Monday, June 29, 2009

Contrasts in Architecture

Pic 1: Me having a great day in my home town - note the tiled entrance to Block Arcade.

Pic 2: The Mansion still stands although now dwarfed by steel & concrete.

It’s Sunday morning in Melbourne, and deciding on a sleep-in, Sue and I enjoyed a late breakfast at a Bayside Café near home. The sky was cloudless and the bay was still. People were walking their dogs or stopping at the café after a crisp winter morning ride on the bike paths hugging the beaches of Port Phillip Bay.

My mate, Daggy Dazza called me later in the morning to organize a ride into Melbourne Central to take some pics.
I had this concept of “Contrasts in Architecture” within Melbourne. I see old buildings from Melbourne’s past that have escaped the wrecker’s hammer, and yet the ones that didn’t escape have these weird and sometimes wonderful buildings in their place reaching upward and dwarfing the heritage below.

During the ride I also rediscovered the arcades leading from the place where I had my first job, to the other end of the city. How it has changed, not the buildings in themselves, but the ambience. The character of the laneways which to me in the 60s were a quicker place to get from where I was to where I wanted to go had now transformed into a buzz of Sunday Socializing. Sections of the arcades cater for the cafes and have a certain grunge factor where further up the city they become a more up-market shopping area.
Pic 3: This gothic style building, now apartments has always intrigued me. I'd like to know more of its history. The area known as St Kilda Road has lost many of its earlier buildings with little pockets still hiding under tall buildings.

With cafes, bars, fashion shops and a mix of locals and tourists abound, I actually felt like a tourist with my camera. Riding out of the city, we took the bike paths home. These follow the bayside beaches and even though its winter, the paths were being used by other cyclists with their families and locals walking their dogs while taking in the fresh air of the bay.
On my return home, I said to Sue, let’s go there next Sunday and enjoy our own City.
Even Daggy Dazza said, “Travelling opens your eyes to home.” He’s right you know.

Pic 5: Sitting beside a modern metal (& rusty) structure is the Malthouse Theatre. Originally a factory and warehouse, the complex is now a venue for plays and music with several small and intimate theatres.

Pic 5 & 6: One of the "Grungy" laneways of Melbourne now full of cafes. Note the running shoes hanging from the light fittings. A regular activity of the local teenagers I suspect.

Pic 7: Daggy Dazza in front of Block Arcade - will they let us in dressed like this?

Pic 8: Melbourne was founded in August 1835 and the Mitre Tavern was built in 1837. It is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Melbourne and still has a full operating licence to this day. It is nestled amongst other fine examples of architecture from the late 1800s, early & late 1900s in the upper end of Melbourne's financial district.

Pic 9 : Melbourne's Flinder's Street station is an iconic monument. Note the high rise building in contrast.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday night – time to relax

Pic 1: Driving home down King Street

The week goes quickly now after our return from our four weeks away. Melbourne’s winter has given the family colds and Thursday I spent working from home rather than going to the office. Flexibility is one of the benefits of my job and adds to the enjoyment.
As we draw to the end of the financial year we had our annual stock-take so I dragged my heavy head, coughs and sneezes to the office on Friday to help with the mundane operation of counting. The reward afterwards is the sausage sizzle at lunch time and if everything goes well, an early finish to the day to start the weekend.
4.00 pm saw me leaving the office with a phone call to home to see what Friday night delight would be prepared for the dining table. Sue said it would be my favourite, an Italian dish from “the Silver Spoon” or as it was originally called “Il Cucchiaio d’argento”, first published in Italy in 1950, and English in 2005.
Pic 2: Roman Spring Lamb from the pages of "the Silver Spoon"
My favourite from the book is Roman Spring Lamb, cooked with potatoes, garlic, rosemary sprigs, white wine and vinegar, YUM.
We washed this down with a local Pinot Noir from the west of Melbourne in the Macedon region. On our return from Burgundy, we find the lighter reds very enjoyable.

As I drove down King Street and through downtown Melbourne, I noticed how the skyline of our city is changing yet it still has the softness of green parks and leafy trees.
The contrasts of Melbourne’s architecture (possibly a future blog subject) is one of its features. Recently voted as one of the world’s most livable cities, it’s hard for a local to argue the point.

Pic 3: Lygon Street book
My last blog mentioned Lygon Street, Carlton, one of my favourite Melbourne cosmopolitan streets. It reminded me of the book I purchased earlier this year on the history of Lygon Street. Not just the history of the street, but also a recipe book from the long time established businesses, chefs and cooks of the area. The people, nationalities, food, wine and architecture of the street are beautifully described and illustrated in this 370 page door-stop.

Lygon Street is not on its own as a feature of Melbourne – My Home.
Brunswick St, Fitzroy St, Acland St and Chapel streets all have a special charm of their own and attract various people from our cosmopolitan population. We’ll look at those in future blogs.

But for me, the weekend now begins. I must read a few more chapters this weekend.

Pic 4: Jimmy Watson's wine cellar - I remember my first glass of wine here in 1968, but forget the many more since!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A full weekend in Melbourne

Once a week Blog:
For those that take an interest in Melbourne My Home, I hope to publish ramblings once a week on the Monday. Feel free to pass on the link to anyone that might have an interest in Melbourne.

Well, since last installment the weather has been chilly and foggy in the mornings and in the single figures but with sunny & cloudless sky afternoons. I must admit that it takes some getting used to after the long, warm days in France recently.

Soapbox Comment:

On our recent trip it was mentioned that there have been some exhibitions of Graffiti – Now I don’t mind creative Graffiti but mindless tagging on peoples property really gets up my nose. Attached are two examples of what I mean. I saw both of these while walking from my office to buy lunch during the week.

And now the weekend:
As much as I enjoy my work with the Australian Clothing Company, I do look forward to the weekends in Melbourne. The weekend usually starts with the ritual Friday night champagne or special bottle of wine with a meal that Sue prepares but this Friday she was called in to emergency teach so it was Spag-Bol for dinner (a favorite of mine nevertheless) which was washed down with a bottle of “Arrogant Frog” rouge (from the Languedoc region of France).

Well, I really bought it for the label - note the cycling frog. I'll have a bottle of this by my side while watching Le Tour next month.

Saturday morning was an early 6.30 am start on the bike to meet my cycling friends for a pre-cycle ride before the “real” training ride at 7.30 am.
This gives us a chance to chin-wag over a cup of coffee before meeting the Bayside Bandido group. This amazing bunch of cyclists have grown from a small group of sailing friends who decided cycling would help them keep fit. The group was less than ten individuals and today has grown to 100 members in just over 10 years.

Today’s ride was special in that it was the winter solstice today which we celebrated with a sausage sizzle after the ride.

Saturday night saw us out with close friends of which two of the blokes were celebrating their birthdays – it was great to meet up after being away and the hosts are off to Italy in September to see relatives – I remember our trip to Italy in 2006 vividly and the time we spent in the south of France to get there. Tuscany and Umbria were wonderful. The view from our villa bedroom window looked over the olive trees in the valley below. Monticchiello, a hilltop village of 300 people was across the valley from Pienza where we went to visit several times during our stay.
Lygon Street - Carlton:

I digress!!!!

After several bottles of red during the night, I decided a sleep in would not go astray and so I rang my son Andrew to join us for a Sunday lunch at Lygon street, Carlton. Both Sue and I have enjoyed meals at Il Gambero in Lygon Street over the years. Before she met me she remembers a night where the two employees had a disagreement that progressed into a knife fight, hey – they ARE Italian.
The restaurant is still in the same family hands today.

Lygon Street was one of my favorite places during the 70s, very bohemian, very student, very cheap. Today it has become very yuppified but with a real vibrancy that gives it a distinct personality of its own. Cafes, restaurants, book shops, wine bars, theatres and lots of fashion shopping. Visitors from overseas need to come to Lygon Street.
Even though I’ve spent years walking Lygon street, I discovered a great chocolate shop I had not seen before. It reminded me of the Chocolatier we discovered in St Remy de Provence on our last day there. At the moment while I write this, I have a piece with my coffee and port.
What a great way to finish off a weekend.

Talk next week. Tune in next Monday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A weekend in Melbourne.
As a sub-title, the blog could be called “Four Seasons in One Day” after the Crowded House song. Although Crowded House’s Neil Finn and his brother Tim were born in New Zealand, we tend to claim them as our own, as we do with all successful NZ artists. In most cases they don’t get famous until they cross the Ditch (Tasman Sea) to the great OZ so I guess we have some right to part ownership.
This is the first full weekend since we returned home from France and its been just that, four seasons, in this case over 2 days.
Saturday I awoke to showers so no ride this morning. I promised Sue I would join her at the market if it was wet. We actually need rain in this state of Victoria as our dams are currently at only 26% capacity.
Our market is approx 20 minutes down the road in the suburb of Dandenong. We have several other markets such as the major Queen Vic which has great produce and is very well priced. There are also markets at South Melbourne and Prahran. These markets tend to appeal to the locals who don’t mind being overchargedThey also have great produce but at premium prices. The Dandenong market is for the working class and very multi-cultural in its buyers and traders, and of course well priced.
I’ll let Sue give you some price comparisons and the variations in the produce available compared to the markets of France.
Sue : A bit hard to do price comparisons, euro vs. Aus dollar etc.. Makes my head hurt.
I’ll give you an idea of our prices, bearing in mind that 1 euro = approx $2AUS
Eye fillet steak - $19kg, scotch fillet steak in the piece - $16kg
Baby fennel 3 for $2, pork fillets $12k
Mandarins $1.30kg, 2kg red onions $2.20 Rockling fish $19kg
Rockling is a great tasting, firm textured fish which can be cooked pretty much any way See pic
This market also has great Asian greens, and I bought some great looking snake beans, as pictured, which
will do very nicely in a stir fry later in the week.
The market itself is a nightmare at the moment as it is being rebuilt and a lot of traders have given up until the build is over, also parking and walkways have been disrupted. I find it disappointing that it is being yuppified, but Leon says,” You can’t make a quiche without buttering the bread.” Not quite sure what he means, but sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod.
The market is a permanent, undercover presence which is open 3 days a week and also sells clothes, computer supplies, souvenirs, watches….basically all the things you find at French markets.
When our boys were young and ate the average output of a small country by themselves each day, I used to shop at the market each week as the prices are much less than from butchers or supermarkets, but now one lives out of home and the other has settled down a bit, I probably only go about once a month, mostly to stock up on meat and fish, as the quality is fabulous and the prices great.

Feeling like I needed a bit of kulcha, I went to the local CD/LP store while Sue was buying the meat. It has a great selection of pre-loved music and I picked up the Roger’s and Hammerstein’s the King and I featuring Julie Andrews and Ben Kingsley. At $8 (about 4 Euro), I couldn’t go wrong.
On the way home, Sue was needing a little sea air. We live on the Bayside of Melbourne and the bay is like a great big area of green, only blue. Its great in summer but in winter it takes on a different personality. People use it all year round and now in June, fishermen all rugged up sit on the pier waiting for a bite, people walk their dogs and a continuous stream of cyclists push the pedals up and down beach road regardless of weather. Over a weekend this cyclist’s mecca would see over 5000 riders testing their limits against fellow cyclists. At one time, many of the Aussie cyclists in this year’s Tour de France would have
joined the lads in a ride down Beach Road.

Saturday night was dinner with friends at a restaurant in Brighton - our friends organised this before we left for our four weeks in France and was great to catch up again. Two of the couples have visited France previously and Clive, my friend is on a Tour de France bikie’s tour in July and was interested in our
experiences last month.
I was able to get a few kms in Sunday morning as the showers and cold wind had given way to sunshine and a windless day. The bay was like a millpond. In summer it would be a playground of yachts, power boats and bathers.
After a lunch of leftover a Greek chicken casserole, it was off to the local nursery and Bunnings, the humungous hardware warehouse. It’s time to get all those handyman jobs done around the house I’m told.
Maybe when we get the house in order we can start the house-swapping thing with other people around the world.
It maybe of interest that Melbourne will have a Salvadore Dali exhibition at the Victorian Art Gallery with works from both the US and Spanish galleries. After seeing the Dali works in Montmartre I may take the opportunity to view this exhibition at Melbourne - our home.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Off to Market

One of our great delights while in France and on our 2006 trip which took us thru the south of France and off to Italy were the markets. The Campo de Fiori market outside our apartment door in Rome was memorable as was the smaller markets of St Remy and St Chinian in the south of France.
Sue would rush off to the market with me in tow (sometimes I feel like Le Banque & Le Donkey) to pay & carry the produce she purchased to experiment with. At least I become Le taster. So often I'm disappointed when we go out for dinner after being served a superb dinner by Sue.
Anyway, this Saturday we are off to the Dandenong Market which I will report on with photos, prices and a general description of local produce.

We are currently experiencing a very chilly winter back here in Melbourne and even have snow falling in some areas of Melbourne. Our ski fields look like having a bumper season and the bushfire effected areas of Kinglake and Marysville have a layer of white over the chard ground. Burnt black tree trunks are a stark contrast to the powder white snow covered ground.

The paragraph below comes from a "History of Melbourne" website that on ocassion I will draw from adding to our own personal accounts & experiences of our home.
"Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, and home to close to 4 million people. Many of the citizens of Melbourne live in the suburbs that east and south of the Yarra River, sprawled around Port Phillip Bay and extending as far east as Mount Dandenong. Melbourne was founded on the Yarra River in 1835 after an abortive bid in 1803 to establish a settlement inside the Port Phillip Bay heads. The Port Phillip District gained independence from New South Wales in 1850. Melbourne boomed in the 1850's as a result of the gold rush in the region to the north. Melbourne has a reputation as being more refined than its northerly neighbour Sydney, boasting the country's finest restaurants and is acknowledged as the country's most important financial centre. "

Melbourne is one of the last cities to use trams in Australia. Although now electrified, early trams were cable driven, similar to San Francisco today. Many of the cable houses have today been converted to apartments or upmarket offices.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

MELBOURNE - our home

OK, we're back from France and my old blog - Leaping Leon's French Fancies comes to an end. Sue always was ambivalent about the title but that's life.

Photo of Charles Condor, Australian impressionist's painting of Mentone pier.

This blog will give an insight to our home of Melbourne and the surrounding suburbs plus the regional cities within Victoria.
Australian impressionist, Tom Roberts' painting of Mentone beach.

We live in the bayside suburb of Mentone - Winipedia describe our suburb as, "Mentone was originally founded as a resort town named after the Italian spelling of the French town Menton. In order to keep with the Italian resort theme many streets in Mentone were named after Italian cities for example, Cremona Street, Florence St, Venice St and Milan St. The development of Mentone began in the late 1800s.
Mentone has now developed into a middle income suburb, with areas of the suburb somewhat exclusive with a well developed infrastructure".
Photograph from the early 1900s of the Mentone Coffee Palace

As much as we love our travels in France and Italy, our eyes become more open to what our home in Melbourne, Australia offers.

Sometimes you become blind to the beauty that surrounds you because you take it for granted. I can remember living 3 months on the west coast of the US.
California offered many wonderful sights, yet when I returned home, I rediscovered the beauty that surrounded me on my cycling training rides.

The blog will talk about general life in Melbourne, the sights, cafe culture, markets, events, food, wine and our experiences of daily life in one of the most livable cities in the world. Be warned that on occasion my views and Sue's maybe mixed with a little domestic altercation, but that's normal.

Feel free to join in with your own views.
I hope to share with you some of the delights of Melbourne - our home.

Leon and Sue