After that wonderful afternoon with our kangaroo friends at Anglesea Golf Club, we arrived at the Robinsons In The City and were greated by the General Manager Paul Humphries who got us settled into this wonderful boutique hotel. A little history:
Melbourne was originally a village founded by John Batman and based around Flagstaff Hill (now Flagstaff Gardens just minutes from the hotels doorstep) and Batman Hill (now Southern Cross Station).
From the top of the Flagstaff Hill, settlers would look out to the mouth of the Yarra River and monitor the entering ships. It was the main point for communicating with the vessels on the river by semaphore.
Commerce quickly developed in the immediate area and Mr Henry William Bennett was the proprietor Dalston’s Bakery and set-up one of Melbourne’s first commercial bakeries in the early 1850’s. The bakery is no longer operational but the original brick ovens survive.
Mr Bennett’s bakery and original family home are now the premises of ‘Robinsons in the City’.
This Urban Bed and Breakfast is the successor to Wendy Wright’s (previously Robinson) very well known Bed & Breakfast in St Kilda, Robinsons by the Sea. Wendy retained the personality and integrity of the original building whilst establishing the hotel.
Business owners, Paul Humphreys and Tish Black spent a number of years working in 4 and 5 star hotels and resorts prior to purchasing Robinsons and have brought this experience with them. They have however, left behind the attitude, that can be found in so many hotels.
The original bakery with it’s iron-bound twelve-foot high ovens is now the breakfast room at the hotel and the six guestrooms are a mix of unique rooms, big and small and each with private bathroom or ensuite. The setting is contemporary and unified, albeit set within an 1850’s heritage building.
At the hotel’s doorstep is all the major transport links and an accessible 20 minute drive to Melbourne International Airport.
This may be one of the nicest boutique hotels ever! We went to our rooms and they were fabulous with a separate large bathroom for each room in the hall. You can identify which bathroom is yours because the color of the bathroom door matches the color of your bedroom door, pretty slick, after a few too many drinks you are still safe! After checking in we wanted to grab a bite to eat so Paul sent us up the street to a local pub called The Royal Mail. We walked in the bar entrance and were led back to the dining area. The food was very good and we enjoyed meeting the local people in the bar after dinner. We heard their stories and especially a fireman and his wife that were married in City Hall in New York City only 2 years ago. Back to the hotel for a good nights sleep, no driving for four days, NICE!
The next morning we woke up and went to the breakfast room, wow, you can see the old bakery fire places, what a cool room.
The metal shoring of the brick is original, it was there to protect the ovens due to expansion and contraction when the fireplace was heated and cooled. We also met the general manager, Stanley (the dog) and Tish, Paul’s wife, on their way out for the morning dog walk.
Melbourne is a vibrant city with many small restaurants and coffee houses. There is an extensive tram system that get around the inner city, which is free to ride. There are a few of the old original trams that operate on a look at the cities edge (lead picture).
We headed to the Victoria State Library, it was recommended by Paul. It was a lesson in history of Melbourne and also the history of the library itself. The library was opened in 1856 but the landmark Domed Reading Room, opened in 1913 and was designed by Norman G. Peebles. The reading dome’s original skylights were modified and covered in copper sheets in 1959 due to water leakage. The reading room was closed in 1999 and restored to it’s original light and reopened in 2003.
It is incredibly hard to photograph.
As we walked around and read of the history of Victoria and Melbourne we came upon the armor of Ned Kelly. Ned is a famous outlaw in Australia. Some think of him as Robin Hood, most think he was just a bad criminal. He made himself a set of armor for his “last stand” which is on display at the library. Ned Kelly was hanged in November of 1880.
We left the library and walked across the street to the Melbourne Central Shopping Center to see the “shot tower”. Coops Shot Tower is located in the heart of Melbourne. It was completed in 1888 and is 164 feet high (50 meters). The building was given historic status and was saved from demolition in 1973. Later it was incorporated into the complex in1991, underneath a 275 foot-high (84 meters) beautiful glass and lead structure that protects the building as well as keeps the center dry.
Coop’s Shot Tower is 9 stories high, and has 327 steps to the top. The tower produced six tons of shot weekly up until 1961, when the demand for the lead shot dwindled because of new firearm regulations in Australia.
We returned to the Royal Mail pub for some wine. We sat at the bar and enjoyed conversations with the locals, including the owner Michael. After enough wine, John tried the kangaroo steak and enjoyed it. Janice had a taste and thought is was just, OK. We kind of thought it was like eating “Bambi”, or in this case “Joey” after playing golf with all the kangaroos a few days back. We enjoyed dinner and the nice wine, then headed back to Robinson’s for a good nights sleep.
The next morning, Saturday, we headed out to try and purchase tickets for the Cricket World Cup match between India and Pakistan to be played the following day. Unfortunately it was sold out. Knowing very little about cricket, the game was a 50/50 that would start at 2:00 and end at 10:00 in the evening. We figured in eight hours we may have learned something. As we love to say, “Life is an adventure”.
We then headed to the botanical gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance. We walked across the river and started down a path along side the river and saw some racing shells. It was the Australian Henley Regatta.
The Australian Henley is an amateur rowing regatta which is held annually in Melbourne, Australia, under the auspices of Rowing Victoria. Also known as Henley-on-Yarra, it is organized by the Melbourne Amateur Regatta Association. This event is based on the Henley Royal Regatta and features a two-lane knock-out format.
First staged in 1904, the Australian Henley was established to raise sufficient funds to send Australian crews overseas and to bring international crews to Australia.
We watched a few races and headed on towards the botanical gardens, the walk seemed endless. We passed one section that was reserved for a musical festival and listened to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra practice, then continued the walk. We arrived at the gardens which were nice but it was very hot out and many of the flowers had bloomed and had seen their day, so we headed to the Shrine.
The Shrine of Remembrance was created to meet the needs of a grieving community after the extensive loss of lives in the First World War (1914 –18). 114,000 Victorians enlisted in the First World War. Of the 89,000 of them who served abroad 19,000 were killed. They were buried in distant graves far from home at a time when most Australians did not travel abroad. The Shrine provided a place where Victorians could grieve as individuals, as families or as a community and where they could honor and preserve the memories of those they had lost.
Sunk into the centre of the Sanctuary floor like a grave, the Stone of Remembrance is a potent reminder of the sacrifice made by Victorian service men and women.
The inscription GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN is taken from the Bible, the Gospel of John, 15:13.
The Ray of Light ceremony is central to the experience of the Shrine of Remembrance. A ray of natural sunlight passes through an aperture in the ceiling of the Sanctuary and falls onto the Stone of Remembrance over the word “love” at precisely 11.00 am on 11 November each year. This is the moment when the armistice was signed in 1918 marking the end of hostilities in the First World War. The ceremony is now reproduced every half hour using electric light to allow all visitors to the Shrine to experience it.
Frank Doolan, the surveyor of the Shrine, and astronomer, Dr Joseph Baldwin completed the arduous calculations to position the aperture with the help of the government. Decades later, Doolan solved the problem presented by daylight saving by inserting two mirrors within the aperture’s shaft.
The Ray of Light Ceremony is very moving moment that had you thinking of all our service personnel that have given their lives for our Freedom and Liberty throughout our history.
A women at the Shrine told us much about the history and memories. One of the reasons so many were lost early, especially in Gallipoli, was because the military leaders were sons of the aristocracy in England. She went on to explain that the first son of a lord becomes a lord, the second usually a priest and the third becomes an officer in the military. The military gentry were untrained and not leaders for men to follow. They made disastrous decisions in battle and the locals back home had little or no respect for them.
The names of all that served in WWI are listed in books around the inside area. All the names are without rank since they believed all were equal. The complete history of Australian service in various wars very well displayed in the shrine. We were surprised how early in WWI and WWII Australian and New Zealand troops were involved, but they were part of the British Empire, and when the King spoke, out they went!
We continued our hike back towards the central city, unfortunately we could not find a tram station where we could buy a ticket! So we found the bridge and crossed back into Central Melbourne and on to Chinatown. Both the Chinese and Greeks have huge populations in the city. The Chinese came to Melbourne during the gold rush in the 1850’s and have been a major part of the Melbourne fabric for all these years. A nice lunch at a Chinese restaurant and we continued the walk back to Robinson’s.We figured we had walked from nine in the morning until nearly five.
Since we couldn’t go to the cricket match, we decided to get a round of golf in at Albert Park Golf Course, a municipal golf course. We arrived for a 12:00 tee time and walked the course. It was in outstanding condition and was a great test of golf.
The course is on the race track that is used for the Melbourne Grand Prix, which was only three weeks away, so all the roads were blocked off to outline the track with big “Rolex” signs everywhere. During the race, the golf course is closed and is used for parking and corporate entertainment tents. From the course there were terrific views of the city.
Returning back to the hotel, we ran into Tish and Paul and asked where a nice local place would be for dinner on a Sunday night. A short walk from the hotel we found Errol street and there were a number of local restaurants offering good food, we selected Errol’s, a Lebanese/Italian place (long story!). We had some good wine, veal parma and garlic bread to die for. The walking was over, so we called for a cab to take us back.
Melbourne was a wonderful stay. We spent several days their on our last trip and saw many of the sights while we played a lot of golf at the famous golf courses in the “sand belt”. If you plan a trip to Australia, Melbourne should be at the top of the list. Paul and Tish run a magnificent boutique hotel tha has the special touch of a B&B. We were so pleased with the experience.