Our first port of call was Cook's Cottage. I still find this place fascinating. These days I am far more painfully aware of the ramifications of Captain Cook's 'discovery' of Australia in 1770. However, I continue to be amazed at his parents' mid-Eighteenth Century house being shipped from Yorkshire to Melbourne in pieces and reassembled like a box of lego to pay homage to the nation's hero in 1933.
It is not a place I regularly visit, because there is an entrance fee, but the weather was so foul that I decided it would be a nice sheltered place to take Sylvia. The cold weather meant that we had the house to ourselves, which was just as well. No one was around to watch me constantly pulling her away from the roped off areas and making sure she didn't attempt the stairs alone. It is a tiny house but I quite enjoyed the simplicity of the place.
Next stop was the Fairy Tree, designed by Olga Cohn in the 1930s. As a child, I loved seeing the fairies surrounded by familiar Australian animals. This tree is a special place where generations of Melbourne's children have gazed in wonder. So many fascinating details! I still get a little shiver of delight when I read her words on the plaque at the base of the tree:
"I have carved in a tree in the Fitzroy Gardens for you, and the fairies, but mostly for the fairies and those who believe in them, for they will understand how necessary it is to have a fairy sanctuary - a place that is sacred and safe as a home should be to all living creatures."
Here is one lovely detail. You can see just how cleverly the carvings follow the shape of the tree. The little fairy baby is surrounded by family and watched over by the dark owls. Olga Cohn brings the bush scenes to life and feeds young imaginations.
Right next to the Fairy Tree is the miniature Tudor village. You might think this is where the fairies go to sleep at night but I never thought so as a child. Just as the Fairy Tree connected me to the Australian bush, these tiny houses connected me to my British heritage. It is like a page out of the history books.
These miniature cottages with thatched rooves and timber frames encouraged my romantic images of England as quaint, charming, even enchanted. They seemed more real for being sent from an English village and including houses of Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare.
Next we walked up to the playground that I don't remember visiting before. I suspect it wasn't there when I was young enough to play here. I wouldn't have forgotten a giraffe swing! Sylvia loves any swing. Once on, it is hard to get her off.
Not only a giraffe swing but also the coolest slide I have ever seen. Can you see the dragon head where you climb up and then slide down the tail. Sylvia might have spent more time here if the rain wasn't threatening to pour down. So we made our way back across the muddy lawn to the footpath.
Sylvia was too tired for the cafe and by the time we reached the conservatory, she had fallen asleep. I wondered in to look at the palm trees and flowers in the company of a group of Japanese tourists. I took some photos of plants but none interested me so much as the garden architecture. You can see, in the above photo of the conservatory, that many of the trees were quite bare and it was easy to see the sky scrapers of the city through them.
I did look at the menu of the cafe and hope we might be back for brunch or even a picnic on a sunnier day, though I doubt it could be as peacefully quiet as it was this week. But today I will share with you a cauliflower cheese soup that suited the day. It was a plain and simple weekday meal made with just the contents of the fridge, rather than a recipe, to guide me. It was great comfort food while the rain fell outside.
Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Beaut bush buddies (gingerbread)
This time three years ago: Midweek Mock Fish
Cauliflower cheese soup
- 1-2 tsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 stick celery, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cups water
- ½ decent sized cauliflower, chopped
- 1 tsp seeded mustard
- dash of smoked paprika
- 140g vintage cheddar cheese
On the Stereo:
Let no man steal your thyme: the Shelagh McDonald collection