Thursday, 24 April 2014

Feeling footloose, fancy free & French in Creswick

A couple of weeks ago, my husband, David, bought a new car.  It is a few years old, but has done very little mileage, was a real bargain and a lucky find.  It is a Renault Clio and is lots of fun to drive.  I have a much larger, family car to get around in with all of the kids and David's car is mainly used to get him to and from work.  Well, we had a bit of a giggle when he bought it because it was the first 'French made' car that he has owned.  Not long after he brought it home, we were sitting and talking one night and he said, 'Now I'll have to go out and buy you a bread stick, just like they do in France, because I have the right car for it now!'  We had a laugh but the funny thing was that ever since, he has been itching to do exactly that and not just any old bread stick, it had to be French.  But we have not had the freedom to do it.........until today.  So we had breakfast and set out, with our daughter, Julia (as our sons were at school) on a mission to enjoy the beautiful, sunny, Autumn day, in the Renault, to get this particular French bread stick and have some fun.
The previous owners of the Renault had not driven it very much, hence the very low mileage.  It needed a good run and David hadn't taken it on a long drive before.  So we headed to the Goldfields in Country Victoria, near a major town called Ballarat, to a smaller town called Creswick.  "The historic Victorian gold mining town of Creswick, cradled between ancient volcanic hilltops, is a picturesque town that boasts a resident population of more than 3,000 people.  Set amongst majestic eucalypts, Creswick's broad elegantly curved main street is lined with buildings that owe their existence to the region's common benefactor - gold.  Creswick lies at the heart of the central goldfields, just 16kms north of Ballarat and neighbouring the iconic tourism regions of Clunes, Daylesford, the Hepburn spa country, and the Macedon Ranges".  

But most importantly, it was the place where we could indulge ourselves in delicious French flavours at 'Le Péché Gourmand boulangerie – patisserie', a French bakery-pastry shop.........and purchase that most significant bread stick.

When we arrived, we headed straight to the bakery for lunch.  The ham and cheeses that they put in our baguette and croissant where real 'melt in your mouth material' and the coffee was nice too.  Julia had a macaron with her Baby Cino, David had baguette jambon-gruyere and I had croissant au jambon-fromage.  We sat under a big, leafy tree on the outside tables at the bakery and took it all in.  We were happy that our little Renault, affectionately called 'The Frog', made it to Creswick with ease and comfort and didn't struggle at all driving up the hilly terrain on the way there.  David and I were so carefree and relaxed today, so happy to have some time off work and do something like this........just for the fun of it!
Le Péché Gourmand had friendly service and did not disappoint.  It has received the 'Golden Plate Award' for the second year in a row, 2013 Regional Winner – Best Unlicensed Café in the Ballarat- Daylesford- Pyrenees Region.  It was also the 2012 Regional Winner – Best Unlicensed Café in the Ballarat-Daylesford Region with 'best coffee (highly recommended)'.
After lunch, we went on a walk around town to see the sights.  We found the Information Centre that gave us a good insight into the local area.  Creswick was lush and green, with lots of green grass, trees and plants, with bold splashes of colour in vibrant flower beds.  The town was quiet and very different to the hustle and bustle that we were used to in Melbourne.
"The town includes one of the most impressive collections of heritage architecture, with buildings that owe their grandeur to the boom times of gold.  Exuding the best of the Goldfields and Spa Country regions, Creswick is surrounded by lush forests, many of them thick pine and eucalyptus plantations.  Adding to Creswick’s history, this town is Australia’s birthplace of reforestation.  John La Gerche began re-planting forest areas ravaged by mining activity in 1882. Today, much of La Gerche's work survives around Creswick including magnificent plantings lining local streets. The long established plantations date back more than 100 years ago, many of which were first established when the Victorian School of Forestry opened in 1910.  It was the first institution set up in the State to train and accredit young foresters".  The Information Centre had some good displays show casing the history and culture of this beautiful, Victorian, Country town.
As we walked down the main street, we came across some spectacular architecture that showed just how long ago this town was established and provided fantastic time pieces of an era long ago.  Here is the Creswick Museum that is "housed in the former Municipal Offices of the Shire of Creswick, situated in the Creswick Town Hall complex. The Creswick Town Hall was built in 1876, a magnificent two storey National Trust classified building, with a tower and clock. Creswick Museum was opened to the public on November 20th 1970 by Sir Daryl Lindsay. The interior of the building is notable for the magnificent classic winding staircase of local Basalt. From the balcony on the second floor you can look down onto the Exhibition Gallery. During 2010 extensive work was undertaken in the Creswick  Museum with grants from Heritage Victoria and Museum Victoria. Heritage Victoria's grant saw improvements to the Council Chamber with the removal of asbestos and rendering of the walls. The volunteers spent many hours cleaning and rehousing the photographs in the room".
We were all content after our yummy French lunch and continued on our walk around town.  Creswick was very relaxing and all along the main road were these colourful flower beds that provided a sharp contrast to the large, lush green trees.  It was a sunny day and Julia was pretty well behaved.  I was relishing the break from hectic Melbourne city life as we strolled along.
Here is the Queen Victoria Bandstand which is located in the main street on the southern side of the new Post Office and virtually in front of the Old Post Office. "The Band Stand is a good place to observe Market Square, the large open area in the vicinity of the Cenetaph and the Old Post Office.  The Band Stand was built in 1897 to honour Queen Victoria in her diamond jubilee year. Local ladies led by Mayoress Mrs. Northcott raised the funds to build the structure.  Within 100 metres of the Queen Victoria Band Stand are many historic buildings along the Main Street (Albert Street) as well as Raglan Avenue and others".
One thing that I did really appreciate was that this town had so much history.  You can see the Salvation Army Hall here, built in 1912, still standing tall and proud and very much an important part of Creswick today.
Here is that Creswick Havilah Masonic Lodge.  "Prior to opening in 1890, Lodge members met in the upper room at the American Hotel  from as early as 1859. The colourful interior of the Lodge is decorated in spectacular fashion just as the classic exterior design is eye catching".
Old Gold Bank, formerly, the Bank of New South Wales, is located in the main street of Creswick, Albert Street.  "This branch of the Bank of New South Wales was established in 1854 with Mr Alex Lewers managing the branch. The present building was opened in 1860 with the second story extension with a residence added in 1863".
We had finished our walk and headed a bit out of town to a local nursery.  This was the perfect spot for an ice cream for Julia and a chance to see what the surrounding landscape looked like.
Wherever we went, the gardens and trees were spectacular.  The Autumn colours were a pleasure to see after the very hot Summer that has just passed in Victoria.

It was time to head home after a lovely day out.  David was so pleased to be driving his little 'Frog' and I was happy to sit back and relax on the drive.  It was different only having one child with us, with the boys at school and we really had the perfect chance to spend some time together in a different part of the world from where we lived.  We had achieved our mission of driving our French car to have a French lunch and buy French bread and also took in some wonderful sights at the same time.  We were lucky that the day was fine and sunny as the weather is pretty 'hit and miss' at this time of year in Victoria as the long, bright, warm Summer days have left us again for another year. 
I was determined today to embrace France.  In the morning, I put on my French perfume as I was getting ready and happy to enjoy as many French things as I could.  So when we got home, we drank Vodka (made in France) and now I had a crusty French bread stick from an authentic French bakery and wanted to make the most of it.  What better way to enjoy our very special bread stick than have a fondue!  My family love fondues and I have had a couple of fondue nights with friends over the years, so preparing the traditional cheese fondue and chocolate fondue is no bother at all.  I thought that a cheese fondue was the perfect choice to enjoy our fresh, crusty bread, but Marc insisted that we also have a chocolate one as he has a very big sweet tooth.....and Julia isn't too far away when there is chocolate around!  So fondue for dinner, it was.
We were all very hungry at this stage and the cheese fondue was delicious, as we soaked it all up with our prized bread stick.  The chocolate fondue is far too sweet for me, I have a much more savoury preference to sweets, but I have been told that my chocolate fondue is also a winner.  Marc and Julia set about soaking marsh mellows, banana, apple and wafers in the warm, melted chocolate and thought I was the greatest mum on Earth LOL!  David, Adam and I totally over indulged in plenty of cheese and bread and it was fun being 'naughty' and not worrying about my waist line for a little while.
"During the 18th century the origin of fondue began in Switzerland as a way to use aged cheeses and breads to feed families who had limited access to fresh foods during the Winter time.  Producers of cheese and bread saw their busy season was during the warm months and that the food had to be saved by villagers to be used through the cold winter months.  As the cheese would age and the breads became stale it became more difficult to eat.  The local villagers found that if they heated the cheese with wines, garlic, and herbs they could dip their stale bread which would soften when dipped into the flavorful cheese mixture.  This way of cooking together over one pot and eating by a warm cosy fire became a Swiss Winter tradition known as fondue.  The word fondue comes from the French word, ‘fondre’, which means ‘to melt’ and has since then been used to reference many other types of fondue for meats, chicken, seafood, and even chocolate".
"Chocolate fondue or dessert fondue was an American invention and had its birth in the mid-20th century. There are several claimants to its ‘invention’, but anyone who has had it can vouch for its rightful place as an excellent fondue tradition!  Fondue remains one of the last communal dining experiences and one that everyone should try".
We went to bed that night feeling happy and content.  David and I must make the time to do this more often as it does us the world of good.  Our very European themed day was complimented nicely by a drive to the country to appreciate some Australian history too and we finished off the day with a little family fondue party of our own.  Today we most certainly felt very footloose, fancy free and French in Creswick and had a great day living a little and loving a always :) xxx