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See the luxury and opulence of Dame Nellie Melba's life
Rare glimpse inside Coombe Cottage
From Jun 5 to August 31, Coombe Cottage, the home of the diva Dame Nellie Melba will be open to the public for tours. This is cause for jubilation as for years, many of us have been driving past those giant hedges in Coldstream and wondering about her luxurious life behind those towering thick wall.
A few years ago, the grounds of the property were opened up as Coombe Yarra Valley and began offering wine-tasting, an a la carte restaurant and garden tours.
But the famous house, Coombe Cottage, has always been off limits. Mainly because it is still in the hands of Melba's family. It was the home, for example, of Melba's granddaughter Pamela Lady Vestey until she died in 2011.
Melba purchased the sixty-acre dairy farm in 1909, renaming the property Coombe Cottage after a house she had rented in England whilst performing at Covent Garden.
During her lifetime and for some years after her death, Dame Nellie Melba was the most famous woman in the world. Her real name was Helen 'Nellie' Porter Mitchell but as she launched onto the world stage, she called herself Melba as a reference to her beloved home town of Melbourne.
Born on the 19th May 1861, she was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a singer.
Known for her flamboyance and impeccable sense of style, her friends included famous artists, actors and royalty. Her friend the celebrated French chef Escoffier, famously created the dessert Peach Melba in her honour. And Melba toast, oh that was he invention to keep her waistline a little trimmer after such gorgeous desserts.
There are many stories about Melba and goodness knows how many of them are true and which are just speculation. But let us just say that she had a reputation for seeking the limelight. Two that I have heard are that when staying at the Shamrock Hotel, in Bendigo she asked for the town clock to be turned off as the chimes disturbed her sleep. On another occasion, when travelling on a country train and her name was not in the paper enough so she reported a mouse plague on board the train so that her imminent arrival would hit the newspapers and she would be swamped by the press.
So tempting to visit. She one of this country's most treasured children. A couple of years ago we visited a little cottage near Mackay that she had luved in for a while which is now auseum in her honour.