As you know, I was quite sad to lose my feeling of kinship with the city. So I am really very happy to tell you that me and Melbourne are back on! Perhaps it was just been that kind of melancholic can’t find a thing to buy feeling – do you get that too? Sometimes having a firm idea of what you want is a real liability.
I went back into town on Sunday, this time by car with Toseland to see the Gautier Exhibition at the National Gallery Victoria. It finishes this coming weekend, and we have been incredibly lazy because I actually bought the tickets last May – even before the exhibition opened in October. Somehow a day trip into the city to see a bunch (rack? wardrobe?) of what you might call frocks, looses its appeal against things like sleeping in. Or barbecues. Or trips to the Pie Shop. Or antipasti on the deck.
I really should have made the effort earlier because the exhibition was in such high demand that we had to queue for entry despite our prepaid tickets. Inside it was as packed as a Friday night in one my youthful nightclub haunts, though I freely admit it probably smelt a great deal better. Fairly appropriate given some of Madonna and Kylie’s costumers were included. I knew he designed the costumes for The Fifth Element (who could forget those Chris Tucker Gowns?), but I didn’t know he had made quite so many movies, including the almost incomprehensible The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and her Lover featuring a much younger Helen Mirren!
And while the city was packed, presumably because of the Australian Open Tennis grand finals, we managed to get “our” usual bay in “our” car park. And it only cost an extra $3 when we expected it to cost two or three times more than normal.
It was lovely to wander down familiar streets perfumed by coffee and curry, occasionally tripping over an uneven cobble. It was that kind of perfect Melbourne day where the sun was almost but not quite out, and you weren’t too hot or too cold, but just right. And all the pedestrians were strolling along at the same pace – no ducking around slow pokes or being bumped by people in a hurry.
It reminded me a little of the Naples daily evening promenade we joined while we were on holiday. The residents stroll arm in arm through the streets around dinner time. I’m not sure if the point is the exercise, or to dress up nice to greet your neighbours and make them jealous of your fabulous best clothes. We strolled with them, nodding to total strangers as we walked by. So very civil.
We had the pleasure of visiting the Arts Centre Sunday Market (where Toseland bought himself a lovely wooden box to put his special things in), and the little crafty one at the Ian Potter Centre whose name completely eludes me. And I didn’t even mind that they were packed. I love craft markets…
And even better than that, was that Melbourne institution City Hatters remains where it’s been for more than 100 years – exactly where I left it when I bought my dad a straw boater 25 years ago. It looks and smells the same. I tried on some hats while I was waiting and was very interested to see that I look stunning in a bowler hat! Not a shape that I have ever considered, but I’ll have to give that some more thought. Sadly, I look like a try hard escapee from a spaghetti western in a homburg so no William Murdoch homage by me. Or Poirot for that matter. I look pretty decent in a pork pie as well so I think I will go back in a few weeks when they get their winter stock in. I’d kind of like something a bit more girlie, but men’s hats are much cheaper, so if the balance and proportion look ok with my coat, then why not? Maybe they’ll have a hot pink one? Oh all right, just a pink ribbon then.
But best of all was the stumble on a lovely little restaurant/bar/café where you can get lunch in that 3pm – 5pm dead space between the traditional lunch and dinner services. Amazing fish(!) meatballs, and the most enormous ice-cream sandwich, washed down by local cider. Perfect.
And so a bit tired, a bit full and the teeniest bit sunburnt, but with an astonishingly quick and easy exit from the car park, my faith in Melbourne is restored. I came home happy. All I need now is another taste of summer, and seemingly that will be here this weekend too.