From Sydney we flew down to Melbourne. There is great rivalry between the two cities both of which believe they are Australia’s finest city. Which did we prefer? Well, we loved them both!
Our accommodation in the two cities was very different. At Sydney, we stayed in a hotel chosen for us by Trailfinders, nice if fairly humdrum, but just outside the city centre, the other side of Hyde Park and a short bus ride, or two stops on the Metro from the central area.
In Melbourne however we chose our own hotel, and I managed to find a cheap motel right in the centre, in the City Square. Our room unfortunately looked out at the back on a blank wall, but it was perfectly adequate with a small kitchen, and it was marvellous being right in the centre of the city. Though it was a little difficult to find.
But having found it, the area was certainly extremely lively. On our second day, a festival was taking place outside and we wished we had been in rooms at the front of the hotel. The City Square is a modern square, built in the 1960s rather unsuccessfully. The original Melbourne layout had no square, or open space as the governor didn’t want anywhere where the population could congregate and possibly cause trouble, so in the 1960s they had this idea to make a square. However this involved demolishing Victorian buildings and people objected, so only half the Square was built. Nevertheless it was extremely lively, with a Starbucks opposite and a McDonald’s and a Hungry Jack’s just down the road, and lots of pretty girls.
At one end was Collins Street, which is the main street of Melbourne where all the banks are. On the corner of Collins Street and the City Square is one of the finest Art Deco buildings in Melbourne, the Manchester Unity building, erected in 1932 to the designs of Marcus Bellow and modelled on the Chicago Tribune tower.
And at the other end of the square is the cathedral, a grand building that looks vaguely familiar because it was in fact by Butterfield who also built the architect of Rugby School Chapel and Keble College, Oxford.
From the outside it is basically a hotch pot, one of Butterfield’s less successful designs. Inside however there are some of the tiled floors for which Butterfield is famous which give a sort of splendour to the interior
And diagonally opposite from the cathedral is one of the great architectural sites of Melbourne, the Flinders Street railway station. The story goes that they wanted a grand building so they went to the best architect in London and the London architect prepared them a grand building. However at the same time the architect was also designing an equally grand building for the Bombay railway station, but unfortunately the plans were swapped and so Melbourne got the Bombay railway station, and the Melbourne station sits in Bombay. It certainly makes a splash.
Opposite the railway station is Melbourne’s most famous pub, Young and Jackson’s . This is famous because in an upstairs room there is the most notorious painting in Australia, a nude painting of a young lady called Chloe, painted in Paris in 1875 by her lover, the Frenchman Jules Lefebvre. This was brought to Australia and was offered to the National Gallery, but it caused a scandal when it was originally exhibited, and eventually the pub bought it up, and has been displaying it to great acclaim ever since. I fear she’s a little bit too thin for my taste; but despite that, men through the ages have lusted after her.
Uploaded 16th September 2011