Dear Melbourne: we still love you. We still care. We still want to visit.
It must have been a very strange few months in the southern capital, a feeling none of us outside the city could properly relate to. Friends might have told Melburnians that they understood what they were going through, that they could empathise with their situation, but really, they couldn't. We in the rest of the country have had it good. Melburnians haven't.
It must have been isolating, seeing the rest of the country just get on with their lives as the lockdowns took hold. It must still be heart-breaking to feel so far behind. You can understand the siege mentality, the "Victorians against the world" attitude, the I-stand-with-Danners banding together to fight the good fight.
It's understandable, and also hard to watch from afar. Because, Melburnians, we still love you.
Forget the old city v city or state v state rivalry. This whole Sydney vs Melbourne thing? It's silly. It's always been silly, and now it's particularly daft. In fact, it doesn't even really exist on our side, anyway.
Sydneysiders love Melbourne. We love it because it has all of things that Sydney does not. When you want a break from Sydney city life there's nowhere better.
Forget, too, the political parochialism of the last few months, the urging by cynical leaders to think in terms of state instead of country. That stuff will pass.
Because, we're coming back. We're coming back to Melbourne, and to greater Victoria.
Next Monday, the border with NSW is due to open once again, with quarantine-free right of return for NSW residents who choose to visit Victoria. The other states are then likely to follow suit in the lead-up to Christmas (though Western Australia, you'd imagine, will finally peek through its fingers by about 2030 or so).
It will start with a trickle of visitors to Melbourne, those keen to see family and friends, those desperate to reunite with loved ones. But over the next month or two that trickle will become a steady flow as tension eases and COVID panic subsides and movement makes its way back towards normal.
We will return to Melbourne. To support. The reengage. To enjoy.
There's so much about Melbourne to love, and pretty much everyone around the country appreciates it, regardless of any social media sniping that might have been going on for the last few months. As someone who lived in the southern capital, and who goes back there as often as possible, I can tell you, there's a lot about Melbourne that even the most parochial Aussie would admit they're desperate to call their own.
The bars in Melbourne are the best. Every other city in Australia is now touting its laneways and its small bars, and they're doing that because Melbourne did it first and it's awesome. We would love just the smallest shot of Melbourne's effortless, easygoing cool.
The restaurants in Melbourne are the best. OK, it might be faintly ridiculous for someone to claim this as the most sophisticated dining scene in the world, but hey, you guys have been under a lot of stress down there, we'll let it fly. Melbourne really does have a fantastic food scene, from the Euro-style markets to the pockets of hyper-authentic Asian, African and Latin American cuisine to the hipster-friendly mod-Oz restaurants to the three-hatted high-end eateries.
Melbourne has the best sporting venues. It has the best galleries and museums. It has the best parks and gardens. It has the best fashion boutiques and shopping. It has the best old-school Italian cafes. It has the best street art. It has the best music scene. It has the best village-y feel.
For that, we can put up with hook turns and nightmare traffic on Punt Rd. We can deal with buying a new Myki card every visit because we have no damn idea what we did with our old one. We can put up with the mind-numbing AFL obsession and the shameless coffee snobbery and the eye-wateringly expensive booze.
We can do all of that and we will do all of that, because we love Melbourne. Everyone loves Melbourne. Plenty of people might prefer their homes in other parts of Australia, they might like living in the Gold Coast or Byron Bay or Sydney or Adelaide or wherever. But they still love to visit Melbourne.
And they will. Because we haven't forgotten.
Are you planning to visit Melbourne once borders open? What do you like about the city? And if you live there, are you excited to welcome visitors back?