Goulburn has its detractors, (not least my mother-in-law who says 'cold hole' whenever it is mentioned) but I am not one of them. I don't want to go and live there or anything, but it is a very nice place to visit.
One thing that makes it nice, apart from the excitement of seeing the world's largest statue of a merino (which has somehow crossed the road since I last visited) is its architecture. Despite the best efforts of the local council, many of the city's original civic buildings remain standing, most notably the courthouse and the Post Office by James Barnet (who was also the architect for Callan Park Asylum and Yass Courthouse.) These buildings are beautifully proportioned, solid and in all of them you can see evidence of the work of individual craftsmen and designers. Contemporary architecture has been stripped of the ornamentation that these 19th century buildings were rich with and I think we are worse off for it. Not only do today's buildings feel alien, looking as if they were made by machines not men, the change in style has deprived many people of the pleasure of skilled creative labour. Today's tower blocks seem characterless and today's school-leavers have no chance of ever achieving my one time ambition - to become a gargoyler.
If you want to have lunch in Goulburn, you can try the Fireside Inn, which is housed in a mock-Tudor building, erected in memory of a 'wonderful motoring trip round England in 1934'. The sentimentalist in me is always tempted by this option - there is something touching about the idea of the uncrowded, uncluttered land of that long-gone pre-war holiday. But in the end I have to turn away, unable to resist Goulburn's other great attraction - the Paragon Cafe.
The Paragon Cafe is probably very like an old-fashioned American diner. When you walk through its doors, you are plunged straight back into a reassuring 1950s world. The staff are all wonderfully cheerful, the menu is long and totally unfashionable and you can still spot crimplene being worn, if you're lucky. It is comfortable, the kitchen has never heard of coriander, and salads still come with a twisted slice of orange balanced on the top. Like Goulburn itself, the world of the Paragon might get boring if you were there all the time, but visiting it now and then is great.
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