Some think that Melbourne has gotten too big. Nearing 5 million in population, this city is definitely experiencing some big city problems. Nevertheless, it still remains one of my favorites and a place where I could happily live. Ruth & I used to stay in a hotel on Lonsdale Street between the Greek Precinct and Chinatown. Every time we went out we strolled down Cohen Place where we passed a fine Chinese Museum and a hidden-away Italian restaurant. Often, we were heading for Dinkum Pies, Ruth’s favorite street food place for lunch. Dinkum was in an alley full of restaurant tables behind the ritzy Block Arcade, which still has an always-stand-in-line, old-fashioned tearoom. Cohen seemed more alley than street, but we didn’t pay particular attention to Melbourne’s rather unique configuration until this trip.
The last time we were there, Ruth and I explored Melbourne’s distinct neighborhoods. We finally realized when we fell in love with the Prahran Market, that this city is a collection of many communities with very separate characters. Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District), where Cohen Place is, seemed like any big city downtown; but, again, we weren’t paying attention. We were barely aware that all of this CBD’s major streets were paralleled by little versions, so the next street after Bourke and before Lonsdale was Little Bourke.
Thanks to Robert Blackburn, who wrote an article for Melbourne’s official visitor guide called “Discover the Laneways”, I realized this time that the major and little streets are often connected by lanes and places. Robert wrote about 10 of them and focused on their distinct qualities. I began keeping a list that included Cohen, found all 10, and discovered about 50 more. Some of them were little more than slightly sinsiter alleys, but most were alive with people and one-of-a-kind shops like soleDevotion.
With names like Duckboard, Watertank, and Red Cape, these street connectors all have developmental potential. Some already specialize in graffiti. Some are alive with outdoor-seating restaurants. Big Boy BBQ had Peanut Butter Cream Pie to savor after Kansas City-style ribs. We found ice cream, unusual jewelry, coffee shops. I fully expect to find more of those sinsiter alleys to be filled with local beer sellers, specialty shops, and lots of new Melbunians the next time I travel to this CBD.