Today I started in on the actual hardcore touristic stuff. Bryce and I took the tram down to the central district of Melbourne, and walked around the old "Laneways." This is a series of narrow streets and arcades (passageways cut through buildings) in the center of downtown. They're full of cute stores, cafes', and art galleries, but the truth is that I think they sounded better on paper. We walked around for a couple of hours, and although we had some great coffee and visited a nice wine shop, I can't say I was particularly wowed by the architecture or the people. We passed a couple of nice looking art galleries that were unfortunately closed for the Christmas Holiday, but looking in the windows did whet my appetite for viewing more native Australian art in the future. One of the most interesting features of the Laneways is the graffiti art. It's actually protected as an art form in certain locations, I took a picture of my favorite mural.
On the advice of another Bryce, an Australian transplanted to San Francisco, I stopped at gourmet chocolatier Haigh's. I picked up a small "dark connoisseurs selection" and am impressed. The flavors are very clear and fruity, and the chocolate is not too sweet. So far I've sampled a caramel, and pieces filled with mint creme, espresso creme, and bits of dried apricot. I'm liking these enough that I might just haul a box back to the US on the plane.
We haven't sampled the wine we picked up at Vintage Cellars yet, but the person who I asked for advice was super enthusiastic about this Shiraz. We'll probably drink it this evening :)
After our tramp through the Laneways, including a nice simple lunch at a fish and chips place where I had grilled sea bass (nicely done with herbs) and a salad, we went to the Melbourne Aquarium. I love aquariums, and this one included an exhibit of King penguins from the Antarctic, weird creatures like the highly dangerous Poison Dart Frog, and a huge marine tank with massive rays, schooling tuna, and some mid-sized sharks.