A sunny spring Sunday was a perfect time to get the Corolla rolling. One of the features of Melbourne’s roadways is long, straight roads, so much so, only four turns were needed the entire way to our first stop at Belgrave – and two of those were just getting out of our street! The best thing about these long, and not winding, roads is that suburbs just loom and pass as a strip of shops. Pubs and hip cafes signal South Yarra, jewellery, galleries, home furnishing, and various human body perfecting services at Toorak, fancry clothes draperies and financial institutions for the Camberwell off before finally a bit of suburban dining exotica in Burwood – dumplings! oh my! A Red Rooster the first sign of the outskirts, then the tram line ended, and a monolithic Westfield meant we were really in the sticks. One bit even looked like we’d inadvertently driven to Canberra, a crane on the horizon doing a decent job of impersonating parliament house at the end of a procession like hill and gunbarrel straight stretch of road. Leafiness encroached beside the lanes, and we were soon driving through a really nice part of the world.
Belgrave announced itself with a shiny silvered lettered cinema and the sound of tribal drumming. We’d have no trouble at all it seems finding the markets. Landed the perfect park on the main road then wandered the seemingly many delights in this quaint two-curve roadside strip of a town. A classic old pub, a ripping op-shop, from which I will probably regret not buying an awesome pictorial history of airline stewardesses book, and some quite well-stocked vintage type places in amidst the usual mumsy homewares stores and cheap shops. A few Puffing Billy themed tourist lairs, a nicely dusty and craggy bookstore, a quirky music venue/lounge sort of place, and the obligatory medal winning pie stocking country bakery all getting our thumbs up. The market itself was a good n wholesome mix of local growers, crafts, creative types and cute kids – one who was selling fur trees to be able to afford “a party for me and four friends, and it’s note even my birthday”. The Melways suburb badges earnt our custom, and rhubarbs and ridiculously multi-seeded bagels made for our morning snack. Then it was one last promenade down town and off on the Monbulk road., being passed the other way by a parade of shining-chromed and souped up cars, which six kilometres and a couple of helpful banners later we learnt were part of the classic car show on Monbulk’s main drag that day!
We had a quick but passive window-viewed sticky beak then made it through a most gloriously winding and tall-timber-treed forest to the National Rododendron Garden. I probably wont be using or writing that word ever gain, but they are a nice flower, which can tend to droop and look wilted, even if well watered, but instead of ill-health, is an inbuilt trick originially designed to release snow from its leaves/petals in its more colder natural climates.
The gardens are pretty amazing, tracks, paths and diversions shoot forth all directions, roads low and high flanked by all manner of trees, and the imposing blue-tinged Dandenong Ranges loom stoically in the background of most vistas. The Cherry Blossoms were being shy, and its annual celebration of all things Japanese had thusly been cancelled, but they were still a terrific sight with brightly sprouted daffodils at their feet. After a long and colour-drenched wander we drove down to Olinda town itself for some gold medal winning pies, some candy store treats and fancy local craft beer and lots of girly stationery/cards/cutesy things, well Amy mostly for the latter, as I pondered that the town really needed a pub for all the blokes to go while their better halves looked thru hokey homewares. Drove home into a sparkling sunset and a Rod Stewart super special. Terrific. ****1/2