And so we did last Thursday for a long weekend in Daylesford. After going through lockdown 4.0 and a pretty intense past few months in a new job having to prove myself all over again – I felt very lucky to go away with Mr Rosanna and the kids. In the space of a few days, the Sydney outbreak has spread its tentacles to other parts of Australia so I feel like you are taking a gamble if you go anywhere interstate at the moment.
It makes it very hard to plan anything more than a week in advance and I think you need to be prepared to stay longer than expected (like my hairdresser Mel who ended up in Noosa for four weeks instead of one with Melbourne’s recent lockdown – hard life I know). If you’re a professional who can work from home, it’s become habitual to take your laptop home with you every night and on holiday – just in case.
We’d booked our getaway before the last lockdown staying just outside of Daylesford in Wheatsheaf at an AirBnB located off a dirt road in a clearing surrounded by trees and wild kangaroos. Despite the freezing cold (it was less than 10 degrees every day the whole weekend), we loved Ross’s house with the light that spilled in from the clerestory windows, his retro music posters, musical instruments, old record players, plants and books. My kids called it ‘the cozy house’ and while we could have stayed indoors all day in front of the pot belly fire (which was on when we arrived and stayed on the entire time) reading books, streaming movies and playing records – we did venture out into the cold. It’s winter in Daylesford by Easter so beanies, puffer jackets and woollies are de rigeur if you’re heading north. Best to go via Woodend and not Trentham too with fallen trees from the storms earlier this month still being cleared from the roads.
We spent two very cold late afternoons walking or running around the 2.8km man-made Lake Daylesford where you’ll find the Boathouse Restaurant and upmarket Lake House restaurant, hotel and spa around the corner – I’ve never been but hope to go one day in the future. Alla Wolf-Tasker’s restaurant is still considered one of the best regional dining experiences right up there with Brae in Birregurra, Wickens at Royal Mail in Dunkeld, Jackalope on the Mornington Peninsula and Provenance in Beechworth if you have a special occasion in mind. There is also some gorgeous looking accommodation in nearby Leggat Street overlooking the lake itself.
On our first full day, we had lunch indoors at old favourite Koukla cafe at Hotel Frangos on the main street, while it was cold and grey outside. We ducked in briefly to Michael Parker Gallery which is well worth a look as much as we didn’t buy anything – the blown glass tulip ‘chandelier’ in the window had caught my eye as well as the beautiful building it’s housed in. While high end shops (with prices to match) abound in Vincent St particularly near the roundabout, our low key holiday vibe was matched with some low-fi shopping including buying a couple of new and second-hand books at Paradise Bookshop (a small copy of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran for me and one of Wally Lamb’s hardbacks for Mr R) and a pitstop at Brick Lane Bazaar retro and antiques where I found a miniature elephant to join my herd at home.
On Saturday we spent a lazy afternoon checking out the wares inside the Amazing Mill Markets Daylesford, which was buzzing but not too crowded. There was a fun vibe with retro 80s music playing and even masked up, it was nice to exchange small talk with fellow shoppers -a freedom I’ve not taken for granted at this time. Mr R and I found a couple of decorative pieces for our house (we are fast running out of space) and I picked up a vintage cotton scarf, green ginger jar and Asian dragon teapot (pictured below). Similar to the house we stayed at, you don’t need a lot of money to furnish a home well, you just need a good eye and there’s lots to be found at that market – it’s one of the better ones to visit.
While there are nice places to eat on Raglan Street in Daylesford including The Farmers Arms, Cliffy’s Emporium and Beppe Bar and Kitchen, we had booked dinner earlier in the week at the Swiss Mountain Hotel in nearby Blampied, which does great food. We’d happened upon it during our last stay in the area and they’d kindly let us in for an impromptu dinner despite being booked out. Mr R had a steak and me the slow cooked lamb and we all shared a sticky date pudding for dessert and there are options too for vegetarians and pescatarians. It was nice to indulge and feel like we actually were on holiday rather than in the midst of a global pandemic. I think we were very lucky to get away for a brief respite albeit one that ended all too quickly.
We hit the road yesterday driving past the Daylesford Sunday Market at the railway and stopped in at Woodend for a pie and vanilla slice so I definitely needed to go for a run when I got home. I do feel like a bear that’s gone into hibernation and I hope we don’t go into another extended lockdown in Melbourne with all that’s playing out in Sydney and other states. Things feel quite serious. For me – I’m now booked in for a second vaccine shot next month and it can’t come soon enough.