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In a foreign land, my mind frequently associates places, events or people with past knowledge. In this context, Melbourne is a San Francisco without as many hills, but with people speaking in a much cooler accent.

Perennially ranked as one of the world’s most livable cities by The Economist since 2002, Melbourne holds its head comfortably high in a temperate climate – warm in the summers, cool in the winters – without the extremes. The city’s visitors (and residents) take advantage of the world’s largest tram network and an extensive public transportation system to get around easily and cheaply (including a free shuttle bus and city circle tram).

Things to Do. Victoria Market. Fitzroy Gardens. Chinatown. Rialto Tower. Eureka Skydeck. Rent a car and drive for a day down the Great Ocean Road.

Eats. Bottega offers popular Italian cuisine at reasonable prices.

Place to Stay. Oaks on Market. Make sure to book a room overlooking the Southbank district.

Festivals and Events.

January: Australian Open

March: Australian Grand Prix (but 2010 might be its last year)

July-August: International Film Festival

October-November: Melbourne Cup, International Arts Festival

Australian Tidbit: England sent settlers to Australia in the form of prisoners back in 1788. Much of what England didn’t want in society, Australia apparently received.

Today, Australians will call any person from England a “pommy” (pronounced Pohm-EE). One theory has it that this comes from the acronyms POME (Prisoner of Mother England) or POHM (Prisoners of His Majesty). Classic Australian humor.

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