Thursday, July 12, 2012

Kicking back on the Costa del Strathfieldsaye

HOLIDAY BLISS: Five stars and a water view!
THIS really is a stunning place for a holiday: four bedrooms, a fully-stocked kitchen, wireless internet, water views, five acres of pristine bushland to explore, a car for our exclusive use, and a major rural city just 15 minutes away. 
This morning I opened the curtains to blue skies, the laughter of kookaburras and sun glinting off the water. The trees were still dripping silver pearls of last night’s frost and cows were bellowing in the new day.
I spent a lazy hour in bed reading the Smith Journal and, as I write this, am sitting by the window with my laptop, the sun slowly warming my fingertips. It’s not even ten o’clock and I’ve just poured my third cup of tea – I’m still in my tracky daks and slippers – it adds up to a perfect holiday in my book.
So where is this little patch of heaven?
It’s not the Gold Coast. In fact there’s not a theme park within cooee. It’s not a farm stay in the wine country or a houseboat on the Murray. You won’t find it mentioned in Good Weekend or any glossy travel brochure. No, this year we’ve opted for something really special – ten glorious days on the Costa del Strathfieldsaye. The rainwater tank is brimming, the water is lapping at the muddy edges of the dam, and this holiday maker couldn’t be happier.
It’s amazing how home is transformed when you remove all the factors that usually have us so stressed and uptight. Strike work and school from the list and you’ve made a good start. Turn off the alarm clock, forget about packing lunches, signing homework and all those other weekday commitments, and voila! You’re on holidays.
A work colleague of mine who had week’s holiday recently told me with unabashed glee that she planned to do absolutely nothing. I understood her excitement. Sometimes we just need to stop, and nothing can be everything.
The Costa del Strathfieldsaye is a time zone unto itself where everything miraculously slows down. Breakfast is a lazy, wondrous affair accompanied by newspapers, music and (wait for it) conversation. Dinner is something you can plan and enjoy preparing together, rather than an afterthought, or merely an exercise in getting nourishment from hand to stomach before the next taxi run.
The everyday chores suddenly become excursions to savour and lose yourself in. Splitting firewood, collecting the eggs, even hanging the washing on the line, become exercises in pottering that can lead to all manner of creative discoveries. His Holiness the Zen Dog loves it too. There’s plenty of time for long chats and belly rubs instead of flinging him a bone and an apology as we rush out the door.
It’s fun being a tourist in your own town too. On day two of our holiday I dropped the troops at the movies and spent a few lazy hours being a tourist in Bendigo. I sat in the window of my favourite cafĂ© with a pot of tea and the newspapers, did the crossword puzzles, penned a few lines of prose and watched as the world went about its business (without me).
I checked out some oppies and antique shops, and marvelled at the beautiful city I live in. It started to get cold then, but there was just enough time for another cuppa (it is holidays after all) before I picked up the gang and headed back to Chateau Strath to light the fire and bunker down for a night of board games and DVDs. That’s the other good thing about holidays at home – no bedtimes or curfews. If you fall asleep on the couch by the fire someone will always throw a sleeping bag over you on their way to bed.
Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy the excitement of packing a suitcase, or loading up the car for a road trip, but there’s a profound difference between travel and a holiday.
Travel can be fun, inspiring and unpredictable, but it can also be expensive, and plain hard work. You nearly always come home in need of a good holiday. And when you do, the Costa del Strathfieldsaye is just the place.

Published in the Bendigo Advertiser Tuesday July 10, 2012.

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