Saturday 26 December 2020

City Library - Hush the "Local Secret"

The City library is our little “local secret”, that non-touristy space where a moment of serenity can be sought, a quietness amidst the all-too-familiar urban noise, and that essential place for any book lovers who can’t get enough excitement in holding a physical reading material.
When I first visited this little secretive gem many years ago quietly tucked away at Flinders Lane, the place felt dated, “hidden”, a facade so ordinary and unassuming that no other unsuspected person would look twice. The washrooms were old, the children area was uninteresting. It felt like that "forgotten" place where people visited due to habituality. It was a great contrast to its other inner Melbourne counterpart like the East Melbourne Library sister, who distinguished itself from the rest of its "common" siblings with its iconic architectural design and tons of brand new books.
But this was long gone. The City Library has since then undergone a few facelifts. The children books area is now a pop of mystical fairy tales and magical colours: we have Pinocchio floating in a big bubble, a mural sprinkled with images of the famous Hungry Caterpillar and grinning Cheshire Cat, Mermaid and a Frog Prince, fiery dragon and a silvery unicorn, Humpty-Dumpty and a cat with its fiddle. It is now a whimsical land where fables and tales overflow, picture books filled the shelves and Kids DVDs spun around on the revolving rack.
The washrooms look brighter, more spacious, and trendier. Sometimes, piano melodies flows through the two-storeys library space when any “accomplished” pianist (defined as grade 5 or above as examined by the Australian Music Examiners Board) performs their spontaneous renditions at the upright acoustic piano displayed at the exhibition area at the upper floor.
This is also the place where multi-language materials can be found: mandarin fictions, Japanese children books, Korean DVDs, Vietnamese newspapers, or Hindi magazines. This is the place where thirst of knowledge, reading pleasure, or research needs can be quenched and satisifed with its varied of subject matters, categories and types of materials. There are also plenty of computers, printing and photocopying facilities available, and judging by the number of people browsing and typing away before each monitor, the free wifi and PC use seem to be quite a popular service loved by the members. Recently, there are also these brown-paper packages of “mysterious books” nicely packed up in the library for anyone who game for a reading adventure. Each bag contains a selection of chosen genre: latest releases, pirate-related, Christmas-theme, baby and toddler books. I am loving the idea and always find joy picking up one of those bags!
I am glad that the library is now re-opened after a relatively long pandemic shut down. CLICK HERE to check out the latest restrictions imposed by the library as a response of Covid-19. Location: 253 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000

Friday 11 December 2020

Melbourne City Baths Today- Just Keep Swimming

“Oh look! My swimming place!” That’s my four-year-old, exclaiming excitedly every time when we drove past this stunning 19th century Edwardian-style building. I previously blogged about the City Baths and its "filthy" origin. Today, I am going to talk about the City Bath and what it is TODAY.
Facade wise, the City Baths reminds me of the magnificently solemn Supreme Court, the vintage architectural design of the Old Treasury Building, and other classic Melbourne’s structures with signature meticulousness and grandeur. No, you won’t be able to look past this place without pausing your footsteps. You won’t miss the screaming bright-red bricks, the unique arched entrance, and the elaborate steps leading to the front door from two directions along Swanston Street. I love its boldness, its pride, its unspeakable endurance. In the older times, men and women were required to enter the public bath building through separate entrances. Today, there is no more gender segregation, but we can still see the “men” and “women” signages at the front facade (a great conversation starter with your older kids!)
This heritage-listed and elegant building today houses the largest swimming pool in the city, a modern gym, spa, sauna and (a best-kept secret) squash court. Prior to Covid (and hopefully in the near future), you would see kids and parents walking up the steps to their weekly swimming lessons from early in the morning. The last time we checked, the Melbourne City Baths offers one of the lowest-fee swimming lessons for kids around the CBD area. There are two swimming pools at the ground floor: a 30-metres long “adult” pool divided into several swim lanes (kids are welcomed to join in the splash with supervision of parents); and a kids pool (reserved for lessons’ use) equipped with colourful range of swim-noodles, kick boards, float mat, sinking toys, bath duckies, mirrors and everything an instructor needs to conduct a fun-filled class.
Sometimes, the kids have water-safety week where the boy could wear his pyjamas into the pool with fluorescent-yellow life vest. The boy loves the “diving” training with his special floating vest on. The kids have loads of giggling throughout the class. Taught by AUSTSWIM and ASCTA swim instructors, the lessons place paramount importance on water safety awareness. There are some really cute changing cabins at the edge of the kids pool with vintage swinging doors. I love the warm sunlight permeating through the roof and windows. After the swim, we usually enjoy our croissants and coffee at the TV area (cartoons time!), slumping on the comfortable couch, having causal chats with other parents and making some new friends from the neighbourhood.
If you are wondering where is the best place to get your sweet treats and caffeine-boost, there is a Poolhouse Coffee at the basement, or alternatively, you have a wider choice from Melbourne Central or Victoria Market, both within walking distance. Location: 420-438 Swanston Street Melbourne VIC 3000 / For Covid-19 restrictions and facilities access, VIEW HERE.

Friday 4 December 2020

East Melbourne Library - where elegance and books met

Hidden gem. Cliche as it may sound, I can’t think of two better words to describe the East Melbourne Library more perfectly. Dare I say, this is the prettiest contemporary-designed library in Melbourne (or perhaps, almost on par with the Library at the Dock), with the most secretive location (you won’t see it unless you purposely look for it). The facade of the building reminds me of an elegant, sophisticated and modern lady that pushes boundary, not afraid to be seen, but not in a frantic mood to demand any limelight.
You will be captured by the fluidity and transparency of its glass material. The diamond-quilted panels matches well with the slightly angular structure and that not quite symmetrical exterior view. A spacious verandah sets itself apart from the quiet residential terraced houses. Benches, bike racks, and the surrounding greenery of plants, shrubs and trees. It’s welcoming, and no doubt, irresistibly attractive. Step in, and you would be greeted by the echoing acoustic and an inviting amount of natural light. It’s quiet, with very few people. It feels “under used” (just like the Library at the Dock). There is a lovely space for children with books that look too new for a public library standard. You would also find a basket filled to the brink with interesting costumes of princesses, wizards, bumble bee and many more. Also available, a computer with educative games, and kid-sized tables for colouring fun. But other that, not many toys around (unlike the Kathleen Syme Library).
What I love most are the outdoor seats at the rear of the building. That’s the place where we get to have a little peaceful “alfresco dining” with our pre-packed snacks. It’s an awesome ground for my four-year-old boy and his mates to run-around (many times, in their dressed-up costumes) when we have our occasional weekend playdates. East Melbourne Library is probably not as exciting, vibrant, and loud as many of its Melbourne counterparts. It’s for those who want to enjoy an undisturbed afternoon of reading pleasure. It’s also for the architectural lovers who want to learn more about sustainability, ESD strategies, clever urban planning, renewable energy adoption, recyclable fit-outs and design (the building won the 2007 IDEA awards for sustainability).
And if you prefer the magic of sweet-smelling new books that feel almost untouched, look no further, this is the library for you.
Useful tips: Address: 122 George Street East Melbourne VIC 3002 Opening time: Due to the Covid-19 situation, the library opening times may vary. Latest updates can be found HERE. Nearest train station: Jolimont Station (300 metres, around 5 minutes walk) Nearest tram stop: Stop 12 by routes 48 or 75 Located further east of Fitzroy Garden, 1 minute walk away.