Monday, 17 November 2008

Town of My Birth

There's something about Melbourne. There's that whole Sydney v Melbourne thing that's an easy contest to win, in my mind at least. Sydney's got its appeal but Melbourne is special to me. I think maybe it's because it's where I was born. 

My father was born there and my mother's family landed there as English migrants in the late 50s. All the stories I heard as a child, after we'd left Melbourne, painted such a clear and vivid picture for me that I think even though I've not lived there since 1976, it's a little bit like coming home. The place names, the landmarks, the general sense of it as a city are so ingrained in my imagination that it's hard not to feel like I know the place well. 

There are moments that just resonate so much, like arriving at Spencer Street station and hearing my mother's voice in my head talking about how she caught the train from the suburbs to that station when she started her first job as a telephonist in the 60s. I found myself looking around, trying to picture a city forty years ago, full of young women like my mother. 

So off to Melbourne Sean and I flew on Friday. He opened his gifts (I'll post about the socks separately) and we took a morning plane. All good. We've now flown together. Phew. We can tick that one off the list of must-dos!

Two days isn't all that long but we were determined to just take the city as we found it, walk around, explore and just be.

No requirements to be anywhere except dinner on Friday night. Looking back at the photos, I think we ate and drank a lot! 

Dinner, which I can now reveal was at a very fine establishment called Ezard, was spectacular. The venue was a secret, revealed only that afternoon when we walked down Flinders Lane to look for it. Sean, like me, had never heard of it before. I only knew about it because I did extensive research to find the right place for his birthday dinner. Walking down narrow Flinders Lane, you almost miss it. See? It's downstairs.

Thankfully the green door catches your attention.

The staff were amazing. They did not, as some high end restaurants can, behave in a snooty fashion. They combined a wonderful sense of waiterly theatre with warm, welcoming high quality service. 

By the end of the night - which was nearly five hours because we had the 8 course degustation menu - they were genuinely warm and familiar with us, even presenting Sean with a bottle of their in-house olive oil as a gift for his birthday. We'd go there again in a heartbeat and what memories we have now of the night Sean turned 40. Special stuff. We'll treasure that night.

The Saturday was all about walking off the rich meal and, it has to be said, seedy morning-after feeling. Not too severely hung over, but a little tender, the day really needed to be about easy, comfortable walking in the glorious Melbourne sunshine.

We took in Captain Cook's cottage in Fitzroy Gardens. I'm so surprised to be interested in Captain Cook. I really wasn't until I saw a fabulous documentary a few months ago. You know those history lessons you learn in school that you just yawned through because they're tired and you're sure you've got nothing new to learn? Well Captain Cook turns out to have been fascinating and his cottage, which was transported from England to Melbourne some years ago, is a worthwhile stop on a sunny day when the gardens are alive and everything is green and lovely.
We explored the garden, which is set up to be something like what a standard family garden would have been like in the 1700s. I got the chance to indulge my love of photographing flowers. These are Love in a Mist and the garden was full of them.

And what's a tourist trap without a tourist photo?

Also, inside Captain Cook's cottage, I found something to interest all the yarn lovers out there. Look below the mirror.

It's a swift and as the house is full of genuine artifacts, I assume it's an antique swift. Not sure about they way they've wound the yarn though!

On Saturday we hung out in St Kilda, a place I always love to go when we're there.

We spent several hours soothing our still slightly hungover selves with some of the best Blood Marys I've had since I was in New York. It's been hard to find a good Bloody Mary outside the US but I think these ones came close to the memory of those ones I enjoyed so many years ago.

Knitting and drinking Bloody Marys as the sun goes down could become my new favourite thing to do. I think one of the girls who brought us our drinks was wishing she was doing what i was doing. 

So all in all, I think Sean can certainly say now that he enjoyed the weekend he turned 40. Getting out of town and indulging yourself is definitely the way to go. Next, I'll post about his socks and another special gift he got. It's a good story.