It’s easier being vegan in the city.
In the country region where I live, veganism is such a foreign concept that I’ve actually been in awkward positions where I’ve had to explain to wait staff that veganism is not the same as vegetarianism. I’m not joking. It’s happened several times.
When I return to my home city of Melbourne, what I look forward to most – aside from seeing my family and close friends – is the food culture. It never disappoints. Even if a restaurant isn’t specifically vegan, many of them cater to plant-based foodies. In a hyper-competitive culinary scene such as Melbourne’s, it’s a brave restaurant that passes the opportunity to serve the conscious diner, a niche market for sure, but one that is seeing growth across the world, even in France.
On my recent trip back to this cosmopolitan city for a close friend’s wedding, we stayed in apartments and hotels in walking distance to the main areas of Melbourne: Southbank, Federation Square and the CBD. I tried to find time to explore new cafes and eateries, boutique shops (you must pop in to the store of Melbourne-made ethical fashion brand Kuwaii, where I purchased a beautifully handcrafted Anna Varendorff large bar earrings) and vintage stores (Shag Melbourne, Vintage Sole and Retro Star) but with work deadlines and prioritising time with my fiance Ben, I didn’t plan a strict itinerary and preferred to let the days unfold naturally.
We travelled on foot, as I prefer to do when I’m in any city (it’s also the most sustainable mode of travel). It is always a delight to experience your home city from the perspective of a traveller. You see it differently. You appreciate it in ways you don’t get to when you’re working or living in it. Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne still has that laid back vibe. We found ourselves laying back at The Arbory a couple of times on this trip. It has a great cocktail menu and the service is delightful. Plus its located in a central location near Flinders Street station and has a gorgeous view as this bar and eatery is located along the Yarra River.
The other thing about Melbourne is that its appreciation of arts and culture can be felt. There’s the National Gallery of Victoria in easy walking distance from the city centre (the Dior couture exhibition just opened so I dragged Ben along to it). There’s talented musicians busking at Bourke Street Mall and on Swanston Street. And take a stroll through the inner city alleys and you’ll find graffiti art on many building walls. Street art is openly welcomed, and in fact, encouraged by the local government. Thank goodness for progressive thinking leaders.
I try to capture the street art on my smart phone but sometimes I forget. I also forget to take pictures of the people and the scenery when meandering my way through city streets, dynamic laneways filled with tourists, and even empty parks. Thankfully my partner Ben takes out his camera in the hope of capturing a string of moments.
I will happily whip out my phone camera to capture food though. Go figure. I’m still rather hopeless at keeping a vegan food photo diary because the urge to take a pic of my vegan meal comes secondary to being present with Ben – but there are times when I’m compelled to take an Instagrammable food snap. Like the time I had breakfast at the Grain Store. And when I discovered the brilliant selection of plant-based dumplings at the Oriental Teahouse.
Melbourne has so much to offer and it doesn’t surprise anyone – least of all Melburnians – that the city continues to win the award for being the world’s most liveable city year after year. I may be biased because I grew up there, but I really do believe it’s a magnificent city for its ability to bring so many people together harmoniously (4 million live in and around the city) while catering to such a wide variety of interests – food, sport, fashion, music and art.
All I can say is, Well done Melbourne, well done.