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 administrative​ 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 😁.

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

21.3.17 – Mornington Peninsula Winetasting

The storm which raged outside all night hadn’t left town and heavy rain greeted our sleepy ears. An ocean of rain couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm today though and we happily munched down watermelon and read through our vineyard tourist leaflets. Mornington has a cool climate (really?) so is renowned for the Burgundy grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Other grape varietals are grown though as winemakers experiment. 

At 11am the Your Shuttle bus pulled up outside and we dashed from our porch, through the rain, into the comfort of the dry van. Our driver Chris welcomed us and we chatted away and in no time were at our first vineyard, Ten Minutes By Tractor. The cellar door and restaurant were undergoing redevelopment, so tastings were relocated in an old shed which had a cosy atmosphere, especially with the noise of the rain on the corrugated roof. We were warmly greeted by Jasmine who talked us through the wines available that day, the history of the vineyards and gave us loads of information on winemaking and the regions vintages. We really enjoyed our time there.

Ten Minutes By Tractor temporary cellar door

Their Chardonnay was very good but we loved their 2015 Pinot Noir. Red fruit and almost peppery. Alison didn’t used to like Pinot Noir which meant I got a bottle to myself but she is coming round to it. I guess I’ll have to share.

Five minutes on foot was next doors T’Gallant and Jasmine kindly lent us an umbrella, checking for spiders first. T’Gallant has a large cellar door and after the intimacy of Ten Minutes By Tractor it was an initial shock to encounter large tour groups. The staff took us through their wines though and kept an eye on us. They had pioneered Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio wines (same grape) and had a delicious sweet and slightly fizzy pink moscato. Our favourite though was their 2015 Romeo which was a mix of Shiraz from a vineyard at Heathcote and Muscat from a vineyard at Rutherglen, so neither from Mornington! The aroma reminded me of Pedro Ximenez Sherry, one of our Christmas favourites.

T’Gallant cellar door
Thirteen tastings in, we enjoyed some fresh air outside and were picked up and driven down the road to the scenic Eldridge Estate which we had chosen as it grows Gamay grapes, one of my favourites. The beauty of our Your Shuttle tour with Chris is that it was bespoke and she was able to take us to the vineyards we wanted to visit. 

The owner was loading cases of wine into a car and he said hello and left us with Dan who talked us through the wine tasting, giving us info on vintages, wine styles and winemaking. I loved their 2016 PTG, a mix of Pinot Noir and Gamay and Al loved their 2016 Fume Blanc which is barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc.

The cellar door of Eldridge Estate. Chris our driver on the left.

Next up was Montalto, recommended to us by Kathy our Airbnb host in Melbourne. They had a kitchen garden which provided veg and herbs to their restaurant and a sculpture park around their vines. A great day out if the sun is shining. Al wanted to eat here but we visited the cellar door first where we tried their delicious Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but also a Shiraz and a sweet Moscato. 

I think we were both glad to get some food into us and what great food it was. Aubergine with chickpeas and herbs to start and then a garlic, chive and ham pizza. 

We had a wander round the veg garden. 

Then the beautiful vineyard. 

Then we walked next door to Tucks Ridge our fifth vineyard. After four vineyards and garlic pizza my palate was a bit cloudy and my head was in a very happy place and on this wave of euphoria alongside the friendly, informative and interesting conversation from our cellar door host I forgot to take any photos. Here is a tree outside. 

Suffice to say, their wines were great and we learnt loads including the difference between their single vineyard Chardonnay and their estate Chardonnay which amazingly didn’t escape my tired palate. Our favourite wine was their 2014 Shiraz which tasted of white pepper.

Back out in the rain, we happily walked up a muddy track to our sixth and final vineyard of the day, Red Hill Estate. We tried their Chardonnays, Pinot Grigio and Muscat but we both loved their 2015 Pinot Noir. Alison was finally converted. She was at one with Miles from the film Sideways

As if by magic, Chris appeared and we were taken to the poshest food deli I’ve ever been to. A cave of specialist cheese, meats, dips and wines from all the local vineyards. To round our day off in style we bought a tiny piece of blue cheese and some crisps and a glass of wine each. Finally a full glass! This meant our final score was 38 different wines tasted and 2 smiley faces in probably the best Tuesday of our lives! We had loved our tour of the small, boutique and bigger, slick vineyards and the contrasts of our experiences in them. We had also learnt about some winemaking techniques and increased our appreciation of what it takes to fill your glasses.

Inspecting the quality of the crisps

I know what some of you are thinking. “What about the umbrella you were lent?”

Well, Chris bumped into the owner of Ten Minutes By Tractor in the deli so it was safely returned. As were we.

20.3.2017 Alphington to Mornington Pennisula

One of the reasons for coming to Australia, apart from seeing my wonderful relatives, was watching The Wine Show on C4 which visited Mornington Pennisula and marvelled at all the wines and local foods on offer. We decided we needed to go and see what the fuss was all about if we were ever in the area. This was cemented by meeting a couple from Mornington on the train into Birmingham the day after we saw the TV show, they said it was a great place to visit so we were on it.

Our transfer from Alphington to Dromana, on the Mornington Pennisula, was to take about 3 hours and involve 2 trains and 2 buses, this was achieved by using our Myki card at a cost of $6.10. This is an absolute bargain. 

The blue skies and hot temperatures were over, replaced by cold, wet and very windy weather. In other words a typical Monday morning which at home would send you into a spiral of depression, until about Thursday. Our host Kathy had an errand to run to the local train station so offered us a lift to the station so we avoided a thorough soaking.

Farewells were said and we belatedly remembered to hand the house keys back as well!  We could smell coffee at the small suburban station so had a Monday morning pick me up, and lesson in coffee, from a guy who had left Scotland long enough ago to loose his accent and learn a lot about coffee. Strangely for a barrista he had no beard and no flat cap. I asked for 2 double expressos and we waited. He explained the Aussie love for coffees, which we had noticed, and the clamouring in London for your barista to be from Sydney or Melbourne as this was a sign of top notch coffee being made. He also said I should be ordering espressos otherwise the barista would know I was a heathen in the coffee world. For a small suburban train station to be serving such good coffee from an independent stand wouldn’t happen in UK, there are very few chain coffee shops here. It was a stunning coffee which woke us up, and Guy chatted away for the next hour.

We arrived in Dromana about 1.30pm and got into the Air BnB accommodation we had booked, it was a home all to ourselves. It was exciting to have our own place, complete with washing machine, to wash everything we own, and a kitchen to do some Guy and Al cooking sessions.

As exciting as this was, we were slightly perturbed to find no WiFi password given and could find no router. It seems I had overlooked the lack of WiFi when booking here, which is unfortunate as we wanted to book a vineyard tour for the next day. We had also planned on doing loads of blogging and research for the next, unknown, part of our trip. Oops. 

We have now changed our minds and are thinking we could do some of NZ, even without driving licences, as being here hasn’t been overly expensive or difficult when using public transport. We also can’t bear the thought of not using a flight we have bought to a country we loved 18 years ago, we loved it enough to apply for residency then. Still, let’s see what we decide in the next few days as plans seem to change with moods, i.e. frequently.

A 10 mins walk into Dromana town and we were on the sea front and we found Aussie pies. Guy had a plain pie, I had bolognase thinking it would be the bolognase sauce only, I didn’t think someone would think of putting bolognase sauce AND pasta into a pie. Why would you?? Ugh.

So, we needed to book a tour of vineyards old stylee, by walking to tourist information and picking up leaflets, explaining for the upteenth time how we are on holiday without a driving licence and the need to see as many vineyards and expand our wine knowledge to bore all our mates at home.

2 hours later we had made friends​ with the ladies at Tourist Info, they had rung many places to see if we could get a vineyard tour, with the proviso of being at a good price. Even they thought $400 per day for a tour of 3 or 4 vineyards was too much!!!!!! 

Eventually we were in contact with Chris, who runs ‘Your Shuttle‘ who agreed to squeeze us into her already booked tour group, she could fit in our 3 vineyards of choice, 10 Minutes by Tractor, Eldridge, Monalto and throw in a couple more! Happy days. She told us not to wear heels as we would need to walk inbetween a couple of vineyards, Guy said it was no problem, I hadn’t worn them in years, certainly hadn’t packed any in my rucksack. 

We hugged our new friends, bought a fridge magnet as a show of gratitude and walked back to town along the beach enjoying the sunshine and had a quick paddle. 

A posh, Waitrose like, supermarket shop trip later and we had all the ingredients for a superb tea. Aussie beef was flash fried and served with slow cooked onions, peppers and cheese and rocket, all in a Lebanese wrap. It tasted sooooo much better than it looked which admittedly was like someone had vomited on our plates.

We watched Aussie food network TV, with adverts 😫 and listened to the wind and rain pick up outside.

Wines tasted:

Mornington Estate Pinot  Noir  2014

Yarra Valley Payne’s Rise shiraz 2014

19.3.2017 Tour d’Yarra Valley

The beauty of having no car is that we can both drink wine together instead of one of us having to drive. The pain of this is that vineyards are on an incline, meaning hills, meaning hard work on a bike, for me at least.

We were up and out the house by 8.30am, which is some miracle for us at the moment!!!

By 10.30am we were in Lilydale at Yarra Valley Bike hire, being served by a chap from Nottingham (he left that great city aged 6 years old). We had the most expensive hire bikes on the trip, but there were by far the best, Kona Hybrid’s, we had disc brakes and lots of gears but were missing our usual wicker basket on the front to store our wine bottle collection 😂.

We set off on what was going to be a 34 degree day of sunshine. Suncream had been liberally applied and bike helmets provided some shade. We started a slow slog up 6km of Mount Evelyn under the canopy of eucalyptus,willow and other indigenous trees.

Mount Evelyn (on the way down)
It was stunning scenery​ and we were enjoying the exercise, Guy more than me! 

Our first vineyard was up a high, curved, steep driveway, called Payne’s Rise, and it lived up to its name, I decided to dismount to get a closer look at the shiraz grapes and scenery……phew!!!

We were welcomed by a stunning panoramic view and a girl from Colchester who was manning the tastings. We tried their tasting menu and purchased the 2014 Shiraz which was light and fruity, the comment ‘a good session Shiraz’ was made, we bought a bottle of it.

A 2 min walk across the fields and we were in Seville Hills vineyard which had white tableclothed tressel tables set out outside underneath the orchard. It was packed with Victorians (the Aussie state, not Queen Victorians!) enjoying great food, amazing wines on a hot autumn Sunday afternoon, music was provide by a local group. These Aussies have a great outdoors lifestyle. 

We were interested to see that this vineyard was growing, along with the usual Shiraz and Chardonnay, some more southern European grapes, tempranillo, barbera, sangiovese all influenced by their part Italian owner and climate change. They were really good wines but the place was packed so we got out after a few swigs, mounted our bikes and freewheeled down the hill to the last vineyard, Whispering Hills.

Again, this place had a small restaurant onsite, with seats next to the vines. A group of 20 yr olds were celebrating a birthday with wine tasting and gourmet pizza’s, wood fired breads and freshly made dips. How simple and wonderful is that? 

We had a few wines tastings with the Chardonnay being standout, I have never had such a buttery, creamy Chardonney. This is definitely not a session Chardonnay. 

We bought a bottle to accompany our gourmet pizza of peppery salami, roasted red peppers and stringy mozzarella, delicious. I only had one glass of wine as I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back on the bike if I had any more. 

As it was it was a big old slog getting up the hills on the way back. We broke for a rest on the way back for a water break and to record a film.

We went back to our Air BnB via the chicken n chip shop in Fairfield, we had earned it. We were planning on having a Chip Taste Test between the chicken place and fish shop, but the half chicken and chip portion with coleslaw was so huge we didn’t manage to get to the fish shop.

Wine tasted:

Whispering Hills Chardonnay 2016

McClaren Vale Chardonnay 2016 (mixed vineyards)