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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Loving Monty....

Hello peeps.... It’s been a while since I’ve tottered away anywhere or had anything remotely interesting to ramble about.... that said, things have been far from packed neatly in the luggage department of my life. 

Since Big M and my sojourn to the paradise island of Bali, I’ve hidden myself away down memory lane, madly preening and prepping a manuscript for the Finch Memoir Prize (wish me luck peeps, after 10weeks chained to the desk, the M/S babe has finally hatched and flown the coop). I’ve also delved into the  pre-grandbubba realm, trying to grasp the correct end of a knitting needle and deciphering the difference between blade and pinking scissors - all in the quest to whip up strips of colourful bunting, snugly blankies and soft slobable rag-books for the little peanut who’s about to land on the doorstop in a very short time. 

All my  ‘head in the computer and hiding under balls of bight neon wool’ must have made Big M feel a little dejected recently as he decided to surprise me with a romantic week-end away in one of the prettiest hamlets of Sunshine land – Montville. 
Imagine my delight to find out Big M was taking me to the village that inspired Eleanor Dark’s “Lantana Lane”, a high in the hills community of hilarious, often-eccentric characters.  Would I find a Parisienne Aunt Isabelle, a woman of part time finesse and full time aussie-larrikin dry-wit, here?  Most probably not, but I was not to be disappointed as Big M had booked us into a romantic B&B with a French whisper, the luxurious Montville Provençal.  
There was another reason Big M had decided to get romantic.  A reason I always seem to forget – our wedding anniversary.   27years of wedded bliss....or is that blitz, maybe it’s blazing rows! One thing’s for sure, it’s never been boring.

So, packing the fancy pants, blingy heels and faux pearls, we scooted up the highway into the hinterland of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and arrived at our Oooh la la, c’est magnifique! room – the Rose Suite – just as the sun was setting the sky on fire.
Our wonderful hosts, Laura and Tony welcomed us with beautiful smiles and recommended a restaurant of great delight, the Gypsy Table, for a perfect anniversary tête-à-têtes.  We found ourselves in a romantic setting with log fire and devouring a unique, if not, unconventional menu.   Big M floated off to seventh heaven as he devoured a multicultural curry medley, whilst my tastebuds tingled with the peppered strawberry lamb.   
(Unlike the following night, at another establishment, when my taste buds were burnt to oblivion by a cayenne peppered laced  soup.... like really, who puts cayenne in a Cauliflower & Parsnip soup, and doesn’t mention the word ‘spicy’ on the menu!!!).

The next morning as a gossamer morning light sprinkled across the gardens and the twittering of fairy wrens mingled with the duets of whip birds, Big M and I donned our walking shoes and ambled along the road towards Lake Baroon. To my literary delight (and environmentalist horror) I discover flowering Lantana sprawling across the verges and about a kilometre into our walk, a burst of whimsical eccentricity, the most colourful cottage – pink, purple and blue – covered in thousands of fairies and sparkling slogans of love and peace. Upon reaching the turn off to Lake Baroon, I take one look at the steep incline to the lake, decided there was no way I could tackle such a long, twisting, heart-attack-inducing walk back up without my morning coffee and promptly turned around and head into the village in search of said caffeine hit. 

(Later, when we do make the trip down to Lake Baroon, we find not only a picturesque lake shimmering in the sunlight, echoing the snap lashes of whip birds and bower bird thrawbles , but a hidden oasis called ‘Secrets’, tree house abodes of extreme luxury with an intricately carved  treetop boardwalk through the forest.  Picking up a brochure, my inner-princess swoons at the little ‘romantic’ extras one can have – rose petal trails and hearts outside the doors and petal ‘declarations of love’  such as ‘I love you’ spelt out in real rose petals, not to mention the OMG, spectacular, hanging-from-the-roof, suspended fireplaces!  I'm tucking this secret into my ‘one day list’'.)

Montville is, in a word, Charming. 

But one word is not enough for this hamlet. It’s adorable, picturesque, quaint and oh so chocolate-box sweet.  

Swathed in overhanging bowers of green with a fusion of colourful blooms, the high street gently winds its way along a mountain ridge.  On one side, panoramic ocean views peak between quaint ‘historical looking’ and historical buildings. On the other side, it’s the forest waving between the edifices.
These quaint edifices ooze with cafes, art galleries and shops. 

Lots of shops. 
Shops selling a swirl of rainbows, copper-art cringes, nicky-naky-noos, high fashion and the latest décor fad – dreams of Paris. 

In an ‘olde-worldly’ timber chalet, cuckoo clocks chime out, near it, a colonial sprouting the name ‘camphor cottage’ with wide verandas entices with the smell of roasted nuts and the visual delight of vintage and up-cycled home delights.  Further along there is a Christmas shop, complete with fake snow and massive Santa out front, and an Italian shop selling exquisite venetian glass and intricate masks for balls. 
There’s a Scottish-Irish shop selling ‘mac’ and ‘O’ someorother tea towels, next to an Australiana shop and further along more shops dedicated to everything French. Down a pretty lane sits an Indian shop to send every hippy(but-in-looks-only)wanna-be into the stratosphere; where everything cheesecloth, hemp, Hindi, Buddhist, embroidered, sequined, beaded, mirrored, tie-dyed can be found. 
Montville is a mini-tour of the world, a mish-mash of colour and variety and all it blends beautifully into absolute quaintness and tranquillity.

Peppered amongst this consumerist array is the history of yesteryear; pictured in tiled murals along the footpath, plaques on the buildings, noted on rest-a-while seats, entwined in the ribbon of wrought iron banisters that meander along the pathways and proudly shown in the restored buildings of the village’s memorial precinct – the heritage listed ‘Green’.  

Of particular interest to us, the memorial gates at the Village Hall. Not only do they list the name of those fallen in the Great War as well as those who enlisted, but also, the 'Rejects'.    

At first, we’re quite taken aback. Is this a ‘name and shame’ thing? It is only after we read the little blurb about the gates that it’s revealed the rejected list is the names of those who enlisted but were unable to serve due to ‘varying reasons’.  I find it fascinating to learn back then, only some fifty-five families made up Montville and from those families, forty men served.  Those who could not join the forty men, petitioned to have their names instilled and remembered on the gates. I don’t know if I’d like to be bestowed this type of memory ‘for all time’, but then on the other hand, acknowledging the desire to serve country and being unable too is very important to families in such small communities. 
These gates sit under a shroud of beautiful figs lining the street, Memorial Close. Planted in 1923, each tree represents a fallen man of the Great War, in all, six men, six magnificent trees.  
Not far from the ‘village green’ is the Montville School, a tree-shaded haven with gorgeous buildings and extensive gardens.  The grounds abound in trees planted each Arbour Day from 1896 by the children, the school ran out of space in the 1920’s.  A great pride to the community, the school and it’s permacultured gardens have recently been accepted into the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program, a project to bring garden, food and community together.
Peppered though out the village are also ‘little’ reminisces of yesterday, hidden away under trees and in gardens, tucked up in buildings and hiding behind corners. 

A tiny wooden bell tower near the school recently called the children to class; not so long ago it rang for the South Sea Islanders to toil in the cane on the coastal fields below.   In the shimmering whiteness of Misty’s, a three storey timber building, is a viewing deck, once boasting a large telescope to wow the 1920’s tourists of the expansive coastline for as far as the eye could see. A massive waterwheel churns next to a stone building, and hidden under a forest of trees, a wooden walk bridge commemorating a century of village settlement sits high above a winding treed road leading to the valley of Hunchy.
Our exploring of ‘old buildings’ leads us into artistic wonderlands and I’m on a high of vibrancy, colour and beauty. 

A glass blowing studio bursts with intricate designs of swirls and bubbles. Pride of place on the wall sits a spectacular glass didgeridoo and as I gush over its beauty, we’re told it has featured in many recordings.  In the Montville Art Gallery, I’m immersed in the works of Kendall, Pointon and Steer, and I cannot resist.   

Amongst it all mosaics grace the walls and walkways, adding more bursts of colour to an already vibrant village. 

Montville truly is a sweep of romance for all the senses. 

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