Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hidden treasures

One of the joys of moving to a new town or city is discovering new places. Of course you miss the old and are often nostalgic for places that you romanticise in your mind. When you first move to a new place or even visit a new place, you are only seeing a few layers. It takes time to really understand and appreciate the hidden places and nuances of culture and attitudes in a new place.
I remember when I moved to London that I loved its pulse and energy from the start, I loved its history and its grandeur and its feeling of being at the centre of the world. However, it was a good six months before I felt like I really knew how the transport systems worked, which newspapers were the most informative or interesting, and the reputation of areas. And probably a few years before I really had some insight into the subtle cultural differences between Central London, Greater London and then England. Layer upon layer, you discover a new place. 
Some people say you're not a local to Ballarat until you've lived here for over thirty years! Having been here one year, I'm making a concerted effort to discover how the city works, how the people think, how country living is different to big-city living, and most of all where the best places are to sit, eat and read or relax. As a city with a significant history of the gold-rush era, many visitors to Ballarat would only ever see Sovereign Hill or the Art Gallery. Just like many visitors to London never get past the major galleries, Westminster Abbey, Soho, Kensington or Covent Garden. 
So, pictured is a little bit of hidden Ballarat. A secret spot to sit and sip tea surrounded by beauty. Sssh, don't tell but it's in the Botanical Gardens in the greenhouse.

To market, To market

This morning I visited a beautiful market showcasing young designers and their flare for creating innovative, colourful, beautiful children's clothing and toys. The market was held in a local school hall and was one of the best collections of consistently gorgeous products across all stalls that I've ever seen. I could have easily bought goods from everyone there! From clothing to hair accessories to toys and decorative items, talented young things showcased their hand-made goods. With business names like Little Puddles, Giggles, Cute Little Sparrow, Myrtle and Grace, Little Ray and Birdie Jane, how could they not promote gorgeous goods?
For those of you in the market for gifts for nieces and nephews or your own little ones, the next Sugar and Spice Market will be held on the morning of Sunday 27th February in Ballarat (or the 13th as per the Sugar and Spice blog? TBC). They also pop up at different times in Woodend and Mornington.
Well worth a visit! 

There is a big park in Ballarat, Victoria Park, that reminds me greatly of the untamed, wild and beautiful parks in London such as Richmond Park. Although the Ballarat one has no deer!
Victoria Park isn't a typical Australian park in that it's massive, it's overgrown and there's nothing kept or pristine about it. It's the sort of place where you could drive or ride through and not see another person. Of course this raises a safety issue but for now let's focus on the beauty of it. Here is a photo of an avenue of trees within the park.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Following from my previous blog post . . .

This restaurant menu saddened me a little when I saw it!

Festive fun

It's now November and the year has flown by. All of a sudden I'm seeing displays of Christmas cards in homeware stores and supermarket aisles, bigger crowds in the shops, restaurants advertising for Christmas dinner bookings, and even a few streets decorated. At this time of year there's always a big list of things to do: presents to buy, decorations to make or buy, decisions about where Christmas festivities will be held and summer holiday planning. 
For me, having the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in Europe for four years was amazing as it gave a whole new meaning to the traditions. Firstly, Christmas lights make more sense in the Northern Hemisphere where it gets dark early, and large hot meals are actually needed to warm the tummy and the soul in the Winter cold. I love the pageantry of the celebrations in the places where they originated. Present shopping on Kings Rd or Regent St in London and elbowing through the crowds and escaping the cold in shops, eating strudel and chestnuts in Vienna for Christmas dinner, the Christmas markets in Vienna with their strudel for sale and gingerbread houses, the snow on the Dolomites in Northern Italy. These are just a few of the experiences I was privileged to have.
Now I'm looking forward to donning flip flops, paddling in the sea, BBQs on the beach, long summer evenings and the smell of Aerogaurd in the air to dissaude the mossies! Christmas is a breakfast BBQ with my husband's family and a noisy household full of over-excited kids and piles of Christmas presents which quickly turns into piles of paper and ribbon; Christmas with my family is usually a quieter affair with an informal lunch of salads and cold meats but this year there's three little kids so it'll turn into something more lively. 
I love Christmas afternoons when everyone is full of turkey and pudding and we laze on the couch reading our new books or the blurbs on new DVDs, kids try out their new bikes and we walk along the beach. There's a feeling of wonderful togetherness and relaxation - the calm after the storm of organising it all! Now let the festivities begin . . .