Saturday, January 03, 2009

Why I love Melbourne, Part whatever...

Well, we always knew Melbourne was the cafe and coffee heart of Australia, thanks mostly to our post-war Italian and Greek immigrant population. This was confirmed a few months ago when Starbucks confirmed it was closing down 61 of its 84 Australian outlets. Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne had most of these and they were always going to struggle against a specialist coffee culture that was well entrenched since the 80s. Melbourne in particular prides itself on its European-ness, in places like Carlton and St Kilda; and I must admit I do love to try out the tiny cafes in the network of arcades in the heart of the city.

We found ourselves in the Royal Arcade at Christmas, looking for the Oxfam shop to buy goats and vegetable gardens, and were reminded of the magnificent Gog and Magog clock there....


Here are a few other pics I've found: the arcades range from grand ones like the Royal and Block arcades (note the Hopetoun tea rooms on the right below: great place to meet your aunt for afternoon tea) ...

... to the less formal lanes that criss-cross between the arcades...
... to the somewhat more jazzy ones west of Elizabeth St. This is Hardware lane:
In this last one, note the sign on the left: this is one of a number of chocolate bars and cafes that now dot the city as the cafes do. There's a lovely article on this new chocolate culture in the paper this morning. Makes me want to forget those pesky New Year's resolutions and head down for a Belgian hot chocolate with chili. Shudders in anticipation...

8 comments:

meli said...

Oh Yum. There's one like that in Adelaide now that I discovered last time I was there.

Still the most intense hot chocolate I have ever drunk - er - eaten - was in Budapest. It was so thick you had to eat it with a spoon.

Ryan said...

I miss Melbourne.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

What's the story with the Gog and Magog clock? It's fascinating -- and I know nothing about it.

Mel said...

I had no idea about the long and varied histories invented for Gog and Magog, but the clock is based on the British mythology in which Gog and Magog are giants who guard London from invaders.

The inscription under the clock reads:

(Left side) "These two 7-feet giants have been striking the time on Gaunt's clock since 1842. They were carved from clear pine and modelled on the figures erected in Guildhall, London, in 1708 to symbolise the conflict between the ancient Britons and the Trojan invaders."

(Right side) "Mythology tells of the giants Gog and Magog (also known as Corineus and Gogmagog) having been captured in battle by the Trojans and made to serve as porters at the gateway of an ancient palace on a site later occupied by the Guildhall. It is traditional for Gog to stand to the north and Magog to the south."

My word verification is 'mologe', which sounds like their sister or something.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Meli, yes, there is a café on campus that makes this in winter: you have to slurp and slurp...

Hi Ryan, nice to hear from you!

Jeffrey, yes I thought you'd like these. Thanks to Mel for the text that accompanies the statues. I've not been able to find out much more about them on the web, but I believe there might be some other sources available when I go back to work tomorrow. I think it's called a library.

David Thornby said...

Some years ago my grandmother took me to tea at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms, because (she said) it's a place she used to go when she lived in Melbourne just prior to WWII. Much later I returned, and was struck with the sense of a sort of struggle between maintaining the authenticity of just being what and where it has always been, and not appearing to be a nouveau reconstruction of the time period it comes from. Last time I was there the ceiling drapes were on the edge of down-at-heelness which separated it nicely from the new crowd of Victorian reproduction chocolate-houses (which, while nice, just look like large sums of money), but I looked at the striped blouses and frilly aprons and couldn't help but think 'theme park'.

I think this means there are not enough tea rooms, and too many theme parks.

Jeremyinc said...

The last picture is not far from where I live! I am living in melbourne too and just started a blog, Next week I am putting up videos of my favourite street performers! I think you might like a few of them. Check out my blog and dont be shy to follow it :D
http://gojeremygo.blogspot.com/

Stephanie Trigg said...

David, yes the "theme park" effect is sometimes hard to distinguish from the heritage-effect, I agree. Maybe it's not old enough?