Thursday, December 13, 2007

ROADTRIP!!! Daylesford for a Day

Did you know that Daylesford is only about 95km from my front door? Which means that I really do have no excuse for not having visited this gorgeous part of Victoria before now. With a couple of days off work I decided "What the hell, I'll do it" and went up for a day.

On arriving at the town I saw signs pointing to Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens. "Sounds alright" I thought, so off I went. The gardens were small, but lush, and home to this monster of a tower. Tall, and thin, and the stairs were enough to make you dizzy. But I climbed it, and the views were lovely, if somewhat blocked by the old trees (darned trees, who put them there?! hehe).

See that blue thingy waaaaay down there? That'd be the trusty old Pulsar. He performed quite well on the trip, and must have some mountain-goat genes as he handled incredibly well when I took him on gravel tracks (the one at Mt Franklin was mostly bare rock).

From the gardens I found my way to the old Convent (Cnr Daly & Hill Streets, Daylesford. P: 03 5348 3211). This was a truly beautiful place, with so much history. It's now a museum and art gallery, with the most amazing gardens surrounding the buildings, which are a mixture of old and new parts.

Here's part of the front of the building, looking up the hill through the greenery. The first picture of this post is also from the garden. Just beautiful, so calming.

Yet another piece of garden. How great does this look?! I took so many pictures just of the grounds. Also at the convent there is a cafe, Bad Habits, and a restaurant and function room.

Of course, as the cafe offered a devonshire tea I had to partake. The home-made scones were delicious, with thickened cream and sweet strawberry jam. Lovely. Unfortunately it was one of the most expensive I've ever had. Still, it was good, and the atmosphere was lovely.

The gallery and museum at The Convent are interesting, although there is a small entry fee (adults $5, unsure of children/pensioner costs). I spent a pleasant hour and a half wandering around looking at the two floors of artwork. A third floor, much like a small basement room, makes up the museum, with some interesting pieces from the days when the building and grounds were a convent. A little eerie down there, what with the candles and low lighting. But interesting.

From there I decided it was time to check in to my cabin at the Daylesford Victoria Caravan Park (Ballan Road, Daylesford. P: 03 5348 3821). On my way back into town I noticed the sign for Jubilee Lake... you can hire canoes to paddle around the lake, although when I was there the weather was overcast so there were no people, and the canoes were huddled quite forlornly on the shore, waiting for the sun to come out so they'd be wanted again. I can imagine this place would get quite busy in the summer months, kids screaming in the playground, BBQs sizzling, young couples rowing their way around the watery expanse... I must go back for a look on one of those days.

Of course if you go to Daylesford you HAVE to go out to the Chocolate Mill (5451 Midland Highway, Mt Franklin. P: 03 5476 4208). YOU MUST! It was built several years ago by the owners, and it is a bonafide straw-bale house with earth render. What's this mean? 900 straw bales were used to build it, and inside it's cool and funky (and I mean cool as in both temperature and appeal). The smell hits you right between the eyes. Yup, that's right, it goes right up your nose. All chocolates are made fresh on the premises. Caramel and ganache chocolates are made using fresh cream and butter, so you have to eat them within a week or so. Yeah right, like anything you buy here will last THAT long. BTW, I'll never enjoy Cadbury chocolate again. Or basically any other mass-produced chocolate, for that matter. Free talks are given at 11am and 2pm daily. The walls also have some background information on the chocolate, and how the Mill came to be.

Naturally I had to buy me something. I got two boxes of christmas chocolates (plain belgium chocolates), a bag of their 70% dark chocolate, a bag of their fruit and nut clusters, and a sample box that contained chilli mama ganache, caramel cups, cocoabana truffle, port truffles, and peanut butter cups. Possibly something else too, but I can't remember. Ooohhh so good. There's also a cafe out there that offers limited goodies - tea, coffee, hot chocolate, spiders, some soft drinks, ice cream...

With my chocolates safely stowed in my cooler bag I made my way to The Mill Markets back in town (105 Central Springs Road, Daylesford. P: 03 5348 4332). I'm not sure what I was expecting, but certainly nothing this big. It took me about 45 minutes to work my way through the first room, and I thought I was making good time... then I passed through an unassuming walkway and found this... a massive shed-like warehouse of goodies. Some antiques, some genuine collectables, and some junk - just the type of stuff I like wandering through!

There were some other places I checked out, but I was a little pushed for time. I think I need to go back and spend a few days exploring Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. I want to have a better look at The Blowhole, and actually check out the springs in the area. Perhaps when I'm not on quite so tight a budget! Unfortunately I spent a day there, and then the next day had to mosey on up to Bendigo and across to Shepparton before heading home.

All up the trip was around 600km including all the to-ing and fro-ing between attractions. Easy driving. Had a fantastic time.

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