This one is going to a be long one as Melbourne is a really cool city so settle in or skip to tomorrow....
So the day started off a bit rocky as I forgot that our first excursion had been rescheduled from 9 am to noon. Given that we went to bed at 12:30 am and woke up at 7:00 am, I wasn't necessarily the most popular person when I dropped the news on Shea and the kids. Nonetheless, we made the most of it and went on a scouting trip with Helen and Yates to Chinatown so they could look for F-Oakleys, F-ifeproof iPhone cases, and other knockoffs.
Once we hooked up with our driver Jeff and headed out, first stop was lunch at a really cool place called Denis the Menace in the Richmond district of Melbourne. According to Jeff, the neighborhood used to be a bit "dodgy" (graffiti covered walls could have fooled me), but has really taken off of late as evidenced by the fact that the tiniest cottages still went for $1M AUD. Definitely felt SF-like from a value standpoint.
After that, we headed over to Melbourne Park, where the National Tennis Center is located and the Australian Open is played. This city really is focused on its sports and the complex they've build is pretty remarkable especially considering it is 10 minutes from the central business district and everything is connected. There is the Melbourne Cricket Ground which holds 100,000 people for cricket and rugby, the AAMI Arena which holds 35,000 for rugby and soccer, and then the tennis complex.
For the latter, in addition to being the only major with 3 retractable roof arenas, Rod Laver (holds 15,000), HiSense (holds 10,000) and Margaret Court (holds 7,500), there are 8 indoor courts, 8 clay courts and more outdoor hard courts than I could count. Interestingly enough, they all get used by the pros and even during our brief time there today, we saw Sam Stosur who won the women's US Open in 2011, Jaimee Fourlis who just played in the French and Kimberly Berrill who plays on the Fed Cup team.
Unfortunately, Rod Laver was under construction so after a tour of the grounds, we headed into Margaret Court Arena for our behind the scenes tour - it was good but not great. Definitely wished that Laver had been available as we'd have had a chance to see the Walk of Champions, locker rooms, etc.
After that, we took a family lesson on one of the show courts (holds 3500) next to Margaret Court Arena with Simon, our pro. Good times and a lot of fun for everyone.
Following our tennis outing, we headed back to Chinatown so I could get some dumplings (went to China Red which was perfect - Hutong and Shanghai Street are also supposed to be among the best) and Shea and kids could do a little shopping. Dumpling outing was a success - shopping a little less so and we all ended up together at Target (pitiful for sure).
Quick change at the hotel and we were back out for dinner - this time to Queen Victoria Market where on Wednesday nights in the Winter they have the Night Market (http://www.qvm.com.au/event/winter-night-market/). Imagine the biggest farmer's market/flea market you've ever been to, strip out all the seedy vendors and replace it with 30 hip food stands, 50 artisan vendors, live music, street performers, countless pop-up bars and 6,000 people. Crazy cool experience (even if a bit overwhelming at times).
Took my first international Uber (phenomenal experience from a Grecian named Andreas - did you know that Melbourne has the 3rd most Greeks of any city in the world behind Athens and Thessalonika) and headed back to the hotel for the night.