You can live in a city all your life and never know it properly. To do so you would need to be constantly seeking out the stories, individuals and unique places that define its character. Or, better still, hire someone whose business it is to do just that.
Someone like Daniel Platt, founder of Localing Tours, whose days are spent discovering what and who makes Melbourne special.
“I love doing this sort of stuff, telling the city’s stories every day. This is my community,” Daniel says as we set off into the city labyrinth.
We start in the lobby of the neo-Gothic Manchester Unity building, Melbourne’s first skyscraper. Everyone knows it, I’ve long admired it, but I never knew it was modelled on the Chicago Tribune Building. Or that it was Melbourne’s tallest building for a quarter of a century. Or that it boasted the capital’s first elevator.
Seen through Daniel’s eyes, there are novelties and superlatives all over the city. In the Manchester Unity building is the CBD’s second-smallest cafe, tiny Switchboard; the smallest is Local Birds, nearby in The Causeway, all of three square metres.
In between the two is Bar Americano, the city’s tiniest bar. Licensed for just 10 patrons – standing room only – it’s styled after post-Prohibition, US-style bars in Europe. Think Harry’s Bar in Venice but minus the star-power.
In the Royal Arcade (another famous landmark I thought I knew well), Daniel leads me upstairs into a space that was previously home to a Turkish bathhouse. Today the tenants of this ‘vertical laneway’ are designer stores including Somedays selling cool, Swedish-accented clothing.