A Night in the Museum

Trip Start Mar 15, 2009
Trip End Nov 19, 2009

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Sunday, November 1, 2009

Time travel is not possible yet, but the illusion of the romance and excitement of life in the Victorian Goldfields in the 1860s is available for us to try for a weekend at Sovereign Hill, Ballarat.

It takes time to go back 150 years, we realize that when we survey the clothing that we are going to wear for a day and a night.

For milady – a complete attire of pantaloons, hooped petticoat, nipped waist floor length gown, separate collar and cuffs and headwear and for outdoors,a lace parasol.

For the gentleman – all the finery of the era, fine cotton shirt with bat-wing collar and silk cravat, brightly coloured waistcoat and trousers with braces and finished with a knee length top coat and of course, a top hat.

Shortly, after a lesson for ladies on how to sit with some decorum while wearing the oversized skirts, we are suitably transformed into a well-to-do couple of the times, and step out into the Victorian parlour to join other guests for a light luncheon, this is the start of our 'Night in the Museum'.

Our day continues as we climb aboard our horse-drawn picnic wagon for a tour of the gold diggings and Old Ballarat, shortly after, we return to Steinfields Hotel at the top of the main street for a splendid Victorian afternoon tea consisting of warm quiche, wafer thin sandwiches, petite
fours, scones with jam and cream, champagne, fruit juice and coffee.

A trio of musicians sits in the corner of the parlour, playing discreetly while we while we eat, but shortly the afternoon livens up with the band playing a Quadrille, or maybe a Galop, and all of us enjoy the frivolity of the dancing for the next hour.

Soon, we gather for a stroll around the village, escorted by Mrs Steinfield, around the diggings, past magistrates hill and into the main street, stopping at the bakehouse, the dispensary, the milliners for the ladies to try the latest fashion in hats, the blacksmiths, and finally the post
office, where surprisingly there is mail awaiting us – an invitation from Mr James Crosby to a ‘Taste of the Empire’ dinner at the United States Hotel Dining Room for this evening.

Our small group in period costume was an absolute delight for the tourists and we are constantly stopped with  requests for  photographs as we promenade along the boardwalks.

Eventually we reached the newest mine and were escorted deep below ground into the quartz mine via the newly installed inclined railway for a tour of the workings, followed by   champagne in the crib cavern. 

Returning to the surface, and our hotel, we refreshed then gathered in the parlour before strolling to our evening engagement.

Our meal was an authentic Victorian repast, consisting of Oxtail soup, an entree of crumbed brains and  chicken croquettes with buerre béchamel sauce, followed by a main course of roast pork stuffed with nuts, roasted boar cheek, baked caramelised veal, roasted chicken, baked potatoes and baked vegetables.

Following some parlour games and magic tricks by our affable host, it was time for desert, Deep dish apple charlotte with clotted cream, and strawberries, and a finishing touch of three flavours of French sorbet.

All too soon it was time to leave – for even more entertainment was to come in the form of a sound and light show, ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’ depicting the events of the ‘Eureka Stockade’, a dramatic battle between the miners and the Government troops in December 1854.

As the majority of guests left Sovereign Hill after the performance, we quietly slipped away in the dark, up the hill to Steinfields where we fell into a luxurious bed and drifted off to sleep as night and silence descended over the village.

When morning arrived, we looked out of our windows at the top of Main street and looked down on a deserted village, waiting for a new horde of visitors to arrive for the day, but for us, after a leisurely breakfast it was time for a look behind the scenes.

We were taken to the stables to meet some of the magnificent Clydesdale horses that pull the coaches and drays around the village, then shortly after the gates opened and visitors began to arrive we climbed aboard a stagecoach for another tour of the town and diggings, before spending the rest of the day on foot, exploring the many historic buildings and chatting to storekeepers.

All too soon our journey into the 1850s ends and we return to the present, travelling to Melbourne to continue our current epic tour.
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