Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day Trippin’ to Daylesford

By Kathleen Broadhurst

Corner of Daylesford
While we may be posted up in one spot for a while we still are traveling and when we have some free time it’s exciting to explore the surrounding area.

The state of Victoria is one of Australia’s smallest. Perched in the far south, smooshed onto the coast between New South Wales in the north and South Australia in the west, it has the wilderness of many national parks to get lost in, Melbourne’s urban delights and the wine country of Australia all within easy reaching distance from Melbourne City.

This is what Western Victoria looks like
Day Tripping

Tatura is in the north west of the state in the heart of Victoria’s farming belt. Flat grasslands are full of orchards, tomato plots and wheat fields. However not more than two hours away lies the Gold Fields distinct, historical center of Australian gold mining and the gently rolling hills peppered with vineyards.

We drove out to this area on Saturday, looking to explore and to find some good food. Daylesford is known as being a quite artistic community in the goldfields area. The drive took us down beautiful tree lined roads and farmhouses with horses and sheep. Stone walls lined little town centers and small general store were filled with Saturday day trippers.

With every curve we were reminded of our own area back home. Finally we arrived at Daylesford. In one glimpse we knew we had found someplace wonderful. One main road ran through town with cafes, restaurants, bookstores and funky store on either side.

I'll have the whole menu please
Café Crawl

We decided that a café crawl was the only way to really see the place. We started at Gourmet Larder where we had a terrine with relishes and picked roots as well as some homemade “fat chips” with mustard and mayo. To drink, lemon, lime and bitters and a glass of locally bottled orange and passion fruit soda.

The Gourmet Larder also offered lovely selection of gourmet cheeses, olives and tapenades. If you just wanted a something to go their selection of baked goods and espresso drinks looked very tempting.

Next we meandered up to a Locantro Handmade Chocolates where we bought a few indulgences. These handmade truffles come in flavors as familiar as milk chocolate and caramel and as exotic as young fig (which is delicious by the way.) Made in-house all were little bites of taste-bud heaven. On cool days the warm wooden interior made for a nice place to chat over a pot of hot chocolate.

Across the street was the vine covered patio of a very popular café with very strange waiters, the food looked good but we were put off the staff. I guess we forgot that eccentric places can gather some interesting characters… “ bright lights attract moths” as a good friend would say.

We were on a mission to find cookies after three tries we gave up and decided to go with something more Australian. The bakery had plenty of delicious pastries, apple cakes, tarts and meringues. We figured that the apple cakes weren’t too big so we split one, it’s crust was a perfect compliment to the sweet apple filling.

Junk Style
‘R & R’

While food was a big part of our afternoon it wasn’t the only part of our day. Daylesford has many other distractions including a lovely independent bookstore ( Paradise Bookshop) where you can pick up antique comics or a coffee table book on local flora and fauna. There were also several interesting retail stores selling kitchen wares ( The ___?__ Pudding) vintage clothing ( Junk Style) and a funky LGBT store ( Can’t Think Straight).

What draws most people to the town however are its natural hot springs. These have earned the town the nickname of Spa Country. You can come and spend the afternoon of a week receiving relaxing spa treatments and enjoying the beauty of the surrounding countryside.

There are also some local wineries and distilleries. Herb Lore specializes in liquors as well as chocolates.

Aboriginal Art

The sky was just starting to darken with the promise of rain when we decided to get back on the road. Just as we were leaving town something caught my eye. Bright and colorful, entrancing and beautiful. “ Stop, quick pull over,” I old my husband and we pulled into the nearest empty spot. There it was sitting unobtrusively on the corner of the main drag an art gallery, an aboriginal art gallery. (I’m on a mission to learn more about aboriginal culture and especially art.)

 Art Yarramunua Gallery has built itself up helping others up. The gallery features the stunning paintings of Aboriginal artists both local and from other parts of the Australia. Here these artists can start to enter into the larger market and here there are great things to behold.

Aboriginal art has gained increasing popularity in the last decade with several artist even reaching collector status. The most eye catching and well known style is the “dot-paintings” where the artist creates the image with thousands of small dots.

The dot-paintings are maps and stories, they show the way to a waterhole of retell a creation story, they celebrate the spiritual and the natural. Each mark has a meaning as does each color, red for earth, white for spirit or women’s wisdom.

It was easy to lose track of time in Art Yarramunua and hard to leave without taking something home. One particular painting caught my eye, it was probably 4’x6’  predominantly black and white with a dot painting snaking across a grid and a tread of red draped amongst it and it was hard to leave it behind.

All and all it was a wonderful day and nice break from work. It was fun to explore such a small town, it would be fun to see the rest of the area, or go back for a spa day.

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