Melbourne in March is sunny in the day, cool at night and for our visit, rain free. We met our daughters in Hughesdale in the midst of removing a distinctive feline smell from the polished wooden floors of their retro villa. Leaving the cleaning behind we adjourned to Oasis (http://oasisonline.com.au), an excellent Lebanese cafe and deli in Murrumbeena, where we feasted on various wraps and coffee. Established in 1998 by the Markool family, who emigrated from Lebanon in the 1970’s, this upmarket cafe and grocery store profiles all that is good about Australian multicultural food choices.
We then headed off to our AirBnB in Murrumbeena – Brune and Paul’s Spacious Scandinavian style apartment – minutes from the Hughesdale train station. It was quiet, offered an undercover car parking space and a light filled balcony. Next morning we discovered that the green space outside the apartment was reclaimed land from the Outer Circular railway. The Glen Eira Council has supported a biodiversity project which has become part of the Outer Circle Rail Trail. Our little section from Hughesdale Rail Station through to Dandenong Road is called Boyd Park and features Red River Gums and Swamp Mallee. We walked along the trail to the Monash Freeway, listening to frogs and passing cyclists, families with prams, dog walkers and runners. Outside our apartment a volunteer was a working on mulching the trees and explained how a fungus was destroying some of the red river gums and why they had plastic shields around the trunks – something we thought was rather odd until it was explained to us.
We returned to cleaning up duties at the new house but not before enjoying a cup of tea in their small backyard. In the evening we tried a Banh Mi and Pho street food shop opposite Murrumbeena railway station.
On Sunday we had been invited to meet some of the Melbourne family members, Catherine and Keith, who hosted us to a sumptuous Greek brunch at Nikos in Oakleigh (nikoscakes.com.au). Nick and Tass Poupouzas opened their Oakleigh Quality Cakes in 1987 but now you can have the full gamut of Greek savoury and sweet dishes. We opted for spanakopita and tyropeta followed by baklava and bourgatsa. It was a very happy meeting of true hearts and minds, especially as our earlier rendezvous at Christmas was cancelled due to COVID. This did not stop Catherine presenting us with our late Christmas gifts from yet another famous Melbourne sweet shop il migliori (https://ilmigliore.com.au/collections/biscuits).
Our weekend was completed by a trip to Koornang Road, Carnegie where we met friend and colleague Janeane for a Thai meal at Paradai Thai. We needed to celebrate Janeane’s publication success and enjoyed a bottle of French champagne along with coconut rice and larb gai.
Our last day in Melbourne was reserved for cultural pursuits. We negotiated the train and tram system to the National Gallery of Victoria which was featuring an exhibition of Yolgu women artists, Bark Ladies. We wandered through both traditionally painted larrakitj (burial poles) and bark paintings, as well as more contemporary paintings using recycled printer ink, vivid and striking. The eleven artists exhibited bore familiar Yolngu names such Yunupingu, Murrungurr and Malika. These exhibits were loaned from the Buku-Larringay Mulka Centre in Yirrkala.
One favourite was Dhambit Munungurr’s Order featuring Julia Gillard facing the parliament on chairs in the upper corner with the Yolngu elders brandishing spears, in the lower one. Julia Gillard was about to visit Yirrkala when she was deposed by Kevin Rudd and she has since indicated that this is her favourite depiction of her Misogyny Speech.
Birth of the Nation by Dhuwarrwarr Marika is more traditional and features a 3D impression of an ancient story of the Djankawu Sisters.
Our final event was a Christmas present from sister Sal to see Moulin Rouge at the Regent Theatre in Collins St. It was built in 1929, designed by Charles Ballantyne in an ornately palatial style, with a Gothic style lobby, Louis XVI style auditorium, and the Spanish Baroque style Plaza Ballroom in the basement, it is listed by the National Trust of Australia and is on the Victorian Heritage Register. It closed in 1970 but was restored and reopened in 1996.
It certainly did not disappoint and was a very fitting venue for such an opulent and over-the-top Baz Luhrmann production as is Moulin Rouge. Unbelievably it features 70 songs credited to 160 songwriters, administered by 30 publishers, representing over 160 years of music and is based on Baz Luhrman’s film of the same name.
We were informed we needed to wear masks but as the audience sipped their green cocktails it was clear we were the only ones sticking to the rules in the 2000 odd auditorium. It was loud, crazy and the audience loved singing along to all the songs, even if some of them only went for a few bars. We reeled out into the night to wander back to Flinders Street Station, having had a wonderful Melbourne March experience.