Friday. Yesterday. Was it really only yesterday? The two-legged occupants of the-house-not-quite-in-the-shadow-of-Wendouree-Tor* took the arvo off. Yee-hah!
First, the almost mythic Ballaratian bookshop, The Known World. What a fascinating haven this shop is, with shelves filled with old books and bits ‘n’ pieces of memorabilia. Old postcards, a suitcase of Golden Books, cameras. There is a coffee machine and some tables, too, and we saw evidence that coffee IS served. The only sadness was the paucity of speculative fiction, the Stephen Kings tucked away in a horror/thriller nook on the bottom shelf under the cookbooks.
From there, to the wonderful space — stone walls, corrugated iron roof, these little nooks in the walls perfect for vendors — that is the Mining Exchange where, bless them, a posse of Grampians wine producers had set up a tasting. Simply Shiraz wasn’t true to label — some had the white stuff there, too, and there was a bit of cab sauv in the mix — and oh my, the range of tastes under that shiraz label! From cordial to enticing dusty to something altogether strange and alluring. Grampians Estate had a topaque (that’d be a tokay if the copyright lawyers don’t get ya) to die for. It was shiraz all the way from there, though; others we took home were from Kimbarra Wines, Clarnette & Ludvigsen, Montara and Clayfield. Add in the enticement of a recommendation for Great Western pinot noir and next road trip: sorted. There was also a blue cheese from Campana’s Stockade Cellars to die for — these guys are a Ballaratian institution, we’re told: so good, they don’t need a website.
We also met Amie Brulee, who has possibly the best PhD thesis ever: comparing attitudes to wine in Australian and France. She also throws period French cabaret shows. Win!
After about two hours, we staggered up the street to busy Thai Fusion. Mixed results here, with KMcD not as taken as I was with the dishes — pinky in a blanket (prawn in a cocoon of deep-fried stuff) and two stir fries, one of seafood and the other of chicken. Lots of ginger in the chicken made it noms. I have yet to find an Asian-themed restaurant that serves decent coffee, but I will keep looking. Normally I would’ve got a green tea or, surprise, booze, but y’know, two hours of wine tasting …
To finish the sobriety trip, we ducked into the Regent, a grand ol’ theatre with a cafe — bless the espresso! — and generous members club discounts. We saw Trance, which was a mess — far from entrancing, indeed: my one thought coming out was, there should be more women named Tuppence! — but by night’s end, we’d ticked off a bunch of our Ballaratian ‘must do’s', with pretty fair success.
Ballaratia, we are in you!
* Wendouree Tor is not the mount’s real name, but it SHOULD be! Also, you’d think two writers could think up a half-decent name for the house, wouldn’t you? Mayhaps it must grow into one…