Monday, May 2, 2011

Adelaide Family Trip Day 12 - (Penolaraya)

Having experienced a pretty wet Saturday it was good to wake up to a sunny Sunday morning. The travel today was not going to be arduous (157 km in total) so it was to be a pretty relaxing day.

First cab off the rank was a mini drive-by tour of Robe, where we got an appreciation of the layout of the town, and visited a couple of historical relics, including the remains of the Old Gaol (built 1860/61 and used for about 22 years) and the Cape Dombey Obelisk (built 1852, used to guide ships through the entrance of Guichen Bay).
Photo of Ben taking a picture of the Obelisk

From Robe our next destination was Penola. This is the Coonawarra wine district, one of the best known red wine regions in Australia and was voted Most Fabulous Wine Region in the world at a 2004 International Wine Tousirm Conference. Prior to eating and drinking our initial stop in Penola was supposed to be a quick one - "for the kids". We spent a couple of hours at this place and was absolutely amazed by it.

The place I refer to is Penola Fantasy Model Railway and Rose's Tea Room, also known as Penolaraya.

In all honesty I was not expecting much from this place. It was in a side street and it looked as though you were entering the front rooms of someone's house. No-one greeted us at the front counter and it sounded a bit too quiet, like no-one was around. Having paid our entrance fee we then stepped through the cafe area to the main inside room. Rather than provide an initial description I will provide photos:

The creator of all this, Graham, is a retired school teacher who has always had a vivid imagination and has spent a good 10 years of his life developing this fantasy railway. It is apparently the largest fantasy railway in Australia, and I'd believe it.

The boys (and I) like going to see railways. The last one we visited was in Hobart and was a replica of a Swiss mountainside, including day and night sessions as well as different seasons. A few years ago we visited one in Emerald, being the largest HO gauge set in the southern hemisphere. One of the reasons that these are good places to visit is because for the owners, this is more than a business or an extension of their hobby. This is their passion. They live this stuff. And they want to share their passion, their knowledge, their love of their interests with other people. Yes, some may see them as being slightly loopy, eccentric, reliving their childhood, but I think it makes them more interesting.

As a former school teacher, Graham was able to communicate well with the kids. He had created a series of "Where's Wally" type quizzes where you had to locate various characters amongst hundreds of figurines dotted throughout the displays. As an example, there were 3 Colonel Sanders figures, dozens of smurfs, and a number of obscure figurines from the Yellow Submarine (the captain of the yellow submarine, blue meanies). The only groups missing were SciFi figures as I couldn't see Star Wars or Star Trek represented (though an Alien was there).

The quizzes were given to adults and kids alike. If you finished them quickly he would then proceed with additional quizzes, mostly made up then and there. Graham could tell if you were genuinely interested and would spend more time telling you about his creation.

There was an outside area as well. In the next couple of months 200m of track are to be laid down and with the purchase of some "really fast" trains, will make the outside just as spectacular as the inside.

 If you are ever in the Coonawarra region I strongly suggest you spend some time at Penolaraya. You will not regret it.

Do not worry, I did not ignore the wines. Lunch was at Terra Rossa Wine Club, where we enjoyed some tapas and I managed to taste 4 or 5 different reds as well as their dessert white (to go with my dessert). The keys were then handed to Lesley who drove on to Mt Gambier, where we will be for the next few days.

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