Toowoomba Mountain Air and Heritage Preserved

From Brisbane, we head inland to Gatton where we stop for lunch before crossing the fertile vegetable-growing plains of the Lockyer Valley.  Our goal is the garden city of Toowoomba, situated in the Darling Downs region of southern Queensland on Australia’s Great Dividing Range.

The gradient is steep and it’s a slow climb up the mountain before we crest the plateau and turn left to Picnic Point lookout.  It’s a traditional spot for travellers to stretch their legs and take in the magnificent views which seem to stretch forever into a blue-grey smudge.

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We stop for lunch at the Gatton campus of University of Queensland and admire this heritage-listed Foundation Building constructed in 1896 and used for events and conferences.
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Did you call a taxi? Children’s playground at Picnic Point, Toowoomba.

After checking into our boutique hotel, we take a short walk into town, passing old homes with steep corrugated iron roofs and interesting turrets and chimneys.

A charming old building in Margaret Street, once a grand home with circular driveway, is available for business lease.

In the city centre, shops and offices are still housed in quaint older-style buildings which seem to go on forever when you are inside.

The Book Tree bookshop is an Aladdin’s cave of books and accessories and a friendly salesperson.  The haberdashery store Lincraft is on three levels, basement, middle and top (with creaky wooden floorboards) crammed full of craft-creating supplies and good customer service.

Friendly staff seem to be the theme throughout Toowoomba including the upmarket shopping precinct Grand Central which contains everything the modern shopper has come to expect—plus a book swap library.

The seminar, the reason for our visit, isn’t until next day so we decide to walk through Queens Park Botanic Gardens, bypassing an old steamroller, to visit Cobb & Co Museum.  Originally a coach museum in honour of Cobb & Co horse-drawn coaches which ran the length and breadth of Queensland in ye olde days, the museum has been rehoused and now contains a myriad of local and culturally significant items.

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Walking towards Cobb and Co Historical Museum, Toowoomba Queensland, with Queens Park Botanic Gardens on the left.
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Outside the Cobb & Co Museum, Toowoomba, admiring the huge display of Southern Cross windmills.

We are lucky enough to get a personal guided tour—thank you, Sharon—and learn the ins and outs of the exhibits from coaches to goat carts, blacksmith forge to wooden clothing (photos below) and local Indigenous heritage.

The museum interior meanders like an old country trail with something different around every bend.

I discover that even though male passengers paid full fare, in the olden days they were expected to assist with river crossings, fallen logs, opening and closing stock gates, and to ‘lighten the load’ by walking up hills.  What a hardy bunch!  We need survivor TV shows to see that level of guts and determination today.

Images below show Chris Mills-Kelly’s delicately carved wooden bonnet, dress and shoes for the Artisans Challenge 2012.  It is both fascinating and moving; these small articles represent the clothing Indigenous children were made to wear for photo opportunities, adoption interviews and to impress important visitors, in contrast to their natural birthright.

After a delicious museum lunch with a huge lamington for dessert (below) we wind our way back to the hotel through misty rain.

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Made by the dozen, lamingtons are a traditional Australian dessert. Ingredients are a sponge square dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut. The lamington pictured is larger than normal and usually not served with the bonus of cream or raspberry coulis.

My brochure reads “Although the famous coaches and tenacious horse teams and drivers are now long gone, Cobb & Co continues to live on in Australian history as the country’s greatest coaching company.”

The Cobb & Co Museum conducts workshops and various events and activities throughout the year.  Our museum guide told us the workshops book out quickly.  The specialist trades of yesteryear are back in fashion, wheelwright, silversmith, leadlighting, etc.  One day I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at kangaroo leather plaiting.  It’s a three-day course to make a belt or a whip, so watch this space.  Yippee aye yay!

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Originally called Cliffordene, now Harris House, this stately old home in central Toowoomba relied on crowd funding for restoration until it was handed over to National Trust two years ago. Sadly the garden is in need of work.

We walked by this gracious old residence, Harris House, every day.  At leisure, I explored parks, galleries and cafes.  Everybody was ready for a chat.  Of course, I checked out the fashion clothing stores.  Toowoomba is colder in winter than Brisbane so I ended up buying several long sleeved t-shirts which I wore in layers under my jacket.

So nice to have a change of scene and a change of season.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Bill Bailey – Earl of Whimsy

Bill Baily Actor Comedian

I love searching for theatre performances out-of-town.  Just the ticket!  British actor, writer, musician, comedian Bill Bailey will bring his inimitable style to Queensland in the historic Empire Theatre in Toowoomba.

A thriving rural town with fine old buildings, a genteel air and beautiful gardens, Toowoomba is situated on the top edge of the Great Dividing Range so the weather is more temperate than Brisbane.  And they have successfully resurrected the art deco splendours of the Empire Theatre.

Bill Baily Actor Show Empire Theatre

Bill Bailey has appeared in various TV series including ‘QI’ and ‘Have I Got News for You’ and his most memorable character was Manny in ‘Black Books’.  The following details are all about his newest stage show––

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“After his 2016 sell-out tour, ‘Larks in Transit’, the UK’s very own straggle-haired polymath, Bill Bailey, returns to Australia in 2018 with his new comedy and music extravaganza, ‘Earl of Whimsy’.

“Bill describes himself in his own words, an Earl of Whimsy.  Whatever his title, this might be Bill’s cleverest, daftest, most eccentric show yet.  Quote from The Guardian ‘Scales the peaks of sublime silliness…this is a foray into Bailey’s magpie mind…a delightful place to spend time.’

“While the world tumbles into a seemingly more chaotic place by the minute, find a moment of calm in the chaos with a trip round Bill’s mind, described recently as ‘A huge, lavishly decorated and nicely untidy place… its contents spill out with an infectious enthusiasm during this wonderful show’.  This I gotta see!

“The show has Bill’s trademark blend of satire and surrealism, stories and dismantled jokes, crowd singalongs, weird instruments and musical showstoppers.  But there’s a distinctly historical feel.  With its tales of Britain’s fortunes past and present, of ancient Viking battles, of Shakespeare’s contribution to comedy, and Bill’s own ancestry, this is both a mockery and a celebration of national identity.

“It’s also a journey of discovery.  We find out where Knock Knock jokes came from, how we got days of the week.  And why Nicky Minaj rejected a puffin sample for her latest single.  (That last sentence means nothing to me!)  There are lively audience discussions, a mass German singalong, and even some Cockney crab-dancing.  Something for everyone.”

For more information on Bill’s extravaganza on Monday 15 October 2018, 8pm and other shows at the Empire Theatre, click What’s On.

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Hmm, I think dinner and a show is likely and perhaps an overnight stay at historic boutique hotel Vacy Hall. Love that place!

Thank you to local blogger Fiona Ryan of Tiffin who has images of the Empire Theatre art deco delights on her website http://www.tiffinbitesized.com.au/2015/02/13/art-deco-delight-the-empire-theatre-toowoomba/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward