When you and your beloved are usually planning a weekend getaway, one usually thinks of Daylesford, where a decent coffee is guaranteed, and there are shops aplenty in which to window shop. Ararat is somewhat of an unusual place to spend a mini-break. I lived there and it wasn’t the most dynamic of places in which to grow up- I mean Ballarat was the Big Smoke!
We were there for a Purpose- to go on the Ghost Tour of Aradale Asylum. Now this is a building which I had seen nearly every day I had been at primary school. Our school bus route took us to the entrance, where boys and girls, who lived nearby, would disembark. The white facade was entirely familiar, but I had never ventured through the gates. Our next door neighbour, who was a psychiatric nurse, had worked there and found it to be a gruelling experience.
Our first stop on the trek was Beaufort for a refreshment stop at the Three Troupers Pantry. If you’re travelling from Melbourne, Beaufort is the first town you travel through properly (as Ballarat now has a bypass), and as a result cafes have sprung up, offering yummy lunches and coffee. There was also Michael Unwin Wines, where we bought a few bottles :).
Our accommodation was at the Colonial Lodge Motor Inn. I remember this place, when it first opened, as having a very fancy French restaurant, so fancy it didn’t have a kid’s menu (which to a nine year old was both incomprehensible and the epitome of sophistication).
I left Mr BG to rest and read, while I went out for a walk to explore my old home town. Apart from the odd name change to businesses, the main street remained pretty much the same as I remembered it. The police station had been upgraded from its 50s facade, and was now nestled between the Victorian grandeur of the Court House and the old Post Office.
A couple of things hadn’t survived. The old outdoor swimming pool where I learned to swim had been left in a state of disrepair in favour of the indoor pool, and the old netball courts where I achieved fame and glory as a 9 year old Goal Shooter had been converted into tennis courts. The old church hall where my ballet school had been based had been razed to make way for Woolworths (another reason to despise them…).
Our old house though was still there with the palm trees, and looked in great shape.
Heading back to the hotel, we headed to the nearest pub for dinner, then got ready to go to Aradale…