31.3.2017 Hawks Nest

After our late night we were slightly sluggish at getting up!  We breakfasted and headed out, inbetween rain showers, for a coffee at the local bakery, obviously Guy couldn’t resist an Aussie pie.

And Peter couldn’t resist a large slice of carrot cake, it was so big he shared it and saved some for lunch.

Afterwards we had a car based tour of the area in slightly less summery weather than we were expecting. Guy manfully got out the car to take photos.

We sheltered from the remains of Cyclone Debbie and stayed in the car. 

After a visit to see Gordon and Trish, Bette’s brother and sister in law and viewing their amazing collection of shells and fruit trees, we headed off to an excellent seafood shop nearby. Bette got a kilo of cooked, fresh prawns and we had them for lunch with cobs, avocado and seafood sauce.  It was hands on food and absolutely delicious, sweet and so fresh, the best prawns we have had. We may have had wine with the meal as well!!

The rain was persisting so we ventured out again to the Tea Gardens Boatshed for Peters favourite drink, a London Fog. Earl Grey tea,with frothy milk and vanilla syrup. Not for everyone but Peter and Guy loved it.

We may have had a delicous cake as well!

Gluten free chocolate and macadamia nut cake

Bette and Peter are obviously well known there as we got a sample of one of their desserts, popped onto our table, just to taste!

Strawberry compote, pistachio parfait, cake

Also on chatting to the owner, we found out he had grown up in Bloxwich, the same town as Guy’s mum, June. Small world, innit?

We then went kangaroo spotting and saw them roaming people’s gardens happy to pose for photos.

We had a lovely last evening with Bette and Peter, drinking more wine and watching some English tv and putting the world to rights!

30.3.2017 Hawks Nest – Hunter Valley

Today my wonderful godparents had arranged to take us on a tour of some vineyards in the Hunter valley. Peter drove us 234km around the vineyards and both him and Bette imparted their knowledge of the area onto us, which is considerable!

First vineyard was a new one for Bette and Peter, Adina. Beautiful setting and a cafe which we took advantage of for a coffee and dessert. Yes, I know it was 11am, but we wanted something sweet. We bought a Sangiovese 2014 which was light, long and a great summer wine. 

Waiting for dessert and coffees. Note: Cyclone Debbie not appeared….yet
Clouds gathering over Adina vineyard, Debbie is approaching

Tintilla was the next vineyard, it was a recommendation from my cousin, and it was stunning, a lovely Italian style villa, the scenery was amazing even though the aftermath of cyclone Debbie was starting up. With rain lashing down all around us we sampled a whole variety of wines and fortified wines.

Coats are out, Debbie is in full swing, and so are we….
Tintilla looking good, even in the rain

Drayton’s is a staple vineyard for Bette and Peter, they enjoy going for the food, which was excellent, and the bargain wines.  Blue smurf wine was a particular specialty, made even funnier by the dry humour of the Mackam behind the counter. We bought a butterscotch snapps infused with hot, hot chilli. This is well packaged up and will be used on unsuspecting visitors to our abode back home. Ha ha!

Lunchtime Verdelho please waiter

McGuigans is a massive international name in wine, they also make my Dad’s favourite wine. At the Cellar door we were lucky as they hosted a members day so we got to taste some very expensive wine. $180 a bottle of wine???? Tasty!!!! It bloomin should be.

As we were all still full from lunch when we got back so supper was cheese and biccies, oh, and more wine. 

What a wonderful day, I wish all Thursdays were this good…….

29.3.2017 Sydney to Hawks Nest

We are up, packed and leaving our hostel by 9am. 

Happy to be leaving this place!!

Plenty of time to get the train to Newcastle.  We stop at a cafe next to the station which is always busy when we pass, Cuckoo Callay, it has bacon, pork and anything piggy as their specialty. They also have the usual kiddy menu and the more unusual menu for doggies, puppachino anyone?

Beautiful dog (not puppy) enjoying his puppichino

For the record, they served the best bacon and eggs Guy has ever eaten.

Bacon steak and 63 degree poached egg

Sourdough raisin toast

We then had a relaxing 3 hour journey to Newcastle for $5.85, at home an unrelaxing journey to Newcastle costs $150.

Meeting up with relatives you haven’t seen for ages always gets you a little worried just before you meet up. Questions fly through your head. What if they have changed? What if I don’t recognise them at the station? And the most worrying, what if they don’t drink wine anymore? Thankfully none of these questions were a concern, Peter was waiting for us at the end of the platform wearing his usual outfit of shirt, shorts, socks and sandels with huge sunglasses, it could only be Peter, no doubt about it. We hugged and navigated our way through Broadmeadows station renovations to the car and hugged Bette, who also had not changed a bit, isn’t it wonderful how some people are so familiar yet you don’t see them for years?

Peter, with wine, smiling!!!

With the sun blazing down, we had a tour of Newcastle and the surrounding areas from the comfort of an air conditioned car, it was stunning scenery of bays, green fields, beautiful beaches, and art deco buildings. Getting out the car we were greeted with 34 degree heat and 84% humidity, crumbs.

It was time for wine, nibbles, more wine and a lot of catching up.  After a tour of the Crossley Regis we had a lovely meal of spaghetti bolognase cooked by Peter and more wine and chit chat. It was a lovely evening.

28.3.2017 Newtown shopping

As we are now on our way home our budget is known and we decided we could afford a day shopping in Op shops in Newtown. It helped that the day was cloudy and dull, so a beach day was pointless.

Breakfast was smaller today. We are putting on too much weight with massive brunches, and sushi snacks and lovely dinners. Obviously giving up booze would help too!!! 

We had a great day wandering around the area, mooching in shops and buying stuff! Not often we do this so it was a treat.

We went back to the hostel only for there to be a fire alarm. Someone had burnt the toast. The fire brigade turned up anyway, we went out for a glass of vino at Cittavino.

It is a bottlo and wine bar in one. The menu was huge and full of grapes we had never seen before, amazingly we only had a couple.

We then went onto Bloodwood and tasted an orange wine which was delicious, made by leaving the grape skins in contact with the wine so ensuring a rich, fruity and creamy taste.

We then ate some tapas.

Had a very unsatisfactory satay pie. The lass serving us said was only $7 and turned out to filled with one piece of bland satay flavoured potato. Wow!!!

Guy, before he realised the pie was filled with nowt.

Walked past a lampost near our hostel that we had never noticed was covered in shoes. 

Love Newtown.

27.3.2017 Sydney

Waking up early on a sunny Monday morning and being able to go back to sleep is a wonderful luxury when you are travelling, which we are enjoying more and more the closer we are to coming home.

We finally got out of bed and had a coffee and brekkie in our favourite coffee place in Newtown. It had WiFi so we spent a bit of time planning and booking accommodation, looking at flights, blogging and other administrativeā€‹ chores. 

Mushrooms on sourdough, with heritage tomatoes and ancient grains. You can’t make this shit up!!!!
Fresh figs, spinach, seeds and labneh…….seriously, how good is this for you?

Eventually we shifted ourselves and got into town and a ferry over to Manly beach where we wandered up and down the beach front in blazing sunshine, admiring the kite surfers, surfers doing their thing, and seeing lots of mums walking buggies up and down the front.

Manly beach on an Aussie autumn day

Guy took lots of photos on the ferry.

He took more of a massive cruise liner doing a 3 point turn in Sydney harbour.

And even more of the bloody Opera House.

More internet litter.

As it was clear blue sky and a Monday our plans to have a day off drinking were looking shaky, but we managed to get home without being distracted by a bar. 

People walking to the top of the Sydney harbour bridge, brave souls.

Having decided to come straight home after visiting New Zealand for about 3 weeks (maybe with a short Bangkok stopover on the flight home if we can arrange that) we decided to celebrate with a Chinese at Mulan Temple and a bottle of BYO Reisling, it was as closest to not drinking we have come for days!!! The food was absolutely lush, the Chongqing noodles were spicy, meaty and sprinkled with pickled greens, just how we remember them. The aubergine was sweet, umami heaven.

The fried and steamed dumplings were a wonderful taste that brought back great memories. 

To end the meal, Guy dropped a dumpling into the black vinegar from a height of 1ft and managed not to splash himself (or me!). Yep, it is a slow news day, folks.

Wine (NOTE; that is the singular used) tasted:

Jim Barry Reisling 2016 – tasting notes – blooming lush with asian food, tropical fruits and citrus flavours, an absolute stunner as you can tell from the gold stickers!

26.3.2017 Waverley with relatives

We had a typical Sunday ahead of us, visiting relatives!!! We were off to see my second cousin, Matt and his family, along with his parents who were on holiday here from Croydon (or Surrey, depending how posh you are).

First we needed breakfast though. We shared merguez sausages at another colourful, hip Newtown cafe.

From where we live it is a 50 min bus ride away, we managed to just miss a bus each way, they are remarkably punctual! The wait wasn’t too long, 30 mins, and we had a good tour through the University area on our way over to Waverley, nr Bronte. 

The day was lovely, with entertaining company and the food was great. It was so nice to have tasty, home cooked food around a big table of family with wine and laughter. We loved the whole day, it was great to have someone other than Guy to converse with!!!!!

Margo, Alison and Ness

Wines tasted:

White and Red!!

Lord Nelson beer too.

25.3.2017 Sydney, The Rocks

In Newtown, we strolled about and found a great coffee place near us. It was packed, so we had coffee only and moved onto Three Queens cafe for brunch, consisting of massive feta and sweet corn croquettes with shagged arvo. Yep, that is what a shagged arvo looks like, folks.

Very, very good Newtown Coffee
Shagged Arvo

Salmon with courgette muffins and orange hollandaise for me. 

We had a walk into town through Surrey Hills, full of more roasterys, eaterys and cafes (I have no idea what the difference is between a cafe and eatery), enjoying the old houses and art deco buildings and observing the pubs filled with blokes on the first day of the ARL season.

Seriously, do you need this much sport in  a bar?

We carried on to Circular Quay, past the Opera House to The Rocks.

On this Saturday afternoon the area was filled with uber cool people, dressed up to the nines. We sipped craft ale in the Tap house whilst watching a wedding reception venue, situated half way down a very steep street, get filled up with women tottering in, wearing vertigo inspiring heels and teeny skirts. I noticed 2 very different ladies wearing the same outift, oooohhhh, that will be fun later, I mused.

There were musicians performing and selling CDs all around the area, we listened to a great version of Radiohead’s High and Dry, before he launched into the Black Key’s Thick Freakiness. Fab!

Many artisan shops and markets are situated throughout The Rocks selling unique, beautiful clothes, homeware and gifts at a price. There was massive cruise ship in the harbour, and the whole area was filled with tourists, many of them Chinese, which when you look at the markets you can start to understand why their reported average daily spend as tourists is $2200.

We got back to Newtown via Erskineville, via another bar, admiring more architecture. 

Finally we had a mixed grill at a Greek restaurant, with a bottle of BYO (Bring Your Own) Aussie Pinot Noir. I had forgotten what a good idea BYO was!!!! The meal was also delicious..

Wine tasted:

Yarra Valley Pinot Noir Sticks 2015

24.3.2017 Sydney arrival, Glebe and Darling Harbour

Amazingly we had the same bus driver all the way from Melbourne to Sydney, a 12 hour journey with just 2 breaks. Thai bus drivers have it easier than that, and have access to unlimited M150 energy drink.

We are staying in Newtown, close to where I stayed when I first went backpacking on my own in 1994. At that time though I was staying with Joanna, my godparents daughter, in her student flat until I finally got the courage up to go out into Oz on my own. It is still a student area but also very cool and hipster with lots of Opp shops (charity to us Brits, short for opportunity) eg Salvos, Vinnies. Reno shops (second hand to us Brits, short for renovation) with all different eras of furniture in them, second hand clothes shops full of shabby chic clothes and arty, designer shops owned by funky creative types. This is before you get to talk about the cafes, coffee roasterys, bars, eaterys, restaurants and street art that are everywhere. It really is a great area for us to be located here and went someway towards Guy forgiving me for booking the no WiFi in Dromana place. 

Newtown street art

Our shabby motel wasn’t open til 10am, so we had a mediocre coffee and breakfast, then another coffee and Guy tried a tumeric latte too. He loved it, I am unconvinced. 

Eventually we were shown our digs, possibly the worst we have had so far, but the cheapest we could find in this expensive city.

We are close to the city and also Glebe, an area we both loved from our last trip here, full of second hand book shops and cafes, again, what is not to like?  

We took a walk through the Uni to Glebe, browsed the bookshops, admired the beautiful buildings, walked into Darling Harbour and watched the clouds gather overhead and begin to drench us. 

Glebe street art
Darling harbour, not in its best light

As has been proven, time and time again, it doesn’t rain in pubs. So that is where we found ourselves.

The rain-free Marlborough Hotel or ‘Marley’

In need of health and non alcoholic liquids our dinner was soup based. Wonton soup for Guy, Laksa for me, which we enjoyed whilst observing a cockroach loitering around our table.

23.3.2107 Dromana to Sydney

Thankfully the inclemant weather had cleared and we experienced a dry and warm walk into Dromana to get the bus and train back to Melbourne. Before we left we did our chores and cleared up the home, emptied bins, locked all doors etc. This all helped us get a lovely review from our air BnB host, phew, he couldn’t have noticed the large pile of glass recycling we left.

After an almost seamless bus and train ride back to Melbourne using our Myki cards, we checked once more for the elusive driving licences, no surprises, they weren’t there. 

A good old walk around Melbourne later and we were in De Graves street, which is cafe and bar heaven, since it was past 12 we couldn’t drink coffee so what else do you drink…..

Further Australian Wine Research

We met up with Johan in the station before we caught our overnight bus to Sydney, and remembered to take photos this time! 

22.3.2017 Dromana

A day off from wine tasting meant a lie in which was lucky as most the night had been spent listening to the wind and rain fight it out around the house.

We got up and Guy served up a lovely huevos rancheros for brunch, good old Scottish fare, Gez šŸ˜.

DiSCLAIMER: The reason Guy is having wine for breakfast is not because are alcoholics, we were that already, but the Pinot was being opened for drinking later, so he had to see the difference in the taste now and 6 hours later. Honestly, you couldn’t make this up!

Once the wind and rain had died down we walked into town with the intention of finding WiFi and coffee. 

In the end we found no WiFi but very smooth, fruity coffee and nostalgic cakes for me – Melting Moments to anyone else that had a mum that owned the Bero Cookbook. Guy had a peanut butter AND salted caramel brownie…..OMG, why have I never thought of putting peanut butter in brownies?

We got some supplies from Ritchie’s supermarket and went back home for an afternoon of diary writing, blogging (with no WiFi) and drinking local wines. We also listened to some Ella and Mamas and Papas on this…..it was fabulous, felt like a Sunday afternoon, without the BBC2 western film.

Tea was leftovers, blue cheese for pudding and the evening was spent watching TV, it is loosing it’s sparkle now, all the adverts are the same so it is good we are moving on tomorrow. 

Wines tasted:

Mornington Pennisula Savignon Blanc Eldridge Fume 2016

Mornington Pennisula Pinot Noir Ten Minutes by Tractor 2015