There are MANY great reasons to love Melbourne . . .

WHAT is there not to like about the city that many people say they love to hate?

Since the dawn of state-by-state civilisation, some Aussies have had a penchant for hating on the southern city tagged Mel-boring to some.

The more I go to Melbourne — usually for work — I seem to discover something more to love about it each time.

No, I haven been administered Melbourne kool-aid by my ole pal Eddie McGuire or any of the Melbourne ‘Housewives’. It’s just the last times few times I have been there I’ve been able to take some time to discover it in a relaxed way.

During the very busy and buzzy time, during the Australian Grand Prix, I was loaned, get this, a super-duper Mercedes to buzz around in, and as I traversed the streets in it and also by foot or tram, it got me thinking about the things that make Melbourne rock.

Hello Hot Wheels, thanks to the Mercedes folk

A photo posted by Melissa Hoyer (@melissahoyer) on

Here goes . . . .

The tram system.

Yup. Seemingly trivial and innocuous — OK, and not exactly the above designer car — trams are a positively functional and perfect way to get around the grid-like streets that make up the CBD. (Although I think I may owe the tram peeps a dollar or two as I jumped on and went one stop without handing over my moolah. My bad.)

The Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix:

We all know that dastardly ‘other’ big city, (my home town of Sydney) has made various attempts to steal the F1 from Melbourne, but to be honest, it still seems right at home in Melbourne. And when you are fortunate enough to meet the man who took out second place in this year’s GP (hellooooo Lewis Hamilton). I mean, what isn’t there to like about the Festival of Fast Cars when you have an encounter like that?

The Melbourne Cup … and doesn’t Melbourne know how to do great marquee.

Compared to other major horse racing carnivals around the country, the Spring Racing Carnival at Flemington, from the end of October through to early November still rocks. Seriously, whether you are into fillies or not, the whole city gets into the spirit and the bucks it brings into the Victorian economy — from P & O ships cruising down especially for it, to retailers who go gangbusters with their hat and fashion sales — it really is the best time to be in Melbourne.

The Best Coffee:

One of the best finds is the un signposted St. Ali in South Melbourne and while there are a hundreds, no doubt thousands of great coffee places, this one encapsulates what the Melbourne coffee scene is all about. Understated, cool and just, well, a great place to chill and drink the stuff that so many crave. Just a shame I’m not a big caffeine queen.

The Laneway and CBD bar culture

I mean, the bar and restaurant culture just goes without saying. There’s heaps of restaurants that make up best restaurants in the country lists and many are found inCrown, thanks to the likes of Neil Perry with Rockpool Bar and Grill, Spice Temple and Rosetta; Guillaume Brahimi’s Bistro Guillaume, Nobu, Silks and The Atlantic. And they don’t even scratch the surface of the hundreds more dotted throughout the city and Melbourne suburbs.

Street art.

Sure, there are street scribblings and there is street art.

And some of the best and highly regarded examples can be found in Melbourne. Sure, you either love it or loathe it, but some of the pieces are just brilliant, my favourite street-art spotting place is Hosier and Rutledge Lane. Basically, it is an entire lane, also full of bars and muncheries, where each piece needs quite some time for the magnitude of the work to sink it. Love it.

The Yarra River.

A walk along it and you see lots of what Melbourne has to offer. And on a brilliant day a walk along the banks will have you seeing everything from rowing regattas to visitors and holiday-maker’s taking a river ‘cruise’ while they have drinks or dine on what has become a river that sightseers want to see as opposed to something that once many peeps wanted to avoid.

The city doesn’t go to sleep at midnight.

Seriously, you can go and get a meal at midnight; have a drink at a bar at 1am and not be in fear of being locked out (or locked in for that matter) like many New South Welsh-people fear each time they go out. There’s just a real ease in the way all of these bars operate and is a real reminder of how Europe operates when it comes to dining and drinking. It’s just a pleasure to be able to do it, whether in a laneway or on the street.

A few more things to note are that because you CAN get four seasons in one day it actually means you can wear clothes. And by that I mean serious winter clothes that make you feel like you have really dressed ‘up’.

One of my favourite wardrobe pieces – the humble coat – gets a huge run in Melbourne and it is not put on as an afterthought, like it is in other major cities – but as a real style and seasonal essential.

And speaking of clothes, Collins Street is still an absolute joy to walk down (that feeling of being in a mini Paris still rings true) and added to that, the Melbourne Fashion Festival or Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF) has proven itself as the country’s pre-eminent public consumer fashion event. Yes, Melbourne gives good frock.

And what about the National Gallery of Victoria?

I mean, where to start?

While the current Andy Warhol and Ai WeiWei is drawing to a close, the blockbusters this year will be a major exhibit of David Hockney, arguably Britain’s greatest living artist. The show, created by the NGV in collaboration with Hockney’s studio, will feature more than 700 artworks from the past decade of Hockney’s career, many never seen in Australia before.

A part of the Andy Warhol & Ai WeiWei exhibit which closes this weekend

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There is also an NGV-developed exhibition of the renowned avant-garde fashion designers Viktor & Rolf, featuring 35 haute couture pieces from their archives and international museum collections plus a selection of their ‘dolls’ — replicas of antique dolls dressed in the designers’ most iconic looks.

As well, the most comprehensive survey of one of Australia’s greatest living artists, John Olsen — now nearly in his seventh decade of practice — will trace his full career from his first exhibition in 1955 to his more recent work. Good, huh?

And what about sport?

Well, we know Melbourne loves its sport and boy, does it know how to put on a show when it comes to AFL. Basically, everyone, yes everyone has a ‘team’.

Even if you’re not into AFL, somewhere deep inside you there has to be an allegiance to A team. And that is a great thing.

Passionate? Yes, Melburnians and Victorians all around are exactly that about their AFL, so be prepared to have ‘a side’ when you do venture down there.

Sure, there are a million other things to see and do in Melbs, but if you’ve ever wondered whether a trip to Melbourne is worth it … I’d say it’s well worth the ride.

Aside from some pretty diverse work trips down south Melissa Hoyer was most recently a guest of Mercedes for her latest Melbourne adventure.

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Japanese food 'stylist' designs salads disguised as cakes. True!

YOU would think Japanese eating is healthy enough — what with sashimi and sushi having become absolute and major health staples in our Western diets.

But now, the Japanese culinary scene is set to change this week with the addition of ‘cake’ looking salad hybrids that look like actual works of food art.

Yes, you have read that correctly.

You can now forget any guilt trip as you shovel down a couple of pieces of these treasures.

Sure you may have to go to Japan to do it but trust the land of innovation, precision and occasional kitsch to come up with ‘cakes’ stamped with ‘healthy’ on them.

This week, a cafe called Vegedeco opens in Nagoya after food stylist and designer Mitsuki Moriyasu stirred the pot with healthy looking, cake-inspired ‘salads’.

Simply, they are nutritional salads disguised as cakes.

By taking veggies out of the salad bowl and reassembling them into colourful, meticulous and eye-catching ‘cakes’, Mitsuki aims to make vegetables more palatable by making them look, to some, more desirable.

After Mitsuki’s decorated cakes were on the menu at the Bistro La Porte Marseille restaurant in Nagoya, customers couldn’t get enough, so a new, separate cafe will open on Tuesday in Nagoya.

The focus will be on health with the cafe featuring superfoods, gluten-free items, and meals low in carbohydrates, all prepared with and attention to detail like no other.

The cakes have whole vegetables while the ‘sponge’ part is created by using natural ingredients like soybean flour. The ‘icing’ is made from tofu or cream cheese that has been blended with veggies so they have a natural vegetable colour.

A slice of vegetable cake starts at 735 yen (around $8.50) while set meals will start from 856 yen ($10) which will include a slice of cake with a cup of ‘Vegie Drop’ Tea, filled with vegetable phytochemicals (legitimate vegetable colouring).

Hey, you can even have a slice of gluten-free bread made with a strain of ancient rice.

So, next time you’re in Japan …

Follow Melissa on Instagram or Twitter @melissahoyer

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The Ham Yard, London: one of the most chic & quirky hotels in the world . . .

THIS is a hotel with so many elements of surprise it just keeps giving and giving.

From the heaving and buzzy bar to a smartypants and elegant library bar to an hypoxic gym and a theatrette, the Ham Yard hotel is a self-contained community right in the middle of what is the coolest part of London: Soho.

But the one thing that really got me going? The bowling alley.

Yup. I’ve seen some pretty interesting hotel additions in my travels but this is certainly one of the quirkiest. And cutest.

The Ham Yard is all cool, quirk and more.

It’s been over 20 years since first Firmdale hotel group, owned by designer Kit Kemp and her husband Tim, have opened the likes of the Charlotte Street Hotel in Fitzrovia in 2000, followed by a handful of other hautey haunts including the cult-like Covent Garden hotel, also in London.

The Pelham hotel popped up in London from the Kemps years ago and now the design and art-fuelled luxury boutique hotel chain has become world-renowned for its quirky, bespoke and simply stylish decor in each of its London and New York inns.

Exquisite interiors aside, the piece de resistance must be the Croc bowling alley. The alley was actually bought over from Texas by the Kemps and the walls that surround it are adorned with Howard Hodgkin paintings; there’s a very chic bar and there’s a dance floor complete with crocodile artworks on the walls.

You’ve got it. This in no ‘normal’ hotel, a mix of meeting place, sleeping place, shopping, eating and art gallery.

OK, so aside from the bowling alley, the attention to detail at this place is extraordinary.

There is not one room that is the same as the other and unlike some of the more minimal ‘boutique’ hotels dotted around the world, a Kemp hotel is anything but stark.

The actual Ham Yard is like a U-shaped community enclave that, aside from the 91 hotel rooms, there are short-term and long-term apartments available (that have proved very popular with entertainment industry folk) as well as shops like Australia’s Dinosaur Designs and Jac & Jack.

The thing about this hotel is it doesn’t feel like a hotel. The staff aren’t scurrying around looking too formal and stitched up but they will suddenly appear out of nowhere and are there to cater to any whim.

Whether you need to know the best place to eat, drink, go to the theatre or shop, the concierge, just like *that* have it sorted and booked for you.

If the weather is ‘good’, the view from the rooftop garden and bar (they grow their own veggies up there too) is sensational and overlooks Soho’s chimneys, churches, streets, buildings and clocktowers.

Once you go down a flight of stairs from the lobby level, there is another huge bar that then darts off into other event spaces and even a theatrette that seats nearly 200 people.

Corporates often use that entire ground floor space for product or entertainment unveilings. Oh, and did I mention there is a spa? It’s a marble and wood space called the Soholistic Spa that even features an hypoxic gym for those who need their altitude training for their next trip to the Himalayas!

But back to the bowling alley …

The beauty of the alley is that it is not a mad owners whim or a feature just for hotel guests but a fully functional and bookable event area where people can host a full-on party.

The beauty of the Ham Yard is that it is full of (great) and continual surprises and let’s face it, that is exactly what every traveller wants.

The Ham Yard Hotel in Soho, London +44 20 3642 2000 or at

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The word 'upgrade' has a certain ring to it: thanks Etihad!

Have just headed to London to check out the James Bond ‘Bond In Motion’ exhibition (and also to drive some of the infamous Aston Martins that have featured in the films over many decades.) Not a bad gig, thank you 20th Century Fox.

But this business trip got off to a great start when the upgrade fairy came calling when I checked in at Sydney airport to fly Etihad to London, via Abu Dhabi.

So, I just thought I’d give you a taste of just a few of the ‘moments’ on the flight.

Best part: when I arrived in Abu Dhabi, I was escorted to the VVIP, roped off area, where I was given absolute super duper treatment.

I mean, maybe they thought I was somehow related Nicole Kidman afterall she did star in the recent Etihad ‘reimagined’ advertising campaign.

Maybe I’m just imagining, ok, dreaming, to live a flying life like this.

Yes, you only live once, but this experience – all last 18 hours of it so far – have been seriously sensational!

*Follow Melissa on Instagram & Twitter @melissahoyer

An extraordinary hotel, The President from Akaryn to open in Laos

Discover an Indulgent Retreat in the Heart of Vientiane at The President Hotel by AKARYN, Launching Q3 2016

The award-winning AKARYN Hotel Group announces the launch of The President by AKARYN, opening in Q3 2016 in the centre of Vientiane, Laos.

Inspired by its setting, the hotel is located between the House of Parliament, the Presidential Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha. With only 30 spacious rooms, including two grand presidential suites with private butler service around the clock, the calming colour palate and elegant fittings will provide guests with a sanctuary from the city outside.

Originally built for the Laotians by the Chinese government as a “gift”, The President by AKARYN will blend original Laotians design with colonial influence to reflect the heritage of Laos and its bright future.

Fine dining with an ever-evolving menu of delicacies both locally and globally inspired will be served in a choice of seven dining options. High tea will be created daily by celebrated pastry chefs from around the world. All manner of private events will be hosted in grand style with intimate dining rooms and an impressive stately ballroom for up to 1000 guests.

The President by AKARYN will also house an exclusive private member’s club, with access to a cigar lounge, humidor and whisky cellar that will present one of the finest and largest selection of cigars found in this region of Asia, with tutored whisky tastings held on a monthly basis. Perfectly situated for business travellers to the capital, the location of the hotel sets it apart as a leading venue for state visits, dignitaries, UN, NGO and corporate meetings. The hotel will provide state of the art business facilities and expert concierge services.

The revolutionary Ayurah Wellness Centre will deliver an entirely new approach to fitness and healing for Laos. With treatments and bespoke programmes based on the four pillars of Ayurah Wellness – Weight Optimisation, Anti-Aging, Mind Balance and Detoxification – guests will benefit from both Eastern and Western philosophies to nurture the mind, body and spirit.

The intricately landscaped gardens offer a flow of manicured spaces and lush tropical gardens to explore. Embracing theAKARYN concept of outside-living, guests can cool off in the pool, dine under the stars, or take in a classical music concert in the private gardens every Sunday. Venturing out during a stay, guests may stroll directly to the Vientiane’s Central Park and the beautiful Mekong River.

Anchalika Kijkanakorn, visionary managing director and founder of AKARYN Hotel Group said: “Vientiane has long been a favourite destination of mine, and we are proud to offer a wonderfully unique hotel both for guests wishing to enjoy the city and the region and for business travellers as well as play host to weddings and other celebratory events on an intimate or grand scale. We are very excited to be able to preserve the heritage of this stunning building and re-instate it as one of the most spectacular landmarks in Laos.”