Ive never believed in filling up contest forms, for the simple reason that I feel its almost impossible to win among the lakhs of entries. Almost. Because once in a lifetime, fate may spring a pleasant surprise on you. As it did for me! I filled up a lucky draw form when I went to watch Chak De! India last year and landed up being the sole winner! And the prize was an all-expense paid trip for two to Melbourne! So, with a free Melbourne stay under our belt, my husband and I ventured Down Under with a not-so-free trip to Sydney thrown in at our expense! Melbournes liveability is one of its greatest attractions. Its a laid-back city with an endearing mix of old and new-world charm... easy-going, yet sophisticated. Its not a place where you need to do something to feel youre experiencing the city. So, you neednt wander around Melbourne just to tick off must-see items on your list! Instead, stroll through one of its many beautiful parks, wander around the immaculately preserved Victorian-era downtown, or simply linger over a cup of coffee at one of the trendy cafes along the Yarra waterfront to soak in the citys vibes. The architecture and random sculptures, stylish restaurants and bars, funky shops and galleries, parks and quirky laneways all exude a certain charisma! On our first day in Melbourne, we set out to explore the city on foot, to unravel its beguiling secrets. We ambled along, soaking in the Victorian feel from the gracious homes and wide avenues, to the landscaped gardens and roadside cafes. Burgundy-coloured trams imparted a quaint charm to Melbournes urban identity. On the way, we passed Flinders Street Station its architectural grandeur and heritage style reminded me of Mumbais Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, only the former was cleaner and better-maintained! Finally, we crossed Princess Bridge to reach Southbank, the chic riverside strip nestled on the banks of the Yarra river. As I sat on the promenade, it struck me that the standard of living here is quite high and the happiness quotient even more so. Even on a weekday, people were relaxed and enjoying life. Some were sailing, others were jogging or riding bicycles along the promenade, while many were just hanging out by the waterfront. Then there were coochie-cooing couples, who were too engrossed in each other to notice that sea gulls were merrily picking away at their food! Having got a taste of Melbournes mesmerising charm, we decided to check out its culturally significant landmarks. So, the next day, we boarded the free City Tourist Shuttle. Our first stop was Carlton Gardens and Royal Exhibition Building, a Unesco World Heritage site, to see their spectacular display of flowers, plants, garden sculptures and fountains. We then proceeded to Queen Victoria Market, a vast and vibrant centre of trade & commerce, which is over 125 years old. The sprawling market is a curious blend of high-quality food shops (fantastic breads, cakes, cheese, wine, meat, fruit, veggies) and stalls with cheap clothes, bags, shoes and souvenirs. My husband couldnt help but remark that QVM was a glorified version of Mumbais Crawford market! Our next stop was William Street, the legal district of Melbourne. The Supreme Court, with its domed library, and County Court are striking examples of the citys grand architecture. My husband, whos a lawyer, was excited about posing for pictures in front of the SC, but pooh-poohed my suggestion of clicking his photo outside the County Court, saying its too down-market! Well, the advocates in their starched white shirts and dapper suits looked far from down-market.