Birthday Weekend in Bendigo, November 2016

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this entry.

The best getaways are the ones that coincide with special occasions – both planned and unplanned. In this case, booking a weekend getaway to the country town of Bendigo for my 30th birthday was planned. However, booking it for the same weekend as the annual Blues & Roots Festival was an unplanned but a highly pleasant surprise.

Bendigo is close enough to Melbourne to be accessible for a weekend away with no need to take any extra annual leave, small enough to be traversable without a car, and large enough to have plenty to offer those looking for a diverting weekend. We took the Vline train up to Bendigo on the Friday evening after work (and after dinner at Dumpling World), arriving at Bendigo station around 9pm. We jumped into a taxi for the eight minute trip to our Art Series Hotel The Schaller Studio, and were treated to the first of many friendly encounters with locals that weekend.

Is it just me, or are country people naturally friendlier? Where most Melbourne taxi drivers will ignore you, we had a good chat with our taxi driver, then with hotel staff who checked us in, with bartenders and waitresses, and with the owner at 5ifty boutique where I bought my first organic bamboo cotton clothing items (I’m teaching myself about ethical clothing). In fact, they’re so friendly that the boutique owner even gave us her own copy of the Blues & Roots Festival program, marked up with her recommendations of where to go and which acts to see. 

That was another highlight of our trip – the Blues & Roots Festival. It’s not normally my preferred genre of music, but to having the twang of guitars constantly playing in the background of a stroll through the city is quite soothing. It was all about the slower pace of life – things like stopping for a half hour in Rosalind Park in the city centre and finding a patch of grass to join all the locals in listening to a free public concert.

In the same vein, we also enjoyed a Sunday afternoon stroll around Lake Weeroona, joining all the family and friends groups having picnics and barbecues. It honestly felt like we were back in Munich Germany, with the forced Sunday closure of shops and businesses creating a cosier community atmosphere. Spending time outside in nature with family on a Sunday definitely beats spending your time in a crowded shopping centre. Ban Sunday trading I say!

The main reason I chose Bendigo for our getaway? I wanted to visit the Bendigo Art Gallery which is renowned for its remarkable exhibitions. At the time of our visit, they were showing items from the personal archive of Australian haute couture designer Toni Maticevski. His creations are beautiful – structural but ethereal, and altogether other-worldly. However, they’re the type of creations that look best on a mannequin. I tried to envision myself wearing even one of the creations, and I just couldn’t visualise it. My life is rather too mundane for Maticevski to be in my wardrobe, I simply don’t have any red carpet events to attend.

Food-wise, Bendigo has a lot going for it. It’s only a small town, but with cool cafes like Percy and Percy, laneway bars like The Dispensary and innovative local hatted eateries like Masons of Bendigo, there’s more than enough great dining spaces for a weekend away.

With our big Europe trip behind us, we’re mainly going to be concentrating on local and domestic travel over the coming years. Part of it is financial – we’re saving for big ticket items like house deposits! – but the other part is pragmatic – we’re also saving our annual leave for things like eventual maternity leave. Short weekend getaways to places like Bendigo are what we have to look forward to…lucky there is so much to look forward to with great art, music and dining!

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