70% of me is a city girl. I love the hustle and bustle, the under grounds, trams, everyone dressed in an array of fashions and styles, dining out or sipping chai latte’s in a cafe and watching the world go by, the museums, art galleries, theatre, tall buildings, cool architecture. The other 30% is a country girl looking to escape the big city, be next to the ocean or in the middle of a forest. It is a balance that is hard to find in a city or place. The big little city.
Last week on one of my adventures of escapism and good food searches I ventured out to a nearby suburb called Abbotsford where an old Abby has been converted into a cultural hub with acres of gardens, nearby walking trails and an animal farm for children of all ages. It was my escape on my day off and it even included an amazingly good lunch at “Lentils as Anything“. A pay what you can vegetarian restaurant which is based on the grounds overlooking the gardens. They have a la carte service on Thursday and Friday evening but I was there for their buffet style dinner. I filled my plate with an array of hearty vegetarian goodness; my favourite being the the Kadhi Pakora, and sat on a make shift table and just breathed. Feeling a million miles away from the city. The food was delicious and just tasted like more. I made a mental note to make it out one day time for their breakfast menu which on perusal sounded pretty scrumptious too. It’s chilled, relaxed and collects an eclectic mix of people all of whom are super friendly as I soon found out being joined for lunch by a regular who chatted away about his life and where was the best place to get my camera looked at.
After lunch I grabbed a Chai Latte from the convent Bakery, one of the many food and drink establishments on the premise, and wandered through the estate and grounds. It is a massive series of commanding stone buildings with lots of corridors and big airy rooms. There is a yoga studio, rooms for renting for functions, conferences or operatic rehearsals, art galleries and supposedly live jazz every Friday night. There was even a wedding outside on the hill when I was there! It was very atmospheric with A Thousand Years being played as the bride walked up the aisle towards the grinning groom with the old Abby in the background. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get a bit teary eyed while I was stealing a glance from the sidelines.
One of the coolest things about it is, that if you wanted to, the Abbotsford Convent lies directly on the Capital City Cycling and Walking Trail. You could start in the CBD and follow the trail all the way along the Yarra River and end up at the Abbey. Then, if you wish, continue past to Dights Falls where the Merri Creek and the Yarra River combine and go through to Yarra Bend Park which is a stones throw from the Abbey and really does look like you are out in the middle of the countryside. It is in fact the largest surviving area of natural bushland in inner Melbourne and the falls themselves has always been an important meeting place for local tribes such as the Warundjeri People.
In short, there is no way that a trip out to the Abbotsford Abbey doesn’t fulfil my 30% requirement of getting out of the city. Even if you aren’t really out of the city and it is all an illusion. It’s an illusion I will happily repeat multiple times especially when I can include some delicious and healthy food on top. A combination I can’t refuse