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Visit Paris without leaving Australia

Bonjour Bendigo encompasses French food, shopping and culture.

Bonjour Bendigo encompasses French food, shopping and culture. Photo: City of Greater Bendigo

With its European architecture, vibrant food scene, wineries and manicured parks and gardens, there’s no better city in Australia than Bendigo to stand in for Paris.

And with the Paris: Impressions of Life 1880-1925 exhibition showing at the Bendigo Art Gallery from March 16 to July 14, the regional Victorian town’s cafes, restaurants, bars, shops and attractions have embraced all things French to allow visitors to go to Paris, minus the long-haul flights.

Bonjour Bendigo runs for the duration of the exhibition and encompasses food, shopping and culture.

You could easily take a week or more to experience all that’s on offer, but here’s how to spend a long weekend immersing yourself in all things Françaises.

DAY 1

Morning

Hop on a V/Line train from Melbourne for the pleasant two-hour journey to the centre of Bendigo (all adult tickets $10.60).

Pick up the Parisian-style map listing all the businesses and attractions involved in Bonjour Bendigo from the Bendigo Train Station and Bendigo Visitors’ Centre, then fortify yourself with a French-inspired tasting plate paired with Parisian teas and hot chocolate from Indulge Fine Belgian Chocolates.

Paris: Impressions of Life 1880 – 1925 exhibition

Paris: Impressions of Life 1880-1925 exhibition showing at the Bendigo Art Gallery from March 16 to July 14. Photo: City of Greater Bendigo

Make your way to the Bendigo Art Gallery and allow at least two hours to take in the artworks and artefacts gathered from the Musée Carnavalet for the Paris: Impressions of Life 1880–1925 exhibition.

Next door, on April 21, the Capital Carriageway is offering a free screening of the work of pioneer film maker Georges Méliès called A Trip to the Moon with live accompaniment provided by local musicians and sound artists.

Afternoon

Have a French-themed lunch at GPO. Its French la Carte one- or two-course menu with glass of champagne is on offer for the duration of the exhibition.

Then hit the shops, many of which have embraced the French theme. Bob Boutique and Robe both have an Instagrammable Eiffel Tower scene designed to fool your friends into thinking you’re there.

Bendigo Hat Shop’s sweet shopfront could have been transported directly from 1920s Paris, and they’ll have French-made berets in stock.

The Dispensary

Impressions of Paris – Cocktail edition at The Dispensary. Photo: City of Greater Bendigo

Evening

Stop by Nimbus Rooftop Bar for a French-inspired cocktail then head to the Indian Motorbike Museum and Bar, called The Black Swan, where the chef has created French-style pizza, the Pissaladière with caramelised onions, tomato, olives and anchovies. Pair it with a $15 glass of Moet & Chandon.

Then take a wander through the CBD, where many of the shopfronts will feature twinkling fairy lights to create a romantic Parisian atmosphere.

Night

Retire to your accommodation.

Operators who have put together special French packages include the Tea House Motor Inn (two nights accommodation including late checkout and tickets to the exhibition), Langley Estate (a bottle of French wine in your room) and Barclay on View (bottle of wine on arrival and tickets to the exhibition).

If you’re wanting to try a local drop, discover the “Biere de Garde” crafted by Cornella Brewery for the exhibition, which is an in-house craft brewery of the Shiraz Republic Winery, conveniently situated just a short 35-minute drive from Bendigo.

Treacy Patisserie

Treacy Patisserie is well known for contemporary Parisian cakes, petit fours and eclairs. Photo: City of Greater Bendigo

DAY 2

Morning

Have dessert for brunch at Treacy Patisserie (Fri/Sat), where classic and contemporary Parisian cakes, petit fours and eclairs will be front and centre throughout Bonjour Bendigo.

If the timing is right, stay on and do a macaron masterclass.

Afternoon

There are a lot of options for lunch, including Déjeuner à Alium, a rotating French-inspired menu at Alium Dining paired with French wines, A Taste of Paris at Hoo-gah, featuring a tasting plate and glass of sparkling, the Ooh La La Impressions of Paris menu at The Woodhouse and a Ms Batterhams Bonjour lunch menu, which includes escargot for starters.

If you’re visiting on a Tuesday, head to PepperGreen Farm for Déjeuner à la Ferme, where you’ll enjoy a rustic three-course lunch and farm tour.

Or if you’d like to explore some of Bendigo’s many parks and gardens, pick up a French picnic pack from the local branch of Beechworth Bakery and take it with you. You’ll get a croissant, jam, cream, strawberries, Eiffel Tower cookie and a coffee.

Evening

Sample some of the French cocktails on offer at Dispensary Bar and Diner, or taste six French wines at the same venue.

If you’re visiting April 20, head to Piano Bar Bendigo for their French-themed soiree with DJs, piano and singer and dress ups.

Have a French-themed lunch at GPO. Its French la Carte menu is on offer for the duration of the exhibition. Photo: City of Greater Bendigo

DAY 3

Morning

If you’re visiting on April 7 (and have a car, or use taxi/Uber), head to Belvoir Park Estate and start your day with a Parisian candle making workshop.

Create a fragrant candle while enjoying Parisian teas. It’s just one of many themed classes on offer throughout Bonjour Bendigo.

Other options include a millinery workshop, painting class, topiary class and talk about the era’s dark history by Dr Ted Gott at the La Trobe Art Institute.

Afternoon

Choose lunch at one of the restaurants you haven’t ticked off your list and then grab a selfie at the newly decorated Bendigo Letters in Rosalind Park Piazza.

Take in some of the other French-themed exhibitions at galleries throughout Bendigo, including Dressings, at La Trobe Art Institute, A French Connection at Alvah Gallery, and Pointillism to Pixelation at Discovery Science & Technology Centre.

The nearby town of Heathcote boasts The Age Good Food Guide Regional Restaurant of the Year ‘Chauncy’, a French restaurant (double hatted) that offers their Menu du Jour, changing regularly each season.

Evening

If you’re not rushing home, book a spot at one of the various musical events happening throughout Bonjour Bendigo.

Langley Estate has an extensive program to select from. Or catch a French film at the Star Cinema.

Create your Bonjour Bendigo experience at bendigoregion.com.au/explore-bendigo/bonjour-bendigo

Topics: Bendigo
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