The I’m Free walking tour continues on into the afternoon, with the second half of the tour with the more tasty bits.
We get stuck right into the street-art scene, a prominent feature of Melbourne culture. Apparently, such places are council-approved and owner approved to be painted outside, and artists come and colonize the walls. We got an early taste of it walking past Stevenson Lane, Tattersal’s Lane and Union Lane.
It seems that anything goes – from paint, to glued panels, labels and even a balaclava. Nobody seems to mind, and others just paint right over the top like it never existed.
From there, we visited the Block Arcade, which is a classified building. Inside, there was the relatively well known statue of a girl blowing bubbles.
The whole visual art thing seems to invade everything. In an adjacent arcade, not even the fire hose reel can escape the fate of a million labels.
Once exiting this arcade, we see another big feature of Melbourne’s culture – namely, the laneways which exist because of city planning having been converted into shops and other outlets. Lots of trendy restaurants and cafe’s can be found in these laneways, which have some resemblance to Hong Kong, just not as messy.
One of the side entrances caught my eye as being very classical, and I managed to snap it just before another person’s head got in the way.
The walk continued through past St Paul’s Cathedral, which is relatively tall and big, and hard to capture all at once from across the intersection. The resulting stitched panorama, with some distortion, makes it look very grand.
Next stop was the most famous street-art laneway of them all, Hosier Lane. One faux street-sign label gave it the tongue-in-cheek name of Posier Lane. And I would agree.
This is practically where everyone goes to get a graffiti art background for their selfies, or to get some striking contrasty coloured “punch” in their photos. Tourists and locals alike seem to flock to the place, day or night.
There was even a street performer on show at the time, and it’s interesting to hear that not just anyone can be a street performer in Melbourne. Intending performers actually have to audition and obtain permits to perform, of which there are limited amounts apparently.
Some of the artwork really is a photo-magnet. Without much direction, I took a few snaps before the herd of tourists got in the way.
As it turns out, not even street signs which are lawfully necessary, can escape the makeover of a few layers of stickers and paint.
As the tour begins to draw to an end, we pass by the iconic Flinders Street station on the way to Federation Square. To the side, we see there are some horse and cart rides, and the smell of manure permeating the air. A rhythmic “clip-clop” can occasionally be heard, as each carriage does a short round-trip with tourists in tow.
At the time I was there, Federation Square was celebrating a “multicultural celebration” called Buddha’s Day. There was some level of crowds, but really, I didn’t feel the need to take photos. The angular, pastel grey toned Federation Square building is very divisive, and I personally don’t find it particularly appealing. The term for it is “urban camouflage”, attempting to blend in with the new and old.
As an engineer, the satellite uplink dish caught my eye instead, amongst other downlink and point to point links. Anyway, we head around the building where we stop for a quick chat about the Eureka Tower and its 88th floor viewing deck and gold glass windows, and then continue over to the arts precinct.
The next stop was just next to the Arts’ Centre where there is a tall spire which was designed to look like a skirt of a ballerina. Apparently the spire would help people ‘find’ the centre just by looking upwards.
From there, we walked up the walkway of the adjacent building, which gave us some of the best skyline views without any strings attached. Click for full size panorama.
This was where the tour ended, near the bank of the Yarra river, near Flinders Street station. It was here, where I paid a token sum of money which I thought was fair, and left for lunch. In all, the GPS trace for the second half of the tour looked like this:
In all, I would have to agree with fellow reviewers that the I’m Free walking tour is quite a good one to go on. The guide is knowledgeable, and although it gets off to a little bit of a slow start, it really does cover a good amount of ground. Because of the “tips” model, it’s affordable for everyone regardless of their budget, and I’m sure they get paid sufficiently well for their time, especially when the tour group size is considered.
I think the tour was quite good from a photography perspective, as long as you maintained your situational awareness and kept yourself near the front of the pack. Also, being considerate to others by snapping a picture quickly and getting out of the way really goes a long way. More important than that, it introduces you to locations which you can return to later, and serves as a good “scouting” trip.
Aside from that, it gave me some confidence to later go and venture out on my own to cover some of the areas of Melbourne not covered by the walking tour.
If you’re ever down in Melbourne and have around half a day to spare, I would definitely recommend it. No need to book, just turn up!