THE bloke perched in the exit row in front of me has reclined his seat and his head is resting in my lap. The woman behind me has her knees nestled snugly in my kidneys and the child beside her is screaming bloody murder. Every time I attempt to nod off to block out the horror of this particular flight, the stewardess pauses right beside my ear, and in a shrill, sing-songy voice says, “you’re a cheeky monkey”. At this point in the journey I’m unclear whether she’s talking to the fella in front of me, the screamer behind, or indeed me for allowing this perverse and peculiar scenario to unfold. All I know is that the distinct lack of alcohol on board is not helping things. Not one bit.
I’m travelling from Brisbane to Melbourne with a suitcase stuffed with every item of black and wintery gear I own in my wardrobe, clutching on to every cliché I’ve ever heard about it being grey and cold down there. But it seems the Victorian capital has other ideas. Just like the man on the plane, Melbourne decides to seduce me with a hot flush of warm, sunny weather, colourful graffitied lane ways I’d only ever read about, and pop-up bars brimming with hot blokes and cold beer.
I’m in the Victorian capital to cover another story for my good friends at Traveltherenext – http://www.traveltherenext.com – and have decided to stay on for an extra night to check out the newly refurbished Jasper Hotel. I love a good hotel and even better if it has a salacious story and this, my friends, boasts both. Recently reopened after a $7 million facelift this hotel, which sits near the top of Elizabeth Street, was originally built in the mid 1970s as a women’s shelter and refuge. In the 1980s it became a YWCA with a women’s only gym, ballet and dance studio and by the 1990s and under the name of the Hotel Y, it became a three-star backpacker hotel. It wasn’t until early 2000 that it became the Jasper Hotel named after the local Jasper stone from which it is built.
It’s little wonder given her hectic history that the Jasper Hotel needed a bit of tarting up. And how. One of the most interesting features of this 90-room, eight-floor grand dame is on Level 2 where the old basketball court in the centre has been transformed into 16 suites and a central courtyard complete with synthetic grass. The suite in which I spend the evening is said to be part of the former dance studio. Hotel guests will appreciate the all-Australian APPELLES bathroom products, free WIFI and pool/gym access at the Melbourne City Baths, which first opened in 1860.
While I’d love to report that due to her colourful health-orientated history and access to fitness facilities that I actually did some exercise while staying here, the opposite would actually be true. You see the hotel also offers 24 hour room service, as well as a lovely restaurant and bar, and it would be more fair to report that I actually enjoyed the Australian/Asian fusion food – which pays homage to its Malaysian owners – and a couple of cheeky Aussie wines, instead.
Apart from its evocative fable, one of the most endearing aspects of the Jasper Hotel is its location. You’re about 30 footsteps from the Queen Victoria Market, where some of the best entertainment in town can be had by simply standing and observing the stall holders peddling their produce. Take about thirty steps in the other direction from the front door and you’ll find arguably the best Turkish gozleme in Melbourne at the unassuming Borek Bakehouse along Elizabeth Street.
Fully sated, I head for the airport and home. The flight isn’t full, so I swap seats from the middle to the very last row where at least I’m assured of no kidney kickers and, hopefully, no screamers. Shortly after I settle in, a big bloke appears from nowhere and slips into the seat in front of me and falls asleep. But I’m winning, as he’s laying lengthwise and there’s no lap dance today. And best of all, there’s wine on this flight, and they’re handing it out for free.
The Global Goddess was a guest of the four-star boutique Jasper Hotel Melbourne. To celebrate its launch, the hotel is offering an overnight rate of $139 a night until January 11, 2015 (subject to availability). http://www.jasperhotel.com.au