Windmilling north

It’s a strange feeling wandering the streets of Launceston around closing time. The combination of quieter streets, a mishmash of architecture from the 1870’s and 1970’s, and the cool clear air remind me of a Japanese rural city. But it also brings back memories of my adventures in Australia years ago.

There’s a Myer department store which appears to have escaped the renovations and retains the worn charms of my childhood. The toy section is better than our Miranda Myer. Also seen along the way a hobby store, French bistro, Harris Scarfe, Toyworld and a variety of shops that seems to have gone missing in Sydney.

We walk to the City Park, green lawns and ornate ironwork. We are too late to see the Japanese macaques and the conservatory is closed, but there are still families and young people playing in the sun.

The sky is clear enough to see the top of Mount Wellington when we awake, our first sight of the top of the mountain that towers over Hobart. I’m a little sad to be leaving the Somerset and would quite happily relax there for another week.

We are late enough that there’s no time to walk too far before our parking permit runs out, so we go to have breakfast at Mures. But they advise us it’s a thirty minute wait! So it’s milkshakes and a croissant at their dessert bar.

Then it’s back to the car for the drive up to Launceston. It’s only a couple of hours drive, but we intend to stop at some of the historic towns along the way. It won’t be the first time for us.

The first stop is Oatlands, home of the Callington Mill, a rebuilt windmill. The visitors centre has closed since our last visit, but you can still organise a tour of the mill, as we did before, if you go to some other places around town. There are also static and video displays.

The gentle spinning of the windmill, the sun on the yellow fields and sandstone, the peace and the scent of country air combine to drive a longing in my heart. A desire for a break from travel and city life, to spend a week or more away from it all and just read, write and relax. I resolve to return to Oatlands and this time to stay a while.

This resolve is further reinforced when we take lunch at the Pancake and Crepe Shop opposite the mill. Reminiscent of a French crepiere, but with definite Australian sensibilities, they are the best crepes I have had in many years.

Now sated, we continue on to Ross, another town stepped in history. The women’s prison factory is now but a field with explanatory signs, but there are more recent artefacts in the antiques store and the post office where B buys some more rabbit hair socks.

Next is Campbell Town, where we stop for some bakery treats and to admire the convict built red bridge. Bricks with the names of convicts, their crimes, transport and sentence, line the footpath. Reading them we are aghast at the punishments meted out for their crimes.

I buy a second hand copy of Geoffrey Blainey’s The Peaks of Lyell about the Queenstown mines from a bookshop in the cellar of one old coach inn.

That marks the end of our heritage stops and we continue on to Launceston, where we are rejoined by Tyson, Alex’s lost toy.

According to a news item I saw on television this evening food is driving tourism to Tasmania. I can believe it, but they might need reservations. We walk around the waterfront area near the Penny Royal and everywhere is booked out until after 8.30 pm. Even our hotel restaurant has no space!

We decide to skip the requirement for a table and order room service, but even that takes over an hour to appear. Lucky it was really, really good.

I miss the freedom to make our minds up on a whim and not suffer for a couple of hours because of it. Tomorrow night we will be solely responsible should our meals not arrive on time. Either that or fast food. Back to Sydney.