Friday 20 August 2010

Fitzroy Gardens with soup

This week Sylvia and I rugged up in our warm coats and scarves before heading out to the Fitzroy Gardens on a cold wet winter's day. The Fitzroy Gardens is a favourite place that I have been visiting ever since I can remember. It is a green space in the middle of the city with lots of fascinating places.

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
serves 4
  • 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
Heat oil in a large saucepan. Gently fry onion, celery, carrot and potatoes until softened (about 10-15 minutes). Add garlic and fry for about a minute. Add vegetable stock, water, cauliflower, mustard and smoked paprika. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15-20 minutes with the lid on until cauliflower is tender. Puree with a hand held blender. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.

On the Stereo:
Let no man steal your thyme: the Shelagh McDonald collection


  1. Goodness this brought back memories. When we visited Fitzroy Park, the temperature was somewhat higher - like 43 degrees. We were trying to hide from the sun rather than the rain. Nice to see it again. The soup sounds delicious - I'm a great fan of soup.

  2. That is such an awesome dragon slide!! The soup sounds yummy - I love the combination of cheese and cauliflower.

  3. AAAH!!! Giraffe swing and dragon slide! I don't care that I'm 23, I would absolutely have been playing on those with gay abandon! And that soup looks divine - I have cheddar and cauliflower in the fridge that I could use to make it, but at the same time I have so many meals in my freezer already... I need someone to come and help me eat my dinners! :P

  4. Great pics of the gardens! We haven't even been there yet!! I've linked this page to a new blog I have started about free fun family things to do in Melbourne. Hope you don't mind.

  5. What a cute place! No wonder you brought Sylvia there! For a child it would seem about the right proportions! :D

  6. thanks Choclette - glad you got the chance to visit - though it must have been sweltering in that weather

    thanks Ashley - yeah - I am definitely taking sylvia back to try the slide soon

    Thanks Hannah - I understand the freezer conundrum - I put meals in my freezer and then have to find the right time to use them - but it is an easy combination for when you need a quick meal and the freezer is bare!

    Thanks Tahn - great idea for a blog - you are welcome to link to it - and I hope to find a few good ideas there

    Thanks Lorraine - it is just so right for children - though I think sylvia will appreciate it more when she is a little bigger

  7. I adore the Fairy Tree and the mini Tudor village - my friend Tim introduced me to them last year.

  8. What a lovely place! And amazing that it is so close to the city.

  9. Thank you so much for the warm welcome back.

    Just catching up on reading fellow blog posts. So much to read... so much happens in two weeks.

    Fitzroy Gardens seems to be such an enchanting place. I've enjoyed the virtual tour through both your photographs and words. Thank you. Totally liking the Fairy tree and the detail is absotely amazing.

    Your soup looks so luscious (Swoon). Cauliflower cheese soup will be on the menu here when it gets really cold here. I especially like the dash of paprika.


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