Before we get to the vanilla slices, I should explain why I’m doing a road trip to Bendigo.
2016 National Clubs Carnival for Gymnastics Australia
The 2016 National Clubs Carnival for Gymnastics Australia is being held in Bendigo at the Bendigo Stadium at the moment. It’s the reason for my road trip. My two youngest daughters, viz., Miss15 and Ms19 competed. Well, Ms19 competed and Miss15 got a 0.00 score because a few weeks ago she fractured her fifth metacarpal in her dominant hand while training on the balance beam. It was a clean fracture which hopefully will heal without repercussions. Anyway, Miss15 was listed to compete, so on the score sheet, she scored 0.00 for all apparatus. Looks silly really. She was allowed on the floor with her teammates so she helped with video recording their routines and doing other tasks to assist her coaches.
Ms19 competed injury-free and did well in the L10 division.
Given Bendigo is a little over 600 kilometres from Canberra it was a good reason for me to take a few days recreation leave and drive down on Wednesday 14 September. I’ve never driven to Bendigo, I’ve never been to Bendigo, I knew almost nothing about Bendigo. What I did know was it is a large country town in Victoria and had a start in gold mining. I learnt in high school there was a lot of racial tension with the Chinese who came in and extracted gold from the waste left behind by others.
[Read with sarcasm] Being Victoria, I knew they speak another language. They refer to things like snot blocks and potato cakes. I knew I had to be careful amongst these aliens. I knew I could ask for a vanilla slice but they wouldn’t have a clue what a potato scallop is. I figured if they didn’t know what a potato scallop is they probably didn’t know how to cook a decent one anyway. For confused readers, I wrote this paragraph with heavy sarcasm, after all, I was born and bred from the greatest of the Australian states, viz., Queensland and lived for twelve years in the greatest of Australian territories, viz., the Northern Territory of Australia.
Before embarking on this trip I consulted with a close colleague from another government agency who is widely regarded as a vanilla slice connoisseur with an excellent knowledge of rural Victoria and New South Wales. I even made an MS Excel spreadsheet containing my extensive ‘research’ findings. I passed this on to my friend and his only warning was to lock my car in one of the towns I mentioned.
The plan for the drive from Canberra to Bendigo was to leave early and have breakfast on the road in Gundagai. This nearly came unstuck because Apple in its wisdom released iOS 10 on the morning of Wednesday 14 September. Being an early adopter (but not brave enough to use β versions) I woke up at 4 am to download iOS 10. Bloody hell, Apple also wanted me to download an updated version of iTunes which was >250 MB. iOS 10 was >1 GB. My ADSL is pathetically slow so I only managed to update my iPad and I was late leaving my apartment at 6.15.
My first stop was the town of Gundagai. I’d been to Gundagai before and seen the dog on the tucker box. Would you believe my kids didn’t know about the dog on the tucker box? What do they teach kids in school these days? I had decided I’d have a coffee and some sort of carbohydrate-laden product for breakfast. I went with a scone and butter. I did this with trepidation. I have irritable bowel syndrome and my gastrocolic reflex is reasonably good and it is the reason I usually never leave ‘home’ without eating, even if it’s for a morning walk. Being caught short is a constant fear for IBS sufferers.
The Gundagai Bakery is pretty nice. The person who served me was very friendly and I got a large scone, some butter and a decent flat white coffee for $4.50. That was the best bargain of the trip.
I got to Tarcutta and the urge to purge struck. Say no more I hear you think!
I posted a photograph to Twitter and mentioned my dunny stop. I received a mention from a fellow food blogger who tweeted when she was younger her father frowned on her use of the word dunny. I like that as an adult I can be as vulgar as I want.
— The Hungry Mum (@Thehungrymum) September 13, 2016
By the time I got to Holbrook it was raining cats and dogs. I couldn’t see the submarine out the window as I drove. I figured it had been carried away by the storm water runoff. When I got to the Holbrook Bakery the gutters and sidewalk were like a white water rafting course. I really hate having wet shoes and socks when driving. Oh well I thought, I’m here for a reason, having wet shoes isn’t the end of the world.
So this was my first vanilla slice of the trip. It was pretty nice. Not the best in terms of texture, taste and consistency but I’d happily eat more of these.
Two years ago I drove to Geelong for the National Clubs Carnival and broke up my trip by spending the night in Wangaratta. This time, I was driving straight to Bendigo so rather than dinner in Wangaratta it was lunch.
I decided to have lunch at Cafe Derailleur. The café has seating in the front behind windows, some outdoor seating and an area out the back. I chose to sit inside near the main counter. I was feeling a little peckish so I went with duck fat garlic potato wedges with miso mayonnaise, beetroot sweet potato fritter, avocado, mushrooms, poached egg and spinach, along with a beetroot ginger carrot apple juice. It was pretty good. A word of warning, though. Having eaten a beetroot fritter and enjoyed a beetroot drink, don’t be surprised if you do both you may have a little scare in the bathroom the following day, especially if your tired and feeling a little vague. I’m glad I don’t need to visit the endoscopist again.
I had never heard of Violet Town before last week when I started planning this little holiday adventure.
As I arrived I noticed a nice Lions Park with public amenities so I stopped for a dunny break before afternoon tea.
The Violet Town Café had a nice looking vanilla slice in the display cabinet. I could see the passionfruit seeds in the custard and the icing. I had to have one. I really like a little passionfruit in my vanilla slices. While I also like a pink icing, it’s the passionfruit I really like.
Comfort Inn Julie-Anna Bendigo
I chose to stay at the Comfort Inn Julia-Anna on Lake Weeroona. I got a room with a spa bath. While it hasn’t been a really cold winter in Canberra, I’ve been crook for a while and I was looking forward to a daily soak in a spa bath.
This is a short video of my room
I had thought I might go to the Bouchon Bendigo for dinner but I wasn’t feeling the best and figured I’d have dinner in the motel restaurant. When I checked in, the person at reception mentioned how much effort they’ve been putting into getting the restaurant up to a really high standard.
The menu looked good. I went with the parmesan crusted braised lamb shoulder with pea purée and mashed potato. It was delicious. I really enjoyed the mouthfeel of the crispy parmesan crust on the little brick of compressed lamb shoulder meat.
For dessert, I went with the vanilla cheesecake which came with chocolate soil and a raspberry coulis.
Thursday 15 September
Rather than have a motel breakfast, I went searching for a café. I had been told about The Dispensary in Chancery Lane but when I arrived it wasn’t open. I went for a little walk around to see if I could find anything open.
I came across Queen Victoria. Victorians really seem to like her.
Then I saw that the Pall Mall café was open and I went in and had Eggs Benedict. It was a pretty good breakfast.
National Clubs Carnival Bendigo Stadium
My two youngest daughters, viz., Miss15 and Ms19 are gymnasts. They both compete for Delta Brisbane. Delta Brisbane has a very good record at national championships, regularly winning champion club. Unfortunately, Miss15 recently fractured the fifth metacarpal in her dominant hand. She did it while training. It was great that she was still permitted to travel with the team and help her Level 8 teammates. Both of them have had their share of injuries including fractures of vertebræ, elbows, and arms plus torn ligaments, tendons and muscles. It’s a tough sport but both of them love it so much. Ms19 is at Level 10 and was competing in the combined levels 9 and 10 division.
It was great seeing them both and spending some time with them. Needless to say, over the two days of competition for levels 7, 8 and 9/10 Delta Brisbane won the best club title for all three divisions.
I’ve created a SmugMug gallery of photographs that I shot during the event. I should explain the images are not that good. I was some distance from the competition floor and so I cropped these photographs considerably and had to use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to reduce a lot of noise. I was using a 24–240 mm f/3.5–6.3 zoom lens and shot at 1/500 second with the ISO at 6400 and exposure compensation at +1 stop.
The gallery will run as a slideshow automatically. There are 25 images and they change every 3 seconds.
This is a video of Ms19’s uneven bar routine from Thursday 15 September
After the first night of competition, I was again feeling a little poorly so ate in the motel restaurant. This time I went for the duo of pork. This consisted of a
crumbed rillettes of pork shoulder plus a piece of braised pork belly. This was served with sweet potato purée and a ball of spinach. This was a particularly delicious meal. The crackling was nice and the fat had been rendered out nicely.
Friday 16 September
I slept very poorly. My snoring was out of control and my chronic cough kept me awake most of the night. I decided rather than going in search of another café I would eat breakfast at the motel.
The poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, smoked salmon, and spinach was delightful to look at and delicious to eat.
Thursday and Friday Lunch and Friday dinner
The best sporting event meal I know is potato gems and chicken salt. The chips at Bendigo Stadium didn’t look that enticing. I could have gone out between events on Friday evening but I had a really good seat and I didn’t want to lose it. In addition, Ms21 made a surprise appearance. It turns out Ms19 had decided to retire from gymnastics after 16 years of training and competing. This was to be her last competition and with each apparatus I could see she was looking happier with the completion of each routine. Would you believe I spent $16 on three potato gems meals!
After the trophy presentation on Friday night, four gymnasts announced their retirement from the sport with Ms19 being one of them. When I got a chance to congratulate her, I started crying and couldn’t stop. All of us had leaking eyes. Gymnastics has been a major part of her life for 16 of her 19 years. It’s helped give her discipline and purpose. My Mum often says that Ms19 is very much like me. Dogged stubbornness and determination. I’ve often said, I’ve never seen anyone so young with the mental toughness of Ms19.
Saturday 17 September
Friday night ended late and well past my bed time. I had another crapulent sleep. I had planned to leave Bendigo at about 6.30 which meant I would need to be out of bed at about 5.30 given I hadn’t packed and I wanted one last spa bath.
After being awake until about 3.30 I fell asleep and woke at 6.30 with a start. I was running late. I still had a bath and was out of the motel room by 7.30.
I decided I would skip breakfast in Bendigo and planned to eat something in Benalla. Just before I got there though the instant coffee I had in the motel room kicked in so a rest stop was needed.
My target for breakfast was Hides Bakery. I got there a little after 9 and requested a coffee and scrambled eggs with bacon on avocado spread sourdough toast.
Before leaving Hides Bakery I bought a vanilla slice to go. I found a rest stop halfway between Wangaratta and Wodonga and enjoyed the treat. It was really nice.
I’d promised myself that on this adventure I would also enjoy a meat pie or two or three. Surprisingly, that hadn’t happened. I went in search of a good meat pie. My search led me to Henri’s Bakery in Wodonga where I enjoyed a minted lamb pie. It was a perfect meat pie. Not too hot, chunky meat and recognisable vegetables.
My final planned break on my journey was the Interchange Café in Tarcutta. To be honest, I was relieved when I entered the café to see a display case bereft of custard filled treats. No vanilla slices and no other pastries that looked appetising. Instead I had a small coffee. It was very good. I really needed it. I had started to feel very tired driving.
How was the drive?
I really like driving and despite not feeling the best, the drive to and from Bendigo was enjoyable. There was a lot of rain on the way south and on occasion there was sufficient water on the road that I had to slow down and carefully drive across the few centimetres of water that was flowing across the road surface. The roads in Victoria aren’t particularly good. There were a lot of pot holes to avoid.
I spent my hours in the car listening to podcasts. One of my favourite podcasts is Quackcast by Mark Crislip. Mark is an infectious diseases physician from the United States. He does a great job at demolishing the quackery of alternative and complementary medicine including acupuncture, naturopathy, Chinese herbal medicine and homeopathy. You can find the podcast in the iTunes store and I assume in the Google play store if you’re an Android user.
Getting back to Canberra
On arriving I filled the car with diesel and went and bought some food for dinner. I made a simple ramen noodles and lup cheong meal. Nothing fancy. Just light and easy.
What can I say. I enjoyed the short holiday. A good drive is always fun.
My favourite meal was the duo of pork at the Comfort Inn Julie-Anna.
My favourite vanilla slice was the takeaway treat from Hides Bakery and eaten on the side of the road.
My favourite moment was hugging Ms19 at the end of her competition and telling her how proud I am of her.
Every time I look at this photograph it brings tears to my eyes. Ms19 has been a gymnast for sixteen of her nineteen years. It’s taught her discipline. It’s helped her develop an understanding of physical fitness. It’s made her powerful and strong. Most importantly it’s developed her as an individual and as a member of a team. This year she captained Queensland at the national championships. A lot of people criticise gymnastics because of the injuries, it’s true gymnastics get injured but the benefits far outweigh the injuries. Well done Ms19 I love you so much and I am so proud of you.
Have you been to Bendigo?
What did you think? What did you eat? What did you do?
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