Over 20 years ago I moved from Adelaide to Sydney, the city where I was born, and a place which continues to beguile me, particularly at this jasmine scented time of year. Yet every time I go to Melbourne I am seduced again by its beauty and the relaxed warmth of its inhabitants. A brief visit this week confirmed that it is a town that continues to burrow its way into my heart.
I am waiting to meet friends in Market Lane when I see this fellow quietly smoking a cigarette. I ask if I can take his photo. He indicates yes. The beauty of his face means I have to step closer to him and take another photo.
On our walk over to Fitzroy from the CBD we call into St Patrick's Cathedral. The light is golden in some areas of the cathedral as the sun shines through the stained glass windows, and silver in others. As usual in a cathedral I am overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the building itself, the vast arching ceilings, the massive altar, the statues, the glitter and spangle of candlelight in small side chapels. The simplicity of the little font reassures me.
We stop for coffee at Argos Loves Company in Brunswick Street. "Am I scowling?" asks the woman behind the counter. "Not at all," I murmur. Two customers allow me to take photos, one orginally from Yugoslavia and the other from Vietnam. They tease and joke with me about payment for the photos and as they leave they buy bright yellow lemons, stuffing them in the pockets of their jackets.
I see a man and woman steadily folding white hand towels into neat piles inside the laundrette. They are being talked at by an old man, swaying a little on his feet, drinking from a bottle in a brown paper bag.
Around Hardware Lane may be my favourite part of Melbourne. Old warehouses have had their facades restored and the giant hooks hanging from the top of them remind me of Amsterdam. It is a cliche, I suppose, to describe Melbourne as being very European but there is no denying it when you walk its streets. Sometimes I am in Paris, other times in Rome. On this visit I am particularly struck by the warm ochre tones of many of Melbourne's old buildings.
And then there is the light - it seems much softer here, in a way that can again only be compared to parts of Europe.
As I walk down the lane on my way back to the hotel I see this waiter, standing outside the restaurant, talking to someone in the next restaurant. I ask if I can take his photo. He immediately places the napkin over his arm, stands up straight and gazes cheekily at me.
I am not so sure that would happen in Sydney.