Thursday, May 25, 2017

Melbourne break

We enjoyed a rendezvous with some dear friends in Melbourne this week - including our favourite old inner city hotel - the Rendezvous in Flinders Street, just a short stroll from Flinders Street Station and the famous, vibrant laneways of this most cosmopolitan city.
We drove down from Canberra on Monday - an easy 7 hour drive. It was getting dark by the time we'd settled in to the hotel so we took to the neighbouring streets and laneways to absorb some Melbourne city charm and shake off the inactivity of a day driving. We celebrated afterwards with a glass of ale at the top floor bar of our favourite Young and Jackson Hotel - and raised a glass to Melbourne's iconic Chloe.

Our main aim on Tuesday was to rendezvous with the Vincent Van Gogh  and the Seasons exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.
 ..... while acknowledging, on the way in, the latest Ai Wei Wei installation in the gallery foyer - a new 5 metre tall work of crystals and light from his chandelier series....Wow!
The Van Gogh exhibition comprises the largest collection of his artworks ever to travel to Australia - amazing works lent by leading international museums.  Another huge attraction for us is the audio guide to the exhibition: a beautiful, informative narration by David Stretton, and David Wenham as the voice of Vincent (reading the words of Vincent through the many hundreds of letters he wrote over his short life to his brother Theo).

Vincent's south of France pictures are still as buttery fresh and full of energy as the day they were painted over 120 years ago!

...such a treat to see these works in Melbourne - and in late Autumn too, Vincent's favourite season.
Tuesday night we enjoyed a rendezvous with dear friends James and Fiona - at their beautiful old Victorian era terrace house in Gore Street Fitzroy, then on to the atmospheric Builders Arms Hotel on Gertrude Street, before heading to dinner at the Panama Dining Room on Smith Street, a wonderful overview of some of the best offerings in this super cool part of old Melbourne (with the coolest hosts you could ever imagine).
In the pic below Rob and I are about to share a whole slow cooked lamb shoulder with a pistachio crust and quince jus with parsley and sumac salad. It was to die for (and enough protein to last us at least a month)!!
We had a slow start yesterday - before deciding to take a tram ride to St Kilda Beach - all the way down to the foreshore area, past sad old Luna Park.....
 ..... while shivering in the wind blowing off Port Phillip Bay ......
 ..and eventually arriving at Pontoon at the Stokehouse precinct  on Jacka Boulevard (thank you for the recommendation Fiona).
Pontoon proves to be a wonderful spot to chill out for a while over a glass of Pinot Grigio (for me) on a cold, windy afternoon while we try to define how Melbourne is so gloriously different from Sydney.

Our thoughts include:
Melbourne is John Brack, Sydney is Brett Whiteley
Sydney is brash and beautiful and a bit bogan too, Melbourne is bohemian, cultured and cosmopolitan (and no doubt more than a bit bogan too)
Sydney is all colour, energy, bright blue skies and Pacific Ocean, Melbourne is monochrome, gentler, more thoughtful and wise.........   
But we think that James is the one who's nailed it: Sydney is the girl you spend the night with but Melbourne is the girl you marry!!

Love Melbourne!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

It's a decade

I started this blog with a post on the 8th May 2007 - in readiness for the arrival of baby Ella (which didn't actually happen until 21st May). It's hard to believe that was a decade ago - and Ella is now 10 years old already (today!)

This beautiful pic was taken when Ella was 3 months old (at Ollie's 3rd birthday).
 At seven moths old.......
 On her first birthday.......
 On her second birthday.......
 her third birthday........
 her fourth..........
 her fifth........
 her sixth.........
 her seventh.......
 and eighth........
 her ninth...........
 And now her tenth birthday! ......
Ella had such a cool and fun party last night with a few special friends - very low key, but beautiful food, "The School of Rock" (excellent movie) with lots of popcorn - then plenty of jokes and competitions after wards. Ella made her own cake from scratch. It was a super happy birthday for this gorgeous girl - what a wonderful decade!
 Abi's had a big week too. Kindergarten ran their first assembly at school so Abi performed for that and then today (Sunday) she performed in the Canberra Japan Club Extravaganza at Cook Community Hall (singing a very cute Japanese song about a turtle - with actions!). We can't believe that Abi used to feel quite shy about preforming in public - she's loved it al this weekl!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mothers Day - yin and yang

A lovely start to Mothers Day today... breakfast prepared by Joshy and Ella: French toast and all the trimmings (YUM), then a long walk (under grey skies) to burn off some calories then some time in the garden to admire the girls' gymnastics skills........

Then this evening, Rob and I attended the sombre and beautiful Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial (back in Campbell again).  Each year on the 14th May the Last Post service is dedicated to the victims (members of the 2/12th Field ambulance) of the Centaur - the Australian Hospital Ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine at 4.10am on May 14, 1943, near Brisbane.  Of the 332 people on board only 64 survived.  Rob's dad Allan was one of the survivors of this wartime tragedy, and deeply affected by it, so we try to attend the service each year in his honour.

The life story of one of the Centaur victims is always made the centrepiece of the ceremony. Today we heard the story of Private Alan Thomas Adams. Up until this shocking event his life as a young man in his early twenties was progressing in very similar ways to Allan's - full of promise and adventure... but then......
..........Lest We Forget......

State of play - May

We had another peek at the apartment on Saturday. The painters were adding final touches but were very tolerant of our sticky beaks! We saw progress in the kitchen (the overhead cupboards are in).......

And the fridge, dishwasher and clothes dryer were all in position (although in the pic below the fridge in the "scullery" is sitting a way out from the wall, no doubt because of the painting in progress).
The Astra Walker "aged brass" tapware is only partially installed (the shower set below needs a shower rose)......We're not sure we would have chosen this finish if it was left up to us.. but I'm sure we'll get used to it.... and we're assured it's very high quality (and expensive, apparently!)
The deep marble architraves finish off the living spaces nicely and the blinds for the living room and winter garden have been delivered - ready for installation.
We're a week away from our official pre-settlement inspection now, and it looks like the apartment could easily be finished off (and CLEANED) in that time with some concentrated effort.. Woohoo!!!!
We were visiting the C5 precinct with the girls on Saturday for the "Campbell Festival". Abi gave up waiting to have her face painted (queues were too long) and had a game of tennis instead with a very lovely member of the Campbell Tennis Club. The club was out spruiking for new members - but I'm not sure Rob nor I would fit the bill (we're both pretty hopeless with bats & balls!). We'll have to leave it up to Abi I think!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

"Our backyard"

Our new backyard in Campbell includes a section of Canberra's Centenary Trail, a 145 kilometre self-guided, walking/cycling  trail that "showcases Canberra's iconic sites and hidden treasures" . The Campbell part of the trail starts at the rear of the War Memorial. It's a 4.5klm loop walk, through the bush to the top of Mt Ainslie (and back).
The first point of interest for me on the walk is this very quiet place of remembrance for Aboriginal people who served with the Australian forces. The flowers are very fresh as ANZAC Day was only a few days ago. This little bush shrine is a very telling reminder of how little and how late is our country's recognition of Aboriginal people's contribution.
I like this quiet space of contemplation - so close to the grandiosity of our Australian War Memorial.
The walk up the mountain (it's a good climb) gives me lots of excuses to stop frequently and admire the gum trees.

The view from the top of Mt Ainslie is one we've admired many times before - but it's much more fun now it is part of "our backyard".
And we can even see our apartment from here too! Can you?
This view of Black Mt Tower always reminds us of Seoul Tower now, thanks to our visit there last September for Joelly and Kay's wedding (this view just has more gum trees and blue sky).
After our walk we wanted to visit Saint Germain (again) to check on progress - but were intrigued to see the crowds around the nearby (Australian) Vietnam Forces National Memorial on Anzac Parade. 

Through careful listening we were able to determine it was a large contingent of Sth Vietnamese Army veterans and their families/friends, (mostly from Sydney, we think) commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the fall of Saigon (on 30 April 1975)... an amazing and sobering sight ....... making us realise we are going to be much more aware of our military history living so close to these solemn spaces.

But back to Saint Germain: all the construction fences are down now so we're able to walk freely all around the building!
 And we even have a sign to our apartment now!
Once again, we strike it lucky and score an invitation to our apartment (ask no questions please!!). And the biggest change since our last view is seeing that the timber floor is laid - and we love it!
 A view from the main kitchen into the side "scullery" room......
We seem to have scored 2 Miele ovens - and one of them is a steam oven - this is an upgrade on the original specs we were given as far as we can work out (all good).
The workmen are all extremely proud of the building and appear to love showing it off - they constantly refer to how detailed it is (thus taking a long time to finish off!!!!).
I was very proudly shown how you can see the green dome of the War Memorial in our view to Mt Ainslie from the winter garden. Can you see it? (pity it is green, like everything else)

 Still some finishing off to do in the ensuite.......
Such an exciting visit - and once again we are delighted with what we see and no "issues" evident as yet! 

By the time time we're done the Vietnam Forces National Memorial on Anzac Parade is deserted again, the crowds have dispersed - leaving space and time to think about this tragic era of our recent history that we know so much about!