Ian Walton, photographer/engineer, from England
Melbourne is far better than Sydney. There’s no A-List mentality and it’s not as busy as Sydney either. Sure, there are not as many boxes to tick on a tourist card – no Opera House, no harbour, etc – but it’s much more relaxing to live in.

The weather gets a bad rap, but it has less rain than Sydney, and I seem to have a pretty good tan most of the year. The cooler days just give you a chance to buy a new coat!

I love many things about Melbourne. The way the city appears to be made up of many self-contained suburbs, so you don’t need to go into the CBD for everything. It gives the city a more personal feel than some other large cities.

In the city I love a bar called St Jeromes. It is a little bar in a side alley which has a normal, grungy bar, but out the back there’s an open-air dance floor with a DJ playing tunes from all over the world; French hip hop, Cuban grooves and more. A really good vibe. Other good stuff includes the Queen Vic markets, early mornings and on Wednesday evenings, with live acts to help you along.

Melbourne has the best stadium that I have been to, the MCG. The Royal Botanical gardens are stunning, too. Huge gardens and within a quick walk of the CBD. Whether you like plants, or just want to hang out with mates and kick the footy about. Public transport is great. Trains are pretty good, though getting busier. But the trams are cool.

Getting out of the city to the Mornington Peninsula – less than an hour drive – is great, with the wineries and the port to relax in. Further afield are Torquay – surf HQ – and Port Fairy down the Great Ocean Road for an old port town.

Living here has changed my lifestyle. I hardly watch TV, except in the footy (AFL) season. I eat out more than back home. I play more sport; indoor football (Association Football), cycling most other days and especially on the weekend; but that’s just me and my 300km per week habit. I surf now, too. Or at least nearly drown. I see the sea or ocean, I reckon at least once a week.

I drink more coffee and chill out in coffee shops most days. In fact that’s one of the main thinks I like about Melbourne. Watching people and the world go by, while drinking coffee. I never liked it until I got here. Now I just have the odd one, just to hang in the great pavement coffee shops all over Melbourne. It creates a really nice relaxed feel.

My perfect day in Melbourne would begin early with a cycle, then coffee and croissant at a coffee shop on the coast part-way through the ride. Back mid-morning to cruise a few shops and grab a bite to eat on Chapel Street or an alleyway in the CBD. A good photo exhibition at the NGV (National Gallery Victoria), food at Movida and a gig at the Forum (awesome building).

It has more of a European feel for me than Sydney, or Brisbane. Possibly due partly to the climate, but I think more to do with the face culture and possibly the demographic.

Greg Cormack, writer/traveller, from Australia
I love Melbourne, chiefly because you can go out every night of the week, which is what makes this city really awesome for me. If you’re feeling the need for a big one on Wednesday night, you know that for sure there’s going to be a place around the corner that’s full of people getting stuck into it.

I don’t mean just drinking either – there’s always heaps of interesting stuff going on, DJs and bands and movies in pubs, weird drinks, food, kung-fu, whatever. People are always trying to put on something different to the joint next door.

My favourite places in Melbourne are Brunswick Street in Fitzroy because it’s still the best place to go boozing. There’s nothing but bars the whole way up and down, so everyone who’s out there is obviously up for a big one – the Labor In Vain Hotel is tough to beat.

On a cheap night I’d probably head to Victoria Street in Richmond for some Asian food. Chilling out on weekends I go down the Yarra – near Federation Square – where they have free barbies on the river bank, so we take down some sausages and play with the footy or whatever. I see a lot of bands at the Tote in inner-city Collingwood.

My ideal day in Melbourne would start with a couple of friends from the night before, and we’d be having Bloody Marys near the bay in St Kilda – we could watch all the cyclists and runners go past and feel good about knowing what’s really important.

Once we’d got a buzz up, we’d work our way through the Italian and Greek caffs, eating one of everything, having a perve and chatting to some of St Kilda’s random freaky people. Day time is definitely when St Kilda’s at its best, I reckon. Nowhere in Melbourne has as much action before midday as St Kilda.

Melburnians are interested in everything, especially stuff they know nothing about. People in Melbourne will seriously show up for anything, any excuse to have a look.

Also, people in Melbourne are all cool with each other, that’s something everyone comments on. No one has an attitude about themselves. You can be friendly to strangers here and they won’t get freaked out!

Carlisle Rogers, writer/traveller, from Canada
I like Sydney, I like it a lot. But I love Melbourne. It has the perfect mixture of city and country. There is a small-town feel to the inner suburbs, a real “Jesus, it’s good to be in this town” vibe on the sidewalks, which isn’t quite there in Sydney.

The sun has this way of dropping below the clouds late in the day and painting everything in the most intense golden light with a purple-grey backdrop.

It’s a city where young people are taking matters into their own hands and making things happen. The music studios, the backyards, the late night planning sessions in back rooms of myriad bars.

I love any number of places in Fitzroy for wasting a slow afternoon over a few pints; the Esplanade Hotel when the temperature is boiling for an ice-cold pot of beer that you can sip, the huge window overlooking the water screwing up your night vision so that everything inside is a dark blur. And anywhere on Chapel Street: sure the coffee prices are a little high, but the people-watching is superb.

Melburnians are pretty much anything they want to be, or anything you’d like them to be. It’s a melting pot of cultures, for sure, with more restaurants, it seems, per square kilometre than any other place on Earth. The bars are plentiful, clubs even more so.

We’re definitely into our music, this being the live music capital of Australia by a long shot. On weekends there is some of the best live music in the country, right around the corner, for a pittance or free. If all roads lead to Rome, then all roadies lead to Melbourne.

Jayne D’Arcy, writer/traveller, from England
I love Melbourne for Federation Square when it’s sunny and for all the free things you can do to keep yourself entertained (including watching tram ticket inspectors man-handling people who haven’t bought tram tickets).

Yesterday you could stand in the middle of the Square and your image was broadcast on the massive TV screen. (It’s true about the camera adding 10 pounds, actually make that 100.) The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is located here, and it’s free to go in and have a look at the latest exhibition as well as get interactive with playthings and a games lab. ACMI’s got the world’s largest dedicated screen gallery (downstairs).

I love to head off to listen to Hare Krishna music being piped at Crossways (upstairs at 123 Swanston Street). Crossways has a two course all-you-can-eat vegetarian lunch for $4.50 concession or $6. The halava with custard is always yummy. You’ll be sharing your table with an interesting mix of taxi drivers, students, the down and out, robe-wearing Hari Krishnas and business folk.

I still love to get on the free City Circle tram. It’s a tourist tram that gives you a good idea of the layout of Melbourne, and the tram tracks have just been extended to take in Telstra Dome Stadium and the shiny, new Docklands area. The tram basically does a big square around and through Melbourne, and sometimes you even get a bonus commentary.

Celeb View: Hamish Rosser, drummer, The Vines, from Australia
Sydney or Melbourne? For bars and nightlife, Melbourne wins. It makes you realise how bad some Sydney pubs are – it’s all the pokeys. Melbourne has all those great little hole-in-the-wall bars, with like one staff member running the whole thing. The clientele is better too, down there, more friendly.

You’ve heard half of the debate. now read WHY SYDNEY IS BEST

While trying to drive across the Simpson Desert, LIZZIE JOYCE and her partner were forced to hitch a ride with some dodgy truckers.

Early one January morning my boyfriend Dan and I set off on our trip across three states, covering 3,000 miles on what would turn out to be the best trip I have ever done, not to mention the most dangerous. We were attempting to cross the Simpson Desert on our way to Alice Springs from Sydney. We were fully prepared and set off in our 4WD loaded with equipment, including 60 litres of water, a double swag, a laser beam,
and an Epirb signal.

After 10 hours of driving, watching the landscape turn from highways and tall buildings to red earth and eternal horizons we glided past an old mining town called Cobar, stopped for a wee and drove on through, thankful that this ‘Hicksville’ town was not our destination. But while driving at an average speed of 120km per hour, the trusty car (which I was assured had “just had a full service and was made for driving across such terrain”) was disintegrating and the entire wheel was about to fall off.

Ugly mothertruckers

Suddenly, the brakes started to fail and smoke started pouring out the front passenger tyre. We were 120km from the last town and with at least 100km to the next, Dan decided we should drive on (without brakes) and see if we could make it to our destination. Luckily it didn’t last long anyway as the car stopped in defiance and we were forced to pull off the road in the middle of nowhere. Within minutes two semi-trailers driving in convoy by brothers, pulled up to offer us help and I’ve never been so glad to see two spectacularly ugly truckers before in my life. Freaky Brother One then began to undress me, with his eyes, almost frothing at the mouth at coming in such close proximity to someone of the opposite sex, while Freaky Brother Two was pretending to be a mechanic and baffling Dan with his bullshit. It was turning into Wolf Creek.

Nothing could be done with the car, and we had no choice but to accept a lift from Freaky Brother One to the nearest roadhouse 13km up the road. But then he said there wouldn’t be enough room in the cab so Dan should travel with his brother and I should hop into his cab by myself. By this point I was close to hysteria and there was no way I would be getting in that lorry by myself.

So we both hopped in with Brother Number Two. Dan settled in the middle of the very spacious cab which had enough room to house a small Albanian family! Relieved to be on our way to a phone box and in relative safety, (even if we were in being driven by an axe wielding maniac I had enough faith that Dan could knock him out if it came to it) I thought it would be plain sailing from here. After a couple of minutes on the road Brother Number One starts becoming agitated – he thinks he has lost his keys as he can’t use the radio to contact his brother. He pulls into the side of the road and asks me to hop out to see if he had left them in the door lock. This forced me into ungraceful acrobatic maneuvers in order to hang myself out the door and reach round to grab the keys, with freaky brother one more than enjoying the view of my ass in the air. The keys were there, so off we set again in stilted silence.

Roadhouse blues

Finally we caught sight of the roadhouse and saw our escape was only minutes away and we made a sharp exit from the freaky brothers. Good riddance!

The roadhouse turned out to be a petrol pump and a shop that was about to close. They had a phone though and we arranged for a tow truck to pick us up and take us back to the nearest town… Cobar (the Hicksville town we drove through scorning) where we would have to wait for the next three days for the car to be repaired. How ironic that the town we were laughing at turned out to be our refuge.

So we skipped the Simpson Desert and took another route to Alice Springs where we arrived two weeks later with the biggest smiles and the best memories!

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