Destinations

Shopping heaven in Melbourne

Louise Richardson hits the Melbourne stores for some serious retail therapy

Melbourne is a veritable oecca for shoppers. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s the bee’s knees of shopping in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s little wonder we Kiwis love to jump the ditch for a good dose of retail therapy!

Gracious tree-lined Collins St is home to the really high-end designer labels and although I’m only a browser here, I think it’s good for the soul to see such lovely things. of course, my soul would be even happier if I actually owned a Louis Vuitton bag! The Block and Royal Arcades are endlessly fascinating, with tiny shops tucked away everywhere, and when the retail work gets too hard there’s always a funky little coffee-stop venue just round the next corner.

Melbourne is a city with a real heart, and at its centre are the giant retail legends oyer and David Jones. I’ve always imagined heaven as something rather akin to these temples of material desire and can lose myself for hours in their elegant surroundings, gliding up and down the escalators as each floor reveals yet another array of designer treasures. I can’t resist parading around the oyer shoe department, Sarah Jessica Parker-style, in a divine pair of oanolos. Unfortunately, despite the fact that he’s miles away, my dear husband’s face is etched on my brain. He appears to be mouthing the words, “Louise, don’t even think about it!” So I don’t.

Later, we explore Brunswick St with its quirky boutiques and Chapel St – home to chic emporiums bursting with items you didn’t even know you needed. At the end of the day there’s a moment of hilarity, mixed with despair, as my friend and I stand in the bathroom department of the enormous Ikea homeware store in Richmond and contemplate the utter hopelessness of trying to get our loot back to New Zealand. She has confidently placed a dinner set and some picture frames in her shopping hamper and I have a light shade, a very heavy bath mat and a framed print, along with plastic beakers, coasters, place mats and some silk orchids. What I really want is a kitchen cupboard unit, a red leather sofa and some outdoor chairs, but these items are obviously out of the question. “The only answer is to hire a boat for our next trip to Melbourne,” she declares. “Then we can load it up and sail home!” “Yes, or Ikea could finally open a branch in New Zealand,” I sigh. Realising we’ll be way overweight even if the airline staff are feeling kindly towards us, we purge with regret and end up buying only the lighter things. I don’t give up on my light shade or my orchids though. I’m determined to squeeze them in somehow!

Just to make things trickier, I already have a rather large mirror back at the hotel. I’m not quite sure how to fit it in, as it is significantly wider than my suitcase – but it was an impulse must-have buy. The black-and-white floral bowls and plates will be another major packing challenge, and I couldn’t resist a set of red jewel-handled cheese knives. (Note to self: Don’t put these in your hand luggage.)

In hindsight, I guess I didn’t actually need three of the bright green wooden filigree photo frames on sale at oyer for $5 each. Mr the large French colander – but it was a perfect match for my new kitchen and was marked down by 75%. In some ways it’s a blessing that I no longer have the two red candlesticks from David Jones. I thought they were resin but they turned out to be glass – and met a sticky end during a tram ride! In addition I have clothes for my daughter and toys for my son, although nothing as yet for my husband. (But he’s always happy with duty-free gin!)

To be honest, clothes for myself are a bit thin on the ground this time, but I have invested in some cosy winter pyjamas – which will be good for wrapping around breakables. This morning I did a “stunt pack”, shoving everything in, then kneading and manoeuvring the suitcase until it finally zipped closed, but there’s always a danger that these feats can’t be replicated on the morning of departure so I’m feeling a bit nervous. In desperation I suggest to my friend that she might squeeze some of my goodies into her bag, but she gives me her most patient smile and reminds me that she’s been buying crazily too. By now it’s clear that this orgy of shopping must stop so we retire to the Hotel Windsor for their signature high tea before an early night and a final practice run at packing.

I’m delighted to report that I was able to get my suitcase closed next morning. The mirror lay at an extremely awkward angle and everything else miraculously fitted in around it. The case itself is permanently bent out of shape, but I think that’s a small price to pay for a happy few days doing what I love best, in a city that offers the very best shops to do it in.

**Factfile

**Get there Qantas offers services to Melbourne twice daily from Auckland and daily from Wellington. For information or the latest airfares, phone 0800 767 400 or visit www.qantas.co.nz. The city For information on Melbourne and its surrounds, go to www.visitvictoria.com.

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