Spring in Marvellous Melbourne 3 – Janet Walker Muses

Spring into Spring in Marvellous Melbourne notes our super sleuth Janet Walker, who is hot on the trail and musing on places to be and events to visit in what has been a great Spring to date.

If overindulgence and you were best friends during winter then, now that the weather has improved, trying on your favourite spring outfit will be a downer.

No problem – there’s an easy way to remove the extra kilos winter’s pies, pastries and puddings have added to your waistline and it’s something that doesn’t involve lycra body suits, gym membership or even worse… jogging.

All you have to do is walk.

Melbourne’s CBD is crisscrossed with quaint lanes and charming arcades.

Spend the day touring these reminders of a bygone era and feel the kilos melting away as you marvel at the stained glass, plaster mouldings, pressed metal ceilings, carved wood, brass and wrought iron grills of the ancient creaky lifts.

A word of warning – carry a bottle of water and leave your credit card at home as Melbourne arcades are full of delish cafes and designer boutiques.

To get you started here’s a couple of my very favourite Melbourne arcades:

The Block Arcade connects Collins Street to Little Collins and Elizabeth streets.

This stylish heritage shopping arcade was built between 1891 and 1893, its design modelled on Milan’s grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.

With mosaic-tile flooring, a glass canopy and carved stone, the Block Arcade is one the finest examples of a 19-century shopping arcade on the planet.

Be sure to take your camera – it’s just gorgeous, particularly when decorated with flowers during the Spring Racing Carnival.

The boutiques and cafes resident in the Block retain the arcade’s richly decorated uniform design, ensuring a seamless shopping experience from the colour-coordinated plant holders and paintwork to the heritage lighting and translucent glass ceiling.

Two of the arcade’s most popular residents include the Hopetoun Tea Rooms.

There windows are filled with delicious cakes and Haigh’s Chocolates, one of Australia’s premier chocolatiers – a good idea to run, don’t walk past their windows, lest your resolve falter and the podge around your middle increases.

A regular fixture on foodie tours, the Block Arcade leads to the flurry of tightly squeezed cafes lining Block Place.

It’s a step back in time to join one of the Block’s twice-weekly guided tours, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1.00 pm tours start in front of the Hopetoun Tea Rooms.

The Royal Arcade has provided an undercover shopping link between Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall, Little Collins Street and Elizabeth Street.

Since 1869 the arcade has long been known for its collection of quality boutiques and stores.

A walk through the arcade tempts with gifts and jewellery, cafes and chocolate shops, Russian dolls and magic spells.

It’s school holidays so why not give the kids a treat by taking them with you to see the two giant statues of Gog and Magog striking the hour on Gaunt’s clock in the Royal Arcade.

G & M have been doing this since 1892.

Every school holidays my mother and I boarded a city bound train and on the hour we walked through the Royal to check out the actions of the gothic Messrs Gog and Magog – seriously thrilling for a Melbourne schoolgirl.

If there’s still a hint of ampleness clinging to your hips then it’s the outdoors for you – Melbourne CBD is surrounded by parks and gardens and a wander along the shady paths and treed lawns to pause in wonder at the blossoming beds is a thing of beauty definitely worth considering.

Lot’s of stuff for kids to do as well. Here’s my fave picks:

East Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens is one of the city’s most historic gardens, originally set aside as a reserve in 1848.

The gardens’ landscaping follows a classic Victorian-era design, crisscrossed by elm-lined avenues leading to several points of interest. A walk through the gardens takes you to Cooks’ Cottage, thought to have been owned by Captain James Cook’s parents and subsequently brought from Yorkshire to Melbourne to commemorate Victoria’s centenary in 1934.

There’s also the lovely Spanish Mission-style Conservatory, dating from 1930 and housing changing exhibitions of magnificent floral displays.

Keep walking, and you’ll pass several fountains and sculptures, a band pavilion and rotunda, a miniature Tudor Village and the lovely Fairies’ Tree carved by Ola Cohn, beloved by generations of children.

The Alexandra Gardens, on the south bank of the Yarra River, connect to Kings Domain, the Domain parklands and the landscaped Royal Botanic Gardens.

First laid out in 1904, the gardens’ most notable feature is the line of historic rowing boathouses lining the Yarra River.

The gardens’ palm trees, ornamental shrubs and tree-lined avenues merge with the Royal Botanic Gardens, and its star-shaped garden bed is designed to represent the Federation of Australia.

If it’s a family visit then arrive early and lay claim to one of the gardens’ riverfront barbecues, popular venues for alfresco community and organisation’s staff parties.

The Royal Botanic Gardens is the ‘biggie’ on the Melbourne garden scene

Internationally renowned, they are located on the south bank of the Yarra River. I know our writer in residence Carolyn McDowall walks here whenever she can and is always inspired.

There are 38 hectares of landscaped gardens consisting of a mix of native and non-native vegetation including over 10,000 individual species. They are widely regarded as the finest botanical gardens in Australia, and among the best in the world.

In 1846 Charles La Trobe selected the site for the Royal Botanic Gardens from marshland and swamp.

In 1857 the first director was Ferdinand Von Mueller, who created the National Herbarium of Victoria and brought in many plants.

William Guilfoyle, became Director in 1873 and changed the style of the Gardens to something more like the picturesque gardens that were around at that time. He added tropical and temperate plants.

On a romantic note, in 1877 Sir Edmund Barton Australia’s first Prime Minister and Jane Ross were married at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Since then the gardens have become a favourite for courting couples and marriage parties.

Living collections at the Botanic Gardens include Australian Forest Walk, California Garden, Cacti and Succulents, Camellia Collection, Cycad Collection, Eucalypts, Fern Gully, Grey Garden, Herb Garden, Long Island, New Caledonia Collection, New Zealand Collection, Oak Lawn, Perennial Border, Roses, Southern China Collection, Tropical Display-Glasshouse, Viburnum Collection and Water Conservation Garden.

These plant groups have been chosen for their value, rarity, diversity and interest.

Located at the Observatory Precinct on Birdwood Avenue, the Visitor Centre provides information on the Gardens, tour bookings, umbrella hire, wheelchair hire, toilets, Observatory Café and The Gardens Shop.

Open: 9am – 5pm weekdays, 9.30am – 5pm weekends and public holidays (closed Christmas Day and New Years Day).

The above info on Melbourne’s arcades and gardens was prepared by consulting Melbourne City Council’s outstanding website http://www.thatsmelbourne.com.au.

Well worth a look, it has everything you need to know on getting out and about in Melbourne for both Melbournites and visitors.

Now that you’ve lost all those kilos why not frock-up and celebrate with the sound of Music or the visual beauty of Dance

The Jazz Australia Concert is on Sunday October 6th at The Bentleigh Club, Yawla Street, Bentleigh.

The concert, titled Songbirds of the 1930s & ‘40’s features:The Sweet Lowdowns comprising: Sandra Talty, leader, drums and vocals; Michael McQuaid, reeds; Liam O’Connell, guitar; Richard Mander, bass and special guest: Matt Boden, piano.

This is a very special jazz ensemble, established by vocalist/drummer Sandra Talty more than ten years ago, following her arrival in Melbourne from Canberra with her then boyfriend, bassist Richard Mander, who later became her husband.

The Sweet Lowdowns specialize in the music of some of the small groups of the 1930s and ‘40s as well as the great vocalists of that era such as Mildred Bailey, Annette Hanshaw, Lee Wiley, Ruth Etting, Connie Boswell, Helen Ward and Billie Holliday amongst others.

The band is also vaguely influenced by the music of Django Reinhardt and Stephan Grappelli, hence their name, derived from the Woody Allen film Sweet and Low Down.

Remember folks for an afternoon of great music and vocals: Spring Jazz Luncheon featuring The Sweet Lowdowns with special guest pianist Matt Boden.  Sunday October 6th   –  11.30 am for a midday start.

Tickets: $70 includes a beautiful two course luncheon served at 1pm. Tables seat up to  12 and can be booked wholly or shared. Bookings: Diana at Jazz Australia (03) 5258 3936

School holiday calendar entries can be difficult – hard to find outings that will please both adults and kids.

The Australian Ballet have solved the problem with their lovely slightly kooky presentation of Cinderellaat the Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.

Click here for further venue information.

Alexei Ratmansky, formerly artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet and now resident choreographer of American Ballet Theatre, has created a new version of Cinderella to be performed by the Australian Ballet.

Set to Prokofiev’s beguiling score and featuring Surrealism-inspired sets and costumes, this new Cinderella will be loved both here and abroad.

Ratmansky has been hailed as the saviour of traditional ballet, injecting fresh life into classical technique. His take on the original girl-made-good story promises true enchantment.

A classic fairy tale with modern design, dancers are the planets, moon, sun and stars (weirdly divine costumes by Jerome Kaplan) in solos, duos and trios of delightful and exciting choreography – it looks amazing.

Leanne Stojmenov, quite literally hits the heights as Cinderella, evolving from a ragged scullery maid to a quietly confident beauty, fit for a prince.

Her prince, Daniel Gaudiello, illuminates the stage, light as air, his duets with Leanne Stojmenov are delightfully accomplished.

The wickedly clumsy step family (Amy Harris, Ingrid Gow and Halaina Hills) are hilarious both in costume and performance.

Great show, great dancers but you will have to get your skates on to see it; it finishes on September 28th before moving on to Sydney.

More soon about tripping around in Marvellous Melbourne’s Spring weather.

Janet Walker, Super Sleuth The Culture Concept Circle 2013


  • Diana Allen says:

    Hi Janet

    Thanks so much for this excellent plug for the fabulous Sweet Lowdowns plus Matt Boden. It is VERY much appreciated.

    I will publicise your wonderful newsletter I can assure it. It is excellent and I appreciate you including a Jazz Australia event. I will put you on the mailing list so that you know what is going on at Jazz Australia.

    Thank you and congratulations
    Diana Allen

  • Barbara Holland says:

    Thank you for a most informative newsletter.
    I’m pleased to see that you included information about an upcoming event with Jazz Australia at the Bentleigh Club,
    We have been attending Jazz Australia events at Bentleigh for years and in the last few years we have also ventured across to Queenscliff to enjoy further jazz sessions through Jazz Australia.
    Diana Allen is a gracious and organised hostess who presents high quality jazz people amidst happy listening environments We keep coming back for more because we know it will be wonderful.

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