Sunday, February 26, 2012


Is there a simpler way to look at the photos from Melbourne? Without having to wade through my wittering?


Friday, February 24, 2012

A little corner of Melbourne that is forever China!

While in Melbourne, we stayed in the Quest Gordon Place in Little Bourke St - at the top of China Town!

The complex itself was interesting; apparently it is a "National Trust listed property" and was built in 1884-5 as a new 'model' accommodation complex for single working-class men. It has a central atrium with a swimming pool, another covered atrium in which there are seats and an enormous palm tree. As the marketing says, it is a very quiet, restful location within easy walking distance of the heart of the city, and a stone's throw from the free tram route.

Little Bourke Street is Melbourne's Chinatown. We managed to find places we had visited in 2001:

And, aside from the dramatic change to the landscape at dusk on Saturday evening, the other intriguing element were some of the signs along the lanes; how to describe them? Aphoristic? Enignmatic? Inscrutable? Oblique? Mysterious? Confounding? Zen-like? Epigrammatic? Who knows, but they did puzzle us!
You cannot step twice into the same river We listen to it and do not hear it
Blunt the sharpness; untangle the knot The softest overcomes the hardest


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

So that was Melbourne, eh?

Early in February we took a long weekend and hopped over to Melbourne in Australia. That sounds really casual, doesn't it, when in fact there was a serious purpose: we wanted to take Jayne to a very good art exhibition as part of her Art History work at university. We managed to get cheap flights so that made it possible for us to go, and to take Jack as well.

The exhibition was The Mad Square at the National Gallery of Victoria. It covered "... the chaotic world of German modernism’s avant-garde" from the "... era of chaos came an explosion of creativity – experimental, provocative and utterly compelling."

This period has long had a fascinatioon for us, and the chance to see first-hand some of the works produced during the period was too good to miss.

What we hadn't quite expected was how interesting the Gallery itself was - especially the entrance. The large plate glass curtain-wall has water running over it, and this is a constant fascination for young and old alike. The gallery is just a short walk across the Yarra River from the CBD, and has ample space around it, so water features are prominent.

Jack was also very happy that we came across an exhibition of skate boards! Tony Hallam has quite a collection.
Of course we used the City Circle (free) tram to get about, and, once we'd orientated ourselves, it was very useful.

We have been to Melbourne a couple of times before (in 2001 & 2003), and it continues to appeal, in large part because the physical fabric of the city is so different from "our" Wellington. Quite apart from the size (after all, Melbourne has about 3 million people; NZ has about 4.1 million in total!), it is spread out across a relatively flat site, and has managed to retain a large number of nineteenth-century stone buildings. And the wealth, originally derived from the gold-fields just an hour or two inland, means many of those buildings are ornately decorated and still redolent of the Victorian colonial urban gentry and ruling class.

When not using the tram, we walked quite a bit, and, as previously, I was very taken by many of the buildings. Coming as we do from a city prone to earthquakes, and dominated by lack of flat space and uncertain stability, being surrounded by open streets and stone buiildings is delightful - especially when many of those buildings date from the late nineteenth century. Not only do may of them have ornate decoration, but many are similarly ornate inside, including those whose provenance is a workers' friendly society!
The Headquarters of the Independent Order of Rechabites Stained glass window in the Celtic Club
St Paul's Cathedral St Paul's Cathedral A wedding party using St Paul's Cathedral
A wedding party using St Paul's Cathedral
I was particularly taken by this water feature (fountain) in Parliament Gardens.

The fountain has a walkway which juts into the centre of it, so I was able to stand 'inside' the fountain and then photograph the Princess Theatre through the cascading water.

And this is the Princess Theatre.

Needless to say, we didn't spend all our time in the Gallery, although I'm sure we could have! We also went shopping! This pastime included a visit to the Queen Victoria Market - tat for Africa!

But it also had fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, as well as a deli section and food hall. So we were able to have brunch, wander the tat-stalls & buy a few things, and then stock up for a barbecue for that evening.
Another of the 'surprise elements' on this trip was the State Library. It is beautifully housed in a superb building. It was humming with visitors, most of whom appeared to be students, and many of whom were using computers, either personal laptops or fixed terminals or PCs. The Reading Room is beautifully proportioned, with gleaming wooden desks and chairs. And in one of the upper levels is an exhibition space, which at that time had an exhibition of some of the Libraries collection of rare and precious books, some 600 years old! Stunning!
An exhibition of rare books and manuscripts had some glorious displays and a backdrop which was imposing.
Ned Kelly is never very far away!

Other things of note? it is not unusual to hear about the respective costs of living in Australia and NZ, and usually at NZ's expense! So I was somewhat taken aback by 2 elements of life in Melbourne. Firstly, the cost (& ease) of buying alcohol. Now it's not as though I wanted to buy a lot of alcohol, but we enjoy having a couple of small bottles of beer of an evening, so I set off to buy some. Only it isn't that easy! Firstly, the large 'supermarket' in Melbourne Central (Coles Central) was several floors down & took me a while to find. And then they don't sell alcohol as do supermarkets in NZ. My fault for making that assumption I guess! So then I had to find a bottle store. They aren't difficult to find, but they are small, 'hole in the wall' type of affairs with a very limited range of stock. In addition the prices they charge struck me as exorbitant: $Aus15 for a 6-pack of 330ml bottles, which is the equivalent of approx $NZ18.50. In New Zealand I would expect to pay $20 for 12 such bottles. Now it may be very different in the suburbs, with larger stores, etc. But I suspect not.

And then there are the prices of restaurant meals. Checking menus for prices of meals was misleading, because they have a face-value which is directly comparable to NZ. In other words, a main course might cost $Aus30, which would be what I might expect to pay in NZ; except that the Australian price is, in NZ$ terms, about $37. Quite a bit more than I would expect to pay in NZ.

So my experience suggests the cost of living is higher in Australia, at least in the city.