Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Art of Doing Nothing

I made a very last minute decision last week to go away to Daylesford this long weekend, and I'm sure glad I did.  It's been a really busy past few months and I've needed to stop and smell the roses - I don't think you ever quite fully relax when you stay at home as you can always find jobs to do...
Our wood cabin - Sailors Falls
Daylesford is quite possibly my favourite country Victoria destination.  It's a place I first visited in my twenties and a place I've continued to visit through the decades although less frequently since I had children.  The last time we were there was in fact over five years ago and it was a day trip from a holiday in Castlemaine - another beautiful country town.  That whole area is beautiful from Kyneton to Bendigo, Trentham, Glenlyon and Hepburn Springs.  In my single days before I had kids, I've previously visited or been to a number of events at places like the Hepburn Springs Bathhouse & Spa, Sault, Lavendula and The Convent Gallery.  Peppers Minerals Springs Hotel & Villa Parma also look beautiful and a school mum friend recently stayed there for her wedding anniversary capped off with dinner at Alla Wolf-Tasker's award winning Lake House Restaurant, which has been there forever.  I love the whole Swiss Italian heritage, culture and beautiful buildings to be found.
We stayed in more humble accommodation for our visit - a friend of a friend's gorgeous wood cabin (soon to be listed on Stayz) with whitewashed floorboards, picture perfect window scenes and a wood fire near the Wombat State Forest in a place called Sailors Falls - less than 10 minutes' drive into Daylesford.  We could have just stayed there, gone for long bush walks to see the kangaroos and read books in front of the fire (and be warned, it's winter in Daylesford after Easter so pack your woollies and parkas) if we'd not had the kids with us!  There's not a lot in Sailors Falls itself aside from Sailors Falls Estate, Paradiso Arts and the Sailors Falls picnic area and walk (a number of resourceful Europeans were helping themselves to the free mineral water that's there on tap).
We arrived in Daylesford Friday evening and after a supermarket trip, had dinner at the ever reliable Koukla pizzeria and cafe, which still does good food - part of the Frangos & Frangos empire owned by Mr Frangos himself right on the corner of the main street.  Mr Rosanna and I looked longingly next door at the very stylish Belvedere Social (apparently great for cocktails and serving a special 'Purple Rain' cocktail in memory of Prince) which in previous incarnations has been the upmarket Frangos restaurant, retail space and gallery.  You can now stay at Hotel Frangos, which has an attached Endota spa.
Mr Rosanna - Daylesford Hotel
I also liked the look of the Albert Hotel Guest House off the main road, which does both heritage and modern studio accommodation and we drove past Kazuki's on Raglan, which I think is the number one rated restaurant in Daylesford marrying Japanese and French cuisine - it looked very refined.  We did get drinks at the Daylesford Hotel, which reminded us a lot of the Healesville Hotel inside, but I'm not sure about the food there - it looked like pretty standard pub fare.
Ceiling of the old Rex Theatre
Daylesford itself hasn't changed a huge amount since I was last there - the two huge wind turbines as you approach the town are new and I'd never noticed the Rocklyn Yoga Ashram that is also there as you come in along the highway.  The former Rex Theatre was turned into a shopping arcade (sadly largely empty although new owners have just taken over) and movie house three years ago so it was great to see that the Daylesford cinema is still operating
The Mill Markets - Daylesford
There are also a number of new shops, which are all worth visiting, including Bromley&Co, G Daylesford, Manteau Noir and Art Deco all on the same side of the street as The Rex while Bokeh Handmade and Frances Pilley are on the other side.  But by far and away, the most exciting place to visit for Mr Rosanna and me, was the Mill Markets - a treasure trove of antique, vintage and collectables all housed in two big adjoining warehouses.  We've been to the one in Newcomb (Geelong) and there is also another one in Ballarat (on our radar for our next regional Victorian holiday).  You could spend a whole day in there and still not see everything.
Bargain finds at The Mill Markets
Given we had the children, Mr R and I had to cut our visit short - there is a cafe inside and the kids found themselves some little treasures including a book on Wizardry and a stuffed panda bear called Bobo.  I also managed to find a Chinese Girl vintage print and a brass watering can for my indoor plants - bargains at $12 and $14 each!  It's all about the hunt...
The boys above and below - Swiss Mountain Hotel, Blampied

On the Saturday night, we'd been recommended dinner at Swiss Mountain Hotel in Blampied and set off early.  I'm glad we did as we'd been a bit laissez faire and not made a booking, only to arrive and find that it had indeed been booked out given it was a Saturday night on a long weekend, even though the pub is in the middle of nowhere.  The kind owners let us have an early meal as it was still relatively empty when we arrived and the food was superb - it is a real hidden secret - rather nondescript on the outside but more upmarket and stylish on the inside - fresh flowers on every table and a really lovely warmth to it.  Both my curry and Mr R's steak were fantastic - it is a real gastro pub.
On the Sunday, we took the boys to the Daylesford Sunday Market, which has also grown a lot bigger than what I remember and is probably more trash than treasure but still a really fun place to go.  It's a beautiful drive there down the highway along the boulevard of trees (above) where some of the best foodie places can be found like Cliffy's Emporium, Mercato's, The Perfect Drop and (further along) The Farmers Arms Hotel.  There is also a railway ride you can do from there to Bullarto - unfortunately it's not a steam train but an electric one, which still looked like fun.  We were happy to spend a couple of hours just walking in the glorious Autumn sunshine and managed to eat the most delicious pulled pork rolls from Danny's Farm food stall (also selling Portuguese custard tarts and other sweet treats), which were the best pulled pork rolls we've ever had!  Danny's Farm is located in Blampied - a bit of a foodie place by the sounds of things as Captain's Creek Organic Wines can also be found there, along with the Swiss Mountain Hotel.  Speaking of organics, we did drop into the Daylesford Organics farm gate stall at 19 Foxs Lane in Musk Vale but it was sadly closed.  Kate Ulman writes a fantastic blog detailing her family's country life of food, craft and cooking called Foxs Lane and is the author of Vantastic: retro caravan holidays in the modern world.
Mr R and I had ducked into Jubilee Lake Holiday Park, complete with resident peacock, the day beforehand to check out the lake and the boys had spied paddle boats and canoes so we took the opportunity to have a family paddle boat ride for half and hour on the lake, which was a lot of fun.  There were a number of families there camping (and braving the cold at night!) as well as others fishing and out on the water, including a couple of people who fell into the lake a few times while canoeing.  It's a lovely spot complete with playground and outdoor amphitheatre.
Jubilee Lake Holiday Park


Also worth doing is the scenic drive around the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens where you can alight at the top and climb up the tower (unless you suffer from vertigo) for some great views around Daylesford.  You can also find the Wombat Hill House cafe, run by Alla Wolf-Tasker, for home made crumpets with bacon and maple syrup.
Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens scenic drive


Views from the top of the tower
On our last day there yesterday, Mr R and I took the boys for a bike ride around Lake Daylesford , where you can find the Bookbarn and Boathouse cafes and children's playground, while we took turns running around the perimeter.  Remember to take bread if you want to feed the geese and ducks - Mr 10 was in his element, at one with the animals, and it was funny sight driving there in the morning to see a couple of geese going for their morning stroll along the highway.
We'd also been recommended a visit to the Radio Springs Hotel in Lyonville but didn't get a chance to get out there.  There are also other country towns all worth visiting including Clunes (which is celebrating its Booktown Festival next weekend), Smeaton for the Tuki Trout Farm and Creswick on the way to Ballarat, where you can visit the Creswick Woollen Mills.  Castlemaine is only a half hour drive away and I can highly recommend a stay there as well as a trip on the Victorian Goldfields Railway steam train to Maldon and back.  Aah...the country life.  I think if Mr R and I can ever afford it, we'd love a weekender in a place like Daylesford - we will definitely be going back at some stage soon.


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