Have you ever visited a place and felt instantly drawn to it? Not in the same way as déjà vu but a place that feels as though it retains a part of you long after you have left. A part that is kept sacred and secure, anticipating the day you will return to once again feel whole. The first time I experienced this was when I was in France on my honeymoon in 2004. France was the highlight of our European trip and as I would expect, visiting Paris was the pièce de résistance. But it wasn’t until I reached the south of France that something stirred inside me. Nestled at the very hilltop of the French Rivera was the medieval village called Eze. The tour guide was quick to point out that one of its many famous residents was Roger Moore. The village was a haven for creative artists and writers seeking inspiration. It wasn’t hard to be inspired. Cobblestone paths, rendered Parisian villas and cast iron balconies, adorned with red and pink geraniums flowing freely. It was the perfect setting.
We had sat down at a little eatery in the village square among the market traders and local retailers. I watched an old lady watering her balcony garden. A young man wearing a brown beret was immersed in his painting. An elderly man sporting an impressive moustache was scribbling in his notebook at the table beside me, while his pet poodle slept at his feet. As I watched these strangers their images shifted and became a version of myself. I saw myself writing my memoirs at the local café, painting the landscape of the French Riviera and stopping to water my balcony garden. I had become bewitched by this place – a willing hostage to its ambiance. I turned to my husband of eight days and without a second thought, the words came out, “If you ever divorce me, I’m coming here, to this place to spend the rest of my days.” Divorce is not the topic you should probably be thinking of on your honeymoon, but if this marriage was to start off on the right foot then it had to start with honesty. I said it and I meant it. This village had gifted me with its own ‘Pandora’s box’ that unleashed upon me inspiration and a desire to write that I had long forgotten. With it came new beginnings, new dreams and a new chapter with the man beside me. All that remained behind was the part of me that hoped I would one day return. Bendigo reminds of Eze in France. I know many would disagree but that same stirring feeling within me happens when I visit Bendigo. Bendigo is inspiring with its magnificent old buildings, glorious cathedrals, quaint little teahouses, balconies adorned with flowers and cobblestone everywhere. From View Street in Bendigo I can take in all that I adore in one hit. And like Eze in France, this place has a part of me. I don’t know why but hopefully over the next five days here, I will found out.