As the second wave of COVID-19 threatens to hit shore in Melbourne, a local travel bureau is looking to cash in on international travel restrictions by launching a bold new advertising campaign to encourage more staycations in Watsonia. The campaign, dubbed “Watsonia’s European Staycation”, has gone to great lengths to highlight the many wonderful cultural, culinary and sightseeing opportunities available right here in our local area.

Using the tagline, “Can’t go to Europe this winter? Why not bring Europe to you?”, the campaign has drawn interesting parallels between local attractions and certain tourist hot spots in Europe. Some of these comparisons include:

The Northern Lights / Ring Road during peak hour

The result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar wind, the Northern Lights are truly one of the great natural wonders of the world. Tourists travel from all corners of the globe to witness aurora borealis, a phenomenon that only occurs at select times of the year. But in Watsonia North a similar light show takes place not only every day of the year, but twice a day.

Perch yourself on the Macorna Street bridge that runs over the Metropolitan Ring Road and you’ll be spoilt by a kaleidoscope of colours flashing around below you as peak hour traffic does its thing. If you’re lucky, you might even hear the occasional horn toot as combatants struggle with a lane change, or maybe even the luminous addition of red and blue lights as a police car chases down some vagrant that staunchly refuses to abide by the 80kph speed limit.

Stonehenge / Weird Rock Formation near RSL

Historians have hypothesised for years on the true origin of England’s famous Stonehenge. Billed as “the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world”, Stonehenge attracts roughly 800,000 visitors each year, many of whom come to openly question exactly how and why this impressive structure was built over 5,000 years ago.

Most likely not as old, yet equally perplexing, is the collection of boulders on the thin strip of grass in between the service station and the RSL. Sitting in the shadows of the towering powerlines that run through our suburb, the rock formation has puzzled local archeologists and contemplative binge drinkers alike. While they’re most likely just the local council’s attempt to stop opportunistic commuters from illegally parking a bit closer to the train station, don’t let that theory stop you from having a real deep think about how insignificant your time on earth has actually been.

Tour de France / Cyclists on Watsonia Road

Le Tour has been pushed back to late August this year, but don’t wait that long for your annual cycling fix. Pick a good vantage point somewhere along Watsonia Road on a Saturday or Sunday morning and watch the cavalcade of Lycra-clad weekend warriors fly past. Presumably using the Watsy Road into Macorna Street combo for easy access to the Ring Road bike path or to continue on towards Kinglake, these pelotons of two-wheeled speed demons will immediately transport you to long winter nights staying up late to watch SBS.

After all, the major appeal of watching Le Tour is the stunning scenery as competitors traverse the Alps and whiz through quaint French villages. And want a dose of danger? Set up your deckchair on the first Macorna Street roundabout as the cyclists play chicken with absent-minded motorists exiting Cameron Parade.

Monte Carlo / Watsonia Petrol Station

Monte Carlo is well-known as an opulent playground of the rich and famous. The kind of place where movie stars and billionaire entrepreneurs rub shoulders on lavish private yachts and high roller tables at ritzy casinos. It conjures up images of James Bond types strutting around in white tuxedos. While that kind of formalwear might generally be lacking from the petrol station on Watsonia Road, its users will most likely have a bank balance to match the stereotypical Monte Carlo resident.

The price of unleaded at Watsonia’s petrol station has been the subject of much discussion over the years, but remains consistently higher than just about every other petrol vendor in the entire Melbourne region. That accidental exclusivity means that the type of people who fill up on Watsonia Road are undoubtably our suburb’s absolute elite gentry. So, why not reflect in their wealthy aura by observing first-hand their complete disregard for fiscal responsibility. If you get bored, just punch the pedestrian crossing lights a few times and then watch as hapless motorists have to stop while nobody actually crosses the road.

The Eiffel Tower / Overhead Powerlines

The Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most recognisable monuments. Attracting close to 7 million visitors each year, the tower is synonymous with Paris, the self-proclaimed City of Love. But what many of those 7 million annual visitors – not to mention millions more across the world – don’t realise is that the French landmark is essentially nothing more than a glorified television and radio antenna. Since as far back as 1898, the Eiffel Tower has been used to beam media broadcasts around the world, which sure as hell doesn’t make it sound as romantic as it once did.  

The imposing powerlines that run through Watsonia might not attract the same global admiration as the Eiffel Tower, but they’re essentially serving the same purpose in society. And, this one time, a local kid that binge watches Go Jetters in his spare time mistakenly referred to our power lines as the Eiffel Tower. So, there’s that. Stand underneath them and marvel at their power and raw beauty. You won’t regret it.

The Berlin Wall / Grimshaw Street

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 heralded the thawing of Cold War tensions, and sparked the gradual easing of decades of tension in the German capital. While the story of the Berlin Wall is well-covered in history textbooks across the world, Watsonia has long been home to a similar tale of division and conflict. If you think that the people of Watsonia and Watsonia North share a common dream and general bonhomie you’d be wrong. Divided by bustling Grimshaw Street, the two suburbs may share a postcode, but that’s about it, with residents from both regions regularly engaging in verbal conflict about petty matters like which area is more walkable, and which part of Watsonia is the best.

You can bear witness to this ongoing conflict by walking the length of Grimshaw Street. Start out the front of Red Rooster and then finish up at the oddly named Greensborough Lanes for a few frames of ten pin bowling.

The Globe Theatre / Giant Coffee Cup

When most people think about the performing arts, they think about William Shakespeare and the many fine actors and actresses that have brought his plays to life. For that reason, the re-created Globe theatre on the banks of the River Thames in London is a popular European location to grab a dose of culture and sophistication. While Watsonia lacks a fully functioning theatre, it is home to one of the modern world’s most accomplished performing artists.

People who claim that the Giant Coffee Cup that dances on Greensborough Highway each morning is nothing but an example of crass commercialism and canny advertising are hideously misled. That living, breathing monument to caffeine consumption is a true talent that has entertained hundreds of thousands of motorists for many years. Do you think Cate Blanchett could front up each and every morning and keep delivering top notch performances like the Giant Coffee Cup does? No, didn’t think so. Grab yourself a takeaway coffee, pull up a deck chair on the side of the road, and behold one of the world’s most consistently brilliant performers do their thing.

King’s Cross Station / Watsonia Station

Harry Potter fans from all over the world rush to King’s Cross Station each day to search for the elusive Platform 9 3/4, keenly posing for photos of them pretending to pass through a brick wall and onwards to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where they’ll presumably discover a personality and better taste in literature. Save yourself the hassle by taking a self-guided tour of Watsonia Station, a place filled with just as much wonder, imagination, and access to hallucinogenic substances.

Watsonia has been a stop on this train line for almost 100 years, while the current trench-bound iteration dates back to 1977. Officially holding “Premium Station” status since 2008, Watsonia Station is truly one of the finest on the Hurstbridge Line. In fact, it regularly ranks in the top three for cleanest toilets, and is home to an expansive car park that was once nominated to become the eighth wonder of the world. Instead of posing for a stupid photo of you attempting to transport yourself to wizard school, why not pose as an occasional public transport user trying to work out the myki system, or struggling to get a seat on any city-bound peak hour service that departs between 7am and 8am?

The Louvre / Truck Mural

The Louvre in Paris receives up to 10 million visitors each year. That’s right, 10 bloody million. Comfortably the most-visited museum in the world, The Louvre is home to such iconic pieces as the Venus de Milo, the Coronation of Napoleon, and the Mona Lisa, as well as being a key staging ground in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. With waiting times in the queue averaging around two hours each day, attending The Louvre is quite the commitment.

Purists would argue that true art should be much more accessible to the people, and who are we to challenge that assertion when we’ve spent the best part of three years trying to have a giant dim sim erected on Watsonia Road. When it comes to accessibility, there are few Australian artworks that are more accessible than the big truck mural that smiles down on thousands of public transport users each day as they make their way to Watsonia Station. Said to rival the Instafamous murals that adorn Hosier Lane in Melbourne’s CBD, the truck mural sits at the apex of Watsonia street art. To dismiss it as subtle advertising for the timber company whose wall it has been lovingly crafted on is to overlook its uncomplicated beauty, not to mention being totally disrespectful to our region’s proud lumberjacking past.

An Unrivalled Food Scene

While Italy is world-renowned for its delicious pasta, pizza and gelato, Watsonia is known for its metric fuck-tonne of fish and chip shops and pizzerias. To walk the length of Watsonia Road in the heart of our suburb’s central business district is to take a genuine walk around the world, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of our many fine eateries. Sure, there’s still no wine bar, and we could do with a curry joint, but almost every other culinary persuasion is available.

And, speaking of world-renowned, Watsonia is also home to the world’s greatest dim sims. This local delicacy is so beloved by Watsonians that we’ve been pushing to have a giant statue of the dimmie erected right in the heart of our suburb. If that’s not the height of foodie culture then we don’t know what is.

Take a Day Trip

One of the real attractions of Europe is being so close to so many diverse countries and cultures. Just hop in a car or onto a train and within minutes you can be in a completely different place. Just two stops along the Hurstbridge Train Line from Watsonia sits the beloved municipality of Montmorency, which has long been regarded as the Paris of the northern suburbs. And not because of its enviable culture, thriving arts scene, bohemian vibe, and great cafes, it’s more because of Monty’s high proportion of residents who are distrustful of outsiders and generally think they’re better than you.

So, there it is, the many ways that Watsonia provides its own unique taste of European culture and sightseeing. Can’t travel to Europe this winter? Let Europe come to you.