa Amorosi, Gabriella Cilmi and Pete Murray, among others, on the Heineken Beer Garden stage.
For a culinary fix, Melbourne’s Food and Wine Festival, the largest of its kind in the world, will kick off its gastronomic events in mid-March 2010. Participants can attend master classes with internationally renowned chefs and winemakers from around the world or just grab some grub during the 11-day event.
During the festival, clients can partake in the World’s Longest Lunch — a day-long event featuring a long, continuous table, at nearly three-quarters of a mile in length, sweeping through Melbourne. At the 2008 lunch, 5,000 people dined, 10,050 forks were washed and 16,570 glasses of wine were enjoyed.
Melbourne’s calendar of events means exciting activities in the near future, and its underground culture promises exciting adventures during just about any time of the year.
Scroll down to read about Hidden Secrets Tours’ Sommelier’s City Walk.
By Mindy Poder
With Hidden Secrets Tours’ Sommelier City Walk tour in Melbourne, Australia, clients will enjoy a flight of food and wine at a total of three venues within walking distance. The 2 1/2-hour tour is led by passionate and knowledgeable sommeliers and come with take-home sommelier notes, a City Dining Guide, generous wine samples, a city map and menu tastings
The dishes featured on the tour are seasonal and prepared to best match the wine served. Locations vary weekly, but participating venues include Comme, Bistro Vue, Verge Restaurant & Wine Bar, Seamstress, Maha Bar & Grill, The Press Club Restaurant & Bar, La Vita Buona and more.
What to know before you go: Hidden Secrets strongly suggests that clients arrange a method of transportation back to the hotel, such as a designated driver, taxi or shuttle. Participants must show proof of age (they must be at least 18 years old to drink in accordance with Australian law). Comfortable dress shoes are recommended since light walking on city streets is part of the itinerary.
Availability: The tour runs on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights from approximately 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Private group bookings are available for Monday and Wednesday nights. Bookings require a minimum of two guests and have a maximum limit of eight guests.
Pricing: Approximately $128 per person. In winter months, clients can take advantage of a discounted price of $119 per person.
Commission: Hidden Secrets tours are commissionable, but agents must contact the tour operator directly for exact rates.
Hidden Secrets Tourswww.hiddensecretstours.com