Sunday 12 December 2010

Cider inside her

Busy day with Katherine yesterday in Bendigo, which has the architecture of a much larger city. Quite which one, I wouldn't like to say: its main street is called Pall Mall, but at Charing Cross there's a mini-Cenotaph that's a scale model of the Whitehall original which gives a disconcerting Disneyland feel. Then our hotel, the PO building and the Law Courts reminded me of Edinburgh, itself a very European city, with their tiled mansard rooflines (especially invoking cliche Scottish parsimony, Shamrock Hotel, charging $20 for 12 hours of internet: BIG black mark!) And everywhere there are verandahs with iron lace that are quintessentially Australian. So never mind comparisons, it's Bendigo, and that's good enough.

I was back underground for part of the day at the Central Deborah Gold Mine, in most unsuitable shoes, getting a great tour from Darryl whose grandfather worked there before it closed. It was pretty chilling, and not just because it was cold and damp from all the rain they've had recently: mining is such a hard, hard job, so exhausting and damaging and dangerous and unnatural. And all to win a metal that's going to end up, most of it, underground again in some bank vault, all its gleaming glory gone to waste.

There was more wine at Balgownie Estate, just a few minutes from the town centre but feeling right in the country, where our tasting lunch, food and wine, ended at 3.30pm. Very civilised, I call that.

And today we've driven to Castlemaine, home of XXXX but made here no more - instead we went to Henry of Harcourt, a cidery where chooks with chicks were wandering about, and tried a range of ciders: so much more my sort of thing than all those wines. There was a lot of leisurely mooching today, around both Castlemaine and Maldon, which are pretty and unspoilt gold-mining towns with streets of heritage buildings taken over by bookshops, collectibles and antiques; plus some really individual enterprises, like the ones that make chocolate shoes, and antique button jewellery, and mint mice.

And tonight we're at the Empyre Boutique Hotel where the theme is French antiques, with lovely carved wooden furniture - and free internet. These people know how to treat their guests.

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