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Sunday, 14 January 2018

Christmas in Ballarat

You're either a Christmas person or you're not, and I fall into the latter category.  Don't know why, it just seems an awful lots of stress, money and bother. So this year, we decided to head up to Ballarat. Why?  No special reason - well other than Romancing the Skull was on at the Art Gallery and it seemed as good a place to go as any. 

Now between getting sick in Warnambool, stuffing up our Eildon booking (my boo boo) and catching colds in Marysville, we were all set for 5 perfect days. Not so fast. Day before, car decides to call it quits - is the universe trying to tell me something??  Well f&*k you, I'm not listening.

Still crap at taking selfies!
So Friday 22 December 2017, we collected a hire car, packed and headed off.  Ballarat - 110km NW of Melbourne, population of approximately 102,000 people, 3rd largest city in Victoria. Gold was discovered on 18 August 1851, and news quickly spread attracting gold diggers from all over.  The Ballarat fields experienced a "rush" for many decades, which shows in the city's gorgeous architecture.  At one stage it was the richest place in Oz.

The city is famous for the Eureka Rebellion, the only armed rebellion in Australian history. As such, Eureka is interpreted by some as the origin of democracy in Australia. The rebellion's symbol, the Eureka Flag, has become a national symbol and is held at the Museum of Australian Democracy .

Settled into our home for the next few days and enjoyed lunch and a stroll around Lake Wendouree (pronunciation noted - Wen-duree, not Wen-dow-ree).  That evening, noodles clutched in hand, Aitana and I set off on our Ghost Tour amongst the beautiful Gothic architecture, through underground buildings, back alleyways and through the remains of the old Ballarat gaol, the site of the highest number of executions in Victoria outside of Melbourne. No ghosts, but our guide, Mr Keating was a charming chappy and full of interesting, albeit slightly gruesome stories.  Survived "Fight Night" as the night when the tradies all break up for Christmas is so called.

Dinner at Meigas was muy bueno
I'd heard about this Spanish restaurant and wanted to check it out, so we went there on a warm and balmy Saturday night.  Meigas. Delish, lovely staff and probably the best Spanish food we've had in a restaurant in Australia!  Yep, I know big call, but it was excellent! Agua de Valencia went down very nicely as well. Would go back just to eat there again.

Skulls Galore!
I put together an article on Romancing the Skull at the Art Gallery of Ballarat for WN earlier. Don't know where I picked up my fascination for the skull, but I'm not alone!  The whole city had embraced this exhibition and there were skulls everywhere.   Appears that the skull has intrigued generations of artists, so the Romancing the Skull exhibition takes a look at why we continue to be so enamoured with this iconic symbol. Skulls are an important symbol in Mexican Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations, a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico. Running from 31 October to 2 November each year, the holiday focuses on gatherings to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.  Fabulous tradition and thoroughly enjoyed the visit.

Emi whipping up a fine gravy
Christmas Lunch
Between shopping and eating, a couple of games of Simpson's Cluedo along came Christmas Eve, a quiet but delish night at home.  Wherever you are, there will always be too much food!

Christmas Day we had decided to volunteer.  So off we set at 9am and got to work.  After all the prep, greeting people and serving up, we sat down and had lunch and a chat with the guests.  A wide range of people from families, to couples and plenty of people on their own.  Finished around 3.30pm, tired, but very rewarding and humbling - we are truly blessed.  Might need to make this a new tradition.

Do yourself a favour and go and see Coco!
In traditional Boxing Day style (no not sale shopping), we went to the movies. In keeping with the skull theme, we went and saw Coco and what a magical movie.  Disney Pixar have done it again with the colourful and beautiful story of young Miguel who despite his family's generations old ban on music, dreams of becoming a musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead. After meeting Héctor, the two new friends embark on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history.  Along the way, it tells the story behind the Dia de los Muertos traditions and this may be an animated movie, but there was plenty of sobbing.  Loved it. Take tissues.
Lake Wen-doree

Fishing, throwing in the line and reeling it in, strolls around the city, a drive out to Lake Learmonth, a visit to the neighbouring towns of Clunes and Creswell rounded up the rest of our holiday. 
Bittersweet memories as it was the last place we travelled to with our beloved Lucas earlier in the year.  But blessed to be able to spend Christmas with my Sweetie-Pie, Aitana and my Lola the Explorer. 
Friendly Natives

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