A Visit To Montsalvat

The Great Hall of Montsalvat

I’ve been pondering this blog post and almost putting it off because if I’m going to write a blog post about Montsalvat, I’ll need to include some history of the place, right? So that means I’ll need to do a bit of research, some fact checking. And then I started dreading writing the post because suddenly it loomed like a chore.

So I decided that I’m not going to let it be a chore. I’ll just show you some photos, and you’ll see for yourself. And may be those photos will pique your interest, and you’ll want to do a little bit of research on this gorgeous place yourself. Or even better, go and experience it for yourself.

Montsalvat is a beautiful artists colony located in the picturesque outer suburb of Eltham, which is 20km north-east of Melbourne’s CBD. Established in 1934 by Justus Jorgensen, it a collection of historical buildings inspired by a French provincial village – and indeed it feels like stepping into just that.

Last Sunday was the annual Montsalvat Arts Festival. Knowing what was already there, I was keen to go back. My sister got married at Montsalvat, and it is the location of one of my first dates with my husband 💞. It’s such a romantic place and has a beautiful history; you feel like you should be waltzing around in a flowing white dress with a flower crown on your head (or something…).

Just one of the sculptures dotted around the grounds

It’s hard to be in the space and not be inspired. It is a place where art is made, taught and exhibited. It is teeming with art, both modern and traditional. Painters, sculptors, glass blowers, guitar makers, jewellery makers and many more creatives have enjoyed the creative inspiration afforded by Montsalvat.

The sun shone, the flamenco band played, the champagne was sipped as we whiled away the afternoon in a bubble of Sunday joy.







Exploring: Making An Ordinary Life Less Ordinary


On the road to Adelaide

In the past month I have been lucky enough to visit two capital cities in Australia – Sydney and Adelaide, and a few places in between. I love to travel but having three small children makes it harder. Having said that, it is getting easier – hence the Sydney and Adelaide trips.

Going to new places sparks something in the imagination. It refreshes and energises.  Hanging out somewhere that you don’t normally go makes you see things differently; look at things in a new way.

Here are a few things that I saw, and some of the thoughts that this tripping around triggered.

Let’s Abandon The Beige

In Sydney I was fortunate enough to attend the Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera exhibition  (which has been extended to October 23rd, by popular demand, so if you get a chance to go, it really is worthwhile). Looking at Frida Kahlo’s work got me thinking about her; her beauty, her exuberance, her talent. It made me wonder why women today (including me) are so set on making ourselves disappear. We are the greys, blacks and beige – we choose those colours, and variations of them to represent and express ourselves. Frida reminded me to bring back the colour – abandon the grey scale, abandon the beige.


There is only one you, there is only one me – we have only one life. We must show ourselves. Colour is a way to do it.

Art Is Everywhere If You Care To Look

I was also lucky enough to view the Archibald Prize exhibition, and the Telling Tales – Excursions in Narrative Form exhibition  at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Being a writer, of course, I am deeply interested in story telling and alternative and unique ways to do it.

Often personal stories are complex and not at all linear. We are are used to straight forward story telling but modern art challenges this: it can be the perfect channel for these meandering, non-linear, but deeply moving tales.  Here is one of the installations from the Telling Tales exhibition that appealed to me both aesthetically and narratively.


Emily Floyd, It’s because I talk too much that I do nothing 2002

But you don’t need to seek it out, it’s in the streets, public places, and in nature.


Sign to the ‘Cave Gardens’ in Mt Gambier

We followed the sign to the Cave Gardens and this is what we found!



It Is Worth Creating A Monument To Someone You Love


On the way to Adelaide we stopped in a cute country town, called Smythesdale, to stretch our legs and grab a coffee. I encountered this beautiful bench seat when the others had gone to use the loo. I saw it in the distance and was so intrigued by this beautiful seat, standing alone on a grassy verge, painted in maroon-red, that I went to investigate. Beautifully ornate, it also had a plaque that said ‘Joyce’s Seat’. I thought this was so lovely.


I don’t know who Joyce was. I’ve tried to find out since I’ve been home. But have turned up nothing. I should have asked the lady who made the coffee; but I also quite like not knowing. I like the idea that Joyce is who ever I want her to be. But also, she must have had an impact on someone, for them to buy her a gorgeous seat and put her name on it. Joyce must have been some kind of lady. Whoever organised that seat for Joyce must have loved her and by creating that place to sit, Joyce remains. She touches strangers, like me, if only for a moment, when we take a rest on her very inviting seat, or wonder for a while, who she might have been.

I love the idea that without these little trips of exploration I wouldn’t have experienced these enriching moments, thought processes or things of beauty. Exploring the world enriches my life in monumental ways, that are really the small ways. Going to see some art, moseying down the street, stopping to stretch your legs – ordinary things making life extraordinary, in small ordinary ways.


What about you? Have you seen something ordinary, that was extraordinary?

Identity and A Sense of Place

Ppt cover image.001I’ve always been interested in identity and its fluidness, but also its influences. I wrote at length about identity while at university – in fact my honours thesis was on identity in liminal spaces, so I have a bit of a preoccupation with it. I looked at how liminal spaces interact with identity and the establishment of it, so there was a whole chapter dedicated to landscape – specifically the dessert. But my analysis was of fiction, so not true to life, but somehow representing life.

That cliche – art imitating life, there’s something in that.  [Read more…]

The Art of Disconnecting and Reconnecting


Trentham to Lyonsville walk

This week we’ve been away at a friend’s farm in Trentham, Victoria. There is nothing quite like the feeling of the crisp frosty morning and the glow of the fire that has been burning all night, keeping the living room toasty for when you get up to make your morning cuppa. I love the smell of the air in the country; crisp and clean but punctuated with the smell of log fires and home baking.


For us city-dwellers, the novelty never wears off. Every time I come to this part of the world, I feel revived and inspired. Our kids also get the benefits. They love that we do things as a family that we don’t do at home. Not out of choice, but because our day-to-day lives are so full of activity that we are constantly in the throes of football, netball, gymnastics, soccer, school, work… you get the idea. [Read more…]

The Agony & Ecstasy of Travelling With Children


Looking Up – The Eiffel Tower

My family and I have recently returned from a six-week travelling bonanza. Now I say bonanza because for our family, that’s what it was. Some of you may be much more well-travelled than my children are, but this was our first overseas trip as a family.

My husband is English and we had not made the journey back to England for nine years. Our last trip was just before we had our first baby. So we were well overdue. The children had three uncles and an aunty in the UK that they had never met, so if only to reconnect with family, it was time to make the journey.

When we planned it, we knew it was ambitious – Singapore, England, Wales, Italy, France and Indonesia – in six weeks. And as expected, it was full of trials and tribulations. Arguably our youngest, who was 20 months old when we left, was too young to travel so far. While hindsight is a great thing, I’m glad it is just that, hindsight. Because if we’d stayed home we would have missed out on so much.

There are so many words I could use to describe our trip – exhausting, amazing, exhilarating, hilarious, ridiculous, incredible. So you get the idea; a veritable feast of emotion and experiences. There were times when the youngest was such hard work that, in the midst of all the discomfort and sleepless nights, we said that we should not have come. But now we are home and those tough times are receding and what we are left with are these amazing experiences that we are so incredibly lucky to have shared.


Family Selfie on the Spanish Steps – Rome

So I thought I’d share some things I learnt about travelling with small children, and it might make someone else’s trip that little bit more comfortable.

  • Be prepared for the nuances of each individual child’s personality to emerge stronger than ever. Our oldest daughter is quite passive and highly sensitive, so she complained very little even when things were quite hard going. But she was much more teary than usual if it all got too much. Our son, who is much more assertive, with a bit of fire in his belly complained loudly and frequently and, on one occasion, at our arrival at Gare Du Nord in Paris, threw his suit case on the ground and declared he would not go any further! Our youngest is very clear about what she wants so managing her very strong personality was somewhat of a challenge.
  • Choose your accommodation wisely. Location, location, location is a cliche for a reason. When we were in Rome we stayed a little bit out of the city and it detracted from our time there. The trip in and out on the tram tired the children out, and going back for the baby’s daytime sleep was too much coming and going for them. But in Paris we stayed right in the heart of Mont Marte and it was one of the things that made our time in Paris so wonderful. It was easy to pop home for some rest time as nothing was far away. Because there was no major travelling around the city, the kids weren’t as tired, so were more open to experiencing all that is wonderful about Paris.


The view from our window in Paris

  • For the grown ups, find some time each day to be alone. For us it was in the evening, when the kids were asleep. On the nights where we all went to bed at the same time, I missed reconnecting with my husband. That hour or so in the evening was a chance to sit together and process the day’s events and plan for the next day. That down-time was really important for us. We took our parenting hats off and became a couple again, if only for an hour.
  • If you have the time, book some proper holiday time where you can lie by a pool or on the beach. Even if it’s only a few days, it is the perfect way to recharge your batteries. You will come home refreshed, rested and ready to get back in to the daily grind.

Before we had children, my husband and I were quite transitory and travelled a lot. After so long in one place it didn’t take much to ignite our itchy feet, and one of the greatest aspects of this trip was that our travel bug has returned. But more than us, our children (perhaps not the hub, but the older two) have also caught the bug. I can thank my Mum for instilling in me, that sense of adventure and and inquisitiveness about the world. She loved to travel; I watched and learned from her. So to pass on the same to my children is a great gift from her to them, through me.