Having finally hung up the chalk after a very long teaching career, my new career is: travelling, blogging and writing from the beautiful northern end of the NSW coast.
You can read about my progress at www.maureendurney.com
Life is Good!
Published August 24th 2016
Have Your Coffee And Cake, Without The Rattles And Shakes
While travelling in Europe a long time ago, my daughter and I were on a train heading for nowhere in particular. While heading for one place, we would consult our tattered map and decide which city/country to visit next. Probably not the best way to backpack through Europe in winter, but back then it worked for us.
On one of our train trips, we were lucky enough to have refreshments served from a trolley laden with tea, coffee and bakery items, right there at our seats, without having to lug our backpacks to a dining car. There's something cosy about a train trip while enjoying a coffee and watching picturesque landscapes pass you by, but I know I won't be trekking through Europe again for a while so the memories of that little trolley on the train will have to sustain me until then - or so I thought.
Red Rattler from 1928 right here in the Tweed Valley
But, I've found a way to relive the coffee-on-a-train experience, without the airfare to Europe, at Red Rattlers Gallery Dungay, Murwillumbah, in the beautiful Tweed Valley. Why is it called Red Rattlers? The answer goes way back to the early days of train travel in New South Wales when train carriages were red, and they 'rattled' along the track. Owner Fi Dee tracked down two old carriages from the NSW fleet of 1928, and brought them to Murwillumbah where they were restored and converted into a gallery and café. And it's in a lovingly restored red rattler that you'll enjoy more than just a coffee.
As you step up into carriage C3261 you almost expect the train to suddenly lurch forward as it leaves the station, but the counter at the front brings you back to reality as you face the impressive menu. The coffee and cake options will make it hard for you to decide which one will best suit your caffeine and carbohydrate needs, but I doubt you could go wrong with any choice as they all sound divine, including a leaf tea from the local Madura tea plantation at Clothiers Creek.
The sticky date pudding is decadently divine!
Once you've ordered you'll have time to check out the local handmade art and craft work on display and for sale. Everything from knitted items to hand-painted saws, and pottery to stained glass. Fi produces and sells the stained glass, and provides gallery space to local artists to display and sell their wares. I challenge you to wander through without finding something you can't resist buying. Prices are very affordable, given the uniqueness and loving care in creating each item.
If you can't find a special gift here, I doubt you'd find it anywhere
The next important decision is where to sit. You'll cross between the two carriages and have a choice of sitting on the deck in between, or going for the nostalgic experience of sitting in the carriage. My friend and I decided on the carriage, just to sit on those old leather seats so I could relive the old days - yes, I really am that old - not 1928 vintage, but old enough to remember my old school days aboard the red rattlers. And yes, my friend did have to suffer through my 'tragical history tour', as my daughter aptly calls it whenever I start a sentence with "I remember when..."
Our drinks were served first which gave us a few minutes to savour the taste before indulging our taste buds with the pure decadence of sticky date pudding, for which it seems Red Rattlers Gallery might just be a tad famous, with very good reason I might add. Since I had already had my quota of coffee for the day, I'd ordered an Iced Chocolate and it not only looked good, but tasted great. I managed to take a photo of it before devouring it, but unfortunately, I can't say the same for the sticky date pudding. It just looked so delicious that I forgot about getting the camera out. Oh well, you'll just have to go and see for yourself.
Iced Chocolate and Sticky Date Pudding (trust me, it was good)
If I haven't convinced you yet that you should put Red Rattlers Gallery on your list of 'must-see' places, then here are a few more reasons.
1. You're as old as me and want to relive the way travel used to be.
2. You're too young to know what train travel was like before our smooth, sleek, super-fast air-conditioned trains of today, but there's something romantic about sitting in an old carriage and imagining what it would have been like in the old days.
3. You've experienced train travel in a part of the world where refreshments are served right at your seat, and sitting there enjoying a coffee, looking out at the scenery, takes you back to another time and another place.
4. You want somewhere different to take visitors where they'll make new memories, and take home great tales of the red carriages near Murwillumbah. I guarantee the sticky date pudding will get a mention in their traveller's tales as well.
5. You can't get enough of the fabulous art and craft produced by the talented local artists and want to enjoy a coffee while you ponder which piece you'll buy as a gift for that special someone, or for that special place in your home.
Whatever your reason, you'll soon see why Red Rattlers Gallery is so popular with Murwillumbah locals, and people from a lot further afield. If you are coming from the Gold Coast or Brisbane, you can take Mt Tomewin Road and enjoy the beautiful scenery as you cross the range, and the road will lead right to the gallery. Coming from the south, you head out past the showground at Murwillumbah and keep driving towards Mt Tomewin Road. It's easy to find - I mean it's really easy to find - even I didn't get lost. Oh, and if you happen to arrive on horseback, there's a place out in the carpark where you can hitch the horse while you have a coffee. And if caravanning is your mode of transport, there's enough room to easily turn your van around. And they've even got a place for you to park your bike, if that's how you'll get there. Fi really has thought of everything.