Fancy a tour of the Red Centre of Australia? I’ll show you iconic Uluru, walk with you around The Olgas and share the grandeur of Kings Canyon.
Then again, I’m probably not the best tour guide. I’m not Aboriginal, I don’t know the indigenous dreamtime legends, plus I’m a bit too goofy.
Instead, how about I take you on a tour of my local area? I’ve lived here for over 23 years so I think I qualify for the role.
While sitting in the dentist chair last Friday (it’s amazing what we think about when trying to distract from drills and bills) I thought about the places I pass every day that I often take for granted.
So, on my way home I travelled with new eyes.
Hurstbridge sits on the edge of the Yarra Valley in Nillumbik, an area on the outskirts of Melbourne that enjoys the best of both worlds.
From here you can catch the train and be in the city in just under an hour or you can hop in your car and be in the country in minutes.
The main street can be walked through in minutes, if you’re in a hurry, but why rush?
Near the train station, at Lettuce Inn, you can buy a gelati and stock up on fresh fruit and veggies. Don’t you just love the name?
There’s a bakery, a butcher, a florist, a newsagent and a community bank, not to mention plenty of cafes, including one nestled inside the post office.
You can get your hair cut, your pet checked, your body checked and your car serviced, not necessarily in that order.
The newest shop in our little village, Hurstbridge Deli and Larder is a welcome addition with an interesting history.
This is where I used to get my car serviced, though you’d never know it now.
Step inside and it feels and smells like home, with the aromas of coffee and sizzling onions and garlic. They’re cooking a big pot of chicken casserolle when I walk in.
Behind the counter there’s local cheeses and small goods from the nearby Yarra Valley, freshly made Italian pasta, dips and an array of pastries and pies for lunch.
Owner Sheree and her husband Noel have transformed this space into a foodies heaven.
There’s no hint this was once a garage.
My former mechanic never had shelves filled with freshly baked bread, gourmet hampers and refrigerated takeaway dinners.
Oh yes, a visit here could become a daily temptation.
It’s quiet when I drop in so I chat with Sheree and local businessman, Jim who’s popped in from Nature’s Harvest, the health food shop up the road that’s been there seemingly forever.
Coincidentally, Jim, a former journalist, is helping with a local promotion for the small business owners so he’s more than happy to pose with Sheree.
So my former garage is now a deli, which begs the question, where do I get my car serviced? Doug can’t keep changing the oil indefinitely!
Answer: this mechanic shop just around the corner from where I live.
There I met owner Michael and hint that he might be gaining some new business with my Toyota Corolla.
Turns out we have more in common than just cars. Michael plays guitar and composes his own music. He’s been writing songs since he was seven, a hobby he’s clearly passionate about, though he says the daily grind of making a living and weekend family commitments prevents him from turning his hobby into a passion.
He compares himself to others, saying it’s hard to be seen, as there are so many other talented artists around.
Does that sound familiar with you?
I once felt like that but not anymore.
“Life’s too short to give up on our dreams. Don’t give up.” That’s what I told him. “Don’t compare yourself. We all have our own unique style.”
Much later I drop into Oku Den, one of the gift shops in town. Each day a quote appears on their board out front.
Today this is what I read.
Goosebumps. What had I just been saying?
It seems that everywhere I go lately synchronicity follows me.
Yes, we all have our individual styles and this vibrant place is no exception.
I chat for a few minutes with owner Oku and enjoy browsing through her colorful Japanese inspired goodies.
Finally I drop into Nature’s Harvest where I meet up with Jim again.
There I reacquaint myself with his son Craig who’s now in charge of the shop. Can you spot the resemblance?
Shopping is so much more enjoyable and personal when we know the people behind the business.
Hurstbridge is sleepy but at certain times of the year it wakes up in a blaze of color.
The monthly Farmers Market, the Wattle Festival in August and the art and wine events that happen on its doorstep during the year keeps the spark alight.
Right now, around the wetlands where I walk Harry most days, I listen and watch the abundant bird life and marvel at the beauty of our local setting.
We’re nestled in a scenic green wedge which I hope stays green for many generations to come.
This is the future we’re leaving. Right now my teenage son is learning to drive here.
Every day he’s driving further, along winding roads and rolling hills. He’s seeing things through new eyes.
Now he’s the driver and I’m the tour guide!
We pass olive groves, small boutique wineries and roadside stalls and he drives through St Andrews where every Saturday a unique bush market is held.
There’s a lot to love here, the ambience, the relaxed living, the open spaces and the people.
Like so many places, it’s the community spirit that makes up the fabric of living local. I feel blessed to be part of it.
Hope you’ve enjoyed touring with me in my little patch of the world. It might not be as spectacular as the Red Centre but it’s got a lot of heart.
Happy traveling. Remember to keep your eyes open for the ordinary moments that, with the right mindset, become the extraordinary.
Be your own tour guide. Who knows what gems you’ll find on your doorstep. We’ve all got them.
Here’ to loving life and enjoying the journey.
In response to The Daily Post: WPC:Tour Guide
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