Monday, May 27, 2013

Art, food and celebrations

I love to celebrate - just about any occasion will do, really. So when our wedding anniversary falls on a Saturday, it's a chance to go all-out. This year was our twenty-eighth of wedded bliss...or something like that anyway. "You get less for murder" seems to be the phrase that gets bandied around on these occasions more than any other.

We decided to spend the weekend in our own town and I found a sweet deal on a Luxury King room at the Sofitel on Collins. Which happens to be the same hotel where we stayed on our wedding night. 

We started the day the same way we usually begin Saturdays - with a mountain bike ride. Then after some necessary tasks at home, we took the train to the city, arriving at 2:00pm for our check-in. We were pretty damn happy to be told we'd been upgraded to a Prestige Suite. Awesome. 

One of the things we love about this hotel - apart from the fact that it's five-star and very fancy - is that all accommodation is the 35th floor or above, so every room has a view. Like so:

My town 
Even if you're not staying there, pop up to the atrium bar on level 35 for a drink and go enjoy the view from the floor to ceiling windows in the toilets...

We dumped our bags, I oohed and ahhed at the palatial accommodation and the view towards the bay, and then we wasted no time heading out, grabbing a late lunch at one of the bars on the city square.

St Paul's Cathedral towering over the square
Then we headed down Swanston Street and across the bridge to the Arts Centre, where the NGV had the fabulous Monet's Garden exhibition running. I have a soft spot for the French Impressionists, and Monet in particular. Of course, I've seen photos of many of the paintings over and over in books, but the real thing is something else again. The waterlily canvases are just superb.

NGV does these major exhibitions very well and the explanatory text and audio-visual displays through the space really helped convey a sense of Monet's life and the passion he had for his garden. Giverny is on our travel bucket list, for sure. 

A word of advice if you plan to visit the exhibition - or any of the major exhibitions at NGV: book your tickets online. The queues are horrifying. We were more than happy to just stroll right past and straight into the exhibition gallery with our pre-printed tickets.

Water wall at NGV
After we'd soaked up enough French beauty, we stopped for a coffee on St Kilda Rd and then wandered up to Federation Square, where Bike Boy sampled a beer he hadn't previously tried. I ducked into ACMI to pick up some info on the Hollywood costumes exhibition - it was too late in the day to try to cram that in, so it's on my to-do list for another weekend. 

We wandered back to the hotel, peering in the windows at Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada and the like as we walked up Collins St. I always wonder who buys this stuff...? It's beautiful, but insane prices. People with more money than sense, perhaps?

No Dolce & Gabbana for me for our evening festivities... Instead, I rocked my six-year-old LBD from Portmans, with a Target knit, Diana Ferrari burgundy suede ankle boots (clearance sale $39.95) and a statement necklace I picked up last week at Sportsgirl, of all places, for $20.

Bad lighting, fuzzy I could do.
Bubbles are compulsory for anniversaries
The main event of our evening was dinner at Movida. It's an outstanding restaurant, and we know the chance of getting a table as a walk-in is next to zero, so I'd booked two months ago and the anticipation level was high. We weren't disappointed. Everything tasted amazing and as usual, there were things on the menu that we wouldn't normally eat and would never cook ourselves. But we know from past experience that everything the kitchen produces is a taste sensation. I can't decide if my favourite was the lamb neck or the pheasant breast... 

Obviously, I had churros con chocolat for dessert. Duh.

We walked back up Hosier Lane after dinner to admire the latest creations from Melbourne's street artists. I love this lane!

Not Monet... a different kind of art experience. 
On Sunday we slept late, then made our way downstairs and had breakfast at the Great Space Cafe in Collins Place - no, breakfast wasn't included in our room rate and we baulk at paying five-star hotel prices for some eggs and toast. I found a great omelette on the specials board that was stuffed full of spinach, leek and peas. Yum!

We took a tour of the Shrine of Remembrance, where there was a Boer War commemoration ceremony going on in the forecourt - complete with (loud) cannon fire salute. I haven't visited the Shrine since I was a kid and I wanted to check out the new Visitors Centre and memorial garden. I don't remember ever being able to climb up to the balcony that runs all around the building as a kid, but it's open now so we took the opportunity to check out the view. 

Our weekend finished with lunch at the Belgian Beer cafe on St Kilda Rd - it's called something else now, but the food and the beers are the same and so is the decor in the beautiful old bluestone building. 

The huge pots of mussels are the way to go if you ever eat here. We both chose Moules Espanol and enjoyed every mouthful. Bike Boy found another beer he hadn't tried, so he was pretty happy. Or as we like to say, feeling gruntled. It's the opposite of DISgruntled, didn't you know?

Ambiance plus.
Then it was time to head home and have a quiet evening in - where I may have fallen asleep on the couch.

It was a short but lovely break, and I can't wait to do it again. It's always fun to do things that you just never seem to find the time to do normally. I also find that I notice "stuff" that's always there, but which I somehow manage not to see when I'm going about my normal business. I don't know how many quaintly beautiful buildings I spotted that I've never seen before. It's the difference between having time to look around you instead of bustling along in a hurry to be somewhere. Or maybe it's just being in a more relaxed state of mind.

Do you ever play tourist in your own city?


1 comment:

Debbish said...

Happy belated anniversary!!! You look great in that selfie by the way!

As for playing tourist... no, not enough!

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