Stamp of elegance

Andrew Stephens finds modern apartments in an old post office.

The old post office in Echuca stands proudly above the town, competing only with the splendour of the historic flour mill (now a restaurant and bar) and the damp-stained industrial workmanship of a water tower several blocks away.

Like a miniature version of Melbourne's GPO, but whitewashed, this lovely 1879 building has a beautiful clocktower with a large timepiece. So it is with some trepidation that we book an apartment in the post office - now called the Clocktower Apartments - expecting a loud hourly gong.

Fortunately, it tolls only from 8am to 6pm and is not strident enough to cause a stir in any of the six apartments.

We have a little kerfuffle getting our room keys, our printed booking instructions telling us to collect them at the Georgian Motor Lodge "two minutes away". In fact, it is a brisk 10-minute walk, during which we realise the two minutes must refer to those with cars.

But the staff kindly drive these train travellers back to the Clocktower and give us a brief tour of the interesting building, which has a large conference room, an astonishing atrium for receptions and a somewhat grey outdoor area (newly planted, so it will look better with time) that favours car parking.

The Clocktower also houses a cafe and a beauty parlour on the ground floor; our apartment is up an enormous flight of stairs that doubles as the rear entrance for the parlour beauties.

Our suite is wonderful. I say "our" because that is what renting an apartment - even for just a night or two - does to the occupants. Immediately, permanent possession seems possible and the mind explores what it would be like to live in such a place.

This apartment has enormous double-hung windows, soundproofed, which look down across the main street and the town beyond. Sitting on the soft two-person sofa, the windows reveal only a wonderful skyscape and the top of a nearby pub.

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So, of course, we are eager to get out and explore the town and the historic port. We also enjoy some of the lovely walking trails on offer around the banks of Victoria Park and along the boardwalks in the wetlands on the Moama side of the Murray River. All you have to do is walk across the bridge and you are interstate.

After our excursions, we return to this very urban-tinged apartment with the cosy lounge. There are two heaters - a reverse-cycle and a nice faux-log number - in the room and some nice cane chairs onto which we throw our coats and scarves and baggage. The bedroom, too, is nicely appointed with a big, soft, queen-sized bed, bedside tables, storage, another reverse-cycle heater and a great view.

Also in the lounge is a large contemporary cabinet bearing a concealed fridge, tea-making facilities, a little tin of chocolates and some eclectic reading material, including a biography of Barbara Bush, which we have a giggle over. The large television and DVD player look nice, but we prefer looking at the sky and the magazines on offer (fashionable ones we'd never buy ourselves).

The ensuite bathroom is modern and clean, with lots of soaps and potions, a good mirror and nice, hot shower (though the shower door is wonky and difficult to get open).

I would have enjoyed some standard lamps in the lounge to make the mood a lot more appropriate for such an elegant place, especially one with such high ceilings; there were only downlights. But we love the place and could easily imagine ourselves settling in for a much longer haul. After all, there's a lot of sky to look at through those windows - and lots of good Echuca restaurants to explore to gain sustenance for the walks.

VISITORS' BOOK

Clocktower Apartments

Address: 234 Anstruther Street, Echuca.

Bookings: 5482 1932, 5482 1943( fax), or email mail@clocktowerapartments.com.

Getting there: 215 kilometres north of Melbourne on the Northern Highway.

How much: Weekend accommodation for two from $170-$200 a night.

Summary: A modern and spacious choice but in an historic building in the centre of town.

Verdict: 17

The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable, well-run.

All weekends away are conducted anonymously and paid for.

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