The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary, together with their tour documents, prior to departure. The tour includes meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.
Day 1: Monday 28 February: Tullamarine Airport – Mt Macedon – Hepburn Springs
- Transfer to Hepburn Springs
- Duneira Estate: art collection & private library, Mt Macedon
- Talk 1: ‘Coco Chanel: Her Life, Work and Legacy’ (1hr)
- Welcome Dinner at Hotel Bellinzona
Meeting Point: Tullamarine Airport, Terminal 1, Ground Floor Arrivals Hall, at the Gloria Jeans Coffee Shop at 11.00am.
After a morning arrival at Melbourne airport, we transfer by coach to the scenic area of Mt Macedon and will lunch at the beautiful Duneira Estate. Established in 1872, this property sits high on the edge of Mt Macedon, with stunning views. After a light meal, we will enjoy a guided tour of the home’s significant art collection and extensive library, period furniture and historic rooms. The art collection includes works by McCubbin, Rodin, Rembrandt and Warhol. The antiquarian library contains nearly 20,000 books, many of them first editions, some dating back to 1767.
We will also tour the superb gardens. The National Trust has graded the gardens as being of “outstanding cultural significance”, and Elm Avenue is considered one of the best examples of a private formal avenue in Victoria. The estate has some rare and remarkable trees.
We then travel to the Hotel Bellinzona at Hepburn Springs, which will be our base for the tour. Situated by the Wombat State Forest, and offering delightful walking trails, a heated pool, spa and sauna, the hotel provides fine European cuisine and an intriguing art collection on its walls. A perfect place to plunge into the delights of 1920s Paris.
Before dinner Susannah will introduce you to Coco Chanel, 20th-century icon and a truly remarkable woman. You can enjoy the talk on ‘Coco Chanel: Her Life, Work and Legacy’ over a glass of French wine. (Overnight Hotel Bellinzona) LD
Day 2: Tuesday 1 March, Hepburn Springs – Lyonville – Hepburn Springs
- Talk 2: ‘Colette’ (45min)
- Talk 3: ‘Jean Cocteau’ (45min)
- Morning Tea
- Talk 4: ‘Chanel, Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes’ (30min)
- Talk 5: ‘Le Train Bleu’ by Elinor Mattern (15min)
- Talk 6: ‘The Ritz Hotel’ (15min)
- Light Lunch at the Hotel Bellinzona
- Babbington Park Farm, Lyonville incl. afternoon tea: hosted by French chef and author, Annie Smithers
- Time at leisure: Option to enjoy the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa
Paris is a gorgeous city to visit at any time, but in the 1920s it must have been particularly exciting. The French economy boomed during that decade, and during ‘les années folles’ (‘the crazy years’) of the 20s Paris became a major centre for writers, artistic ferment (cubism, dadaism, surrealism, futurism), cinema, music and fashion. Paris hosted the Olympic Games in 1924, international art and design exhibitions were held there, and the city bubbled with optimism after the horrors of WWI. New technology brought fresher food to the cafes, new buildings in the Art Deco style were being constructed, and publishing houses were flourishing. It’s little wonder that artists and authors from other countries were attracted to the vibrancy and beauty of Paris – Joyce, Picasso, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, Gershwin, Yeats, Pound, Stravinsky and Diaghilev are just some of those who were drawn to the City of Light.
After breakfast, Susannah will introduce you to Colette (1873 – 1954), author and woman of letters whose stage appearances and novels shocked society. Colette has been acclaimed as France’s greatest woman writer, and she was the first woman writer to be given a state funeral by the French government (though the Catholic Church refused her a religious burial). Discover how she took Paris by storm with her ground-breaking Claudine novels, hear about her three tempestuous marriages and extraordinary love life, and share her passion for Paris (she was lucky enough to live in the Palais-Royal).
Jean Cocteau was multi-talented – poet, playwright, novelist, artist, designer, filmmaker and critic, Cocteau left his mark on French culture in many different ways. Born near Paris, he arrived in the capital at the age of fifteen and was soon mixing in artistic circles. He knew everyone – Proust, Gide, Picasso, Modigliani, Piaf, actor Jean Marais, and he inspired Coco Chanel, who was a close friend. Susannah will give an illustrated talk about this remarkable personality and his cultural impact.
Cocteau wrote ballet scenarios for Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. After morning tea, Susannah will recount the history of the famous ballet company (it never actually performed in Russia), which promoted avant-garde collaborations between dancers, composers, artists and designers. The company created a sensation in Paris and, throughout the 20s, such productions as Le Train Bleu (based on a Cocteau scenario), Les Noces with music by Stravinsky, Mercure with music by Eric Satie, and Le Fils prodigue with music by Prokofiev, were much discussed and highly influential.
There will then be two short talks to extend your appreciation of 1920s Paris. The famed Blue Train (the Calais-Mediterranée Express) transported the wealthy from Paris to the Riviera. The height of the season there was in winter and the luxury train left Paris in the early evening and reached Marseille in the morning. Writers (Agatha Christie wrote a murder mystery set on the train) and royals, politicians and film stars, made their way south in this way. Learn about the journey and its comforts in this 15-minute illustrated talk by Susannah’s daughter, Elinor Mattern.
The Ritz Hotel, overlooking the Place Vendôme, is one of the world’s classiest hotels. It was founded in 1898 by entrepreneur César Ritz and its kitchens were overseen by the chef Auguste Escoffier. The hotel features in novels, films and plays and its bar is named for Ernest Hemingway who claimed to have “liberated the Ritz” when he came into Paris with the Allies. This talk, also 15 minutes, will give you a ‘soupçon’ of this stunning hotel.
After a light lunch, we transfer to Babbington Park Farm. The owners, Annie and Susan, have restored old buildings and created a wonderful organic garden. There are fruit and veges growing in profusion, and in the grounds live Cashmere goats, miniature Cheviot sheep, Galloway cattle and Sebastopol geese. Chef and author Annie Smithers runs a tiny French farmhouse kitchen there, and her book, Recipe for a Kinder Life, published this year, is a guide to eating and living in a more sustainable way. Annie will talk about her book, the farm, and will treat us to a delicious afternoon tea.
According to legend, Napoleon once famously sent Josephine a letter: “I will return in three days. Don’t wash.” You may prefer to disobey the Emperor’s command, and luxuriate in the Hepburn Springs Mineral Bathhouse. The historic bathhouse, in operation since 1895, offers wellness baths, massages, spas, and much pampering. This is an optional visit before dinner (advance bookings are recommended). (Overnight Hotel Bellinzona) BL
Day 3: Wednesday 2 March, Hepburn Springs – Castlemaine – Hepburn Springs
- Talk 7: ‘Expatriate Writers in Paris incl. Gertrude Stein, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, James Joyce (1hr)
- Morning Tea
- Talk 8: ‘Paris: Where Art Meets Fashion’ by Emeritus Professor Chris Browne incl. display of rare books and a selection of French magazines from his collection (1hr)
- Light Lunch at the Hotel Bellinzona
- Artist studio of David Frazer, Castlemaine
- Time at leisure in Castlemaine
- Concert by flautist Anna Rabinowicz & other musicians incl. pre-dinner drink
- Farewell Dinner at the Hotel Bellinzona
Ernest Hemingway gave us a famous description of life in Paris in the 1920s: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” This morning’s talk looks at the expatriate writers who flocked to Paris – Hemingway, his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein (the American writers in Paris at this time are referred to as ‘The Lost Generation’), as well as James Joyce and Ezra Pound. Paris was then a cheap place for them to live, and its Café de Flore, La Closerie des Lilas and Les Deux Magots were their chosen hangouts. Susannah’s talk on these literary visitors to Paris will make you sigh for the days when it was cheaper to drink wine at a café than in one’s own apartment.
After morning tea comes a visual and intellectual treat. Book collector Professor Chris Browne has an extraordinary collection of French fashion magazines of the era. His talk on ‘Paris: Where Art Meets Fashion’ will focus on Lucien Vogel and his Gazette du Bon Ton. This ground-breaking magazine defined for a generation how art could represent fashion. Examples from Chris’s gorgeous collection, as well as some of his rare books, will be on display during the morning.
After a light lunch at the hotel, we will travel to the picturesque and historic town of Castlemaine. There we visit the studio of artist David Frazer. David has created paintings, linocuts, wood engravings and prints and his work has featured in solo exhibitions and won many awards. David will share his artistic experiences and show us his studio and works-in-progress.
Castlemaine began as a result of the Gold Rush (gold was discovered there in 1851) and was fortunately ignored by modern developers. The result is a fabulously historic main street that has been classified by the National Trust. Kerry Greenwood used the town as the setting for one of her Phryne Fisher detective novels set in the 1920s – hopefully we will not encounter any dead bodies as Phryne did in The Castlemaine Murders! There will be some free time to indulge in that wonderfully Parisian pastime of being a ‘flaneur’ (a stroller and observer) in this very pretty town.
Before dinner, and with a drink in hand, you will have the pleasure of some French music from the 1920s, with flautist Anna Rabinowicz and other musicians. After the concert, there will be a delicious French-themed farewell dinner at the hotel. (Overnight Hotel Bellinzona ) BLD
Day 4: Thursday 3 March, Hepburn Springs – Melbourne – Tullamarine Airport
This morning we check out and drive to Melbourne. The fabulous exhibition ‘Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto’ is on at the National Gallery of Victoria and our tour will show us Chanel’s unique contribution to French culture and style. Important loans from public and private collections will be on display. The exhibition, divided into chronological and thematic sections, traces Chanel’s career, contemporary impact and lasting legacy. After our tour, there will be further time at leisure to admire the collection, and then time for a light lunch (not included) at the Gallery café. The visit to this landmark exhibition will bring our travels to a memorable end.
There will then be a transfer to Tullamarine Airport where our tour ends at approximately 2.30pm. B