I spent yesterday in the city. I started the day by leaving my car in the safe hands of Ken at the Volkswagen service centre. I walked to the train station and bought a ticket. As it happened, I purchased my ticket just after 9am, so I got the off-peak discount.

I took the train into the city. I decided to get off at Parliament Station rather than Flinders Street so that I could have a little walk. The day began very cloudy, but by mid-morning the sky was clear.

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This is the Princess Theatre. It opened in 1857. I saw Les Miserables here in about 1990, The Phantom of the Opera in about 1992 and again in 2007, and Guys and Dolls last year.

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It’s a beautiful theatre.

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Here’s a famous Melbourne tram! This is a very modern one (looks like a caterpillar).

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The Houses of Parliament. I’ve only ever been inside twice.

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This is the Hotel Windsor. I MC’ed a wedding here in the Grand Ballroom in 1999. Mark and I have stayed here too, they have a great buffet breakfast. This grand Victorian building was slated to be demolished in 1976 – incomprehensible!

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I then took a walk down Collins Street – ah memories – The Hill of Content Bookshop, Gaslight Records, the Kino Cinema, Collins Place, the Sofitel Hotel (including the Atrium piano bar on the 35th floor and Sofi’s), 101 Collins Street, the list goes on.

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On the corner of Collins and Swanston Streets is the Manchester Unity Building – a great Art Deco design.

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Flinders Street Station, completed in 1911. It is shadowed in this photo by the spires of St Paul’s Cathedral on the opposite corner. Gleaming in the background is Eureka Tower – Melbourne’s tallest building and the world’s tallest residential tower.

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I then crossed Princes Bridge over the Yarra River. In the background is the Rialto Towers, which for a long time was Melbourne’s tallest building, and the tallest building in the southern hemisphere.

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I passed the Melbourne Concert Hall and then took a photo of the Arts Centre with its wonderful spire.

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Then I approached the wonderful National Gallery of Victoria. It’s like a great fortress of art, complete with a moat! I love art galleries and my love springs from the NGV – the first art gallery I ever went to. I still remember the teacher who took me – Mrs Davey, who showed me such wonders  –

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The Leonard French stained glass ceiling in the Great Hall.

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Magnificent. She showed me hard-edged abstractionists:

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Manet, Pissaro, Picasso, Modigliani, Rembrandt…

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…my first Rothko – I remember it so vividly!

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Picasso’s Weeping Woman was famously stolen in 1986 – someone simply walked out with it! It was found in a Flinders Street Station locker a week later.

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There is a great collection of chairs!

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I was here this time to see the Salvador Dali exhibition. Here you can see the Dali sign through the NGV’s  Water Wall. The exhibition was great. What surprised me most was the breadth of Dali’s talents – painting, sketching,  film making, photography, jewellery, animation (with Disney!) – he also managed a few great commercials for chocolate bars and other consumer items! It was fun. I am always perplexed when the temporary exhibition is so busy, but then, one floor above, the rest of the collection is so empty!

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This is my favourite painting in the collection – Tiepolo’s The Banquet of Cleopatra. It’s a huge painting that depicts the moment Cleopatra contemotuously drops her priceless pearl into wine and drinks it, thereby creating a banquet even richer than the one Mark Anthony has provided.

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I had lunch at the Persimmon Restaurant at the gallery and then walked back through Alexandra Gardens.

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Here is one of the lamp posts on Princes Bridge. They feature the Melbourne Coat of Arms.

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The shield features a red cross (the cross of St George) and a Royal Crown in the centre. In the four quarters: a fleece hanging from a red ring, a black bull standing on a hillock, a spouting whale swimming in the sea, and a three-masted ship in full-sail. These represent the three major exports of colonial Melbourne – wool, tallow and beef – and the ships they were exported in. There’s also a wreath and a kangaroo for good measure. The scroll says ‘Vires Acquirit Eundo’  which translates as ‘We gather strength as we go’.

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Back at Federation Square, something even more exciting than the Dali exhibition was happening: it was the “Forever Barbie” exhibition, celebrating 50 years of Barbie! I was lucky as there weren’t hoardes of children queuing, so I had to do a Mr Smithers and take a look. There were Barbies everywhere – vintage Barbies, celebrity Barbies, designer Barbies, Barbies dressed by kids, including a rather unfortunate tin-foil Barbie. Some of my favourites were: the Elizabeth Taylor Barbie, the Tippi Hedren Barbie from The Birds (complete with black crows attacking her!), the Kate Spade Barbie, and Givenchy Barbie. There were also a series of career Barbies. In the early years there was “Registered Nurse Barbie” and “Student Teacher Barbie” complete with a globe and a book (I love how the suggestion is she never actually becomes a teacher – once she was married to Ken she was out of the profession). There was also Astronaut Barbie, President Barbie and Dr Barbie. There were also Barbie accessories from throughout the years including a fantastic cardboard Barbie Dream Home from 1962.

Then there was the merchandise section. I wanted to make my own Barbie in the Styled By Me section but couldn’t get past the ten year old girls at the computers. What you do is sit down at the touchscreen, select your Barbie and then choose her clothes and accessories. Then the Barbie is produced and is wheeled out on this catwalk for all to see. You get to take her home for $39.95. One of my ex-students was working there and she told me the back room was like a sweat-shop. There are all these university students crammed into this hot room frantically dressing the Barbies for the runway show.

I couldn’t leave empty handed. There was a series of 50th Anniversary reproduction Barbies. I considered the 1971 Malibu Barbie, the original 50s Barbie, decided against the tragic 80s Barbie and made my selection: the 1977 Superstar Barbie! She has two dresses – an awful pink number and this great sparkly black dress complete with feather boa:

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I’m a bit concerned as, if you look closely, you can see that her left leg is slightly deformed and kicks out to the side. I may have to do some corrective surgery but I’m afraid I might break her delicate ankle!

Afterwards I got back on the train to pick up my car. $600 later I left – but at least my brakes work now.

A pretty good start to the holidays!

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