Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
Roses at the Cottage

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Inner Urban Veggie Gardens

When I first moved to Richmond (or North Yarraah as we often jokingly like to refer to it) around 10 years ago many front gardens were filled to overflowing with a wonderful array of vegetables. Vegetable growing was serious business. No fluffy flowers, iceberg roses or trendy yukkas. And this was certainly before hunter gathering became 'fashionable'. Many of the gardens were planted by the predominantly Greek immigrants who once made Richmond their Aussie home. (see previous posts May 2012 and March 2012)  Sadly as the suburb has developed the number of cottages featuring lush vegetable gardens has diminished but those that are left certainly make up for it. 
After a hard mornings work in the garden - its time to sit and admire
My aging Greek neighbour can still be seen morning, noon and night tending her garden. There is manure to be dug in, there is watering to be done, there is weeding to be done and of course there is planting to be done. It is constant and ongoing and the results show just what can be achieved if your heart is in it. And after a dig in the garden there is nothing better than to sit on a garden bench watching the world go by and chatting in Greek to your now dwindling countrymen and women who live nearby. 
Oranges and lemons aplenty
It's a lovely thing to watch the work that goes into this garden. Oranges and lemon trees that bear more fruit than I've ever seen - thanks to all that manure and of course the care and attention. Not only are there leeks, spring onions, silver beet and broccoli, I love that there are leafy greens that I don't know. They look like weeds to me but I'm sure they're not! Do you know what they are? Unfortunately I can't ask my charming neighbour. She has limited English - even though she's been here for more than 40 years.
Unusual leafy vegetables
On your wanders in the area keep your eye out for the ever diminishing front garden vegetable plots. They are still around. Just.

Bowen Cottage client comment this week: Thank you for a lovely relaxing stay. The cottage was an oasis to retreat to after a day of shopping and eating. Perfect size, great location, lovely to look at and has everything including umbrellas!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A new centenarian - The Dome of the State Library of Victoria

The beautiful State Library of Victoria at 328 Swanston Street is one of Melbourne's hidden gems. The Dome towers 35 metres above the desks in the great reading room where the lamps emit a wonderful glow over the room and the warm timber desks and chairs are a relief from today's moulded plastic and laminex.
Study, read a book, read a newspaper - be inspired (mel365.com)
 Whenever I have visited it is full to overflowing with students studying and the odd Melbourne citizen or visitor (it seats up to 300+) and yet the reverent library hush is actually warm and inviting and not at all intimidating. And there are laptops aplenty so although surrounded by books I suspect that many students are Googling for information!

The Dome-less Melbourne Public Library 1856

Originally named the Melbourne Public Library it opened in 1856. The Dome was added later and completed in 1913! In its day it was the largest reinforced concrete vault in the world - only beaten by the Pantheon in Rome! It now houses more than 300,000 books. So there's something for everyone!
What a Dome. What a reading room (walkingmelbourne.com)
But it's the Dome that's celebrating its centenary. It is such a wonderful surprise to walk into the building and be welcomed by the Dome, the light, the reverence. While visiting I recommend you visit the Cowen Gallery to see their free exhibition: Enchanted Dome: The Library and Imagination - you have until 14 July 2013. And while you are there why not take a free tour of the library and in particular the Dome. They run most days from 2pm - 3pm and begin in the front foyer. (I must do it myself!)

Tony and Maureen Wheeler of Lonely Planet fame have lived in Melbourne since their arrival overland from England in the 60's. They are extraordinarily generous philanthropists and the aptly named Wheeler Centre is 'attached' to the State Library of Victoria at 176 Little Lonsdale Street. This new type of cultural institution hosts some wonderful - mostly free - talks relating to books, authors, ideas and writing. They are often held at lunch time and in the early evening. Check out their programme on line. I recommend a visit. I am sure that this additional innovation assisted in Melbourne being awarded the 2nd UNESCO City of Literature in August 2008 (there are now 6 cities). (see earlier post 29 August 2012)
Welcome to the State Library
So put on your 'intellectual hat' and spend some time in this wonderful building. After exploring I recommend a coffee at the on-site cafe Mr Tulk. Alternatively The Moat is highly recommended. It resides in the basement of the Library 'under' the Wheeler Centre.  

Bowen Cottage client comment this week: Another great stay

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Nonda Katsalidis - we salute you!

There are architects and there are architectural visionaries who push the boundaries. I have followed our very own Nonda Katsalidis over the years and was delighted to read that his design for Hobart's MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) has just won the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture. MONA is the largest privately owned museum in Australia. Cut into the sandstone cliff it is one of the most exciting buildings I have seen. If you haven't visited I encourage you to do so - and make sure that you travel there by ferry from Hobart's Constitution Dock. The approach is wonderful! The museum is AMAZING. Go if you haven't. It has changed the face of Tasmanian tourism. And rightly so.
Approaching MONA (FenderKatsalidis)
I could go on and on - and on! - regarding 'Mad about MONA' but this is about Nonda!

One of my favourite 'out there' apartment buildings is one of his early conversions. The old grain silos in Richmond. Who else would have created a '5 storey ship'. Because that's what it reminds me of! It's amazing.
The 'Silos' Apartments

Tucked away in an interesting nook of Richmond it is surrounded by some wonderful conversions including the old Malthouse and various other factories and warehouses. It's worth a wander in the area and the streets around it. Laneways, courtyard gardens hidden by high, high walls, it shows how tiny old workers cottages sit comfortably with trendy but sympathetic conversions.
The 'Silos' with the pair of Malthouse buildings to the left (now apartments)
So if you have a moment visit 22 Abinger Street (off Church Street just up the hill from Bridge Road). Photos really don't do the area or the building justice. 
The proud ship towers above its neighbours
Have a wander in the surrounding streets and laneways. This is the Richmond I have grown to love.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

And their racing.....

I breathe a sigh of relief every year at race time in Melbourne! Let me explain! For my sins my Event Management Company designed and co-ordinated the first marquees in the now (in)famous Birdcage at Flemington for the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival. What fun you say! Not! There were no catering facilities to brag about, there was no electricity, it could be hot, it could be freezing, it could be a wet bog underfoot. And all had to be met with a smile (fixed) sore feet (rotating high heels, low heels, high heels - need I go on!). Arriving at dawn and departing after the final guests had swayed out the door (well tent-flap) was a triumph for my clients. For me - utter exhaustion. Horses - what horses - I sometimes glimpsed the bottoms of the jockeys as they thundered past. After 13 good - and I must admit rewarding years - I raised the white flag and fled! I have not been near a racecourse since!
Picnic Hampers are all the rage in the Members Car Park (the window in my favourite Laikon Deli in Richmond)
Back in those good ole days (late 80's to mid-90's) corporate marquees were few and far between - in fact almost non-existent. At first my client was the only marquee (corporate or otherwise) 'allowed' in the now famed Birdcage which was the Members Hallowed Ground (MHG). Even one marquee tucked up in the far corner was considered derigeur. Back then the Victorian Racing Club was really only just beginning to dip its toes in the corporate world of entertaining - and thus become the money-making-machine it is today. 

Well the MHG was slowly invaded until there were no more Members car parks in the Birdcage. After all why let the Members have the best view of the track! Today it is wall-to-wall Corporate Marquees vying for position in the front 'stalls', vying for the most 'over-the-top design, vying for the most exotic food created by a celebrity chef and of course vying most importantly for A-lister guests (90% of whom I have never heard of!). 
Our Nicole - dressed as a new version of My Fair Lady - jetted in from Europe for less than 24 hours!
Back then I was of the firm view that we were setting up in a paddock (out of season it still is!) and the then well regarded designs reflected what I still believe a marquee should be. Nowadays I would be considered 'old hat' - or 'old fascinator'. After all some marquees are now 3 stories high and have flushing loos. The Emirates marquee this year is a Dublin Library (my guess is that Emirates newest destination is ..... Dublin). Magnificent tho it is I do question the extraordinary amount of money that is poured into just 4 days of racing. 

Dublin comes to a Melbourne Cup Marquee (The Age)

We Aussies do have an obsession with horses and the track. We love a winner. I was interested to read recently that the famed Phar Lap who stands mightily at the Melbourne Museum now has his own - I can hardly bring myself to say this - facebook page! I wonder what he would make of today's circus. He'd probably be all of a Twitter!

Magnificent Phar Lap at the Melbourne Museum

But if you haven't experienced a Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival then I guess it really should go on your '1000 things to do before I die' list. Book early, stay at the Cottage and take the train (from the end of the street) out to Flemington. You'll have a fun day (I promise). Smell the roses, look at the sights - they are memorable - have a bet and of course a tipple! And as the song goes in My Fair Lady 'with a little bit of bloomin luck' you just might pick a winner.