Now I must admit that I had and ulterior motive for wanting Mr Fantapants to visit Bendigo - I fell in love with the place on a work trip late last year and ever since have been harbouring a not-very-secret desire to move there. Why?
- It has some beautiful buildings and houses - being established during the gold mining boom really helps a town's aesthetics, some parts of it feel almost European (if you pretend it's not 40-something degrees).
- It has some great places to eat and drink (not to mention great local wineries).
- The people are friendly, but not in a creepy I'd-like-to-eat-you way.
- It's big but not too big and small but not too small - less people, less traffic, less attitude, but not so cosy that everyone knows your business.
- It's only 90 minutes fron Melbourne, if a trip to the big smoke is in order.
We stopped in at the art gallery which is showing a fantastic couture exhibition from the V&A museum in London. For a sewing and textiles nerd, this was heaven. Unfortunately they have to keep the lighting low for preservation reasons, which made it hard to see some of the details of the clothing, but it was still incredible to see the skill and innovation of some of the construction techniques. Mr F did his best to look interested, but I suspect what he was most taken with was the gallery's subzero air conditioning.
We stayed at Hunter House, a beautiful Victorian mansion that's now a hotel and restaurant. Our room was spacious, with a lovely high ceiling and even a gas fireplace that I'm sure would be very cosy in the cold months. Even the en suite bathroom, which was obviously a later addition to the house, was roomy enough for two.
For dinner we went to Whirrakee, recommended to us by a friend of a friend. It's in an old bank building, overlooking Bendigo's over the top fountain. The food was great - quite innovative and with plenty of lighter choices for such a hot night - but it was the service that really made the night: friendly, welcoming and professional, such a pleasant change after having a few 'special' dinners ruined by waitstaff who really couldn't give a toss.
The next morning we had breakfast in our room and then pootled back to Melbourne at a leisurely pace. I felt so relaxed by Sunday night, it was as if we'd been away for a week instead of just a night - stark contrast to the two-week break at xmas that felt like a long weekend.
Perhaps I can convince work to let me telecommute from our Bendigo office...