At Stagger Lee's, you get rustic charm, great coffee, a hipster crowd and a lively evening out.
Fitzroy, the name evokes Melbourne, an alternative lifestyle and so Melbourne itself. Also hosting a football club significant in the tribal sports culture of this city, it is only a few blocks away (really two kilometres) from the Victorian Parliament House. It has heritage sites, a long road to walk in quiet hours and even boasts the birth place of Saint Mary MacKillop, the nation's first Catholic to be bestowed with such honours. Its very location attracts twenty somethings and so there are the inevitable unique cafes, ethnic food outlets and old frontages of terrace shops. I am captivated by the Perseverance Hotel, for it does look like in dire need of a restorative make over. And I want to go back to the Fitzroy Town Hall! And Fitzroy hosts the popular Fringe Festival for Melbourne. The Fitzroy Baseball Club, the Lions, has existed since 1889 and Fitzroy City, mostly formed by Serbian Australians in 1953, is part of the Victorian State League Football.
Almond croissant from the Babka Cafe.
Dining out, partying near a weekend or just having a trendy breakfast can be centred around the bars, cafes and pubs. Caffeine top ups, chatting with baristas and being served fancy toppings over sour dough slices are the order of brunch time as well - with names like Stagger Lee's, Slowpoke and the Grub Food Van. Music gigs closer to moonlight hours can be found in places like Yah Yahs, Collingwood World and Panama. The Euro tradition and heritage is evident here, a precursor to the arrival of other immigrant groups. Johnson Street oozes with Spanish themes. The Black Cat has transformed into a bar. Sydney's Messina Gelato has a branch in Fitzroy along Smith Street. And there is the Supercool Fitzroy Emporium and the French delight at Gertrude Street, De Clieu, inspired by a former naval officer Gabriel De Clieu who famously saved precious water rations for his coffee plants rather then for himself.
Small business? Crafts are still very much alive in Fitzroy, amidst the apparent gentrification of the suburb twenty years ago and the current revival of inner city living.
Third Drawer Down can be checked out for unusual oddities in shopping at affordable prices. Nearby Brunswick has the Sydney Road Street party in March, to coincide with the Brunswick Festival. The current free tram ride on the northern edge of Melbourne's CBD means you can take advantage of this and find your own way nearer to Fitzroy. Tram No 112 from Collins Street or No 86 from Bourke Street takes you to Brunswick Street. Nearby train stations are in Collingwood, Parliament and Rushall in North Fitzroy - and then you have to walk, which may be the best way to soak in this unique area. The Rose Street Artists markets on weekends showcase emerging talent. Several galleries are accessible on most days - Alcaston, Sutton, the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Window99, PanelPop and the Brunswick Street Gallery.
Breakky and brunch menu at Slowpoke, along Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.
March is festival time in greater Melbourne, with the Moomba Parade, Garden and Flower Show, Food and Wine Festival plus the FI Grand Prix (chalking up 20 years in 2015). It is but officially the start of the Victorian autumn. The bohemian nature of Fitzroy nurtures budding interests and devotees in film, cycling, fashion, graphics, art and music. If you are into retro records, vintage wares and cult classics, Fitzroy still does not disappoint. Check out outlets like Polyester Books, sibling, Somebody Loves You, FAT 4, Hunter gatherer and in.cube8r. For shoes, go to Smith Street.
Depiction of early settlement life in recent Australian history - an artist's rendition along Brunswick Street.
Fitzroy street scene in the quiet hour.
Oddly enough, Fitzroy is named after a previous New South Wales Governor - considering the sizable historic rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, this is amazing. It was the first suburb created outside Melbourne city centre under 200 years ago. In line with current day trendy districts around there world, Fitzroy was initially a working class area and its proximity to Melbourne's Chinatown also saw many settlers of Chinese origin amongst its first residents. The present day City of Yarra, as distinct from Melbourne, was created in 1994 to take in nearby Collingwood, Richmond and Fitzroy. Up to nearly half of today's demographics in Fitzroy originate from Vietnam - and so Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin are popular tongues, reflecting the mix of boat refugees following the conclusion of the Vietnam War int he seventies. Politically, the Australian Labour Party and the Greens hold pretty much sway in this area. For those who follow Aussie TV, Fitzroy was used for location shooting for such serials as Rush, Offspring and City Homicide. Last but not least, I note that the second Prime Minister of Australia as a federation, Alfred Deakin, hailed from Fitzroy.