Hope you all had a fun and restful long weekend! Did you go anywhere interesting?

I was drawn by the rare opportunity to visit the Grace Kelly: Style Icon Exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery so we headed to Bendigo for a short break.

I’ve only been to Bendigo once before  (in fact, for last year’s special Bendigo Art Gallery Exhibition on White Wedding Dresses) and it’s actually the perfect location for a mini-break. It’s just under 2 hours by car from Melbourne and enroute are great foodie towns like Kyneton, Woodend and Castlemaine. The city centre is easily walkable and the population is big enough to support a range of eateries and accommodation for varying tastes and budgets. There are a few notable attractions that will fill your days without feeling like you need to sightsee from morning to night.

Here’s Part 1 of my long weekend in Bendigo with my selected list of things to do. Part 2 will be where to eat!

See Grace Kelly: Style Icon

Grace Kelly: Style Icon is the third exhibition that the Bendigo Art Gallery has presented in conjunction with London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and it has been hugely popular for the gallery.

The exhibition contains pieces from the wardrobe of movie star Grace Kelly, who later became Princess Grace of Monaco. As you can imagine, there are beautiful costumes from her films as well as haute couture outfits from her role as royalty by designers such as Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Yves St Laurent.

The exhibition was not large and I wandered through it in just over an hour. Mostly I found it intriguing to ponder on what made up this movie star/princess’ style. In an exhibition focused on the art of the dress, rarely was the fabric patterned and rarely was the colour bright. This was a collection of dresses where ‘less’ was ‘more’ and it was subtle details, such as the contrast of textured lace against same coloured fabrics, that created interest.

The exhibition also showed a smattering of jewels, shoes, hats, bags (including the famous Hermes ‘Kelly’ bag) and the omnipresent white gloves. These were also careful detailed with occasional beading but in no way showy pieces.

Thankfully, the gallery must have thought through the issues of high attendance. There was text above eye-line, making it easy to read about the pieces in a crowd. Many of the pieces were set in boxes, allowing viewing from all sides and reducing the shoulder-to-shoulder shuffle near wall-set cabinets. There was a large text explanation readily at hand.

The exhibition closes 17 June and make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Grace Kelly: Style Icon, Bendigo Art Gallery 42 View Street  Bendigo +61 3 5434 6088

Visit Golden Dragon Museum

The Golden Dragon Museum bills itself as the ‘Chinese Cultural Centre of Australia’ and your $11 entry includes entry into the museum displays, the Chinese gardens and the Kuan Yin Temple.

As a first-generation Chinese immigrant I found it fascinating to learn about the historical significance of Chinese people in Australia. It charts the origins of the majority of the Chinese miners who came for the gold rush in the 1850s with artefacts, furniture and everyday goods and follows their assimilation into Anglo Australian society and their contributions to the communities of Bendigo and Victoria.

On a balcony surrounding the circular central gallery is a collection of the Chinese Dragons and their associated regalia used in the Bendigo’s annual Easter procession. Bendigo owns the oldest, as well as the longest, Chinese imperial dragons in the world!

For those who like Chinese furniture and art the museum holds the St Albans collection, quite a stunning bequest of imperial furniture, carvings and porcelain donated to the museum by John St Alban, an antique collector in South Australia.

Golden Dragon Museum, 1 – 11 Bridge St, Bendigo +61 3 5441 5044

Browse through Book Now

Secondhand bookstores are RM’s weakness and you should have seen his excitement when he discovered Book Now. The store holds the mystique of old dusty tomes waiting to be discovered with the grandeur of a two-levelled Bodleian-esque library. Books are sorted by category (with seating in nooks and crannies between shelves) with highlights including the non-fiction literature and antiquarian collections.

RM was tempted by a collection of Christopher Isherwood’s diaries and Graham Greene’s collected letters but in a rare moment of self-control came away only with a book about James Boswell’s biography of Johnson and Ha Jin’s In the Pond.

Book Now, 1 Farmers Lane, Bendigo +61 (0)3 5443 8587

Bendigo Creek Linear Park

The Bendigo Creek Linear Park is a long bike and walking path which connects the White Hills Botanic Gardens to Lake Weeroona which has ducks and swans and a children’s playground. It runs through the central city’s English-style Rosalind Park which has arched avenues of golden autumnal trees and an old-fashioned Victorian conservatory.

Stay at Jubilee Villa

I booked  our accommodation through the excellent online booking service via Bendigo Tourism. This seems to be the main hub of accommodation listings as many of the places listed with Bendigo Tourism don’t have their own websites. The site is easily searchable for your specific needs.

The main advantage of Jubilee Villa is that it’s a 5 minute stroll to Bendigo CBD and across the road from the Chinese Golden Dragon Museum and a stop of the Bendigo Talking Tram. In addition it’s a charming Victorian block that’s been restored to provide B&B accommodation in restored servant’s quarters or a studio apartment /loft.

We needed a 2 bedroom self-contained unit so were allocated the servant’s quarters. While the building had one side facing the main highway we did not find it noisy through the night, with only the occasional truck rumble penetrating through the thick brick walls.

The accommodation was really charming. The main bedroom had split system heating with a firm double bed (plus electric blankets) and a bathroom with two person spa. From the bedroom you entered a dining room with a bar fridge, microwave, tea/coffee, toaster which used to be old medical consulting rooms and there’s a cabinet full of antique medical jars and instruments. The second bedroom has twin single beds and a second TV and heating was provided by bar heaters so it was significantly cooler than the main bedroom.

Other than checking in with the friendly owners we were left alone for during our stay. A low-key continental breakfast of crumpets, wholemeal bread, raising toast, cornflakes, Weetbix and orange juice was provided for the two mornings.

Jubilee Villa (Donna and Darryl Henderson) 170 McCrae St, Bendigo +61 3 5442 2920