Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bendigo Grace

Bendigo is only two hours drive north of Melbourne, but together we've only ever visited this small town once before, many years ago (that's apart from my short work related visit there back in 2002).

Seeing we were in Victoria anyway at the weekend we couldn't miss an opportunity to see the Grace Kelly Style Icon exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery. First staged at the V&A Museum in London, and then on to New York; it seems amazing that it has ended up here in Bendigo of all places.

The gallery has been inundated with visitors - tickets all have to be prebooked and there is timed entry. We were booked in at 10.00am (opening time) on Monday morning and there was quite a crowd waiting to get in from 9.30am onwards.

Needless to say we both enjoyed the exhibition. Rob and I have seen enough of Grace Kelly's old Hitchcock films to get a buzz out of seeing her costumes and the background stories on them and I really enjoyed seeing her princess paraphernalia, her French couturier wardrobe (a Hermes bag and Chanel suits for walking the children to school no less) and the family stories told very discreetly but revealingly through montages of old film clips and still photos. Seeing this material prompted me to help Rob stay alert during the late stages of our 7 hour drive back to Canberra by reading him Wikipedia summaries of all the scandals befalling the ill fated Grimaldi family over the past 40 years.

I will enjoy my next Rear Window viewing (for the 5th or 6th time by now) that much more now I understand the significance of Grace Kelly's wardrobe in that film so much better.

Back in Canberra it was great to catch up with the girls today. Abbie looked a perfect peach in pink - and now 9 weeks old.

Ella was in fine form. She's been watching Dancing Down Under carefully and can now do a very creditable Irish jig - Riverdance style - kilt and pony tail flying, head and torso very erect!

She keeps it up for hours on end while ever the Chieftains are playing and there is an appreciative audience.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Melbourne day two

Melbourne dawned foggy and cool for us today but we had brunch to look forward to - with David and Vanessa. While they stayed vego we went for the best rare beef noodle soup (Pho) on Victoria St Richmond (at I heart Pho), which is really saying something in this little corner of Vietnam in Melbourne.

We said goodbye to this very special pair at Rose Street Fitzroy. Rob and I wanted to spend some time in one of our favourite areas of Melbourne today starting with the Saturday morning markets in Rose St.

A stroll down Rose St gave us some great street views of tumble down terraces, super modern architectural marvels and lots of purposeful (we think) grafitti art.

With a lot more walking westwards we found our way eventually to Lygon Street Carlton. Of course then it was impossible to resist trying the food at one of the enticing looking Italian eateries lining this famous Melbourne Street. We were at Tiamo Coffee, and I am so pleased I chose a lightly crumbed bocconcini salad with pears and proscuitto with my Peroni beer. Beautiful!

After lunch we headed south down Lygon Street, then left at Pelham St until we found the glossy, modernist Imax and Melbourne Museum buildings standing proudly opposite the grand old Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens.

We found it very easy to spend an hour or two in this wonderful museum enjoying the Mind and Body and the Top Designs exhibitions showcasing student works produced for the Victorian Certificate of Education.

Walking back to the city we found the late afternoon light particularly suited this most mellow of Australian cities, with its affable and well mannered citizens. 

This is our lovely view outside our hotel room on the eighth floor across to Flinders Street Station, the Yarra River and Southbank beyond.

Friday, April 20, 2012


This is 12-18 Yarra Place in South Melbourne...an exterior shot of the reknowned St Ali (cafe) where we had arranged to meet Erin and John and baby Liliana for Friday morning brunch. Our first view of St Ali made us wonder how baby friendly the place might be.

Inside this unprepossessing industrial building though, the place was really buzzing, loads of atmosphere, great coffee roasting smells and uber cool but friendly service.

Liliana (9 weeks old on Friday) had no trouble at all continuing her morning sleep among the cafe hubbub while we caught up on new baby and Melbourne news from John and Erin.

Liliana slept all through coffees and breakfast, finally waking up for a relaxed feed, a bit more dozing and then time for a bit of socializing with us.

Erin and John look very happy with no sign at all of the reduced sleep time they now have. They are making a great life and a new family now in wonderful Melbourne.

We were treated to a full on display of Liliana's ability to charm. She is smiling up a storm now and is full of curiousity about facial expressions and making sounds.

I was lucky enough to have my own lively, smiley interaction with Liliana, which she seemed to enjoy - what a heart breaker!

We had a lovely two hours or so with E & J & L and it was sad to see them go.

Afterwards we spent some time up on Cavendish Street, exploring the wonderful South Melbourne Markets, the cool shopping options available in the little independent boutiques...

and exploring some of the character filled side streets in this very trendy part of inner Melbourne.
It reminds us of some parts of Surrey Hills in Sydney but without the heavy traffic and crowding.

For a complete change we then walked up to St Kilda Road where we caught the number 8 tram to Toorak Village for bit of a wander around the very upmarket shopping village there. I found a pair of Arche boots to buy while Rob counted all the BMWs driving past on Toorak Road.

We caught the tram back to Flinders Street Station, enjoyed a lovely floral scented beer in the very comfy top floor lounge of Young and Jackson's Hotel before meeting Rob's dear friend David and his Vanessa for dinner at Akira, 177 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, their favourite Japanese Restaurant in Melbourne.

It's been almost two years since we saw David and Van in Bali so there was a lot of catching up to do, while enjoying the freshest most beautifully prepared seafood I've enjoyed in a long time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Life's a lot more relaxed during school holiday time. The girls all love a walk up the road, at any time of the day, to Biginelli's, a proper Italian cafe in the depths of Canberra suburbia.

This afternoon Ella orders us all a coffee (and gets it all correct!) and herself a choc mint gelati. The energetic young Italian barista knows Ella quite well, being the regular she is.

Abbie (now 8 weeks old) hasn't had an Italian experience directly yet but enjoys these visits to Biginelli's nevertheless. She's been smiling for a few weeks now and today I am very thrilled because she smiled (a lot) at me for the first time.

The park nearby rounds off the outing.

We continue to be amazed by Ella's fitness. In the pic below she was pulling her body weight up by her hands....she has great abs, great biceps. No match for Granny & Grandpa.

She's also a whiz on my iPad. This week she changed my screen saver to a photo of her choice (of herself) without anyone showing her how to do it.

She still loves putting on a "performance" for us: wild free form dance moves to an assorted playlist. Today for the first time I saw Abbie getting very excited watching her big sister dance..arms and legs kicking, eyes blinking, especially during the pirouettes! Ella has begged her Mummy & Daddy to let her share a bedroom with Abbie. They're on a week long trial.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Park fun

We enjoyed a gorgeous, mild Autumn afternoon at the Lowe St Park on Thursday with O & A & E and their assorted wheels. After many circuits of the bike path and cross oval runs the kids settled for some more sedate time in the playground. Here they made friends with Bugs the world's friendliest rabbit, and his devoted family.

With the afternoon stretching out to well after 4.00pm (and potential going home time) the kids engaged in some delaying tactics with a very long stacks on Grandpa (Robbie) game.

Which he survived, luckily. Great fun!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Feeling folky

It's Easter and that means it's time for thousands of baby boomers, musos and alternative types to descend on Canberra for the National Folk Festival. Canberra has staged the festival since 1992, but this is the first year we've attended (our excuse is we're usually away at Easter!).

We picked a perfect day today for our first visit and quickly got into the vibe.......early morning poetry sessions, lots of mellow art and craft making (and very child friendly) in the ArtefACT area, plenty of healthy food on offer, a gentle crowd and at least 5 major music venues and a continuous cycle of great live international and local acts on offer from 10.00am - 2.00am.

There are great workshops on offer too. While Rob was learning a bit more about slide guitar from Jeff Lang I was trying my best at the beginner's ukulele workshop. It was a bit difficult because ukulele playing has suddenly become a very cool and groovy thing to do and the workshop was oversubscribed, overcrowded and very lacking in ukuleles to play. The main thing I learnt is that if I want to learn to play a ukulele I need to buy my own (and preferably one with coloured dots on the neck so I'll know where the notes are!!!!).

There were many familiar faces in the crowd but we most enjoyed meeting up with David and Lotte and their boys over lunch. David had brought his "The Con Artists" (The Wollongong Conservatorium's all ages community band) to perform at the festival. Their two big boys Miles and Marley play in the band. We were hugely entertained by their busking antics, joining 3 gorgeous girls and a stray saxophonist for a bit of free form world music, just outside the designated "busk stop".

Miles, on the left, is playing a gazuki (guitar-bouzouki) and Marley (on the right) is playing a melodica although he is somewhat better known for his trombone playing.

It was a feast of music - all day: Zulya singing Tartar songs, Daniel Ho singing Hawaiian bluegrass, the Alan Kelly Gang from Dublin, the incomparable Glenn Cardier (I knew him in Brisbane in 1969) and Rex Goh (ex Air Supply), Jeff Lang, The London Klezmer Quartet, the (babyfaced) Bearded Gypsy Band. The liveliest show we saw all day would have to be the performance of the Woohoo Review in the Drowsy Maggies venue late this afternoon.

The fiddle player was a demon. In her black tutu and leather biker boots she whirled around the stage and launched herself into the crowd (in the mosh pit) like a rabble raising dervish. They played electronic gypsy music - like they were on speed. She (the fiddle player) broke her bow over her knee at the end of the performance and threw it into the audience (very Jimi Hendrix).

Aside from the music we were charmed by the constant passing parade: buskers, street theatre, impromptu dancing, choirs singing, craft, vintage and hippy stalls, armies of Morris dancers and lots of alternative types in funny headgear and handmade sandals. It made us wish the world could be like this all the time.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

wine and roses

We saw our last French Festival film (no. 8) on Friday evening at the ARC Cinema at the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA). "Cafe de Flore" was a joint Canadian (Quebec) and French production so the Canadian High Commission hosted a reception prior to the screening in the beautiful courtyard space at the NFSA.

Friday was a perfectly clear warm Autumn day in Canberra and this courtyard setting in the early evening light was just the perfect place to enjoy the fine wine and cheese, prawn and fresh fig platters so generously provided by the High Commission.

After attending our 8 French films in the past two weeks I recognized lots of familiar faces in this crowd and my French has improved so much I could pick up the odd word or two in the conversations going on around us. We enjoyed our chat with the principal of the French program at Telopea Park School and his Australian born wife (in English!) and the bouncing dynamo (French) Director of the festival (wearing a jaunty fedora tonight) is like our new BF.

Cafe de Flore came with a lot of hype especially because of its big name star (Vanessa Paradis) but we found it less engaging than most of the other films in the festival program and we were left wondering exactly what it was meant to be about!

Then for another culture fix we saw "Midsummer (a play with songs)" yesterday. A play from Edinburgh with more than a hint of Scottish toughness......a rom com with attitude. I admired the staging - just two characters and a bed and two (three including the red Fender) guitars and a "memorable scene with Elmo". Apparently it is true that "change is possible" just as the parking stations in Edinburgh claim.