Through my eyes: Kyneton Botanical Gardens, Victoria

Kyneton Botanical Gardens

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Carpeted by miraculously still green grass and fallen autumn leaves, the Kyneton Botanical Gardens are beautiful on a winter’s day. Take a walk along the water, sit and read under the trees, relax…

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Eat & shop here: Duck Duck Goose & Larder, Kyneton, VIC (café)

Duck Duck Goose & Larder
17-19 Piper St, Kyneton, Victoria
http://www.duckduckgooseandlarder.com.au/

The hipster apocalypse is nigh. They’ve even made it out to Kyneton! Country Victoria has hipsters! If you’d told me I’d be able to find something like this in Kyneton, I wouldn’t have believed you, but there was Duck Duck Goose, a cafe, larder and providore.

A family business run by mum, dad and daughter, Duck Duck Goose is located in a beautiful old building on Piper Street in Kyneton, and does it all. The cafe is located at the front of the building, with a larger area through the doors and out the back containing their larder and providore, stocked full of artisan breads and biscuits, fresh and locally sourced fruit and veggies, beautiful ceramic tea cups and milk pourers, baskets, cookbooks and lots more.

Despite the strong hipster vibe, the food is actually pretty good, old-fashioned country fare – soups, stacked sandwiches, and pastries, like the sausage roll and pie that caught our attention. The sausage roll was massive, and very tasty – unfortunately the pastry wasn’t as crunchy as I’d have liked (partly because it was half sitting in the salad it came with), but the filling was good.

The pie was magic. It was a chicken and leek number, with the most tender, juicy chicken you could imagine. The pastry was golden and crunchy, and layered like you wouldn’t believe. Hands down the best chicken and leek pie I’ve ever had, and to steal the title away from the Beechworth Bakery is no mean feat.

So, the food was good, but it wasn’t cheap; $12.50 per dish for a pastry + salad was a bit much. We also decided to grab some cookies from the counter on our way out, and were shocked at the price tag of $4 each, for a pretty standard sized chocolate chip cookie! Don’t get me wrong, they were delicious, but not $4 delicious. It seems to be a difficult line to tread at the moment between good, local, home grown produce and reasonable pricing, but at least places like Duck Duck Goose are making a start on it by offering such good stuff to the public. And being the only place of the sort in Kyneton, I can see why they’re so popular!

 

Duck Duck Goose & Larder Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy Australia Day! What I love about living in Straya

In the words of one of my husband’s good friends (who sadly passed away a few years ago), “how good’s Australia?!” While tomorrow’s Australia Day means a lot of different things to different people, to me, it essentially represents the time to take pause and celebrate the good fortune living here has afforded my family and I.

My family are of Italian origin. Like many other Italians of their generation, my grandparents came to Australia looking to create a better life for themselves and their young families. In turn, I, like many others of my generation, have had the blessing of growing up in not only one of the most stable, but also one of the most multicultural countries in the world.

I feel absolutely blessed to be a grown woman who has the best of both worlds. Comparing upbringings with my husband, we had a lot of differences. While he grew up at the park with backyard BBQs, interacting only really with his immediate family, and kicking the footy around with the neighbours, I was lunching on Lygon St with my extended family most weekends, bottling tomato sauce with one set of grandparents, and learning to pluck and gut chickens with the other (yes, really). He was eating ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch; I had mortadella and provolone. He went to AFL games with his parents; we went to mass read in Italian with our grandparents. That was the Italian side.

We also had some similarities, from the Aussie part of my upbringing – party food favourites included meat pies with the lids torn off and filled with tomato sauce (ketchup), sausage rolls dunked in tomato sauce, and BBQd sausages in bread, also smothered in tomato sauce. We both learnt to swim as early as we could walk and enjoyed lots of family beach holidays, and we enjoyed frequent walks down to the milk bar with a handful of coins with which to buy a handful of lollies. And you know what else?

 

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Things that make being an Aussie fun…
– We live on a giant island. That means we’re generally never more than a few hours from the beach, the forest or the mountains.
– Tim Tams, lamingtons, ANZAC biscuits, Cherry Ripe, fairy bread, Fantales.
– Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger.
– You can use the same words to describe a mate and an enemy; it’s all in the tone you use.
– Everyone’s name can be shortened somehow. And the already really short names are better lengthened. Everyone must have a nickname.
– We’re also bloody lazy and shorten as many words as possible. We have breaky, not breakfast. Your wife is your darl, not your darling. You’ll be wanting another bev, not a beverage. And you’ll need to fire up the barbie, not the barbecue.
– Everyone knows the first verse of the national anthem, no one has a clue what the next verse is. And that’s ok, because the first verse is the only one that ever gets played.
– We’re totally cool with our national heroes being a bushranger and a race horse.
– Travelling to Asia is great – I just got to and from Tokyo with a nice, fat suitcase for about AUD$550.00.
– At one stage in the 1950s, a bloke made the Guinness Book of World Records for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. He went on the become our country’s Prime Minister.

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Frustrating things about living here…
– Groceries cost a bloody fortune.
– Don’t even think about taking your date to the movies for under $50. Just for tickets.
– The weather is demented. Last week, Melbourne had a 42°C (107°F) day, followed by a 17°C (62°F) day… ??!
– Bushfires and floods are a very real threat.
– Just about every animal in this country can kill you. Sharks, crocodiles, snakes, spiders… Even the cute ones. Kangaroos are violent AF and koalas have chlamydia.
– Who’s even running the country today?
– Melbourne’s public transport situation. No trains from the airport to the city. Nor do they run on time. Embarrassing.
– We have several sports that qualify as “footy.” You have to be specific.
– Travelling anywhere but South East Asia is a bitch. 14 hours Melbourne to LA, or around 22 hours to Europe. Bleh..

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But, fun (and absurd) stuff aside, living here has blessed me with a good life. I was born into a country where women are more equal to men than in many other parts of the world. I grew up taking for granted the fact that I had a full education, because I never knew until much older than many women don’t automatically get that. In turn, that education has afforded me to work hard enough to earn the money to buy my own home and travel extensively.

That’s another thing – I can work. I am lucky to live in a country where women are not expected to stay at home and have children at a young age. I am able to come at go at my leisure, without male accompaniment. I am able to spend my money as I wish, dress as I wish, get tattooed and wear make up and drive and play sports.

I was blessed enough to be born into this country with a very stable economy and government, where coups and war and the such have not affected my generation first hand. I have the ability to step out of my home in the morning without fear of bombs and shootings and soldiers confronting me.

I have the honour of sharing this country with hundreds of other nationalities and cultures and lifestyles. I have friends who are Asian and European, gay and straight, Catholic and atheist. Walking down the main street near my home, I can get Japanese, Indian, Fijian, Macedonian, Turkish and Italian food. I share a community with these people, and everyone exists harmoniously. I see a little old Greek lady purchasing apples from an Italian grocer from a young Vietnamese girl manning the cash register.  They smile and chat and know each others’ names, somehow communicating with smiles through heavy accents and big age gaps. It doesn’t matter. I know not every area is like this, but the area I live in is, and I am blessed to be a part of it.

I have the privilege of living in a country where education and health care are readily available. I can turn on my kitchen tap and automatically have clean, safe drinking water. I can jump on a train and be in a big, fascinating, beautiful city within 20 minutes. Or I can walk a few hundred metres and have a picnic by a lake in a beautiful park.

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We truly are the lucky country. I know that as the world struggles through tough times, we’ll inevitably feel it here, too. But we’ve been through tough times before, and the Aussie battler spirit will get us through, as it always has. If you’re a fellow Aussie, I hope you celebrate a little tomorrow, and appreciate just how good we have it here 🙂 And if you’ve not visited before, we’d love to have you! We know we’re a long way from everywhere else, but we promise it’s worth the trip!

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Beechworth part 1 (where to stay, eat & shop)

It’s a bit of a catch-22 when you finally realise that you’ve found what you want to do with your life, but it’s not something you can do so easily; I know I want to travel, but I can’t exactly drop what I’m doing and pack my bags and live on the road indefinitely. That costs money, and I need to work to earn enough of it to hit the road again! That said, just because I can’t give my passport a workout every month, doesn’t mean I can’t still explore and take adventures and appreciate what I’ve got in my own backyard; I am SO lucky to live in Melbourne, where , within a few hours, I can be at the beach, on snowy mountains, or in beautiful forests. Victoria is an incredible unique place, where we literally have it all – we just need to get in the car and actually look for it!

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So, over the next few months, I’m going to start to practice what I preach, and cultivate a little more adventure at home as well as abroad – why the hell not?! I’m going to start taking more mini-breaks, more weekends or even just days away, more road trips and local adventures, because “adventure” shouldn’t just be reserved for “vacations.” Living authentically, for me, means have adventures every day, and that’s something I can control.  And on that note, without further ado, let me take you to stop #1: Beechworth 🙂

Distance from Melbourne CBD:
It’ll only take around 3 hours to drive to Beechworth from the CBD – depending on which direction you’re coming from, just get yourself onto the Hume Freeway, and keep going until you hit Beechworth! It’s a really, really easy drive!

 

Stay here:
Beechworth on Bridge

38 Bridge Rd, Beechworth
http://www.beechworthonbridge.com.au/

I came across Beechworth on Bridge through a quick Trip Advisor search for accommodation in Beechworth. Being that the race was on, a lot of accommodation was booked early, and this was one that looked nice, but was still reasonably priced. We had two nights accommodation (Saturday and Sunday) for only $250, and it was a hundred times nicer that I could have possibly expected! Brenda runs a tight ship, and is one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting on my travels 🙂 She welcomed us with a big smile and open arms, and made us feel right at home from the moment we walked through the front door. She gave us menus for breakfast (complimentary and home cooked), invited us to help ourselves to the enormous DVD collection should we need a relaxing evening in instead of heading out, and was happy to help us with anything else we may have needed. She walked us over to our gorgeously appointed room, and it honestly felt just like home (only, a little bit nicer!) – it was the perfect place to spend the weekend!

Features:
* In-ground, solar heated pool
* Rooms have new HD/LCD tvs
* New super quiet Fujitsu AC Split Systems
* Kitchenette with fridge, toaster, microwave, crockery and cutlery
* Tea, coffee, fresh milk and bikkies
* Expresso Coffee Machines
* Electric Blankets and cosy doonas
* Triple sheeted beds to ensure maximum cleanliness with NO recycled bedcovers
* Hair dryers, irons, ironing boards and fresh towels and high quality toiletries
* Beautiful gardens with BBQs on site

Inclusions:
* Complimentary breakfast which you can choose from the a-la-carte menu
* Free WiFi
* Complimentary DVD hire
* Free car parking
* Guest laundry is available at no additional cost

Oh, and Brenda makes some AMAZING pancakes!!! Highly recommend these!

 

Eat here:

Bridge Road Brewers
Old Coach House 50 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://bridgeroadbrewers.com.au/

Visit for: the beer (apparently) and the pizza. They cater really well for gluten free (gluten free pizza bases, which are actually really good, as well as GF beer and cider), and be sure to check out the specials board, which is where we found the pork knuckle – absolutely phenomenally good!! Really friendly service, gorgeous set up, just be sure to make a reservation because they get super busy!

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Moments & Memories Tea Room
34 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.moments-memories-tearoom.com.au/

Visit for: The devonshire tea with an insane amount of teas to choose from to go with it. Yes, it’s pink and frilly and girly and just SO pink. Not at all my style, but don’t be fooled; the service is as sweet and sassy as you’ll find in town, and the scones are good enough to brave the bright pink interior for! With around 60 different teas to choose from (and yes, you can take them home with you if you like them enough!), it’s a little tough to select just the one to go with your scones (again, gluten free particularly well catered for with a gluten free Devonshire Tea option also on offer, which I also sampled, and can very much vouch for!), but I ended up going with the Devonshire Cream tea – top choice, and I bought a bag to take home with me! You can also find a gorgeous selection of award winning jams and preserves, tea cups and saucers, cook books and other little tea-related trinkets that are waiting to be taken home, too. Perfect way to spend a winter afternoon 🙂

 

Beechworth Bakery
27 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthbakery.com.au/

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Visit for: A sausage roll and a pie – I like the steak pie and husband like the chicken and leek, but let’s be honest – they’re all good!! The sweets are also amazing, with the beesting being (a sweet, “melt-in-your-mouth” dough bun filled with apricot jam and creamy custard, and topped with toffeed almonds – delicious!) their most popular export, and for good reason! I’m also a huge fan of the flourless orange almond cake, and the snickerdoodles (custard filled pastry tart, topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries) – and don’t forget a bottomless cup of tea to go with these treats! This bakery is the original and the best; we used to travel to Bright most years to spend the Easter holidays when we were kids, and I have the best memories of stopping in here for lunch at the bakery on the way to Bright! While they’ve now expanded to locations in Albury, Bendigo, Healesville, Ballarat & Echuca, this one is the original, and still the best 🙂 Don’t be put off by the long lines – they move pretty fast.

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The Beechworth Sweet Co.
7 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthsweetco.com.au/

IMG_7114Visit for: the home made fudge and other home made chocolate and lollies. They’re all delicious – it’s kind of impossible to choose, but the salted caramel fudge is a good place to start! This is another place I have very fond childhood memories of, with many holidays spent eating my weight in musks and chocolate drops from this place 🙂 Their hand made fudge is pretty popular, and they have heaps of amazing flavours to choose from, as well as some pretty delicious peanut brittle. They’ve also got fantastic individual chocolates like the ones below – a little more pricey, but worth it for a special treat!

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Shop here:

Beechworth Honey
31 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthhoney.com.au/

No doubt you’ve seen this stuff sold in your local supermarket – where better to buy it from that straight from the source?! If you like your honey, this is a must-visit shop in Beechworth, where you can stock up on all things honey; from hand creams and soaps, to honey mead and multiple ranges of honey (everything from the classic original stuff to some fancier orange blossom or creamy honey, fig and ginger), it’s all there.

 

 

Quercus Community Bookshop
Cnr Ford & Church Sts, Beechworth, Victoria

A little heaven of used books, with some very friendly and knowledgeable service to boot 🙂 This is the place to go if you want to browse and/or talk books, with a massive range with new arrivals popping in all the time. If there’s something you’re after and can’t find, just ask – help is at hand and ready to go! With prices starting at only $1.00, you’re bound to walk away with at least a few books.

 

 

Beechworth Antiques
17 Loch St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.indigoshire.vic.gov.au/Services/Business_Directory/Beechworth_Antiques

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There are a few little antique shops in town, but this one was particularly beautiful – heads up though, they are genuine antiques and as such, the prices are more for serious shoppers and collectors. There are a few cheaper treasures in there, though, and definitely well worth a look around.

 

 

So, there’s part 1 of my guide to a weekend Beechworth visit, hope you’re enjoying your virtual break so far and have maybe seen something to motivate you to email Brenda and book a room for a weekend away of your own! I’ll be back later in the week with part 2 (what to see and do while you’re there), so I hope you’ll be back for that 🙂 In the mean time, back to reality and back to work for me this morning, already looking forward to the next adventure!