Ballarat, northwest of Melbourne, is known as the birthplace of Australian democracy and one of the country's greatest gold mining towns. Today it seems to be just the pits.
That's probably not fair, since we decided to skip the town's chief tourist attraction, a recreation of a mid-19th Century gold town. It certainly didn't help that we had already driven through the center of the real city which looked like a recreation of a mid-20th Century formerly successful gold town.
Shirley had been to Sovereign Hill, the gold town re-creation, many years before, and neither LK nor I have ever enjoyed seeing people dress up in out-of-date clothes and make believe they are panning for gold or whatever.
And besides, the cost of admission for the three of us would have bought a case of pretty nice sauvignon blanc. We do have our priorities.
We had given the city center a shot, driving through it and planning to get out and have a bit of a wander, but saw nothing that even remotely interested us. As LK noted, whoever wrote their tourist booklet was a master at picking out the one or two things that made the place look interesting. So we turned the car north and headed to Daylesford about half an hour away.
Initially we had debated whether to stay in Ballarat or Daylesford, but I had expressed concern that all the information about Daylesford kept stressing spas and healing and other karmic stuff that I avoid. "It looks pretty airy-fairy to me," I said on our way there. To which LK replied, "I think it is an airy-fairy area."
None of us could say that phrase three times fast.
It turns out that Daylesford was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The shops were indeed promising all sorts of things that I thought had become extinct shortly after Woodstock. I did not have much interest in tarot or palmistry or hydromassage but was, however, interested in getting my ears candled for $60, but decided to give it a pass in the end.
After a wander through some shops and galleries, we discovered a fantastic lunch spot - a little cafe in the back garden of a women's clothing shop. A couple of glasses of wine and tasting plates of great Italian-style food - sardines, fried anchovies, white bean salad - and we were very satisfied. By the way, LK had two Peronis and got creative so you see the result in that picture at the top of this post.
Then it was back to the motel in Ballarat. It is an indication of how my lifestyle has changed since I retired that I now have begun to qualify for free upgrades at the Comfort Inn. (Sigh.) Once in the room I had to seriously wonder what the lower-level room would have been like.
But it was spacious and it did have a spa bath (which none of us could be bothered using. Ain't getting old wonderful?) Probably the most interesting thing to happen there was when Linda encountered yet another person in Ballarat dressed in odd clothes.
She had stepped outside the room only to see our neighbor next door standing outside his door having a cigarette. She could not help noticing, though, that he was wearing his underpants. As LK said, fortunately they were black.
Unsure of the protocol of dealing with a stranger standing around in underpants and smoking a cigarette, LK returned to the room and locked the door and pulled the curtains tight. Again, you have to wonder what it would be like in the part of the hotel without the upgrades.
We changed our plans to drive up the east coast back to Sydney. None of us had seen Phillip Island so we are there now, and we're going to spend a few days in the Mornington before shooting back up through Albury/Wodonga on our way to see Jason and Lora on Good Friday.