November 15, 2008 – Ranging farther afield
Thanks to Nat, who offered us an outing into the Dandenong Ranges, I now understood why Robin always got a dreamy look on his face when he talked about the range of hills just east of Melbourne.
We drove first to SkyHigh Mount Dandenong for a bird’s-eye view over the vast suburbs of Melbourne, the high rises of the city, Port Phillip Bay, and even the You Yangs to the south. (OK, I have to take the Web site’s word for that last since I don’t yet know anything about the You Yangs but love the sound in my mouth.)
Lily rides like a seasoned traveler in her secure car seat, awake most of the time, entertaining herself or laughing at the silly faces she’s able to persuade the adults around her to make. (As I type she’s pulling herself up on the coffee table and enjoying the sound of the various bits she drops to the floor. Her smile is contagious.)
The Dandenong Ranges are extensive, so I can’t claim to have seen even a quarter of what’s there, but we got a seductive taste and will want to see much more. We along a road that wound through ancient gum trees and thick bush, punctuated by quaint villages that draw urban visitors as well as travelers from farther away.
Nat dropped Robin and me off at the National Rhododendron Gardens so we could take a walk among the tall gums and spring rhodies. (Hmmm, shouldn’t rub in the fact that we’re in spring here while most of you reading this are moving into winter.)
Robin found a piece of gum bark to show me how to make a propeller. As you can see by the photo, he’s as tickled by that now as he was as a young boy.
Another first for me – saw my first kookaburo. This one was people savvy and probably saw us as useless two-leggeds since we were not bearing any edible treats. That gave me a chance to snap a lot of photos. I’ll include one here. I still haven’t heard one laugh yet, but after hearing Nat and Robin do imitations, I’d recognize the sound instantly.
Both Olinda and Sassafras, the two villages we drove through, are both centres for artists and artisans, as well as the antique lover’s destination. Gift shops abound. So do small cafés and restaurants.
After our walk, Nat picked us up again and took us to Miss Marple’s Tea Room (http://www.missmarples.com.au/). Miss Marple memorabilia and dozens of tea pots decorate every wall of the Tudor-style home. We sampled the “famous fingers”, bread topped with Welsh Rarebit, the beef cottage pie, and the day’s soup (a delicious combination of tomato, carrot, and coriander). Somehow we managed to avoid the temptation of sweets that looked scrumptious, in portions generous enough for three.
A fantastic day – and we’re grateful to Robin’s beautiful daughter-in-law, Nat, for so generously taking a day out of her schedule to help us get acquainted with this (for me) new land.