We went to ride on Puffing Billy last month for Oscar’s birthday and forgot about it until yesterday, it wasn’t unforgettable haha, but it wasn’t forgettable either, a nice time was had by all. We booked the 10.30am departure which turned out to be a bit of a rush (since they tell you to be 30 minutes early or something), we didn’t get there by 10am (more like 10.20am) but it didn’t matter, they didn’t leave till about 10.35am anyway. A lot of late comers strolling on so we certainly didn’t feel too bad about not being early.
We left from the starting point of Belgrave and headed for Lakeside, which is the main stop as there are picninc grounds and a small lake to spend time at (and some nearby play grounds). It takes about an hour with a couple of stops along the way, there is a nice view toward the city near the top around 45 minutes in and a fun atmosphere the whole time. The train meanders across Mount Dandenong and stops traffic at many junctions where people seem to enjoy the spectacle of a passing steam train.
We arrived at Lakeside at about 11.30am and quickly got out and ate our packed sandwiches by the lake. We had a short walk around and discovered that the next train back to Belgrave (after the 12.30pm train) was not until after 2pm, which we were not prepared for. So in a rush we headed back to the train station and boarded before setting off back to Belgrave.
So unfortunately we didn’t get to spend a relaxing time up at the lake but at least we had a peaceful ride on the train back. As the weather was quite cool (but sunny) it wasn’t so busy so we got to sit comfortably and also dangle our legs out the window whenever we liked. We got to Belgrave and were pretty hungry so we had a quick look in the gift shop before checking out what food was on offer along the main street.
It’s a good experience but we definitely could have done better by being more prepared, being May it also wasn’t the best time to spend outdoors in the crisp air of Mount Dandenong hungry. Next time maybe we’ll go when it’s a bit warmer so that we can enjoy the lakeside activities a bit and spend more time up there (and also prepare more food!). All in all it’s a fun trip and the trains are pretty cool to see, puffing out all that steam makes for some interesting pictures, there’s also that part where the train goes over an elevated section of track that would look pretty cool from down on the side of the road. It’s not cheap (54$ per adult) so definitely worth it to prepare and plan out the trip better than we did.
Wow, it’s only been two months since my last post, I thought it’d been longer :(. Oh well, last week (Good Friday it was, actually) we went up to Sassafras in the Dandenongs as it is one of the few places in Melbourne where anything is open on such holy day. Apart from wandering around the local artisan shops – we found a nice, reasonably priced painting (by local artist Belinda Volkmer) at Miloko for our room!) –
we had brunch at Café de Beaumarchais, we’d been here before but with a big bunch of people (who were quite annoying) so maybe we didn’t enjoy it as much last time, thought we’d better give it another chance without any distractions (even the little boy was not with us!).
So only needing to worry about ourselves deciding what to eat was so much easier, drinks first and that’s usually not even a question (as we don’t drink coffee).
A couple of Parisian Hot Chocolates thanks, now I’m not sure what the difference between this one and the regular hot chocolate is (perhaps it is darker and less sweet? That’s pure speculation though) but it was good, not that overly sweet stuff.
On to the food which is what everyone is really interested in, we went with the special croissant (pesto, tomato, cheese, can’t remember the cold cut but possibly ham, and some kind of nut (probably), and the three cheese board. Emmy ate most of the croissant so I can’t really comment on that one but the one bite I had was pretty good. The highlight though was really the cheese board.
There was a soft cheese, a less soft cheese, and a harder cheese (like cheddar) to go with a couple of baguettes, pickles, quince paste, and some lavosh (like pappadams but smaller?), and I know, it doesn’t look like a lot, but when you eat at a reasonable pace and with a hot choc as well, it does fill you up quite well.
I love pickles so that was a nice side and the sourness worked really well with the sweet quince paste. Each of the cheeses were great, I’d probably give my nod to the middle softness one, it was just right :D. The bread was good too and had that nice crusty crust even though it wasn’t toasted. It leaves you wondering, where do they source there cheese from and how do I get some for myself! Definitely a more enjoyable experience than last time and definitely a thumbs up and recommend from me.
We went to the Dandenongs on the weekend – it’s a part of my new year’s resolution to go on more day trips, you might not have noticed yet, but it is slowly starting to happen – looking to visit an Autumn Garden show. But, apparently emmy got the dates wrong, even though I did mention to her that the Autumn show had a date set for 23rd/24th April and that it was not open on the weekend, she told me that she had some kind of pass, so I accepted that she would definitely not be out of her mind. Anyway, come Saturday and we drove up the mountain to Sassafras for this show, we stopped to have lunch beforehand at Ripe Cafe, which is in the same area as Cafe de Beaumarchais and Miss Marples Tea Room.
Looking at the ridiculous queue for Miss Marples, I definitely did not want to go there, and emmy didn’t want to visit Cafe de Beaumarchais again, so we went with Ripe Cafe. I ordered eggs benedict this time, while emmy went with chilli tomatoes on toast, I also had a hot chocolate. To be honest, the eggs benedict were a bit underwhelming, served with ham for starters (I much prefer salmon), and one of the poached eggs was overcooked (not runny at all!), the muffins underneath also seemed to be a little under toasted, lacking crunch. It’s quite a nice place, too bad that the kitchen didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
After lunch, we had a quick look through a couple shops before heading on our way to the Autumn Garden show, which of course was closed, due to it being the 16th of April, and not the 23rd or 24th when the garden was meant to be open. So emmy, in all of her wisdom managed to persuade me to take us up to the Sky High Mount Dandenong Observatory to save a wasted day (it was just close enough that our low petrol tank would not drain away before we found a petrol station). Turned out that even despite cloud and mist blowing over the view, we did manage to have a good time up there (also the Secret Garden was closed as well) visiting the maze and the other small garden in the area.
The maze is quite nice for young families, as long as you’re not after a real challenge as it’s not very difficult and you can pretty much see over the top of the maze to find the stamp points that you’re looking for, and then there aren’t that many dead-ends to complete it. Some good fun had by all, and weather permitting, we’ll be back this weekend to visit the Autumn garden show, while it’s open.