And so this Antipodean Adventure at last comes to an end, with Cooks’ Cottage. This is rather fitting because Cooks’ Cottage was built in England and shipped to Australia, so it’s a nice segue back to Britain. Cooks’ Cottage is also, frankly, the most ridiculous attraction of the whole trip (a trip that included pancake rocks, Demolition World, a giant doughnut statue, a $59 Antarctic Centre, a steampunk themed art gallery, and a killer whale museum, so that’s really saying something).
One of the reasons why Cooks’ Cottage is such a ludicrous tourist attraction is that Captain Cook never lived here. The cottage was built in Great Ayton in Yorkshire in 1755, by Cook’s parents (which is why it is Cooks’ Cottage, rather than Cook’s Cottage). Unfortunately, James Cook had left home ten years earlier at the age of 16, and never lived at home again, having joined the merchant navy after completing his schooling, followed by the Royal Navy. I mean, he may have spent a night or two here during a visit, but it didn’t play any kind of important role in his life. This didn’t stop the city of Melbourne from buying the cottage in 1934, and having it dissembled and shipped to this park, which rather hilariously makes it the oldest building in Australia (also, why Melbourne? Cook never landed here. It would have made more sense for Sydney to buy it, since he was along that coast). The shitty thing about this (if Tony Horwitz is to be believed in Blue Latitudes) is that when a house that Cook actually DID live in was up for sale in the 1960s (the home in Wapping where he lived with his family during the brief stints when he wasn’t at sea), Melbourne, perhaps finally realising the bum deal they’d gotten with Cooks’ Cottage, declined to buy it, so it was demolished. Though I guess that really reflects poorly on London for not valuing Cook more than the brewery that was built where the house once stood.
Anyway, Cooks’ Cottage costs $6.20 to enter, which, whilst significantly cheaper than most Australian museums, I think anyone would agree is still a preposterous sum when they get a look at the cottage. See those four pictures above? Well, you’ve basically seen the entirety of the cottage. It is all of two rooms (it used to be slightly bigger, but they had to chop it in half to accommodate a road, which just adds to the absurdity). The only people visiting it were us, and a load of Chinese tourists. But I had to do it, for Cook, and more importantly, for the statue of Cook outside that they cleverly placed behind the gates of the cottage so if you wanted a picture with it, you had to cough up the admission fee.
No way was Cook that, er, sexily attired in real life, but I can roll with it (of course I felt up his thigh). They also had a selection of Georgian-esque costumes you could dress up in; unfortunately, they were all being hogged by the other visitors, so I ended up with the dregs, hence my flood-skirt.
There were also some Cook-related plants scattered around the garden, like scurvy grass and such, and a museum room at the back of the cottage (which we nearly missed) that talked about Cook’s voyages. The cottage sort of lies by omission…it never explicitly states that Cook lived in the cottage, but it doesn’t mention that he didn’t, either. I did, however, learn that Cook’s wife apparently moved to a house built on the site of Merton Priory for a little while after his death, which is interesting because I live not far from there, and it’s also quite near to where Nelson used to live with Emma Hamilton.
So I think we can all agree that Cooks’ Cottage is quite lame, though the volunteers did try their best, and the only reason to see it is to snatch a picture with that well-endowed statue. 1/5. Fitzroy Gardens is also home to a random miniature Tudor Village (built by a Londoner, but meant to depict Stratford-upon-Avon, it was a gift from Lambeth because Melbourne sent food to Britain during WWII. Because I’m sure a miniature Tudor village is just what they wanted) and a fairy tree, so there’s that too, as long as we’re seeing attractions that are faintly ridiculous. Oh, and I’ve neglected to mention the ice cream in Australia (even though I ate some every day we were there), so I’ll tell you now that Gelato Messina was the best we had (handily, there are locations in Sydney and Australia, and their special flavours (which change weekly) are amazing). And now I’ll leave you with what we wrote in the guest book at the cottage, because I’m really rather proud of my puns.