You may recall that during the title sequence for the 1970s BBC comedy Fawlty Towers, the sign at the end of the guest house drive was mis-spelt in every episode. My favourite anagram was ‘Flowery Twats’, and visiting Toowomba’s carnival of flowers whilst staying in a guest house gives me a perfect excuse to use it as a title to this post. Not that you need an excuse to use a golden phrase like flowery twats. Indeed, I shall resolve to use it more often in the future. To be fair though, Vacy Hall Historic Guest House couldn’t be further from Fawlty Towers, and Graham, the owner, didn’t strike us as a Basil Fawlty. Indeed, he was most hospitable and also very generous with his advice on granite belt wineries that were next on our itinerary after Toowoomba.
Vacy Hall was built by one of Toowoomba’s influential forefathers, James Taylor and gifted to his daughter on her wedding. After a variety of uses during its life, its been sympathetically restored and is a beautiful place to stay. The service was also flawless and the breakfasts superb, especially Liz’s porridge. You could take your breakfast on the veranda outside your room which was perfect. However, given the cool Toowoomba climate, you could also light a fire in your room.
We visited for part of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers and arrived in time for the final day of the Food and Wine Festival in Queens Park which was within walking distance of Vacy Hall, or so we thought. As often happens at regional events, whilst the organisers encourage out-of-towners, they then forget that unlike the locals, we don’t have the insider knowledge necessary to actually find our way in. We arrived at Queens Park, but no signs indicated where the entrance was. We eventually found some security fencing and followed it in completely the wrong direction to end up, after what felt like a 5km hike, at the entrance, about 100m from where we started. Never mind, once there, the helpers at the information booth were really friendly and helpful. So, armed with a map, wine tasting glasses, and stubby holders, we made our way in.
In one half of the festival was a range of food and drink producers where you could sample and buy produce as well as take away food. These stalls surrounded a central seating area in front of the stage where there was day-long musical entertainment. In the other half of the park were demonstration marquees and exhibitions of some of the winning entries in floral display competitions.
We were starving and settled on steak sandwiches, a Texan and an Argentinian from Just Steak It and they were superb. Just what we needed and ably accompanied by a Burleigh Brewing Co. Beer and a glass of Viognier from Symphony Hill Wines. We listened to the music whilst we ate, then headed over to have a look at the floral exhibitions. There were some really interesting and unusual displays and our visit also coincided with the parade of winners from the Interflora Colour to Couture competition. Local dress designers with a limited budget creating fashion to suit the carnival of flowers.
After a wander, and a chill out on some well positioned deck chairs, coffee and cake was in order. We came across the biggest Lamingtons we’d ever seen at Reid Street bakery. There were original or salted caramel flavours and we couldn’t resist. Even better we were sold them for $5 instead of $7 because apparently there weren’t any big ones left. They were still to big for me to get my jaws around, or for us to finish them, but they were delicious.
We headed back for to the food and drink arena to sample a few Granite Belt wineries in preparation for our visit there later in the week. It was then time for the evening entertainment provided by The Beautiful Girls. They were a great band, but strangely, not particularly beautiful, and definitely not girls. Nonetheless, we enjoyed this with a few more glasses of wine and snacks from various food stalls. The final act of the night was Josh Pyke accompanied by the impressive Toowoomba Symphony Orchestra.
A great finish to our first day in Toowoomba, and the walk back to Vacy Hall was a bit more straightforward than finding the festival earlier in the day.