Go Out and Smell The Roses…Mt. Dandenong Style
Ah yes! Time to get out and smell the roses this spring. It has been a rather long, rainy and cold winter.
But ‘where’?- I hear you ask.
This is Victoria, the garden state. This is Melbourne. Surely wherever you go there is lush greenery, finely manicured gardens, sweet smelling nectar flowing from blossoming honey producing flowers. And as always, roses, roses and some more roses.
You can virtually take your pick of places. If you want to stroll down some idyllic gardens then the ‘Bot’ or the ‘Tan” (short for Botanical gardens) is your choice. Only a few kilometers from the CDB and across the Yarra river. There you will be amazed at the variety, the colour, the texture and the freshness of what nature has to offer. A short walk is not only good for the body and your health, but also soothing for the soul.
If the ‘Tan” is not your go, you could try the Fitzroy gardens with Captain Cook’s Cottage the main attraction. Centrally situated opposite Spring Street and the MCG it will revitalize your desire for warmth and fresh air and life.
Two great choices…as for me, I prefer the Mt. Dandenongs. Situated 50km east from the CBD, the Mt.Dandenongs with its iconic observatory and the twin TV towers, is a world of its own.
Let me guide you.
This particular Saturday morning it was 19 degrees, with little to no breeze to speak off. My wife and I decided to join our friends for brunch at their place in Kalorama. A little village just at the descent from Olinda down the mountain.
We left a bit earlier that day, because before we arrived at their place we wanted to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the quaint little villages along the way. So we took the Mt. Dandenong Tourist road, stopping at every little shop, and boutique along the way that we were interested in. For those that have not had the experience, it is a must –circle this- in your travel guide.
When approaching the villages and little towns, you are immediately transported to villages and hamlets of Europe. The Dutch windmills, the German and Austrian influenced homes and eateries, just add to something out of ‘Sound Of Music’. The German eatery – The Cuckoo-has the only biggest cuckoo clock in the world. And if you want to be treated to a mini German fest – book for lunch or dinner. Food and fun galore! It has been there since 1958.
Each little village seems to breathe its own freshness and aroma adding to what is already a kaleidoscope of things to see and do. Quaint Boutique shops with their specific hand-made, potted, created, cooked, quilted and painted menagerie of things. The nurseries showcase their own species of native plants, roses, rhododendrons, lilacs and lavender akin to that part of Melbourne. The smell of these wonderful plants, the slight rustling of eucalypts in the breeze can only be summed up as –delightful.
We spent a few hours devouring fresh produce shops, fresh bread bakeries and the small boutiques with their unique trinkets and paraphernalia. This uniqueness seems only to be found in the Mt. Dandenongs. A quick gift purchase at one of these places for our friends and we were satisfied.
Next was a sip of freshly made Italian coffee, which stirred my senses since we first stopped. To top it off we sat in a lovely garden café which had bird baths as its feature. Something you do not see at regular cafes and bistros. This concluded our mini tour of places on our way down to Kalorama.
As we drove for a few more kilometers, we were wildly inspired by the coolness of the sheer greenery of trees and volume of colours blossoming that only spring can bring.
Arriving at Mike and Julie’s place was warm and welcoming. They lived in Kalorama for over 15 years. Their kids have all grown up and left the nest, so they have lot more time to enjoy their gardens and lifestyles. Julie is a real green thumb, although you would think anyone can be one up in the hills where nature is a plenty.
Their house is a typical cottage, like the ones you see on postcards from Europe. Typical German style cottage with bold colours to enhance its natural beauty. Potted plants and flowers of all kinds to be seen peppered tall over the property but most noticeable were those on their rather large veranda.
Though the walk up the hill to their cottage was a challenge –for my aging knees ( souvenir from years in sport), we made it. Julie, a real entertainer had everything spread out on the veranda. There were cheeses and platters served from locally sourced producers, there were vegetables and greens from her organic garden that would make Paleo- Pete (Pete Evans – celebrity chef) literally green with envy. The tapas, the small goods and obligatory sip of Sangria was to start the brunch event.
The real kicker for me was where the event was held. On their veranda/balcony. No, this is not your ordinary suburban veranda with its modern outdoor blinds, or folding arm awnings. This was a real rustic balcony where once you sat down and got comfortable, you could enjoy – and I mean REALLY ENJOY. Every sense was stimulated to the max.
Their veranda boasted timber flooring with timber railings that suited the colourful outdoor furniture and sofas Julie chose. There was something magical about the quilted pillows and embroided settees. It all seemed to fit. The auto blinds all round could be adjusted such to still allow sunlight at the right angles, but cool breezes to follow through. It also to allowed maximum views of the Silvan dam.
Your eyes took in the glorious views overlooking the Silvan Dam. The bluish misty cool colours coming from the dam was something that inspires great artists. The greenery, the mixture of natural pastels with the deep native colours made your eyes smile with delight.
The sound of local native birds, the bumbling bees collecting their honey from freshly opened roses and wattles was a delight and a wonder .These sounds could be distinguished from one another as there was no other interfering traffic noises you would find in the suburbs,. The slight rustling of the leaves in the breeze only added to the natures wonders only experienced in highly dense forests and tropical jungles.
I as I touched the petals of newly spawned cherry tree , picked the ripe strawberries from Julies garden and petted the local parrot – I was like a little child touching nature for the very first time.
And now for my favourite. The taste of variety of food offering. The locally made cheeses, that seem to ooze goodness with every bite. The fresh picked strawberries, the variety of greens and mushrooms to add with the liver pate is even making my mouth water now – as I writing this. The home made bread that reminds me of my grandmothers baking skills. Then there were the thinly sliced smallgoods of German sausages and variety of salamis.
With friendly conversation, fresh air, great culinary delights, plenty of sunshine the smell of spring was really in the air. Mt. Dandenong style!
To top things off, I could still taste the sweet sensation of cocoa dense chocolate after my third cup of Italian coffee.
As my wife and I parted driving down the hill towards Montrose (other side of the mountain), we could not feel anything else other than a little envious. We took a lot with us that day. The delights, the nature, the smells, the sights and the feel that only Mt. Dandenong in spring can offer.